With trips to Scandinavian capitals becoming increasingly de rigueur, the Finnish capital Helsinki, offers a quirky but stylish experience filled with hip design and cool eateries juxtaposed with beautiful historic architecture. Find out the places you should definitely include in your Helsinki itinerary.
This vast region in Northern Europe includes 5 different countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. From fjords, endless forests and lakes to beautiful cities, Scandinavia surely has a lot to offer to any traveller. Let’s see what there is to experience there.
The region called Lapland stretches out across 3 countries (Finland, Sweden and Norway) and is quite different in each of those countries. From rugged mountain landscapes and treeless tundra in its western and northern parts, Lapland becomes hilly and covered by endless taiga towards the south (and suprisingly much colder in winter, as inland is way colder than the efficiently Gulf Stream-heated coastline). It’s one of the very few easily accessible and fairly populated places on Earth above the Arctic Circle (which geographically marks the limit of the globe’s arctic area where the sun doesn’t set and doesn’t rise for at least one day during the year, a phenomenon also known as midnight sun and polar night). The further you go north, the longer these periods last (for example at North Cape, the sun doesn’t set at all from May 13th to July 29th and doesn’t rise at all from November 18th to January 23rd). Lapland also is one of the best places on Earth together with Iceland to chase the amazing northern lights.
From the moment you step in to the moment you step out (many hours later), prepare for a truly unforgettable journey. But booking a table at Noma, one of the world’s Top 3 restaurants ain’t easy. Not at all… That’s the kind of place you book before booking flights and accommodation accordingly. So on the first Monday of the month before the one you plan to visit, a moment before 10 am (CEST), prepare all your devices with internet-access and connect to the the restaurant’s website. At 10 am sharp the online booking opens and after a while you get a random number in the queue (one per connected device). You will likely have to repeat this many months in a row before being actually able to book a table, as 4- or even 5-digit queue numbers are very usual (meaning thousands of people are trying to do the same as you at the same time)… If you get a 3-digit number, chances are slim but wait for your turn to come and see if there is any time slot still available in the reservations calendar. If you are lucky enough to get a 2-digit number, chances are good you will be able to book a table! But be quick, as when your turn comes and the calendar opens in front of your eyes, time slots will disappear in seconds (the queue number only gives you access to the calendar, without any guarantee to be actually able to book a table). So you managed to do it and got your booking confirmation? Let’s go!
Circling the scenic island in a week is feasible. You just need careful and efficient planning, long time ahead of your trip. A lot of driving is also involved. Best season to visit Iceland is summer (July-August) but it’s also high season. Hotels and guesthouses can be fully booked months in advance (even over a year in some cases)… Prepare to pay big bucks if you want decently comfortable accommodation, no luxurious resorts here but luxurious price tags (the Scandinavian way…). To get the best of your Icelandic trip, you will also need torent a 4WD vehicle, as many roads in the highlands (marked as F-roads) are simply forbidden to 2WD vehicles (some of them are more or less accessible with standard vehicles, but you won’t be covered by the insurance in case of a problem if you decide to go despite the interdiction!). Also note that in June (and possibly even in early July) some roads can still be completely closed depending on how bad the previous winter has or hasn’t been. To be sure, plan your trip for late July or August (the downside being less daylight and darker nights). Renting any vehicle in Iceland is pricey (extra insurances are required because of the hazardous road conditions plus possible sand and/or ash blasts that can severely damage cars) and renting an SUV is very pricey. But again, it’s the only way of seeing every corner of the island (most of them being totally worth the price). Thepickytraveller doesn’t recommend renting a vehicle from Sixt, as they are located away from the terminal building and their customer service never replied to complaints regarding a malfunctioning A/C…