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I’m on a mission to take every scenic train ride in Europe, and it all started with the Narvik Night Train. In late November of 2022, I traveled to Tromso, Norway, in search of the Northern Lights. I found a cheap flight to Helsinki but still had to find a route to get to the Northern Lights Capital of the World.
While I could have taken a flight from Helsinki to Tromso and been there in a few hours, that’s not what I did. I believe that the journey is more important than the destination, so I decided to take the scenic route.
I took an overnight ferry across the Baltic Sea from Helsinki to Stockholm and then took the 19-hour Arctic Circle train from Stockholm up to Narvik, Norway. From there, I hopped on a quick flight to reach my destination in Northern Norway.
This train journey was one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m so glad I did it. I’m thrilled to share my experience to help you plan your own Arctic adventure.
What Is The Arctic Circle Train?
The Arctic Circle Train is a scenic train ride that runs through Sweden before heading over to Narvik, Norway. It is also called the Narvik night train.
The train departs from Stockholm and travels for 19 hours through Swedish Lapland. It’s known to be one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. As someone who has taken this journey, I can confirm!
It makes several stops along the way, including Kiruna. We’ll chat more about Kiruna in just a moment, but this Arctic town is home to the largest iron ore mine in the world.
It’s here (well, technically Boden) that the railway joins the famous Iron Ore Railway, which will take you all the way to Narvik. This portion of the journey is the most scenic.
The Iron Ore Railway was built around the turn of the 20th century to transport iron ore from Kiruna’s mines over to the ice-free ports of Narvik and Luleå. From there, the iron ore can easily be transported via ships.
Narvik’s port in Northern Norway is extraordinarily deep, so ships of all sizes can easily access the port of Narvik. Its location and ice-free availability made Narvik a strategically important city during the Second World War. More on that in a bit.
Since there is no railway to connect Bodø and Narvik, this line makes it easy to visit Narvik via train. Well, it’s the only way to visit Narvik by train. This unique railway is Sweden’s northernmost railway, and the Norwegian part is the northernmost railway in all of Western Europe.
How To Book The Arctic Circle Train
The prices for each compartment range from $75 to $300+ and vary according to the season. December and January are the peak winter months, and the peak summer months are from June to September.
Tickets become available as early as six months beforehand. Make sure you get tickets in advance – the earlier you book, the better your rate will be.
Best Time Of Year To Take The Arctic Circle Train
The train is offered year-round. The summer months at these latitudes bring 24 hours of daylight. If you’re the type of traveler who thinks there are just not enough hours in the day to see everything, then taking this trip under the Midnight Sun is right up your alley.
On the flip side, winter months bring almost complete darkness. Polar Night is the Midnight Sun’s counterpart, and while you may only have a few hours of daylight, the sun never rises above the horizon.
While that may sound like a turnoff, I can assure you that you’ll be met with some of the most magical “sunrises” and “sunsets” you’ve ever seen. Since the sun doesn’t truly rise/set, it’s not a traditional sunrise or sunset. You’ll be surrounded by brilliant shades of pink, reds, and oranges before darkness takes over.
Plus, you’ll need dark skies to be able to see the Northern Lights, and you’ll have plenty of darkness to increase your odds!
I took this train ride at the very beginning of Polar Night, and as you can see from the photos I took, you’ll still have a dazzling view of Swedish Lapland all the way into Narvik.
What To Expect On The Arctic Circle Train
The train is operated by SJ. The specific train, SJ Nattåg 94 (train 94), makes daily departures from Stockholm Central Station. It also makes daily departures from Narvik to Stockholm, so you can ride the railway back if you want.
The train leaves Stockholm Central Station around 6 p.m. and then travels through the night. There’s not much to see since it’s dark outside, so you can just snuggle up and catch some z’s.
When you wake up, you’ll be in the heart of Swedish Lapland! There are plenty of windows to watch the spectacular views from, and you’ll also have a window in your sleeping compartment, too. In the other direction, the train from Narvik (Vy Nattåg Night Train 93) leaves around 3 p.m.
Since this is a sleeper train, you have a few options:
- Seating Carriage 2 Class: These are the typical seats you’d find on trains. While these are the cheapest option, they’re typically more popular with travelers who aren’t taking the entire 19-hour ride.
- Couchette 2 Class: Couchette’s have six beds, and travelers can select between male, female, or mixed compartments.
- Sleeping Compartment 2 Class: Three beds with the option to choose from male, female, or mixed compartments.
- Sleeping Compartment 1 Class: Two beds plus a private shower and bathroom. Compartment 1 Class also includes a complimentary breakfast and access to the SJ Lounges in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö.
All options have stowage areas as well as shared bathroom facilities in each train car. The sleeping compartments all have linens and pillows, and the beds are pretty comfortable.
The bathroom was always kept clean, and the shower was more spacious than I expected. Sure, the water pressure isn’t like home, but it got the job done. There was also a sink in my room, which came in handy for washing my face, brushing my teeth, etc.
There is a cafe on the train where you can grab drinks and snacks. The cafe stays open fairly late and opens back up again early in the morning. You’re welcome to bring your own food and drink on board, which is exactly what I did.
I ended up finding my own little corner in the caboose of the train to watch the mountains pass by, but it was also nice to be able to walk to the cafe car and sit there for a bit. Basically, you’re not confined to just your room.
Stops Along The Arctic Circle Train
The train makes about 20 stops as it makes its way to Northern Norway. There are announcements at each stop letting you know how long the train will be stopped. Feel free to get out and stretch your legs.
One of the first stops is Kiruna around 9 a.m. Many passengers jump off here, as Kiruna and Abisko are the two most popular stops along this scenic train ride. There are plenty of restaurants and hotels in these towns if you decide to book a hotel and stay in this region.
There are plenty of places to stay in Kiruna, but few can top the Icehotel. This famous winter resort in Northern Sweden is made completely of ice! It’s built every winter and then melts away every spring. It’s never built the same way twice and makes for a truly unforgettable experience in the middle of Swedish Lapland.
In the fairytale village of Abisko, outdoor activities are aplenty.
Arctic adventurers can take a snowmobile sled expedition through the frozen tundra, learn the intricacies of ice fishing on Lake Torneträsk, reach new heights while ice climbing or alpine skiing, and so much more.
See Related: Best Finland Igloo Hotels You Simply Can’t Miss
The last stop of the journey is Narvik, a beautiful port town tucked away on the shores of Ofotfjorden in Northern Norway. I recommend booking a stay at Scandic Narvik; the views of the surrounding Norwegian mountains are just mesmerizing.
Narvik played a large role during the early days of the Second World War. History buffs will thoroughly enjoy visiting the Narvik War Museum and learning more about the various Battles of Narvik – the most famous being the battle of April 9 -June 10, 1940.
The Narvik War Museum goes into great detail about how German invasion forces were countered by the British Royal Navy and other allied forces to keep the coveted ice-free port from falling into the wrong hands during this most famous Battle of Narvik. Thanks to the invasion of France, the Allies were ultimately forced to withdraw. The Germans responded by almost razing the city and occupying it until 1945.
A top option for accommodation is Narvikfjellet, the main ski resort in Narvik. Here, you can enjoy panoramic mountain and fjord views and go skiing.
Even if you don’t book a stay, take a ride on the cable car. Once you get to the top, head over to the Mountain Restaurant for some pastries and beverages. In the evenings, book a Northern Lights tour in a car, or if you’re not tired of trains yet, take the Northern Lights train ride.
I walked down to this little park in Narvik and was gifted a magical Northern Lights show that lasted for what seemed like forever. I even had the space all to myself!
You can get to the city center on foot, but there are also bus options if you’re staying further out. The walk from the Narvik train station to the city center was about 10 minutes.
See Related: Best Places to See the Northern Lights
What To Pack For The Arctic Circle Train
Norwegians have a saying: “Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlig klær,” which translates to “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.” Truer words have never been spoken.
Even under the Midnight Sun, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared. Narvik is 137 miles above the Arctic Circle. This region gets colder than you might think (if somehow 137 miles above the Arctic Circle wasn’t a big enough clue).
Layers are key when traveling to the Arctic Circle. Thermals as a base layer are key, and investing in some high-quality waterproof outerwear can make all the difference in the world. Bonus points if it’s also windproof.
Don’t forget about your feet, either. I take great care when purchasing boots marketed as “waterproof boots.” This was a lesson learned on this particular trip.
Unfortunately, the hiking shoes I took were not actually waterproof, and I didn’t realize it until…well, I stepped into a puddle with the confidence of someone wearing waterproof boots only to find that, nope, they were not. Lesson learned!
See Related: Best Winter Travel Clothes for Cold Weather
I would take this train ride again in a New York minute. Watching the sunrise over Swedish Lapland was a life-changing experience, and I encourage everyone to take this ride and see for yourself. It inspired me to take the scenic train from Oslo to Bergen and also the famous Flåm Railway, one of the steepest railways in the world.
Like I said, I’m on a mission to take every scenic train in the world. Where should I go next?
- Sweden Travel Guide: Travel Tips for Visiting
- ICEHOTEL Sweden Review: Is It Worth the Price?
- Most Scenic Train Rides in North Carolina
- About the Author
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Jacks is a New Orleans native passionate about exploring the Arctic region. She’s a frequent writer and contributor to Only in Your State. A mediocre ukulele player, photographer, and artist, she thrives on spontaneous solo adventures and encourages everyone to follow the deal, not the destination. When she’s not traveling, she’s feeding the neighborhood crows, squirrels, and bluejays that have befriended her, much to the dismay of her cat, Tugger.