The best way to witness the Northern Lights
Abisko in the far north of Sweden is an awesome spot for catching the Northern Lights (some say the best in the world). It’s actually pretty easy to get there – you can fly from Stockholm to a city called Kiruna, and then take a train for the final stretch. The cheaper option is usually to take a night train from Stockholm with the state railway company SJ (sj.se). Once you get there, there are cheap hostel beds at Abiskoturiststation (abisko.nu), with mountain walks all around.
It’s possible to see the Northern Lights anywhere in Norway and Sweden, but there’s very little chance in Bergen, Oslo and Ålesund. For the best chance you’d need to get up towards the Arctic circle – and even then a cloudy night can ruin anything! It’s also theoretically possible to see the Lights in summer, but as the nights are so short the chance is much smaller.
Cycling in Sweden
For cycling, try Österlen in the southwest of Sweden. It’s a big expanse of flat land with loads of pre-mapped routes, and there are beaches along the way – so you can cool off with a swim or two. Gotland is also a good bet for cycling.
Scandinavia for music fans
Gothenberg has a well-established music scene, and there are plenty of students to pack out the bars. If you like metal, check out Metaltown, a three-day festival held each summer (metaltown.se). Otherwise, Way Out West (wayoutwest.se) is worth a look – it’s held in the city’s main park.
Water-based fun in Sweden
July or August are the best summer months to visit Stockholm as the water suddenly starts to look a lot more inviting. A fun and reasonably cheap option is to hire a kayak and paddle between the islands. There’s also a good (if crowded) sandy beach on the northern edge of Långholmen island, where you can swim, sunbathe, and watch the boats go by.
Sweden’ biggest lake Vänern has loads of bathing spots. Try Gardesanna towards the southern edge of the lake – it’s popular with locals for a reason. If you’re in Gothenberg, Delsjön is a decent spot for picnics and swimming.
Catching some midnight sun
From mid-May to end of July or beginning of August you can catch the midnight sun at the Lofoten Archipelago where there’s incredible mountain scenery, with sharp, toothy peaks gnawing at the sky. There’s also a golf-course, meaning you can play golf all night, if the mood so takes you. Or check out Riksgränsen, Sweden’s northern most ski resort. Head there in May and you can ski until 1 a.m.
An ideal spot for Scandinavian newbies
Copenhagen is a good place for a first trip to Scandinavia as it’s relatively cheap, design conscious and well-planned out – and there’s excellent beer. As Denmark is a smaller country it’s easy to take a trip out to the countryside if you have a day or two to spare – or you could even hop over the Öresund bridge to Malmö in Sweden (about 35-minute train ride from Copenhagen) and get a taste of Swedish culture too.
Meeting the Sámi reindeer herders
There are Sámi herders that allow tourists to visit, but not many. Others have “regular” jobs (in forestry, for example) and supplement their income by letting people come to stay, or offering Sámi experiences. If you want a good understanding of the culture and how the modern world has affected it, the best place to visit is the Ájtte museum in Jokkmokk. Jokkmokk also hosts a huge winter market at the beginning of February, so you could time a visit to coincide with that.
Scandinavia on a Budget
Hostels are generally of a really high standard and many have private rooms, so even if you don’t like the idea of sharing you don’t have to splash out on a hotel.
Buses are generally cheaper than trains - especially if you book in advance. A trip from Oslo to Gothenberg can cost as little as 99SEK (£10) if you book a few weeks before you travel.
Scandinavia for foodies
Food is a mixed bag in the big cities and you find flavours from all over, but really upmarket places are starting to embrace local flavours a lot more, with ingredients like elk, ligonberries, and wild mushrooms finding their way onto lots of menus. Seafood is also worth seeking out – the cold water helps, apparently!
To eat well in Copenhagen without spending a fortune, there’s a relatively new food hall (torvehallernekbh.dk) where you can pick up loads of gourmet ingredients. You can also try the Danish speciality Smørrebrød – an open sandwich often served with pickled herring, chives and egg.
There’s a prison hostel on Gotland called Visby Fängelse Vandrarhem. There are old cells to stay in, and you’re right beside a beautiful medieval city. If you want to up the spending a little, there’s Treehotel in Harads (treehotel.se) or Jumbo Stay at Stockholm Arland which is a Boeing 747 converted into a hostel/hotel.
In Sweden it’s possible to camp anywhere for one night for free, but there are strict rules about where you camp and what you leave behind (check out swedishepa.se and search Allemansrätten for the exact rules). There’s a similar scheme in Norway, but not Denmark.