National Parks in Scandinavia
Scandinavian national parks cover spectacular scenery in some of Europe’s most sparsely populated countries. The interplay between fire and ice, the summer nights of sun and winter skies made magical by the Aurora Borealis make Scandinavia a year-round target for exquisite natural wonders.
One characteristic common to almost every Scandinavian country is the concept of “Everyman’s Rights” to the countryside. Simply put, if you behave responsibly and respectfully to all plants and animals, including bipeds, you have freeright of access to every last morsel of these countries, regardless of ownership. Take this tenet seriously and the doors are wide open to Scandinavian wilderness for everyone to enjoy.
Finland is bejeweled with national parks where 400-year old trees, fens, fells, lakes, rivers, islands, archipelagos and seacoast all invite quiet exploration. Lapland’s Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is a tundra-trekker’s paradise and a great spot for seeing the aurora borealis is on display. Tour the islets of Archipelago National Park by boat, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve shared with Sweden. To the east are enchanting forests and the beautiful gorge in Hiidenportti National Park. The national parks in west and south of Finland have perfect for day trips from the cities; how about ancient rock paintings and a bootlegger’s hideaway at Repovesi National Park?
Sweden protects and showcase dazzling landscapes in its 29 national parks: the stark reaches of Swedish Lapland, ancient forests, lakes and rivers glistening further south and white sandy beaches begging for long, dreamy walks. Swedish Laponia is part of Europe’s last wilderness, where national parks including UNESCO World Heritage sites feature mountains soaring above glacial lakes, rivers and marshes, and immense beech forests. Paddle among the 200 islands of Färnebofjärden National Park for a look at Sweden’s richest bird habitats. Near Stockholm, the forest fairyland of Tyresta National Park provides a green retreat from city touring.
Denmark’s national parks on the Jutland peninsula include Thy National Park, where freshwater lakes adjoin this entertaining seaside area. Climb lighthouses, watch fishermen at work, visit the aquarium, or cycle along the dunes and marshes. Mols Bjerge National Park, in Denmark’s hilliest region, offers up gentle bathing beaches perfect for children, Bronze Age ruins, and salt marshes harboring a wealth of bird and insect life. Coming soon are Skjern Å National Park, another avian haven and perfect for canoeing; Waddensee National Park, to make visiting the coastal marshland accessible and safe, and Kongernes Nordsjælland National Park, near Copenhagen in a lovely setting graced by Denmark’s two largest lakes.
Go north, and then north some more in Norway to Svalbard and see what it’s like where the polar bears outnumber the bi-peds (that would be you). Jostedalsbreen and Jotunheimen are the national parks where you can gasp at Norway’s majestic fjords. Hardangervidda National Park is a high mountain plateau beloved by mountain cyclists; Forollhogna a protected habitat for a unique herd of reindeer; Jostedalsbreen boasts the biggest glacier in Europe on dry land; experienced hikers, try Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella and Dovre National Parks for spectacularly beautiful and rugged treks. You’ll find diverse and always enthralling sites in the 40 national parks of Norway.
Icy temperatures and rampant geothermal activity continue to give Iceland its extraordinary natural character, protected in three national parks. Vatnajökull National Park covers over 10% of Iceland, from colorful northern peaks to gentler southern slopes. Snæfellsjökull National Park is filled with craters, caves, lava fields, and most of the fern varieties unique to Iceland. Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contains the Althing, Iceland’s ancient parliament, and the most unusual fish of Lake Þingvallavatn. Be sure to read up on safety precautions and environmentally friendly ways to visit and before you head into the remote reaches of this exquisite, rugged island.