Beautiful, vast, varied Scandinavia – the countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark offer an amazing array of activities and things to do. With some of the best landscapes in the world, people flock here for the fresh air and the endless expanses of nature. From hiking and camping to swimming and saunas, Scandinavia has something for every outdoors enthusiast. And while no one can deny the appeal of the cosy cafés and diverse range of art and architecture that the biggest cities offer, we love Scandinavia for its wild beauty, its rugged terrains, its lush forests, and its abundance of wildlife. With a fascinating history and centuries of exploring beneath those Scandinavian belts, the land is appreciated just as it is: boundless and awe-inspiring. Whether you explore by land or by sea, the area is home to an outdoor playground that’s guaranteed to make your jaw drop.
No matter what the season, Scandinavia has something for every nature fan. With spring comes warmer weather and the melting of the ice, the landscapes returning to brilliant green. During the long, bright days of midsummer, the coast and the islands come alive with the sun, and the fields explode with colourful flowers, more than enough for your flower crown. In autumn, against blue skies, the trees burst with red and yellow leaves, the air crisp and cool. And all Scandinavians know that, despite the chilly weather and dark days, the region is still as beautiful and as vivid as ever in winter, when the sky fills with the dancing Northern Lights and the ground is blanketed with thick snow. Whether you decide to explore Scandinavia in the height of summer, the coldest months of winter, or any time in between, you’ll find a limitless variety of activities to keep you busy.
Scandinavian History and culture
Scandinavian culture goes back thousands and thousands of years. From the petroglyphs of the Stone Age to the battles of the Vikings to the modern age of agriculture, the region of Scandinavia is a melting pot of a rich and diverse cultural background. Now, in today’s world, Scandinavia is known around the globe for its progressive ways of life, its innovative industries, and, of course, its fika and its hygge. Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are known as some of the safest, healthiest, and most educated countries on Earth, though it’s not really in their nature to brag. Instead, they let their countries do the talking for them; the cities, clean and full of cultural attractions, and the landscapes, relatively unspoilt and an ingrained part of the Scandinavian identity.
Many years ago, in the Ice Ages, glaciers carved the landscape of Scandinavia, leaving behind the famous fjords of Norway and the flat terrains of Denmark. The first recorded human presence in Scandinavia dates back 12,000 years, when warmer climates brought more hospitable living conditions; the vast forests of evergreen trees and herds of reindeer made for an inviting home for Scandinavian ancestors. While temperatures grew warmer and the hunter/gatherers moved further north for summer as they followed the reindeer and the salmon, southern Scandinavia was home to people who took advantage of the bountiful waters, hunting seals and catching fish. For the next hundreds of generations to come, even throughout the Bronze and Iron ages, Scandinavian people always relied on the earth, setting up a deep connection to the land that remains to this day.
And now, in the 21st century, Scandinavian culture is a fascinating mix of the old and the new. While traditions are still upheld – the celebrations of Midsummer, for example, and an innate sense of wanting to spend time in nature – Scandinavia is also making many strides in the global community, valuing equality and diversity in all sectors of society. Going back to that sense of hygge or fika, Scandinavian culture promotes living a healthy, happy life, with time to enjoy quiet moments of rest and relaxation. There’s an emphasis on the importance of slowing down, whether that involves meeting a few friends for a drink in a cosy pub, or reflecting on your own while on a solo hike in the outdoors.
And while the rest of the world might know Scandinavia by its exports – IKEA, LEGO, and salty liquorice – the enduring appeal of Scandinavia is the way of living, the encouragement of happiness and health. And it’s this way of life that is starting to attract so many tourists to Scandinavia; the rest of the world is wising up to how incredible Scandinavian travel is, and just how much there is to explore.
scandinavian nature and adventures
The wild and diverse outdoors of Scandinavia is the stuff of dreams for any nature enthusiast. Here you can find some of the best hiking in the world, discover endless lakes, islands, and fjords, and spot beautiful wildlife at home in their natural environment. The region’s landscape, first sculpted by ice, is now as varied as you can get: mountainous peaks in Norway, chalk cliffs in Denmark, and coniferous forests in Sweden. Home to crystal-clear lakes, active volcanoes, and some of the most uninterrupted stretches of nature in Europe, you’re bound to find an activity that suits what you’re looking for.
In the warmer months, Scandinavia offers a treasure trove of hiking routes to discover. Some of the most famous include the Kungsleden trail in Sweden and the trek to Trolltunga in Norway, where everyone loves to pose for that perfect photo. The warmer temperatures also allow for the best camping around the region, where in some parts of Scandinavia, camping comes as second nature to the people. It helps that campsite facilities are of the highest standards, guaranteeing you a relaxing and comfortable camping trip. Spending time in nature is said to energise the body and clear the mind; in Scandinavia, the fresh air and vast terrains ensure you can find a quiet piece of land to obtain your peace and solitude. With some of the best fly fishing in Europe, fishing enthusiasts can expect top quality adventures on Scandinavia’s lakes. Along the coasts, whale watching allows lucky visitors to spot the magnificent creatures that make their migration every year. And let’s not forget about the Arctic summer, which, in the far north of Scandinavia, allows for polar bear spotting and the full effect of the midnight sun.
In the colder months, Scandinavian activities show no sign of slowing down, with people heading out in their warmest clothing to enjoy the benefits of the fresh snow. Skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling are fantastic ways to see the land up close and personal, allowing people to take full advantage of the wintry delights of Scandinavia. Ice fishing is also popular, with the possibility of catching trout, pike, and arctic char. Ice hotels dot the landscape, allowing for a unique experience in some of the world’s chilliest locations. And no summary of Scandinavian winter activities would be complete without two of the best and most appealing attractions: The Northern Lights and outdoor saunas. People come from around the world to watch the skies light up with the Aurora Borealis, hoping to catch a glimpse of the beauty and wonder of this phenomenon. And perhaps there’s nothing more Scandinavian than relaxing in a steamy sauna only to follow that up with an invigorating dip in icy waters, proving Scandinavians are always up for a winter swim.
Across Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, Scandinavia is brimming with opportunities for adventure, making it the perfect place for outdoor activities, no matter what time of year you explore.
did you know?
With such a diverse and lengthy history, Scandinavian culture is filled with lots of fun and interesting facts. For example, did you know that, despite Hollywood’s insistence on Vikings wearing helmets with horns, that was never part of the Viking wardrobe? And despite a violent reputation, Vikings may have been ahead of their time in one regard – women were allowed to divorce their husbands quite easily, and the men were supposed to maintain spousal support. What could be grounds for divorce from your husband? There are rumours that it could be anything as innocuous as “showing too much chest hair”.
Speaking of Vikings, they loved the land as much as modern Scandinavians, regularly skiing for pleasure. And while bathing and keeping clean was yet to catch on in England, Vikings took regular baths on Saturdays. In fact, the word Lørdag (Saturday) comes from the Norse word – laug – for bath.
Finally, although tourist shops are full of fun souvenirs for people to take home, one of the most prized Scandinavian souvenirs seems to be the “moose crossing” signs found around Sweden, with hundreds replaced every year. No word on what the moose think!