Everyone who follows our adventures a bit will have noticed we have a fondess for the High North. I know it can get a bit cold up there sometimes but nature in Scandinavia is so overwhelming. Only two years ago, Scandinavia was still high on my travel bucket list. Fortunately I managed to cross this off my list. And how! I was priviliged to guide three canoe trekkings in Sweden, do a long-distance hike, embark on a wilderness adventure in Finland, drive a round-trip in Norway and push my limits during a kayak expedition in Svalbard. And I can only say my love for the North has grown ever since!
More, even, our kayak expedition in Spitsbergen is my favorite adventure so far, one I hope to follow-through with a mountaineering expedition to Newtontoppen in one of these next few years.
Here are a few good reasons why we love Scandinavia so much.
About 53% of Sweden and Finland is covered in dense forests. Only to be interspersed with lakes and small villages. When flying into Stockholm or Helsinki, you get a great view on these endless forests. If you like this aspect of Scandinavia, be sure to travel to Dalarna, Sweden.
Scandinavia has so many lakes it’s literally impossible to count all of them. Their number easily exceeds 100,000 so it’s fair to say that there is an idyllic lake for everyone’s taste. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
At 2469m, Galdhøpiggen is the tallest mountain in Norway and Northern Europe. In comparison to mountain ranges like the Alps, the Andes or the Himalayas, this is not a very high standard. Still, since the Norwegian mountains start at nearly sea level, they are an impressive sight. Due to climate, snow is present year-round.
Where you have mountains, you have glaciers. Scandinavia is home to the largest glaciers in Europe. The Vatnajökull in Iceland is the largest glacier in Europe and covers about 8% of Icelandic territory. Spitsbergen as well has some impressive glacier fields.
Snow, mountains, glaciers, … we need something to warm up. And fast! That must have been the thoughts of the Finnish when they came up with the idea of the sauna. While it originated in Finland, it has become very well established in Swedish culture as well.
Another great way to heat up from the cold is by taking a dip in one of the many volcanic hot springs you can find in Iceland.
We all remember the viking clap on the World Cup when Iceland played, yes? Well, that’s not made up. Scandinavian people are the descendants of Vikings, and their heritage is still to be seen all over Scandinavia.
Summer in the High North has the advantage of having more sunlight hours. Above the Arctic circle you can even witness the Midnight sun.
Scandinavian winters on the other hand have a reputation for having few to no sunlight hours. Fortunately they have something that makes that well up: the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights.
Norwegian Fjords have a huge reputation as most travelers put them on their wish-to-see list. I saw the fjords in Spitsbergen last year and Norway earlier this year, and I must admit they are mighty impressive.
Hiking, paddling, cycling, fishing, camping, … do we need to say more?
Even in the cold temperatures, there are some great activities to leave your warm cottage. Skiing and snowmobiling is quite popular during the winter months. For those who are looking for unique Arctic adventure, embark on a dogsled journey is the way to go.
The best thing about Scandinavian nature is that everyone is allowed to roam free and camp wherever they want. As long as you have respect for nature that is.
So much nature.. there has to be wildlife. When spending some time in the outdoors you may catch a glimpse of moose, lynx and even bears and wolves. Spitsbergen on the other hand is truly unique and one of the best wildlife destinations I’ve experienced so far. It seemed so easy to spot Arctic fox, Svalbard reindeer, beluga whales and even polar bears.