Describing Scandinavia as a region of stunning beauty is hard not to do but it’s about as helpful as labelling Asia ‘exotic’. Epic and spectacular it surely is, but these words do not begin to describe its northern European diversity. Its visual signifiers for the uninitiated may include Nordic good looks, clean air, healthy outdoor fun and sparse populations, but they hardly do justice to this expanse of extremes. True, the visitor will find some common features in the languages, culture and environment, in the inhabitants’ bewildering dedication to preserved herring and their sinister partiality to bitter, salty liquorice. And yes, the entire region knows winter’s frigid, implacable dark as well as summer’s short but spectacular lease, when the place bursts into life in a fevered celebration of nature, food culture and music.
But it’s not all statuesque blondes and rugged fjords. Scandinavia spans the vast, Siberian north where polar bears roam; it includes in its grand dimensions the mighty peaks of Sweden and Norway and the gentle rural idyll of the Danish countryside. It encompasses elemental Iceland – nature’s volcanic, glacial foundry – as well as the urbane and the cosmopolitan in vibrant Copenhagen and historic Helsinki. In a single trip you can explore Stockholm’s almost Venetian splendour and also acquaint yourself with the ancient ways of migrating reindeer and  their herders through great swathes of virgin Lapland forest and lake. Given all this geographic variety, to fully explore the region you may find
yourself using more means of transport than Phileas Fogg, from plane, car  and sleek modern train to bicycle, husky sled, parachute, snowmobile, Arctic icebreaker and canoe. In fact getting around can be half the fun. The train and road networks just, well, work. They also offer great romance – the mountainous Oslo–Bergen train trip is one of the world’s most scenic. This watery region also rewards maritime adventurers. Cruise on a ferry between Helsinki and Stockholm or Tallinn, sail all the way from Bergen in Norway to Seyðisfjörður in Iceland via the Faroe Islands, or catch Norway’s famous Hurtigruten coastal steamer beyond the Arctic Circle.