Travel to Scandinavia

Scandinavia - minimap

Scandinavia is an European region north of the Baltic Sea. At almost 1.2 million square kilometers (463,000 square miles) it is the largest region in Europe, but home to only around 24 million people, accounting for a mere 4% of the population.

Northern Light

Northern Light

Geiranger fjord, Norway

The Geiranger Fjord, Norway

The Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) are quite different, but also share common bonds wrought by their Nordic geography, culture and history. The region is known for its natural beauty and more recently its liberalism. Denmark, Finland and Sweden are EU members. Oil and gas rich Norway, and the island nation to the west, Iceland, are not.

Lapland

Lapland

Foliage in Scandinavia

Foliage in Scandinavia

The Nordic countries all have quite strong economies. Norway and Iceland have abundant natural resources. According to the IMF, Norway had the second highest GDP per capita in the world in 2009 - all the Scandinavian countries were among the top 20 on the list (US was 9th and UK 22nd). Sweden and Finland also have natural resources but are in the international marketplace mostly famously for strong brands like Volvo, Saab, Ericsson (Sony Ericsson) and Nokia. Denmark has developed sophisticated businesses in a number of industries, and is the leading agricultural country in Scandinavia. It is also world-renown for its excelence in design. However, strong economies also translate into high prices for visitors.

Vigeland Park in Oslo

Vigeland Park, Oslo

Elaborate welfare states are a common characteristic of the Nordic countries. Most things are generally highly organized and tourists should expect everything to proceed according to plans, rules and timetables. According to Transparency International, the Nordic countries are the least corrupt in the world.

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden

Due to the high latitude, summer nights are very short and in the northern most part there is even midnight sun in the summer. While central parts of Scandinavia (the Oslo-Stockholm-Copenhagen triangle) are more densely populated, vast areas in the north and in the mountains are hardly populated at all. Sweden is in fact one of Europes largest countries in terms of area, and Norway is the size of Germany, despite its modest population of some 4.5 million. Because of this, space, light and nature are among the foremost characteristics of these countries.

Some of the most famous cities in Scandinavia are Copenhagen and Aarhus (Denmark), Stockholm and Gothenburg (Sweden), Oslo and Bergen (Norway), Helsinki and Vaasa (Finland), and Reykjavik (Iceland).

Language: Virtually everyone in the Scandinavian countries, especially among people under 55, speak at least basic English.

Links to more information about Scandinavia:


 Title/author Description Order from:
Insight Guide Scandinavia Insight Guide Scandinavia Insight Guide Scandinavia is a very comprehensive and good guide to Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland (I assume Iceland has been excluded due to geographical distance). This is a high quality guide, with excellent quality paper, lots of truly stunning photos, and very good, up-to-date advicer. Being Scandinavian and knowing the area well, I am still very impressed by this book. Truly a book that can inspire you to discover this vast and very fascinating region. Amazon US, Amazon UK
Rick Steves Scandinavia Rick Steves' Scandinavia Rick Steves' travel guides have a large following, for some very good reasons. Rick's book bring well-considered yet candid and humorous advice that will guide you to good-value hotels and restaurants. Curiously, this book has nothing on Iceland (a Nordic country) but a chapter on Estonia (not part of Scandiavia). However, that said, this is an excellent guidebook. You'll get up-to-date recommendations on what's worth your time and money. More than just reviews and directions, a Rick Steves guidebook is a tour guide in your pocket. Amazon US, Amazon UK
Fodor's Scandinavia Fodor's Essential Scandinavia, 1st Edition: The Best Cities, Sights, and Cruises (Fodor's Gold Guides) This is a very accurate and good tour guide.

"If it’s not worth your time, it’s not in this book" is what they say about this book. And there is some truth to it. It contains excellent information about the most interesting and enjoyable places in Scandinavia, with choices for every traveler, from cruising the Nordic Seas or soaking in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon to immersing yourself in the hip atmosphere of downtown Stockholm, and much more! It also contains lots of cool and useful tips, including tips that will save you money!

Amazon US, Amazon UK
Lonely Planet Scandinavia (Multi Country Travel Guide) Like most Lonely Planet guides, it contains what you need in an easy-to-find fashion: temperatures in different regions, customs and habits, how to use transportation, approximate costs. Well organized and very useful! Amazon US, Amazon UK
Rough guide to Scandinavia The Rough Guide to Scandinavia 8 (Rough Guides) This is a well organized and engaging travel book. The pictures and information are user-friendly and helpful. The maps are clear and vibrant, as are the photos. It also has lots of information about the coiuntries, such as their histories. Highly recommended. Amazon US, Amazon UK
A History of Scandinavia A History of Scandinavia: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland, by T.K. Derry This is a good scholarly work and provides an useful and insightful overview that stretches over a millenium in time. It shows how the histories of the Scandinavian countries are intertwined, but also does a good job of showing the individuality of each of the countries. It has good discussions of church-state relations, the impact of the industrial revolution and the development of the welfare states, the period leading up to the second world war and during the war, and the historical contribution of each nation to the arts and sciences. It provides excellent background info! Amazon US,Amazon UK

Video: Images from Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm.