Scandinavia: Big Hygge Style

It's everywhere. From your cosy deer-festooned knitwear, 60's style teak coffee table and that bare-brick 'coffee palace' that's always packed, not forgetting tech innovators like Spotify and Skype, Scandinavia has pretty much taken over. 

Primarily, it is made up of three snow-capped heavyweights - Sweden, Norway and Denmark - and, depending on who you ask, Finland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands can sometimes make the teamsheet. With some of Europes crispest fashion, lauded design credentials and even a few new words in the English dictionary, Scandi is slang for cool.

Check the country profiles and dig a little deeper


sweden

Sweden (Sverige) →

For the explorers, Sweden's landscape is a fir-filled playground. Stockholm's old town is bursting with autumn colours and is aiming to be Europe's greenest capital over the next few years. Further south and west, Gothenburg is forever the underdog but has plenty to keep you entertained for a long weekend. 

Stockholm || Gothenburg || Malmo


norway

Norway (Norge) →

As more people in Europe begin to look northwards for a weekend away, Norway has been breaking Instagram with snaps of the epic coastal fjords, superb dining in Oslo and a clutch of smaller cities waiting with open arms and roaring fires to welcome the influx of wide-eyed visitors. 

Oslo || Tromso


copenhagen

Denmark (Danmark) →

Denmark can sometimes be overlooked for it's bigger siblings in when people dream up their trips to Scandinavia. Do so at your peril, as you'll be missing out on one of the most fun capitals in the world, Copenhagen, and perhaps the coolest bridge too. Denmark can compete on the grand scale too, calling on the Faroe Islands to bring up it's 'jaw-dropping Scandi landscape' quota.

Copenhagen || Faroe Islands


rejkjavik

Iceland (Ísland ) →

Famous for somebody giving it the wrong name, Iceland seems to have done pretty well for itself recently. Scaling the travel charts, the country is rather ironically one of the hottest destinations for both city and adventure lovers alike. Reykjavik is busting with cultural goodies and there are just not enough superlatives to cover the natural landscapes.

Reykjavik


finland

Finland (Suomi) →

They say mystical creatures still lurk in the oil black lakes and forest-clad peaks of the Finnish hinterlands. Whether you believe in Moomin trolls or not, Finland is abit of a sleeper hit when it comes to an off-the-track travel.

Helsinki

Beach Battle: Gili Islands vs Bali

Three tiny islands just off Lombok's northwest coast have their sights firmly set on Bali's staunch reign as Indonesia's top getaway. Once a whispered backpacker tip on the Southeast Asia route, the Gili's are opening up fast. Most come to lose sight of the stars at one of Gili Trawangan's thumping parties, with more and more starting to explore the marooned pathways on Gili Meno, or finding balance on spiritual Gili Air.

It's safe to say you'll find every degree of separation on the islands, from luxury comforts to Crusoe castaway. 

 

Beaches To Die For

gili air
gili air

Bali has one of the most iconic slithers of sand in the world. However, with great power comes great responsibility and the Kuta/ Seminyak stretch in Bali leaves a lot to be desired these days. Fortunately, no matter which Gili you are on, you can find a spot that's just right for you. For bean bags on the beachan, house music and zingy cocktails, Trawangan's your bag. If you need time to finally finish Shantaram without any hassle from the coconut cartels, Gili Meno has your back. Whatever Bali can do sand wise, the Gili's can match it grain for grain.

 

Catch The Yoga Bug

Search for wellness in the dictionary and there will be a link to Ubud's Wikipedia page. Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness are the name of the game and there aren't many places in the world that can rival it for options. It is impossible to pretend then that the Gili's will spoil you for choice, but what they lack in selection, they more than makeup for in cost, comfort, and quality. Gili Air is home to H20 Yoga, kitted out with an open sided, circular Shala set in the serene central forest. A full programme of yoga styles and meditation, a vegan café and lovely bungalows to rent on site, there really is little else you'll need. You'll find similarly equipped studios on the other islands too.

 

Diving and Snorkelling

The ace up the sleeve. Access to teeming spectrums of coral reefs, world famous dive sites and sea life conservation schemes make it an underwater playground. The sheer number of dive schools, particularly on Gili Trawangan and Air, are a testament to the calibre of the local sites. Their collective knowledge, experience, and passion make this an ideal place to take that PADI open water course you've always wanted. If you're not one for gas tanks, take a boat trip around the islands and jump off at some of Indonesia's most lauded snorkel sites.

 

Locate Lombok

It is easy to assume Bali got all the luck when those hefty tectonic plates crashed together millions of years ago, but you'd be wrong. Only 34 km to the east lies similarly blessed Lombok, complete with it's very own volcano (and Kuta Beach, as it happens). Here is where the similarities taper, however, as Lombok's majority Muslim population has shaped a different experience entirely. Less development means much more is on the table when it comes to finding adventure. Trekking up Gunung Rinjani, visiting Sasak weaving villages and exploring the busting capital Mataram are all highlights. The best bit? It's is only a 15-minute boat ride from the Gili's.

 

Roll Another Fat One

If your trip planning consists of ‘beats, beats and more beats' then Bali certainly has it's merits. Kuta is an oasis for the all-night raver and it has to be said, is pretty legendary when it comes to a party. Success will always breed imitation, however, and Gili Trawangan is doing a fine job of offering an alternative. Known as the ‘party island', hoards now find their way here, usually staying longer than they planned. A packed-out party schedule with clubbing highlights every night comes complete with acclaimed DJ's and great crowds. If you're feeling the burn, take a 10-minute boat ride to Air or Meno for some TLC.

giliairfestival

 

Money Really Matters

Food, bungalows, and booze are, on average, cheaper here than on Bali, often with the same range of choices. Gili Castle on Trawangan has all your budget needs covered and a great atmosphere, while at the other end Les Villas Ottalia on Meno will steal your heart with its moonlit beach dining and private pool. The islands are lined with warungs selling bargain Indonesian dishes and no matter where you are, guaranteed there is a stone baked pizza close by.

 

Trekking Gunung Rinjani

Like most of the islands in the region, nearby Lombok is blessed with some of the best mountain treks and anyone with a bit of spirit will find a sound alternative to Bali's interior. Turquoise crater lakes, pristine rainforest and a better chance of a cloudless view at the top make this mountain a viable alternative to Bali's Gunung Agung.

 

Komodo is a little bit closer

The Komodo Dragon. A hulking beast you only see in nature docs, right? Wrong. Take a three-day jaunt from Lombok's eastern coast and reach the evocative isle in only a couple of days. Beat that Bali.

Lunch: Manchester

manchester

Forever associated with music, football and the occasional revolution, Manchester is the United Kindom's creative well, from which superstar brands and artists were once unearthed. Music in particular has played a big role in sculpting the city's recent persona and can be found in everywhere, from red brick suburbia to the VIP seats in the high flying restaurant scene. 

Lunch in Manchester can be as simple or as fancy as you like. Hunker down at the enduring Alfredo's at Piccadilly train station for a deep down and dirty full English breakfast (available a belly-popping hours a day). Saunter like a star of the Stone Roses down Deansgate and absorb glistening sashimi (Aurstralasia), unbeatable veggie Greek meze (Katsouris) or the sinner's paradise of an all you can eat, round-the-world buffet (this one comes with a disclaimer on afternoon productivity if eaten at lunchtime).  

For lunch as glorious, as it can be, Afflecks Palace has your number. Opened in 1981 by two entrepreneurs, it has nurtured small traders in a way that has over time blossomed into a mansion of alternative and vintage culture. The indoor emporium sends out it's edgy ripples of culture from a maze of tattooists, tailors and crafts folk into the popular Northern Quarter. On the top floor, you'll find good sandwiches/ baked potato/ soups in the much loved Cafe 3, retro by nature. Downstairs you'll find Gingers Comfort Emporium, for that all important 'creamy, fruity, nutty, chocolatey, spicy, boozy, crunchy, refreshing, comforting iced dessert'.