Travel Update


Iceberg in Greenland

Best Nordic Countries & Places to Visit

Last Updated: 09/04/2024

Imagine yourself gazing at epic natural landscapes, exploring ultra-hip cities, and witnessing natural phenomena like the northern lights or midnight sun. Visit the Nordics, and you could experience all of this in one trip.

The countries that make up this region are: Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland along with their territories.

With so much to see and do in this part of Northern Europe, you might find yourself asking: “which is the best Nordic country to visit?”

Read on to discover why this part of the world holds so much allure for travellers. You’ll learn the best time to visit, the top places to go, and how long you need to explore. 

person sitting atop trolltunga cliff

Reasons to visit the Nordics

The Nordics are full of hip cities and epic natural landscapes. But here are some things you might not realise about this region:

  • The Nordic countries are world leaders in sustainable living.
  • It's easy to explore multiple countries on one trip.
  • The low crime rate makes these destinations great for solo travellers and families.
  • You can experience thrilling activities in otherworldly scenery.
  • English is widely spoken, so it's easy to connect with the locals and learn about culture.

The best Nordic places to visit

Read on to learn the best places to visit in the Nordic countries and why.

Fagradalsfjall volcano in Iceland

1. Iceland

Iceland earned the nickname “The Land of Fire and Ice” thanks to its combination of glaciers, volcanoes and hot springs. When you visit, you’ll notice wide expanses of unspoilt nature, with picture-perfect scenes appearing around every corner.

So what does Iceland have in store for you?

Mind-blowing nature

Icelandic nature is impressive, to say the least.

Venture here to see glaciers, waterfalls, black sand beaches, hot springs and even active volcanoes. It’s also a sparsely populated island, so you get more of the remote scenery to yourself.

Kirkjufell and northern lights in Iceland

What’s more, on a winter trip to Iceland, you’ll get the chance to see one of nature’s greatest marvels, the aurora borealis.

Iceland is actually one of the world’s best places to see the northern lights. This is thanks to its location near the Arctic Circle, where aurora activity is strongest. Plus, the country’s remote landscapes have little light pollution, meaning it’s easier to make out the colours of the aurora.

Relaxing in Iceland

If you’re looking to unwind, Iceland is the perfect place to take some time for yourself. With a range of spas, hot springs, and geothermal pools, you’re as likely to find opportunities to relax as you are thrilling day tours.

You could pair a day in the countryside with a dip in a hot spring. Or treat yourself to a well-deserved soak in the Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon near Reykjavík. You could also unwind at Hvammsvík spa, an oceanside spring with pools of different temperatures.

person with a hat bathing in hot spring with mountain background

Easy to reach

If you’re based in Europe or North America, Iceland is a convenient place to travel to. There are many direct flights to the capital, Reykjavík, and the journey time is shorter than you might imagine.

This is because Iceland sits between the 2 continents in the North Atlantic Ocean. It would take you between 5–6 hours to fly here from New York, or roughly 3 hours from London.

Don’t miss…

The cultural delights of Reykjavík, the capital city. Think cool museums, a tempting foodie scene, and friendly locals – who speak fluent English, by the way.

You could hop aboard a boat and go on a whale-watching tour not far from the capital. You could also explore Iceland's "icy" side by walking on a glacier or exploring ice caves.

Also, be sure to travel the famous Golden Circle route. This loop introduces you to some of the top sights in South Iceland, including Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir, and Þingvellir National Park.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you could snorkel in a fissure between two tectonic plates. This is just one of the many extraordinary things to do in Iceland.

Mountains in Norway and fjords reflecting the blue sky

2. Norway

Another Nordic spot that has it all: sustainable travel, exciting excursions, dramatic landscapes and captivating history. 

If you haven’t already added Norway to your wish list, now is the time. This land of jewel-toned fjords, jagged peaks and Viking heritage beckons you to come and immerse yourself in its wonders.

Sustainable travel in Bergen

Another Nordic spot that has it all: sustainability credentials, exciting excursions, jaw-dropping landscapes and captivating history.

If you haven’t already added Norway to your wish list, now’s the time. This land of jewel-toned fjords, jagged peaks, and Viking heritage invites you to immerse yourself in its wonders.

Sustainable travel in Bergen

One of the best Nordic cities to visit is Bergen, Norway. It’s leading the way to becoming a greener city. In fact, Country Living named it among the world’s most sustainable travel destinations.

Here you can expect environmentally friendly public transport, excellent air quality, and plenty of people and businesses working hard to be more eco-friendly.

What’s more? You won’t skimp on the scenery here. Located at the mouth of the fjords, Bergen is a stone’s throw from some of the country’s most beautiful sights.

Take a cruise to experience Nærøyfjord and Geirangerfjord, UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Bergen is also surrounded by 7 mountains, so you can hike or hop on a funicular to admire the views from the top. 

colourful houses on the seafront of Bergen

Don’t miss…

Taking a scenic rail journey and fjord cruise on the unmissable Norway in a Nutshell® route, which will whisk you from Oslo to Bergen. You’ll see mountains, waterfalls and fjords on this unforgettable passage.

Norway’s world-class scenery will have you feeling deeply connected to nature. Plus, it’s one of the best spots in Scandinavia for outdoor activities.

Go one step further and hike to one of the iconic Norwegian peaks like Pulpit Rock.

boats and colourful houses of Nyhavn in Copenhagen

3. Denmark

Along with Sweden and Norway, Denmark is one of the 3 Scandinavian countries. Don’t miss Copenhagen, the capital and largest city in Denmark.

One of the finest Nordic cities

According to Travel + Leisure, Copenhagen is a top spot for “big city thrills”. When you visit, you’ll soon see why. It’s home to one of Time Out’s coolest neighbourhoods in the world, Vesterbro, where you can expect a bustling atmosphere, vibrant street art, and strong community spirit.

Copenhagen’s cool vibes don’t stop there, though. Across the city, you’ll discover colourful old buildings, cobbled streets lined with independent boutiques, and a beautiful waterfront. You’ll also want to act like the locals and dine al fresco, soaking up your surroundings.

In fact, Copenhagen is the official UNESCO World Capital of Architecture. So a walk around the city to admire the surroundings is a must.

Bicycles by brick wall in Copenhagen

Safest city

As if being cool wasn’t enough, Copenhagen is also high in the rankings for the world’s safest cities. A low crime rate and eco-friendly initiatives all add to this reputation. If you’re travelling solo, Copenhagen’s safety is a particular draw.

Denmark, as a whole, is considered one of the safest countries in the world. And it’s one of the happiest nations too!

Don’t miss…

The Nyhvan district in Copenhagen, where boats bob in the harbour and brightly coloured buildings line the waterfront promenade. Be sure to pay a visit to the Tivoli Gardens, one of the oldest amusement parks in the world.

A great way to explore Copenhagen's waterways is on a boat tour. Spot the Christiansborg Royal Palace, Royal Danish Opera House and Christianshavn Canal.

Why not combine your visit to Denmark with a trip to Norway and Sweden? You could go on a road trip or train tour between the 3 Scandinavian countries for an immersive experience.

queens square and canal of Gothenburg

4. Sweden & Finland

IIf you’re looking for sustainable travel destinations, add Sweden and Finland to your wish list. These Nordic nations have some of the world’s most impressive eco-credentials, with plenty of cultural highlights and adventures in store for you as well.

Sustainable appeal

Since more than 80% of Finland is covered in forests, you know it’s going to be one of the best places to breathe clean, fresh air.

What’s more, Forbes recommends Finland as one of the most sustainable countries to visit. They also mention Sweden, along with its Nordic neighbours, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, as “eco-energy superheroes”.

Purple flowers in front of yellow field in Sweden

Gothenburg, Sweden ranks highly on the Global Destination Sustainability Index.

Around the country, roughly 97% of public transport is powered by renewable energy.

Make the most of the country’s efficient rail network with a train tour of Sweden. You could explore the trendy cities of Stockholm and Malmö, travelling between them by train.

Northern lights

In the far north of Sweden and Finland, you’ll find a stunning region called Lapland. As well as being the place to meet Santa Claus, Finnish and Swedish Lapland are among the world’s best spots to see the northern lights.

What better way to reconnect with the environment than with spellbinding outings? Hunt for the aurora and let Mother Nature captivate you.

Seeing the magical colours of the aurora borealis light up the sky above you is an experience you’ll never forget.

Northern lights over the forest in Finnish Lapland

Don’t miss…

TThe medieval old town in Stockholm, Gamla Stan, or the hip art galleries of Helsinki. Plus, both the Swedish and Finnish capital cities are nestled beside the Baltic Sea, so you could take boat trips to nearby islands. Imagine sailing through the pretty Stockholm archipelago, where you can go hiking and try watersports in summer.

If you visit Lapland, you’ll want to have fun in the snow with winter activities. Think dog sledding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. And be sure to chase the northern lights on an aurora safari – winter is the best time of year to catch sight of them.

You might even like to stay in a Nordic ice hotel or glass igloo. Lapland is home to quite a few of them!

view of ilullissat village and iceberg
Ilulissat in midnight sun from the sea © Iurie Belegurschi

5. Greenland

Greenland is an island nation that’s part of the Kingdom of Denmark, but it sits much closer to North America geographically. Here, you can expect an unspoilt landscape with frozen tundra, floating icebergs, and wide horizons.

One of Greenland’s treasures is its people. Don’t forget to meet the locals and learn about the Inuit heritage. You can book excursions and tours where you’ll get to connect with Greenlanders and learn more about their culture.

Midnight sun

Between June and August, you’ll experience a phenomenon called the “midnight sun” when the sun doesn’t fully set. This is thanks to Greenland’s northerly latitude and location in the Arctic Circle.

That means that during the summer you’ll benefit from endless daylight for sightseeing.

people standing at viewpoint by the icy sea
Viewpoint near Tasiilaq © Mads Pihl

Combine Iceland & Greenland

One of the ways to fly to Greenland is via Iceland. So why not combine both destinations for a memorable Nordic getaway?

We recommend travelling to Reykjavík first, Iceland’s capital, before flying to Ilulissat, a small town on the west coast of Greenland. After a few days immersed in the outstanding nature here, you’ll fly back to Iceland. Pick up your rental car and take a road trip around the famous Ring Road.

This is a great way to experience the different cultures and flavours of the Nordics. Visit a top travel destination, Iceland, and go off the beaten path in Greenland. You’ll definitely have bragging rights for exploring this part of the world.

Visit the happiest and safest countries in the world

Every year since 2012, the United Nations has released a World Happiness Report. In this survey, 156 countries are ranked after evaluating six cornerstones of wellbeing. These are income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity.

All 5 of the Nordic countries – Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Norway – are often in the top 10 happiest nations in the world. Clearly, the Nordic region is doing something right!

colourful houses and blue skye at Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark

What you need to know about the Nordics

Read on for answers to some commonly asked questions about the Nordic countries.

What is the difference between Scandinavian and Nordic?

Scandinavia is made up of 3 countries: Sweden, Norway and Denmark. So the term “Scandinavia” refers to these nations, which are located on the Scandinavian peninsula.

On the other hand, the term Nordic includes the 3 counties above, plus Finland and Iceland, which aren’t found on the peninsula.

Which are the Nordic countries?

The Nordic countries are Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. The Nordic region also encompasses these countries' overseas territories, including Greenland and the Faroe Islands, which are part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

Why are they called Nordic countries?

These countries are called Nordic simply because they are located in the north. The word originates from the French “nordique”, which was coined at the turn of the 19th century to describe people from Northern Europe.

person jumping in front of Trollstigen, Norway

Which is the most beautiful Nordic country?

Trust us – all the Nordic countries are beautiful! They each have their own spectacular landscapes that are all worth exploring.

In Iceland, you’ll encounter dramatic natural formations like glaciers, volcanoes and waterfalls. In Norway, meanwhile, the fjords are considered some of the most breathtaking scenes in Europe, thanks to green mountains that plunge into glassy blue waters.

Additionally, Sweden and Finland are both carpeted in vast forests and have sweeping Baltic coastlines. While Denmark is the smallest of the Nordics, its sandy beaches, white cliffs and ancient woodlands make it a delight to discover.

Plus, visit Iceland, Lapland or Northern Norway in winter, and you’ll have the chance to see the northern lights dance across the night sky. This is undoubtedly one of the most awe-inspiring, naturally occurring events in the world.

What is the largest Nordic country?

Sweden is the largest Nordic country at around 447,000 square kilometres (175,00 square miles). In order, the next largest are:

  • Norway – 385,000 square kilometres (150,000 square miles)
  • Finland – 338,000 square kilometres (130,000 square miles)
  • Iceland – 103,000 square kilometres (40,000 square miles)
  • Denmark (excluding overseas territories) – 43,000 square kilometres (16,000 square miles)
white house by the cliffs at Arnarstapi, Iceland
Arnarstapi ©Dagurjonsson Photography

What are the Nordic countries known for?

There are so many things that characterise the Nordic destinations.

Firstly, they are all known for being some of the safest countries in the world and tend to rank among the happiest too. This is generally because of the good quality of life here, with a focus on work-life balance and community spirit.

The Nordic region is also famous for stunning natural scenery, such as the fjords of Norway, the enchanting forests of Lapland, and the volcanoes and glaciers of Iceland.

There are some truly incredible landscapes to discover, whether visiting in winter for outdoor activities in the snow or during the summer for longer days.

When is the best time to visit the Nordic countries?

In general, Northern Europe has a cool, temperate climate, but the further north you go, the colder it becomes. Lapland, Svalbard and Greenland never really get warm, but the more southerly destinations like Stockholm and Denmark can enjoy many sunny days.

Across the Nordics, the weather is milder between May and September. These are also the months with the longest daylight hours – the summer solstice (or midnight sun) takes place on or around 21 June.

But, in winter, you can walk into a festive wonderland scene. Whether that’s in a city with Christmas markets or immersed in nature among frosty mountains.

Plus, you’ll have a much better chance of seeing the northern lights at this time of year.

Enjoying the outdoors in Kristinehamn ©Clive Tompsett
Enjoying the outdoors in Kristinehamn ©Clive Tompsett -

Which is the best Nordic country to visit in winter?

Most of the Nordic region is transformed into a wonderland during winter, with a glistening blanket of snow coating the most northern parts.

Although each country is worth visiting in winter, it’s good to remember that the further north you go, the more wintry it will get. This means cooler temperatures, more snow, and a higher chance of spotting the northern lights.

To try out some snowy activities, we recommend visiting Northern Norway, or Swedish and Finnish Lapland. Here, you could go dog sledding, spend the night in an ice hotel, and even meet some reindeer.

That said, you’ll have a memorable and magical experience visiting any Nordic country in winter.

Dog sledding through the glistening white snow

Which is the best Nordic country to visit in summer?

From around May, the Nordics come alive with green landscapes, flowering meadows and atmospheric cities. Not to mention, there’s more daylight, with the sun not fully setting in some regions at the height of summer.

Take advantage of the mild weather and venture out in search of thundering waterfalls, craggy mountains and blue fjords.

Ultimately, any Nordic country is sure to charm you during summer. For example, you could drive around Iceland’s Ring Road, ride the iconic Flåm railway in Norway, or visit colourful capital cities.

The Flåm railway curving around the green mountains in Norway

How long do you need to travel in the Nordics?

The length of your stay in the Nodics depends on how in-depth you want to explore the region and which countries you want to go to. To see a range of destinations and highlights without feeling too rushed, we recommend spending at least 10 days.

Of course, the more time you have, the more places you’ll be able to discover. These Scandinavia tours offer a range of durations and travel styles, with some trips allowing you to explore the complete Nordic region. This includes not just Scandinavia but Iceland and Finland too!

Discover the Nordics for yourself

Which of these Nordic destinations would you like to visit? Our travel experts will help you decide where to go depending on your interests. They’ll plan an unforgettable Nordic getaway for you using their insider knowledge and local connections.

As part of your travel package, you’ll get accommodation, daily breakfast and local transport arrangements. What’s more, during your trip you have access to our 24/7 helpline. This means we are only ever a call away at any time of day.

Get in touch with us to start planning your Nordic adventure or to find out more from our regional travel experts.

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Post by: Emma Gillies

Wanderlust has taken Emma across much of the world, but it was Scotland that she made her adopted home. Aside from enjoying countryside walks, campervan weekends and gigs in Glasgow, you’ll often find her writing about European travel and plotting her next trip.

More posts by Emma Gillies

Getting there

We'd love to give you the same amazing travel experiences as you read about in our blog! To visit the destinations and attractions mentioned in this post - and to discover a few new highlights along the way - check out these recommended Nordic Visitor tours.