The Northern Europe is one of the areas preferred by the vast majority of travelers.
The Nordic countries make up the northernmost part of western Europe, extending into the Arctic. They include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.
These neighbours share a common heritage dating back at least to the Viking Age, with several unions in the past and close cooperation today. At almost 1.2 million square kilometres (463,000 square miles), the Nordic countries form one of the largest regions in Europe, but are home to only around 24 million people, accounting for a mere 4% of its population. The Nordic countries contain some of Europe’s greatest natural wonders, and boast an excellent standard of living.
Scandinavia is a geographic term including only Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The term Nordic countries also includes Finland and Iceland, although the terms often are used interchangeably. Greenland is geographically a part of North America, but is politically linked to the rest of the Nordic countries by being both an integral part of the Danish Kingdom and a member of the Nordic Council, a cooperative organization.
Strictly speaking, only Norway and Sweden are geographically Scandinavian, as Denmark is separated from the two by the entry to the Baltic Sea. “Fennoscandia” is a rarely used but technically accurate term for the Scandinavian mainland plus Finland, while the Jutland peninsula (the mainland portion of Denmark, but not its main centre of population) also includes part of German Schleswig Holstein. As a political and cultural term, “Nordic countries” also includes islands in the Atlantic such as Iceland, the Faroes and in most definitions Greenland, as there are long-standing political and linguistic ties. Estonia considers itself at least partially Nordic but is not always seen as such by others.
The Nordic countries share many cultural traits, including similar flags, and most of their languages are related. They have a shared history and are economically interconnected. Denmark, Finland and Sweden are EU members; Norway and Iceland have rejected EU membership but belong to the EFTA (free trade with EU) and the Schengen area (the Nordic passport union was formed already in the 1950s and gives further rights). Greenland left the European Union mostly over disputes concerning fisheries.
After the second world war the Nordic countries became high-income countries. Norway and Iceland in particular have profited from an abundance of natural resources. Sweden and Finland also have their share, but in the international marketplace they are mostly famous for strong brands like Ikea, Volvo, Saab, Ericsson and Nokia. Although Denmark has developed sophisticated businesses in a number of industries, it is above all the leading agricultural country in the North, especially famous for pork products. High minimum wages and taxes translate into high prices for visitors.
Elaborate welfare states are a common characteristic of the Nordic countries. Most things are highly organized, and visitors can expect everything to proceed according to plans, rules and timetables. The Nordic countries are the least corrupt in the world, together with Canada, New Zealand and Singapore, and enjoy a relatively low crime rate. In addition, the Nordic countries are the world’s most highly-rated in terms of gender equality, with the world’s highest proportions of women in senior leadership positions, as well as generous paternity and maternity leave and a strong culture of equal responsibility in child rearing. In part due to this strong tradition of gender equality, Nordic national teams often punch above their weight in female sports competitions, especially soccer and handball. Although the neoliberalist wave has also affected the politics here, the support for the welfare state among people is strong.