Scandinavia is a region in northern Europe. It refers to the countries of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. In everyday usage, the term may also include the countries Finland and Iceland, who are culturally and historically connected with the other Scandinavian countries. If you are looking for travel arrangements, use our search functionality on the right.
The meaning of the word Scandinavia is much debated. Some think it is derived from a Germanic root meaning the “dangerous island” and originally refer to the peninsula of Skanör, where long reefs pose a danger to seafarers. The name for the southernmost province of Sweden, Skåne, is also believed to be of the same origin.
Scandinavia is infamous for its cold climate. Because of the Gulf Stream, however, the summers can be quite warm. Also, due to Scandinavia’s northern location, the summer days are very long. North of the Arctic Circle, the sun can even stay up all day long. But it is true that the winters are very dark and cold, and this dualism is believed to have an effect on the Scandinavian psychology.
The geography is quite varied. Norway is known for its mountains and fjords, and Finland for its many lakes. In contrast, Denmark is a very flat country with a fairly mild climate. Sweden is mostly forest, but it is a long country with great variation between north and south. Northernmost Scandinavia is mostly tundra.
The Swedish, Danish and Norwegian languages are very similar. Speakers from different countries can largely understand each other, if they make an effort. This is because the three languages are derived from a common language, Old Norse, which was spoken by the Vikings. This language survives almost unchanged as Icelandic, and on the Faroe Islands. The Finnish language, however, belongs to completely different group of languages, the same one as the language of the Sami.
The Sami are considered an indigenous people, having a unique culture distinct from other Scandinavians. Most of them live in the northern Norway, and in the region of Sweden and Finland known as Lapland. Originally they where a people of hunters, herders and fishers, but today they are mostly known reindeer herders, a livelihood that often is legally reserved only for the Sami. Since 1986, they have their own flag, and they also have their own parliaments in Norway, Sweden and Finland.