Welcome to one of the most prosperous and egalitarian part of Europe. Travelling across merely this part of Europe offers varied experiences to a traveller - Expect to see the fjords and glaciers in Norway, the Viking Culture in Sweden, the birthplace of Santa Claus in Rovaniemi in Finland, in the right season see the midnight sun at Inari, cycle around in the most cycled country of the world in Netherlands, see canals second only to Venice in Ghent and Brugge in Belgium. Cover the Scandinavian and Benelux countries - Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
Nature: The Scandinavian countries could be God's own country! Though well developed, they offer unspoilt nature. In terms of natural beauty, they are different in every way. Finland - a country with a population of ~5 million, has a lake every five households. A cruise around the fjords (caused by melting of glaciers) in Norway can leave anyone spell bound. Go in July-September and one would find broad daylight even at 10 pm. In the extreme north - Inari in Finland, one can see the Northern Lights and for a few days in the year, it gives the impression that the sun never sets!
The Benelux countries on the other hand offer a different sense of nature. Built on canals, the small towns and villages by the canals are beautiful and definitely not to be missed!
Culture: The Scandinavian as well as the Benelux countries are liberal. However, they are extremely egalitarian as well as simple. In the Scandinavian countries, Members of Parliaments usually go to work on cycles!! However, cultures vary.
Finland invented the "sauna" which has now caught on to the other parts of Europe. Head further north and Rovaniemi is known to be the birth place of the Santa Claus. The Viking heritage and culture across Scandinavia, is not to be missed too. Visit the free city of Christiania in Denmark.
The Benelux countries again are very different. In other parts of the world, visiting a red light area may be frowned upon but in the Netherlands, it is a tourist magnet. Sale and consumption of tolerable level of drugs is accepted. But what sets apart the Benelux countries is simplicity. The Netherlands is the most cycled country in the world!!
Off the Beaten Path: Rent a "Summer House" in Finland adjoining a lake. In Finland, most Summer Houses are equipped with a Sauna and are adjoining a lake. Experience the Sauna, and when it gets too hot, jump off the ramp right into the icy cold lake. Do this many times over. We can assure you there cannot be a more exhillerating experience.
Why not rent a cycle (Bike is what the Europeans call it) and cycle around the city. Armed with a map and a bike, one can only follow the clearly marked colourful lines which have been made specifically for the biker. These lines cover all the important tourist destinations that the city or town has to offer.
Also off the Beaten Path is staying in a Canal House. These have been built specifically on the canal and just opening the door would have you in touching distance of the water. This is expensive, but we would strongly recommend it even for a day!
History: While the Nobel Peace Prize is given in Norway, one would believe that the region would have little history to share. Actually false! Finland was under the USSR control for long. Sweden, itself was a military power for long. Finland was a part of World War II where they fought both - USSR and Germany.