A perfectly sized island lost in the icy Atlantic can make any traveller’s dream come true. Maybe it’s chasing the Northern Lights in dreamlike, volcanic scenery with no light or air pollution? Or driving across centuries-old glaciers and majestic volcanoes in robust super jeeps and stopping for a sensational photographic moment next to thundering waterfalls or steaming geysers? Or why not explore the extra-terrestrial topography of Iceland on board a private helicopter and land next to a remote local restaurant where humar, the local lobster, is served in abundance? From design hotels in eclectic Reykjavik where you will fast experience the fine and fashionable Nordic life style to luxury expeditions and mobile-tented camps built on ice blue glaciers. Iceland has it all.
Imagine an enormous volcanic island 80% of which is hidden by the world’s second largest ice sheet- an absolute paradise for those who love pure, natural beauty in an extreme setting. Only the edges of Greenland- the size of Europe and with just 55,000 inhabitants- are ice-free. On the west of Greenland, explore dreamy Disko Bay, dotted with charming settlements, stunning fjords, small inlets and islands. This is the backyard of the Greenland icecap, with its enormous glaciers and towering icebergs floating out into the Arctic Ocean. Real adventurers can travel- or even sail- to the extreme north where the perpetual permafrost prevails, or head east to discover the Inuit still living authentically in captivating villages on one of the largest nature reserves in the world. Prepare to be surprised by the charming south, home to villages such as Narsarsuaq and Qaqortoq, where green is the dominant colour in summer: a fertile landscape filled with countless grazing sheep and horses.
When sledging through a winter wonderland of sculptured, snowy-white birch trees, and frozen, glistening lakes, you could easily imagine yourself in a different world. This is Finnish Lapland, where elegant villas and roaring open fires await you after a perishing day outside. Finland is a country of contrasts, from the cold high north to the sparkling coastal areas in the south; the dark winter to the midnight sun. This well-organised Nordic country is verdant in summer, covered with deep forests accented with beautiful lakes and charming towns. Travellers seeking privacy can escape to the Aland archipelago consisting of 6,500 islands, or the southernmost inhabited island of Uto, that drifts in the Baltic Sea. In addition to nature’s replenishment and the welcome of the charismatic Sami people, Finland has a wealth of artistic offerings. Design lovers may indulge themselves exploring Helsinki, its distinctive and charming capital, peppered with cutting-edge shops, studios, art galleries, and a thriving restaurant and bar scene.
Discovering Sweden, you may experience the special sensation of going back to the roots- or essence- of a place. Take for example Fika, the Swedish art of drinking coffee: a social institution that also means the simple joy of taking a break, meeting friends and enjoying a good coffee with a delicious pastry. You will find the same artful simplicity in Stockholm when exploring its creative districts, and interesting design and fashion boutiques. Sail away from this elegant capital to the islands outside the city, and the tranquility continues. In winter, head for Jamtland to practice your skiing skills, and stay in cosy resorts like Are and Riksgransen, just north of the Arctic Circle. Connect with nature at the iconic Tree Hotel, or take a special Aurora Borealis flight above Swedish Lapland. In summer, you can go on a sea safari in the west of Sweden, and relax on tiny, car-free islands where local restaurants serve amazing seafood and freshly caught fish.
As the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch once said, “Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye; it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.” Appropriately, his homeland happens to be one of the most stunning countries in the world, where unspoiled nature comes with a capital N, and is a matter of national pride. There are numerous ways to enjoy it: skiing from summit to fjord in the Norwegian Alps while staying in luxury lodges and authentic wood cabins; intense expeditions around the islands of Svalbard, exploring the coastal fjords on private yachts, or the UNESCO-protected Vega Islands close to the Arctic Circle. Go in search of the Northern Lights in winter, and enjoy the energising midnight sun in summer before the luminescent white mantle of winter returns. You will experience the profound love Norwegian people have for their environment, even in their culture-rich capital Oslo, where exalted standards of urban living reign.