Revel in epic natural landscapes—and help protect and preserve them too—in this tour through two Nordic countries.
Take a trip through Iceland and Finland, two countries with a track record of exploring the potential of wild, untamed nature and offering eco-friendly options for travelers. You’ll enjoy natural wonders in both countries, from Iceland’s cascading waterfalls and ancient volcanoes to Finland’s wide plateaus, lakes, and local Sámi culture. There may be opportunities to see the northern lights in both countries, depending on the time of year, and all along the route, the chance to immerse yourself in the extraordinary power of nature. For more help navigating the Nordic regions, turn to 50 Degrees North.
Day 1 Arrive in Iceland and Explore the Reykjanes Peninsula
Arrive at Keflavik Airport, on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, a UNESCO Global Geopark that’s known for geothermal energy and a lunar-like landscape of lava fields and black sandy beaches. Slip into a swimsuit and the pale blue water of the Blue Lagoon, a natural phenomenon in the heart of a moss-covered volcanic landscape. The water, enriched with minerals and silica, is great for your skin.
After your relaxing swim and spa session, drive towards Hveragerði, a hot spring town just beyond Reykjavik, to overnight at the charming boutique Greenhouse Hotel. Nearby you’ll find a craft brewery, Ölverk, which uses geothermal energy in the brewing process. And in the evenings, on a clear night between September to April, you may be able to see the Northern Lights, particularly since you’re staying outside of the main city in a less-populated area.
Pro tips: An easy way to travel better in Iceland is to pack a reusable water bottle. Everywhere you go, Icelandic water is safe to drink. Electric cars are also available for rental, with charging points across the island.
Day 2 Hike Hveragerði
Today you could hike up to Reykjadalur Thermal River here, a hot river also heated by geothermal energy, after breakfast. Elsewhere in Hveragerði, you can walk around the Geothermal Park or fly over the Reykjadalur Valley on the Megazipline, which runs across the Svartagljúfur gorge and the hot spring valley.
Take a drive to Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where Iceland’s parliament convened until 1798. The park contains hiking trails including a path through the rift valley, along with an interesting visitor center. Truly adventurous types should book a trip to the only place in the world where you can snorkel between the two tectonic plates of continents in the crystal-clear waters of Silfra Fissure.
Continue on to the historic and nature-filled area of West Iceland. A potential overnight stay is at either Fosshótel Reykholt in Reykholt—one of Iceland’s most notable sites, which the medieval writer Snorri Sturlason called home—or at Hotel Húsafell, an eco-conscious hotel decorated with local art.
In the area you’ll find Europe’s most powerful hot spring Deildartunguhver and, next to it, Krauma, a collection of six geothermal baths that use Deildartunguhver’s naturally hot water. Unwind in the spa and saunas and enjoy a dish of local lamb or cod in the restaurant afterward.
Pay a visit to the Reykholt cultural and medieval center to learn about Iceland’s medieval tales. A short drive away, you’ll also find the Hraunfossar waterfalls, which flow out of a lava field.
The serene natural spa experience at Húsafell Canyon Baths, where two geothermal pools in a canyon offer views of glaciers and mountains, is not to be missed. The best way to reach them is to hike on a private tour.
Take your pick from “only in Iceland” experiences as you explore the nature and the surrounding area of Húsafell. Other attractions in this beautiful area include a man-made ice tunnel in Langjökull glacier, and a visit to Iceland’s largest lava cave, Víðgelmir cave.
Day 3 Discover Reykjavik
As you head towards the capital city, Reykjavik, you can choose to drive around the steep and dramatic Hvalfjördur fjord, a beautiful fjord with winding roads and pristine hiking paths. On the way, a stop at the Hvammsvík Hot Springs, eight natural hot springs that flow into the North Atlantic Ocean with its tides cooling some of the geothermal pools, is a must-do experience. Try out Hvammsvík’s seafood soup to warm you up after a refreshing final dip in the cold fjord.
Arriving in Reykjavik, check into Eyja Guldsmeden. One of the city’s most sustainable hotels among many, it has rental bikes, an organic restaurant, and chic Nordic design, all located close to the city’s food hall at Hlemmur.
Spend the rest of your day exploring, from whale watching and guided walking tours to fascinating museums. The multisensory Chromosapiens exhibit at Höfudstoðin is well worth the detour. Three caves made of synthetic hair mix with soundscapes in a stimulating take that pushes the boundaries of art.
Spend your evening at the city’s restaurants and nightlife venues. Restaurant Dill’s menu reflects the Icelandic landscape, featuring fresh local and sustainable ingredients, some of them foraged. If you’re lucky enough to be in Reykjavik on a Friday or Saturday, enjoy a runtur, a bar crawl of the city’s streets. Kaffibarinn and Prikið are classic stops; you can also drink draft beers and cocktails at Veður and wine at Vínstukan Tíu sopar.
Day 4 Iceland to Finland
Today you’ll depart for Finland. If you have time this morning, try the Reykjavík Food Walk and sample everything from ice cream to lamb; the Icelandic Lava Show, where you can see the full force of the country’s most recent volcanoes in action; or a trip to the clifftop Sky Lagoon’s geothermally-heated pools that look out over the sea.
You could also walk or cycle to Nautholsvik Beach and see how geothermal energy has been harnessed to create hot tubs on the sand. Or visit Perlan, an interactive nature museum on top of the city’s hot water storage tanks. Another option is family-run perfumery and art collective Fischersund for a private scented tour inspired by the countryside.
When you do board your flight to Helsinki, it will take around 3.5 hours before landing and heading to the Green Key-rated Hotel St George, considered among the most sustainable hotels here. It also happens to be stylish, LEED-certified, and centrally located. Dine a short walk away at Nolla, where everything right down to the staff uniforms has been considered through a responsible lens. You have the alternative option of Natura, which was awarded a Michelin Green Star for its use of local ingredients.
Day 5 Helsinki
Start your day at Hotel St George with a breakfast of homemade yogurt, cold cuts, and freshly baked bread for energy to explore Helsinki’s many cultural attractions on foot. At the National Museum of Finland you can learn about Finnish history and culture; the UNESCO World Heritage site, Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, is on an island just outside the city; the white marble Helsinki Cathedral is a sight to behold; and Market Square offers many food stalls to peruse. As you wander, you’ll find little pockets of green spaces, a view of the sea, and sometimes both throughout the city.
In the afternoon take a dip in the Allas Sea Pool, a floating pool complex with saunas in the harbor that locals use like a playground. Or visit Löyly, a sauna complex and restaurant by the sea where you can swim and eat sustainably caught local fish and organic food on the deck. It’s a great place for lunch, people-watching, and design fans alike.
To extend your stay, consider attractions that meet Visit Helsinki’s sustainability criteria, including the Helsinki Art Museum, art museum Amos Rex, Alvar Aalto-designed Finlandia Hall, and city library Oodi.
Next, take the 1.5-hour flight from Helsinki to Ivalo in Finnish Lapland and pick up your rental car to delve into Finnish nature in the far north of Europe. Head to Javri Lodge and walk in the surrounding area, go for a scenic drive, or simply relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the Finnish wilderness right on your doorstep. Dine at the lodge’s gourmet restaurant and look up for a chance to see the Northern Lights at night.
After breakfast, visit Sajos, the Sámi Cultural Center and the seat of the Sámi Parliament of Finland in Inari, about an hour’s drive away through bucolic scenery. Make sure to learn about Sámi culture and how to travel responsibly here with the Responsible Visitor’s Guide to Sami Homeland before you go.
Delve deeper into Sámi culture, local wildlife, and nature through Siida, the Sámi Museum and Nature Center, also in Inari. Eat at Restaurant Sarrit, in the same building, where the buffet includes local produce.
Follow lunch with gorgeous Inari Lake landscapes viewed on a cruise and visit Ukko Island for ancient Sámi sacrificial sites and more panoramas. Then take a drive around the lake to the Pielpajärvi Wilderness Church, a historic wooden church surrounded by nature. The building is one of the oldest in northern Lapland and the historic center of old Inari.
Taste the famous eight seasons of the Sámi at the award-winning Restaurant Aanaar, which features fish from Lake Inari and the bounty of the forest.
Day 7 Nature Activities
Spend today among the nature of the Inari area. The many ways to see scenic views include hiking around Lake Inari, fishing for brown trout in nearby lakes and rivers, canoeing or kayaking with a local biologist, and tours of local reindeer farms. Plus, Finland’s second-largest national park, Urho Kekkonen, is very close by.
In season, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing are both available via your lodge, along with reindeer safaris and dog sledding. Dine at the hotel and relax overnight before you fly home via Helsinki the next day.