Top 5 recommendations for the Nordics

For the ones that are not sure which countries “The Nordics” actually means, do not worry there has been much debate about it. Most commonly recognized as the Nordics are the five countries of Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland.

There are many reasons for travel depending on an individual’s own interest and desires of what to do and see in the world. Generally speaking, I would say that a visit to any of the Nordic countries fits those who enjoy and appreciate what mother nature has to offer. The Nordics countries have a combined population of only 26 million people spread out over roughly 3.5 million square kilometres. In comparison India has an area of almost 3 million square kilometres and a population of 1.3 billion people. So you can imagine how much untouched nature is available in the Nordics! In this blog my top 5 recommendations for activities in the Nordics.

Try and spot the Nordic lights

I believe almost every nature lover has “seeing the Northern lights” on their list, and for good reason. This natural phenomenon just takes your breath away each time you are lucky enough to experience it. And I say “lucky enough” on purpose, because a big disclaimer should be added here: even if you plan a trip to see the Northern Lights, there is no guarantee, Mother Nature decides if you do or do not get to see them. My only tip is to plan enough time in the region to broaden your chances.

The best places the see the Northern Lights have to start with, always be within The Arctic Circle. On rare occasions it is possible to view the Northern Lights more southern than the Arctic Circle, but there is a better guarantee if you go that far north. Between December and March is the best time of year to catch a glimpse. Furthermore, weather conditions are important, so on clear nights free of clouds you optimize your chance to see them. There are several apps and websites to help you in finding the best time, such as Service Aurora. Norway and Iceland have an abundance of places specialized in spotting the Northern lights, but the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko, Northern Sweden is also one highly recommended.

Husky dog sledding excursions

Perhaps you are planning your trip to the Nordics surrounding my previous point, seeing the Northern Lights. If so, definitely combine this with a husky sledding excursion, since you will most probably find yourself in the right area with the right weather conditions to do so. Husky sledding excursions are mostly offered in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the best period to do so is as well from December to April. Husky sledding excursions can be booked as part of a group tour, or you can book a private excursion.

What is so astonishing about these excursions is that most husky sledding tours are in areas that are very hard to get to, meaning the nature is as untouched as possible. You might even come across some reindeer herds or moose families! Before starting a dog sledding tour, you will receive a training on how to steer your sled, as well as getting the time to connect with the husky’s that will be pulling you ahead. Great locations for dog sledding are: Kiruna in Sweden, Finnish Lapland (for example through the Pallas-Ylläs National Park), Finnmark or Svalbard in Norway.

A culinary trip through Denmark

Some of the best restaurants in the world are to be found in Denmark, why that is, is probably a combination of reasons. Having lived in Denmark myself I can say that the Danes have a strong feeling of responsibility to nature and therefore make conscious choices to what they eat. From this perspective and the respect they have to what Mother Nature provides them in foods, I believe many great chefs have been born.

Planning an entire trip through Denmark based around visiting restaurants might sound strange but I promise that it will be so worth it. Important to note that you should start planning many months ahead of time, since some of these restaurants have at least a six months waiting list.

A Danish classic that you can find anywhere in the country and mostly eaten as lunch, is the Danish smørrebrød. In Copenhagen I would recommend the restaurant Aamanns 1921 or Øl & Brød. Copenhagen is packed with Michelin star restaurants and from the abundance of choices the ones I would recommend are: The Alchemist for its unusual and experimental experience. Geranium, years and years one of the best restaurants worldwide. Formel B which has an innovative French cuisine. Kiin Kiin, the only Thai restaurant with a Michelin star outside of Thailand. And if you are able to get a table, of course Noma, to experience the genius ideas of famous chef René Redzepi. Just 10 km north of Copenhagen you will find restaurant Jordnær which literally translates to “down to earth” and that is also translated in every single one of their dishes. Then on the west coast of Denmark there is the fantastic Henne Kirkeby Kro.

And lastly, if you have the time, make sure to travel to the island of Bornholm. It is said that Bornholm has longer hours of sunlight and a richer soil than most places on earth and therefore produces some of the richest tasting ingredients. When on Bornholm, make sure to book a table at Kadeau. Kadeau creates its entire menu from local ingredients and changes the menu per season only depending on what the island has to offer.

The National park of Iceland

I decided to describe Iceland in a new way: the national park of Iceland, since the country is simply filled with natural phenomenons to discover. Iceland is almost a fairytale like country, and the mysterious and breath-taking nature has led to many stories and sagas of mystical creatures. For the ones that have watched Game of Thrones, you might recognize many landscapes, since most of the series has been shot on Iceland.

The Golden Circle and Blue lagoon are a good place to start in Iceland. The Golden Circle consists of the three most popular sights in Iceland: the Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall and Þingvellir National Park. The Geysir Geothermal Area is a hot-spring haven in Haukadalur Valley. Just a 10-minute drive from the Geysir you will arrive at the Gulfoss waterfall which is one of the most beautiful and powerful waterfalls in Iceland. And then lastly the Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important places to visit in Iceland. The Blue lagoon is the most well-known hot spring in Iceland, and after visiting all the beautiful places of the Golden Circle, you will deserve to spend some time in this huge geothermal bath.

One of the most photographed places in Iceland is Diamond beach with its black sand and giant iceberg pieces decorating the sand like sparkling diamonds. Besides the Diamond beach, the south coast of Iceland is covered in several more astonishing black beaches to drop your jaw at. The black colour of the sand comes from flattened glacier rocks that turn into black sand. The most famous black beach is Reynisfjara.

There is so much more to see in Iceland that this part does not do it justice, for example the number of glaciers and lagoons to discover as well as the numerous volcano’s, so I motivate you to do loads of research and create your own favourite to do list when planning a trip to Iceland.

The Norwegian Fjords

And lastly the Norwegian fjords! Norway has much beauty to offer in terms of nature, but their fjords are surely something that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Travelling through the fjords truly makes any human feel humble and will make you realize how majestic and fantastic Mother Nature truly is.

Every fjord in Norway is unique, with its own characteristics and own “personality”, which makes each of them worth visiting! To start with the king of the fjords: The Sognefjord which is the longest fjord in Norway. The Sognefjord is 205 km long, 1300m deep, and has Europeäs largest glacier, the Jostedalsbreen leaning over with its 2000m height. The next fjord, the Nærøyfjord is a branch from the large Sognefjord. It is only 17 km long but due to its narrowness and extremely tall mountains surrounding the fjord, it was added as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2005.

The second longest fjord is the Hardangerfjord which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean, 80 km south of Bergen to the traditional industry town of Odda, 179 km further into the land. One of the most featured fjords in documentaries, series, and movies, is the Geirangerfjord which is another UNESCO world heritage site! And the last one I would recommend is the Trollfjord, a spectacular Arctic fjord located in the beautiful Lofoten Islands. And if you find yourself here in the Lofoten Islands, you might be able to spot some Puffin birds that find their home here.

This list definitely does not cover everything that can be seen and experienced in the Nordics, but it hopefully gives some inspiration for you to start planning your trip up north! If you have any other suggestions on what to do or see in the Nordics, please let me know in the comments!

Simone Kruithof is a Partner at Scandinavian Hospitality. Scandinavian Hospitality specializes in luxury villa rentals in the Nordics, bringing a five-star level of service to the privacy of your vacation home, and representing some of the most extraordinary homes in Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

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