From Iceland to Finland to Norway to Denmark to Sweden, the same prejudice applies: Stunning, but way too expensive. Sure, living costs are up there, but when it comes to flights and accommodation, keeping your costs down is pretty easy. In fact, as these 5 examples show, it can even be cheap
The Northern landscape is a salve for the soul. Enjoy the outdoors. Park next to a secluded lake and set up a tent or rent a stunningly situated hut. Explore the lake by boat, cast out a fishing rod or build a campfire, enjoy the freedom nature brings. Wander endlessly on high plateaus, cross deep valleys, listen to the falling water cascading over waterfalls, breathe fresh, clean air and admire the distant horizon or the high mountains. Navigate the fjords as they cut through the landscape. Swim in steaming hot pools and ice-cold springs. Walk over unpaved roads to volcanic plains and witness geological changes. The list goes on and on.
Get lost in the cities, enjoying the Scandinavian hospitality and their outlook on life. Feast your eyes on the Nordic craftsmanship. A puristic, straightforward approach to design, seen in furniture, lamps, fixtures, electrical appliances and clothing.
The countries of Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Denmark are extremely attractive destinations that are often dismissed by Brits on a budget due to the belief that even a weekend getaway is going to break the bank. Going to cafes, restaurants and bars (the cost of alcohol is especially notorious) can be very expensive, and a cursory look at hotel prices can seem pretty steep.
And yet, you can travel these countries relatively cheaply. And while Couchsurfing, camping or hiking between mountain huts can certainly save a penny or two, one need only delve a little deeper and the bargains start to emerge.
Cycle lanes and Lego™ in Denmark
Zealand is Denmark’s largest island and home to the capital, Copenhagen, one of the grandest cities of the continent that everyone should visit at least once. To really experience Copenhagen you should navigate its streets on a hired bike. Just follow the 230 miles of cycle lanes, and you can see the inner city, Vesterbro, Nørrebro, Østerbro, Frederiksberg and even the suburbs in comfort.
And if you want to go even further and head out go to the surrounding areas – such as Hillerød, Klampenborg, Køge or the beaches at Køge Bay – just jump on the tube. Roskilde, Humlebæk (with the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art) and Helsingør can be reached by regional train.
If it’s the west of the country that interests you most, think Jutland and the North Sea, you should fly to Billund. Somewhere Lego fans know well, by name at least. Billund is home to the original Legoland, a huge amusement park (featuring miniland, Pirateland, Adventureland, etc.) and colorful-block-themed hotel. Also in the vicinity also is a huge indoor water park, resplendent with erratic chutes, waterfalls, wave pools and much more.
Accommodation tip: Bedwood Hostel from £15 per night (2 stars, the hostel is situated in a beautiful historic warehouse, originally built in 1756, right beside the famous Nyhavn canal in Oslo’s city centre).
From Billund, it is not far to Esbjerg (a short car trip away), and from there by ferry to the enchanting North Sea island of Fanø. The island has endless broad beaches (navigable by car or camper), Sønderho, Demark’s most beautiful village, and a reliable wind perfect for windsurfing, blokart (beach sailing) or kite-flying. Activities galore.
Dream destinations don’t have to come at a high price, these are only a few of the examples that we love sharing with you. KAYAK Explore is a fantastic tool that you can use to look for cheap flights, from the airport of your choice, all year long.
Sweden – Stockholm and archipelagos
Thank you, Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking! Thanks for the unique, mischievous and whimsical image of Sweden that you have given generations all over the world. These days it seems that the Pippi Longstocking-way-of-life is still a feature of every Swedish holiday – the nonchalance, glee and a penchant for the unconventional.
One great example of this is the quintessentially Swedish concept of Allemansrätten or the freedom to roam; best summed up by the phrase ”Don’t disturb – don’t destroy”. Granting every person the right to access all public and certain areas of privately owned land for recreation and exercise, this includes camping out. Park your car, VW bus or camper for a night at the edge of the street or designated site, fluff the pillows in your vehicle or pitch a tent, set up a tea station, get that kettle brewing and relax under the Swedish skies.
Accommodation tip: Castle House Inn from £18 per night (3 stars; ‘Excellent’ rating, prime location)
In the beautiful city of Stockholm, built over 14 islands, or in Göthenberg, the second largest city in Sweden, you are most likely going to sleep in an immobile domicile with a roof and four walls.
KAYAK Tip: From Gothenburg, try and take a detour out to the islands of Tjörn or Orust, at which, claiming more sunshine per year than anywhere else in Sweden, a more Swedish summer experience is hard to find. These and the other smaller islands in the archipelago off the west coast are as idyllic in any story by Astrid Lindgren. Visit Sweden
What can you say about the Finns? They spend most of their lives sitting in the sauna, are extremely introverted (when sober at least), dance tango and organise obtuse competitions such as mobile phone throwing, wife carrying, swamp soccer or the air guitar world championships.
All stereotypes aside there is one very important thing to remember. The main aim behind these competitions is to create a celebratory atmosphere, and if you don’t know already, you’ll learn, Finns know how to party.
An absolute highlight is the white nights, all thanks to the Midnight Sun. Although it is only visible above the polar circle, the rays banish the cloak of night across the entire country. Between June and July, the light at night is at its most intense and the sun only passes below the horizon for a short time, late in the evening. The boundaries between a dawning morning and a fading night blur: Magical.
The capital, Helsinki, is home to little more than 600,000 inhabitants. They (and you as their guest) enjoy a wealth of culture and design, forests and parks, almost 190 miles of coastline and an archipelago consisting of some 300 islands. That the nights here are long, is not only due to the midnight sun. In the city centre, there are countless bars, and there is something going on every evening, especially live concerts. The Finns like to rock out.
Accommodation tip: Hostel Diana Park from £22 per night (2-star, ‘Excellent’ rated, central location, top wellness hotel)
If you like surfing, Norway’s your destination. Provided you don’t mind the cold water. The Lofoten Islands in the north of Norway (Norway is often called “the road to the north”) are considered one of the best cold water surf spots in the world.
Norway is variation in it’s purest form. Considerably more rough and mountainous than the other northern countries, the landscape ducks and weaves around a fascinating mixture of plateaus and fjords, island chains and grasslands, ports, villages and cities. And, of course, the midnight sun accompanies you here as well. If the mood strikes you, you can start a hike at 9 pm in the summer.
Oslo, the capital of the kingdom, is one of the top places in the ranking of ‘most expensive cities in the world’, but there are ways around it, making sure you don’t enjoy the city any less. If you’re eating out be sure to steer clear of the main tourist streets and, always sound advice, go where the locals go. There are also plenty of free events and museums, and the city, knowing what a deterrent high prices can be, offers a bunch of tips on its tourist site.
Urban planning has changed the city’s skyline considerably over the past few years, contemporary, modern architecture is found in the old town as well as in new urban areas. What remains ever present is how the capital is orientated – with its face always towards the water.
Accommodation tip: Anker Hostel from £19 per night (2 stars, central location; basic, but a bargain for Oslo which is usually very expensive)
Should you visit the harbour city of Bergen? The answer is a resounding, yes! Norway’s second-largest city pop. 280,000, exudes small town charm with its laneways, fish market and world-famous wooden houses of Bryggen, but this gateway to the fjords buzzes with a youthful vitality; due in part to its student population. The rugged west coast of Norway is one of a kind, and the best way is to explore it is on the water, either on a day trip with a canoe or sailboat or on a mini cruise on board one of the Hurtigruten ships. There is always an adventure to be had here.
Accommodation tip: Marken Gjestehus from £18 per night per room (2-star, top budget accommodation)
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This island state in the North Atlantic is experiencing a boom like no other and hardly knows what to do with all the tourists. In 2001, just 296,000 tourists visited the volcanic island region, in 2014 it was just under one million visitors, in 2015 it jumped to 1.3 million, and this year around 2 million are expected. A huge number for a country with just over 336,000 inhabitants!
After surviving the financial crisis of 2008 and the volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, Iceland’s reputation as a top-place-to-visit was firmly cemented as, during the 2016 European Football Championship, this unlikely nation showed incredible fortitude and spirit while eliminating the English team. Rather than having a negative backlash, the nation was immediately embraced by the hearts of all fans and the official tourism board starting receiving a whole lot more queries.
So, how is Iceland coping with the ongoing explosion in tourism?
Due to this boom, accommodation is limited. Problematically, private housing in the capital of Reykjavik is becoming prime real estate and too expensive for many Icelanders to rent. This is also exacerbated by Icelandair and Wow Air having stopovers in Reykjavik on the way to North America. While Iceland acknowledges that it can be hard to keep up, the Tourism Minister and other tourism leaders in the country are suggesting one of the best solutions is that you, the visitor, take the opportunity to get out and view the whole country.
Accommodation tip: Oddsson from £22 per night (2 stars; ‘Excellent’ rating and directly at the port)
The untamed landscape with volcanoes and waterfalls, geysers and glaciers, bubbling thermal springs, quaint gravel roads and moss-covered hillsides are almost otherworldly in their beauty. Legends of elves and trolls make sense here and remaining sceptical is harder than you’d think. Even today a belief in the fair folk is anchored in Icelandic society, just ask someone local about the hidden people (Huldufólk).
Note: These rates are based on search queries made on KAYAK.co.uk on April 27th, 2017. The prices are quoted in GBP. Flight prices are based on results for a return economy flight search. Hotel prices are for double occupancy and include taxes and fees. Prices are subject to change, may vary, or no longer be available.