With a shared Viking Age history and spectacular scenery among their highlights, the Nordic countries regularly attract curious travelers looking to uncover the secrets of the happiest region in the world.
Now that travel restrictions have mostly been 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
Unlike monochromatic winters, Iceland in summer is a colorful place. Roads open up the volcanic highlands, allowing tourists to discover destinations inaccessible at other times of the year, including the spectacular rhyolite mountains and the 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 the regular routes, too.
Iceland’s 800-mile ring road encircles the entire country. Allow about a week for the full tour, including the many must-see 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 country’s less-visited north.
Elsewhere, the new 590-mile Westfjords Way circular road trip is sure to attract new visitors to the Northwest Fjords region. Highlights include the vast Dynjandi waterfall, a new viewing platform on Bolafjall mountain and the densely populated bird cliffs of Latrabjarg.
An arctic summer in Svalbard
The sun shines on Svalbard all day and all night from May to the end of August. It may take a while to fall asleep, but on the other hand, hiking and other outdoor activities are possible any time of the day.
Residents of Longyearbyen take advantage of the long summer days and ever-higher temperatures by spending a lot of time outdoors. The handful of outdoor cafes and restaurants are packed when temperatures allow.
Wildlife is attracted to the archipelago in large numbers during the summer. Birds migrate to nest, while walruses, seals and whales enter the fjords. Milder temperatures also open up the possibility of visiting the abandoned Russian mining settlement of Pyramiden or taking a boat trip along the west coast.
Gotland, the Swedish holiday island
The largest island in the Baltic Sea is one of Sweden’s most attractive travel destinations, packed with historical and natural attractions.
A visit to Gotland remains a predominantly Swedish experience, even at the height of tourist season, as the only direct ferries and most flights originate from mainland Sweden. Foreign tourists who make the trip are rewarded with a truly Scandinavian summer vacation.
The island’s main town, Visby, is rich in Viking-era history and is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while the island’s miles of cycle paths and nature trails are perfect for avid hikers who want to take a summer break on the mountain trails.
Short city breaks
Most urban Nordic destinations offer an alluring mix of history, modern conveniences and access to nature. This applies to the five capitals: Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo, Reykjavik and Stockholm.
The same goes for small towns. In Norway, the fascinating architecture of Ålesund makes a wonderful city break combined with a car or boat trip around the fjords. Hiking in the mountains above 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 station. 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.