North Europe encompasses the Scandinavian and Jutland peninsulas, the Baltic Plain, and several islands. Positioned at the top of the European continent, the general climate is arctic or subarctic, with some more temperate weather in the east. The Gulf Stream, a powerful Atlantic Ocean current, influences temperatures across the region, warming the area slightly.
Much of the region is mountainous, with volcanic activity in the northwest, including Iceland and other volcanic islands. A contrasting feature is the broad, fertile plain in the east. It reaches to the Baltic Sea, and is home to Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Finland.
The Baltic countries are known worldwide for their musical folk festivals, which include traditional costumes, unique polyphonic singing, local food and dancing. Traditional methods of fishing, farming and handcrafts also contribute to the colourful character of this region.
All the Nordic countries (Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden) share some of their history and have similar linguistic traits. Sweden has a particular reputation for being a peaceful and prosperous country with a high standard of living.