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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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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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.