With shared Viking Age history and dramatic landscapes among their highlights, the Nordic countries regularly attract curious travelers looking to discover the secrets of the world’s happiest region.
Now that travel restrictions are mostly lifted in the region, the Nordic countries are back on the radar of international tourists. From epic road trips to summer relaxation, here are some suggestions for your Nordic travel itinerary this summer.
An Icelandic road trip
In complete contrast to the monochrome winters, Iceland in the summer is a colorful place. Roads open over the volcanic highlands giving tourists the ability to discover destinations not accessible at other times of the year, including the dramatic rhyolite mountains and hot pools of Landmannalaugar.
Trips like this require a four-wheel-drive vehicle and a confident driver. If that sounds like too much work, there’s plenty to discover on regular roads too.
Iceland’s 800-mile-long ring road circles the entire country. Allow around a week for the full tour including the several must-do stops.
Others choose to focus their trip on a specific area. The roads around the geothermal pools and waterfalls of Iceland’s Golden Circle get crowded during the summer, so consider one of the popular alternatives including the Diamond Circle in the less-visited north of the country.
Elsewhere, the new 590-mile circular Westfjords Way road trip is sure to attract new visitors to the northwest fjords region. Highlights include the vast Dynjandi waterfall, a new viewing platform at Bolafjall mountain and the densely-populated bird cliffs at Latrabjarg.
An Arctic summer on Svalbard
The sun beams down on Svalbard all day and all night from May to late August. It can take a while to fall asleep, but on the flip side hiking and other outdoor activities are possible at any time of day.
Locals in Longyearbyen make the most of the long summer days and ever-increasing temperatures by spending a lot of time outside. The handful of pavement cafes and restaurants are full to the brim when temperatures allow.
Wildlife is attracted to the archipelago in great numbers during the summer. Birds migrate to nest, while walruses, seals and whales enter the fjords. Milder temperatures also open up possibilities to visit the abandoned Russian mining settlement Pyramiden or take a sightseeing boat trip along the western coast.
Gotland, Sweden’s vacation island
The largest island in the Baltic Sea is one of Sweden’s most attractive travel destinations, full of historic and natural attractions.
A visit to Gotland remains a mostly Swedish experience even at the height of tourist season as the only direct ferries and most flights come from mainland Sweden. Foreign tourists who do make the trip are rewarded with a truly Scandinavian summer vacation.
The island’s main town Visby is rich in Viking Age history and is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while the island’s miles of cycle paths and nature trails are perfect for keen hikers who want a summer break from the mountain trails.
Smaller city breaks
Most urban Nordic destinations boast an alluring mix of history, modern convenience and access to nature. That goes for all five of the capitals: Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo, Reykjavik and Stockholm.
The same is true of smaller cities. In Norway, the fascinating architecture of Ålesund makes for a wonderful city break combined with a road or boat trip around the fjords. Hiking the mountains that overlook Ålesund and kayaking around the islands are among the ways to get in touch with nature without leaving the city.
In Denmark, the recently opened Hans Christian Andersen House has put Odense back on the tourist map, while Billund remains popular thanks to the Legoland resort. In Finland, the world’s only Moomin museum is among the highlights of a visit to Tampere, which claims to be the sauna capital of the world.