The North of Europe possesses a majesty all its own. The White Nights of Lapland in Finland where it never gets completely dark in June and July are a great way to see a part of Mother Earth that you can't imagine until you've actually experienced. The fishing expeditions across the ice-capped mountains and foggy fjords make angling in the New World seem amateur. It's as if you can feel how old time gets in the Scandinavian countries. The "Top of Europe," as it's called, is a must see for those who enjoy out of the way places, friendly people who love Westerners, and capital cities rich in architecture and proud Norse culture.
Picasso Travel (tel. 800/995-7997; www.picassotours.com) has a bevy of low-priced all-inclusive deals to Scandinavia that hit on big-city life, remote geographical locations and the natural beauty of the region. Starting in the cities, Picasso has a nine-day/seven-night trip out of New York that starts in Stockholm stopping in Copenhagen and Oslo. Costing $2,469 for double occupancy booking (single travelers will add about $900 that!), the tour includes round-trip airfare to and from New York, all airport transfers, six-nights accommodations in first-class Nordic hotels, daily breakfast, three full-day city fares, first-class rail transportation from city to city and a cruise from Copenhagen, the Danish capital, to Oslo, Norway's biggest city. In Copenhagen, you'll have time to visit some of the world's finest furniture designers and manufacturers who have made Danish design a model of technology and shape for the entire architectural global community. Oslo is famous as the home of artist Edvard Munch and author Knut Hamson, who won the Nobel Prize in 1920, putting the Norwegians forever on the map as a literary and deep-thinking people. Departure dates for this trip are from April through September with travel in June, July and August going up to $2,729.
To experience those White Nights at their most beautiful, Picasso Travel also offers a North Cape Tour that takes you literally to the "Top of Europe." This six-day/eight-night trip begins with airfare out of New York to Helsinki, Finland's capital city, and ends in the Northern sky of Finland in a town called Tankavaara, known as "Gold Village" for its role in Finland's great gold rush. Along the way, you'll cross the Arctic Circle and stop at many of the Lapland sites such as rivers filled with white rapids, villages with teepees, and you'll eat local caviar at the tip of the Atlantic Ocean where the sun never sets. Starting at $3,699 for double occupancy booked travel, this trip includes many of the same luxuries as the above Picasso Travel tour with five lunches and four local cuisine-themed dinners thrown in.
If you want to try and explore the region yourself or hit the big cities in the North of Europe, Scandinavian Airlines (tel. 800/221-2350; www.scandinavian.net) has an incredible round-trip New York-Stockholm fare for $289 not including air taxes and security fees. You need to book by March 21, 2005 with travel good through May 31, 2005. A Saturday night stay is mandatory. SAS -- as Scandinavian Airline is known -- is also pushing a similar deal to Copenhagen with round-trip travel from Chicago and Washington, D.C. costing $384 with travel good from April 1 to April 30, 2005, and $439 from Seattle. A huge bonus when you fly SAS -- they're the first airline to offer on-board wireless Internet service during the flight. Its website has excellent city-guides offering local flavor and insider tips on bars and restaurants. Nightlife is huge in Scandinavian as each country enjoys its vodka embedded in ice blocks and an active bar and nightclub scene. Apparently, it's hard not to have fun in Scandinavia.
Finally, Icelandair Holidays (tel. 800/779-2899; e-mail email@example.com) has a series of specials that can be found via Finland's official tourism site at www.gofinland.org. Beginning in May each year, Icelandair resumes a spate of flights put on ice for the winter months opening up opportunities for spring and summer trips. Prices are cheapest from May 16 to June 9 and then again from Sept 1-30; in between those periods, prices hit their peak.
During these shoulder season dates, you can get two-night packages into Helsinki starting from $699 based on double occupancy. Departure cities include Baltimore, Boston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, Orlando and San Francisco. The package includes roundtrip airfare, hotel and breakfasts. Extra nights and upgrades are available as well.
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