Sweeping down from the freezing glaciers of Scandinavia to the warmer climes of Britain and the Chanel Islands, Northern Europe just has so much to offer.
From the beautiful but alien landscapes of volcanic Iceland, where the earth boils underfoot, to the most northern zoo in the world where Arctic animals are on display in their natural habitat, there is so much to see.
Hike through alpine forests or along the Baltic coastline in summer and ski down the many mountain slopes in winter. Gaze in wonder at the Northern Lights or bask in the midnight sun.
Travel by dogsled or ice mobile, take a ride on an Icelandic horse or simply cycle along the lengthy coastline. All over the area the remains of mighty structures built by ancient Vikings, Celts and Romans pay tribute to civilizations that went before, whilst shimmering modern cities serve contemporary city dwellers.
Countries in Northern Europe
The Aland Islands, is a pristine and picturesque archipelago of more than six thousand seven hundred islands. They lie scattered in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland, and although this autonomous area forms part of Finland, the people speak Swedish.
The islands have the sunniest shores in Northern Europe, which is why they attract many visitors in search of water sports and fun in the sun. Try sailing, kite surfing, speed boating or kayaking.
Play golf on one of three 18-hole golf courses. Cycle through the pine forests and along the tranquil waterways. Stay in a wooden hut just above the rock pools on the beaches. You’ll be surrounded by water scattered with similar small islands as far as the eye can see.
Crossing from one island to the next in search of isolated beaches is easy as latticed bridges join many of them, and there is an extensive network of ferries offering free rides.
Although now a small country, the Kingdom of Denmark once included the whole of Scandinavia and some of Germany. The land of Viking ships, traffic free shopping zones, Hans Christian Andersen, writer of fairy tales and Lego-land, beloved by children everywhere, Denmark has something for everyone.
The oldest kingdom in Europe, Denmark, like other European countries has its fair share of castles and palaces surrounded by tranquil gardens and sometimes by moats. Many of the towns have cobble stone roads and market squares surrounded by crooked houses partially built with timber.
Denmark has seven thousand kilometers of coastline and more than four hundred islands. The sea views and forest parks are best enjoyed by bicycle, as Denmark is one of the easiest countries to explore by bike.
Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, has possibly the most charming medieval old town of any destination. Picture postcard walls and turrets surround this pretty town, which opens up into a central market square. Cobble stoned streets surround medieval houses, the fourteenth century town hall and an exquisite old church.
Visit the sixteenth century castle of Rakvere, and enjoy the medieval theme park, where you can see just how people lived in centuries past. Estonia’s coastline encompasses the Baltic Sea and the Finish Gulf, as well as one thousand five hundred islands. More than half of the land consists of forests and bogs, which are dotted with colorful timber clad villages.
The forest and the bogs, formed by glacial melt, are teeming with wild life such as deer, beavers, elk and boar. Explore the area by boat or kayak. Hit the Nordic slopes in winter. In summer enjoy the coastal mud spas, once the holiday destination of Tsars.
Though self-governing, the Faroe Islands are part of Denmark. The eighteen rocky, volcanic islands are located in the North Atlantic Ocean between Norway and Iceland. Tunnels, bridges and ferries connect the islands, where pretty mountainous peaks circle lakes of tranquil water.
Emerald green pastures are dotted with stone and wooden houses that have unusual turf planted roofs, amongst them the oldest log cabin on earth. Green hills surround enormous brown beaches, and rocky pools. A wide variety of birds occupy the cliffs and mountainsides.
First inhabited by Irish monks in the sixth century, Vikings followed. One of the smallest capital cities in the world, Torshavn was once a Viking settlement. Overlooking a pretty harbor, wooden houses and modern shops and restaurants flank well kept cobble stoned roads. The small peninsula containing the old town is full of simple but charming homes.
Finland is situated in the extreme north of Europe. It boasts vast tracts of unspoiled nature. Heavily forested, with no mountains to speak of, it is home to bears, elk, reindeer and hundreds of species of birds.
In winter, when ice and snow cloak every branch and roof top the landscape sparkles and shines in shimmering white. In summer the sun glitters off the nearly one hundred and ninety thousand lakes which are surrounded by green pastures and dotted with thousands of islands.
The Northern Province of Lapland is one of the world’s best places to see the Northern lights. Visit Santa’s village by snowmobile or dogsled. Stay overnight in the ice hotel where even the beds are frozen. Climb up the beautiful and abundant ice formations. Visit the most northern zoo in the world and see arctic animals in their natural habitat.
In the capital, Helsinki, enjoy the lovely waterfront, modern architecture and abundant parks.
Picturesque Guernsey is part of the Channel Islands, which include the islands of Herm, Sark and Alderney. Just off the French coast Guernsey covers just twenty-five square miles of land.
Guernsey is not part of the United Kingdom but it does have a very British feel to it. The coastline has been drawing visitors for decades, as it is full of coves and bays.
On the southern coastline spectacular cliffs plunge into the sea. This island has one of the largest tidal movements anywhere on earth and during low tide large beaches and strange rock pools are revealed. In Guernsey you can abseil, rock climb, windsurf, swim or take long cliff top walks.
The capital, St Peter Port, is a very pretty little harbor, overlooked by an eight hundred year old fortress.
A country of fabulous unspoiled natural beauty, snow capped mountains boast beautiful icy cold springs and waterfalls that run through valleys so green in summer and spring it is almost blinding.
With more than thirty active volcanoes, lava has created many of the marvelous landforms that shelter sulfur pools and thermals. In this part of the world Nature puts on a show, with regular geysers and hissing steam jets.
Vikings occupied this land over 1100 years ago, and today Iceland has clean cities with simple and very colorful, low buildings, a response to the winds that blow there and the dark and cold of winter.
See the aurora borealis in winter or the midnight sun in summer. Take a walk between the tectonic plates of Europe and North America. Try some geothermal cooking. Watch Blue Whale, Hump Back Whale and the Minki Whale play in the arctic waters or kayak amongst the icebergs.
Visiting Ireland, just off the coast of England, is like taking a walk in the past. The remains of castles, fortresses, monasteries, churches and homes of the various people that have occupied the country are scattered all over the beautiful countryside.
In this land of mystic charm, Celtic fortresses, stone-age houses and the remains of Viking and Norman structures can be found all over the rolling green hills of Ireland. Ancient cathedrals with towering stained glass windows and imposing columns and arches stand beside colorful old buildings, which line the cobbled streets.
The Wicklow Mountains known as the “Garden of Ireland” offer the visitor some of the loveliest natural countryside. Heather filled green pastures, wild unspoiled landscapes and breathtaking ocean vistas are all warmed by the Ocean Gulf Stream.
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man is known as the Jewel of the Irish Sea for its rugged coast and pastoral countryside. One of the best ways to view the surrounding countryside is to take a ride on the hundred-year-old steam train as it takes on the longest narrow gauge railway line in the British Isles.
Visit Castle Town, which dates back to 1090 AD, The pretty harbor is backed by the stone Castle Rushen, a well-preserved medieval building, containing a museum, complete with wax works and themed castle scenes.
Cycle to the Sound and the Calf of Man where seals bask in the sun and dolphins play in the surrounding waters. Find the eleventh century stone Viking castle in Peel Sound. Take a horse drawn tram ride around the capital Douglas, and visit the Manx Museum to find Celtic and Viking artifacts.
The channel island of Jersey is just fourteen miles from France. It is the largest and sunniest island in the British Isles.
In the capital, Saint Hellier, the small and picturesque harbor is crammed with yachts and colorful fishing boats. An enormous thirteenth century castle, one of the best-preserved in Britain towers over the town. All over the island eighteenth century stone towers serve as reminders of the Napoleonic wars and the islanders’ fear of attack.
The Nazis occupied the Channel Islands during the Second World War and curious visitors can explore the bunkers and extensive underground tunnels that remain from this era. The tunnels boast an interesting war museum.
The island has forty-five kilometers of coast with a multitude of tranquil coves boasting pebble, sand and cliff hung beaches. The surrounding waters provide rich fishing grounds. The forests and nine acres of lavender fields are great for hiking, cycling or horse riding.
Riga, the capital of Latvia dates back to 1201. In the Old Town cobbled lanes lead to squares that buzz with coffee shops and beer gardens.
Get a view of the city from the from the tower of Saint Peter’s Church, built in the fifteenth century and rebuilt in the seventeenth after it collapsed. The tower was once the highest wooden structure in the world.
Riga has a feel of its own. It boasts more than seven hundred and fifty decorative Art Noveau buildings built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its bustling fresh produce market is housed in the hangar that once sheltered German zeppelins.
Visit the Museum of Occupation, which immortalizes five hundred years of foreign occupation. Get archery lessons in the ruins of a medieval castle.
Reach speeds of one hundred and twenty five kilometers when you bobsleigh on a 1200 meter track. Ski cross-country. Visit the unspoiled Baltic coastline or hike on isolated forest trails.
Inexpensive Lithuania has a history that extends back to the end of the last ice age. The country is full of fortified castles, magnificent palaces and wonderfully decorated Baroque and gothic churches.
It is home to one of the oldest universities in Eastern Europe. Founded in 1579, the university boasts stunning architecture, intricate wooden sculptures, and splendid illuminated ceilings.
The capital, Vilnius, has the largest medieval old town found anywhere in Central and Eastern Europe. Visit the Hill of Witches; the figures of witches and devils lining a forest trail bear witness to the pagan history of the Lithuanian people. The Hill of Crosses is estimated to contain over one hundred thousand stone and wooden crosses.
Lithuania’s beautiful and unusual beaches on the Baltic Sea have the highest moving sand dunes in Europe and run directly into a fringe of pine trees. The forests, rivers and bogs are a nature lover’s dream.
Famous for its natural landscapes and the prettiest villages in Europe, Norway’s fjords and the surrounding steep cliffs, have been cut by millions of years of glacier movement. View this all from the Bergen railway, which offers one of the worlds most beautiful train trips.
Experience some of the best skiing, dog sledding and snow mobile rides in winter, and in summer hike, sail and white water raft in the unspoiled splendor of Norway’s countryside. View Norway’s wild life. It differs from that in most of the rest of Europe. Elk, arctic foxes and reindeer roam the forests in abundance. Whales play in the surrounding waters.
Norway’s cities are clean and modern and have some great museums and art galleries. The great Viking museum in Oslo is a must.
The capital city Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities on the Baltic Sea. It is built on a group of fourteen islands and is surrounded by water. It is full of boats and pretty harbors. A fully preserved sixteenth century war ship takes pride of place at the best museum in the country.
Find the royal palace in the old town. With six hundred rooms, it is one of the largest palaces in Europe. The old town has been well preserved and medieval buildings abound. Stay in the Ice hotel, where everything including the beds and drinking glasses are made of ice.
Travel to Lapland to ski, view reindeer and in winter see the northern lights in the arctic north. Glaciers have carved the coast, and you can see the fjords by boat. Take a hike along the King’s trail, where nature is unspoiled and where overnight hiker’s huts await you.
Svalbard and Jan Mayen
Nine hundred kilometers south of the North Pole, these islands in the Arctic Ocean are part of Norway. In this part of the world tourism is the biggest industry, but a holiday to these parts is not for the faint hearted.
The isolated and remote land attracts visitors to see the arctic wildlife. Home to wolves, polar bears and shy arctic foxes, this is where whales, walruses and seals come out to play.
More than half of the land on these islands is covered with glaciers. Dramatic arctic landscapes are carved from ice, and the dark and light of the mountains tower over fields of snow.
Jan Mayen is one of Europe’s northern most points. Visit steaming mud pools, sulfur pits and caves and hike up the mountains for panoramic views of the frozen landscapes. Try dogsledding ice caving, hiking or skiing.
The UK with its long history and colonial past is full of ancient buildings, forts and bridges. The four countries that comprise the UK – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – each have their own distinct culture, landscape and architecture.
The UK, and England in particular, offers the ancient pomp and ceremony that comes from being home to one of the oldest surviving monarchies in the world.
The country is home to truly beautiful stone castles, palaces and cathedrals, and picturesque villages that sport traditional English gardens. It is home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Some of the world’s most remarkable works of art can be found in the many museums and art galleries.
In Scotland, a land of myths and legends, history is tangible, with ancient stone castles scattered surrounded by the wild natural beauty of the countryside. Wales has hundreds of medieval castles and is surrounded by stunningly beautiful landscape.