Sweden, Denmark and Norway probably aren’t the first countries that come to mind when planning a vacation. After all, Northern Europe is synonymous with snow and cold. Why would you want to go there when you can hop on a quick flight to warm Mexico? Or, if you want to go to Europe, why wouldn’t you instead hit the famous cities, like London and Paris? For the green traveler who truly wants to get away, these Nordic countries are like nowhere else. Pictures sustainable, clean and fun cities, miles of forests, and amazing natural phenomena. For the traveler, and especially the eco-minded one, well, these are must-see destinations.
1. Organic food? No problem
You won’t have a hard time finding organic food if you visit Sweden, Denmark or Norway. Scandinavians have had the taste for organic food for years. In 1987, Denmark was the first country to establish governmental rules for organic products—a full three years before the U.S. created the National Organic Program. Not just that but organic products have been on Danish supermarket shelves since the ’90s. Meaning, organic-minded consumers didn’t have to scour specialty stores to find an organic apple. Denmark isn’t the only Scandinavian country that’s organic obsessed. A recent study by the European Commission found that 40 percent of Swedes had purchased an eco-labeled item over the past month, compared with the European Union average of 17 percent.
2. Easy public transportation
Like most countries in Europe, Sweden, Denmark and Norway offer travelers—and locals—eco-friendly ways to get around. The buses, trains, subways, trams and, get this, ferry services, significantly reduce the pollution caused by cars and make it super simple to travel between cities, especially for backpackers. The public transportation is safe and almost always on time. On a recent trip to Scandinavia, I made my way from the east coast of Sweden to Denmark to the west coast of Norway using only public transportation. Easy and eco-friendly.
3. Bike-riding culture
Sweden, Denmark and Norway are filled with bike-friendly cities, especially Copenhagen, Denmark. More than one third of the population in Copenhagen commutes daily by bike. Copenhageners love their bikes, and it has nothing to do with income. It’s not uncommon for families with kids and even politicians to bike to work. The city accommodates these earth-friendly travelers with extensive bike paths throughout the city. Some bike lanes even have their own traffic signals. When traveling to Copenhagen, or any of the other major cities in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, it’s easy to rent a bike and pedal around town.
4. The right of public access
Imagine being able to roam, camp, hike, ski and sail wherever you want without the landowner’s permission. In Sweden, you can. It’s called the Right of Public Access. So long as you don’t go too near a house or harm the environment in some way, you’re free to enjoy the Swedish countryside. Denmark and Norway offer similar rights.
5. Safe tap water
Feel free to bring your favorite reusable water bottle with you on your trip to Sweden, Denmark or Norway. All of these countries have clean, safe tap water. Fill up wherever you find a faucet and skip the unnecessary waste of plastic water bottles.
6. Green cities
If you’re looking for green cities, be sure to visit Sweden’s capital. In 2010, the EU named Stockholm its first European Green Capital, an award for cities that show a consistent record of achieving high environmental standards. The city was especially recognized for its commitment to green travel.
7. Untouched Norway
For nature enthusiasts, Norway is a place not to miss. Full of natural wonders, like its fjords, narrow inlets between cliffs or steep slopes, and the Northern Lights, which can be seen from late autumn through early spring, it’s one of the last true frontiers. Mountains, glaciers and lakes cover 70 percent of the country’s land. And with the right of access, you’re free to roam it all.