Welcome to Scandinavia
When the term "Scandinavian" comes to mind, perhaps you think of a glacial alpine wilderness or even Ikea's ever practical furniture. Scandinavia actually refers to a group of countries north of the Baltic Sea - the three original Scandi kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and the additional countries of Finland and Iceland. This mystical region possesses a rather mythical quality, partly due to its Norse and Viking heritage. The countries boast beautiful natural landscapes, eclectic cities and, they're also widely considered to be the most livable locations in the world with the highest quality of life, so let's find out what they're all about!
Although Finland is not one of the original Scandinavian kingdoms, through historical association it forms part of this list and we're thankful it does, as it's a country which offers winter sports in abundance, Instagram-worthy landscapes and an all-season magical atmosphere. Visit the Finnish capital Helsinki and you'll be met with a small but significant European hub, renowned for its technological, design and musical prowess. Arguably the best time to visit Helsinki is during the festive period when golden fairy lights line the city's streets and the warm aroma of glögi (Finnish mulled wine) fills the air.
© Oleksiy Mark/123RF
Your adventure in Finland
The phrase 'winter wonderland' is thrown around often, but rare is it to actually find a destination worthy of this title; Lapland in Finland is the exception. Located in the north of the country, Lapland covers just under one third of Finland's land mass. This vast and expansive subarctic region is one of the most magical places on earth, the desolate snow planes somehow possessing a certain charming beauty. Activities include snowmobile safaris and husky sledding, all amid breathtaking unspoiled scenery and fresh Finnish air. Home of the ancient Sami tribe and roaming with reindeer, Lapland, as captivating and wild as it is, simply must feature on your Scandinavian adventure.
© Roman Kert Rodionov/123RF
Sweden is classed as one of the three original Scandinavian nations, and lies to the west of neighboring Finland. It forms the eastern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula and has over 3000 islands which make up the Stockholm archipelago. The capital itself, Stockholm, is a trendy urban center with architectural aesthetics to die for, and further afield you'll find the country brimming with natural beauty, vast wildernesses and mysterious forests just begging to be explored. Rich in Viking folklore, Sweden is bursting with cultural heritage in the form of its burial ruins and ancient stones, a common site reminding tourists and locals alike of Sweden's intriguing past.
Your adventure in Sweden
Wrap up your time in Sweden with a visit to one of the country's most magnificent castles. Kalmar Slott, located in the province of Smaland, sits on the Swedish Danish border and epitomizes the Nordic Renaissance architecture so commonly found within Scandinavia. The majestic edifice can be traced back to the 12th century and was rebuilt during the 16th century at the time of the legendary Vasa Kings. The castle exterior appears utterly resplendent sitting on the surroundings of a still lake. With enchanting turrets and fairytale architecture, it's no wonder Kalmar Slott is one of the most famous of the magical relics reflecting Sweden's enthralling past. Now it's time to hop over the boarder to Denmark and continue our Scandi adventure!