Scandinavia has been on our bucket list of places to see for a long time, but for one reason or another always seemed to be pushed back. At last we have turned those plans into reality and head off to explore this most northern part of Europe. As our plans would find us in the far north, it seemed a good idea to head south through Finland, with a quick visit to Russia (St Petersburg to be precise), then travelling through the Baltic countries and Poland to complete a circuit of the Baltic Sea regions.

Cycling the Gota Canal

While part of this journey could come under the heading of "classic tourism", i.e. visiting cities such as Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallinn and Riga, for the most part we are heading into the countryside and wilder regions.

On our last two overseas trips, we discovered the pleasures of cycle touring and the flat country of Denmark and southern Sweden seem ideal for this. Hence, we start the more adventurous parts of our trip with cycle tours around the Danish island of Zealand and along the Gota Canal in Sweden.

The canals of St Petersburg

The Norwegian fiords

Norway, by contrast is much more mountainous and made for hiking. We have planned to do some hut to hut hiking in the Flåm region and through the mountains of Jotunheimen. Joining these two by ferry trips should give us a good appreciation of the fiords of the deeply indented Norwegian coast-line.

Hiking in the Jotunheimen Mountains

Aurlandsdalen Hike

Then it is on to the Lofoten Islands, beyond the Arctic Circle, a place of myth and mystery where mountains seem to rise directly from the sea. Here we will base ourselves in sea-side cabins and do a bit of day-walking to discover the extreme landscape of the islands. Even further north, we plan a 5-day circuit walk that starts in Finland and crosses into Norway and Sweden, before returning to the Finnish village from whence it started. Hopefully, by now the forests will start taking on their golden autumn colours and the aurora borealis might even make an appearance - our time there will be on the cusp of its visibility.

The brooding beauty of the Lofoten Islands

The far north - trekking in Lapland

Kayaking the rivers of Mazuria

After that it will be time to turn south again, to the forests and lakes of north-eastern Finland for a few more days of cabin-based day-walking, before a touristic sweep through Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that brings us to eastern Poland and the beauty of the Mazurian Lakes.

By this time, we will probably need some more exercise, so have planned a couple of days canoeing the Krutynia River as it flows beneath the forest and from lake to lake.

In the forests of eastern Finland

The circuit almost completed, nostalgia for home will have set in again and it will be time to head to Berlin and the flight home. So, if you too like the lands of Vikings, Lapps and Teutonic Knights, feel free to join us on our grand tour of the Nordic countries.