Travel Tip

Scandinavia's Holistic Approach: A Sustainable Paradise for Eco-Tourists

Look anywhere in Scandinavia and you will find sustainability embedded in every aspect of the lifestyle and tourism industry. Everything from hotels to food to the natural environment’s preservation is built around sustainability.- BY PAMELA GRANT

Northern Europe is home to Scandinavia, which consists of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. These three countries have breathtaking natural environments and beautiful cities - like Copenhagen and Oslo - but are also global sustainability leaders. Eco-travelers are naturally attracted to Scandinavia, and traveling to the three countries is common during a single trip. There are sparkling fjords, waterfalls, rivers meandering through cities, lush fields, magical snowfalls, long summer days, and a fascinating history in which Vikings ruled. The spectacular natural environment and cities are enhanced by a sustainability focus that turns Scandinavia into an eco-tourist’s haven. This is where “green” is truly appreciated and elevated.

Sustainability on Full Display

The principles of ecotourism in Scandinavia include minimizing environmental impact, providing positive green experiences for visitors, and building cultural and environmental respect, to name a few. Their principles are on full display due to the focus of the Scandinavian countries on caring for and protecting nature. The raised consciousness of the residents is seen in renewable energy sources, ecological food options, green transportation systems and the respected natural environment. This makes it so that the real issue is where to go and what to see in the region.

In Norway, for example, you can visit Tromsø, the gateway to the Northern Lights and the Arctic. The city is connected to the mainland by an arched bridge. It is a designated “Sustainable Destination” because the local cultural heritage and economy are environmentally focused. Between September and March, the Northern Lights are at their most brilliant, and numerous winter festivals celebrate the event and the snowfalls. The town itself is quaint, with wooden houses built in the 1800s. Ride the cable car to the top of Mount Storsteinen and prepare to be awed by the scenery. Depending on the time of year, you can ride reindeer, try dog sledding and snowmobiling, or go on a whale safari. This is the land of the Midnight Sun, so outdoor activities are enjoyed by all.

Sweden also offers the Midnight Sun and Northern Lights. However, you may want to visit The Royal Palace if you are on a cultural trip. The palace has three museums filled with treasures and antiquities. If you want an outdoor adventure, hike the Kungsleden Trail inside the Arctic Circle. It is 275 miles long but has been broken into sections. The stretch between Abisko and Nikkaluokta is 105 km long and takes approximately 10-12 days. You will go through the Abisko National Park, where some of Sweden’s highest mountains are found. Camping cabins along the trail are spaced about 10-20 km and are equipped with basics like bedding and compact kitchens.

In Denmark, you will want to visit the capital city of Copenhagen. In the port city of Elsinore, only 30 minutes away, is the 15th-century Kronborg Castle. This is the magnificent Renaissance castle of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has four wings surrounding a courtyard and a Great Hall once used for castle banquets. Speaking of castles, you can stay at a castle hotel like the 18th-century Kokkedal Castle Hotel.

Touring the Sustainable Way

This sample of the variety of things to see and do in Scandinavia does not do these countries justice. If you want to enjoy Norway's beauty, ride on the Bergen Railway. The train journey is described as one of Europe’s most beautiful. The eco-friendly, electrified train takes you from Oslo to Bergen via a scenic mountain path crossing the Hardangervidda mountain plateau at 1300 m above sea level. You go through the Hallingal Valley and will see the Hardangerjokulen glacier at Rinse, the Vosso River, and the Sorfjord. The train stops at ski resorts and various villages, and you can stay in a hotel (because what’s the hurry?!) for a night or two before riding the train back. Trains are popular in Scandinavia. You can ride an eco-friendly train from Oslo to Copenhagen or Stockholm during your trip. Norway, Denmark, and Sweden are considered global leaders in public transportation with a reduced carbon footprint. There are electric buses, hybrid ferries, electric taxis, and bicycles. There are extensive networks of bike lanes and bike-sharing programs like Bycyklen in Copenhagen and Citybikes in Stockholm that tourists are welcome to utilize for touring the cities.

Treehouse Hotel to Eco-Friendly Meals

As expected, there are numerous “green” hotels in Scandinavia, and some are quite unique. The Treehotel Birds Nest consists of seven treehouses in the forest of the Lule River Valley in Lapland, Northern Sweden. This has to be one of the most unusual eco-hotels on earth, with each treehouse having a unique configuration and design. Activities include meeting a moose, touring the village Harads and going on a snowmobile safari, just three unique opportunities. The green features include water-efficient sinks, using only eco-friendly products for cleaning, and using 100% green electricity from hydropower, which powers everything, including odorless combustion toilets.

It is not difficult to find a variety of unusual sustainable hotels in Scandinavia. The Hotel Green Solution House is located on Bornholm Island in Denmark among minimalist surroundings, or you could stay at the Lyngen Lodge in Norway. It overlooks a Norwegian Fjord in the Lyngen Alps. All the chain hotels are eco-friendly, too, so if you want to stay in the middle of the city, you are still an eco-traveler.

Even dining in Scandinavia is an act of sustainability. The restaurants strive to use local products that are sustainably produced or sourced. Sustainable dining is practiced everywhere because it supports local economies, responsible farming and fishing, local seasonal food, and a low carbon footprint. Restaurants strive to reduce waste, use organic ingredients, and support people with disabilities. For example, the Haervaerk restaurant is a mile from the Hertha Living Community near Galten, Denmark, where adults with learning disabilities live in a community and work on a biodynamic farm.

Pervasive Sustainability

Scandinavia has taken eco-travel to a new level because sustainability pervades everything – preservation of the natural environment, reduction of greenhouse emissions, electrified transportation, a diet rich in organic produce, infrastructures that support environmental sustainability in hotels and businesses, eco-friendly travel industry, and so on. The approach to sustainability is not piecemeal. It is immersive. If you want to enjoy gorgeous scenery, friendly people and a fascinating culture while adhering to sustainable travel principles, there is simply no better destination than Scandinavia.

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