Real-life Scandinavian destinations that inspired the world’s most beloved stories
Scandinavia’s landscapes have been the storybook setting for many of our favourite authors, be it Roald Dahl, whose childhood-defining characters danced onto the page from memories of mystical pine forests, or Philip Pullman, whose armoured polar bears roamed the wilds of glacial Svalbard. With the release of Pullman's latest offering in the Book of Dust series, and the much-anticipated BBC adaptation of His Dark Materials, we’ve taken a closer look at the destinations from which some of the world’s most beloved children’s authors took their inspiration. And, from summertime forest trails to remote archipelagos, our Scandinavian itineraries offer the chance to experience these magical settings for yourself.
Philip Pullman's remote Svalbard wilderness
Svalbard is best known for its polar bears, of which there are more than people, and was the inspiration for Philip Pullman's epic trilogy His Dark Materials, now a BBC drama. This icy archipelago is truly remote – an ideal setting for Pullman's first novel Northern Lights and probably the most iconic in all the books. Experience the best of it all with our Polar Night: Northern Lights in Svalbard itinerary, where you can take a snowcat vehicle across mountain plains, experience a husky safari among snow-covered pine trees or visit the fascinating Svalbard Museum. And, of course, you might spot the archipelago’s most famous residents prowling on glaciers, the inspiration for Pullman’s fearsome ‘armoured polar bears’.
Children and adults alike will love embracing their inner Lyra, first with a visit to Longyearben, Svalbard’s largest settlement. It's one of the world’s northernmost towns, where polar bears and reindeer roam the streets and looming icebergs dwarf the colourful wooden houses, the residents of which live in darkness for four months of the year during the Polar Night. You’ll stay in the trendy Funken Lodge, with fabulous views over the Lars glacier and the icy Arctic wilds. Your trip culminates with an excursion to discover the book's namesake – the Northern Lights - from the cabins of Camp Barentz in the remote Advent Valley. This will be your dramatic setting for a wilderness experience, where you'll enjoy stories around the campfire, a polar bear presentation, reindeer dinner, and with luck, an ethereal lightshow dancing across the skies.
Roald Dahl's Norway
One of the world’s best-known children’s authors, Roald Dahl, was born to Norwegian parents. Many of his stories reflects on summers spent in Norway, of picturesque scenery and happy childhood memories. The Roald Dahl Cookbook describes the ‘trolls and all the other mythical Norwegian creatures that lived in the dark pine forests’ and it’s in Norway’s stupendous landscapes, cosy cabins and vast fjords that we see these references come to life. In Boy: Tales of Childhood, Dahl describes how his boat weaved ‘in and out between cloudless tiny islands’ complete with ‘small brightly painted wooden houses’ and claimed ‘unless you have sailed down the Oslo-fjord like this yourself on a tranquil summer’s day, you cannot imagine what it is like’. Experience this magical landscape for yourself with our Roald Dahl's Norway itinerary, channeling a young Dahl with boat trips through picturesque bays, idyllic swims and picnics.
You'll start in Oslo, where Dahl's grandparents lived, before heading on a coastal drive characterised by pretty houses and enormous lakes. On arrival in Fevik, where fir trees cling to coastal shores, you'll discover the Strand Hotel - the same hotel Dahl stayed in for several summers when he was an adult. Built in 1937 and located on Norway's scenic southern tip, its bright, airy rooms and private sandy beach are nestled in the picturesque archipelago, peppered with island skerries and harbour ports. It’s an idyllic place to spend a few days, and you'll enjoy boat cruises to explore the area, similar to the trips Dahl took himself among hidden coves and fishing spots, that inspired his later works.
Han's Christian Andersen's Denmark
Loved by children across the world, Hans Christian Andersen's fairytales are true Danish legend. From The Little Mermaid to The Ugly Duckling, his charming stories have captivated readers for decades, while his own rags-to riches tale is somewhat of a fairytale itself. The colourful streets of Copenhagen and the spectacular Amalienborg Palace have a magical feel that makes it easy to see where Andersen drew inspiration. Today, homages to the author are dotted throughout the city, and the storybook aesthetic of rural Denmark brings his fairytale world to life.
Our Discover Denmark itinerary starts in Copenhagen, home to the most photographed statue in Scandinavia - The Little Mermaid. Andersen wrote the tale in 1836, describing a mermaid with an enchanted voice who seeks a life on land, and Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen cast her image in bronze in 1913. Also worth a visit are the magnificent Royal Danish Theatre, where a young Andersen tried his luck as an actor, singer and dancer before turning to writing, and Andersen's final resting place in the historic Assistens Cemetery. After departing Copenhagen, you'll also visit Aalborg’s still-standing Viking heritage and experience the idyllic seaside town of Skagen, stepping back in time among the romantic landscapes of the Baltic coastline.
Moomins of Finland
Think of the Moomins and you'll probably think of Finland. Swedish-speaking Fin, Tove Jansson, took inspiration from many a childhood memory when penning these beloved books, from remote Finnish archipelagos to her beloved home city of Helsinki. Our Moomins in Finland itinerary brings together the best of these inspiring landscapes. The Helsinki Art Museum showcases a gallery of her works and it is here that you'll start your adventure, followed by a visit to one of several charming Moomin cafes that dot the city. You’ll then head into Finland’s lakes and archipelagos and explore Söderskär, a remote lighthouse island, much loved by Jansson and believed to be the inspiration for the setting of one of her most famous books, Moominpappa at sea.
You’ll go on to visit the world's only Moomin Museum, where you can relive your childhood in the magical ‘Mumidalen’. You’ll browse the library of enchanting stories and stroll around the Tove Jansson and the Moomins exhibition that showcases her original figure drawings, including her 1930s Moomins and satirical 1940s cartoons. Enjoy guided tours and creative workshops before ice skating or swimming on the lake that lies just outside. Finally, you'll have the chance to visit Moominworld on the beautiful island of Kailo. Little ones will love walking the barefoot trail in the summer and mini-skiing with the Moomintroll in the winter, interactive performances with Little My, and of course, a visit to the iconic blue Moominhouse.
If you're dreaming of storybook Scandinavian villages or remote Pullman-esque wilderness, our travel experts are here to help you design your perfect holiday. Order a brochure or call to speak to us today. Your tailor-made fairytale adventure awaits!