|Scandinavia is the term for a geographical region in northern Europe. It consists of the kingdoms of Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The people of these countries share a language that differs only in a way that can be characterizes as dialects, and the inhabitants of these countries can to a certain extent understand each other. The Scandinavian countries also have close cultural and historic bonds, some may argue that in fact they could be considered one people. The term "the Nordic Countries" includes Scandinavia, Finland and Iceland. Iceland and especially Finland have languages that differ from the Scandinavian language(s) also their history and cultural background are very different.
The geography of Scandinavia is extremely varied. Notable are the Norwegian fjords, the Scandinavian Mountains, the flat, low areas of Denmark, the archipelagos of Sweden and Norway and the many Swedish lakes. Sweden is one of the largest countries in Europe in area, but only has some 9 million inhabitants. Norway is the size of Germany, but only has a population of some 4.5 million. Denmark is by far the smallest of the Scandinavian countries, and has a population of around 5.5 million.
While central parts of Scandinavia (the Oslo-Stockholm-Copenhagen triangle) are more densely populated, vast areas in the north or in the mountains are hardly populated at all. Large parts of Sweden and to some extend Norway is covered by deep pine tree forest. Galdhopiggen in Norway's Jotunheimen national park is with its 2,469 meters the tallest mountain north of the Alps. Space, water and wilderness are key characteristics of Scandinavia (except Denmark where most of the country is farmland or settlements).
Many visitors to Scandinavia in the summer come to watch the midnight sun in the northern parts of Sweden and Norway. In the winter, Norway as well as Sweden has a lot to offer in respect of skiing, especially cross country skiing is popular, but there are also many opportunities for alpine skiing.
There is a constant and long going rivalry between Copenhagen and Stockholm over which city can claim the title as Scandinavia's unofficial capital. Depending on how you count, both cities are the largest, most visited and the target of most investment. However, after completion of the Oeresund bridge, and the subsequent integration of Copenhagen and Malmoe - Sweden's third largest city, this region is fast emerging as the main urban center in Scandinavia, while Stockholm arguably grabs the title as the most beautiful.