While many tourists spend their workdays dreaming of sandy beaches and all-inclusive getaways, others can’t imagine a trip that doesn’t include a little more personality, whether they want to find it in a dense, bustling city or in solitude beneath the open sky. Scandinavia is one of the best places in the world to plan a unique travel itinerary. Read on to discover the destinations you can’t miss on your Nordic voyage.
Plan To Dine, Drink, and Relax
You won’t want to start planning your evening meal after a long hike down the side of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull glacier cap – or directly through Thrihnukagigur, the nearby volcano, so decide where you’ll eat ahead of time. Traditional Scandinavian cuisine is characterized by a raft of seafood, pickled garnishes, sweet pastries, and plenty of coffee. If Reykjavik is on your list for its black sand beaches, legendary fjords, and clear lagoons, you can stop at the Fishmarkadurinn, or Fish Market, to sample exotic local seafood like whale and puffin, or unusual game meats like reindeer.
Urban adventurers may want to land in Stockholm first to experience the distinctive culture of one of Scandinavia’s largest cities. While cannabis is still illegal in Sweden, the country is a surprising destination for tobacco products. Swedish smokeless tobacco is regulated in the same way as food, and has a moister, more natural flavor profile than American versions. This type of smokeless tobacco, called snus, is popular throughout the Scandinavian countries, but most of it is made in Sweden.
Book an Urban Sightseeing Tour
You might worry that guided tours are too inherently touristy, but you won’t want to miss the world-famous landmarks that dot Scandinavia’s major cities. Book a tour that weaves through the busy streets of downtown Oslo, Copenhagen, and Helsinki and plan to light up your Instagram with photos of:
- The Tivoli Gardens amusement park in Copenhagen, Denmark
- Shopping and dining in Stockholm’s Drottninggatan and Östermalm districts
- The Oslo Cathedral and National Museum in Norway
- The Gothenburg Museum District in Sweden
Looking for a local tip? After the tour, treat yourself to one of Sweden’s most venerable dining experiences, fika. Swedes cherish the daily social ritual of meeting for coffee, pastries, and conversation. The country’s penchant for outdoor dining means you can enjoy your afternoon coffee on a well-appointed patio while taking in some of the colorful buildings dotting the city streets.
Discover an Outdoor Adventure
The beautiful Scandinavian countryside lends itself to dozens of different types of outdoor adventures. Naturally, you’ll want to wind your way through the Norwegian and Icelandic mountains with a boat tour of the fjords, but if you’re looking for something more unique, there are plenty of exciting options. Outside Oslo, you can experience the countryside by steering your own dogsled. If you’re traveling to Finland during the wintertime, visit the far northern city of Rovaniemi, and book a trip to see the Northern Lights by reindeer tour.
Athletic Scandinavian travelers will want to get familiar with the region’s impressive ski resorts. Have you ever wanted to ski all night long? Pick up a lift ticket for Sweden’s Riksgransen resort, where the lifts run all day and all night under the midnight sun. Many ski resorts in the region offer multiday helicopter skiing adventures, in which you’ll be transported to your remote mountain destination by helicopter. Whether your heart is set on cross-country, downhill racing, or just an unforgettable apres-ski experience, you’ll be able to find a world-class ski resort in the Nordic countries that suit your needs.
Get Inspired To Redecorate Your Home
The Nordic nations have a reputation for good design. It’s not just IKEA – there’s also the popular Danish concept of hygge, a curated coziness that embraces comforting textiles and warm colors in the pursuit of promoting a restorative indoor environment for weathering the winter months. If your dream home is more natural light and open space than fireplaces and layers of sheepskin, the Swedish ideal of lagom, or balanced living, might be better suited to your tastes. Whatever aesthetic you favor, there’s a well-articulated version of it waiting to be discovered in the Scandinavian countries.
Sweden, in particular, is known for its refined interior design sensibilities, not to mention its distinctive architecture. Travelers who are fascinated by graphic design, architecture, and home goods will enjoy touring the Swedish Center of Architecture and Design in Stockholm’s Modern Museum of Art. Schedule a day outside the capital city to visit architectural destinations in Gothenburg, Kiruna, and further-flung locales like Swedish Lapland.
Scandinavia is a big place, encompassing several different countries with large land masses, so your itinerary should be able to accommodate at least a week’s travel as you crisscross the Nordic nations by bus, train, or car. If your dream trip is filled with unusual adventures, you’ll love stopping by these attractions and more on your Scandinavian sojourn!