Sure, Scandinavia gets cold in the winter. But that's also the best time to catch a glimpse of the northern lights. And crowds do overtake some of the more popular tourist attractions in the summer months. But you get 16 or more hours of daylight to see the sights when the weather warms.
The best time to go to Scandinavia may well be whenever you get the chance. Because every season offers advantages and disadvantages for traveling to the Nordic lands. The local weather, the timing of events and activities, and your budget can all influence the decision-making process when you look at booking a trip to Scandinavia.
High season for tourism in Sweden takes place in midsummer, as it does in much of Scandinavia. Though the weather is undeniably beautiful, the warm months naturally attract larger crowds, especially in the largest cities of Stockholm, Malmö, and Göteborg. The whole country essentially moves outdoors to take full advantage of the short summer season. But with 200 ski resorts, traditional Christmas markets in towns large and small, and dog-sled tours of the Arctic Lapland region, Sweden in winter makes for a memorable vacation too.
With summer sunshine around the clock in the northern regions, Norway's appeal definitely comes on strong from June through August. But the shoulder seasons in May and September generally see far fewer tourists while still enjoying pleasant weather with the added bonus of lower prices in popular destinations such as Oslo and Bergen. Norway provides a good chance of seeing the aurora borealis, or northern lights, which tend to be most visible in the far northern towns such as Tromsø during the polar nights of the cold winter months.
Snow covers much of the ground in Finland from November to May, making the sauna an especially appealing destination in winter. Finns take full advantage of the long days of spring, summer, and fall with festivals celebrating the culture and the countryside. And with 40 national parks in a country roughly the size of California, tourism outside of the capital city of Helsinki largely focuses on the outdoors.
Touted by the country's official tourism organization as "Scandinavia's Greatest Little Kingdom," Denmark also deserves the more enticing title of "Best Scandinavian Beach Destination." Along the Danish Riviera north of Copenhagen, you can find white sand beaches; charming fishing villages; and the restaurants, shopping, and accommodation choices of an upscale destination—albeit with Denmark's signature brand of hygge.
Led Zeppelin sang about the "land of the ice and snow" with its "midnight sun, where the hot springs flow." This characterization of Iceland captures the stark beauty of this country of glaciers; active volcanoes; and polar creatures such as whales, puffins, and the Arctic fox. The majority of visitors travel to the capital city of Reykjavík in summer, when the sun sets for just a few hours each night and temperatures hover in the 60s F, encouraging hiking, biking, and double-dare dips in the ocean.