Scandinavia is probably not your first thought for a summer vacation but this overlooked area has so much to offer if you are looking for freedom and adventure. Think beaches, camping, foraging for food, kayaking through forests and sleeping under a midnight sun. Unsurprisingly for countries that live through long, dark, and freezing winters, the summer season is cherished, and you’ll find friendly people and a festive atmosphere wherever you head to…
Apart from Christmas the summer solstice is the most celebrated day of the year in Scandinavia, especially in Sweden. Nowhere is it more important than Dalarna, a rural area in central Sweden where you’ll find typical red Swedish cottages nestled into amazing scenery. The day starts with decorating a Maypole, then people in traditional dress and flowers in their hair meet for a lunch of salmon, potatoes and dill, strawberries and elderflower ice cream. Beer and local spirits are drunk throughout the day and the dancing round the maypole lasts long into the night.
Wild camping and foraging in Sweden
Scandinavia is known for the enviable quality of life and high social welfare but did you know about Everyman’s right? This ancient law means that unlike most other western countries where wild land is state-owned, in the Nordic countries everyone has the right to roam freely. You can camp and forage food anywhere in nature as long as you leave no trace. A great place to start your adventure is Nynäshamn, an hour south of Stockholm and the southernmost point of the beautiful Stockholm archipelago. Six thousand islands provide plenty of opportunity to find your own piece of wilderness. Hike or kayak and set up camp on a beach backed by pine forest where you can forage for berries and mushrooms and swim under the light night skies.
Sweden’s largest island is also one of the most popular destinations in Scandinavia during summer. Take a ferry to Visby, a charming medieval town with winding cobblestone streets, 14th century town walls and a huge cathedral. Spend an afternoon strolling around, stopping in picturesque cafes for coffee and Swedish buns then head out of town to the beaches. The island definitely has a party feel in summer as young Stockholmers hit the bars, restaurants and campsites then spend the day tanning and swimming on its many beautiful beaches.
Copenhagen comes into its own in summer and a lot of Danes prefer to staycation on their own turf than head to the overcrowded tourist resorts of southern Europe. You won’t be missing out on beach time either as Copenhagen has an array of swim spots, from mid-city diving platforms to quiet sandy beaches.
Designed by one of Denmark’s coolest architects, the Harbour Baths on Islands Brygge has transformed Copenhagen’s docks from an industrial hub to a social and cultural center of the city. Terraced wooden steps allow people to sunbathe and watch more daring swimmers climb up diving platforms and plunge into the now-clean harbor waters. With views of the city and grassy lawns for barbequing, you can join Copenhageners as they clock off from work in the city and relax by the water.
If you are into outdoor adventure you can’t miss the Norwegian Fjords in summer, some of the most spectacular landscapes on earth. Valldal is a beautiful village with a thriving outdoor scene and operators who can set you up with all the equipment for kayaking, rafting, canyoning or climbing. Surrounded by vertiginous cliffs, lush forest and waterfalls cascading into the fjords it is a great spot to base yourself as you explore this dramatically beautiful area. Valldal is a remote village in a remote part of Norway and the perfect place to escape and wonder at the hugeness of nature.
Another place in Norway you cannot miss is Lofoten, an archipelago that emerges from the ice of winter to reveal beaches that wouldn’t look out of place on a Greek Island. The sun doesn’t set here from the end of May to the middle of July which is useful as there is so much you’re going to want to pack in. Lofoten is a magnet for hikers and climbers and has some of the most spectacularly steep mountain tops, check out ‘the jump’ at Svolværgeita if you want to beat everyone else's summer vacation pictures.
In the autumn and winter Lofoten is known to have one of the best waves in the world for surfers and in summer it is perfect for beginners to practice and pick up a new skill. And next time you hit the waves in warmer climes you can tell people you learnt to surf in the Arctic circle!