An Introduction to Exploring Northern Scandinavia

One of my readers in Finland sent me an article he wrote about exploring his part of the world, and I thought it was worth sharing. Scandinavia and Iceland are certainly on my short list for future exploring! I actually used to cover Scandinavia on ExploreNorth but it got too overwhelming so I tightened my focus a few years ago.


The world is a beautiful place with so many cultures, landscapes and magical experiences to explore. Each country sings from its own hymn sheet – and one of my favourites has to be the music from the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland. These majestic Scandinavian countries are full of unique and wondrous moments, from witnessing the Northern Lights to trying delicious local foods.

Norway is a picturesque landscape full of shades of green and blue. When you drive around, you can’t help but pull over to take in some of the unique scenery. It’s the perfect place to visit for hiking, cliff-climbing, kayaking, camping and time outdoors. 

Lofoten is a mesmerising archipelago in Norway with jutting peaks and dramatic views. The Svolværgeita pinnacle juts into the sky, while the Himmeltindan Mountain sits breathtakingly on Vestvågøya Island. You can just imagine the Viking ships navigating through these rich blue seas, passing by the fishing spots and colourful villages that have since evolved along the waterways.

Steinsfjorden near Unnstad on the western side of Vestvågøy in Lofoten

Steinsfjorden near Unnstad in Lofoten

There’s also the Geiranger Fjord, which can be found in the Sunnmøre region of the Møre og Romsdal county. The stunning area is packed with waterfalls, glaciers and space for hiking and kayaking. Another great location for such active pastimes includes Prekestolen, a famously steep cliff that is found within Forsand in Rogaland county.

Sweden is another country packed with coastal islands (14 in total) and inland lakes, glaciated mountains, municipal cities and boreal forests spanning vast acres of land. With more than 50 bridges to cross, plenty of history and heritage, the Royal palaces, mesmerising opera houses, and the medieval old town of Gamla Stan (the oldest section of Stockholm), it’s a key point on a road trip of Northern Europe. 

Kornhamnstorg square in Gamla stan – photo by Holger Ellgaard.

Packed in with the Scandinavian country’s historic roots and culture are bursts of modernity too. Sweden has fast become known for its innovative and creative cuisine, with people travelling far and wide to try the local foods and many Michelin-starred restaurants. It’s always worth booking in advance as waiting lists can be long and many restaurants close during the summer as well for long holidays.

There’s plenty to do. From Vasa – a Maritime museum which is home to a 17th-century Swedish ship – to many churches and museums within the city centre, you’re hard-pushed to find yourself without anything to visit. In moments when you want to feel more local than tourist, there are many Swedish restaurants to try, boutique shops to visit, and bars to head to – as well as many outdoor activities to take part in, including kayaking and hiking. For true local insight, try the local city tours.

Finland is another Northern European nation that is packed with diverse museums, stylish design areas, and stunning national parks and ski resorts with breathtaking views. The wilderness in many of the outdoor spaces is something of a picture postcard. The country borders Sweden, Norway and Russia, providing a great point for continuing a car journey through to wider parts of the world. 

The capital city, Helsinki, is a popular destination and is home to Suomenlinna, an 18th-century sea fortress. You can island hop around the Archipelago Sea, take boat tours, try your luck at a well run casino, kayak through the country’s thousands of lakes, swim, fish and sail – among many other cultural activities and locations. The highlight for many Finnish trips is a visit to their saunas, as well as their stylish furniture shops.

Nuuksio National Park, a short drive from Helsinki.

So much to see! Thanks, Mike – I may yet get over for a look 🙂

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