I will be travelling with a 16 year old, a 13 year old and a 9 year old. We are from Brisbane in Australia and we can only travel in late December and January. So we will be travelling from a very hot, humid climate to a freezing one!. It is my 40th birthday and I want to make it memorable. I want to see the Northern lights, the New Year celebrations in a country with snow. We would also love to see Northern hemisphere animals and do some cross country skiing. We have 3 weeks to do all of this.
Can anyone tell me if they have done this sort of trip with kids around my kids ages and if so, where are some of the must see places in Scandinavia in the winter? Places to avoid?
First of all I wonder if you understand just how cold it gets in Scandinavia at that time of year? And how much snow they get? I lived in Helsinki at that time of year and the WARMEST it got was -10. Up north it will be habitually -30+, I seem to recall it got down to -43 at one point. Then you have to factor in the wind chill....
Having said that its certainly not impossible to travel there, maybe just challenging! They employ an army of people to clear the streets and the trains should still operate. Snowchains are compulsory and theyre pretty well geared up in general. The obvious place to head for is Rovaniemi, northern Finland to go visit Santa Claus. But best research their version of Christmas, which may be a different date and different mythology to what your accustomed to! Santa has his own little tourist village just out of town, with an hourly bus connection. Its also pretty close to Reindeer country and the Sami people. If you head across to Sweden the other obvious attraction is the Ice Hotel near Kiruna. Never been there but Google is your friend, as ever. And go grab yourself a Rough Guide or Lonely Planet. Bear in mind also that the days will be very short and of course north of the Arctic Circle the sun never rises. So plenty chance to see the Aurora!
Also remember that Scandinavia in general is super expensive, even compared to Oz. Norway is just stupid. When I was there last year the cheapest "hostel" bed in Narvik was 94 Euros! And 14 for a beer. Booking.com is the way to go, presuming you dont have friends to crash with.
BTW I used to live at Arthur Street in the Valley! Nowadays back in Scotland. Best of luck with your travels!
Thanks for your comments, Coochycool.
I guess it does seem like madness to go to Scandinavia in the winter but we have lived through a canadian winter so I am aware of "cold". I think I would spend some time in places you suggested but more time down in the southern areas. So some suggestions about must see places there would be good if anyone else has some ides.
Glad you were able to spend some time in Queensland- especially Fortitude Valley!
I've been to more southern areas in winter, or more coastal, and they haven't been deep frozen.
Oslo is great. Bergen I've seen both snowy and clear in December and January. Copenhagen should be no problem. Tromso is often suggested for the northern lights, along with some places in Finland which I don't recall. I'd try to do the Norway in a Nutshell tour by train from Oslo to Bergen with the branch to Flam - very pretty in summer so I can only think the waterfalls would be amazing in winter.
I've also visited Iceland in winter; they're very geared up for it with heated roads in Reykjavik and the thermal pools are heavenly with snow around.
I'd second what Andyf suggests, the Oslo to Bergen rail trip is a must, providing you get the visibility. Terrific scenery and very popular with alpine skiers headed for the snowfields. The first time I attempted it, there was a full on blizzard arriving in Myrdal for the Flam connection. In June! So no point in getting off. The next day with much improved weather I took the stunning switchback road by bus from Voss down to the fjord. The ferry then takes you to Flam where you can remount to Myrdal. Stunning all the way! Bergen though a decent size is also a cute destination with many painted wooden houses, I believe its UNESCO listed.
In fact the trip all the way up the Norwegian coast is terrific too. You could do at least one leg overnight to save time/money, but of course miss the scenery that way. Another favourite of mine is the remote town of Roeros, notable as its almost entirely comprised of timber houses and log cabins.
All of the capital cities are very pleasant and will provide chances to escape the cold! For me the most interesting things are the old ships. Oslo offers the chance to see a genuine Viking longship at the Bogdoy museum, and in Stockholm you have the Vaasa, an enormous and incredibly well preserved galleon which was raised from the mud after centuries under water. Unique.
Turku in Finland is easy to deal with and offers preserved ships along the canal, one of which is a youth hostel. Theres also a sizeable castle to explore. From here you can take the ferry to Stockholm (they are more like cruise ships!). Ryanair and Wizzair are also your friends for providing super cheap flights all across Europe. If you fancy heading across to Tallinn in Estonia, its a little stunner of a town with Hanseatic architecture.
Finally Ribe in southern Denmark near the German border is another cracker of a town, the whole place is straight out of Hansel and Gretel. Not sure if your kids are maybe too old to appreciate Legoland which is at Billund in central Jutland. Enjoy!
Thank you AndyF and Coochycool for your comments. You are so much better than any guide book! I have printed out your replies and will research all of your suggestions and start making some definite plans. Feeling excited rather than daunted by my crazy freezing polar 40th birthday wish. Thanks
The far north is actually very possible and can be amazing. I spent a chunk of last winter in Kiruna - about 130km north of the Arctic circle and the very far north of Sweden.
You would need to fly, but there are regular flights from Stockholm and its a short flight.
You would be almost gaurunteed the northern lights.
There are lots of things todo such as ice fishing, dog sledding, reindeer sledding and others. It is also just a short drive to see the fjords in Norway or even drivable to Finland to the Father Christmas village in Finnish lapland
Kiruna is a forgettable mining town but if you do head there, consider taking the short rail link into Narvik, Norway. The scenery is fab as soon as you cross the border.
Not sure if we'll get up as far as Kiruna and Narvik - but my 13 year old son is so very keen to experience dog sledding. I guess there must be dog sledding in more southern places in Norway and Sweden?
Another question is clothing! When we lived in Canada we were able to get the best winter gear from pre loved shops for the kids. Does anyone know if Sweden, Denmark or Norway have these type of shops or is it better to buy winter gear from department stores. Where we live in Brisbane, Queensland Australia ( sub tropical and summer in December) just wouldn't have anything at all suitable.
The southern parts of the nordic countries might not have snow yet in December/January, but it changes year to year! If you wanna see northern lights and be sertain to find snow it's probably best to travel a bit further north. Have a look at the activities on this site -snip-
Hope you'll have a wonderful trip!
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