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The Nordic Formula for Happiness

Thursday, 28th March 2024



Holidays are supposed to make you feel good. Be that the joy of discovery, the chance to push your personal boundaries trying something new or simply finding the time to relax and switch off from everyday life. When you travel with Discover the World we like to think all of these boxes are well and truly ticked and tailored so the balance suits you. It probably helps that the destinations we feature repeatedly score top of the World Happiness Report. With the latest version published in March, Finland tops the list for the seventh year in a row, with Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Norway close behind all in the top 10.

So, what is it about the Nordic destinations that makes for a happy life? Nature? Culture? Adventure? Coffee!? All play a part in countries where lifestyle, for the most part, seems to be harmoniously synced with the surroundings. A desire to embrace what you have rather than try to change it. That’s not to say that everything is perfect. People are people wherever you go, but in the Nordic countries they seem to strike a good life balance.

iceland woman relaxing in hot springs landmannalaugar astk

Whether it’s the melodious tunes of ABBA, the infectious thunderclap of Iceland’s football fans or the rejuvenating prospect of sauna culture, there is something enduring and appealing about Nordic lifestyle. There are even specific words to describe the state of loveliness we all hope to achieve on a regular basis. The Danish term, ‘hygge’ means a sense of wellness and contentment. In Norway, ‘kos’ roughly translates to cosiness and is achieved by spending time with friends, enjoying hot drinks and hearty food, particularly in the cold winter months. Swedes take a simple coffee break to a new level with ‘fika’, the concept of savouring taking time out for a drink and sweet treat with friends.

swedish fika cinnamon bun and coffee vs

This all makes a trip north the perfect antidote to our hectic daily lives. Open space and nature are abundantly accessible, and culture is well defined and woven into everyday life. A holiday in the Nordics means embracing the outdoors, marvelling at natural wonders from Iceland’s geothermal oddities to Norway’s epic fjords, Finland’s taiga forests to Sweden’s lakes and rolling hills. Adventure comes in bucket loads. In summer hiking, wildlife watching and water-sports feature heavily. While in winter snow fun takes over as snowmobiling, husky sledding and of course Nordic skiing take centre stage. Unique to Iceland, Superjeep safaris, geothermal bathing and riding pure bred Icelandic horses can be added to the list.

There is a seriously cool quality about the Nordics too, both stylistically and meteorologically. Modern, stylish design is showcased wherever you stay. And compared to the sweltering heat of summer in southern Europe, Iceland, Sweden, Norway and Finland offer a blissfully refreshing alternative. That doesn’t mean that summers can’t be warm. They can, just not to be counted on. You don’t go for the heat, but you can experience the wonderfully energising effect of the midnight sun. In this neck of the woods, the adage stands true – “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing”. We’re happy to provide a kit list to that end.

northern norway visiting north cape havila mariusbeckdahle

The Aurora Effect

If you lived in a place where the northern lights could realistically make an appearance any night between late August and early April, would you be happy? Judging by the popularity of our short winter breaks over the last two decades to destinations in the auroral oval, there are a lot of people who would be very happy. Of course, there are no guarantees with the northern lights but staying in prime locations such as those across Iceland and Lapland increases your chances considerably.

admiring aurora borealis display istk

We’ve been creating Nordic holidays for 40 years and know without a doubt how visiting the region makes you feel happy. In some instances, it could even be life changing. That is the effect a trip to Iceland had on our MD, Clive Stacey back in the 70s. His love affair began with an extended visit to the West Fjords where he worked on fishing boats out of Flateyri. Cutting a long story short, it led to him founding Discover the World (then Arctic Experience) in 1984. What might a visit to the Nordics do for you?!

The World Happiness Report is a partnership of Gallup, the Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and the WHR’s Editorial Board.

Feeling inspired?

Add a large dose of the Nordic happiness into your life. Browse our collection of Nordic holidays or let us tailor make something just for you.

Get in touch with our Travel Specialists 01737 214 250 or you can send an enquiry.