- Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights – The Northern Lights are one of nature’s great displays, a free, multicoloured light show. Every performance is different, a beautiful, shifting dance of nocturnal rainbows that many viewers find a humbling and spiritually uplifting experience.
- Fjords – There are more than a thousand fjords in Norway, all along the coast. But most of the iconic ones – those you may have seen on the postcards, like the Nærøyfjord, the Sognefjord, the Lysefjord the Geirangerfjord – are located on the west coast. The fjords resemble still blue lakes, but consist of saltwater – they are prolonged arms of the seas, often reaching deep inland with majestic cliffs towering above on both sides. Dancing down the almost vertical mountainsides are beautiful, sometimes massive waterfalls from the glaciers high above you.
- Education is really good – Since it was reformed 40 years ago, and until last year, Finland’s education system was frequently held up as one of the best in the world. In 2012, Finland topped a Pearson index that graded countries based on international test results and data such as graduation rates between 2006 and 2010. In Sweden, a Stockholm preschool decided to avoid using gender pronouns as well as abstaining from teaching male/female stereotypes in its curriculum. Girls are encouraged to play with Legos as much as boys are, and everyone gets to play with dolls.
- Seafood – Thanks to the cold, clean water, few places in the world compare to West Sweden when it comes to the quality of the region’s seafood.Fishing villages along the coast north of Gothenburg have learned to leverage this national treasure by creating “seafood safaris” where you can catch crayfish, hunt for lobster, rake oysters or visit mussel farms. On these excursions, you also get to eat your catch. For foodies, it’s an experience that borders on religious.
- Women rock parliament – Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland all have high levels of female representation in their parliaments. The regional average of the Nordic countries is 40 percent. To put that in perspective, the next highest is the Americas with 22 percent. How did the Nordic countries come so far? Researchers point to secularization, the strength of social democratic parties and the development of an extended welfare state, women’s entrance into the labor market in large numbers in the 1960s, the educational boom in the 1960s and the electoral system.
- Cool places to stay – Sweden’s Icehotel started a trend of hotels made of ice. But the famed Scandinavian design culture isn’t a one trick pony. Everything from tree houses to eco pods to converted ships are all available to make sure your trip up north is as unique as possible.
- Whale watching – In Scandinavia, whale watching is a popular activity, and many travelers choose to go whale watching in Norway or Iceland. Adventurous travelers can even sign up for special whale watching safaris offering to let you swim with the whales!
- Daddies get parental leave – Nordic countries have some of the most progressive parental leave policies out there. Notice that said “parental leave,” not just “maternal leave.” Yeah, that’s how Nordic countries see it. They all boast generous parental leave schemes with high compensation rates and affordable public daycare. Norway introduced shared parental leave in 1977 and was the first to establish a quota for fathers in 1993. Today, parental leave in Norway totals 47 weeks with a minimum of 14 weeks for the father. In Finland, women are entitled to four months leave starting from, at the latest, one month before the birth. Men are entitled to 54 days leave and six months can be divided between the parents. And in Sweden, parents have a total of 480 days with a minimum of 60 days for each parent. Parents can use the leave until their child turns 8.
- Picturesque fairy tale cities – Copenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki, Reykjavík, Bergen and Stockholm are all world class cities, each with their own art scenes and traditions. Luckily, any trip to Scandinavia will be anchored around at least one of them.