This year’s World Happiness Report is topped by four Scandinavian countries known for their stunning natural landscapes, unique heritage, and adventurous spirit. Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway set the perfect scene for amazing hiking and cultural journeys, and we can’t wait to return to explore more in 2021. Here are a few reasons why you should put these happiness-inducing destinations on your travel bucket list.
Ranked #1 for the past three years, Finns have shown the rest of the world how to be happy. Perhaps it’s the number of saunas the country has (around 3.3 million for a population of 5.3 million!) or that it’s the home of Santa Claus, but one thing is for sure, they know how to take time off to be outside. Our adventure here explores Lapland in the northern reaches of Finland, where we’ll meet Sámi reindeer herders, learn to mush a dogsled, stay in unique “glass” igloos, search for the northern lights, and relax as the Finnish do in hot saunas.
The Danish are incredibly in tune with the feeling of complete happiness that they even have a word for it. Hygge loosely translates to that cozy feeling when you’re utterly content and happy. It’s sparked when you’re in nature, surrounded by loved ones, or simply snuggled in a blanket near the fire with a book in hand. Some hygge-worthy moments on our trip to the Faroe Islands are visiting a local artist in her studio, exploring villages full of turf-roofed houses, hiking wild trails, watching playful puffins dance along the sea cliffs, and learning about the unique island culture.
How is the land of fire and ice the perfect recipe for happiness? Well, for starters it’s home to a vast array of dramatic features. From steaming geysers and sky-blue glaciers to massive waterfalls and welcoming hot springs, Iceland strikes the perfect balance between the rugged and more refined. We have several Iceland trips, each focused on a different part of the island at different times of the year. We explore western and northern Iceland, with hikes on steaming volcanoes, across rift fissures, below glorious waterfalls, and wonderful birding and whale-watching. During the winter, we’ll snowshoe and search for the northern lights at one of the best places to view them on the entire island. We designed each trip with wonderful overnights in comfortable hotels and—of course—time to unwind in natural hot springs.
With its breathtaking landscapes, long summer days, and a culture that encourages friluftsliv, or “open-air living,” it’s easy to see why so many Norwegians are happy. Finding wonder in a sense of place can involve sea kayaking amid towering fjords or simply walking to a nearby vista offering sweeping views of the area. On our journeys, we hike to waterfalls and sea kayak beneath the midnight sun, and savor cultural delights including cider tastings and farm-fresh lunch on an apple orchard, where we’ll meet the owners and learn about their wonderful farmstead.