Something is happening in Scandinavia, that sleepy bit of northern Europe.
Where once was quiet forests and fjords, now it’s all engine noise and large ripples as surfers, campers and lobster safaris head north for summer.
Experiential holidays with a Nordic twist are the in thing this year, with operators reporting steady growth in active holidays with children last year.
In addition to these countries being safe and having very high standards and family-orientated societies, for once some areas of Scandinavia are more affordable than in the past.
The fall in the pound’s value has helped UK consumers focus on Nordic destinations that aren’t serving up the euro.
Norway, with its vast oil wealth, has not been affected by the economic crisis as much as countries such as Iceland and remains at the higher end of the spectrum, with prices fairly stable this season.
Ramblers Worldwide Holidays, whose offerings include a Norwegian cruise and walking breaks, has reported a steady growth in business to the country due to the weak the pound.
Multi-centre holidays are popular in Norway with Ulvik, Voss, Balestrand, Bergen and Loen as the main centres. The city of Stavanger has also received a boost in popularity and infrastructure since it became the 2008 European Capital of Culture.
Denmark is a popular destination for camping holidays, with nearly 4,500 miles of sandy coastline, and is home to some of the best beaches in northern Europe. August temperatures hover between 20C and 25C.
Norway is keen to promote its waterside camping as a holiday option, with its fjords, rivers, lakes and 12,500 miles of coastline, while island hopping is increasingly popular in Sweden, as is forest camping in Finland.
Gothenburg, Sweden’s west coast city, is being pushed this year – especially through the trade – as it is hosting City Break Expo 2009 on June 15.
This comes in the wake of a successful year for the country’s second largest metropolis as a city break destination. In 2008 it experienced a 14% increase in visitors from the UK.
Last year, Sunvil launched its Scandinavia programme to the west coast of Sweden, enabling visitors to sample fresh local fish.
Clients can join expert lobster-catchers, experience a mussel or crayfish safari, enjoy a schnapps and herring tasting, or gulp oysters and glug champagne in a wood-burning hot tub. The first day of the lobster season is September 22, when the country’s west coast transforms into a huge seafood party.
Seafood safaris take place at various locations around the region, including Handelsman Flink, a small, family-run hotel 90 minutes’ drive north of Gothenburg.
Visitors help an expert lobster-catcher for half a day, pulling up the pots and tying lobsters’ claws and hearing the host’s stories about life at sea.
A Sunvil spokesperson said: “We have selected properties that are part of the Taste of West Sweden programme, a network of gastronomic restaurants along the west coast, where accommodation is either of historical importance or in a place of outstanding natural beauty.”
A key focus of activity remains Iceland, which has seen a boost in UK visitor numbers.
In addition to its ailing currency making it more affordable, operators have been offering some attractive deals to lure visitors. Icelandair Holidays has a three-night break leading in at £219, while Kirker Holidays has added the country to its 2009/10 short break programme.
Elsewhere, Baltic Holidays has started featuring Finland and Explore features Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Norway and the Faroe Islands. Having launched its summer programme for the region last year, Sunvil Discovery is now launching a winter Scandinavia programme.
Airlines have also been launching initiatives and cutting fares to boost numbers. SAS is offering a free Stockholm City Card to passengers travelling to the city this April. The card, worth £30, allows you to travel free on public transport and gain entry to more than 75 attractions.
bmi has increased capacity on its Danish routes – Aberdeen to Esbjerg and Copenhagen from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Leeds Bradford. Lead-in fares include Edinburgh to Copenhagen from £133 return, Leeds Bradford to Copenhagen from £87 return, and Aberdeen to Esbjerg from £130 return.
Regent Iceland is featuring the Faroe Islands this year. The week-long independent tour includes Iceland as well, so you can contrast the two capitals – Reykjavik with Torshavn.
Prices start from £1,150 per person including flights. The company has created Sensational Iceland, a seven-day tour taking in the glaciers and Viking trails. (01983 866 670)
Wildlife Worldwide is offering bear-watching trips to Finland and Inghams has added the city of Alesund as a gateway to the north – it was voted the most beautiful city in Norway last year.
Norway has set up a national certification scheme for certified ecotourism companies and has signed up 10 operators that comply with the scheme. (0845 130 6982)
Cosmos Tourama’s new 12-night Norwegian Coastal Voyage cruise takes in Alesund, Geiranger, Trondheim, Tromso, Hammerfest, Honningsvag and Harstad.
Prices lead in at £1659, including flights from Heathrow, Birmingham or Manchester to Bergen, full-board accommodation on Nordkapp and all transfers. (Tel: 0871 423 8472)
For 2009, Keith Prowse Attraction Tickets is featuring two new tours in Denmark.
Its castles tour visits Kronborg Castle, Denmark – the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The tour costs from £38 (child £18). Its Grand Tour of Copenhagen
costs from £23 (child £12). (Tel: 02890 232 425)
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