At the far flung reaches of Europe lies the region known as Northern Europe which contains the sub-region of Scandinavia. This intense land of extremes comprises Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and the island of Iceland. Between them, they share similarities of language, appearance and history. But don’t ever call a Dane a Swede.
Scandinavia is one of those rare regions where things truly appear alien. The sheer towering cliffs among Norway’s fjords gave birth to basejumping, but the view from the glacially-carved valleys is just as impressive. During the endlessly long winter nights the skies blaze green with the eerie Aurora Borealis, but the virtual absence of sunshine also drives many to suicide.
Scandinavian summers are just the opposite. The sun barely sets, so you can take a hike at 3am or party until you lose track of time. The locals certainly do. After hibernating for several months, the whole region emerges to enjoy this brief but glorious burst of relatively warm weather.
There is some amazing nature to explore along the rocky coastlines, thick forests and broad valleys. Each country has a modern and impressive capital. Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Reykjavik are all fascinating urban centers but you’ll pay a shockingly high price to enjoy them. The tidiness and subdued chic of their waterfront cafes, bars and boutiques rarely fails to impress.
The land of the savage Vikings has evolved slightly into a more artistic and eco-conscious community. They can still party with the best of them, but today’s Scandinavians have turned their thoughts to preserving the future. Iceland is endowed with some of the world’s most active geothermal activity which is put to good use. Entire cities are cleanly powered by the earth’s energy, and there are some hot springs in Iceland that will blow your mind.
It’s true that you’ll pay dearly for your Scandinavian experience. But this unique part of the world offers a few gems that can’t be found anywhere else. It takes a certain kind of person to live in this climate, and visitors will be pleased to find that they are as warm and welcoming as their ubiquitous saunas.