Sarah Barrell reveals why Scandinavia and the Nordic countries have all the ingredients for a flawless family holiday.
With crystal-clear lakes, dramatic mountains, and large wild animals to wonder at, along with delicious, simple local food and a homespun hospitality that's both genuine and world-class, Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) and the Nordics (Finland, Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Svalbard in addition to the above) should be firm family favourites.
In the Northern Hemisphere summer months, you'll get almost limitless daylight hours for children to roam free, and far more to explore than just the beach and the kids' club. A Nordic family holiday offers ample choice. Denmark has 7000km of coastline, with superlative stretches of blond sand, while islands lining the forest-fringed lakes and shores of Sweden and Finland mean a secret bay is only ever a paddle away. For something completely different, consider the wild fjords of Greenland, the Faroes, Iceland and Norway for a well-organised wilderness experience.
In winter, this polar-crowned region transforms into some of the most adventurous holiday terrain, its Arctic temperatures tempered by the Gulf Stream. From audiences with Father Christmas, aurora-hunting and reindeer feeding in Lapland, to ski resorts that focus on families and include standard extras such as husky sledding, this is Frozen-style fun in spades. And all of it is within easy distance of bone-warming hot tubs, natural hot springs and saunas.
In summer, for a rustic adventure that is safe and meticulously systematised - yet conversely libertarian, wild and outdoorsy - nowhere delivers like the Nordics. Year-round you'll find intelligent museums that celebrate marauding Vikings, Moomins, Tomtens and primary-coloured building bricks.
Nordic travel can be costly, but as a family you will likely be booking packages well ahead of travel, so you'll avoid last-minute price escalations - and you can be judicious on dining out, one of the highest spend factors while travelling in the region. Pack a picnic and those pristine shores, lakes, fjords and forests are yours to explore, gratis.
The traditional architectural landscape of the Nordics is of turf-roof cabins, off-grid weatherboard cottages, regal castles and seaside villages unchanged for centuries, but a trip there can feel like time travel to a utopian future. The region champions gender equality and big government, funded by high taxes that foster a muscular welfare state and education for all. And yet this is also a place where butter is considered good for you, and eating pastry is a national pastime equalled only by an impressive consumption of candy, alcohol and coffee: the ingredients, some might say, for a flawless family holiday.
Know your way around the Nordics
You're probably here to see Santa. But Finnish children don't scare easily and have rather more affection for the Moomins - a family of surreal (if not creepy) cartoon hippo-like creatures, whose narratives seem like the prototype for Scandi Noir (a recent animated Moomins TV adaptation was produced by Marika Makaroff, from the company behind The Bridge).
A somewhat anarchic backcountry spirit defines Norwegians, so embrace the outdoors and you will be made to feel most welcome. But never look anyone in the eye when hiking over a mountain pass.
This is the place for an indulgent child-centred holiday. It is also the land of fika - breaks for coffee and sugary pastries. So rejoice in a daily dose of cinnamon buns.
Denmark scores high on design, and low on self-restraint. Come here to ride the native Christiania bike and check into family hostels that could double as five-star boutique hotels. The Danes have a lot to smile about: 7000km of sandy coastline; Legoland; Lego House; and Hamlet's castle. The heartland of Hans Christian Andersen is a fairytale holiday destination.
With the prospect of live volcanoes, northern lights, ice caves, thermal springs and explosive geysers, there's plenty to thrill. There's also magic: elves and trolls are very much a part of mythology and the national psyche.
On these 18 blindingly green islands off the northwest of Scotland, you're never more than 5km from the ocean. Puffins and sheep outnumber people (pop: 48,000) and trees are almost non-existent - the Atlantic wind is too fierce. Temperatures average 3C in winter and 11C in summer - mild for a near-Arctic archipelago.
This huge island's ice sheet contains about seven per cent of all our planet's freshwater. If you want to engage your young climate change warrior, this is the place to do it. It's a pioneering place, with no roads outside main settlements, but rewards include whale watching and turquoise glaciers splintering into "Iceberg Alley".
- Telegraph Group Ltd