While everyone else heads to the Mediterranean this summer, why not skip the crowds (and the heat) and opt for the North Sea instead? Northern Europe is underrated in the summertime, when the balmy weather lifts the spirits of locals and visitors alike, sending them in droves to the idyllic beaches of Denmark. If you’re having difficulty visualizing a Danish beach day, you’re certainly not alone: Scandinavia is the beautiful and unexpected summer getaway many never even think to consider. From days exploring the islands of the wooded Finnish Lakeland to nights beneath the midnight sun in Stockholm, here’s why Scandinavia should be your next summer getaway.

Saltum Beach, Denmark has perfect windsurfing conditions

1. Try windsurfing in the Bay of Denmark. Windsurfing on the waters off the coast of miles-long white sand beaches, walking your dog along the water, driving your car in the sand: This laid-back beach vibe may remind you more of San Diego Bay than the Bay of Denmark, but whenever the temperature rises in Jammerbugten in northern Denmark, so, too, do the California vibes at Saltum Beach. Depending on when you visit, you could catch international artists building a massive wall of sand for the Blokhus Festival of Sand Sculpture or watch fishermen haul their boats onto the shore to honor their shipwrecked ancestors.

The Swedish flag flies over a rocky coast in Gothenburg

2. Go island hopping in Sweden. Who needs the flocks of tourists and mega-yachts in the south of France when you can sail around the thousands of pristine Swedish islands in a catamaran, unfettered by crowds? Navigate the wild and underrated beauty of the North Sea and explore the wild forests and idyllic beaches that await at every turn — there are over 200,000 islands off the Swedish coast. In short, there’s always a new sight to discover.

Mountains rise behind a settlement in the Lofoten archipelago

3. Sleep on stilts in a Norwegian fisher’s cottage. Rent a rorbu, a traditional fisher’s cottage, in Norway’s Lofoten archipelago. In the summertime, the bright blue water, white beaches, and jagged mountains render the island chain reminiscent of Thailand and Hawaii in its color scheme and dramatic peaks, so don’t delay your trip and risk missing the peak season.

Trees, clouds, and blue sky reflect in the clear waters of a Finnish lake

4. Discover the breathtaking Finnish Lakeland. Take a ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki and spend a night or two in the capital city before heading out to the wooded islands of the placid, seemingly endless Finnish Lakeland. But head there soon, while people are still debating whether Finland is a real country: You want to discover this beautiful place before the rest of the world catches on (and the rest of your friends too).

The sun glows over the Baltic Sea between Stockholm and Helsinki shortly before midnight

5. Chase the midnight sun in Stockholm. If you’ve been waiting for winter to travel to Scandinavia, rethink the northern lights and consider chasing the midnight sun instead. After all, who needs the northern lights when you’ve got a midnight sun that never sets and a party in the streets that never ends? Also, unlike the unpredictable northern lights, the midnight sun never stops shining. Enjoy some late-night revelry in Stockholm, where festivities go on significantly later than usual (duh).

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(Photos via Getty)