I am from Scandinavia. I have traveled in all the Scandinavian countries. Even though I live in the US now, I still love Scandinavia. So, why do I think you should go to Scandinavia? What is special and compelling about it? What should you look for and try to do or experience if you go there?
These are probably the big questions for any tourist. They certainly are for me. For most of us, traveling means choosing: Travel takes time and is relatively costly. Therefore travel requires us to make choices. Going one place means not going somewhere else. At least this time. So let me try to answer them with words and with images.
The City of Reykjavik, Iceland.
Sweden- Midnight Sun Kiruna.
My take on this, as a Scandinavian, is that there are several things: How green it is in Summer and how magically white it is during Winter. How special the long, long summer evenings and nights are far up north; with a sun that goes down only for very short periods of time late at night. The beauty of the fjords and the majesty of the incredibly steep mountains on both sides. How charming and idyllic the thousands of small islands and hundreds of small fishing villages along the coasts are. How history surrounds you everywhere: People who trace their ancestors for many hundreds of years back, churches and buildings from the medieval ages, Viking history, and so on.
Waterfront in Helsinki.
Couple in reindeer sledge - Norway.
However, let me just say this before you say it: Interesting as they are, these wonders and marvels are not unique to Scandinavia. When it comes right down to it, the only thing unique to Scandinavia is probably the language(s). Take the special light and the short nights during the summer for instance: You can find that other places far north – like Siberia and Alaska. You can find fjords very similar in, for instance, Alaska and Scotland. And so on.
Landscape with poplars - Denmark.
Permit me, then, to remind you of some of the qualities of the Nordic countries. To tell you about how special Helsinki and Finnish Lappland are. And how Stockholm is an incredibly beatiful capital and the southern coast of Sweden utterly charming. That Copenhagen is lush, with intriguing designs and outstanding food. That Norway has the fjords, the midnight sun, Oslo and Bergen. And that Iceland with Reykjavik, its geysirs and its fjords is very special too.
What's my point then? For me the magic and the beauty lie in a unique and intriguing mixture of elements, climate, natural phenomena, history, buildings and culture, combined in a unique and very attractive way. It's like a strange mystical potion; a definite something that has made these small societies stand out ever since the Vikings roamed the seas, and has turned Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden into some of the richest, most educated, best organized and happiest societies on the face of the earth.
So there is no ONE thing. Instead there are many. Many traits. Many interesting cities. Many beautiful places. Breathtaking fjords, islands and mountains. Distinct seasons. Lots of intriguing culture and architecture. A multitude of wonderful museums. A variety of activities. A culture of shared memories and closeness. More social equality. More equal rights. A wider social responsibility. Lots of things one takes notice of – special experiences, stunning views, and lots of food for thought.
Even though I have spent a considerable amount of time pondering this, there is no single phenomenon or place I can insist that you must see.
Instead, I strongly feel that I must simply tell you to go there and discover the magic yourself: Go…do things, hike, bike, ski, see things, think, and ponder what it is. And eat well, soak up the beauty, have a great time and stock up on great, everlasting memories in the process.
And if you fail to find THE answer, don't despair, your answer may still be sufficiently close. And in any case it may not matter all that much.
Remember too that in the absence of great answers – which I consider the natural state of affairs for most of us, most of the time – you can do as I do: Rejoice in the memories, delight in what you have seen and done, and start the planning of your next trip. To Scandinavia again. Of course!