Image credit: Bjarne Riesto / Visit Norway: Patin

Joanna Booth looks at visiting the Nordic region in both winter and summer

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Few destinations can vary as much from winter to summer as those in the Nordic countries.

From winter’s sub-zero temperatures, Narnia-like snowscapes and northern lights, the region emerges blinking into a summer where daylight never dies, and the midnight sun makes cities vibrant and the countryside idyllic.

Get clients booking now for last-minute northern lights trips, or get them thinking ahead for some summer sunshine with a difference.

WINTER




There’s no doubt that the northern lights have been having quite a season, both from the point of view of quality and frequency of sightings, and from the resulting buzz in the media.

The desire to see the magical aurora dancing in the sky is at fever pitch, so why not jolt clients out of their January blues and book them a last minute trip above the Arctic Circle?

There are plenty of ways to see the lights, but most involve braving the sub-zero temperatures of an Arctic night. Not so for those staying at Hotel Kakslauttanen in Finnish Lapland.

The hotel’s village of glass igloos means guests can stay in toasty, cozy comfort, gazing at the aurora and the twinkling stars from the warmth of their own bed.

Daytime activities include husky and reindeer sledding and snowmobile safaris, plus there are outdoor options for night-time northern lights spotting. Taber Holidays offers a five-night trip for a family of four from £1,333 per adult and £1,009 per child under 12.

This includes flights from Heathrow and four nights’ half-board accommodation in a traditional log cabin at Hotel Kakslauttanen, plus one night in a glass igloo. There are daily departures until April 30.

What could be more magical than listening to a concert in a hall made of ice, with music played on instruments made from the same chilly stuff?

The first ICEconcert hall opened in Lulea, in the north of Sweden, on December 28 last year. Styled on a giant igloo, the icy grotto seats 160 and every weekend hosts performances by an ICEorchestra where all the instruments, from the double-bass to the flute, are hand-crafted from ice.

Sunvil Discovery has a three-night Ice Experiences break, which includes a concert ticket plus two other excursions – a snowmobile tour on the pack-ice in the Bay of Bothnia and a ride through the frozen ice fields on an ice breaker.

On the latter, brave clients can take the option to have a dip in the freezing waters in a survival suit. Accommodation is at Hotel Elite Stadshotellet, and the three-night break on a B&B basis starts from £1,052 including flights from Heathrow, transfers and excursions.

Simply Sweden has a twin-centre break that will give clients the chance to see the northern lights with the extra bragging rights of stays in two unique hotels in Swedish Lapland.

Start with two nights at the Treehotel, where rooms are set up in the branches of a forest, and where northern lights-focused experiences include photography workshops, snowshoeing and even Ice Dining, a torchlit evening on a frozen lake with a three-course dinner served in a heated tipi.

Next, stay at the Icehotel, where everything, including the beds, is sculpted from ice – the latter with warm reindeer skins on top. Guests can have a go themselves, with ice-sculpting on offer alongside the chance to horseride or take a Mini for a test drive on an ice track.

Simply Sweden’s four-night break starts from £1,645, including flights from Gatwick, Heathrow or Manchester, transfers, two nights’ half-board at the Treehotel, and two nights’ B&B at the Icehotel, one in a snow room with warm clothing and one in a warm room.

Those looking for something more traditional will love the log cabins that Inghams offers in Yllas in Finnish Lapland.

With fully equipped kitchens and even their own saunas, families in particular can make the most of these cabins, while adding on excursions including husky, reindeer and snowmobile safaris, or even a ski taster package. Seven nights’ self-catering starts from £529 per person based on four sharing, including flights and transfers.

Clients don’t have to see the northern lights from land. A cruise along the Norwegian coast could be sold to cruise clients or first-timers.

Hurtigruten’s classic itineraries go from Bergen to the Russian border at Kirkenes and back, with lots of activities including husky sledding and visits to a Snow Hotel, plus the chance to see the northern lights from the water, miles from the light pollution of towns.

The line is offering two for one on selected voyages in January, February and March, with the discount available on the six-day Classic Voyage South, the seven-day Classic Voyage North and the 12-day Classic Round Voyage. With this discount, the Classic Voyage North starts from £472 on a full-board basis, with flights and transfers starting from £390.

Clients needn’t take a whole cruise holiday to see the northern lights from the water. Regent Holidays offers an evening cruise from Reykjavik’s historic harbour, heading out into the North Atlantic to look for the aurora.

Passengers can hop from the heated lounge to the viewing platform, where they can stay warm with blankets and hot chocolate. Regent offers a four-day city break to Reykjavik from £515 including three nights’ B&B accommodation and flights.

Bear

Image credit: Dominic Barrington

SUMMER




The Nordic regions may be less feted for their summer activities, but there are plenty of great excuses to visit when temperatures are higher and the days longer.

Chris Graham, Simply Sweden director, says: “We’ve seen a 50% increase in room bookings within the Arctic Circle during the months of the midnight sun, and it looks set to remain a burgeoning favourite.”

The operator recommends the Lofoten Islands in Arctic Norway as a great place to experience the midnight sun, staying in a traditional fisherman’s cottage and exploring the natural delights of this rocky peninsula, with activities from sea kayaking and fishing to cycling and nature hikes.

Summer is a better time for a city break, and with stunning options including Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki and Copenhagen, clients have lots to choose from. A tour can take in all of these – Insight Vacations’ 20-day Gold Luxury Grand Tour of Scandinavia visits all four, and includes cruising in the North Cape and the Norwegian fjords, from £4,075.

Reykjavik is great in summer too, with the city sights plus the option to add the famous Golden Circle tour visiting Iceland’s stunning waterfalls and National Parks.

Transun’s three-night Whales and Wonder package makes the most of the midnight sun and packs in whale-watching, a Golden Circle Tour and a visit to the Blue Lagoon, with prices including flights and B&B accommodation from £899 in June.

Send wildlife enthusiasts on Explore’s Brown Bear Weekend, a four-day adventure in Finland. From special hides deep in the forest, guests can observe brown bears in their natural habitat, with nature treks and canoeing on offer too.

Running from May to August, the trip starts from £796 including flights, B&B accommodation, some meals, transfers, guides and drivers.

If clients like the bears blonder, send them on Taber Holidays’ new Arctic Wonders tour. First heading to Tromso, guests then fly on to Spitsbergen, the Norwegian island half-way to the North Pole, where they could see polar bears, walruses and puffins. The seven-night trip starts from £1,635 and includes flights, accommodation with breakfast and two boat trips.

A Swedish summer visit can include sightings of moose, beavers, wolves and brown bears – at least if you send clients on Sunvil’s three-night Wildlife Encounters trip to Vastmanland, which explores this area of Sweden by boat, kayak, bicycle and on foot. Prices start at £490 including flights, car hire and B&B accommodation