SHANGHAI, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Long Zhijiao, a graduate student in Shanghai, could not forget the thrill of seeing the aurora.
She saw it when traveling to Iceland with her parents last year. "We were surprised to see quite a lot of Chinese tourists there."
Like Long, more Chinese now visit Scandinavian countries to see the unique natural wonders and experience its cultures.
Ctrip, a Shanghai-based online travel agency, said the number of Chinese tourists who booked trips to Scandinavian countries through Ctrip in 2018 soared by 82 pct.
Chinese tourists mainly visited Scandinavia from May to September when the weather was warmer, said Shan Minmin, who is in charge of long-distance overseas trips in Ctrip. "Many of them also went there in winter to enjoy snow and skiing, and watch the aurora."
Xie Ye, a middle-school teacher in Shanghai, said she chose to visit Scandinavia with her family because of its beautiful natural scenery, particularly those in Norway, and the cultural attractions of Denmark brought by the fairytale writer Hans Anderson.
"My daughter really loved Copenhagen," she said. "We took her around on a bicycle."
A report by Ctrip and the China Tourism Academy showed that the focus of Chinese tourists who traveled abroad in the first half of 2018 shifted from shopping to food and sightseeing.
Xie said she only bought some sea products, snacks and outdoor gear when traveling to Scandinavia. "Prices there are generally high so it is not an ideal place to buy luxuries."
According to Ctrip, Finland was the most visited by Chinese tourists in 2018.
Sanna Karkkainen, managing director of Visit Rovaniemi, a northern Finnish region known for its Santa Claus Village, said the number of Chinese tourists to the region had rose significantly since 2015.
Cultural and lifestyle experiences became more popular among Chinese tourists to Rovaniemi, Karkkainen said.
Recently, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden jointly kicked off a tourism campaign to offer more distinctive travel experiences to Chinese visitors.
They have developed gourmet food and lifestyle trips with an aim to present tourist experiences that are not well-known to Chinese travelers.
This year also marks the China-Finland Year of Winter Sports, which was unveiled in Beijing on Monday during Finnish President Sauli Niinisto's visit to China.
As China gears up for the 2022 Winter Olympics, winter sports such as skating and skiing have become more popular among Chinese, providing huge potential for cooperation between the two countries.