With a life that reads like an adventure of Michael Moorcocks' Elric Melnibone, Erik the Red, Viking vagabond and explorer, was one of the first Europeans to explore the New World. After being exiled from the Norse kingdoms of Iceland and Norway for murder, Erik the Red braved treacherous seas, sailing east to search for and plunder rumored ‘Irish settlements.’
He instead discovered an island with grassy coastlines, teeming with reindeer, seal and walrus. Naming the island Greenland, Erik went back to Iceland to gather colonists and founded the first Scandinavian settlements in Greenland. The Viking settler communities survived for 400 years in Greenland until epidemics and famine wiped them out. Today, the lands Erik the Red lived in are a far cry from the harsh environments they were during the first centuries AD—Iceland, Norway, and Greenland are some of the best places to visit for your own Viking holiday…
Iceland: Wrapped in stunning primeval landscapes of volcanoes hidden under the largest icecap in Europe, restorative geothermal springs amidst snowfall, eerie lava formations, and National Parks next to waterfalls, geysers and mountains; Iceland lures visitors with natural wonders straight out of Narnia.
The capital, Reykjavik boasts the most number of authors, poets, and musicians this side of Europe. Take a runtur (a ‘round tour’), an almost endless joyride driving around town while waiting for the pubs to open late at night.
Some of the best music in the world is performed by Icelandic artists and bands, such as medieval music group Voces Thules, alt rock band The Sugarcubes, shoegazers Sigur Rós, and singer Björk. Visitors will enjoy Icelandic food, from skyr (a thick yoghurt), cured ram scrota, cured shark, to singed sheep heads, and black pudding.
Norway: A rugged country of mountains, fjords and glaciers not unlike a replica of Middle-Earth, Norway is a wild and haunting place to visit. In the 'Land of the Midnight Sun,' visitors will enjoy long summer days, spent visiting historic sites that showcase Viking ships and medieval stave churches. Oslo, the capital, boasts of fun adventures—cycling, hiking, ice-skating, kayaking, sailing and skiing, all within city limits or just a short train ride away.
Greenland: Here the sun shines till midnight and the Aurora Borealis shimmers in the night sky. Visitors can see the expansive Ilulissat Icefjord, a sea of glaciers and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; also the top attraction of the nearby town of Ilulissat (Greenlandic for Icebergs).
Ice-fishing and annual dog-sled races are perennial favourite sports in the vast white wilderness of Greenland. With almost no roads, moving around can be expensive, but exploring the land via helicopter or boat ride is worth every penny. Most of the settlements are located south-west of the main island, which has a relatively milder climate and has grazing fields for sheep farms. At best, Greenland offers top class adventures via sea kayaking, rock climbing and salmon fishing.
The unusual blend of Inuit and Danish blood has created a unique Greenlandic society that enjoys seal hunting, dogsledding, and lager and kaffemiks. Not the exclusive escape holiday destination for cruise-ship tourists anymore, anyone can visit Greenland via plane but any trip to this paradise should take into account the unpredictable weather. So it’s wise to schedule ample time at each local town to soak up the midnight sun, watch icebergs or be haunted by the eldritch beauty of the Aurora Borealis.