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What to know before traveling to Scandinavia

Including how to see the Northern Lights and whether you should tip

July 1, 2022

Northern Europe’s subregion of Scandinavia constitutes Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. This trio of nations has historical, cultural, and linguistic ties yet each retains its unique customs and is governed independently.

All three countries make for an unforgettable vacation whether you visit only one at a time or plan a longer trip to explore all three. Here’s what to know before traveling to Scandinavia.

Where to see the Northern Lights

Spotting the Northern Lights is one of the main motivations behind a visit to Scandinavia. But exactly where in Scandinavia can you see this phenomenon? Your chances are increased away from the light pollution of cities and the further north you travel.

Sweden’s Abisko National Park is the premier destination for the Northern Lights. This is where you will find the Aurora Sky Station, within the Arctic Circle. Kiruna, Porjus, and Jukkasjärvi are three small northern towns where the dawn of the north is visible. The latter is where you will find the iconic Ice Hotel.

Alta, Tromsø, Senja, and the Lofoten Islands in the north of Norway are some of the best places to witness the Aurora Borealis.

Meanwhile, in Denmark, you can visit Kjul Strand, Grenen, Faroe Islands archipelago, Nationalpark Thy, and Samsø for a chance to spot the dancing skies.

How to experience the Midnight Sun

On the other hand, you might want to experience the spectacle of the Midnight Sun in Norway or Sweden.

Norway experiences the Midnight Sun in its northernmost stretches of Cape Nordkinn during the summer months – usually, from mid-May until late July. Svalbard experiences a prolonged season from mid-April through late August.

Northern Sweden, Swedish Lapland, received the Midnight Sun from late May until the middle of July.

When to visit Scandinavia

Choose the time of year that you visit to coincide with what you want from your trip. Summer is best for hiking, outdoor pursuits, and sightseeing in comfort.

Autumn is one of the best times to spot the Northern Lights because the aurora is at its most active around the September equinox.

Winters are severely cold but, again, this season is when your chances of seeing the Northern Lights vastly increases. Besides, activities such as snowmobiling, ice fishing, and cross-country skiing will appeal to certain tastes.

How to explore Scandinavia

You can explore Scandinavia independently, with a tour, or as part of a cruise. The countries are blessed with excellent public transport systems while self-driving is a wonderful option.

Note that driving conditions are safer during the summer months. Only experienced drivers should consider driving in Scandinavia during winter and you will need to familiarize yourself with the legal requirements.

Cards are king

Cards are widely accepted across Scandinavia and cash is rarely used by residents of these countries. You are advised to take a small supply of Norwegian kroner, Swedish krona, and Danish krone for your trip. But do expect to make most purchases via credit or debit card.

Tipping etiquette in Scandinavia

Tipping is not mandatory or expected in Scandinavian countries. However, if you are satisfied with your service then a tip will always be appreciated. In these instances, it is customary to simply round up the bill or leave a tip of 5-10%.

Finland is not Scandinavia

Due to the geography, it’s easy to associate Finland with Scandinavia. However, Finland is not part of Scandinavia. The Finnish language is not Scandinavian and Finns are ethnically distinct from their neighboring countries.

But if you are planning a trip to Scandinavia then you might want to coincide with a side visit to Finland. Contact me when you are ready to book your trip to these remarkable Scandinavian nations. We can discuss which country is best for your travel preferences.

Ready to embark on your own journey to the extraordinary?