16 Reasons To Visit Finland And Norway Instead Of Iceland This Summer

16 Reasons to Visit Finland and Norway Instead of Iceland This Summer

Iceland has become the new New Zealand. Everybody wants to go there, and it seems like they are doing it. After all, the tiny country on the cusp of the Arctic Circle is just a six-hour nonstop flight from New York or a three-hour nonstop flight from London. Popularity usually comes with several side effects, the worst of which is huge crowds. Reconsider your itinerary and explore lesser known places. They may lack in popularity, but make up for it in parties, delicious food, breathtaking scenery, world-class saunas, rich culture and history, recreational activities, and festivals.

It’s always bright

For three months in Finland, the temperatures soar high and the sun does not set at all, according to Visit Finland. "In Finnish Lapland a single summer day lasts for over two months.  In the southern parts of the country it is never really dark either, just a period of twilight for a few hours. This is why we call Finland the Land of the Midnight Sun."

Vikings history

If you want to know everything about the Vikings, visit Oslo, Norway's capital. The museums have many artifacts that had been excavated from graves all over the country. Make sure you explore the imposing Viking Ship Museum. You'll see three original 9th century Viking ships and their wood carvings, metal tools, textiles, and skeletal remains. For battle gear visit the Norwegian Antiquity exhibit at the Historical Museum.

Rafting and kayaking

Norway has so many rivers that it's no surprise kayaking has become so popular. Exploring them while in a kayak is one of the most exhilarating but also relaxing ways to experience the country. You'll see beautiful coasts, incredible inlets, rivers appropriate for paddlers of all levels, and unique sites. Summer in Finland is a great time to go whitewater rafting. Go on this adventure through the frothing waters of Kuusa, right next to Varjola, which offer extremely good conditions for the area. You can go river rafting along the border with Russia. The route takes you through the largest rapids of River Kitkajoki.

Music festivals in Finland

Winter is long and cold in Finland and that's why Finns celebrate their summer very passionately. The largest festivals have been around for decades and cater for all tastes in the popular music category, gathering tens of thousands of people, according to Visit Finland. Some of the longest running festivals include Qstock in Oulu, Ilosaarirock in Joensuu and Ruisrock in Turku. Finland is a country of hard rock and heavy metal lovers, which is evident in genre-dedicated events all over the country. The best-known is Tuska (translates directly to "pain"), a three-day metal festival in central Helsinki.

Stunning train trips

The Flam Railway through Norwegian Fjords offers rugged scenery and massive inlets that are absolutely magnificent. Flamsbana – The Flam Railway is one of the steepest train lines in the world; almost 80 percent of the journey has a gradient of 5.5 percent, according to Visit Flam. You'll see rustic village resorts that look like they are from a fairytale.

Fjord safaris in Norway

Norway is easily among the most beautiful countries in the world. The fjords are like a trademark. One of the best times to visit is in May, just after spring, which is somewhat short in the country, for some about mind-blowing natural colors. But no matter when you decide to explore Norway's secret gems and culture, you'll find exhilarating adventures. FjordSafari is a one of the most popular ways to really see the UNESCO paradise Aurlandfjord and the Nærøyfjord.

Mountain biking

Cycling in Norway and Finland has a lot of benefits and stunning scenery, diverse cycle trails and mountain biking tracks are just a few. There is no better way to get close to these countries' nature and explore their unique landscapes. Whether you are looking for demanding slogs up mountain trails, or biking through picturesque villages, you'll always find something that suits you.

Cool cabins in Finland

People in Finland love to spend time in nature. The City Cottage has been designed as a modern interpretation of summer huts, located just outside Helsinki. The cabin is referred to as ecological vacationing at its best, due to its small size (45 sq. ft.), low energy consumption and close location to the city. In many ways it's like an airstream – everything has several purposes. For example, the kitchen turns into a homework desk. Finns love to enjoy taking life slow at their summer cottages –  swimming, fishing and cooking dinner on the grill.

Unusual sports in Finland

Since 1992, the Finnish town of Sonkajärvi has played host to one of the most unusual sporting events in the world. Eukonkanto, or "wife-carrying," involves running through a quarter-kilometer obstacle course while holding a full-grown woman. Despite the name, she doesn't have to be your wife, but she does have to be over 17 and weigh at least 108 pounds. "Wives" can be carried in any position: piggyback, slung over the shoulders, or the ever-popular Estonian-style, which involves wrapping the woman's legs around the racer's neck with her body dangling down his back.

Take a pilgrimage along St. Olav Ways

People interested in experiencing Norwegian nature and culture are the ones going on such an adventurous trip. The ancient, 350-mile series of paths starts in Selånger, Sweden, and ends at the 11th-century Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. The route follows the journey of Norway's patron saint, King Olav II Haraldsson, who stepped ashore at Selånger in 1030 and marched his army into Norway, according to National Geographic. Most tourists complete the 85-mile stretch between Stiklestad and Trondheim. It takes about a week.

Strange but delicious food

Unique agricultural customs are what really characterize Norwegian cooking. You have to try the Smalahove, a Western Norwegian traditional dish made from a sheep's head. The country is also known for world-class fish dishes. Famous traditional seafood meals are the Fiskesuppe (fish soup), Sild (pickled herring) and Gravlaks (salmon fillets soaked in a dill mixture and served with spicy mustard sauce).

Tromso, Norway

Museums portraying polar history, a science center, art and crafts, and nature attractions...These are just a few of the region's many charms and lures. The world's northernmost botanical garden is here. Make the most of the city's modern blend of recreational activities and vibrant nightlife. Enjoy midnight concerts at the Arctic Cathedral. Tromso is also where you want to be for the most stunning views of the Northern Lights. You can see the natural phenomenon for more than 250 nights a year.

Helsinki, Finland

This modern European city, known for design and high technology, is one of the cleanest cities in the world. Locals prefer to take the bus or ride a bike to work, keeping the city as clean as possible. Escape to the Helsinki Islands. The archipelago consists of around 330 islands, providing a great getaway from the chaotic city. The most popular is Pihlajasaari. Locals in the capital often go there for day trips. The island is known for its beautiful sandy beaches and rocks on the other side of the island. Both of these are favorites among sunbathers and swimmers.

Saunas in Finland

When many people hear the word "sauna," they usually think of Finland. The Finnish are often credited with having spread this tradition all over the world. Saunas are entwined in the national culture. It is estimated that there are two million saunas in Finland, for a population of 5.3 million, according to This is Finland. Big companies and state institutions have their own steam baths.

The Pulpit Rock in Norway

These are popular places for visitors but for a good reason. The rock never ceases to amaze. Preikestolen (or Pulpit Rock) is a top tourist destination in Southern Norway, attracting thrill seekers and daredevil photographers who just can't resist getting a glimpse off the edge of the 1,982-foot-high cliff. There are currently no fences and tourism officials say that would spoil the experience.

Ride cable cars to see the midnight sun in Norway

There are no clear boundaries between days in the Norwegian north during summer. You'll have plenty of chances to experience the midnight sun in all its glory at many different places. See the country's magnificent grand panoramas from Storsteinen (Big Rock) on Mount Fløya, for example. You will rise 1,381 feet in no more than five minutes.