In December 2016 we set off from our hometown, The Hague in Lucy (Land Rover) on a three-week journey to travel through Scandinavia. It turned out to be a big adventure with the car breaking down, dogsledding, diving with killer whales, getting engaged, drinking and dancing in an ice hotel and enjoying the best the Nordic kitchen has to offer.
Our trip would take us trough Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. We packed the car to the max because Nick thought it would be fun if we camped in the car. He had removed the backseats and built a sleeping platform the week before. We drove to Denmark where we would take the ferry to Norway. We love ferries, especially the overnight ones. There are bars, gambling and shows. We like it that much we have even considered going on a cruise last Christmas. Anyway that night the sea was so rough that we spent most of the night in our room holding on to our beds with me desperately popping motion sickness pills.
Being in Scandinavia in the December means you won’t see much sunlight. The more north you go the darker the skies are. We stopped in Hemsedal first for a day of snowboarding. Nick went off on his own while I had a class. There is something really nice about being in the mountains. While Nick prefers the sea I am always drawn to the hills. In Norway you have best of both world. However cold and dark, the scenery is unrivaled with mountaintops on one side and the cold North Sea on the other.
After snowboarding we were on our way to Trondheim for a last stop before heading to Tromsø where we had booked a three-day diving safari with killer whales, when the car broke down. Yes, the tough winter conditions seemed too harsh for Lucy and she started shaking so much that we had to pull over (the result of a collapsed wheel bearing). We waited nine hours before being picked up by a mechanic, who took us to the nearest town, Narvik. Luckily we were able to take Lucy back on the road the next day after some temporary fixes were made.
Undersea Soft Encounter Alliance
We continued our journey to Tromsø where we would spend three days and nights on a boat diving with orcas. People tend to be surprised you are able to do this. The company USEA we booked with are the only ones offering this experience and have done so for the last twenty years without there ever being an incident. It turned out to be such a special, unique experience that we will follow up on this in a different blog post.
Camping in Scandinavia in the middle of winter seems crazy right? The unpacking of the car, making the bed, trying not to get snow everywhere, it was not for Nick. We ended up camping in the car for three nights. Luckily Nick’s motto for travelling is: preparation, preparation and preparation. Being too late for flights and losing his things aside he is all about leaving prepared. That means packing clothes for every possible situation, making spreadsheets, having extra chargers and batteries and enough cash to give rounds in every bar on the way. Make sure you do the same when undertaking a trip like this.
After our three-day adventure with the orca’s we drove on to Finland. You might think of Lapland as a winter wonderland and it really is. Empty roads that go on for hours with nothing but dark skies and snowy landscapes everywhere you look is what made the drive spectacular. At the end awaited us a rustic, wooden cabin with a ready to go fireplace and sauna to heat yourself up in. The next day we went on a dogsledding safari to add to the magic. I’ve always imagined the huskies living here would be somewhat wilder, more independent that the domesticated dogs we have back home. Not true. They are very social beings each with their own quirky personalities.
It was during the sledding when Nick asked me to marry him. I can’t say I didn’t see it coming since we had already booked the wedding venue but it was still a special ‘this is it moment’. We were served hot chocolate and cake to celebrate and were given mugs as a gift from Hetta Huskies where we booked the safari. They were absolutely amazing and as if things couldn’t get any better the green glow of the northern light showed itself treating us to an even more special moment on this part of our journey.
Nick’s thoughts on road tripping through Scandinavia: ‘If you’re thinking of doing this trip in winter make sure you fit winter tires (it’s illegal not too!). The further north you go the more beneficial you’ll find studded tires on the icy roads. I did not find it sweaty here.’
Ice ice baby
Next stop: the ice hotel in Sweden. No, we did not stay in an ice room and I do wonder how much of that we would have actually enjoyed. So we stayed in one of the heated rooms from which we quickly headed to a lovely restaurant down the road and after to the hotel ice bar where we treated ourselves to a lot of cocktails. Just to keep warm of course. When I say ice it was literally only that. The building, bar, general interior, glasses, everything was made from ice. It was the perfect place for our little engagement party for two.
The Nordic kitchen
It would be very unlike us if we did not splurge one (or two) times on restaurants while travelling. For our last couple of nights in Scandinavia I had booked restaurant Ekstedt in Stockholm and restaurant Høst in Copenhagen, both very different but equally terrific options (if I do say so myself). Ekstedt stood out with its masculine, cooking on wood and fire, dare I say caveman-like approach combined with the fine techniques used in high-end kitchens presenting us with creative, rich dishes. Cheekily I asked for the seats at the cooking island, making the whole experience more memorable. Our second night in Copenhagen proved to be just as good when we visited Høst. A restaurant being exactly what you would expect in Scandinavia: smart, modern with elegant courses to match. It was the perfect ending to our trip.
Writing all this down, makes me want to do the whole thing all over again. I know it might sound crazy to some but I would even say that I prefer winter holidays over summer ones.
More in favor of spending your time in sunnier places? This winter we went to Colombia where we walked The Lost City trek.