Welcome to my Backpacking Scandinavia travel guide! Scandinavia is one of the most idyllic regions of the world. Blessed with fantastic mountains, jaw-dropping fjords, wild rivers, beautiful coastline, super-efficient cities, postcard-worthy farmland, and friendly locals, it is no wonder that backpacking Scandinavia is high on any traveler’s list.
There is truly so much on offer in Scandinavia that it blows my mind more backpackers don’t take advantage of it. Scandinavia is, however, notoriously expensive.
For many travelers, the thought of backpacking Scandinavia for more than a couple days is a bank account draining fantasy. So how does one navigate the steep costs associated with backpacking Scandinavia? Is it even possible to travel to Sweden on a budget?
In this Scandinavia travel guide, you will get all the tips and tricks you need to travel to Scandinavia on a budget. Get Scandinavia travel itineraries, in-depth tips on backpacking in Sweden, Norway, and Finland, and Denmark, top things to do in Scandinavia, where to go, where to stay, and much more.
By the end of this Scandinavia travel guide, you will fear the high prices in this part of the world no longer (well maybe a little bit). Plus, once you get to know what’s on offer in Scandinavia you will probably start preparing your backpack right away…
Let’s get right to it…
Table of Contents
- Where to Go Backpacking in Scandinavia
- Best Travel Itineraries for Backpacking Scandinavia
- Scandinavia Travel Guide: Country Breakdowns
- Places to Visit in Sweden
- Places to Visit in Norway
- Places to Visit in Finland
- Places to Visit in Denmark
- Top Things to Do in Scandinavia
- Where to Stay in Scandinavia
- Scandinavia Travel Tips
- Safety in Scandinavia
- What to Pack for Scandinavia
- Scandinavia Travel Guide to Getting Around
- Backpacking Scandinavia Budget and Costs
- Must Try Experiences in Scandinavia
A journey backpacking in Scandinavia will take you through the beating heart of Northern Europe’s iconic cities, mind-blowing landscapes, and fascinating cultures.
One of the reasons I love Europe and Scandinavia, in particular, is because there are more stunning natural landscapes, history, and culture than one can possibly take in a single backpacking trip. Backpacking in Scandinavia is the journey that keeps on giving.
Explore the misty fjords of Norway. Hike the Kings Trail (Kungsleden) through the wilds of Sweden. Discover the amazing food culture in Denmark. Become enchanted by the Northern Lights in Finland.
Whether you love nature photography, excellent cuisine, hiking, learning about history, exploring tiny villages, or getting lost in big cities, Scandinavia has all of those things on offer and in abundance.
Backpacking Scandinavia is obviously NOT as cheap as backpacking in Southeast Asia though in welcome contrast things generally are more organized in Scandinavia. Like a lot more organized.
If you thrive on a bit of order, access to efficient transportation, and open doors to a bit of spontaneity, you are going to love traveling here! Now let’s take a look at some of the best Scandinavia backpacking routes that I have assembled below.
Here are several Backpacking Scandinavia travel itineraries to get your ideas flowing. The backpacking routes can easily be combined or customized!
Backpacking Scandinavia 1 Week Itinerary #1: Cosmopolitan Highlights
1 Week: Scandinavia Cities
Only have 1 week to visit Scandinavia? No problem.
To be realistic though a 1 week Scandinavia itinerary is not that much time to work with. That said, you can certainly get a taste of what Scandinavia is about in just 7 days.
This 7-day itinerary has you starting off in Stockholm, Sweden, though it can easily be done in reverse as well (starting in Oslo). This itinerary omits Finland, as you simply don’t have enough time to combine four countries in 7 days.
Buying a Europe train pass is a great way to hit all of the cities on my list for the best price. Check out this full article on train travel in Europe here.
Stockholm -> Copenhagen -> Gothenburg -> Oslo -> Bergen -> Oslo
Begin your journey in Stockholm. It must be said that no trip backpacking in Sweden would be complete without a thorough exploration of the capital, Stockholm. It’s gorgeous!
If you love museums you have come to the right place. With no less than 100 to choose from, there is a museum in Stockholm to suit the taste of every traveler.
The legendary old town, Gamla Stan is one of the most-preserved old districts of any major European capital. Wind your way through the cobblestone streets taking in the tiny shops, cafes, before visiting the Stockholm’s Royal Palace.
After a day and a half in Stockholm, it’s time to move. The trains make it a breeze. Next stop: Copenhagen, Denmark.
Take in the sights of the stunning Danish capital before your Scandinavian backpacking adventure comes to an end. A stroll along the Nyhavn (the old harbor) and a visit to the top of the Round Tower are must-dos.
Now it is time to cross back into Sweden. The next place on the list is Gothenburg, Sweden (if Batman were Swedish, he’d be from here).
Big things are happening in Gothenburg and a visit to the 2nd largest city in Sweden is bound to be a delight. After taking a pastry and coffee from one of the numerous cafes in the hip Haga district, head to the harbor to check out the famous fish market.
You can opt for a boat tour that takes you on a journey around some of the neighboring islands, or you can just spend the day getting to grips with many of the city’s hidden gems.
Next up on your journey is Oslo, Norway. Museums, churches, art galleries, and badass Scandinavian architecture all come together to make Oslo a jewel in the Scandinavian crown. Be sure to visit the medieval Akershus Fortress (built in 1299!).
A few hours’ train ride will bring you to your next destination: Bergen, Norway. I love Bergen for a variety of reasons. A picture-perfect waterfront combined with the fact that Bergen is the gateway to some very impressive Norweigian fjords might be part of the reason I love it here. Bergen is beautiful. You may never want to leave.
Circle back to Oslo to end your epic week-long adventure in Scandinavia! You’ll be back for more soon I hope.
Backpacking Scandinavia 10 Day Itinerary #2: Culture, Hikes, Cities
10 days: Sweden Road Trip
Here is an example itinerary for 7-10 days backpacking in Sweden:
This itinerary takes you through the heart of what backpacking in Sweden is all about. Cities, castles, tiny fishing villages, national parks… you name it. There are so many side trips, variations, hikes, and places to explore over the course of this route that the opportunities to get off the beaten path are endless.
Discover thriving urban life in Stockholm. Get to know the fairy-tale landscapes, churches, and castles of Kalmar. Pass through the green forests and towns on the drive from Skane to Malmo. Get a feel for the real Sweden in
Around Skane, you do have the option to pop over to Copenhagen for a day or two as well. For a quick Swedish road trip of the southern coast, it doesn’t get any more idyllic than this. More about each of these places later in the guide.
Backpacking Norway 10 Day Itinerary #3: The Highlights
10 Days: Norway
Like backpacking in Sweden, a trip to Norway is bound to be one of the most beautiful and fascinating adventures of your life. Norway really is almost too pretty to be real.
In 10 days, you can hit plenty of top sights in Norway without feeling like you are rushing around like a crazy person. Norway is famous for its jaw-dropping natural landscapes. Its awe-inspiring beauty is, in essence, Norway in a nutshell.
If you love nature, you are sure to fall in love with the scenery during your backpacking Norway experience.
Here is an example itinerary of what you can discover with 10 days in Norway:
Oslo -> Stavanger -> Kjeragbolten -> Lysevegen Road -> Bergen -> Eidfjord-> Odda/Trolltunga -> Balestrand -> Geiranger -> Alesund
This whirlwind tour of Norway is the best of both worlds: you make an epic Norwegian road trip, do plenty of hiking, and experience a wide variety of different landscapes, towns, and cities.
Ever wonder where those epic photographs of people standing on cliffs in Norway with an amazing view of the mountains and fjords perfectly positioned in the backdrop were taken? The answer: most definitely somewhere along this backpacking route. Though, I can say with certainty that Pulpit Rock and Trolltunga are likely the images of Norway you have in your mind’s eye.
This is an action-packed itinerary with plenty of those “wow” moments occurring on a daily basis.
If you have slightly longer than two days, I suggest going on a few longer hikes, going on a sea-kayaking overnight trip through the fjords, camping in a national park or two, and getting to know the tiny villages scattered along the way.
Backpacking Scandinavia 2 Week Itinerary #4: Epic Scandinavia Road Trip
2 Weeks: Finland, Sweden, and Denmark Road Trip
2 Weeks in Scandinavia is plenty of time to really cover some ground. For this itinerary, I recommend starting your trip in Finland (otherwise you might not make it there!).
I haven’t covered Finland much yet, but that is absolutely not to say that backpacking Finland is not without its charm, and this is the ultimate Finland to Sweden road trip. Note: if you have slightly more time you can do this trip with a combination of hitchhiking and buses.
Helsinki -> Tampere -> Linnansaari National Park -> Koli National Park -> Turku -> Stockholm ->
This road trip itinerary is for the high energy backpacker. Some of the distances are quite huge, especially from Koli National Park to Turku, where you loop back across Finland before catching the ferry to Stockholm. I believe in you though!
Certainly, the effort will be worth the rewards. After experiencing city life in Helsinki you will be on your way to exploring Finland’s wild side. Soak in wood-fired saunas lakeside. Spot moose, bear, and caribou. Camp next to crystal clear lakes in one of the most remote parts of Europe. Sound good? That is what backpacking in Finland is all about.
After you have seen Eastern Finland, it is time to return to the coast. Catch the ferry to Stockholm from Turku. At this point, you will probably have five or six days remaining.
Rest up in Stockholm before heading to
Keep in mind that the variations of this road trip are endless. I left a lot of room for you to be spontaneous, so you can focus on what you want to do!
Backpacking Scandinavia 2 Week Winter Itinerary #5: Lapland Itinerary
2 weeks: Lapland
A Scandinavia winter itinerary? Huh, really? Really.
Do you want to get to the Arctic Circle? Well, my friends, this is your chance. Think reindeer sledding, igloo hotels, snowmobiling, wildlife, wood saunas, great food, and of course the Northern Lights.
Lapland is Finland’s northernmost region, a sparsely populated area bordering Sweden, Norway, Russia and the Baltic Sea. Sweden also has it own Lapland region.
I’ll be honest with you, it is not easy to travel to the Laplands on a budget. Tourism is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) industries in this sub-arctic wilderness. People come from across the globe to go sledding and witness the majesty of the Northern Lights.
It is possible, just difficult to travel here on the cheap. Now that you know what your up against, you can consider taking on the trip of a lifetime.
Here is a sample Lapland itinerary:
Helsinki -> Rovaniemi -> Luosto -> ?
Basically, once you fly from Helsinki to Rovaniemi you can base yourself almost entirely here with a few exceptions.
Rovaniemi is your one-stop-shop for all things adventure in Lapland. I’d say in the winter, it is pretty much impossible to operate independently in the wilderness areas unless you are an extremely badass, prepared, experienced backcountry individual.
Even with those skills in your pocket, you probably don’t want to come all the way out here just to camp out in sub-zero temperatures. Most likely you will need to book a tour of some kind. It is just what you do in Lapland.
There are plenty of tour operators in Rovaniemi. Based on your budget and interests you are bound to find one to cover your needs.A real highlight will be a snowmobile ride to a backcountry lodge. Here you can witness the true power of the Northern Lights and soak in a sauna or two under a sky exploding with stars.
Scandinavia is full of adventure potential. Where ever you choose to spend your time backpacking here, you can be sure that you will leave with your eyes wide and your travel heart full.
The Scandinavian countries do share many things: natural beauty, friendly locals, clean cities, to name a few.
They also are very distinct and unique from one another: different languages, cultures, history, food, ETC.
Getting the opportunity to experience all of Scandinavia in one backpacking trip will take you on a journey of a lifetime.
No matter what you have heard or seen regarding Scandinavia, leave your expectations at the door. What awaits is a region full of wonder, surprises, and a definite highlight of your backpacking career.
Let us take a look at the countries that make backpacking in Scandinavia so damn special…
Places to Visit in Sweden
Backpacking in Sweden might just be the most interesting country in your Scandinavia adventure. The cities are beautiful, public transportation is relatively inexpensive, the food is tasty, and you can hike and camp across the whole damn country!
Many travelers will be surprised to find that English is widely spoken in Sweden. That is lucky for us because Sweedish is a complicated language to learn.
Sweden can certainly be expensive, and if staying in high-end places is your thing, be prepared to pay a high price for the pleasure. That said, with some effort backpacking Sweden need not be overly expensive.
Certainly bringing along a good tent is a big step for backpacking Sweden on a budget. There are many places to pitch your tent and besides saving money, camping will get you out into the heart of what makes backpacking in Sweden so awesome.
For a full guide specifically on Sweden, check out my Sweden Travel Guide.
Let’s now take a look at where to go backpacking in Sweden…
Stockholm is one of my favorite European cities for a multitude of reasons. If you love art, history, and dreamy cobblestone streets, you are going to love Stockholm.
Sweden’s seaside capital is the base of operations for all backpackers entering the country. Here you will start to get to grips with what backpacking Sweden has on offer.
As I mentioned before there are heaps of museums to explore in Stockholm. There is the Abba Museum for rock ‘n’ roll fans and the Vasa Museum for maritime history lovers.
Enjoy a long walk through the Gamla Stan (old town) neighborhood. The wonderfully preserved cobblestone streets are an urban explorer’s delight. The Gamla Stan is made even more enjoyable by the fact that there are no cars!
Be sure to check out the 13th century Royal Palace. The architects were not fucking around. The palace is magnificent and its age is even more impressive.
Skansen was one of the world’s first open-air museums. A visit here will give you a taste of what Sweedish life like in centuries past. The Museum of Contemporary Photography is a really cool place for anyone with even the slightest fascination/appreciation for photography.
For a brilliant introduction to backpacking Sweden, I couldn’t think of a better place to land than Stockholm.
If you are looking to rent a car for your backpacking Sweden adventure, you can easily book a rental car here. Keep in mind that often the cheapest rentals can usually be found at the airport.
Need somewhere to stay in Stockholm? Check out my ultimate guide to the best hostels in Stockholm here.
Kalmar is gaining popularity with backpackers, but I would still tentatively put it in the Sweden off the beaten path category.
Blessed with excellent beaches (two nude beaches), a badass castle, and outlying fairy-tale pastoral landscapes, it is no surprise that more and more backpackers are discovering the magic of Kalmar.
There are several excellent places to eat and drink including Lilla Puben. They have a mind-blowing 120 whiskeys on offer!
Backpacking Skane and
Located in the far south-west of Sweden, Skane and
Skane is the gateway to many beautiful islands that dot the surrounding coastline. Grab a beer and lunch in Skane’s old town before setting of to explore the rest of the town.
Ales Stenar has been deemed “the Stonehenge of Sweden.” Luckily the busloads of tourists are yet to arrive. A fun afternoon activity involves heading out to a farm around Skane and picking strawberries. There are also plenty of wild blueberries to be found in the forests. That’s right. Your backpacking Sweden adventure has brought you to the fine crossroad of stuffing your face with an endless amount of berries.
Be sure to hit up the
If you liked Stockholm, you are going to find just as much pleasure in getting to knowAs Sweden’s 2nd largest city, there is plenty for backpackers to do here, and if you have spent a few days camping on the coast, the comforts of city life will be refreshing.
The Haga district is
If seafood is your thing definitely head to the Feskekörka fish market. Here you have your pick of several spots to eat serving only the freshest fish around (obviously).
If you have time I highly recommend taking a boat to explore the southern archipelago islands. There are 20 some odd islands and you can explore some of them by bicycle.
Whilst Tiveden National Park is not in
Before you head to the Hälls Konditori for some of their legendary Fika (cake) and coffee, consider taking a picnic to the Stadsparken. Stadsparken is a picturesque green space adjacent to the Black River. A summer-time picnic in the park is a chance to slow down and digest some of the awesome scenes you have experienced during your backpacking Sweden journey.
An afternoon meandering through the Länsmuseum is well worth it too. The museum features lots of cool protest art/posters from the 1960’s.
As you begin to swing back towards Stockholm you will pass through
Svartbäcksgatan Street is a pedestrian oasis of the city dotted with cool cafes, shops, and places to eat. One could easily spend a few hours (and a few coffees later) wandering around the attractive streets.
Get in touch with Viking history at the Gamla Uppsala burial grounds. This site has ben described as one of the most important archaeological sites in the whole country.
Backpacking the Kungsleden Trek
The Kungsleden (The King’s Trail) trek is a long-distance hiking path in the Swedish Lapland. The trek itself passes through some of the country’s most impressive scenery.
At 270 miles (440 km) long, the Kungsleden Trek is one of the most beautiful long-distance hikes in the world. This is what backpacking in Sweden is all about.
Every year, more and more people are tackling the Kungsleden Trek. The ideal season to begin the hike is between June or July. The Swedish summers are very pleasant and the hiking is equally so. I can’t can’t think of a better way to enjoy the fine summer weather other than taking on the King’s Trail hike.
Accommodation and Camping Along the Kungsleden Trek
Backpackers have several accommodation options along the Kungsleden Trek.
You can choose to carry your own camping gear and stop to sleep basically anywhere you please. The alternative to self-contained backpacking is opting to stay in the truly beautiful mountain huts (staffed mid-June – late September). In my opinion, it is good to go for a mix of both camping and huts.
Huts offer up a more social hiking experience. Plus you are guaranteed a dry place to cook and hang out in with the huts. At the same time, people come to tackle the Kungsleden trek in order to disconnect from the internet and connect with the wilderness. So, having people around every evening can get old after a while.
What to Pack for the Kungsleden Trek
Staying in huts every night simply does not offer the same intimacy as sleeping in the quiet of your tent.
You will be cooking your own food during this hike, so you’ll need a proper backpacking stove. I am personally a big fan of the MSR Pocket Rocket 2. Get to know this backpacking stove better by checking out my brutally honest Pocket Rocket review here.
Since temperatures can be chilly at night, even in the summer you’ll need to consider a good sleeping bag. Learn how to choose the right sleeping bag for your adventures here. For staying in the mountain huts, you will need to bring your own sleeping sheet as well.
If you have time, the Kungsleden trek is bound to be a highlight of your backpacking Sweden experience, and probably of your life.
Places to Visit in Norway
Norway is home to some of the most dramatic landscapes to be found anywhere on earth. Jagged cliffs jut out of the sea through an endless array of mighty glacier-carved fjords. Coastal villages frame post-card perfect scenes of human settlement. Waterfalls dazzle with a perpetual rainbow glint.
This is backpacking in Norway.
Norway is one of my favorite countries in the world. It is stunningly beautiful, easy to travel in, and has some of the best outdoor adventure sport opportunities in all of Europe. It is no surprise that Norway has firmly cemented itself in the hearts of every kind of traveler who visits it.
Oslo is a delight in many respects. It features some of the most innovative architecture to be found anywhere in Europe. Buildings like Operahuset and DogA (not especially beautiful, but an important hub for designers and artists) showcase the skill and prowess of Norwegian architects and urban planners. Climb to the top of the Operahuset for amazing panoramic views of the city.
St. Hanshaugen park is a fantastic green space. If you’re in the mood for a picnic, this is the place to have it. There are even cafes in the park where you can buy a cup of hot coffee after lunch.
The impressive Akershus Fortress (built in 1299) is another important landmark of the city. You can easily get to the Akershus Fortress from the main train station.
The Magic Ice Bar is just what it sounds like. It is a bar full of ice and ice sculptures! Come and enjoy a glass of wine in a freezing but very unique place. Don’t forget to bring along a good jacket (and maybe gloves).
Need somewhere to stay in Oslo? Check out my ultimate guide to the best hostels in Oslo here.
Stavanger is the gateway to some of the most spectacular scenery in Norway. It is a 7 hour+ drive from Oslo FYI. Most people opt to fly here, and if you are short on time, taking a flight is definitely the way to go. You can manage with the train easy enough if you don’t plan on renting a car in Norway.
Stavanger is pleasant enough, though really it will just be your base. The real draw of the area lies in the surrounding regions. One must do the classic hike to Pulpit Rock, which you can get to from Stavanger via public transit.
After arriving in the village of Tau, there is a bus service that drives backpackers to the start of the Pulpit Rock hike. The hikes is about four miles return. This is a classic Norwegian hike and by definition is very popular. I advise coming as early as you can to try and escape the crowds.
The Kjeragbolten hike is one of the most iconic and beautiful hikes to be found in Norway. I know, I know, everything is beautiful in Norway, right? But Kjeragbolten is something special still. You’ll see.
The start of the Kjeragbolten hike is roughly two hours from Stavanger. This 12 km hike will take between 6-7 hours from start to finish. The views along the way are truly incredible. Again, the Kjeragbolten hike is very popular so do your best to start earlier in the day.
Bear in mind that this hike is a bit more intense than the Pulpit Rock hike. The Kjeragbolten hike is also home to the now-famous (thanks Instagram) massive rock that is wedged between two cliffs a great distance from the ground (several thousand feet!). Please don’t be the first backpacker to fall to his/her death from this boulder for the sole sake of taking an epic photo.
Bergen is a true urban gem of Norway. Once one of the most important and influential places in Scandinavia, Bergen is now Norway’s second biggest city (and still plenty important).
The geographical position of Bergen is simply spectacular. It sits nestled between seven mountains and various fjords. You will certainly never find yourself thinking it to be ugly.
The Hanseatic Wharf, first established in the 14th century, is a welcomed sight upon first arriving in Bergen. Apart from being very easy on the eyes, the wharf is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
There is plenty to eat and drink along the wharf so come hungry. The Bergen Fish Market is another quintessential Bergen experience. There is plenty of things to eat and taste along the way.
The Fantoft Stave Church (built in 1150!!) is a classic example of early Norweigien architectures. It is certainly one of the most unique structures you will see during your time backpacking Norway.
The mountains nearby are indeed very close and accessible. The most accessible mountain directly from town is Fløyen. You can take the Fløibanen cable car to the top. Once there you are blessed with incredible views in all directions. You can carry on hiking and explore further into the mountains if you’re keen.
Eidfjord is a small, attractive village positioned near Hardangerfjord. if you have a car, take the route that goes by Steinsdalsfossen. It’s kind of pretty, I guess (sarcasm). The village is about a 3 hour drive from Bergen if you make a few stops.
Eidfjord will be your base of operations for exploring the surrounding area. Specifically, for hiking the epic Trolltunga. Be sure to make it to the Vøringfossen Waterfall.
If you are not vibing with Eiffjord, you can also stay in Tyssedal or Odda.
Damn it Norway. The beautiful hikes just keep on coming in an endless glaciated stream. The Trolltunga hike begins from the village of Tyssedal.
There are basically two ways to tackle the Trolltunga hike. The first option: you can opt to hike the undulating switchbacks to the top. For the Second option: The Sky Ladder tour offers up a mixture of mountain biking and via ferrata style climbing to reach the top. Making the Sky Ladder Tour sounds more interesting, though I did not personally do it.
In total, the Trolltunga hike is about 23 km and will take you all day (8-10 hours). By day’s end, you will have successfully experienced one of the true highlights of backpacking Norway.
Your drive to Balestrand will take you across the stunning Aurlandsvegen Snow Road. There are several worth while viewpoints along the road so take your time and enjoy it. Backpacking Norway is filled with these sorts of opportunities and if you rush you will simply miss them!
An alternative is heading to a lower elevation road and driving the Lærdalstunnelen tunnel, the longest tunnel in the world (24.5 km or 15.2 miles).
Once in Balestrand, be sure to pop into Ciderhuset. They make some very tasty local cider, jams, and other fruit-based products. Gekkens is the best spot in town to grab lunch or a coffee.
Geiranger is another one of Norway’s magical outdoor playgrounds. The main activities here center around the fjords and surrounding mountains.
Rent a kayak an explore some of the fjords. Or alternatively, you can go for a mountain bike ride. Indeed, there is also plenty of awesome hikes in the area as well. In Geiranger, there are a few shops and places to eat when you need to refuel.
Alesund is a port town on the west coast of Norway at the entrance to the Geirangerfjord.
If you have a day or two to just chill out, Alesund is a good place to do that. A hike to the Aksla Viewpoint is a good place to get to grips with the layout of the land.
I know, I mentioned Alesund is a good place to rest, and it is! Though if you have some extra energy be sure to get into the epic Sunnmore Alps. You will find a stunning array of walking trails and the typical mind-blowing Norwegian scenery.
Places to Visit in Finland
Wood-fired Saunas, dazzling Northern Lights, wild animals like moose, wolves, and bears, remote wilderness, and booming cities. These are some of the things that make backpacking in Finland so special.
Finland is probably the least visited countries in Scandinavia. As it is so far north, it certainly isn’t stumbled upon by accident. To miss it entirely if you are on a Scandinavia backpacking adventure? Now, that would be a mistake.
Finland is a truly beautiful country blessed with immense off the beaten track potential. With everywhere in Europe being so damn crowded these days, backpacking in Finland is a breath of fresh air in that regard.
The Finnish capital in Helsinki is another fine example of a prospering Scandinavian city. The city has got it all in many respects. There is awesome food, fun nightlife, a picturesque waterfront, cafe culture, museums galore, and plenty of budget accommodation to keep backpackers happy.
One almost doesn’t feel like you are visiting a big city when you step foot in Helsinki. It has a calmness and order to it that I haven’t seen or experienced in many other cities in the world.
Of course, you’ll have to go to Market Square and score a cup of the famous Finish hot chocolate. Market Square is right next to the port and the harbor. This area is a great center of activity for the city. There is lots to see and do in just a few short blocks.
The Chapel of Silence is just as it sounds. If you need to take a minute to relflect on your Scandinavia backpacking journey thus far, this is the place to do it.
Don’t miss a trip to Suomenlinna, or the so-called “Fortress of Finland”. This UNESCO site is one of the most important relics of Helsinki.
Café Ekberg is a 19th-century (!) cafe that most definitely requires a stop off for a hot brew.
Looking for an awesome place to stay in Helsinki? Check out my ultimate guide to the best hostels in Helsinki here.
Finland’s beautiful lakeside city of Tampere certainly merits a visit. Here you can enjoy great beer, tasty food, activities on the lake, and plenty of relaxing Finnish sauna time.
Let’s be clear. Tampere isn’t just located near one lake. It sits between Näsijärvi Lake and Pyhäjärvi Lake, though there are dozens of other lakes nearby.
Tampere is an important place to visit as it gives travelers a glimpse into another side of Finland. Helsinki is awesome, but capitals are often not the complete picture of a country by any means.
The majority of people visiting Finland never leave Helsinki. I think it is very important to expand beyond the capital and if nothing else, go for a swim in the beautiful lakes!
Up for a sub-arctic adventure are you? Lapland is Finland’s northernmost region, a sparsely populated area bordering Sweden, Norway, Russia and the Baltic Sea. It’s known for its vast subarctic wilderness, ski resorts, and natural phenomena including the midnight sun and the northern lights.
If you are wanting to visit arguably the best place to see the northern lights, Lapland is your key. There isn’t much going on in Lapland on the surface but that is its charm. Lapland is a sprawling wilderness with untold hidden gems to unlock.
Many backpackers choose winter as the time to visit Lapland. There are many snow-based activities indeed to keep you plenty busy. Pack accordingly, as it can be cold as fuck in the winter here.
If you do go with a dog-sled tour, be sure that the owner/operator treats his dogs very well. I’d say in general they do, but you never know. Ask to see where the dogs are kept when tours are not running and ask a few questions about how he cares for them.
Places to Visit in Denmark
Denmark is our final stop off on our backpacking Scandinavia journey. Good news backpackers! Denmark is another stunningly beautiful Scandinavian country blessed, with gorgeous cities, superb wild coastline, and numerous hiking and biking trails for the outdoor-loving backpacker.
Denmark is also rich in its cultural heritage, with a number of important Viking-era archeological sights to discover. Any backpacker will immediately fall in love with Copenhagen, Denmark’s eclectic focal point.
When you go backpacking in various countries in the world, the gaps between social classes are striking. Even in places like America, the UK, and other parts of Europe, the gulf between the have’s and have-nots is obvious.
Denmark seems to be on a relatively even playing field in that regard. The result is a generally positive and high quality of life for most Danish citizens. I love that a majority of the population has access to the arts, good food, sports, culture, education, and opportunities. The rest of the world should be more like Denmark. We’d all be happier.
Few cities in Europe are more pleasurable to visit than Copenhagen.
The Old Harbor waterfront is the place to begin your journey. The colorful buildings and fresh sea breeze are very welcoming. Nyhavn (the old harbor) is a mish-mash of old town houses, shops, and restaurants. Be sure to check out the old wooden ships that are docked around the waters edge.
You’ll probably see The Little Mermaid statue on your stroll, but expect there to be hordes of people who feel compelled to be photographed with it.
An excellent afternoon activity is the walk up the Old Round Tower. The 17th-century tower is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. Enjoy beautiful, sprawling views above the rooftops of Copenhagen.
If you plan on visiting just one museum during your time backpacking Denmark, the National Museum in Copenhagen is the one to explore. They even have a few macabre sights on display as well, such as the 1st-century remains of the Huldremose Woman.
A walk through the Tivoli Gardens is of course a must. Directly next to Tivoli is the famous Dyrehavsbakken amusement park. The park was first opened in 1583, and has fun things to do for both children and adults. The Danes have officially been having an awesome time on the town since 1583!
The impressive Amalienborg Palace (the royal palace) is worth a look too if you have time. They change the guard at 12 noon everyday, which is entertaining for a few moments.
If all of that wasn’t enough, you can wash all you have taken in down with a tour of the Carlsberg Brewery. Of course, there are plenty of samples to enjoy along the way.
Need a sweet place to stay in Copenhagen? Check out my ultimate guide to best hostels in Copenhagen here.
Technically speaking, Iceland is considered part of Scandinavia. However, I will not be covering Iceland at all in this guide. We have two awesome Iceland travel guides loaded with all the important info you need to have an awesome adventure in Iceland! Check them out:
Scandinavia off the Beaten Path
Once you leave the heavily populated urban centers, a whole other world of explorations opportunity awaits in Scandinavia. Sometimes the distances between towns are great, leaving plenty of wide open space to wander.
Parts of Norway, Finland, and Sweden are very remote. They are also quite difficult to access. The combination of those two factors leave the path wide open for backpackers with a little motivation for adventure. Each country in Scandinavia has its popular spots, like any country.
Unlike the rest of Europe, however, many parts of Scandinavia are often overlooked or simply too far out of the way for backpackers to bother with. Getting out into the mountains, forests, lakes, valleys, and small villages of Scandinavia will bring you in touch with a side of Scandinavia that few get to see.
Northern Sweden and Finland in particular are very wild. For those with ample time to dig into their Scandinavia backpacking adventure, the possibilities to get off the beaten path are endless.
Below I have listed the 10 best things to do in Scandinavia:
1. Do the Kungsleden Trek in Sweden
Kungsleden is one of the finest long-distance hikes in the world. Probably one of the best things you can do with your time backpacking Sweden is this hike. You won’t be sorry you did.
2. Explore Lapland in Sweden and Finland
Get off the beaten path in one of Europe’s most wild regions.
3. Stay in Bergen, Norway
Bergen is one of the most beautiful towns in the whole world. The surrounding mountains, fjords, and sea passages are equally as stunning.
4. Experience the fjords in Norway
Fjords are awesome, and Norway has some of the best Fjordian (is that a word??) landscapes on earth.
5. Hike the Trolltunga Trek
Backpacking Norway is never dull, but the beauty along the Trolltunga Trek is on another level. Get out there and do it!
6. Get to know the capital cities of Scandinavia
Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, and Helsinki: They are all amazing places to explore, but be careful because you may never leave.
7. Try weird Scandinavian food
Think every variation of dried, salted, fermented, and just plain rotten seafood. Well, that is just scratching the surface of Scandinavian culinary tradition.
8. Spend time in the fishing villages along the Scandinavian Coast
See what life is like in some of Scandinavia’s least populated (but most beautiful) regions.
9. Go to a Sauna in Finland
The Finns are famous for their legendary sauna traditions. After a long hike, nothing feels better for your muscles than a nice, hot sauna.
10. Witness the Northern Lights
You can almost certainly see the Northern Lights in every Scandinavian country. The farther north you go, the better the views. Lapland is particularly excellent when it comes to viewing the Northern Lights.
Aside from dreamy Swedish mountain huts, your awesome tent, and a stranger’s couch, sometimes one needs to take a deep breath and book a hostel.
Hostels are the most affordable budget travel accommodation option for backpackers in Scandinavia. When you just need a place to lay your head or a spot to meet fellow ramblers like yourself, hostels are clearly where it’s at…
To get to grips with where to stay in each capital city in Scandinavia, check out these super in-depth hostel guides:
Airbnb has caught fire across Scandinavia, and you can find some awesome apartments for cheap prices if you need some chill time. Follow this link for $35 free credit.
Below are some awesome travel tips for backpacking Scandinavia. Later, I will discuss the costs and budget hacks for traveling in this expensive country.
Books to read while backpacking Scandinavia
Here are some of my favorite books books set in Scandinavia:
The Backpacker Bible: Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building an online income.
Norway, The Northern Playground: Fun but dense history of mountain exploration in Norway.
Fellowship of Ghosts: A Journey Through the Mountains of Norway : Acclaimed writer Paul Watkins describes his spellbinding solo trek through the wilds of Norway’s Rondane and Jutunheimen mountains—grand but harsh landscapes where myth and reality meet.
The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country: All the reasons why Denmark is awesome basically.
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name: A Novel: Alone and adrift, Clarissa travels to mystical Lapland, where she believes she’ll meet her real father. There, at a hotel made of ice, Clarissa is confronted with the truth about her mother’s history, and must make a decision about how—and where—to live the rest of her life.
Hans Christian Andersen: The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories: Because when you are traveling to the land of fairytale landscapes, you need something to make sense of it all.
Lonely Planet Scandinavia: Even more practical advise and tips on backpacking in Scandinavia.
Recent years have brought on a string of terrorist attacks in Europe. While these events are rare, they do receive a lot of attention and negative press. Justifiably so to a degree, though I would argue that Europe is still just as safe as it ever was to go traveling in.
This especially rings true for Scandinavia. Crime rates are some of the lowest in the world all across Scandinavia.
Yes, attacks happen. I do feel like the media (not all) in Europe and the US really portrays Muslims living here in a negative light. There are plenty of other groups committing acts of violence, though attacks carried out by Muslim folks receive the most coverage.
This has led to a string of pro-nationalist anti-Muslim rhetoric across Europe, unfairly blaming the Muslim populations for a wide swath of internal problems. Luckily, the Scandinavian countries have yet to elect a total right wing xenophobic douche bag to power, with the exception maybe of Sweden.
In this day and age (the threat of) violence is a fact that we live with. An extremist individual or a person with mental illness could strike anywhere at any moment, anywhere in the world. If you lived your life in fear of this shit you might never leave the house.
Point being, be aware that violence is an everyday part of the world sadly. The possibilities of something bad happening to you on your journey backpacking Scandinavia is slim to say the least.
Always be alert when moving about in big cities especially if you have all of your gear with you. Pickpockets and thieves target crowded markets and train stations. Don’t flash wads of bills and then leave your wallet sticking half-way out of your back pocket. Check out my latest review of the best money travel belts here.
It is never a good idea to be out shit faced drunk, alone and loaded with cash especially not at 3 am in a major city, even in Scandinavia. Be smart, make good choices and it shouldn’t be too difficult to guard yourself and your belongings.
I strongly recommend traveling with a headlamp whilst in Scandinavia (or anywhere really – every backpacker should have a good headtorch!), especially if you’re camping. Check out my post for a breakdown of the best value headlamps to take backpacking.
Whenever you are out backpacking in the mountains always plan ahead and be prepared. In northern Sweden and Finland there are large predators like wolves and bears. Even moose can be deadly if they charge you. If you plan on visiting remote wilderness area, always check with local sources regarding large animals and safety.
Always use proper technique when crossing strong flowing rivers.
World Nomads Travel Insurance for Scandinavia
As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be traveling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on your Scandinavian adventure! Traveling without insurance would be fucking stupid. I highly recommend World Nomads.
Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
On every adventure, there are five things I never go traveling without:
1. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.
2.Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. AR bottle are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!
3. Microfibre Towel: It’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.
4. Headtorch: I would never travel without a headtorch. Even if you only end up using it once, a decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must. Currently, I’m using the Petzl LED headlamp with red light (which insects can’t see).
5. Hammock: Taking a tent backpacking is not always practical but hammocks are lightweight, cheap, strong, sexy (chicks dig hammocks) and allow you to pitch up for the night pretty much anywhere. Right now, I’m rocking an Active Roots parachute hammock – it’s light, colorful and tough.
For plenty more inspiration on what to pack, check out my full backpacking packing list.
Best Time to Visit Scandinavia
Scandinavia is open for business year round, though what you can enjoy doing depends on the season. Winters are cold. Really cold. Winter is certainly the low season, though the various ski regions of Sweden, Norway, and Finland get rolling in the winter months.
Summer is arguably the most beautiful. Trees are blooming. Wildflowers are showing off their colorful petals. Hiking in the mountains is very comfortable. With the good weather come the crowds. Norway will almost certainly be the most crowded with foreign visitors.
All capital cities will be busy at their peak season in July and August. Many tourists arrive by the cruise ship load along the Baltic Sea coast.
Spring and Summer are also excellent times to come backpacking in Scandinavia. If you come to early or visit to late though, expect cold temperatures.
Scandinavia really has four distinct seasons. Each has something special to offer.
Keep in mind that if you visit in the winter the days are short. As you get closer to the Arctic circle, the daylight in the winter is minimal. The reverse is true in the summer.
To start your Scandinavia backpacking adventure, all of the major cities are viable candidates depending on your Scandinavia travel itinerary. If you plan on spending a majority of your time backpacking Sweden for example, start in Stockholm.
Whilst looking for plane tickets to your chosen backpacking destination, I advise that you look at multiple cities and book the cheapest flight even if that city isn’t in your targeted country. You can easily fly between capitals in Europe on the cheap.
If you are already traveling in Europe before coming to Scandinavia, try to end your trip in the city with the cheapest flights north. I know it’s common sense but it bears repeating.
Scandinavia Entry Requirements
EU citizens will only need their passport to enter Scandinavian countries. Citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and the US, and a handful of other countries do not need to pre-apply for a visa; their valid passport will be stamped on arrival. Other nationalities will need to apply for a Schengen Visa beforehand to visit all Schengen zoned countries.
As a non-European traveler, you can only stay in the Schengen zone countries for three months out of every six months. Once six months have passed from your original arrival date, the visa resets.
What are Schengen Area Countries?
The Schengen visa can be a bit confusing because not all European countries are part of Schengen zone. Greece, Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Scandinavian countries, Hungary, Czech Republic, etc. are part of the Schengen zone.
A few other countries – namely Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway – are not technically associated with the EU, but they are part of the Schengen zone.
Theoretically, you can visit Scandinavia for three months, and then hop over to a non-Schengen country – like Croatia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina – for three months, and then travel back to Scandinavia with a fresh three-month visa. A lot of long-term travelers plan their travels around the Schengen visa accordingly.
For more information, and the official Schengen country list, check out this website.
How to get around Scandinavia
Okay, there are many great ways to get around Scandinavia! If you plan on hitting up multiple countries in Scandinavia, the Eurorail Pass is the way to go. You can buy a rail pass for one country or for all of Europe.
Buying train tickets individually adds up fast, so in the end, buying a pass it totally worth it – check out our in-depth post on traveling Europe by rail.
Long-distance buses are probably the cheapest option, though they tend to be the most time consuming as well. A 9-hour journey with a company like Flixbus is likely to cost you between 25-50 Euros, depending on when you book.
For the most part trains are the best form of public transit, but I like Flixbus because if plans change, you can cancel for a small fee and rebook when you’re ready. You can score long-distance buses for as little as 15 dollars if you’re really on it too.
Whilst you are backpacking the cities in Scandinavia, use the metro and local buses to get across town. Got a couple of days in a capital city? Buy your metro tickets in bulk and save a few bucks.
Renting a Car in Scandinavia
Renting a car at some point on your Scandinavia backpacking adventure will give you freedom to roam. There is nothing better than moving about at your own pace. Having wheels gives you that. Plus, who doesn’t want to make the ultimate Scandinavian road trip at least once, right?
You can sort your car rental here in just a few minutes. Booking in advance is the best way to ensure you score the lowest price and your choice of vehicle. Often, you can find the best car rental prices when you pick up the rental from the airport.
Sort your car rental by country here:
Campervanning in Scandinavia
By far the best way to get around Scandinavia independently is by campervan.
Campervans are great because you are traveling with a mobile shelter and kitchen that is capable of parking just about anywhere for the night.
Whilst campervan rentals in Scandinavia are not cheap, you do end up saving money on accommodation and cooking for yourself. The biggest win for going the campervan route is the unprecedented freedom you have.
Really enjoy a place you went for a day hike and want to sleep there? Easy. Interested in parking super close to a popular attraction so that you can be the first one to arrive in the morning? Sorted.
Want to snuggle up with your lover, sip tea, and read whilst it is pouring rain outside? No problem. Curious to know if a castle is really haunted at night so you need to park close to it? Bam. Do it.
The list of benefits to renting a campervan in Scandinavia goes on and on.
Keep in mind that campervan rentals in Scandinavia are seasonal. The rental prices are at their highest in the summer.
When booking a campervan, the details matter. Does your rental come with sheets, blankets, a stove, and electricity outlets? Be sure to ask. Go for the campervan with the best price point vs all of the gear and gadgets. You can simply pack all the gear you need to have a successful campervanning adventure in Scandinavia!
Hitchhiking in Scandinavia
I did not personally hitchhike in Scandinavia, but I have been told by friends that they had a fair bit of success. Scandinavian people are super friendly, so that doesn’t surprise me.
With so many cars (and campervans) on the road, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a ride. Bear in mind that two people traveling together with fully loaded backpacks will have a harder time. I have found that the sight of two people with massive backpacks in tow is a harder sell for people with small cars or lots of gear already themselves.
I would NOT try to hitchhike in or around major cities. When accepting a ride ALWAYS have your spidey senses firing. If a person sketches you out, fuck em. You have time. Be polite, don’t say fuck em out loud, but turn the ride down all the same. Better to wait for a ride that makes you feel 100% comfortable.
For people backpacking in Sweden or Norway for a couple of months, hitchhiking is a great option because you are in no real rush. Big smiles and the right hitchhiking spot will go a long way towards your ultimate success (or failure).
Generally speaking, Scandinavia has the reputation of being one of the safest places in Europe.
Onwards Travel from Scandinavia
Scandinavia is home to four (five with Iceland) major global traveling hubs and international airports. This means you can get anywhere in the world with relative ease. If you are on a grand European or world tour, heading south to Eastern Europe and making your way into Turkey and beyond is a straightforward affair.
Again, check prices of flights from other parts of Europe before booking a long distance flight. Also, due to the awesome European train network, you can travel across the continent and beyond via train.
Hitchhiking on a boat or some kind of fishing vessel may be possible too. Scandinavia is surrounded by coastline and there are always plenty of ships coming and going. I have never officially hitched a ride on a boat, though I have been damn close a few times.
Check out a few website like Crewbay.com which helps travelers connect with boats and vice versa.
I’ll be honest with you, backpacking in Scandinavia can be a pricey experience if you are not careful, but you probably already knew that. Nevertheless, just because backpacking in Scandinavia isn’t as cheap as backpacking in South East Asia you shouldn’t feel discouraged or intimidated to come here.
Each country in Scandinavia requires a different budget and travel strategy. Prices can be similar for some things I would say, but not always.
Staying in hostels EVERY evening, booking trains last minute, going to the bar night after night, and eating out for every meal adds up before you can say Realisationsvinstbeskattning (Swedish). In order to properly prepare yourself for the expenses that lie in wait, you need an honest and realistic idea of what travel costs are in Scandinavia.
I have broken down the average daily travel costs you can expect in order to help you get to grips with your own Scandinavia backpacking budget:
|Country||Dorm Bed (when available)||Local Meal||Train Ride (3 hours or less)||Currency||Average Daily Budget|
|Norway||$30- 60||$30-50||$50-80||Norwegian Krone||$70-110+|
Scandinavia Budget Travel Hacks
The lion’s share of your budget for traveling Scandinavia will be spent between expensive hostels and pricey restaurants (and booze). Below are my tips for how to avoid these expenses.
1) Camp: With plenty of awesome mountains, forests, stunning countryside, and far-flung coastal stretches, camping whilst backpacking Scandinavia is an essential budget hack. Sometimes you need to book a hostel. Fair enough. But when there are no hostels available – outside of major cities – you need to manifest a budget option. That option – the free option – is camping, which will take you to beautiful places and get you off of the beaten path.
2) Cook your own food: Travel with a portable backpacking stove and cook your own food to save some serious cash whilst backpacking across Scandinavia. If you are on a tight budget, you MUST have a backpacking stove. Having the ability to cook whilst camping or on the road gives you independence and freedom. Few things are better in life than sipping a hot cup of coffee as you are watching the sun spill its shade over a beautiful mountain.
3) Couchsurf: The Fins, Danes, Swedes, and the Norwegians — they are all awesome folks. Get to know some! Check out Couchsurfing to make some real friendships and see a country from the perspective of locals. When using Couchsurfing, be sure to send personalized messages to your potential host. A generic copy and paste message are much more likely to get turned down. Make yourself stand out.
4) Don’t drink much whilst backpacking Scandinavia: I know it can be hard to give up on drinking whilst you are on a backpacking adventure. I’ll admit, I have spent a fortune over the years on drinking alcohol. But in Scandinavia, the prices are INSANE. One beer might cost you $9-11 USD.
If you are traveling in Scandinavia for a couple weeks and have one beer a day, well, you do the math. It’s a lot of money. And ordering mixed drinks whilst backpacking in Sweden for example? You’re looking at $15-20 a pop, especially in clubs (which also charge entry).
My point is take a break from drinking whilst backpacking in Scandinavia, and put the money towards renting a car, trying tasty food, or going to a museum. If you really want to save money and travel Scandinavia on a budget, cut out the booze.
5) Pack a travel water bottle and save money (and the planet) every day!
Stop buying plastic water bottles! Enough said.
Volunteering in Scandinavia
Long term travel is awesome. Giving back is awesome too. For backpackers looking to travel long-term on a budget in Scandinavia whilst making a real impact on local communities, look no further than World Packers. World Packers is an excellent platform connecting travelers with meaningful volunteer positions throughout the world.
In exchange for a few hours of work each day, your room and board are covered.
Backpackers can spend long periods of time volunteering in an awesome place without spending any money. Meaningful life and travel experiences are rooted in stepping out of your comfort zone and into the world of a purposeful project. World Packers opens the doors for work opportunities in hostels, homestays, NGOs and eco-projects around the world. Broke Backpacker readers get a special discount of $20 – just use this discount code BROKEBACKPACKER and membership is discounted from $49 a year to $29.
Check out WWOOF Europe. WWOOFing is a great way to supplement an already rewarding journey backpacking Europe. Some of the best WWOOF opportunities on the planet can be found in Europe.
Learn how to make cheese. Milk goats. Eat delicious heirloom tomatoes. Chop firewood. You name it, you can probably experience it on a Scandinavian farm.
Perhaps, one of the best options for backpackers wanting to explore Europe long-term and experience living in this truly incredible country is to get an English teaching certificate by taking a course online. TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read this in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Make Money Online Whilst Backpacking Scandinavia
Traveling in Scandinavia long-term? Keen to make some cash when you are not exploring?
Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.
Learn what it’s like to be a VIPKID teacher, a top company in the field of online English learning.
Best Festivals in Denmark
Distortion/May-June/Copenhagen: Distortion has been producing some of the biggest music-related street parties in Europe for the last 20 years. It is a pretty wild scene and bound to be one hell of a massive party.
Roskilde Festival/Summer/Roskilde: Northern Europe’s biggest music festival. Internationally-renowned artists like Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Kanye West, Metallica, Prince, Radiohead, Rihanna and U2 have all played Roskilde in previous years and the festival is THE place to experience both established bands as well as new acts at their best.
Stella Polaris/Summer/Different Locations: Stella Polaris is deemed the world’s largest free electronic music festival. Stella Polaris is a one-day festival that was established in 1997 by Kalle Bremer and Nicka Kirstejn. The festival takes places every summer and is the largest picnic festival with an emphasis on the electronic music genre.
Best Festivals in Norway
Gladmat/ July/Stavanger: Hundreds of thousands of foodies from around the globe converge together in July for a truly impressive culinary event.
Øya Festival/August/Oslo: This 4-day music fest is kind of like the Coachella of Norway. Some pretty big names in music are featured every year.
Ice Music Festival/Winter/ Finse: Exactly what it sounds like. The stage and instruments are made of ice! I like the idea, I just feel like I’d be insanely cold the whole time.
Best Festivals in Sweden
Walpurgisnacht/ Spring /Gothenburg: An epic spring pagan festival deeply rooted in Nordic culture.
Peace and Love Festival/ Summer/ Borlange: A truly unique festival where the main agenda is promoting general human peace, empathy, and kindness. Maybe the entire world should attend.
Parkteatern/Summer/Stockholm: The city’s biggest free music and culture event. Something for every backpacker at this festival.
Best Festivals in Finland
Midnight Sun Film Festival/June/Sodankylä: A 5-day film marathon showcase of the highest order. Worth the trip north to experience it without a doubt.
Kaustinen Folk Music Festival/Summer/Kaustinen: The biggest folk music and dance festival in the Nordic countries, Kaustinen Folk Music Festival hosts national and international artists from across the globe for a week in the town of Kaustinen.
Ilosaarirock/July/Joensuu: A good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll festival, Finnish style.
Trekking in Scandinavia
Hiking and trekking is a favorite past time among Scandinavian people. They have a rich tradition of getting out into mountains and wilderness areas.
There is an obvious correlation: Scandinavia is a land blessed with incredible hiking opportunities. Each country has a wide range of day hikes and multi-day treks on offer. Trekking is a great way to get to know any country by experiencing its wild side.
In addition to well-maintained trail systems, many regions in Sweden in particular are home to mountain huts. For a fee one can enjoy these super comfortable and unique fixtures of the Swedish hill country.
For some of the more famous hikes in Scandinavia, refer back to the top of the article in the Places to Visit sections.
Best Hikes in Scandinavia:
Besseggen Ridge/Norway: This 7-hour hike in Jotunheimen National Park is a great introduction to hiking in Norway.
Dovrefjell /Norway: Want to see musk oxen in the wild set against a back drop of epic mountains? Dovrefjell is the place. There are a multitude of single and multi-day hiks to be had here. Epic.
Galdhøpiggen /Norway: Galdhøpiggen is the highest mountain in Scandinavia (2,469 meters). Get this: there is a hut at the summit where you can chill out after the big push to reach the top.
The Jämtland Triangle/ Sweden: This is a truly beautiful 47-km hike blessed with huts, saunas, and places to eat along the way. This is hiking with a purpose: to eat!
Tarfala/Sweden: A turquoise mountain lake and dramatic peaks that few (foreign) backpackers visit? I am glad I have you attention. There are also a few awesome huts (of course) to stay in along the way.
Best Long Distance Hikes in Scandivania
Kungsleden/The King’s Trail/ Sweden: You have heard me talk about the Kungsleden trek before. That is beacuse it is one of the best treks around.
High Coast Trail/Sweden: This 130 km trek is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are very few long treks that have the UNESCO status. The paths run through dense forests in Skuleskogen National Park, along with the shores of wonderful bays and past cultural heritage sites. Truly a backpacker’s delight.
Across the Hardangervidda/Norway: Certainly one of the best treks in Norway, if not the world. And highly under the radar for that distinction. The Hardangervidda Trek will take you about 10-12 days. The journey takes you across the plateau in Jotunheimen National Park, where some of the Star War’s movies were filmed. Enough said.
Being a responsible backpacker in Scandinavia
Scandinavia can be one hell of a place to let loose (if you can afford it). Have fun on your Scandinavia backpacking journey! Just remember to take it easy, pace yourself, and not do anything stupid that affects those around you in a negative way.
When visiting historic Viking sights or religious monuments, be respectful. Certainly, do not climb on old ruins or touch priceless paintings. Scandinavia is full of historical treasures. Don’t be that dickhead that contributes to their demise and destruction.
When you can, make an effort to learn at least a few words of the local language of the country you are backpacking in. Those Scandinavians make it too easy for us Anglophones. It’s a challenge as every country has a different language, but a little effort goes a long way. The world need-not revolve around us native English speakers!
I know it can be hard, but do your best to use the least amount of plastic water bottles that you can. Refill the ones that you do buy! Use a Steripen. Refill at your hostel! There are plenty of ways to reduce plastic!!! Plus some of the mountains have some of the cleanest water on the planet, so don’t be a fool and buy plastic water bottles, and travel responsibly.
Do your best to support local artisans, organic farmers, and craftspeople while traveling around Scandinavia. Keep your dollars local, especially in small villages or towns. Never take it for granted that you are healthy and financially able to go traveling. Show the world around you some gratitude and help to make a positive impact on it.
Most of all have the time of your life and spread the love!
Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough and cool travel water bottle. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, pick up a water bottle here.
Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.
Final Thoughts on Backpacking Scandinavia
Congratulations! You made it to the end of my Scandinavia travel guide!
I hope the information I have provided will help you navigate the exciting Scandinavian journey you have decided to embark on. Backpacking in Scandinavia will be one of the most fun experiences of your life; I have no doubt about that. Enjoy the hell out of every minute of it! Best of luck!
See you down the road my friends…
Author’s Note: Special thanks to Tony Buttitta for contributing his beautiful photographs to this travel guide. You can see more of his work at Tony Buttitta.com.
Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going.
Need More Inspiration?
- Backpacking Europe Travel Guide
- Backpacking Iceland Travel Guide
- Sweden Travel Guide
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