Scandinavian Bucket List

Introducing you to the holiday bucket list in Scandinavia.

You can tick many of the items off your bucket list with a holiday in Scandinavia.

  • See the northern lights
  • Visit the Norwegian Fjords
  • Drive your own husky team
  • Whale watching
  • Stay in an ice hotel
  • Visit the Svalbard Archipelago
  • Experience the midnight sun
  • Stay on a private island in a traditional red timber cabin
  • See a polar bear

So how many can you tick off under the northern lights?

And how many can you do standing under the midnight sun?

  • Whether covered in a blanket of snow, or bathed in sun at midnight the Norwegian fjords understandably on any bucket list. Visit the Malangen Fjord in the summer from £895 per person.
  • A potential 5 in 1 holiday. Visit the Arctic tundra and the Svalbard archipelago, plus drive your own team of huskies on wheels from £930 per person. With a little luck you may also see beluga whales and a polar bear.
  • If you have ever dreamt of staying on a private island in a traditional red timber cabin this is for you. It’s not quite under the midnight sun but during the long summer days it doesn’t go dark. Escape – Swedish Style! from £1250 per person.




The Collection

We have launched our ‘collection’ of holidays –

These holidays stand out above the rest as they offer something magical, something unique and offer a genuine luxury-in-experience holiday.

It could be a traditional red timber cabin on a private island, a hands-on back-to-basics husky expedition on the Finnmark Mountain Plateau or a luxury Göta Kanal cruise between Gothenburg and Stockholm.

The Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands is an archipelago located between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean.  They sit approximately halfway between Norway and Iceland, 320 kilometres from Great Britain.  It does not take long to figure out that the weather plays a huge part of life on The Faroe Islands.

The islands are an autonomous country within the Danish Kingdom, but between 1035 and 1814 were part of the Kingdom of Norway. The Faroe Islands have been self-governed since 1948 and have control over most domestic matters, apart from the military, police, justice, currency and foreign affairs, which are still the responsibility of Denmark.

Faroe Islands with Simply Sweden / Darren Hamlinlin
Faroe Islands with Simply Sweden / Darren Hamlinlin
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I was waiting at Copenhagen airport for my flight into Vagar and was doing some research. In the summer months a heavy fog can descend on the islands and make landing impossible. Flights can be diverted into Bergen in Norway or Keflavik in Iceland. This only heightened my sense of adventure.

Now, if you have thought about heading to The Faroe Islands on holiday you may have stumbled across the new tourism videos by the Faroe Islands Tourist board. The videos are amazing and introduced me to Marius Ziska, a Faroese artist.

Visit Faroe Islands winter film from Visit Faroe Islands on Vimeo.

I was a guest of the Faroe Islands and Atlantic Airways, who are promoting their new direct flight from Edinburgh to Vagar. Upon arrival I was told that we were heading off to the Euro 2016 qualifier against Northern Ireland as that is where everybody who is anybody in the Faroes will be! They lost 3 -1, but for a population of just 50 000 they are now punching above their weight. They were also the friendliest football fans I have ever seen.

Our guide was a great and very knowledgeable chap called Jogvan. What he does not know about the Faroe Islands is probably not worth knowing!

The connections to Denmark and somewhat Norway are obvious, but there is also a strong connection with Great Britain. This stems back from WWII. When Germany invaded Denmark and Norway in 1940, Operation Valentine swung into action to pre-empt any German invasion. This was technically an occupation, but a somewhat friendly one. The airport at Vagar was built by the Royal Engineers in 1942-43.

The Faroese supplied Britain with most of its fish during the second world war and many Faroese men lost their lives at sea. Many ships were either bombed, sunk by U-boats or hit by drifting sea mines. A memorial stands for the fallen in Torshavn’s municipal park.

In 1990 the Faroese government organised British Week to celebrate 50 years of the friendly occupation. HMS Brilliant attended along with a Royal Marines band.

English tea is widely sold along with English chocolate. When I saw 99 flakes for sale there was no doubt in my mind that they had taken some of the best of British traits.

A very un-Scandinavian trait the Faroese have is a very relaxed attitude to time, more in common with the Mediterranean than their Scandinavian brothers and sisters. You have to kick back, and get on Faroese time!

The Faroe Islands biggest export by far is fish, and the fish is some of the best in the world. We went to a sushi restaurant called Etika and it’s safe to say it is one of the best meals I have ever had.

The salmon farms located around the Faroe Islands are in some of the cleanest waters anywhere in the world.

My impression before travelling to the Faroes was of big landscapes, and it did not disappoint. Jogvan took us around the islands and we took every opportunity to take in the views.

It was a great trip and I have to thank Atlantic Airways, Visit Faroe Islands, Jogvan and the taxi driver, he was great. Also Alison for putting everything together. If you feel like a holiday to the Faroe Islands, and you should, keep your eye on our website.

The Arctic Circle Night Train in Sweden

There really is something quite attractive about the night train that I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps I like the gentle rocking of the train through the night or the soft ping ping ping of the countless level crossings we pass, or perhaps it’s just because there is time for quiet reflection as forests and lakes pass me by. There is a friendly chatty atmosphere, something you just don’t get when flying.

For this journey I am travelling to Björkliden, in Scandinavian Mountains on the Norwegian border around 300km inside the Arctic Circle. The cabins on the train are basic but surprisingly comfortable. Bedding and towels are provided plus there is a plug to charge my essentials. Bathroom facilities and a shower are at the end of each carriage.

As I am travelling alone I booked a shared cabin. My roommate is a hunter from Jokkmokk. He has just spent a few days in Stockholm and is on his way home. He tells me the moose hunting season starts tomorrow and when I bring up the topic of bears I can almost see him salivating as he tells me how delicious bear meat is – something I have yet to try.

Travelling by night train in Sweden is an experience. I am coming towards the end of my journey and I have an entire coupé to myself. I have stretched out and I am enjoying the ride. Between Kiruna and Björkliden, as the train climbs into the mountains, the scenery just gets better and better – even on a grey September morning!

Here are my tips for travelling by night train in Sweden:

  • Stock up with snacks and water before you get on board. Simple meals are available for purchase in the restaurant car.
  • If you buy coffee don’t forget about the free refill – just keep hold of your mug!
  • Depending on the amount of people in your group and the cabin booked, space may be limited so I recommend packing a night bag with what you need for the journey. Pack everything else in your main bag and store it in the racks in the corridor.
  • Be aware the train splits in a few locations during the night and heads off in different directions so don’t make yourself comfortable in another carriage.
  • When booking a night train we recommend a private cabin for a little more space and privacy.

Northern Lights season has started!

The northern lights season has started! A spectacular array of green ribbons danced across the night sky across Scandinavia last night. With 6 months of the northern lights season ahead of us we can expect many more images like this.

darren nlThis photo was taken by our in house photographer Darren Hamlin in Åre, in the Swedish mountains, close to the Norwegian border. Let the fun begin!



ICEHOTEL #26 revealed!

As many of you are returning from your summer holidays ICEHOTEL is putting the finishing touches to the design for this season.  This season ICEHOTEL is offering aurora alarms, so as you sleep soundly someone is watching and waiting. Should there be magic …. you can be sure you won’t miss out on the northern lights.

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This year will feature 19 ARTsuites including a 4m tall life size elephant, a Russian imperial-inspired theatre set and a 1970’s love capsule are just some of the glistening creations guests will be able to spend the night in. ICEHOTEL old-timers Viktor Tsarski and Wouter Biegelaar are set to create a room appearing to be draped in fabric; and father-son duo Rob and Timsam Harding from Spain will make a Mediterranean interpretation of Arctic life.

London-based Annie Hanauer is originally from Minnesota, so should have no problem adjusting to the Arctic climate. She’s teamed up with Matt Chan from the UK and crafted the idea for their suite from cairns. Used in open space areas to mark a hiking trail, Hanauer and Chan have adopted their symbolic meaning as signs of a destination, good-will and community between strangers. Their suite design takes the shape of a cairn forest, with ice slabs stacked together, floor to ceiling, forming towers and arches in an icy landscape.

Here are some facts and figures …

  • The amount of snow used to create its 55 rooms, church and a bar would suffice to make 700 million snowballs
  • The chandeliers are made from 1 000 hand cut ice crystals.
  • From December to April, the bar serves 26 550 drinks IN the rocks from ice cocktail glasses
  • 11 000 hot cups of sweet lingonberry juice are given as a complimentary morning drink to newly awakened guests before they leave their warm sleeping bags and head for sauna and breakfast.
  • 5 000 tons of natural ice were harvested from the Torne River in March. Apparently, ice farming is no different from wine grapes or olives as each year is a different vintage. Thanks to fortunate weather, the blocks were almost 4 inches thicker than normal and exceptionally solid this year – a particularly good vintage.

Göta Kanal & the Bohuslän Archipelago

Author & Photos: Christine Zazzera

This summer has not been the best in Sweden. Normally, the weather is beautiful throughout June and July. This year, it felt like the summer hadn’t ever really arrived. When I checked the forecast before I left Uppsala for Gothenburg it seemed like I was going to miss the beautiful weather on the east coast for wind and rain on the west. But, I was lucky! Friday morning I checked the weather again, and not only was it not going to rain, it was going to be extremely sunny and warm! I grabbed my sunglasses for what felt like the first time all year and headed out. I arrived in Gothenburg during a quite busy weekend. I was catching the tail end of Way Out West, a large and varied music festival,  as well as Kulturkalas, a culture weekend. Kulturkalas turned out to be a blessing filled with food trucks! I got to eat cheap and delicious food from so many different countries while in a lovely square in the centre of Gothenburg just as the night started to cool. It was a real treat.

West Sweden
West Sweden
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The next morning I headed to Grebbestad to board the M/S Wihelm Tham. We were welcomed with coffee and some of the most delicious apple pastries I’ve ever had. It definitely set the tone for the rest of the meals for the trip. After our safety instructions I had a chance to explore my cabin a bit. I had a room on the Bridge Deck which gave me an excellent view. It also meant that I had some fruit, champagne and a bath robe waiting for me in my room. While the cabin is small and not en suite, it is really well designed.  I had a small closet and a vanity with plenty of storage space. Having a sink in the cabin in all honesty meant that I didn’t even miss the en suite. You really spend so little time in the cabins themselves that I never felt like I didn’t have enough space. Any time spent in the cabin meant time I couldn’t enjoy the simply gorgeous scenery so I spent as much time as I could lounging on the bridge deck and watching the world go by.

Aboard the ship you are encouraged to use your phone and technology as little as possible (with the exception of cameras. There is no wifi on the Bridge Deck, and where it does exist, it cannot be used by many people at once. For someone who is quite attached to her phone, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to deal with this. I was incredibly wrong. Part of the ship’s charm is travelling the way people used to. This means small but comfortable cabins, somewhat formal meals, and an attention on talking with the other passengers as opposed to sitting on the internet. I have not been as relaxed as aboard that ship since before I ever learned how to use a computer. It was a genuinely wonderful experience to talk with the passengers and to appreciate my surroundings without constantly grabbing for my phone.

My highlights for this cruise include Fjällbacka, Gullholmen, Kalvsund, Känsö and the food. Fjällbäcka is one of the first stops and was really beautiful. We passed Ingrid Bergman’s summer home of Dannholmen on the way in, and were met by a very knowledgeable tour guide who gave us plenty of information about the famous actress. Not only was it great to see the Bergman sites, the town itself is charming. In Gullholm we were welcomed with fresh oysters and mussels. I love seafood so I could not be happier to dig into fresh oysters plucked just out of the water. Kalvsund was a bit of a treat. Originally we were supposed to dock in Vinga, but due to incredibly strong winds we instead went to Kalvsund. This small area is where a few other guests and I decided to go for a morning swim. The day was beautiful and it just seemed like a brilliant idea. Once I jumped in, the wind was knocked right out of me! The water was so cold. After swimming like a madman for a minute I was warm enough to want to enjoy the water for as long as I could. Then we sat on the rocks in the sun like the seals that we had seen on the way in. Känsö surprised me in that I had not realized it was a military facility and a special permit had to be acquired for us to visit. For someone like myself who is quite interested in history this stop was a treat. The guides give you an introduction to some important events in Swedish history, as you are shown around the first quarantine station in Sweden. It also doesn’t hurt that the island is a protected area, and filled with beautiful nature as well.

The food served aboard the ship is genuinely wonderful. As a pescatarian I usually struggle with pre-fixed menus, but the staff really are up to handle any task. Not only was my food delicious throughout, everyone was thrilled with everything on the menu. My favourite though, was our last lunch. As an appetizer we had some traditional Swedish foods, Sill, Snaps, and cheese. Part of the tradition of Schnapps includes drinking songs, which really liven up the party and are a fun way to go out with a bang!

Northern Norway

Author & photos: Chris Graham

I travelled to Tromsø and Alta at the end of the winter season. The snow was melting quickly and spring was beginning to take a firm grip as the midnight sun edged closer and closer. The last husky expeditions were coming home from the mountains.

Landing in Tromsø is always something special. You fly between the peaks of the surrounding mountains and on this particular day the sky was clear. I have landed in Tromsø before with thick clouds and all of a sudden mountains tower over you as the cloud breaks up – an interesting experience!

Lyngen Lodge - Sea Safari
Lyngen Lodge - Sea Safari
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I was on a work trip so lots of places to visit and not a lot of time. My first stop was the kennels at Villmarkssentre. As a guest here there is always the chance to play with the puppies. I was lucky, a litter just a few weeks old kept me entertained for longer that it should have.

Now running late I hopped in the car for the 1hr drive to Malangen. Malangen is a purpose built modern resort with hotel rooms, apartments and spacious holiday homes, all with unobstructed views across the fjord. I thought this would be a great location for a northern lights short break or during the summer as a self-catering family holiday, or a fly drive scenic tour of Tromsø, Senja and beyond.

In northern Scandinavia warning signs for wild animals should be taken seriously. I met several reindeer grazing by the road side.

I stayed at the Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora on the quayside in the centre of Tromsø (recently renovated.  An excellent evening buffet is included in the price which is much appreciated as Norway is a touch expensive but it’s much more appealing just now with a favourable exchange rate. There is a roof top Jacuzzi from which to enjoy the view across the harbour to the famous Arctic Cathedral.

On my final morning in Tromsø I drove 45mins to the northern tip of Whale Island. Trine and Alf are your hosts for our whale watching holiday and the whales literally feast in their back garden annually between November and January. I sat in their back garden drinking coffee, admiring the view, listening to nature – I was out of season and there were no whale!

Speeding in Norway is expensive! On my way to the airport I was caught speeding. 1600nok fine was quite steep so be careful!!

Flying around northern Norway is one of my favourite parts. The locals treat the Widerøe flights like a bus service, almost hopping on and off. At one intermediate stop one person joined the plane, greeted the cabin crew with a hug, said ‘Hi’ to a couple of other friends on board (clearly a regular routine), and the single cabin crew professionally went through the safety briefing again for the 15 of us on board.

It’s always worth having a camera close by these planes fly quite low and the fjord and mountain scenery is something to be admired. I am 6’4” and I was worried that I would struggle for room on these planes. Quite the opposite. I found them spacious and comfortable. The pilots are specially accredited to fly to such remote locations and this is a genuine part of life in northern Norway.

In Alta I picked up my Volvo (although Swedish – very Scandinavian!) and drove up on to the Finnmark Mountain Plateau, following the Alta River. This is home to the world’s longest husky race and to thousands of reindeer and the indigenous Sami. A beautiful area of open wilderness. At this time of year sunglasses and sun cream are vital items. A part of Scandinavia I have every intention of returning to and exploring some more. Driving across the plateau I listened to Willy Clay Band (a famous band from Swedish Lapland) and Mighty Good Time – appropriate driving music for where I was.

It’s an incredibly scenic 4hr drive between Alta and Lyngen Lodge. It was difficult to keep my eyes on the road! Some of the engineering to keep Norway moving is astounding – tunnels, bridges and mountain roads. Sea to mountain, spring to winter, fjord to meter deep snow in a matter of minutes.

Lyngen Lodge is a cosy luxury lodge perched high above the Lyngen Fjord with a hot tub on the terrace – perfect for relaxing in under the colourful northern lights. I visited Uløya Island where the traditional process of drying fish continues. At this time of year the reindeer are wandering from the mountains to the coast in their massive spring migration. Reindeer often swim to the islands and thousands make the short crossing to Uløya every year.

I returned to Alta and stayed with Trine and her huskies at Stengelsegårdenis Lodge. Located on the banks of the Alta River and close to Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel. No northern lights for me – it was too late in the season and the sky was too bright. The midnight sun was just around the corner.  Great food, great atmosphere and great company. I spoke to a small group who had just returned from a 3 night husky expedition on the Finnmark Mountain Plateau.  All husky activities are hands-on experiences but Trine gets you more involved than most. She will give you a card with a list of names. You wander the yard and find your friendly huskies. It’s your job to harness them to your sled before enjoying the ride. You certainly get up close and personal!

I returned to Alta Airport for the flight to Oslo and back home!

The Iron Trail – Swedish Lapland

Author & Photos: Chris Graham

I have heard so much about the Iron Trail over the past few years but never really understood what it was all about. This was a trip of a lifetime and I was hosting 2 journalists, one for National Geographic and the other was writing for The Independent. We kicked off at Pine Bay Lodge, famous for its warm hospitality, mouth-watering food and homely atmosphere.

Keeping warm by the fire
Keeping warm by the fire
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A quick lesson about the local Sami culture and the Iron Trail revealed that during the 18th and 19th centuries the Sami were forced into transporting iron ore from the mine in Gällivare to a smelting and distribution facility at Råneå. This was 210km, 5 day journey across gruelling terrain in often hostile conditions. Each reindeer pulled an ‘ackja’ (sled) weighing up to 170kg and they were tied together in ‘renrajd’ (reindeer trains) of up to 12 animals. Countless animals and Sami lost their lives during the cold dark winters.

Our intention was to retrace part of the trail on snowmobiles, across a frozen archipelago, through dense forests and into a magical world of snow and ice. It was -22C and our expert wilderness guide, Roger, was on hand to make sure we had dressed properly and we were warm enough for the adventure ahead. Roger is a man of the north, someone more comfortable deep in the forests or high in the mountains than he is in the big city – just the person you want on such a journey.

The snowmobile adventure started in the Luleå archipelago on a layer of meter thick ice – a snow desert under the low lying midday sun. Time was of the essence to make the most of the available daylight. This was an adventure of wild wilderness, nature and wildlife. Roger had a keen eye for spotting moose lurking in the trees, reindeer grazing on the lichen and beavers who had been building a dam. Without his 6th sense we would have glided right by even though they stood motionless just a few metres away.

A warm and welcome lunch was prepared over an open fire; a wilderness coffee had never been so enjoyable; there was no time to spare as the sun began to set and the light faded. We needed to at Aurora Safari Camp before darkness fell. Small villages comprising of tiny red cabins were dotted around the river valley marking the stop over points for the renrajd. The reindeer trains are long gone but the history lives on.

Aurora Safari Camp was a welcome stop. We had travelled 60km in temperatures down to -25C. The fires in the tents were burning brightly and it wasn’t long before we had removed all our thermal snowsuits and were enjoying a cold beer – no need for a fridge here!

This Iron Trail, aimed at leisure travellers, was inaugurated in 1995 by King Carl Gustav XVI and is maintained by a small group of dedicated volunteers.