Northern Lights: Helsinki to Stockholm
Each summer, Northern Europe transforms into one massive landscape of undulating wildflowers, shimmering lakes, and snow-capped mountains bathed in 24-hour Arctic sunlight. Add to that a heady mixture of Estonian treasures, canoeing in as many as 187,888 lakes, parading with the native reindeer of Nordkapp, skiing into July at Sweden's top alpine resort, and sipping the night away at Stockholm's Absolut Ice Bar, and you've got a list of yearlong adventuring jammed into one spectacular road trip. Admittedly, some of the driving distances from one stellar capital city to the next may take a day or two to conquer, so take that as the excuse you need to stay on the Euro continent even longer.
Day 1: Helsinki
With strong historic Russian and Swedish influences and as the country's hub of high-tech industry, Helsinki is Finland's capital and its most cosmopolitan city. It sits at the edge of the Gulf of Finland on a rocky peninsula, and has waterside parks like Kaivopuisto Park, sitting on the coast just south of Puistok, with fastidiously smooth pavement, perfect for rollerblading and biking. Before leaving town, make sure to visit the harbor-side Kauppatori (fish market) and the underground Temppeliaukio Church (Lutherinkatu 3; +358.9.494.698), hewn from solid rock.
Day 2: Daytrip to Tallinn, Estonia (3-Hour Ferry Ride Each Way)
Wake up at the crack of dawn (don't worry... jetlag will help) and take a round-trip ferry across the Baltic Sea to Tallinn, the capital of the Republic of Estonia, one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe. Tallinn was developed in the 13th century when a castle was built by the knights of the Teutonic Order. A handful of ferry operators offer trips from Helsinki to Tallinn, and most have express ferries that cut travel time in half, including Tallink (+3184.108.40.2061) or Silja Line (www.silja.com). Upon your arrival in Tallinn, walk the cobblestone streets of Old Town, the medieval square on UNESCOÂ’s World Heritage List since 1997, and take in the rich history, Gothic architecture, and historic marketplaces. Tallinn is filled with sightseeing spots such as one of the oldest functioning pharmacies in Europe; the town hall, which dates back to 1322; Toompea Castle (+372.631.6357; www.tallinn.info/toompea); and a wide variety of inexpensive concert halls.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication