Chasing midnight sun in Sweden

A panoramic view of the town  

I wanted to capture the midnight sun on my mobile phone on a cold July night in Kiruna, the northernmost town of the Swedish Lapland. Between late May and mid-July, one can witness the midnight sun here for 47 days, besides 24 hours of sunlight for 100 days and the Northern Lights from September to February.

Sweden earns maximum foreign exchange from iron ore, and mining is carried out throughout the year. The LKAB (Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag) government mine in Kiruna, which mines iron ore, is expanding, causing the whole town to be moved.

Every day, iron ore equivalent to around six Eiffel Towers (in terms of the amount of steel) is mined. Twenty-seven megatonnes were extracted last year. A Norwegian architecture firm won the contract to do it in 20 years instead of 90 as originally planned. According to its website, “Kiruna will be a bit like a walking millipede with a thousand feet, moving, crawling slowly a couple of kilometres toward the East.”

Kiruna Church

Kiruna Church  

Two historic buildings were moved in the last one year; others will follow. Houses are being moved or torn down. LKAB is compensating at 125% market price per house at the new location. The total cost exceeds $1 billion.

It was biting cold at 7 degrees Celsius at Kiruna with wind speeds of nearly 40kmph. At 11 pm, 30-year-old Michael led me to a 10-seater mini van saying ‘the whole van is yours, as you are the only one booked for tonight’! Many had backed out citing inclement weather.

We reached Luossavaara Mountain, the site of a now-inactive LKAB mine with a ski-lift and slope, as well as a hiking path called Midnattsolstigen (Midnight Sun Path). The climb to the top was rough from the main road on a bad gravel track. Temperatures reached five degrees Celsius inside the car. We walked over the midnight sun path, and despite clouds, witnessed a magnificent view of Kebnekaise Mountain in the West, with the rays of the midnight sun emerging in the North, the city of Kiruna in the South and Jukkasjärvi Lake in the East.

The organ at Kiruna church

The organ at Kiruna church  

Getting there
  • There are daily flights from Stockholm to Kiruna. Or you can take the Arctic Circle Train, which is a 14-15-hour journey. The journey by bus takes 21 hours.
  • Kiruna is a small town and everything is within walking distance. For tourist sites that are further away, tours are ideal. There are pick-up buses from the railway station. A six-kilometre solo taxi ride from the airport costs 490 Swedish krona (approximately ₹3,599); when shared with two or more travellers, it can work out to 190SEK (₹1,396) each.
  • Within the town of Kiruna are City Hall, Kiruna Church and Luossavaara Mountain. Abisko National Park, Icehotel, Kebnekaise, the highest mountain in Sweden, a tour to explore ancient Sámi (original Laplanders) culture are the other major attractions.
  • Kiruna Church is one of Sweden’s largest wooden buildings. The exterior is built in Gothic Revival style, while the altar is Art Nouveau. It was built between 1909 and 1912. Gustaf Wickman was the architect and the famous altarpiece is a work of Prince Eugen, Duke of Närke. This too will be moved out from its present location.
  • Aurora or Northern Light tours, dog-sled driving, reindeer sledding, moose safari on horseback and snowmobile tours are the autumn variations.

Luckily, the sun came out briefly. Without wasting time on snacks, we decided to chase the sun, towards the Norwegian border. Michael drove fast, and after 15 kilometres, the very bright sun began playing ‘catch me if you can’. When we had travelled 34 kilometres, the sky turned dark with clouds and we headed back.

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 2:44:20 AM |

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