2016 in the Scandinavian Arctic

Every year we (travelers, travel magazines and companies) make lists and predictions about places to go. And usually this time of year I am dreaming about warm destinations and thinking of ways to escape the freezing cold, but this year is different.

Norway and Scandinavia is beautiful during wintertime and I find myself fascinated by the northern lights, purple and turquoise sky's, geysers and glaciers. I am hoping 2016 will be filled with arctic adventures and great stories to share with you. So my contribution this year is:

top 5 arctic destinations for 2016.

 

1. Lapland, Finland

Lapland, known as the home of Santa Clause is at the top of my list. This destination has made a name for itself in the tourism industry with its quirky hotels, northern lights and snow covered landscapes.

Lapland is home to only 3% of the Finnish population, yet it covers more than 30 % of the countries land area. Situated at the northernmost region in Finland it is home to the only Indigenous people in the European union, the Sami. The areas rugged nature is also home to wolves, wolverines, reindeer's and brown bears making it the perfect destination for wildlife safari.

How to get there: Rovaniemi, the capitol of Lapland is accessible by train, bus, car and by plane.
When to go: I have heard the best time to go is from the end of February until the beginning of April. This period has more daylight than December and January and the average temperature is about -10 degrees Celsius.
Where to stay: Kaukslauttanen Arctic Resort is world famous for its glass igloos. If you are planning a trip to Lapland this is, in my opinion the ultimate place to stay.

http://www.kakslauttanen.fi/en/

Picture from Pinterest

Picture from Pinterest

If you are planning on going and you would like to know more about Lapland, the official travel guide of Finland offers a lot of helpful information.

http://www.visitfinland.com/lapland/

 

2. The Svalbard Islands

Photo: Maria Eline Sørensen

Photo: Maria Eline Sørensen

Situated north of mainland Europe, midway between continental Norway and the North Pole lies Svalbard Islands. This archipelago in the arctic Ocean is home to the northernmost settlement in the world with a permanent civilian population. The islands are known for having more polar bears than people and is said to be one of Europe's last great wildernesses.

Longyearbyen is the largest populated area on the territory of Svalbard an is easily accessible to the general public. Longyearbyen has about 2000 inhabitants and welcomes more than 50.000 tourists every year.

With an amazing repertoire of adventure activities for tourists and breathtaking nature it is becoming a very important and popular tourist destination. It has long been a dream of mine to experience the majestic polar bear in the wild and in Svalbard you have a very good chance of seeing one.

How to get there: Flights leaving from Oslo and Tromsø everyday.
When to go: If you want to see the polar bears the locals will tell you the best time is during the summer from June to September. If you want to see the polar night and northern lights, the best time is between November and February. 
Where to stay: The Isfjord Radio Hotel was once a solitude outpost for radio operators located about 90 km from civilization in Longyearbyen. Today it is one of the most popular places to stay while visiting Svalbard. There are several ways to reach the hotel and dog-sledding is in my opinion the best one. During summer season you can travel to Isfjord Radio by open boat across Isfjorden. The trip takes about two hours. For more information about this hotel check out this website:

http://basecampexplorer.com/spitsbergen/hotels/isfjord-radio

For more information about The Svalbard Islands visit:

http://www.visitnorway.com/places-to-go/svalbard-islands/

 

3. Lofoten, Norway

Photo: Sjur Vammervold

Photo: Sjur Vammervold

Lonely Planet magazine recently featured Lofoten on its front cover. Showing a snow covered landscape with a small postcard-looking fishing village nestled in the fjord. Lofoten is often described as one of the most scenic parts of Norway and I have been dreaming about visiting for years.

Lofoten is famous for its breathtaking and dramatic nature welcoming rock climbers, kayakers, downhill skiers, hikers and nature lovers from all over the world. It is also famous for its rich bird and sea life as well as excellent fishing year round. Last year several hundred thousand people visited the archipelago and its popularity is growing.

The four main islands are separated from the mainland by the Vestfjord, but are all connected by bridges and tunnels, making it easy to get around with a car or a bike.

How to get there: Lofoten is accessible from boat, plane, train and bus. There are regular flights from all the major cities in Norway to Bodø Airport, Harstad/Narvik Airport, Svolvær Airport, Leknes Airport and Røst Airport.

There are daily trains all year between Stockholm, Kiruna and Narvik. From there, you can catch buses to other destinations in the archipelago. There are also trains from Oslo, via Trondheim and Fauske to Bodø. From Trondheim, the train takes around 10 hours to Bodø.

Express passenger boats are scheduled daily all year around between Bodø, Svolvær and Værøy. There are car ferries from Bodø to several places in Lofoten, and between some of the islands themselves. Both north-bound and south-bound, Hurtigruten, The Norwegian Coastal Voyage, calls daily at Stamsund and Svolvær in Lofoten.

Information about transportation from: http://www.visitnorway.com/places-to-go/northern-norway/the-lofoten-islands/?lang=primary

When to go: If you want to experience the midnight sun, the summer months between mai and september are the best. If you wish to experience snow and northern lights January- end of March is the best time to go.
Where to stay: If you are traveling to Lofoten during the summer months I would recommend bringing or buying a tent. If you want more comfort the famous old fisherman's cabins called "rorbuer" is a very good alternative.

 

4. Northern Norway

Like Lapland, Northern Norway is by far the largest and most sparsely populated part of mainland Norway. It is one of the most varied wildlife-watching destinations in Europe. The Eurasian lynx, northern Europe’s only large cat species, the Arctic fox and the Wolverine can all be seen in remote national parks in the northern parts of Norway. And close to the Swedish, Finnish and Russian boarder brown bears are hiding in the thick and wild forests.

Northern Norway is also home to a big part of the Sami population (40.000). Around 2,600 Sami people in Norway make their living from herding reindeer, and the majority of the region of Northern Norway is actually used for raising reindeer.

Because of good marketing and social media channels such as Instagram the tourism in the Northern Parts of Norway are now booming. So why not travel to this hidden gem before everyone else does.

How to get there: The northern part of Norway is huge and easily accessible with any kind of transportation depending on where in the area you are planning on going. 3 Norwegian Airlines will take you pretty much everywhere. Norwegian, SAS and Wideroe. If you wish to take the train, check out NSB.
When to go: If you want to experience the midnight sun, the summer months between mai and september are the best. If you wish to experience snow and northern lights January- end of March is the best time to go.
Where to stay: If you want a front row seat to view the fabulous Northern Lights why not try Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel in Alta. Bring your sleeping bag, a hat and warm underwear and enjoy a very different way of spending the night.
http://www.sorrisniva.no/7463-2/sorrisniva-igloo-hotel/?lang=en

 

5. Iceland

 

Photo: Nikoline Dybsand

Photo: Nikoline Dybsand

Geysirs, Glaciers, Waterfalls, picturesque Landscapes and Northern Lights all in one destination. No wonder Iceland's tourism is booming. This place has it all and it is quickly becoming one of the worlds most popular places to visit.

Last year Iceland had more than 1 million visitors. Considering the fact that Iceland's population is about 300.000 people, that is a lot! I have applied for a semester abroad in Iceland this fall and hopefully I will be able to go. Spending 4 months in this paradise of a place would be a dream come true. So fingers crossed.

How to get there: You can sail or fly to Iceland. Several airlines fly to and from the Island every day and Smyril Line maintains a regular scheduled cruise- and car-ferry service with the M/S Norröna between Iceland and Europe
When to go: Again depending on what kind of experience you would like. But it is a popular destination year round with plenty of activities no matter what the season.
Where to stay: I love AirBnb and in Iceland I found the coolest place to rent. The lady who rents it out has had more than 150 visitors and I can understand why. Great Value!
check this one out: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/947086?s=-Lf50OyX

 

I hope this was inspirational and that some of you will consider a vacation in the Scandinavian arctic this year.

Inspiring Travel Quotes

If you are following me on Instagram you probably know that I love travel quotes.

Here is a list of my favorites.

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine
“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.” – Hilaire Belloc
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson
“Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.” – Ray Bradbury
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” – James Michener
“If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears.” – Cesare Pavese

 

“Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller
“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

 

“Adventure is worthwhile.” – Aristotle
“Take only memories, leave only footprints.” – Chief Seattle
“You don’t choose the day you enter the world and you don’t chose the day you leave. It’s what you do in between that makes all the difference.” – Anita Septimus
“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury





Where to go in 2015

Despite both terrorist threats and the Ebola virus, over 1.1 billion people chose to travel in 2014. Now it's 2015's and the tourism industry is predicting the best destinations and countries to travel to this year. "The cheapest places to travel in 2015, "the best places to go in 2015" and " this years travel trends are," to name a few. I wanted to make my own list.

My list consists of places I want to travel to in 2015. It is a mix of beach, nature, city, wildlife, sports and arctic paradise. I have chosen these places after getting advice from friends, reading articles and books that inspired me and exciting lectures I have attended.

Where I would like to go in 2015:


Cuba

In light of recent political changes, Cuba is my first destination. After decades of disagreements and conflicts between the US and Cuba it seems like they have finally started to negotiate and communicate again. Making it possible for Americans to go to the country that is so close yet has been so far away for such a long time. The Cuban government is now making it possible for private companies to develop and offer tourist experiences. Most likely the country will go through several changes in the years to come. Making this the perfect year to visit “the old Cuba”, before it is too late.


Galapagos Islands

Galapagos is a volcanic paradise in the Pacific. This place has long been at the top of my bucket list. The island is protected and has a strict policy when it comes to tourism. It is one of few places in the world that has put a price tag and population/tourist limit on admission. The limit is 60,000 people per year, and with an ever-increasing population growth, and interest in authentic nature experiences, I see the Galapagos as a place one should travel before it becomes too difficult or too expensive to go. Galapagos is known for its rare animal species, flora and fauna. On the archipelago, one can find the world's smallest penguins, sea lions, land and sea turtles, flamingos and in the ocean you will find schools of hammerheads and manta rays. If you love nature and wildlife this could be your dream destination.


Kauai

For a lot of people and myself included Hawaii is the ultimate holiday destination. Kauai is one of the places I would like to put a red pin on in 2015. Here you can soar over tropical valleys, paddle onto small and virtually inaccessible beaches, go swimming in caves and surf fantastic waves. The culture of the island is very much influenced by ancient Hawaiian traditions. Here you will find families living a very relaxed life and the place is known for its hospitality. No buildings are higher than coconut trees and the cities have less than 10.000 inhabitants. This small island has managed to preserve something that very few places in the world have. A calm and balanced paradise, where only the luckiest live and tourists visiting get to see a small glimpse of.


Morocco


I was recently in Morocco and I fell in love with this exciting country. I'd really like to go back and experience more areas and cities. I would love to walk the streets of Marrakesh, go skiing in the Atlas Mountains, eat amazing food in Fez, take photos in the blue city Chefchaouen and surf on the many magnificent beaches. For people living in Europe, Morocco has become a more accessible destination in recent years. The Norwegian Airline Norwegian is one of many budget airlines offering affordable travel to both Agadir and Marrakesh throughout the year. Hurry up and travel to this superb country before the rest of Europe finds out how good it is.


Japan

The mixture of old culture and new is something that fascinates me. Japan is a great example of a country that mixes ancient traditions with modern technology. I would love to attend one of the many music festivals in Japan, photograph the colorful and beautiful Harajuku ladies in Tokyo, get a real bamboo tattoo from an old Japanese tattoo artist in the old district of Kyoto, eat the best sushi in the world and take the fast and very punctual Shinkansen that is said to be an attraction as much as a means of transportation.

 

Myanmar

After decades of military rule and civil war Myanmar is finally a relatively peaceful country. Since 2011, the country has taken small steps towards democracy, with the release of Daw Aung San Su Kyi and the inauguration of new representatives in the parliament. Myanmar has to a certain extent been cut off from tourism, which has made the country a well-preserved Asian gem. Myanmar has beautiful beaches like and longer coastline than Thailand. Wild jungle, beautiful pagodas scattered across the country and an old and well-preserved culture. Last year Myanmar had a record high number of tourists and I think this is an absolute must-see country for 2015. Maybe Myanmar can give travelers the experience backpackers had arriving in Thailand 30-40 years ago.


Sri Lanka

East of India's southern tip lays this exciting country formerly known as Ceylon. Sinhalese and Tamils onstitute a large part of the population, which holds just over 20 million people. The country has for several years been characterized by ethnic and religious differences, which have led to several violent battles. In 2009 the civil war ended and Sri Lanka was a "safe" place travel. Because of the civil war Sri Lanka has not had as much tourism as the country's climate, beaches and natural resources would suggest. And when the great tsunami hit in 2004 it destroyed over 70% of the coastal areas, killing thousands of people. Over the past five years this country has slowly piled itself back on its feet.

In Sri Lanka there are large climatic differences between the rain forests in the southwest, mountainous areas in the middle of the island and the somewhat drier areas in the north and east. These differences make Sri Lanka a great destination year round. The west coast rainy season starts in May and ends in October and the east coast gets most of the rain from November to January. Like I have said in previous blog posts I am a huge fan of India and Indian culture, food and traditions, and according to friends who have traveled to both India and Sri Lanka; it is very similar in many ways. I am convinced that this is THE place to go in 2015 and I am hoping I get a chance to go this year.

Helsinki, Finland

When I travel in Northern Europe, it is often to Denmark. But this year, I would like to take a trip to the magnificent capital of Finland, to find out if Helsinki is more than just heavy metal and sauna. People I have talked to brag about how great the capitol is with its free museums, special shopping experiences and bustling nightlife. I would like to see the hip and up and coming area of Kallio which was recently named one of the world's coolest new neighborhoods in the world.


Greenland

The world's largest ice-covered island ironically named Greenland. The island has an extremely low population density, which is perhaps not so surprising, considering temperatures never rise above 20 degrees. As described in the countries official website the local depends on hunting, fishing, Internet and each other. Apart from the beautiful scenery and exciting wildlife, including musk oxen and polar bears, the island offers a whole range of extreme sport- and adventure activities for visitors and locals. In recent years Greenland has invested heavily in adventure based tourism and offers mountaineering, heli-skiing, diving, sailing, ski touring, kayaking and whale watching, to name a few. If you like extreme sports (as I do), wild and beautiful scenery and want to get away from city life this might be the place you should visit in 2015.


Costa Rica

After dreaming of going to this country for a long time this February I finally got to go.  I wanted to experience this eco paradise with jungle, sloths, beautiful beaches and pleasant climate. Costa Rica is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and I can understand why. One of the country's main incomes is precisely tourism and the markets itself as a leader in ecotourism. They are helping to promote a sustainable way to develop tourism, which is reflected in the activities they offer. Despite the size of this small country, it contains 5% of the world's biodiversity and a quarter of the country is protected areas and national parks. I got the pleasure of spending a whole month in this wonderful country, and used my days thereto surf, do yoga on the beach, improve my Spanish skills, get to know great people from around the world and last but not least, enjoy life.

Round the world for free

Sometimes I meet people that say: “oh, I wish I had more money so I could travel more”
I respond: “you don’t need money to travel; you just need internet and some imagination”

 

WWOOFING


WWOOF is short for World Wide Opportunities in Organic Farms. Their concept is; you work on a farm in exchange for food and accommodation. On their website wwoof.net you can find information on each country and which farms are in the program. I clicked on my own country, Norway and was redirected to their Norwegian page. This page had a map that showed the different farms around the country, information about transportation and our food traditions and customs. It costs 15 euros per year to be a member. If you want to travel for free in a relatively expensive country like Norway, this might be the way to go.

http://www.wwoof.net/welcome-to-wwoof/

 

WORKAWAY

At workaway.info you will find families, organizations and people from all over the world who offer accommodation and food in return for manual labour. You can work with anything from painting, planting flowers, carpentry work, , cooking, babysitting to helping out with web design. Their philosophy is: "A few hours honest help per day in exchange for food and accommodation and an opportunity to learn about the local lifestyle and community, with friendly hosts in varying situations and surroundings". Again I looked up my own country and under the lists of hosts I fond and opportunity to work with husky’s and reindeer in the Northern parts of Norway. Talk about a win-win situation. I`m in!

http://www.workaway.info/

 

COUCHSURFING


If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past years you have probably heard about couch surfing. Their website has over 7 million users in more than 100.000 cities. Their concept is basically, you sleep on someone couch or where they have a place for you, for free. To do this you have to have faith in the fact that there are nice people just like you around the world, who just wants to get to know other travelers and that are happy to help out. I know a lot of people who use this regularly when traveling and they have gotten to know some nice people and seen some awesome places, without spending money on accommodation. Couch surfing can also give you an inside look into the locals way of life.

https://www.couchsurfing.org/

 

HITCHHIKING

When I tell my friends and family about the time I picked up a hitchhiker in Australia they say: “are you crazy? That could have been dangerous”. Yes, hitchhiking or picking up a stranger can be dangerous, but it can also be a really cool and inexpensive way to travel the world. The rule her is don’t do it alone and choose the right country and place for it. In some countries, such as New Zealand, France or Spain it is quite common and accepted to hitchhike. I have picked up hitchhikers in Norway and I have never had any problems. Again you have to trust the fact that there are nice, friendly people everywhere and be willing to try something new.

 

BLABLACAR

If you find hitchhiking to scary there are other, inexpensive ways to get around. BlaBlaCar is a website where you can find people offering a seat in their car, in exchange for gas money. I went on their website today and found 13 cars driving from Oslo, Norway to places like Lofoten Islands, Gothenburg and even Paris. One car offered a ride to Gothenburg for 1 pound. It does not get much cheaper than that.

http://www.blablacar.com/

 

GOMORE

In Denmark this website has become very popular. It is, like blablacar a way for people to hitch rides with one another in exchange for gas money. It is inexpensive and helps save the environment. Definitely worth checking out if you are ever in Scandinavia.

https://gomore.no

Good Luck!

Round the world tickets

Just decided to travel the world, and not yet booked your ticket? I have some advice that helped me when I was in the same situation.

A few years ago I bought a round the world ticket and it was the most inexpensive way I have ever traveled. I flew to 12 different countries, located in different continents and with great award winning airlines such as New Zealand and Singapore Airlines.

So instead of booking your flights with different airlines and paying more than you should, try an agency that specializes in round the world tickets.

Travel Nation is a British company that sells countless variations of round the world tickets at reasonable prices. They have great customer service and they will help you tailor the trip of your dreams. What I loved about Travel Nation was the inexpensive and easy way to change dates while traveling.

All round the world tickets booked with Travel Nation starts and ends in England. So for people living in Europe, it is just one short plane ride away.

They always have special offers under 1000 pounds.

https://www.travelnation.co.uk/

How to book your trip

Today most of us use the Internet for booking tickets and accommodation. There are endless amounts of websites to choose from and it can be hard to pick the right ones. After many years of travelling and searching the web I have found some favorites that I would love to share with you. Hopefully it will help you to find your dream vacation and save you some time doing it.

When I book flights I always use websites with a flexible search engine. Skyscanner is one of my favorites. This page lets me search from Norway- to everywhere and I can search for whole months and even a whole year. This helps me to find what time of year it is cheapest for me to travel to the places I would like to go.

When I have found my dates and chosen my destination, I use a second website to double-check that I have found the best price and the best ticket available. The only reason I use this site as a second choice is because I like the flexible search engine that Skyscanner has better. If you already have fixed dates and destination you can use either site. They are both great.

After the plane tickets are booked I check out my options for accommodation.

I always check hotels.com and booking.com if I want to stay at a hotel.

If I am looking for something more personal I choose apartments. This is a good option especially if I am traveling with more than one person. AirBnb is the most popular website and app out there today for renting apartments. They have over 1.000.000 apartments in over 190 countries worldwide. When you are using AirBnb you are renting someone else’s house or room for a reasonable price. I recommend using their app, it is easy to use and very efficient. Just pick your destination, dates, how many people are staying and press search. You can scroll through hundreds of apartments and read comments from people who have rented it before you.

Good Luck!

Books for the road

When I travel I always have a book with me. The books I read while traveling are usually about the country I am in. When I traveled around in Southeast Asia I read a lot of great books about the region and I felt it enriched my experience.

Here is a list of my suggestions

India

Shantaram
This very famous novel was written by Gregory David Roberts , a convicted Australian bank robber who escaped from prison and fled to India where he lived for 10 years. The book gives us an insight into the lives of some of the poorest people in India .

White Tiger
White Tiger was written by the Indian author Aravind Adiga. The book is about Balram Halwai. A young man who lives in a poor village in India. His life changes when he starts working as a private chauffeur for a rich family business with connections to the Indian government . A small, exciting, easy to read book that is perfect for a long train ride or a day at the beach.

Cambodia

First they killed my father
Loung Ung, a Cambodian author and survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime has written this book about her very personal and tragic story. This book taught me a lot about Cambodian history and culture. It was a great book to have whilst traveling threw the country.

Thailand

The Beach
You probably remember seeing a movie called The Beach with Leonardo Dicaprio. That film was based on the book The Beach, written by Alex Garland. This book is perfect for a beach vacation in Thailand.

Vietnam

The girl in the picture
The Girl in the Picture is an autobiographical story about the life of Phan Thi Kim Phúc during the Vietnam War. The book is written by Denise Chong, but the story is seen through the eyes of Phan Thi Kim Phúc and her mother. In my mind a perfect read if you are traveling in Vietnam.

Indonesia, Italy, India

Eat, Pray, Love
For me this is the ultimate, easy to read , "girly" book. It was written by Elizabeth Gilbert. The story is about her journey through three very different countries with three completely different motives for each destination. Briefly, she travels to Italy to eat, drink wine and learn Italian. She travels to an Ashram in India to learn how to meditate and then finally she ends her trip in Bali.


If you have any good recommendations please comment below. You can never have too many books to read on the road :)