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Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Copenhagen, Scandinavia

Scandinavia this summer: what to do and how to see the aurora borealis?

I'll be flying into Copenhagen most likely and am open to exploring the Scandinavian region (Sweden, Norway, Denmark) and beyond. Iceland has been on my list for a while so if possible I would like to go there as well. I'll be abroad for somewhere between 10-14 days with a wedding squeezed in the last weekend which leaves me 7-10 days of exploring. So I'm looking for the most efficient and cost effective ways to get around and where to go, but I'm not afraid to drop a little extra money for an experience it the Trippy community says it's worthwhile.

I'm really looking for some adventures in the outdoors & to visit small towns with a lot of culture. I know that all of these places have a lot to offer, but I'm in need of a little direction.

Especially interested backcountry camping/treking/hiking and catching a glimpse of the aurora borealis.

6 Answers

top answer by
Hjörtur from Copenhagen

Hi Bryson

Scandinavia is both very big and quite expensive, so it is limited how much of it you can experience in that short of mount of time, especially if you want to do some trekking. But I do have some recommendations.

If you are flying from the States to Copenhagen, I recommend flying with Icelandair. If you do that, you can do a stopover for a few days in Iceland at no extra cost. And Iceland is an absolutely fantastic country for backcountry camping and hiking.

I recommend renting a car and exploring on your own. You can do South-Iceland which has some of the most popular tourist routes and great spots for hiking. This includes places like Fimmvörðuháls, a two day hiking route which takes you between two infamous volcanoes, Eyjafjallajökull and Katla volcano. In the middle of the track is a new volcano which was created in the "warm-up" eruption to the bigger Eyjafjallajökull eruption. The route starts by the very picturesque Skógarfoss waterfall and ends in a beautiful volcanic valley called Þórsmörk. Further east you can camp in Skaftafell National Park, which also has beautiful hiking tracks which you can easily do as short day trips. One of them takes you to a stunning waterfall called Svartifoss Trail. Another nice day trip from there is to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon where you can see the icebergs from Vatnajokull, Europe's largest glacier floating towards the see. This area is also where the scenes in Game of Thrones that happen north of the Wall are shot. The only problem with these locations is that they are very popular, so you will not be alone there.

If you do want to get more off the beaten track, you can go to the also stunning northern part of Iceland, around Akureyri. There you have fantastic waterfalls like Godafoss Waterfall and Europe's most powerful waterfall Dettifoss, a very dramatic waterfall that played a role in the Ridley Scott film Prometheus, the "prequel" to Aliens. Two other places I highly recommend there are Námaskarð which is like another planet with tiny little steaming volcanoes, and Jarðböðin við Mývatn, a geothermal lagoon similar to the famous Blue Lagoon. Just less tourists ;)

Finally, if you really want to go where you meet pretty much no tourists, I recommend the Westfjords of Iceland. Recently labeled as the most beautiful place in the world by a group of artist and internet voters with it's deep fjords, valleys and steep mountains. You will not have the same unique volcanic landscape there as in the previous mentions areas, but they are truly beautiful and this is really "backcountry". Small fishing villages resting by the sea, original people, weather beaten farmers in narrow green valleys. And the hiking routes are simply fantastic. You can set up a base and go for hikes on your own, like in the southern part of the peninsula where you can explore the sea monsters and Viking graves in Arnarfjörður, and Europe's largest birdcliff Látrabjarg which rises up to 411 meters (1349 feet) straight up from the fierce
Atlantic Ocean; or you can take a few day trek in the deserted northern part of the peninsula, the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. You are really on your own there with no cars or infrastructure except a ghost town at Hesteyri and a few deserted farms. You can arrange for a boat from Isafjordur to get there.

So there is a lot of options, but my recommendations is to go for Iceland, take a day trip from Copenhagen to Malmö, and you should be pretty good :)

Have a great trip!

ps. As someone had pointed out earlier, you will not see any northern lights in the summer time. You will however experience the midnight sun in Iceland where it never get darks. You've just got this very long beautiful sunset that then turns into a sunrise, like the one in this picture I took in Reykjafjörður :)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Iceland (country)
  2. Fimmvörðuháls (attraction)
  3. Eyjafjallajökull (attraction)
  4. Skógarfoss (attraction)
  5. Þórsmörk (attraction)
  6. Skaftafell National Park (attraction)
  7. Svartifoss Trail (attraction)
  8. Jökulsárlón (attraction)
  9. Vatnajokull (attraction)
  10. Akureyri (attraction)
  11. Godafoss Waterfall (attraction)
  12. Dettifoss (attraction)
  13. Námaskarð (attraction)
  14. Jarðböðin við Mývatn (attraction)
  15. Westfjords (attraction)
  16. Látrabjarg (attraction)
  17. Hornstrandir Nature Reserve (attraction)
  18. Hesteyri (city)
  19. Isafjordur (city)
  20. Reykjafjörður (city)
6 thankscomments (2)

answered by
anon from Tucson

Hi Bryson,

seven to ten days doesn't bring you close to getting a glimps of experiencing the beauty of Scandinavia. However, it's much better then not going. If I were you I'd focus on one country. And having been to all four of them I would pick Norway. By far the most expensive, but by far the most beautiful. With it's scenic drives (, beautiful Fjords and, if you go far enough north the midnight sun. Aurora Borealis you can only see in the winter time.

I would rent a car and do scenic drives in Norway. Check out the Norwegian Trekking Associaton, they have hundreds of self-service huts all over Norway so you could do some multiple day hike.

There are usually flights to Tromso and Bodo for around 50 Euro one way with Norwegian Airline, so you could go up for a few days and see the midnight sun. That's what I am going to do this summer. The most beautiful place in Scandinavia is probably the Lofoten. Go on youtube and watch some videos, google some pictures. It's incredible.

If I were you, I'd check if Oslo is cheaper to fly in to. Have a look at Norwegian Airline, they have very good deals. Trekking Maps for Norway you can find here:

I would not squeeze Island into this trip. Island deserves at least (absolute minimum) a week on its own.

Hope that helps.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Norway (attraction)
  2. Tromso (city)
  3. Bodo (city)
  4. Lofoten (attraction)
  5. Oslo (city)
2 thanks

answered by
Thomas from Oslo


First of all, for the northern light you want to come back in winter... Even in Oslo where it gets sort of dark in summer, you will not see the stars. The nights in June and July are called the white nights. But that is also nice to experience.

If you fly into Copenhagen, than you can have fun exploring the inner city, with the canals, Christiania, Tivoli and lots more. That can take a few days, if you want to have it relaxed.

For travelling around Scandinavia, you should think about if you want to take it by car, or by train. Both Sweden and Norway have good night trains, so you can easily cover long distances while sleeping. It will save you a hotel night somewhere.

Norway can be reached by night ferry from Copenhagen, where you will arrive in Oslo. I guess from Copenhagen you can take a night train to Stockholm, but you should check that.

I think Norway has the more spectacular landscape, and that can even be seen from the train. For example, the train route Oslo, Bergen is pretty dramatic and will take you about 7 hours. Bergen and the area around it is worth while, and if you rent a car there, it can be very rewarding to see and explore the fjords and the high mountains. Do bring an umbrella :-)

Or you take the trip from Oslo to Bodo in the north so you can enjoy the midsummer nights in the arctic. On the way you have to transfer in Trondheim since it takes a total of 18 hrs to get to Bodø. So it can be nice to travel first to Trondheim, spent like a day or more there, and then move on. From Bodø, you can then decide to rent a car and explore the wonderful Lofoten archipel, or drive up to the north and visit Narvikor Tromso.

Finally, you can fly back from Bodø or Tromsø to Oslo/Copenhagen. If you take your time, it will be quite a nice trip

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Copenhagen (city)
  2. Christiania (attraction)
  3. Stockholm (city)
  4. Oslo (city)
  5. Bergen (city)
  6. Bodo (city)
  7. Trondheim (city)
  8. Lofoten (attraction)
  9. Narvik (city)
  10. Tromso (city)
2 thanks

answered by
Karl from Copenhagen

I would recommend that you choose no more than two countries to visit, and none of them should be Norway. The nature and scenery is not that interesting and the places that are easy to reach are normally very crowded. Also the hotels and especially the restaurants are low quality and very very expensive at the same time.

I would suggest a combination between Iceland and either Stockholm or Copenhagen - that would allow you to see both nature and one of the two nicest cities in Scandinavia. Also, close to both cities are fun nature experiences like mountain biking or kayaking.  

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Norway (attraction)
  2. Iceland (country)
  3. Stockholm (city)
  4. Copenhagen (city)
2 thankscomments (2)

answered first by
Justin from Phoenix

You won't see the aurora in summer at all. In many spots, the sun will just dip barely below the horizon.

Here's a little bit of Iceland info from my blog.

I'd also recommend getting into northern Norway, like Tromso ... if you're really into something different, they have the world's highest-latitude 10k/half marathon/marathon. Finland has pretty sweet hiking/camping opportunities. I could've spent a lot of time in Nuuksion National Park, which isn't far from Helsinki. If you want a nice little city, spend some time in Turku. If you're into music, you'll find a ton of music festivals all summer long. Name the genre, and you'll find a festival. For a wide variety, try Ruisrock Festival.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Tromso (city)
  2. Nuuksion National Park (attraction)
  3. Turku (city)
  4. Ruisrock Festival (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Linda from Pittsburgh

From my perspective, having been to Norway, Sweden and Denmark, I enjoyed Norway the most and found it most beautiful.  As others noted, it is very expensive, but I wouldn't miss Norway.  

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Norway (attraction)
  2. Sweden (attraction)
  3. Denmark (attraction)
1 thanks

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