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Inspiration - Wilderness Holidays (Sweden, Finland & Norway)

Canoeing, dog sledding and ski touring adventures in some of the most remote Nordic regions

With vast forest and mountain landscapes, thousands of lakes and a low population density, combined with the unique freedoms and privileges of their Rights of Public Access, the Nordic countries can offer a level of remoteness for outdoor adventures hard to find elsewhere in many other European destinations.

From the complete wilderness of Svalbard to the remote mountains and lowland forests of Swedish and Finnish Lapland, "Europe's Last Wilderness" is a term you'll often hear applied.

Dog sledding in Svalbard

Svalbard, 500 miles north of mainland Norway, is a unique and beautiful region of untouched wilderness ideal for a challenging dogsled tour. Photo: Keith Slater.

What is a wilderness holiday?

"Wilderness" is a term that is used loosely and sometimes confusingly. The Cambridge dictionary defines "wilderness" as "an area of land that has not been farmed or had towns and roads built on it, especially because it is difficult to live in as a result of its extremely cold or hot weather or bad earth".

However, this is by no means necessarily what travellers looking for a wilderness holiday will have in mind. Rather, they may be looking for an adventurous experience which:

  • Takes place in a remote landscape with little or no infrastructure such as roads or buildings.
  • Takes place in an area with few other visitors.
  • Has a higher level of physical challenge compared to other tour options.
  • Offers activity possibilities with a high degree of tranquility and an "away from it all" feeling.

In the same way that those of us in the UK may describe a village a couple of miles outside a town as "remote", what may be considered a "wilderness holiday" is also very much a relative and subjective term. It will mean different things to different travellers, depending on factors such as expectations, level of previous outdoor experience and physical fitness.

In some cases, guests may consider many of our outdoor experiences even in rural areas to be remote and challenging, especially if used to living in more densely populated areas or to a high standard of comfort, while others may return from even the wildest and most demanding tours feeling that they could easily progress to something even wilder or harder!

Canoeing in Rogen

Rogen in north-west Sweden offers great possibilities to combine wilderness canoeing with day hikes. Photo: John Baston.

Things to bear in mind:

  • When travelling in a wilderness area, you may indeed see few other persons during your tour, but "wilderness" refers to lack of infrastructure, not lack of visitors. Wilderness areas may be popular destinations precisely because of their beauty or remoteness. It is self-evident that none of the facilities required to provide activities, such as canoe hire or dogsled kennels, could exist if there were no visitors to use them. That said, due to the often more challenging nature of the activities in these areas, combined with the additional time and effort which may be required to reach them, it is certainly possible to spend a week on a dogsled tour, skiing expedition or canoe trip and see few if any other persons.
  • With a few exceptions, travel to the most remote areas may require more time and effort than reaching more rural landscapes - wilderness will not normally be found next to the airport.
  • Finally, consider whether a "wilderness holiday" is really what you are seeking. Be wary of aspirational social media posts or television documentaries which may suggest that a wilderness trip is suitable for everyone - it is more important that you choose a tour which you will you enjoy and is suited to your level of fitness, ability and previous outdoor experience. We offer a wide range of activity options which, while we may not describe them as "wilderness" experiences, also take place in beautiful, tranquil landscapes and offer plenty of opportunity to feel far removed from the hustle and bustle of the modern world! Please contact us with any questions and we'll be very happy to assist you in making your choice.

Where are the wilderness areas in Sweden, Norway and Finland?

Since the term is so subjective, there is no clear answer to this question - for example, there may be huge areas which receive very few visitors and so feel extremely wild, but may not necessarily be protected areas or landscapes which have not been significantly shaped by human activity (such as planted rather than ancient forest).

In general, the wildest areas of the Nordic countries will of course be found furthest from major population centres. These include:

  • In Sweden: Swedish Lapland in the far north of Sweden (a vast area in which is located many of our dog sledding, ski touring and hiking experiences); Rogen Nature Reserve in the north-west of Sweden (the location of some of our most challenging canoe tours).
  • In Finland: Finland has 12 regions specifically designated as "wilderness areas", all located in the far north of the country. One of these, Käsivarsi Wilderness Area, is the location of the Halti itinerary for our Backcountry Skiing and Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland. But many other parts of Finland, including the Linnansaari and Kolovesi National Parks and Kainuu in the east of the country, the location of our Tar Route canoe tour, also feel very remote.
  • In Norway: With its dramatic mountains making much of the Norwegian landscape inaccessible for human habitation, many parts of Norway feel very wild. Away from the mountain areas, the northern part of the mainland, Finnmark (setting for our Ski Touring Across The Finnmark Plateau tour, for example) and, 500 miles north of the Norwegian mainland, Svalbard, where Midnight Sun Dog Sledding in Svalbard is located, are some of the wildest regions.

Further Reading

Did You Know...?

  • Norway has an average population density of just 14.5 persons per sq.km. In Finland, the density is 17 persons/sq.km and in Sweden 22 persons/sq.km. By contrast, in the UK it's 395 and in Holland 488!

Wilderness Adventures in Summer

Wilderness Adventures in Winter

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