Scandinavia is a region of lush lands, breathtaking waterways, mountain peaks and colorful towns decorating the coastlines. The region offers some of the most picturesque landscapes known to man. With plunging waterfalls, undisturbed ecosystems, expansive forests, vast archipelagos and rugged cliffs, there’s plenty to discover in the “Land of the Vikings.” Take a look at 12 of the most beautiful places in Scandinavia, including a few from its Nordic neighbors too.
1. Geiranger Fjord, Norway
The Geiranger Fjord is located in the Sunnmøre region of Møre og Romsdal county. In 2005, it was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, but that status is now being threatened as plans to install power lines across the fjord are in place. Kayak down the fjord and discover two roaring waterfalls, the Brudesløret (the Bridal Veil) and De syv søstrene (the Seven Sisters). The channel is approximately ten miles long, 1600 feet wide, 1200 feet deep, and is surrounded by peaks up to 6000 feet high on either side. In other words it’s expansiveness is astounding and leaves many visitors in awe.
2. Vatnajokull Glacier Cave, Iceland
Vatnajokull Glacier, also known as Vatna Glacier, is one of the most breathtaking products of nature, but the caves that have formed beneath the glacier are even more beautiful. Located in the south-east part of the island, the glacier covers more than 8% of the country. Vatnajokull is the largest ice cap in Europe with an area of 8,100 sq.km and was first formed from a volcanic eruption that took place in November 1996. The eruption melted billions of gallons of ice and formed a jewel-like cave interior that leaves adventurers astonished.
3. Northern Lights, Norway
Commonly known as the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis can be seen closest to the Earth’s magnetic poles. The Auroras seen within the auroral oval may be directly overhead, but from farther away, they illuminate the poleward horizon as a greenish glow or sometimes a faint red. Visit the northern Norweigen town of Tromsø for the best view of the Aurora Borealis, after the long summer days have ceased. The plethora of colors will illuminate the sky like an unreal fairyland experience.
4. Lake Siljan, Sweden
Located in the center of the country, Siljan is Sweden’s sixth largest lake and one of the most beautiful places in Scandinavia. It covers an expansive 137 sq. miles. Part of Siljan’s splendor is that it was formed over 377 million years ago by Europe’s largest meteoric impact. The meteor crashed through Earth’s atmosphere and hit with the force of 500 million atomic bombs, eliminating all life and creating a 75km ring-shaped crater. This crater later became a lake and today it is one of the most beautiful sights in Sweden. Many Swedes even choose to holiday on Lake Siljan as the surrounding area features lush green forests, quaint villages, an array of outdoor activities and a rich tradition of arts and crafts.
5. Møns Klint, Denmark
Møns Klint are a 4 mile stretch of chalk cliffs that rest on the eastern coast of the Danish island of Møns, out in the Baltic Sea. The area surrounding Møns Klint is home to thick woodlands, breezy pastures, clear ponds and steep rugged hills. The cliffs and a nearby park are protected as a nature reserve. The chalk forming the cliffs is made from the remains of shells from millions of microscopic creatures which lived in the sea over 70 million years ago. When the glaciers started moving west, the pressures were compacted and pushed upwards, shaping a number of hills and folds. Then when the ice melted at the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago, the cliffs emerged.
6. Wadden Sea, Denmark
Protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Wadden Sea is largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats in the world. It is a flat coastal wetland environment that contains habitats with tidal channels, sandy shoals, sea-grass meadows, mussel beds, sandbars, mudflats, salt marshes, estuaries, beaches and dunes. Wadden Sea is also home to a number of plant and animal species, including marine mammals such as the harbor seal, grey seal and harbor porpoise. It is one of the last remaining large-scale ecosystems where natural processes continue to function mostly untroubled.
7. Smögen Village, Sweden
Smögen was voted third on the list of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Europe.” It is one of the liveliest summer towns on the west coast of Sweden. With only 1,329 inhabitants, it is a quaint village with lots of charm. Smögen is well known for its long wooden pier which is filled with shops and bars housed in old fishing huts. The picturesque town is one of the oldest fishing villages, it attracts thousands of visitors annually.
8. Lofoten, Norway
Lofoten, an archipelago in the county of Nordland, actually lies in the middle of the Arctic Circle. The town is recognized for its striking scenery of mountain peaks, open sea, sheltered bays, beaches and untouched lands. The sea is home to an abundance of life including the world’s largest deep water coral reef, thousands of sea birds, puffins, otters and moose. Lofoten is also popular amongst mountain climbers, surfers, cyclists and mountaineers. The awe-inspiring beauty of Lofoten is not to be missed next time you’re in Norway. It is truly one of the most beautiful places in Scandinavia.
9. Ålesund, Norway
Ålesund is often regarded as one of the most colorful towns in the world. It is known for its unique concentration of Art Nouveau architecture which decorates the peninsula. Ålesund is a large seaport and also the principal shipping town of the Sunnmøre district. The town’s fishing fleet is one of the most modern in Europe. This quaint town is surely an artistic wonder as the colorful houses stretch out to the see.
10. Sort Sol (The Black Sun), Denmark
Sort sol, otherwise known as the “black sun”, is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the marshlands in the southwestern town of Jutland. A large number of migrational starlings gather in Jutland in spring and autumn when they move between their winter grounds in southern Europe and their summer breeding grounds in Scandinavia. Sort sol occurs just after sunset. The birds flock together in large formations in the sky just before they decide on a location to roost for the night. Some say the formations look like a dance or ballet, and due to the quantity of birds, they block out the sunset – hence the name black sun. It is a sight not to be missed.
11. Oulanka National Park, Finland
Oulanka National Park rests in the northern Ostrobothnia and Lapland regions of Finland and covers over 100 sq. miles. It is one of the most popular national parks in the country and is known for its impressive rapids and plunging falls. The park is comprised of pine forests, river valleys with sandy banks and rapids, and endless swampy grounds. Oulanka has a unique river ecosystem, as the riverbeds are home to rare species of butterflies plus more than a hundred different bird species. Snow-shoe through Oulanka in the winter and take in all of the white
12. Gullfoss Waterfalls, Iceland
The Gullfoss falls is one of the most popular attractions in Iceland. Gullfoss is located in a canyon of the Hvítá river in the southwest corner of the country. The falls consist of a wide curved three-step “staircase” and then they abruptly plunge in two stages, at 11 meters and 21 meters. Gullfoss falls cascade into 105 foot crevice, giving the appearance of a rushing river disappearing into Earth, making it one of the most beautiful places in Scandinavia and the Nordic region.