No region is more interchangeable from adjective to noun than “Scandinavia.” Say the word and many postcard-familiar images are evoked: fir forests, dramatic fjords, urbane capitals and the cosmic Northern Lights. Loosely encompassing Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland, this contiguous region is, of course, all those things and much more besides. Summer offers relaxed days bicycling and lake swims, while winter brings adventures as romantic or extreme as they come. A region synonymous with both effortlessly chic design and experimental dining—two global forces whose influence cannot be overstated—a visit here is to see their wellspring and perhaps get a glimpse into the near future.

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Example Itinerary 1

The Faroe Islands

A volcanic archipelago rising out from the North Atlantic Sea between Iceland and Scotland, the Faroe Islands were first settled by Vikings in the 9th century. Their geographic isolation incubated an enduring Faroese culture and, to this day, the people speak a language descended from old Norse and recount their own centuries’-old sagas.

Begin in Europe’s smallest capital, Tórshavn—from the Viking “Thor’s Haven”— walking its narrow cobbled streets and sampling Faroese fare like fresh sea urchin, cured lamb and garnatálg sausage.

Fly by helicopter to the island of Mykines and look down upon the reality-defying landscape, including gigantic fjords that give way to sparse green moors. Stay in a traditional grass-roofed cottage, sail on a wooden schooner to nearby grottos, and hike to the edge of Lake Sørvágsvatn, where a waterfall plunges from a rocky cliff into the ocean below.

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Example Itinerary 2

Lapland and the Northern Lights

Embark on a cross-country expedition through the silent forests of Finnish Lapland in search of one of nature’s great displays, the Northern Lights. Drive your own team of huskies over windswept fells, snowshoe through Arctic woodlands, learn the art of reindeer herding at an indigenous Sámi camp and share lunch in a traditional goahti hut.

Traveling between September and March will maximize your chance of seeing the Northern Lights when, on a clear night with the right conditions, you can witness the pulsating green and scarlet glow of the aurora borealis dance across the sky.

Complete your travels southwards, discovering the mix of neo-classical, Russian and contemporary architecture in Helsinki, and the food and design scenes of Stockholm. Here, Ett Hem will be your base, a hotel designed by Ilse Crawford that blends Swedish aesthetics with homely comfort.

Oh and also...

Become an apprentice to a leading chef during a cooking lesson and dine with noted gastronomes at the holy grails of old and new Nordic cuisine.

Set sail for one of Europe’s last true wildernesses, the Svalbard islands, to see the polar bears and glaciers of the Norwegian Arctic.

Swing open the doors of Danish design staying at The Apartment, Tina Seidenfaden’s celebrated emporium of mid century art, furniture and lighting fixtures.