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The Arctic region’s beauty crosses the borders of 5 countries: Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia, and the United States. Because of its immense size it contains some amazing sites, both natural and those that occur from the meshing of cultures.

There is simply no way you’re going to be able to take in all that the Arctic has to offer in one visit. So we’ve put together a quick list of eleven bits of awesomeness that should help you get started in putting together your Arctic adventure.

See the Northern Lights

The Aurora Borealis is actually a year-round phenomenon; however since the Arctic summer is made up of pretty much around-the-clock sunshine you should plan to take your Arctic cruise as late in the year as possible to give yourself the best chance at taking in this jaw-dropping spectacle.

Whale Watch

Whales abound in the northern waters. Humpbacks, Blues, Bowheads, Minkes, and Fins all make the annual trip to the North Pole (plus Belugas are in the north the year round).

Wildlife you'll see on an Antarctic Expedition

Take Pictures of Petroglyphs

Some 6000 years ago the very first settlers arrived in Lofoten. Happy to let others know about the extensive fishing and hunting that could be found in the area, these hearty pioneer souls scratched life-sized depictions of whales, elk, and birds into the stone walls of the northern reaches of present-day Norway (Leiknes, to be precise).

Feast Your Eyes on the Lofoten Cod Festival

Lofoten is known as a cod capital of the world. To celebrate that lofty title they hold a cod-catching festival every year in late March.

You’ll be able to take in the surreal sight of thousands of shelled-out cod dangling from lines so that they’re dried out by the cool northern winds prior to shipping.

Make Pals with Polar Bears

The Kings and Queens of the North, Polar Bears roam the great white landscapes, always on the hunt for their next meal.

While no Arctic cruise can completely guarantee a Polar Bear sighting, you can up your chances if you head to the Spitsbergen area of Norway or sail along the coasts of Greenland.

Polar Bears

Polar Bears

Experience Indigenous Cultures

Indigenous cultures surround the Arctic, differing as one passes from Russia, through northern Europe, and over to Canada. What they all have in common is their amazing ability to not only adapt to the harsh environment, but the ability to thrive in it.

Take a visit to Greenland and see how the Inuit culture has merged with the European, and find out just how much Western Civilization has benefited from the exchange (hint: our next to-do item was a gift from the Inuit).

Visit the Viking Past

Greenland has an extensive Viking past, and some of their pioneering efforts can still be seen there to this day. You’ll be able to check out the Hvalsey Church (built around 1300 A.D.), and check out where Erik the Red (the one who gave the island the name “Greenland”) set up his farm.

Go Kayaking

A lot of Arctic cruises now offer you the option to go for a paddle along the pristine shorelines of the north. Your mother-ship will anchor in a calm bay, and then you’ll be issued your very own kayak so you can explore the wilderness under your own power.

Kayaking in the arctic

Kayaking in the arctic

Birdwatching

The Arctic summers are a treat for both the novice and experienced ornithologist alike.

If you’re looking to check off some of the more exotic members of your bird book, then head for Fair Isle (Storm Petrels, Northern Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills), or Jan Mayen (Glaucous Gulls, Little Auks, Atlantic Puffins).

Additionally, the Bird Cliffs of Alkefjellet teem with over 60,000 pairs of breeding Brünnich’s Guillemots.

Inspect Icebergs

If giant floating sculptures of blue and white ice are more your thing, then head either to Iceberg Alley (Newfoundland, Canada) or the “Iceberg Capital of the World” (Ilulissat, Greenland).

the “Iceberg Capital of the World”

The arctic

Move out With Ski Mountaineering

If you’re looking for something a little more physical to do during your Arctic cruise then we suggest you try your skills at ski mountaineering.

You’ll ski out from your landing point, climbing higher than most passengers go for the chance to take in some truly breath-taking vistas.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits: Featured by Rinie van Meurs for Oceanwide Expeditions. Humpback whale by Sheryl Clarke. Polar bears courtesy of Oceanwide Expeditions. Kayaking by Sandra Petrowitz & Dietmar Denger for Oceanwide Expeditions. Icebergs & Pinterest images courtesy of Oceanwide Expeditions.

    26 Comments

  1. Weirdly, although we’ve been to Antarctica twice, plus an additional trip to the Falkland, we’ve never been to the Arctic, well… we’ve been within the circle, but not right up to the lands of the polar bears!

    • Sounds like the next trip you should plan to take :D!

  2. So many great things to do! I would love to kayak and see the polar bears! Oh and seeing the icebergs…ok so I guess I really just need to go to the arctic and do al of these things!

    • Absolutely! Sounds like it would be the perfect adventure for you :)

  3. I love the Arctic region. After visiting Alaska Norway and Greenland are high on my wishlist .

    • So glad to hear that Brianna! Hope you have the chance to travel soon :)

  4. I found arctic incredible for aurora borealis and unbelievable ice in green land.

    • So glad you had the experience! The Northern ligths are incredible aren’t they! One of those destinations where you have to plan two trips, visit once in summer and once in winter too :)

  5. Love the photo in front of the iceberg. Would love to do that

    • Highly recommend it! We’ve just returned from Antarctica – opposite side, but the icebergs were incredible – they dwarf you!

  6. I like the cold weather but going to the artic was not in the back of my mind but reading this post makes me want to go and do this stuff.

    • So glad we could inspire you! Yes, highly recommend the arctic, especially if you enjoy cold weather adventures :)

  7. This sounds like a trip of a lifetime. I would love to visit the arctic one day. The polar bears look so nice. Kayaking must have been amazing too!

    • Absolutely – a very unique destination, something everyone should do! Kayking among these kind of landscapes is a surreal experience – highly recommend booking if you do :)

  8. Going to the Arctic is on my bucket list. Apart from seeing the Nothern Lights I would love to see some polar bears as well.

    • It’s the ultimate trip! Hope you soon have the chance to cross it off the list :D!

  9. This trip looks amazing. I’d love to see polar bears in their natural habitat.

    • Highly recommend it! Definitely a unique experience you can’t find elsewhere :)

  10. Looks like an amazing trip! I have to think that kayaking through glaciers would be incredible…

    • Absolutely! Highly recommend kayaking if you can organize a trip :)

  11. I dream about such a trip. Both my husband and I love this part of the world and, apart from kayaking, I’d do all the activities you mentioned :) It would be an unforgettable trip!

    • Absolutely Lori! I hope you both have the opportunity to travel and enjoy everything the arctic has to offer soon!

  12. What an amazing trip! There’s so much I’d love to see, including the polar bears.

    • Most incredible animals in the world!

  13. Exploring the Arctic in Norway is an amazing experience, one of my favourite things was catching the Northern Lights. Was there earlier this year to see it and I never been so amazed in my life. I loved exploring into the Viking past and seeing old settlement sites (we have a lot of this in Scotland, UK as well). These things you have in your list here, I would also say to anyone visiting the region, it has to be done! The Arctic is amazing!

    • So glad you had an amazing time in the Arctic Danik! The Northern Lights when you can catch them is always bound to be a highlight – probably one of the most spectacular phenomenons mother nature has graced us with.

      I’ve done the arctic in Finland, but not Norway yet – will have to get back!

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