The North of Europe is an awesome place for travelers. People are friendly, the culture is rich, and nature is stunningly beautiful. Not to mention that the region is very foreigner-friendly. There are so many Scandinavia tours, in fact, that it gets tricky to choose the best one for you.
Lo and behold, here is your guide to doing that.
What Is Scandinavia?
Stupid first paragraph, huh? No, but let’s actually look at what there is to see in Scandinavia.
Scandinavia consists of Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The Nordic countries are Scandinavia plus Finland and Iceland. When we are talking Scandinavia tours, most people actually include all Nordic countries. That is what we are going to do for this article, too.
There are a couple different ‘must-see’ things in Scandinavia:
- The Northern Lights
- The Fjords
- Santa Claus’ Home (in Lapland)
- Midsummer’s Eve Celebrations
- The general natural beauty
- The capitals and their buzzing cultural life
You can’t go through five countries and a bucket list so long in a vacation of 10 days. Which is why you need to pick your priorities wisely.
This is your most basic, usually cheapest tour available. It might be a whole package that you bought back home or just a quick one-day tour that you purchase on site.
Sightseeing tours are great for everyone.
There are a lot of different ones these days, too. I personally love to do a ‘free’ tour in every city I go to. It’s never actually free, of course, the payment is based on tips but it is an inexpensive and fun way to see all the key sights.
One-Day Sightseeing Tours
For the one-day tours, they are perfect for independent travellers and people on a budget. Regardless of how well you read your guidebook, there is something about a local showing you around. For instance, let’s take Stockholm. There are a couple of free or very affordable walking tours taking place every day. The old town tours take only a couple of hours and they take you to all the cool spots (including some you may not find on your own).
If you are not a fan of walking, how about Segway tours? Yes, they are probably the most touristy thing you will do during your trip but they are surprisingly fun and informative. And you are not half-dead from exhaustion at the end of the tour.
Finally, there are pub crawls and food tours. Both are a fun alternative to help you explore the Scandinavian culture. Pub crawls are relatively inexpensive and they include drinks and club entrances. They are perfect for young lone travellers or if you are just going with one friend. You will meet a lot of cool people from all over the world and get to party the Scandinavian way.
Longer Multiple Country Tours
Some people are not huge on planning their trips. And, hey, that is fine. Maybe you work a lot and prefer to have everything settled for you. Maybe travelling gives you a bit of anxiety and you can use the peace of mind.
Or maybe you are a procrastinator that will miss all the best deals and end up spending wildly more than he planned. Either way, organized multiple city tours are a great option.
Cruises are a big thing in Scandinavia.
A lot of those longer tours will have you cruising between capitals at one point or another. I would definitely recommend you check out the ones that include St Peterburg.
You don’t need a visa to visit the Russian city that way (we did a whole article on that loophole if you want to learn more) and it is the perfect opportunity to get a taste of imperial Russia along with beautiful Scandinavia.
Escorted Or Independent?
This one mostly depends on your preferences. Scandinavia tours are not South American tours. The region is safe and friendly. You will not get lost, either – locals are very happy to help you out at all times. For the most part, independent tours are not a big challenge, even if you are the type that gets overwhelmed fast.
An independent tour might be the better option if you are traveling with kids or with anyone that needs special tending to. With kids, for instance, you never know when they will get fussy and tired. If you are on an escorted tour you might find yourself dragging your kid through the final part of the tour—that is not a fun experience.
Escorted tours are great if going off on your own gives you anxiety. Take comfort in the group where you can always find someone to chat with and where you don’t have to be thinking about organizational matters. In my experience, elderly people and lone travelers tend to enjoy that option better as long as they don’t mind the restricted flexibility of the tour.
Northern Lights Scandinavia Tours
The Northern Lights are another huge item on most people’s Scandinavia bucket lists. These days there are many options and they fit pretty much all travelers.
What You Need To Know About The Northern Lights
The Aurora Borealis is most visible through the ‘darker’ part of the year. That means late September to mid-April. Otherwise, the midnight sun makes it nearly impossible to see the lights.
The other thing you need to consider is the weather. Look at the forecast before you book a tour. For extra peace of mind, I would ask the organizers if they think the weather would be nice beforehand, too. The lights usually come for a couple of days and then disappear for 4-5 nights. You have a higher chance of seeing them if you go to Scandinavia for a longer period of time.
Finally, there is the Aurora borealis forecast. Yes, that is an actual thing and you can check it online. If the Northern Lights are an absolute must for you, I recommend you plan accordingly.
Why Take A Northern Lights Tour?
A lot of people prefer to rent a car and go into the wilderness by themselves. Apart from being the beginning of a great horror movie, that is unsafe for a lot of practical reasons.
Driving, for instance. The roads get icy and slippery in winter and driving at night makes you even more vulnerable. If you are not comfortable with these conditions and you don’t know where you are going (a.k.a. you will be staring at the GPS for the most part of the ride)… I would not get in a car with you. You should also not get in a car with you.
Northern Lights Scandinavia tours come in all shapes and sizes.
There are budget-friendly options, kid-friendly options, tours that take you on a boat rather than to the countryside (and you get to do some whale-watching), warm ‘bubbles’ where you can spend the night under the Aurora borealis, etc.
Since the options might be overwhelming, I recommend you figure out what you want out of the tour beforehand. Make a priority and stick to it. Also, obviously, check reviews online to see if other people enjoyed the tour. If you can get word-of-mouth recommendation, even better. TripAdvisor reviews are always a bit sugarcoated.
Scandinavia Tours Of The Fjords
Ah, the fjords.
Yet another big one on my bucket list. If you are in Scandinavia in July, this might not be the best time to see the Aurora borealis or to check out how good old Santa Claus is doing. It is the perfect time to enjoy the nature, though.
Just like with other Scandinavia tours in this article, we have a dedicated piece on seeing the fjords that you can check out. Here are the main things to consider when picking your fjords viewing plan:
- How independent do you like to be
There are one-day fjords cruises and even half-day fjords cruises—so no excuse for missing that natural wonder. There is also the cruise option, my personal favourite. Various different types of cruises, too. You have the passenger line that goes along the entire coastline of Norway.
It is an actual boat people use to get from one village to another, so a very local atmosphere. If that doesn’t float your boat (no pun intended), how about a guided cruise? Once again, there are different options depending on your budget and the time you can spare. Either way, fjords cruises are a must for everyone regardless of the season or the length of your visit.
Father Christmas In Scandinavia
I know, I know, most people think the merry old Santa Claus lives on the North Pole. Well, that is a huge misconception. He actually has his home in a tiny village, tucked away from the world in Lapland. Santa Claus tours are the perfect choice if you are going with kids. Note that you will have to book early for December tours, as those get sold out very quickly.
Some of the other highlights of a Santa Claus tour are a visit to a reindeer farm and sampling Swedish Christmas delicacies at a Swedish “Julbord”.
No matter which of the Scandinavia tours you pick, I hope you have an amazing trip and I am looking forward to hearing your travel stories in the comments below.