It’s no wonder Scandinavia is home to some of the world’s happiest people, consistently topping the UN’s World Happiness Report. In these northern European countries, creativity flourishes among pristine landscapes rich in beauty and history. The experiences you can have here are incomparable. Here are a few of our favorites:
1. Forget bringing down the house—at Oslo’s Opera House, it’s all about going up to the roof. Stroll up the sloped exterior to the marble-clad roof of this sleek landmark on the edge of the Oslo fjord on our Scandinavia: Great Capitals of the Baltic States expedition.
2. Step onto the set of Hamlet. William Shakespeare set his famous tragedy at Kronborg Castle (which he called Elsinore), a UNESCO World Heritage site near Copenhagen, Denmark. Explore the exquisite halls and ramparted fortress of this Renaissance icon while exploring the Great Capitals of the Blatic Sea.
3. Go looking for trolls. Aboard the National Geographic Explorer, cruise through the mystical mist of Trollfjorden, one of Norway’s most famous fjords, on an expedition to Norway’s Fjords and Arctic Svalbard. Or, on our Norway’s Trains and Fjords expedition, you can gape at the Trollveggen, aka the “Troll Wall”—Europe’s tallest vertical rock face at 3,281 feet. Local lore holds that the unusual rock shapes and formations of these and other natural Norwegian landmarks are actually sleeping trolls.
4. Get an earful on a listening tour of the centuries. At Ringve Music Museum in Trondheim, part of our Norway’s Trains and Fjords expedition, guided musical tours feature rare performances of the collection’s antique and traditional musical instruments, ranging from 18th-century Hardanger fiddles and old hunting and shepherding instruments to a 1968 synthesizer.
5. Follow in the footsteps of Vikings. On our Norway's Trains and Fjords trip, catch a train to Trondheim, Norway, and explore this onetime capital said to have been founded in the tenth century by Viking king Olaf I Tryggvason. Or bring your kids on our family trip to Denmark and Norway, and get immersed in the seafaring legacy of Vikings as you examine the centuries-old wooden longships at Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum.
6. Herd reindeers and go dogsledding with the Sami. Delve into the Lapland wilderness on an active dogsledding adventure in Sweden, and experience the traditional way of life of the region’s indigenous Sami people. Set off by sled behind a team of Alaskan huskies across frozen rivers and snow-blanketed valleys, embark on a reindeer sled ride to a Sami tepee, and meet a renowned reindeer herder.
7. Spend the night at the world’s most famous igloo. Our Sweden: Dogsledding to the Icehotel expedition culminates with a stay at the legendary Icehotel in the remote Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi. Here at the world’s largest hotel made out of snow and ice—rebuilt each year—you can sleep in a heated room or opt for one of the ice or snow rooms, cozily outfitted with thermal sleeping bags. Either way, explore the ephemeral wonderland of snow walls, crystal domes, and whimsical ice sculptures.
8. Peer up at the world’s only preserved 17th-century warship. Visit Stockholm’s popular Vasa Museum and learn about this notorious ship on our Scandinavia: Great Capitals of the Baltic Sea trip. After much fanfare leading up to its maiden voyage, the Swedish ship capsized and sank in 1628, having sailed less than a nautical mile. It remained on the seabed for 333 years, until 1961, when preservation work began.
9. Marvel at the daring ambition of Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl as you view his legendary Kon-Tiki raft. Over the course of 101 days in 1947, this balsa-wood raft sailed 4,300 miles across the Pacific Ocean from Peru to Raroia, near Tahiti. On Scandinavia: Great Capitals of the Baltic Sea, meet with the seafaring scientist’s son, Thor Heyerdahl, Jr., at the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo.
10. Experience a true 24-hour day in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago above the Arctic Circle, where summer’s midnight sun never sets. Bask in its ethereal light aboard the National Geographic Explorer on our Land of the Polar Bears expedition.