Six of the best winter adventures in Scandinavia

HUSKY SLEDDING IN LAPLAND

Northern Finland might be best known as the home of Santa Claus, but you've good reason to swap reindeer for huskies and head out on a tour with the Sami, Europe's only indigenous people. Your cheeks will sting in the frigid air as you set off, sled runners hissing and dogs panting, into a winter wonderland of deep snow, frozen lakes and twinkling icicles. If you're particularly thrilled, you can do husky safaris that bring you to remote overnight cabins, or take lessons in how to be a musher in control of your own dog team. See lapland.fi

ICE SKATING IN STOCKHOLM

The Swedish capital has two great outdoor ice rinks at Vasaparken or Kungstradgarden and many others across the city, but you can ratchet up the adrenaline levels by taking to the natural ice on the harbour instead – though make sure you do it with a guide who knows current ice conditions. The clamour of the city soon fades and the only sound is the scratch of your skates and the occasional unnerving "singing" of the ice. The town hall and orange and yellow towers and turrets of the old town make for a marvellous backdrop. See visitstockholm.com

ICE SWIMMING IN COPENHAGEN

Oh those Scandinavians, they do enjoy a leap into icy waters, which they say is good for energy levels and health – providing your heart survives the initial shock, one assumes. Wade in at the beaches of Amager Strandpark or hit the harbour baths that operate all winter at Fisketorvet, Islands Brygge or Sluseholmen. You can compete to see who stays in longest, and who tingles the longest afterwards. If it all seems too much for your extremities, then sail around the Danish capital's canals instead in a floating hot tub with innovative tour company CopenHot. See visitcopenhagen.com

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING IN LILLEHAMMER

Norway's oldest ski resort and host of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games is surrounded by national parks and the country's highest mountains, producing dramatic landscapes under a pale blue sky. You can downhill ski, but Lillehammer is also a notable cross-country ski centre, with 400 kilometres of tracks meandering across the beautiful Hardanggervidda Plateau, some of which are illuminated at night to magical effect. If you get into your stride, you can also ski well beyond and find another 2000 kilometres of trails that take you into surrounding high-mountain scenery amid forests of ice-encrusted pine trees. See lillehammer.com

CHASING THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN ABISKO

If you really want to embrace the Swedish winter, head north to Abisko west of Kiruna in Lapland, well within the Arctic Circle. It's one of the best places anywhere to see the incredible natural spectacle of the aurora borealis, or northern lights, unfolding in the sky in colours that range from yellows and blues to greens. The Sky Station in Abisko National Park will keep you warm as you gaze. Other winter activities in the frozen landscapes include snowmobiling, encounters with reindeer and a stay in the Icehotel, created each year from sculpted ice blocks. See visitabisko.com

ICE FISHING IN LAKELAND

You have to dress in so many layers you can hardly move, and your face might fall off in the cold, but this is one winter pastime available to anyone, with no previous experience required. Just walk onto a frozen lake (having checked with locals about the ice), make a hole, stick in a fishing pole and wait. Never mind if you never catch a fish. For the Finns, this is a kind of meditation amid the silence of the snows. Best enjoyed in Lakeland, an area of Finland scattered with endless islands and frozen rivers and canals. See visitfinland.com

Brian Johnston was a guest of Finnair, Visit Finland, Visit Stockholm and Visit Norway.

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