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The Antarctic

The Arctic

The vast region known as The Arctic covers the northern-most part of the planet and is centred around the Earth's North Pole. It includes parts of Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Lapland, Finland, Russia, Canada, and Alaska, as well as the Arctic Ocean. For most of the year, the region is uninhabitable, with daytime temperatures below minus 40° Celsius. Summer, however, brings life to the Arctic and opens a window of opportunity for travellers to encounter an unspoilt wilderness of epic proportions. Dreamlike landscapes of jagged snowy peaks, formidable pack ice, polar deserts, dazzling glaciers, sheltered fjords and inlets set the scene for a remarkable adventure – not to mention incredible photographic opportunities.

The Arctic can be explored through sea, land and ice based expeditions. Each Arctic region (Canadian Arctic, European Arctic, and Russian Arctic) offers a variety of activities and experiences. Travellers can discover the true nature of the Arctic: icebergs, whales, Polar Bears, flowering flora, remote Inuit communities; the history of early exploration; and one of nature's most beautiful sights, Aurora Borealis – the Northern Lights.

Arctic cruises make travel to the high Arctic possible. Vessels are ice-strengthened ships, usually former research vessels that have undergone significant amenity and comfort refurbishments, but luxury cruise ships with elegant suites are also available on certain journeys. The ships' expert captains and crew often include geologists, naturalists, ornithologists, historians, and local Inuit guides who share their first-hand knowledge and experiences with passengers; making them ideal travel companions.

Sea and shore excursions offer mindboggling experiences for travellers. Groups can be taken ashore to visit Inuit villages, view bird and animal colonies, and discover archaeological and historic sites. Land-based activities offering an adventurous and exciting way of getting up-close to the Arctic can include transportation by snowmobiles or dog teams, and overnight camping on the ice. Other highlights include sea kayaking amongst sea ice and icebergs, and diving to discover wonderful ice formations, caverns, soft corals, sea urchins and starfish.

Land-based expeditions present excellent opportunities to explore the tundra and experience the traditional life and culture of Inuit communities. Baffin Island and Greenland are hosts to some of the world's largest glaciers, national parks and wildlife refuges within the Arctic. Canada's Lancaster Sound and Foxe Basin offer glaciers, icebergs and fjords fit for hiking, and grant frequent sightings of Polar Bears hunting for seals in the 24hour sunlight (Narwhal, Bowhead and Beluga Whales also inhabit the area). Barrow, three hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle, is home to Alaska's largest Inuit population while Igloolik boasts Canada's oldest Inuit settlement. Steeped in ancient cultures dating back 4,000 years, travellers can listen to storytellers, take part in native dances and learn about the traditional Inuit blanket toss. In some locations Nordic culture prevails, particularly in Spitsbergen and Greenland where brightly coloured houses, fascinating museums and tales of 8th century Viking-navigator exploits abound.

The Arctic climate is famous for its harshness and unpredictability. Regions that straddle the Arctic Circle endure a harsh, cold climate for much of the year, however Summer (July-August) temperatures range from approx. -10° to +10°celcius. Summer is the best time to visit as the long daylight hours allow plenty of time for exploring and wildlife watching. August to early September is the best time of year to see the eerie green glow of the Aurora Borealis.

Click here for our suggestions on events and places to go at various times of year