You may think that heading off to somewhere as ‘far away’ as Scandinavia would be a dumb idea for anyone other than the most experienced tourers. Not a bit of it. The region is set up for camping; it is unbelievably camper-friendly in fact. With well-maintained, quiet roads there’s plenty of room to get used to a van, try out a tent and have a great time enjoying fabulous scenery.
Much of northern Scandinavia – the region of Lapland that covers parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland – is a silent wilderness.
Peaceful and serene with incredible natural beauty, you will find the roads a joy to drive along, the countryside and pretty towns great to explore on foot, bike or boat.
Most famous for its remarkable fjords along the western coastline, Norway is a land of contrasts. The length of the country is immense – it is as far from the north to the south as driving from the UK to Rome, though you can cross Norway within hours. Head to Nordkapp for the furthest point in mainland Europe by car or ‘van; vehicles more than six metres long pay a high toll tariff to get there, but it is worth it. Visit pretty Karasjok, the capital of Lapland with an interesting parliament building for the Sámi people, the indigenous reindeer herding population of Lapland.
Explore Dovrefjell National Park, a barren moorland covered with moss, boulders and sparkling rivers and streams in the middle of the country, perfect on foot. Dip in and out of the western fjords near Bergen, look around Viking Trondheim and coastal capital Oslo.
A land of dense forest and rivers in the north and open, cultivated landscapes in the south, a long spinal route provides good access. Cross the Arctic Circle to enjoy the colonial-looking towns of Jukkasjärvi (where the famous Ice Hotel is created from the frozen River Torne, which is beautiful as a fast-flowing river in summer) and Jokkmokk. Visit the skiing capital Åre, and the powerful Tannforsen Falls nearby. With 85 feet of thundering water, it’s so loud that you can hear it some distance away.
Get sun-drenched on the coastal resorts along the Gulf of Bothnia, don’t miss the beautiful university town of Uppsala and take a boat trip to explore Stockholm’s archipelago. And the island of Öland, linked to the mainland by a 5-mile bridge, is a must. It sits in the Baltic Sea and is classed as the Swedish Riviera, housing the summer residence of the Swedish royal family.
The quickest and easiest of all the Scandinavian countries to reach from the UK, Denmark offers a rural landscape with wonderful sandy beaches, breezy coastal walks, and a collection of large islands that are easily accessible via spectacular bridges.
Find scenic, undulating lowlands in Jutland, discover ancient sites connected to the Vikings and the Danes in Northern Jutland, and see lots of historic royal castles and palaces in Northwestern Zealand, including Kronborg Slot, the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Even if you don’t cross the Øresund Bridge to Sweden, have a look at its sheer size and scale; it’s a masterpiece of engineering.
Not actually a part of Scandinavia, but, collectively with Norway and Sweden it’s regarded as a Nordic country. The area of Lapland crosses the borders of the three countries.
With just five million people in a country significantly larger in area than the UK, it’s not difficult to find plenty of space to call your own. For lovers of the great outdoors, Finland is superb. There are 37 national parks, 188,000 lakes and almost as many islands. Enjoy the cultural sites in civilised Helsinki, and the southern towns of Turku and Kotka, take a boat out to the Pellinki archipelago around Porvoo in the Gulf of Finland, visit Father Christmas at Rovaniemi, on the Arctic Circle, and see the undulating Arctic tundra around Lake Inari.
What you need to know
Vehicle Insurance/Documents: It is necessary to have vehicle ownership papers with you. From January 1st 2021, it’s worthwhile to have an International Driving Permit (at the time of going to press, it’s not yet known whether this will become compulsory). As EU countries (Sweden Denmark, Finland) most insurance policies cover travel within Scandinavia including Norway (non-EU) but check with your insurance provider about a Green Card for travel beyond 1st January 2021.
Maps: If not using GPS systems, it is essential to obtain the largest scale maps you can find. Navigating in some parts of southern Finland, where road-signs are posted in both Finnish and Swedish, is tricky without.
Driving: Dipped headlights are compulsory 24 hours a day in all four countries. All vehicles must be equipped with a warning triangle. Caravan mirrors are compulsory. Fill-up on fuel whenever you can in the northern regions of Norway, Sweden and Finland; there can be many miles between petrol stations.
Language: English is widely spoken. As always, learning ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the appropriate language goes a long way.
Gas: Only propane is available in Scandinavia and Finland. You cannot use refillable gas bottles in Norway.
There are no direct ferry routes from the UK to Scandinavia, but there are lots of ferries from Denmark to Sweden and Norway. The quickest driving route beyond Denmark is via the Øresund Link between Copenhagen and Malmö in Sweden – a spectacular drive.
You should cross to France, Belgium (Hull-Zeebrugge) or Holland (Harwich-Hook of Holland) and drive through northern Germany to Denmark and beyond, or pick up a ferry to Scandinavia from German ports, including Travemunde, Kiel and Rostock direct to Denmark and Sweden.
Don’t want to drive all the way to Scandinavia?
You could fly-drive, hiring a motorhome through Motorhome Bookers (www.motorhomebookers.com) to enjoy once you’re there. Many campsites also have caravans, camping pods and mobile homes for rent. Check out the relevant camping website (see ‘Discover More’ to find your favoured accommodation.
Don’t like the idea of travelling alone?
You could join a motorhome tour, travelling in your own van. Crossings Motorhome Tours run guided tours throughout Europe, including a 25-day ‘Summer in Sweden’ tour in August 2022, while MandA Tours are operating ‘Discover Denmark’ and ‘Stunning Norway’ tours in May and June 2022