Inspiration from the edge of Europe: Books, films and TV

Travel Advice

For those of us who love to explore the world, the continuing restrictions on travel are a source of frustration and sadness, with even the closest destinations still tantalisingly out of reach.

But we know that this situation will not last forever, and already we are seeing some countries around Europe beginning to relax their lockdown measures. Once we are free to travel again, it's likely that many of us will initially favour holidaying closer to home, whether it's in the UK or elsewhere in Europe.

To remind you just how many fantastic expedition destinations we have on our doorstep, we've put together this list of some of our favourite books, TV shows and films inspired by Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland and the Arctic...

Books about Europe and the Arctic

Our book choices include tales of heroic explorers, remarkable ships and ethereal Arctic landscapes...

Michael Palin - 'Erebus: The Story of a Ship'

Michael Palin - 'Erebus: The Story of a Ship'

One of Britain's best-loved TV travellers turns his hand to maritime history in this scintillating biography of the HMS Erebus, recounting the ship's epic voyages to Antarctica and the Arctic during the 19th century. A wonderfully evocative account of the golden age of polar exploration.

Michelle Paver - 'Dark Matter'

Michelle Paver - 'Dark Matter'

This snow-bound ghost story, set in the 1930s in the Svalbard archipelago, follows 28-year-old Jack, who joins a year-long Arctic expedition as a way of escaping his dead-end job in London. The expedition is dogged by bad luck, and one by one his companions are forced to leave, with the total darkness of the polar winter approaching...

Sarah Moss - 'Names for the Sea'

Sarah Moss - 'Names for the Sea'

Novelist Sarah Moss moved to Iceland in 2009, just as the country was grappling with economic collapse, and this book sits somewhere between traditional travelogue and memoir. Moss is entranced by the strange landscapes, meets a woman who speaks to elves, and witnesses the eruption of the infamous Eyjafjallajökull.

Fridtjof Nansen - 'Farthest North'

Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen recounts his incredible 1893 expedition to the North Pole on board the legendary Fram, a ship designed and built to be frozen into the polar ice cap. Though Nansen didn't make it to the Pole, he got closer than anyone had previously managed, and the story is in many ways a northerly version of Scott of the Antarctic. As you may be aware, Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten has expedition ships named after both Nansen and the Fram.

Robert Ferguson - 'Scandinavians'

Robert Ferguson - 'Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North'

This eclectic examination of Scandinavian history and culture covers everything from the Viking raids to the 2011 terror attacks in Oslo, mixing historical accounts with the author's own personal experiences and anecdotes. A great read for anyone interested in our cousins to the north.

Alistair MacLean - 'Ice Station Zebra'

Alistair MacLean - 'Ice Station Zebra'

Alistair MacLean's classic Cold War thriller sees the nuclear submarine 'Dolphin' racing for the Arctic Circle to rescue the crew of a British weather station floating somewhere amongst the ice floes. Full of suspense and mystery, the book is much better than the 1968 movie adaptation starring Rock Hudson.

Films & TV shows

Cosy up on the sofa with some of our favourite Northern Europe and Arctic-themed films, box sets and TV shows...

Village at the End of the World

This feature-length documentary is a captivating portrait of a remote village in northern Greenland, home to a population of just 59 hardy souls. The film is tinged with sadness, as the population of the village dwindles and old traditions fade, but it's also beautifully shot and profoundly moving.

Village at the End of the World

Frozen Planet (BBC)

Sir David Attenborough's stunning 2011 series focusing on the polar regions is still available on iPlayer, following the wildlife of the Arctic and Antarctica through the changing of the seasons. The series also looks at the human presence in the Arctic, and the challenges posed by our changing climate.

His Dark Materials (BBC)

The recent BBC adaption of Philip Pullman's best-selling fantasy trilogy follows the story of young orphan Lyra Belacqua, who travels to the frozen Arctic in search of her missing friend and uncle. The story is set in a parallel universe where Svalbard is inhabited by armoured polar bears, and the series is the most expensive drama that the BBC has ever produced.

His Dark Materials

Hunt for the Arctic Ghost Ship (Channel 4)

If Michael Palin's book has piqued your interest in the story of HMS Erebus then don't miss this documentary, which takes a behind-the-scenes look at the expedition which eventually tracked down the ship's wreckage in 2014, more than a century and a half after she disappeared while searching for the Northwest Passage.

Arctic with Bruce Parry

The ever enthusiastic Bruce Parry immerses himself in the indigenous communities of the Arctic in this revealing series, learning first-hand how people live this far north and exploring the threats to their traditional way of life from climate change and the race to extract oil, gas and minerals from the Arctic.

Occupied (Netflix)

This slick drama is set in a near future where Russia launches a 'silk glove' invasion of Norway, with the tacit support of the EU, after Norway's environmentalist prime minister shuts down the country's oil and gas production. The series, based on an original idea by novelist Jo Nesbø, received a frosty reception from the Russian government on its release in 2015.

Occupied TV series

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Meet the author

Tom is a Communications Manager at the Galapagos Conservation Trust and former Marketing Manager at Mundy Adventures

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