Spend a night in the world's largest igloo

The 12 best Scandinavian holidays
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The Independent Travel

1 Search for SantaReindeer rides, igloos and the big man himself are part of a four-day Christmas break to Lapland in northern Finland offered by Canterbury Travels (tel: 01923 822388). The deal costs £885 per adult and £735 per child, based on a family of four sharing a log cabin at the resort of Luosto, departing on 8 December. Return flights to Rovaniemi in Finland, transfers, full-board accommodation, activities, and thermal suits are included - igloo accommodation is optional.

1 Search for SantaReindeer rides, igloos and the big man himself are part of a four-day Christmas break to Lapland in northern Finland offered by Canterbury Travels (tel: 01923 822388). The deal costs £885 per adult and £735 per child, based on a family of four sharing a log cabin at the resort of Luosto, departing on 8 December. Return flights to Rovaniemi in Finland, transfers, full-board accommodation, activities, and thermal suits are included - igloo accommodation is optional.

2 Fabulous fjordsNorway has one of the most dramatic coastlines. Departing from Bergen, Scandinavian Travel Service (tel: 020 75596666) runs 13-day coastal cruises taking in the fjords and continuing on to the Arctic Circle and the northern port of Kirkenes. There are regular land excursions, including visits to Trondheim and Tromso. The price of the cruise is £1,415 per person, based on two sharing a cabin, departing in August. Return flights, transfers, full-board accommodation on board, hotel in Bergen at the start and finish of cruise, are included. The excursions cost extra.

3 Ice hotelIn the heart of Lapland, the hotel at Jukkasjarvi is justifiably marketed as the coolest place to stay in Sweden. The Ice Hotel is the world's largest igloo. It is constructed solely from ice each November and melts in May. Aeroscope (tel: 01608 650103) offers two-night breaks at the hotel starting from £519 per person, based on two sharing. One night is spent in a cabin as only one night is recommended in the Ice Hotel because of the cold. Price includes return flights to Kiruna, transfers, b&b accommodation and thermal clothing. Aeroscope can book extra activities such as ice-fishing and snowmobile rides.

4 LegolandAs well as a wide range of miniature towns to marvel at, Copenhagen's Legoland offers plenty of rides to keep youngsters happy. Specialised Tours (tel: 01342 712785) offers two-night breaks to Legoland from £325 per person, for two adults sharing, and £170 per child under 12. Return flights, transfers, b&b accommodation and unlimited admission to Legoland are included.

5 Party GothenburgThe Goteborgskalaset is the southern Swedish city of Gothenburg's annual summer party. From 4-12 August, the main street, Avenyn, is lined with outdoor restaurants, and concerts, fireworks, and performing artists are part of the festivities. SAS (tel: 0845 60727727) offers return flights to Gothenburg for £115, including tax, during this period if booked at least three days in advance, staying over a Saturday night. Accommodation can be found for as little as £29 per night if you obtain a "Gothenburg Package" by booking on the web (net: www.goteborg.com). The package also includes daily free travel and free entrance to attractions.

6 Polar bearsDeep in the Arctic Circle, the northern archipelago of Svalbad is a harsh yet beautiful landscape of icebergs and tundra - and is also home to polar bears. Arctic Experience (tel: 01737 218800) runs nine-day trips from June to August to explore the region. Polar bears, walruses and whales are likely to be spotted. The tour starts from £2,224 per person, based on sharing a four-person bunk room. Return flights to Longyearbyen, transfers, a full-board cabin during the seven-day cruise, b&b hotel in Longyearbyen, and all sightseeing are included.

7 Suomi saunaSteam, bubbles and plenty of pampering feature in a seven-day spa break at the Haikko spa hotel, 50km from Helsinki. Organised by Scantours (tel: 020 78392927), the deal offers Finnish saunas, Japanese shindo therapy and a range of outdoor activities. A July departure costs £820 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, transfers, half-board accommodation and a courtesy Nirvana anti-stress treatment.

8 Stockholm breakBridge Travel Service (tel: 01992 456300) is offering a special deal on Stockholm city breaks until 31 October. This summer is a good time to visit, because from 26-29 September tall ships from around the world will harbour there as part of a racing event. A two-night package costs £249 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and b&b accommodation. Train transfers from the airport cost £10 each way, and extra nights cost £37 per person.

9 HikingHeadwater (tel: 01606 813395) offers eight-day guided walking tours to the little-explored central Norwegian area close to the Rondane mountains. Walking three to eight hours daily, hikers will tackle several peaks and hopefully encounter wild reindeer. The next tour with availability departs 8 July, and costs from £719 per person, based on two sharing. Return flights to Oslo, transfers, full-board accommodation at the Venabu Fjellhotel and a guide are included.

10 Dog-sleddingThis winter, Norvista (tel: 020 74097334) is offering a seven-day dog-sledding trip in western Lapland. Covering a minimum of 25km per day, guests learn how to drive a dog team, and spend the nights in comfortable huts. Winter departures leave from Harrinva, and start from £958 per person, based on sharing a hut and including return flights, transfers, full-board accommodation, one dog-team per person, thermal clothing, and guide.

11 Danish castleSophiendal Gods is a traditional Danish castle built in the 1870s by Baron Rosenkrantz. Apart from living the castle life, guests can visit the nearby coastal village of Ebeltoft, with its cobbled streets. DFDS Seaways (tel: 08705 333111) offers this eight-day break from £499 per person, based on two sharing, including overnight ferry crossings with an en-suite berth and six nights' b&b accommodation in the castle.

12 DIY raftingInternational Adventure (tel: 01767 650312) has a novel approach to its Swedish rafting holidays. Prior to six-days' rafting, participants arrive in Gunnerud to construct their own raft. After that, the holiday consists of drifting downstream, camping by the river, and looking out for beavers. Two adults with a car in July will pay a total of £849, including Newcastle-Kristiansand ferry crossings (shared cabin), rafting and camping gear, but not food.

Getting ThereSweden: Return flights with Scandinavian Airlines (tel: 0845 607 27727) from Heathrow or Stansted to Gothenburg cost from £116.

Alternatively, there is a twice-weekly ferry from Newcastle to Gothenburg. A standard fare costs from £280 per person based on two sharing a cabin. Four passengers and a car can travel for a total of £639 return, if passage is booked six weeks in advance.

Finland: Robert Nurden flew to Helsinki with Finnair (tel: 020 7408 1222) and was a guest of the Finnish Tourist Board (tel: 0207 839 4048). Return flights from Heathrow or Gatwick to Helsinki with Finnair cost from £180.

Getting AroundSweden: Holiday Autos (tel: 01276 413844) hires out cars from £269 per week. Other car hire companies include Avis (tel: 0870 606 0100) and Hertz (tel: 0870 599 6699). Trains run regularly from Gothenburg to Lidkoping, from where local trains head towards Kinnekulle.

Finland: travel around Helsinki on public transport with a three-day Helsinki Card. It costs FM125 (£13).

Where To StaySweden: Honsater Slott, near Hallekis( tel: 00 46 510 54 05 90) is a lovely castle in a beautiful setting with a fine restaurant. Double rooms cost around SKr1,000 (£78) per night and include a two-course meal. In Lidkoping, the beautiful and excellent-value Park Hotel at Mellbygatan 24 (tel: 00 46 510 243 90) offers double rooms from SKr550, with breakfast.

Finland: Robert Nurden stayed at the Grand Marina Hotel, Katajanokanlaituri 7, FIN-00160 Helsinki, Finland (tel: 00 358 916 661; fax: 00 358 9 664 764; e-mail: grandmarina@scandic-hotels.com). Double rooms cost from FM550 at weekends and FM1,040 in the week, with breakfast.

Further InformationSweden: contact the Swedish Travel and Tourism Council, 11 Montagu Place, London W1H 2AL (tel: 020 7724 5868). Another helpful source of information is 'The Rough Guide to Sweden' by James Proctor and Neil Roland, updated second edition for 2000.

Finland: contact the Finland Tourist Board, 30-35 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5LP (tel: 0207 839 4048). For Year of Culture events, contact Helsinginkulttuurikaupunkisaaio, Etelaranta 16, FIN-00130 Helsinki (tel: 00 358 9 169 4010; fax: 00 358 9 169 4011; e-mail: info@2000.hel.fi).

For Sibelius events, visit www.siba.fi; or: www.helsinki.fi/ kasv/noko/sibelius.html

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