With the new decade finally here, perhaps you've been thinking about your 2020 bucket list? That's why we've created the ultimate Scandinavia travel planner, with tips on where to go each season, as chosen by our tailor-made specialists. There's everything from bear watching in the Swedish summertime to Santa breaks in Finnish Lapland in winter – read on for our seasonal picks.
The Festive Season: Christmas and New Year
The festive season of 2019 might have come to a close, but now is the perfect time to plan ahead for Christmas and New Year 2020. Demand for travel at this time of year is (understandably) high, and space is limited, so booking early is essential to secure your preferred dates. And, it's one of the most magical times to see Scandinavia, in the midst of winter under the glow of the Northern Lights.
Santa in Harriniva
Escape to a forested glade in Harriniva for a magical experience with Father Christmas himself. Or, head to Santa’s official village in Rovaniemi and visit his workshop. Our Santa holidays offer the chance to meet reindeer, go sledding through the fir trees, mush huskies and dine by the fireside in the wilderness. Children will delight in baking cookies and creating Christmas crafts, before gazing at the sky each evening in search of the Northern Lights. And, a very special visitor will make dreams come true whenever he makes an appearance. Our all-inclusive departures to Harriniva – and many of our other festive Santa breaks – are already booking fast for 2020, so enquire now to avoid missing out.
Winter: December to February
Winter in Scandinavia is truly magical: think snow-dusted landscapes that set the stage for adrenaline-filled adventures, cosy log cabins and nights spent searching the skies for the famed aurora. For those seeking something unique and unusual, think ice and snow hotels, glass igloos and luxury lodges in the wilderness.
Northern Lights City Break
Northern lights in Tromso, Norway
One of the most popular destinations for viewing the Northern Lights is Tromso. Located at the centre of the northern aurora zone, it's in prime aurora borealis territory. From a city stay here, you can head out into the wilderness to try your hand at everything from husky sledding and snowmobiling to reindeer sledding and whale watching trips. An evening Aurora Safari to one of four base stations offers the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights, with a local guide on hand to help you find them.
Classic ICEHOTEL Break
ICEHOTEL 30 | Art Suite Ruossut | Design Anna Ohlund & John Pettersson | Photo Asaf Kliger
Located 200km north of the Arctic Circle in the small village of Jukkasjärvi, this is one of the most incredible places to stay anywhere in the world. Each winter, the original ICEHOTEL is painstakingly rebuilt with new ice harvested from the Torne River, although the onsite ICEHOTEL 365 is open year-round, powered by solar energy. Alongside a one night stay in a freshly-built Ice Room – the Art Suites are especially impressive – and two nights’ warm accommodation, you'll have the opportunity to try everything from a Northern Lights safari on snowmobiles to mushing huskies across the tundra. There are also several other snow and ice hotels in Scandinavia to consider – we've outlined our top five here.
Polar Night: Northern Lights in Svalbard
Polar Night in Svalbard
Svalbard in winter means epic Polar Nights; the sun never rises above the horizon, leaving the landscape bathed in a pale twilight. Deep in the Arctic, you can enjoy all manner of classic winter activities, including mushing huskies and exploring glittering ice caves. And, a snow cat tour to a wilderness outpost offers a chance to see the Northern Lights away from any form of light pollution.
Spring: March to May
Head to Scandinavia in spring and you'll get the chance to spot the Northern Lights or, later on, the beauty of spring's bloom among Norway's fjords. Transitional weather means less extreme temperatures but plenty of adventure. In fact, April is one of the Scandinavian’s favourite times to travel – skies are often a bright, clear blue, and there's still lots of snow for activities.
Arctic Circle Explorer: Tromso and ICEHOTEL
One of our most popular breaks, this journey spans two countries – Norway and Sweden. You'll start in Tromso, Northern Lights capital of Norway, enjoying harbour views and a relaxation area on the top of the hotel, perfect for aurora-watching until around mid-April. Add on husky-sled rides and snowmobile trips, dinner cruises and distillery tastings, depending on the season. Then, you'll head east, pausing for a night among the mountains at Scandic Narvik before boarding the Arctic Circle train for a stay at Sweden’s iconic ICEHOTEL – a truly unique experience.
Hardangerfjord in a Nutshell
Head here in May to experience the beautiful spring blossom and explore fjord-side villages with boat cruises and bus hops. Bergen's famous brightly-coloured houses are a highlight, as is the scenic train journey to Voss, a tiny hamlet on the banks of a river. You'll also spend some time in Ulvik, a picture-perfect village surrounded by snow-dusted mountains. And, after travelling onwards to Hardanger, you'll spend a few days exploring the glassy waters and awesome scenery of the Norwegian fjords.
Best of South Iceland
Snorkelling at Silfra
Before the mass tourism of summertime hits, consider Iceland in the spring. A self-drive from charming Reykjavik to the country's southwest corner reveals a geothermal wonderland of geysers, volcanic beaches, gushing waterfalls and glacial lagoons. Take in the wild beauty of Thingvellir National Park or snorkel between tectonic plates at Silfra, before soaking in the mineral-rich waters of the famous Blue Lagoon.
Summer: June to August
Summer in Scandinavia means long days under the Midnight Sun and endless outdoor adventures – hiking kayaking and wildlife-watching are ideal Scandi summer activities. Remember, early booking is essential, especially for coveted destinations like Norway's fjords.
Bear watching in Sweden
Bear watching in Sweden
Just two hours from Stockholm, you'll encounter the country’s highest concentration of bears, roaming throughout the lush forests of the Gävelborg region. Relax on the shores of a forested lake near Åmot, where you can make the most of an authentic floating sauna and outdoor Jacuzzi, gentle hikes and lake paddles. During your stay, you'll meet with Sara Wennerqvist, a photographer and wildlife expert, and your official bear-watching host. She'll leave you to spend a night in a private timber cabin hide, where you can watch for bears, badgers and red squirrels under the glow of the Midnight Sun.
Fjord Escape to Bergen and Balestrand
The Norwegian fjords are arguable at their most spectacular in summer, and this week-long journey showcases all the beauty of the region's natural wonders. You'll begin once again with Bergen, cruising onwards to Balestrand, nestled on the northern shore of the breathtaking Sognefjord. Enjoy the Norwegian summer weather with two days in this idyllic village, before taking an express boat to Flåm, with breathtaking views of of the fjords.
Summer Adventure in Finnish Lakeland
Lake Paijanne, Finland
There's no better way to immerse yourself in the beauty of a Scandinavian summer than a holiday in Finnish Lakeland. Spend the long, sun-soaked days with activities such as lake swimming, fishing, and bike rides, or simply relax at the water's edge. There's an included private-island boat trip with a fireside lunch, and plenty of opportunity for some authentic Finnish sauna sessions. Explore the region's cities, from Jyvaskyla to historic Tampere, staying at boutique hotels and chic Scandi cabins along the way.
Iceland's Arctic Coast Way
Troll Peninsula, Arctic Coast Way
Summer is the best time to head off the beaten track and explore the lesser-known Arctic Coast Way. Designated one of Lonely Planet's top 10 destinations for 2019, the route winds past dramatic coastline, jagged mountain passes and volcanic lava fields dotted with puffins. After stays in quaint fishing villages and seaside towns, you'll arrive into Húsavík, Iceland’s “Whale Watching Capital", where an option wildlife-watching cruise is a great way to get up close to Iceland's marine life.
Discover Greenland in Summer
Icebergs and floral blooms in Greenland
Summer is undoubtedly the best time to see Greenland, but booking early is essential. Here, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site Ilulissat Icefjord provides a backdrop of icebergs at Disko Bay, sled dogs outnumber the local people, and in summer everything is bathed in endless light under the Midnight Sun. And, in July and August, Arctic flora blanket the landscapes in a sea of vibrant colour, best taken in on picturesque hikes or bike rides.
Autumn: September to November
Did you know you can see the Northern Lights in Scandinavia as early as August? Combine them with spectacular autumnal landscapes and long days with plenty of time to explore – autumn is a beautiful time of year in Scandinavia, and you'll often beat the crowds.
Levi Glass Igloo Autumn Break
Levin Iglut, Finnish Lapland
The Northern Lights are actually at their most active in autumn, and although you’ll miss the longer viewing times of the Polar Nights, the Earth’s orientation maximises the probability of solar flares during this season. This short break whisks you away to one of the best places to see them – Finnish Lapland. You'll take a scenic lake cruise, dine on gourmet regional cuisine, and add on excursions like forest walks and canoe trips, in addition to spending a night in a luxury glass igloo.
Iceland's Autumn Auroras
The milder weather of an Icelandic Autumn means clearer skies for seeking the aurora, warmer temperatures, and spectacular scenery, particularly on a self-drive. This 4WD road trip takes in all the geological wonders of southwest Iceland from the active geysers of the Golden Circle to the waterfalls and volcanoes of the south coast. Finish it off with a visit to the world-famous Blue Lagoon, where you'll enjoy a silica mud mask and a healing soak.
Autumn at Arctic TreeHouse Hotel
Autumn in Rovaniemi
Get the best of both worlds with early-season Northern Lights viewing and outdoor activities like fat-biking and wilderness hikes on this fun-filled itinerary. Autumn at the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel is all about adventure, making the most of the milder weather and minimal crowds. From a picnic deep in the forest to a husky hike, you'll have plenty to do during the day, before cosying up in your treetop accommodation each night, with the beauty of Finnish Lapland outside your panoramic window.
If you're feeling inspired to discover Scandinavia in 2020, don't hesitate to contact us so one of our travel specialists can help you design the perfect holiday for the season. To find out more, order a brochure, enquire or call us on 020 7838 5956.