With Easter behind us, it’s time to look forward to the long summer break. And, with screens and tweets vying for children’s engagement, holidaymakers are increasingly looking to get back to nature. With this in mind, we’ve collated the best that Scandinavia has to offer between treehouse accommodation and majestic wildlife, each sure to set off imaginations. One of the best ways to keep the whole family happy is by moving about; combine volcanoes and seal beaches or cities and islands on your Scandinavian holiday.
Sleep in the trees
What child hasn’t dreamed of living in a treehouse? And, in Swedish Lapland they can experience exactly that. In the Treehotel, zip lines point the way to canopy-level cabins that eschew wood and nails for glass and steel, ultra-modern Scandinavian design.
We recommend the UFO room; hosting two adults and two children, it’s a shimmering metal spaceship complete with underbelly entrance. Or, there’s whole shipping container-esque cabins strung amid the canopy along with bird’s nest bundles of twigs and the equally alien ‘Mirror Cube’.
Sleeping high among the trees is an exhilarating experience, no matter what your age
And there are plenty of activities to keep everyone busy. Take to the waters in a kayak or white water raft before exploring – by mountain bike or on foot – the nearby nature reserve where, if you’re lucky, you can spot the ‘king of the beasts’ – the Swedish moose. Older children might want to have a go at horse-riding while all will take something away from a visit to the local Sámi. As the indigenous peoples of north Scandinavia, trips to their reindeer and traditional tents offer an insight into their unique way of life.
Escape on a cruise of the Norwegian fjords
Between mountain railways passing train set-perfect scenery and river cruises skirting sheer cliffs, Norway has been the inspiration to adventurers young and old for centuries, and this itinerary takes you through the scenery hat inspired them.
Start in second city Bergen where a funicular railway hoists you up to gorgeous views over a medieval, Hanseatic wharf of colourful wooden buildings. Then, an express boat will bring you through Norway’s longest fjord into the idyllic countryside of Balestrand comprising a fjord fore and a mountainous aft to explore. Then, wind past vertiginous drops and splashing waterfalls fed by the summer melt on one of the steepest railway journeys the world over. Wending through a valley of the same name, the Flåm Railway will take you through hand-hewn tunnels in the mountainside before a connecting route takes out over rock-stewn plateaus back to Bergen.
In all, it’s a journey that introduces children – via favourite transports – to the countryside delights of Norway.
Travelling through Norway on traditional forms of transportation – whether that's a Hurtigruten (pictured above) or on the Flam Railway – is a sure favourite amongst families
Drive through the alien landscapes of Iceland
Iceland’s dramatic landscapes – between spouting geysers and crunched continental rifts – are enough to ward off all but the worst case of are-we-nearly-there-yets.
On this self-drive, you’ll start in the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, where there’s an excellent zoo along with the famous Blue Lagoon where naturally heated waters are shrouded in mist and ringed by dark rocks. Then, there are the glaciers of Snæfellsnes Peninsula making for atmospheric walks past seal-speckled beaches before the majestic Goðafoss Waterfall’s semicircle of crashing torrents and the lava fields of Lake Mývatn. There’s also plenty of whale watching opportunities nearby.
The incredible natural scenery in Iceland lends itself perfectly to curious children
After experiencing the sea serpent legends of the northeast lakes you’ll move on to hay wagon tours of puffin colonies as you make your way to the south coast where cliffs full of birds are cleaved by waterfalls that you can walk behind.
Go whale watching in the Midnight Sun
The world’s largest mammal and the mysteries of the deep hold intrigue for young and old alike, and this tailor-made journey along Norway’s northwestern coast represents one of the best places to spot everything from giant Moby Dicks to harbour porpoises. In Andenes, no other place in the country has a whale feeding ground so close to the shore. Here, you’ll be able to spot humpbacks and sperm whales along with darting orcas and pilot whales; tour operators are so confident of making a sighting, that they offer a second safari free of charge if you fail to spot anything. Back on shore, you can educate your family at the Whale Centre and Hisnakul Nature Centre.
Whale watching while the Midnight Sun hangs ever-low is a memorable experience
From here, take the ferry back towards the mainland and Hamn i Senja, on Norway’s second largest island. Something of an activity destination, boat trips, hikes, kayaking expeditions and deep-sea fishing are all framed by a towering mountain backdrop. Then, head to Tromso with its gondola cable car views and kayaking trips along with the wolves, bears and reindeer of its Polar Park, the world’s northernmost animal park. Along the way – if you time your trip between May and July – you’ll be treated to the ethereal glow of the Midnight Sun as prolonged sunsets make for delightful evenings.
Discover Sweden’s cities and islands
For a break less travelled, start this self-drive in Gotland – the largest island in the Baltic Sea. Step back in time with its medieval history best experienced in its castles and near 100 churches or take advantage of its beaches; it’s the sunniest spot in northern Europe. There’s also the water slides, rollercoasters and go karts of Kneippbyn, best known for its replica of Pippi Longstocking’s cottage.
From here, travel to Stockholm where the Swedish capital rewards with everything from palaces to waterways that you can kayak through. Start in Gamla Stan – the city’s old town island – where boutique pastry shops line cobbled streets, rubbing shoulders with royal armouries and crown jewel treasuries. Elsewhere, you’ll also find the period rides of Gröna Lund – think towering chair swings and rickety rollercoasters – whose roots as an amusement park date back to the 19th century. Thee’s also the superb National Museum of Science and Technology whose itneractive exhibits bring education to life.