The great outdoors is rarely greater than in Europe's big north. Epic expanses of wilderness – forests, lakes, volcanoes and intoxicatingly pure air mean engaging with nature is a viscerally pleasurable experience. National parks cover the region, offering some of Europe's best hiking as well as anything from kayaking to glacier-walking to bear-watching. Spectacular coasts invite exploration from the sea, whether there be rugged fjords, cliffs teeming with seabirds or archipelagos so speckled with islands it looks like an artist flicked a paintbrush at a canvas. Wildlife from whales to wolverines awaits the fortunate observer.