Northern Europe is a European region North of the Baltic Sea plus Denmark and the Nordic Islands in the North Atlantic.
Northern Europe comprises
The terms Nordic countries and Scandinavia refer to different regions in Northern Europe. The Nordic countries are Sweden, Norway and Denmark, Finland, Iceland and sometimes the Faroe Islands and Greenland, whereas Scandinavia, in geographic, linguistic, anthropological, political and historical terms, refers to Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Within the Nordic countries themselves, "Northern Europe" actually refers to a much wider region. Whereas the Nordic countries ("Norden") has a precise meaning.
The name Scandinavia comes from the Skandage body of water that lies sandwiched between Norway, Sweden, and the Jutland peninsula of Denmark. Norway and Sweden together forms the Scandinavian Peninsula separated from continental Europa by narrow straits between Denmark and Southern Sweden as well as the wider Skagerak between Norway and mainland Denmark. Denmark is the only Nordic country in continental Europe.
Denmark borders with Germany, while Finland, Norway, Latvia and Estonia borders with Russia, otherwise the Nordic countries are separated from its neighbors by the Baltic, the North Sea or the Atlantic itself. An abundance of land, water and wilderness is a common characteristic of the Nordic countries (except Denmark where most of the country is farmland or settlements). For example, Sweden is one of the largest countries in Europe but only has some 9 million inhabitants. The landscapes and nature does however vary across the Nordic countries. Denmark is a flat lowland like the Netherlands and Northern Germany. Iceland is both vulcanic and arctic. Norway and Sweden share the Scandinavian peninsula which is highest on the Atlantic coast and gradually becomes lower until Sweden meets the Baltic sea. The Scandinavian mountains running from Southern Norway and passed Tromsø in Northern Norway are steep and rugged on the Atlantic side, more gentle on the Eastern side. Finland is relatively flat and characterized by lakes scattered all over the entire country. Large parts of Sweden, Finland, Norway and some parts of Estonia and Latvia are covered by deep pine and spruce tree forests, with largest parts being essentially the western branch of great taiga.
The culture of Scandinavian and Northern countries in general are relatively similar due to sharing fairly similar history and mixing with each other to a degree; some of the languages between are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Where the written word is concerned, Danish and Norwegian are approximately 63% identical, differing roughly to the same extent as Scottish & Irish Gaelic. With regard to conversational similarity, the two are still quite close but share a number of notable differences. A Germanic ear untrained in any Scandinavian language can sometimes distinguish with the two. The Scandinavian languages are North Germanic, and strongly influenced by Low Saxon (Ancient German).
Iceland was a Norwegian and later Danish colony until 1944. Icelandic was originally of the same root as the other four languages, seeing as it derived from Old Norse, but the island's seclusion resulted in its isolation and, as a result, it hasn't changed profoundly from the 13th century. The spoken language and its written counterpart are largely unintelligible to other Scandinavians, but not to the Faroese, who speak a variant of this language that is also unintelligible to Scandinavians with its own lexical base.
Finnish, the native language of Finland, belongs to the Finno-Ugric family and is entirely unrelated to the Scandinavian languages. However, the state and some coastal municipalities are officially bilingual due to a 5.5% Swedish-speaking minority. The Sami language also belongs to the Finno-Ugric family and is an official language in a few municipalities in the very North.
Estonian language is a Finno-Ugric language and is closely related to Finnish.
Livonians, the indigenous Finno-Ugric people of Latvia are speaking the language of Finno-Ugric family, phonetically extremely close to Finnish, though mutually unintelligible. Latvian and Lithuanian are both the only two living Baltic languages of the Indo-European family.
Due to the high latitude, summer nights are very short and in the northern most part there is even midnight sun in the summer. While central parts of Scandinavia (the Oslo-Stockholm-Copenhagen triangle) are more densely populated, vast areas in the north or in the mountains are hardly populated at all. Sweden is in fact one of Europe's largest countries in terms of area, and Norway is the size of Germany, despite its modest population of some 4.5 million. Because of this, space, light and nature are key characteristics of Northern Europe (except Denmark).
Despite the high latitude central parts, the Nordic countries have a mild climate, at least much warmer than would be expected at this latitude. Northern parts have subarctic climate, while southern parts and coastal areas enjoy a temperate climate. Denmark and coastal areas of Southern Norway, Iceland and Western Sweden experience only occasional frost and snow during winter. Summers in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland and the Baltic countries are pleasantly warm with day temperatures of 15 to 30 degrees C. In the mountains and along western coasts, the weather is generally more unstable. Finland has the most stable sunny weather in summer. In general, the further inland, the bigger the difference between summer and winter. The Baltic side is generally colder in winter than the North Sea side. Western Norway and the Atlantic Islands have the smallest difference between summer and winter.
The Nordic countries all enjoy a relatively strong economy. Norway and Iceland has in particular profited from an abundance of natural resources. Sweden and Finland also have their share of natural resources but are in the international marketplace mostly famous for strong brands like Volvo, Saab, Ericsson (Sony Ericsson) and Nokia. Alhough Denmark has developed sophisticated business in a number of industries, it is above all the leading agricultural country in Northern Europe. Strong economies and relatively small social differences translates into high prices for visitors.
Elaborate welfare states are, despite important differences, also a common characteristic of the Nordic countries. In the Nordic countries, most things are generally highly organized and tourists should expect everything to proceed according to plans, rules and timetables. According to Transparency International, the Nordic countries are the least corrupt in the world (matched only by a handful of countries including Canada, New Zealand and Singapore).
By plane Due to the large distances and the water surrounding most of the nordic area, airplane is often the most effective way of getting to the Nordic countries. All the main cities have international airports (Malmö has Copenhagen airport Kastrup across the bridge), even smaller cities like Haugesund and Ålesund serve international flights. SAS, the dominant airline in Scandinavia, uses Copenhagen airport (Kastrup) as its hub. Finnair, the finnish flag carrier, operates from Helsinki and has the shortest routes to Asia. Several low-cost carriers, such as Ryanair and Norwegian Air Shuttle ("Norwegian") have established many direct routes to and from popular destinations in Europe. Due to its location, Iceland has many direct routes from USA and Canada.
By train Denmark is well-connected to the German rail network. The direct connection to Copenhagen is, however, by the Puttgarden-Rødby ferry. Sweden is connected to Danish railways via the Øresund bridge between Copenhagen and Malmö. The only international railway lines to Norway are from Sweden to Oslo from Stockholm and Gothenburg, to Trondheim from Östersund, and to Narvik from Kiruna and Luleå (the iron ore line).
By ferry Norway is served by ferries from Denmark, Great Britain, and Germany. To Sweden, there are ferries from Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. Iceland is connected to Denmark, Norway and Faroe Islands by ferry. To Finland there are ferries from Estonia.
By car Denmark is directly connected to the continental road network. From Denmark it is possible to cross to Sweden over the Öresund bridge. There are also many ferry connections from Denmark, most of them takes cars. The only overland alternative to the Öresund bridge is to enter via Russia to Finland or Norway.
Major coastal cities of the Baltic Sea are connected with ferry lines; e.g. Turku-Stockholm and Helsinki-Tallinn. Many of the ferries are large and quite elaborate. Additionally, traveling among the straits in Denmark is also workable by way of ferry.
See also: Rail travel in Europe
Trains are an adequate way of traveling around Northern Europe. International connections between Denmark, southern Sweden and southern Norway are good, but up north services are sparse and there's a short gap in the network between northern Sweden and Finland, although most railpasses allow free use of the connecting bus service. Iceland has no trains at all.
The ScanRail pass was retired in 2007, but visitors not resident in Europe can opt for the very similar Eurail Scandinavia Pass , which offers 4 to 10 days of travel in a 2-month period for €232-361. For residents of Europe, the all-Europe or single-country Interrail passes are also an option.
Go to another area of Europe! Anywhere else will be profoundly different from Scandinavia