Astounding remote vistas, cities where high-design influences architecture and craftsmanship, and the chance to spot Northern Lights dancing in the skies – it’s no wonder that Nordic countries have been getting noticed lately. Nordic travels fit many travelers’ desires for sustainable travel combined with top-end, curated experiences in places of supreme natural beauty. Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark are considered Nordic countries, but only Danes, Norwegians and Swedes call themselves Scandinavian.
All of them are destinations you should discover. Visit in the summer for long daylight hours: Northern Norway and Finland have almost no darkness during June and July. The winter months are darker. However, it’s also one of the best times to experience the ethereal magic of the Northern Lights. Excellent public transport in the regions means it’s easy to get around. As well as knock more than one nation off your country-counting list.
In Demark, the cities of Copenhagen and Aarhus are a big draw for Scandi design lovers, where museums, galleries and houseware shops offer so much eye candy and covetable pieces in vivid colours, textural shapes and styles. Bring an extra suitcase for your souvenirs. In Sweden, the cute and cozy city of Malmö is just a day trip from Copenhagen. And it artfully combines old (the cobblestoned streets) and new (the Turning Torso building) in architecture and its food scene.
If you really want to indulge the kids – head to Lapland in northern Finland. Where reindeer are more plentiful than people, to see where Santa makes his selection. Visitors will spot herds roaming the countryside and can watch as the animals take part in races across frozen lakes. Take part in the reindeer games in winter or summer, and stay in cozy Arctic lodges or glass yurts to keep an eye out for the aurora borealis.
Iceland is famous for its waterfalls, wild ponies and thermal lagoons and many who visit drive the 882-mile Golden Circle Ring Road to see the main sights (Godafoss waterfall, Thingvellir National Park and the Geysir geothermal area ). But don’t forget the jaw-dropping interior. This summer, Highland Base, a new luxury lodge with a thermal spa and private riverside huts, opens in the central highlands. The year-round destination makes a pleasant base for all sorts of adventure (think hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, not to mention the volcanically heated baths).
The raw beauty of Norway’s northern coast has long been admired by travelers who sail on Hurtigruten ships as they deliver mail and passengers to many remote communities. This summer, the cruiseline Hurtigruten launches two new itineraries that considerably upgrade the mail-route ride-along for travelers. The Svalbard Express and North Cape Express debut with redesigned, stylish cabins, dining has become an elevated culinary affair, and the ships will offer passengers longer port visits.
Just off Iceland, the Faroe Islands are a world unto their own and easily reached with direct flights from the U.K. Come here for clifftop walks and admiring fjord upon fjords (catnip to photographers) with wild weather that makes you feel alive. Oh, and the adorable puffins – so many puffins! – make it worth the trip alone.
Winter or summer, by land or by sea? The Nordic countries are calling! Let’s go north!