Holidays! Time to put work aside, dip into your wardrobe and pick out the lightest clothing you have, because we’re spending a week on the beach!
Or are we? The truth is that an increasing number of people are looking at what’s on offer and thinking: “Well, yes, beaches are nice. The sun is great. Big fan. But what else could I enjoy this year?”.
And for many of us, the answer is going somewhere that isn’t defined by sun, sand, and sangria. For some of us, it’s more heated springs, heights and hakarl. Yes, if you just looked that up, I apologise. You don’t HAVE to eat it. Most Icelandic people don’t, and then laugh at the macho tourists who try.
Anyway, if you’re looking for somewhere new to go, the best bet is to stop chasing the sun. It’s time to embrace the fact that some of the best holidays mean not getting burned to a crisp on a beach somewhere.
Lofoten Islands, Norway
Although neighbouring Sweden is seen as the dominant part of Scandinavia, Norway is in many ways a better place to visit. It’s got pretty much everything Sweden has, but fewer of the airs and graces. The people of Norway are regularly rated among the happiest in the world. And when you see Lofoten, it’s not hard to see why.Moskenesoya – A picturesque wonder of an island
It’s tough to be among this kind of natural beauty and not smile. Moskenesoya may be hard to pronounce, but it’s worth the practice. Just watch the sun set over this captivating island. You’ll never want to leave.
Many of us, while at school, will have learned that while Iceland is surprisingly green, Greenland is shockingly icy. How true this is depends entirely on where you go. Erik the Red was a Viking exiled from Iceland (for killing Eyiolf the Foul, according to records). To occupy himself, he founded the first Viking settlement on this island.
Narsarsuaq airport – not where Erik landed, planes didn’t exist back then
A master salesman, Erik named the settlement “Greenland” which, you have to admit, sounds a bit nicer than “Iceland”. In truth, on both islands, there are plenty of green areas and a lot of ice, too. If you visit Greenland – and you really should – then make a point of seeing Narsarsuaq. Its green valleys are exactly what Erik was getting at when he sent word back to Iceland about how great his new home was.
Now, don’t get too carried away with Erik’s talk of how amazing Greenland was and how bad Iceland was. He had been exiled, and that does make people lash out. Greenland is beautiful, but so is Iceland. The landscape is sparse in places, but captivatingly so. And where it is built-up and populated, it’s done so in a magical way you’ll just want to photograph.
The capital Reykjavik is, of course, one of the most charming cities in the world. It packs a lot of ways to be entertained, places to eat and delightful people into a small area. Nearby Garðabær, too, is well worth a journey.
In short, on a trip to the Nordic areas of Europe, you will be enchanted by what you see, and entertained by what you hear. You may very well look at what you are expected to eat and feel appalled. But if you can stomach that, or look straight past it to the many real charms on offer in this part of the world, you’ll fall in love. Instantly.