What is the difference between Nordic and Scandinavian?

The terms ‘Scandinavian’ and ‘Nordic’ are often used interchangeably, causing confusion for many people. Are they the same? What sets them apa... Read more
What is the difference between Nordic and Scandinavian?

The terms ‘Scandinavian’ and ‘Nordic’ are often used interchangeably, causing confusion for many people. Are they the same? What sets them apart? Which countries are Nordic but not Scandinavian? Let’s find out…


What countries make up Scandinavia?

Scandinavia refers specifically to a region in Northern Europe that includes three countries: Norway, Sweden and Denmark. 


What countries make up the Nordic region? 

The Nordic region comprised a broader group of countries located in Northern Europe. The region comprises 5 countries - Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. All these nations share historical, cultural and political ties as well as the iconic Nordic cross on their flags.


What does Scandinavia mean? 

The term Scandinavia comes from the word "skandinavien" in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. It refers to the ancient lands of the Norse people: Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The similarity of their languages ties the three Scandinavian countries together and is the basis for the most accepted definition of Scandinavia today.


What does Nordic mean?

The term Nordic originates from the word "norden" meaning "north" in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. It refers to the northern region of Europe around the Baltic Sea.


Geographical Distinctions

Scandinavia refers to the Scandinavian Peninsula, which includes Norway and Sweden, along with the northernmost part of Finland. Denmark, while not part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, is still considered part of Scandinavia as it is culturally and historically close to its neighbours, Norway and Sweden.

Meanwhile, the Nordic countries extend beyond the peninsula to include Finland and Iceland.


Which languages do people speak in Scandinavian and Nordic countries?

Danish, Norwegian and Swedish share linguistic roots, belonging to the North Germanic language family. Finnish, however, belongs to the Finno-Ugric language family and Icelandic retains much of its ancient Norse linguistic heritage.


What is similar about the Nordic countries? 

The Nordic countries share many commonalities, particularly in their pristine natural environments. From Denmark's flat fields to Iceland's glaciers and volcanoes, these nations boast clean air and water, low pollution levels and abundant national parks and protected areas to explore.


What makes the Nordic countries unique? 

While these countries share several similarities, each nation boasts its own landscapes, traditions and culture. 


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Occupying the western part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Norway stands out as one of the most picturesque places on the planet. The towering mountains, including the iconic peaks of the Lofoten Islands, dominate the landscape, offering unparalleled opportunities for hiking and outdoor adventure. Tiny fishing villages nestled among the mountains and fjords create picturesque landscapes and insights into Norwegian life.

Norway provides an array of captivating walking holidays, ranging from traversing the challenging Jotunheimen, aptly named the Land of the Giants, to exploring the magnificent Sognefjord while experiencing the unique phenomenon of 24-hour daylight. In the winter, Norway transforms into a playground for ski touring and offers opportunities to spot the mesmerising northern lights.

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Located on the Scandinavian peninsular, this Nordic country is home to vast forests, glittering lakes and majestic mountains. Its diverse geography ranges from the rugged wilderness of the north to the serene southern coastlines. Sweden is renowned for its stunning archipelagos, comprised of thousands of islands scattered along its shores, offering endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.  

Experience the delights of Sweden by indulging in island hopping or cycling along the southwest coast during the summer months. Alternatively, venture onto the famous King's Trail to conquer the country's highest peak. In winter, embark on an iconic journey along this trail for a classic hut-to-hut ski tour within the Arctic Circle, immersing yourself in the breathtaking winter landscapes of Sweden.

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Iceland is a magical adventure travel destination, shaped by volcanic activity, glaciers and geothermal features. Iceland is renowned for its hot springs, including the iconic Blue Lagoon, where you can soak in mineral-rich waters, surrounded by a surreal volcanic landscape. Thundering waterfalls, lava tubes and steaming vents also add to the wonder of Iceland’s landscapes and adventures. 

Whether you’re walking on active volcanoes, indulging in thermal pools, clambering over glaciers or trekking in the almost uninhabited south-central region of the Fjallabak, Iceland is the perfect destination for a walking holiday or a family holiday.

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Finland boasts remarkable natural beauty, characterised by its extensive network of lakes and islands dotting the landscape. With more than 175,000 islands, 185,000 lakes and three quarters of the land covered by coniferous, evergreen forests, Finland offers landscapes like no other.

Throughout the winter months, Finland is a snow-bound, winter wonderland that makes the perfect destination for snowshoeing and winter activity holidays.

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Denmark is renowned for its diverse and stunning landscapes, from the sandy beaches of its many islands to the lush greenery of its countryside. The country is celebrated for its well-preserved medieval towns and charming villages, where historic architecture blends seamlessly with modern life. Denmark boasts a vibrant cycling culture, with an extensive network of bike paths that allow visitors to explore the picturesque landscapes. 


Is Greenland Nordic?

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Greenland often sparks debate because of its unique status. As a territory of Denmark, Greenland is considered Nordic but not Scandinavian due to its geographic location.

The largest island in the world and almost completely by ice, it is a vast and untamed expanse that beckons adventurers with its dramatic landscapes, icy fjords and remote wilderness. Embark on an exhilarating trek around Ammassalik, discover the vibrant Inuit villages of Kuummiut, Tiniteqilaaq and Tasiilaq, delve into the pristine arctic wilderness and keep an eye out for humpback whales amidst the iceberg-dotted waters of Sermilik Fjord on a Greenland adventure. 

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Are the Baltic countries Nordic? 

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While Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania lie on the Baltic Sea along with Nordic countries like Finland and Sweden, they are not considered Scandinavian or Nordic.

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The Nordic countries offer a wealth of experiences, from unspoiled nature to rich cultural heritage. Whether you're looking for guided adventures, self-guided exploration, walking, trekking, cycling, skiing or polar cruises, there's something for everyone to discover in Scandinavia and the Nordic region.


If you would like to know more about any of these KE holidays, speak to our friendly sales team on +44 (0) 17687 73966 or USA/Canada toll-free 1888 630 4415 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.We offer trusted holidays with financial protection and flexible booking conditions

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