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NORTHERN LIGHTS

When will you next get to see the Northern Lights in Sweden?

Have you ever seen the Northern Lights? Here's how to increase your chances of spotting them.

When will you next get to see the Northern Lights in Sweden?
The Northern Lights in Stockholm on January 14th. Photo: Lisa Abrahamsson/TT

A peak in solar winds clashing with the Earth’s atmosphere meant that a dazzling Aurora Borealis was visible in pretty much all of Sweden in mid-January – from northern Norrland to the far south of Skåne, where catching a glimpse of the spectacular show is rare.

Even in Stockholm, the capital’s light pollution did little to dim their display, or the excitement of Stockholmers.

But if you were one of the unlucky ones who slept through it all, only to wake up to your friends’ pictures on social media the following morning, when will you get another chance to see the Northern Lights in Sweden?

It depends on where you live. If you’re based in northern Sweden, you probably only have to be patient and you’ll get there eventually. The further north you get, the better your chances, as the Northern Lights only appear around the Earth’s magnetic poles.

But that doesn’t mean the Northern Lights are a safe bet on any given day in northern Sweden; it all depends on solar activity and cloud cover. If the sky is overcast, you’re likely to be disappointed.

In Stockholm and further south, the Northern Lights are relatively rare, but not unheard of.

There are a few ways you can stay up to date with potential sightings, although the Northern Lights are complex, so they are hard to predict.

Keep an eye on websites such as the University of Alaska’s Aurora Forecast, which for obvious reasons doesn’t focus on Sweden but can still give you a good idea. The Space Weather Prediction Center and SpaceWeather Live are another two reliable websites.

To interpret these, you need to learn a little bit about the Northern Lights. That doesn’t mean you have to become an expert (and our article is aimed at beginners), but it’s useful to know that the key metric to keep an eye out for is something called the “KP Index”, a scale from 0-9.

The KP Index measures geomagnetic activity in the atmosphere; the higher the number, the stronger the geomagnetic activity. You can based on this divide the northern parts of the Earth into zones, where Kiruna in the far north is in KP3 and Stockholm is in KP6. So if, say, a KP3 number is predicted, only northern Sweden is likely to see the Northern Lights.

If you’d rather not have to think too much about when and where to see the Northern Lights – “I just want someone to tell me when they’re on!” – we recommend the Facebook group Norrsken Sverige, which regularly posts daily forecasts during peak season, which tell you exactly when and where the Northern Lights are expected. Followers also post their reports and pictures of the lights as they happen.

You can also download an app. My Aurora Forecast is popular and there are free versions for both iPhone and Android. You can either choose what location you want to track, or tell it to automatically change its settings based on where you are. The app will send you notifications when there’s a high chance of seeing the Northern Lights, but it also gives you a long-term forecast of the KP index. It also gives you percentages for how likely you are to see the Northern Lights in your area, now and in the next 30 minutes.

To make sure the sky is clear, check the weather report on Swedish meteorological institute SMHI’s website.

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

Five of the best spots in Sweden for a naked swim

As temperatures soar in Sweden this week, even the thought of wearing a swimsuit might seem a bit much. If you feel the need to expose a little more skin to the elements, here are some of Sweden's best nude beaches.

Five of the best spots in Sweden for a naked swim

From vast, sandy shores to coastlines dotted with caves and inlets, Sweden’s as many as 90 nudist beaches span the range of what the country’s beaches have to offer.

According to Malin ArlinderEkberg, chair of the Swedish Naturist Federation, interest in naked swimming and bathing grew significantly in Sweden during the pandemic. 

“Those [nudist] associations which have camp sited had more visitors than they usually do, a whole lot of people who wanted to try something new when everyone was having holidays at home,” she told TT in an interview last summer. 

But she said that while Swedes aren’t particularly shy about getting their clothes off, they were reluctant to tell friends that they visited nudist beaches. 

“On hot days, the nudist beaches are rammed, but I promise you that 90 percent of those there won’t dare tell friends and relatives that they go there. The first step is to talk about it and not make such a big deal out of it. Everyone at my job knows I’m a naturist. I do the same things that you and everyone else does, just without clothes.

But you don’t have to join the federation, or even visit a nudist beach, to enjoy a naked swim in Sweden. 

Almost any spot by the sea or on a lake can be your own nude swim spot, so long as you remain respectful of other visitors who prefer to keep their bikinis and swimming trunks on, and choose a moment when there’s no one nearby to strip off and leap in.  The rule is not to flaunt your nakedness.  

READ ALSO: How to find Sweden’s cleanest and best beaches in the summer of 2022 

Sandhammaren

The Sandhammaren beach in Ystad is among Skåne’s most popular, and it’s easy to see why it’s often considered one of Sweden’s best beaches. Its white sandy dunes and long coastline in the southern tip of Sweden make it a popular spot for swimmers and sunbathers, while the pine forest inland is perfect for walks year-round (clothes not optional when traipsing through the forest).

Watch out for strong currents when venturing out for a swim. Historically, pirates took advantage of the strong currents at Sweden’s southernmost tip to run unwitting ships aground before swooping in to plunder the ships.

When you tire of sun and sea, you can visit a lighthouse that dates back to the 1860s, or head back toward Ystad, which The Local ranked among Sweden’s cutest hidden gems in 2015.

Ribersborg
Another one of the many beaches Skåne has to offer, Ribersborg – or Ribban, as the locals say – is close to Malmö’s city centre.

The nude section at this beach is designated at brygga, or bridge, 10, where you’ll also find a public restroom and outdoor shower. If you fancy getting back into your clothes after a few hours in the sun, there’s an outdoor gym you can use, or you can take your dog to the large, dog-friendly area.

Malin Arlinder-Ekberg, chair of the Swedish Naturist Federation, at Ågesta nudist beach. Pontus Lundahl/TT

Ågesta

Ågesta is Stockholm’s only official nudist beach, although you will find naked visitors at other breaches, such as Brunnsviken, Lövnäsbadet, and Kärsön.

At Ågesta, by Lake Magelungen, you’ll find a sandy beach where you can bring the whole family. There are play areas, picnic tables, and even a barbecue area.

Venture inland from the rocky shore and you’ll find yourself walking through the forest that surrounds the beach. And if you tire of the sand, there’s a large grass-covered area where you can spread your towel and settle in for a day of sunbathing – without any tan lines getting in the way.

Amundön

Gothenburg’s Amundön is more rocky than sandy, but don’t let that deter you. Here, you’ll find a hilly 4.5km trail in a protected part of Gothenburg’s archipelago. On your way to the nudist beach, you’ll pass through various hilly and grassy landscapes on your way to the large rocks and cliffs that make up the coast.

On a warm summer evening, the cliffs are ideal for watching the sunset. Bring your own refreshments, because the amenities here are limited to a public restroom. In between dips in the water, you can sunbathe on the rocks or explore the archipelago.

Gustavsberg

Another official beach, Gustavsberg, by the Nora lake in Dalarna, boasts a sand beach with shallow waters that make it safe for even the youngest swimmers. Between the playground, picnic area, grassy sunbathing area, and large barbecue area, it’s easy to spend long Swedish summer days at Gustavsberg. 

There’s a camping space here too, if you can’t tear yourself away from this idyllic space. Rates are available here.

If the shore and camping area get too crowded, rent a boat – you can also buy a fishing
license – and paddle out into the lake for some solitude. 

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