Europe is not the first continent that comes to mind when you think about wild nature, right? Wrong! Even though the tourism industry brands Europe as the continent of castles, wineries and museums, there’s a wealth of wilderness in the old continent and not just at the far edges of it, like the Ural mountains. And Europe keeps getting wilder – just last week it was officially announced that the wolf has returned to the Netherlands after 150 years of absence! While parts of the Balkan or Spain are certainly rather wild, the wildest European region (outside Russia) is undoubtedly Scandinavia, the toughest bite-size region. The term “Scandinavia” is somewhat ambiguous. I take the linguistic interpretation of Scandinavia, one that includes Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden (and I want to add Finland to the Baltic states, to diversify that corner a bit).
- Why go there?
Because even Denmark, the most densely populated Scandinavian country, has over 7000 km of coast line (not including Faroe Islands and Greenland), most of it pretty deserted. Just type “Denmark coast” in Google and see if the images bring to mind the words “crowded” and “urban sprawl”, so associated with Europe’s Southern beaches. The forests of Sweden, the mountains of Norway, the arctic deserts of Iceland – Scandinavia is as wild as can be. Of course, it is still Europe, so there’s an abundant supply of castles and museums, and even the occasional winery.
- What’s it best for?
The region is a survivalist’s paradise. But the avid hiker is sure to enjoy it, too.
- When is the best time to go?
The Scandinavian climate can be rather harsh. July-August are the best time for hiking, especially since the wild berries are ripe then. The spring tends to be the driest season though, and the best chances of seeing the Northern Lights are in March.
- How to get around?
Having a car is somewhat of a necessity here. There are excellent ferry connections between the many islands and across the straights, so you can take the car with you pretty much everywhere you go – even to Iceland!
- Why is it best to avoid?
The distances in Scandinavia are BIG. If you’re short on time, perhaps consider a denser region.
- Where to go if you just have one week?
Iceland. For sure. Even around the capital Reykjavik (which is worthwhile on its own) there’s plenty to see and do. Plus Icelandair allows a stopover en route between Europe and North America – free of charge!