While plenty of Americans head to the beach to bask in the hot sun and scorching temperatures of far flung tropical destinations, many of us can’t think of a worse way to spend the summer. If you’re one of those people, you basically have two options: head north or far, far south. Like New Zealand or Antarctica south. For that reason, many find the northern hemisphere options more convenient, yet no less thrilling in the travel experience they offer. Read on to learn more about three amazing cool weather countries to consider for your next summer vacation abroad.
O Canada. Our vast northern neighbor offers a huge range of destinations to suit every tourist. From outdoor pursuits in some of the most scenic national parks on earth, to the marine life off the rugged coastline of Nova Scotia, the isolation of the Artic Circle or the rare temperate rainforests on the west coast, there are many highlights to choose from.
- The Canadian Rockies: Epic mountains and glacial lakes await in one of the most breathtaking parts of the Rocky Mountains. Jasper National Park with its SkyTram is a great option for those looking for views without all the legwork, as is the Icefields Parkway, a scenic drive through the Rocky Mountain wilderness featuring ancient glaciers and lakes. Banff National Park is another standout, with the aquamarine waters of Lake Louise and the gondola to the top of 7,500-foot Sulphur Mountain being only a couple of the highlights in this majestic region. Whether you explore the backcountry on foot or stick to motorized transportation, the views are infinite. Another option is to hop on the Rocky Mountaineer and make your journey by train.
- Vancouver Island: A must-see on the west coast is the spectacular Vancouver Island. Take the ferry from Vancouver to the picturesque city of Victoria, the gateway to the rest of this most scenic island. From hiking and biking to kayaking and sailing, there is plenty of ways to explore the sparkling lakes and oceans, lush rainforests and dramatic mountains of Vancouver Island.
- Nova Scotia: If the stunning scenery of the islands of Cape Breton and Prince Edward are not enough to keep you enthralled, there’s also some of the best seafood in the world and diverse wildlife to entertain you was well. With whales, dolphins, seals and puffins to view, deep sea fishing, kayaking, scenic drives and hiking activities throughout the day, and renowned fresh cold-water oysters and lobster to dine on each evening, your days will be full.
- City Destinations: For those who prefer the excitement of the big city to the great outdoors, there’s plenty to choose from in Canada. From French-speaking Montreal to the bustling centers of Vancouver and Toronto, there’s world-class entertainment, dining and shopping waiting for you north of the border.
If breathtaking fjords and picturesque Scandinavian towns and cities is more your style, Norway is an incredible summer destination. Long days mean you can pack even more spectacular sightseeing into each day, and if you head far enough north, you can experience the midnight sun in the Arctic Circle where the sun does not set for many weeks. Those long days of sunshine remain cool, with average temperatures in the mid-60s, making Norway one of the most stunning and enjoyable summertime destinations.
- The Fjords: The jaw-dropping scenery of Fjord Norway is world renowned. Waterfalls tumble from dramatic snow-capped mountains that tower above deep fjords, a stunning landscape that seems to go on forever. Although the UNESCO World Heritage listed areas of Geirangerfjord and the Nærøyfjord are popular – and deservedly so – there are also many other regions of the fjords wilderness to discover. Bergen, is the gateway to the fjords and a delightful place to start your fjord adventures, although there are many towns and villages along the scenic routes of the fjord regions, too.
- The Lofoten Islands: Stretching out into the sea from the fjords, Lofoten is a magnificent archipelago of majestic mountains and idyllic traditional fishing villages. Kayaking between the islands is just one way to get around, but however you travel these striking islands, you’ll be doing it under the midnight sun and the watchful eyes of soaring eagles.
- Oslo: Before you set off to see the natural wonders of the rest of the country, it’s worth spending a little time exploring Norway’s charming capital city of Oslo. A city surrounded by nature, there’s plenty to do in and around Oslo, from art galleries and museums, entertainment, dining and a thriving nightlife in the city, to hiking and island hopping in the nearby Oslofjord.
- Svalbard Islands: A trip to Norway would hardly be complete without a visit to the land of the polar bear. Sandwiched between Norway and the North Pole, the Svalbard Islands are one of the northernmost inhabited areas in the world. Here you can encounter reindeer and Artic foxes in addition to the magnificent polar bear, as you explore this remote and rugged arctic wilderness. You’ll want to pack some warm clothes for this destination, however, with daytime temperatures in summer averaging in the 40s.
As one of the most active volcanic regions in the world, Iceland is known for its ethereal landscapes, which include lava fields, glaciers and seemingly endless hot springs. Not surprisingly, Iceland has become a popular summertime destination. There may not be any Northern Lights at this time of year, but the Midnight Sun makes up for it with uninterrupted daylight to drive, hike and pool hop your way around this stunning country. Here are just a few highlights to get you started:
- Blue Lagoon: The famous geothermal Blue Lagoon Spa is located in a lava field on the Reykjanes Peninsula in the southwest of the country, just a thirty minute drive from Reykjavik. Whether you go for the day or stay the night, the gorgeous 102°F waters will leave you relaxed and ready to explore everything else Iceland has to offer.
- The Icelandic Highlands: For those looking for a true adventure, the highlands offer the trip of a lifetime. Only accessible during the summer – although you’ll still need a 4×4 vehicle to get there – the surreal landscape offers an amazing experience for hikers and nature lovers alike.
- Skogafoss Waterfall: Located on the Skógá River, Skogafoss waterfall is one of the most famous falls in Iceland, thundering almost 200 feet into the pool below. At over eighty feet wide, the falls provide a very dramatic water display, with the guarantee of a rainbow any time the sun is out.
- Strokkur Geyser: Located in the Geysir Geothermal Area, Strokkur is a popular destination on the major sightseeing route known as the Golden Circle. Erupting every five to ten minutes, the geyser reaches heights over 100 feet.
- The Glaciers: With 4,500 square miles of glaciers, ice climbing is a year-round activity that offers an adrenalin rush and scenery like nowhere else. Although for those who wish to explore the glaciers without the climbing, there are also guided hiking or walking trips, jeep safaris and glacier lagoon boating. Many of the tours take place on the Sólheimajökull and Svínafellsjökull glaciers in the south of the country.