It’s always a fun time traveling solo worldwide. You get some enriching and unique experiences that only belong to you. The flexibility to make all your own decisions from the daily itinerary without really having to compromise is what solo travelers value most. But it can get boring after a while, and you should switch it up with a group tour.
The group tours allow you to share traveling with some great like-minded individuals. Yes, the itinerary may be already set, but for you, it can be more convenient and even affordable regarding transportation, accommodations, and food and nightlife expectations. Sometimes it is the best travel choice you can make.
What is Contiki Tours?
Contiki Tours is one of those popular travel companies that specializes in trips all over the world. They run multiple tours, such as train trips and outdoor wildlife to adventure and holidays. These trips can be from several days to a month across Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, Australia, and North America. It is catered to young adults between 18-35, which helps to embrace the adventure mentality and social experience. Those you meet may have never left their home country before, and this is the first time they are out in the world.
Most of my travels have been through the Contiki tour company after it was recommended to me. With them, I traveled across 3 continents and 23 countries, during which I had some fantastic shared experiences and made friends from all over the world who I still keep in contact with today. You can have customized tours up to a certain point, but if you are interested in travel with little restrictions, you will find something you like.
This content follows my review of the Contiki Scandinavia Tour, the last one I took before I aged out of the tour company. It will have some insights on the kind of tours you can expect to take with Contiki, highlights of activities for this particular tour, and some personal recommendations. I have a lot of good memories from my trips with them, and you will have the same.
Contiki Scandinavia Tour
Duration: 12 Days, 3 Countries (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden)
*Note that tours and activities are subject to change depending on the month, weather, federally recognized holidays, and other restrictive conditions.
Day 1: Welcome to Denmark
You start the tour in Copenhagen. Depending on your schedule and preferences, you may have arrived a day or two earlier to explore the city on your own time and to see any attractions that you did not want to miss if the tour could not get to it. Others sometimes reach out on the social media group to see if others are taking the same tour and arriving early, giving you a chance to make a new friend before the official start.
Most groups begin meeting in the lobby of the first hotel you will be staying in. Note that for this Scandinavia tour, most of your stays will be in hostels, as that is the norm here. This is where you meet your Contiki tour guide and sometimes the assigned driver of the trip. Your tour guide will help give a quick introduction of himself and the overall tour. Part of this is filling out the administrative paperwork that is necessary to continue on the tour. You’ll also get your room keys and find out who you will be bunking up with if you decide not to get your room.
This is an excellent opportunity to start introducing yourself to the group slowly. You never know what kind of mix of people you will get on these tours. Sometimes, the age range may point heavily towards those in the late 20s or early 30s; the majority foreign group may be Canadians and Australians or Americans, with the odd random person from another European country, etc. The tour may be a small group of barely ten people to up to 40-50, depending on the tour’s popularity and the season. That is part of the excitement you get from taking a group tour.
Your tour guide will give you the next day’s meeting time and location, and then the night is yours. Once you drop off your luggage in the room, you can head out to explore alone or with the tour group. The tour guide may suggest some places for dinner in Copenhagen, or you can plan with part of the group to wander and explore. Just make sure you don’t get lost and not stay out too late on your first night here.
Day 2: Delve into Copenhagen
Now that you have rested, it’s time to explore the city. You will have breakfast at the hotel and then meet with your group in the lobby in the morning. Make sure to arrive on time. You want to be someone other than the one in the group who is always last. Your guide will then be able to give you an informal list of the activities and sites planned for today.
If you indulge in all the add-on activities, they will tell you when and where to meet for that specific one in each city you visit. If you decide you would instead go off alone, the time will be when to meet back at the hotel for dinner.
Since you’re located near the city center, you’ll spend most of the day on a walking tour. Your tour guide will help lead you through the city streets, with occasional stops at significant locations to give you a quick history behind it on your way to the front of city hall. From here, you’ll be let loose to do what you want for the day or keep going with the group.
You’ll be taken down to Nyhavn to see all the colorful houses and boats and then to Freetown Christiana for some fantastic street art. Grab some lunch at Torvehallerne food hall with all its delectable selections. You will able to rent some bikes as well to get around the city. Some of you will decide to do the Copenhagen food tour add-on, which is a great way to get some more views of the city while enjoying some traditional cuisine.
The usual evening plans are to go inside Tivoli Gardens. Here in this upscale amusement park, you can play classic carnival games, go on rides, listen to live music, and just enjoy the garden scenery. Next door is another popular food hall where you can grab dinner before returning to the hotel to end the night.
Day 3: See Ya Denmark, Hello Norway
It may seem like a short stay in Denmark, but you probably managed to see a lot of attractions and enjoy the cultural aspects here, but it’s off now to Norway. You’ll be heading out of town with, luckily, a short stop at the Little Mermaid Statue on your way, but you will be stopping to spend part of the day at Vigeland Sculpture Park to enjoy a nice stretch and view the dozens of sculptures lined along the walking paths.
Once you’re back on the bus, it’s relaxation time. Here, you can put on your headphones and catch up on some sleep or chat with the new friends you just made. The first day on the bus is usually reserved for more formal introductions of each member of the tour group with some icebreakers.
You are heading to Oslo now, but you’ll take a ferry between these cities part of the way. Here, you can grab lunch on the ferry while enjoying the fresh air and amazing panoramic views. So you should arrive in the next city by the early evening once you disembark. You will check in and receive your room keys, and then it’s the same routine as before. You have the night off to do what you want or participate with the group.
Day 4: Exploring Oslo
Now you are in the largest city and capital of Norway and another gem of Scandinavia for the whole day. We highly recommend taking the add-on of bicycle riding through the city with Viking Biking, even if you are only reasonably physically active.
You start by the Oslo pier and ride through Aker Brygge, stopping to see points like the Oslo Opera House and Nobel Peace Center. The bike tour will take you out of the city and into the open fields and neighborhoods on the outskirts. The tour includes a stop at the popular Kon-Tiki Museum, where you can take a bathroom break and go inside to learn about the famous trailblazer Thor Heyerdahl.
Once you are done, you’ll take a different path back into the city and complete the tour. From here, it’s your free time to explore however you want. Keep going to the other city highlights, such as the Oslo Royal Palace and Norsk Folkemuseum. Or try one of the floating saunas on the water or take a foodie tour of the scattered food halls around the city for dinner.
Day 5: Oslo to Voss
Finishing up in another major city, now is the time you will be exploring the Norwegian countryside and small-town life. This day will be mostly filled with bus driving and the occasional break to stretch your legs and go to the restroom. But you will see many beautiful panoramic scenery that makes this country great. You will find the whole tour bus ride filled with snow-covered mountains, crystal-blue lakes, and some deep green forests.
It’s gorgeous, and you will have some opportunities during the short breaks to get some great pictures for your photo album, but use this as an excellent opportunity to decompress. You will arrive in Voss in the early evening, just enough time to check into your rooms and grab some dinner. This a popular yet small town, so there is very little to do here at night except the local restaurant and bar, so relax and get a good night’s sleep for the next day.
Day 6: Voss Extreme
Today will be full of outdoor activities to get the blood pumping. This town is the sports capital of Norway, and it’s no surprise once you see the itinerary. You have the additional add-on of going white water rafting in nearby fjord rivers, and you can get a gondola ticket up into the mountains where the ski resort is and see some fresh powder and skyline views.
If you choose not to do the white water rafting, the ski resort will only take part of the day, so you can use your time to explore the main street and all the little boutique shops and stores around town. There are also several hiking paths you can take that are just outside of town and an easy walk from the hotel. Or just relax in the hotel until dinner time. It is a 3-course meal that is delectable, and afterward, you can relax in the bar/lounge area curled up, all nice and cozy.
Day 7: Fjord Sightseeing
Today is all about the world-famous fjords once you leave Voss. It’s a short drive as you will be going along the scenic road through Sognefjord to Geirangerfjord, the most popular fjord in the world. This is where you will see a lot more of the natural beauty that Norway has to offer. You will quickly hop off the tour bus for snacks and restroom facilities in the village of Stryn. Then, it is right back on the bus for a stop at the Boyabreen Glacier for some lunch before getting to the Geirangerfjord general area.
Here, you will be staying in Hellesylt, a little settlement right next to the Sunnylvsfjorden, one of the branches of the fjords that all interconnect with each other. Once you’ve unloaded in your rooms, it’s off to the pier to get on the ferry. This ferry will take you through the Geirangerfjord to witness cliffs, famous waterfalls, and abandoned farms along the site. They stop over in the village of Geiranger, where you can disembark to pick up some nice souvenirs at one of the gift shops before heading back on board. You may even see some large cruise liners stopping there for the night.
Head back across the water to Hellesylt, and you can relax. A possible add-on activity is kayaking in the fjord. It’s a fun activity to see the fjord’s beauty, especially in the summer, but do mind the water will still be cold. The best way to end the night is to include a polar dive off the diving pier.
Day 8: On to Lillehammer!
Lillehammer is your last stop in Norway before crossing the border to Sweden. If you’re lucky, you visited Norway during their Norway Constitution Day. Most of the central part of town is within easy walking distance from your hotel, which is built right next to the train station. So expect a lot of foot traffic coming in and out throughout the day. You’re only here for a single night, so make the most of your day by exploring the main street with all the boutique markets and eateries.
The main highlight, though, being here is the Ski Jumping Arena just on the outskirts of town. You won’t be doing this as your additional activity, but it’s still fun to just walk around the property to view the track and get some great views from the vantage points. What you will be able to do, weather permitting is take a bobsled ride with a qualified professional at the Olympic Bobsled course as your add-on activity. This is an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience and an adrenaline rush.
Day 9: Now Entering Sweden
You are entering Sweden now, and it is just oh-so-beautiful. One of the first official stops you will make once you cross the border is most likely at one of the IKEA stores along the way for some classic Swedish meatballs in their cafeteria. It’s not a bad place to stretch your legs, but this is not where you should have your first experience eating Swedish meatballs in Sweden. That part is for later.
But you won’t be heading into the city just yet. Instead, you will be heading to the countryside in Torgås, part of Dalarna county. It’s more of a settlement with open land between neighbors, but you will have great opportunities to experience the Swedish countryside. Part of your day will be taking a light nature hike through the nearby forest with a quick tutorial on the history.
Then, if this add-on is part of your chosen tour, you can head to the local sled dog kennel just about 30 min away. Here,, you can learn about the training and feeding of sled dogs in Sweden while playing and petting them. You may even have the chance to see some puppies who will become sled dogs when they get older. If there is still enough snow here, you may have the chance to ride them for a short distance, but that will depend on the weather. Dinner will be served here before heading back to the hostel, where you can finish your night with a lovely campfire and relax under the stars.
Day 10: Entering Stockholm
It is time to leave the comfort of the countryside and move on to the capital of Sweden. You’ll spend a few hours in the morning on the bus heading into the city before being dropped in the middle of the city at the Strandvägen for a quick tour before heading to your hostel.
Since it’s only a half-day here, you will mostly just be walking around exploring the streets and neighborhoods, viewing the scenery. Stick with the group so you do not get lost. Make a quick stop over at the royal palace for a few pictures and just enjoy the atmosphere.
There are no definite night plans, so you can choose to go solo or see what the rest of the group has in mind. There are some upscale rooftop bars close by that are just delightful. The hostel you are staying at has karaoke nights if you want to stay in and maybe grab dinner nearby. It is really up to you to listen to the suggestions of your guide.
Day 11: Dive into Stockholm Culture and History
This is a whole day in Stockholm. You are pretty much left to do whatever you want. Your guide will likely want to start you off at Vasa Museum together as a group, but it is optional. We do suggest going as this is a fascinating museum with a rich and colorful history of Sweden. After that, you can stick with the group and follow the consensus or do your own thing for the remainder of the day.
You will have a lot of options in a short time, so make the most of it. There is a whole line of museums within walking distance of each other, so it depends on your preferences. Some may go to the ABBA Museum first for some colorful music and costumes before heading over to the Nordic Viking Museum. Take the subway throughout the city to see the iconic artwork designed at each station. Or spend your day walking along the rest of the Strandvägen again if you overlooked something or want to see another part.
We do highly recommend you choose to make the final dinner with the group as it is a 3-course menu with the main entree being traditional Swedish meatballs, way better than the IKEA ones you had earlier. Not only is the restaurant in lovely Gamla Stan that you can explore, but it’s a final night among your travel companions.
After dinner and the walk back to the hostel, it depends on if you want to stay with the group for a last round of drinks, some music and dancing, or simply go to bed if you have to catch an earlier flight the next day.
Day 12: Goodbye Contiki
The tour is over, and what an amazing one it has been. This is the time for teary goodbyes and making plans with your newfound friends for the future. With different flight schedules, people will be slowly leaving throughout the day. Others may have decided to extend their stay in Stockholm or have flights in the evening.
If you plan on sticking around longer in Stockholm, use this as an opportunity to see any sites you might have missed or could not get to yesterday. See who else is staying and plan to explore more of the city. Or simply say your goodbyes and switch over to solo travel mode now.
Travel Score: 9/10
This is an excellent tour if you are a first-timer or seasoned travel veteran with Contiki. It is a combination of everything you want on a trip. You will experience the Scandinavian culture, history, outdoors, food, and nightlife.
My only recommendation would be on this is to expand on the Denmark part of this tour. There are many other great places to visit besides Copenhagen. Even a half-day in another smaller city or town on the itinerary, I think, would be an excellent addition. The tour is based on all of Scandinavia but seems to focus mainly on Norway and secondary on Denmark and Sweden. But that is just one travel person’s opinion.
It is only the tip of the iceberg in Contiki tours. You can find so many different options it will be hard to narrow down your choices. Remember that these tours are constantly changing, so each one is not always the same as another, but most of the time, you will follow the same itinerary. New tours are always appearing as tour operations continue to evolve. Just choosing to go with this tour company is a step in the right direction in expanding your travel horizons and making some lifelong memories.