It sits at 66 degrees 33 minutes 44 seconds north latitude. It’s the Arctic Circle, and it’s beckoned to the hardiest of explorers and pioneers throughout history. Traveling to these remote areas of the world is, in many ways, its own reward, as there are sites to see and things to experience unlike anyplace else on Earth.
Being Prepared for Arctic Travel
Aside from getting one’s papers in order by securing passports and any applicable visas, people should provide themselves with proper clothing and gear suitable for Arctic travel. Aside from that, a good mnemonic device to remember when traveling in extremely cold climates is C-O-L-D, which means:
Keep it “C”lean.
Keep it “O”pen.
Keep it “L”ayered.
Keep it “D”ry.
Even when traveling in summer months, places at this extreme latitude get cold very quickly, and following these four simple tenets will mean the difference between a happy vacation and severe consequences.
Five Interesting Arctic Places to Go
The city of Murmansk lies on the Kola Peninsula in Western Russia. It is a remarkably modern city for such a location, and, despite a dwindling population, is still the most populous city in the world above the Arctic Circle. Murmansk has a significant cultural presence with numerous museums, galleries and churches to visit. Most notable of these is the Church of the Annunciation, which was ordered built in 1807 by Empress Catherine the Great. The Kola Peninsula itself is a sportsman’s paradise, with hundreds of rivers and lakes to fish and lots of game to hunt. Skiers can enjoy downhill and cross-country trails at a fraction of the prices of other European ski centers.
The North Cape, or Nordkapp, is the northernmost part of mainland Europe. It is an extremely popular tourist destination, so travelers should book early. Famous for 24-hour golf and its iconic Artico Ice Bar, Norway’s northern jewel has something for everyone. Travelers can sojourn to the edge of the Arctic Ocean and experience the extraordinary beauty of the aurora borealis over the raging seas. They can snowmobile over untouched tundra and marvel at the fantastic wildlife only a stone’s throw away. There are bird safaris, king crab fishing trips and dozens of trails to hike for the outdoor-loving crowd. In town, visitors can take in the sights, browse in delightful art galleries and steep themselves in local culture.
In Canada, the most popular Arctic destination is the territory of Nunavut, which includes Baffin Island and most of the famed Northwest Passage. Travelers can follow in the footsteps of intrepid explorers that were looking for the easy way to the Far East and see all manner of wildlife and stunning, Arctic landscapes along the way. Nunavut offers bird watchers some of the best opportunities anywhere, and particularly hardy visitors can dogsled through the terrain on excursions through the area’s national parks. Travelers can enjoy listening to Inuit throat singing and seeing traditional dancers before retiring to modern accommodations in Iqaluit or one of the other cities in the territory.
For travelers who might like to rough it a bit more, they can visit Barrow, Alaska. During the summer, it’s possible to get to Barrow by ship; otherwise, the only way in is to fly. Alaska Airlines offers service from Fairbanks and Anchorage. It is truly a frontier town above the Arctic Circle. Walking outside the town limits brings a traveler directly into the tundra, which is not recommended without a group and a guide. Visitors can also see the Wiley Post-Will Rogers memorial, which commemorates their 1935 plane crash just outside of town. To venture out of town, travelers should contact Tundra Tours, which will not only take visitors to all the landmarks in the area, such as the whalebone arch and Inupiat Heritage Center, but will also lead them on exciting forays into the tundra to see and experience the magnificence of the area’s wildlife. Of course, the aurora borealis is always a splendid sight. Gazing at it over dinner is a perfect way to end a long day at the northernmost town in the United States.
As the ultimate Arctic roughing-it trip, traveling to the North Pole itself will be the adventure of a lifetime. You’ve probably heard the old joke about the house with all southern exposure and the bear walking past the window. A very few, select adventurers have lived it for themselves. Combining a cruise on a powerful icebreaker, a thrilling ride on a Zodiac inflatable raft across the choppy Arctic Ocean, a helicopter spin and a momentous hop across the Pole itself in a hot-air balloon, an expedition to the North Pole will be an unforgettable and life-changing experience. Nowhere else on Earth combines thrilling risks and gorgeous scenery with a true feeling of accomplishment shared by only extremely few people in the world.
Arctic Fun Facts
Because of a controversy regarding the two men who claimed to have reached the North Pole before 1910, the first completely verified conquering of the Pole was in 1969.
The coldest it has ever been above the Arctic Circle is -90.4 F in Siberia.
The Arctic Ocean covers 5.4 million square miles.
- The Sami language group of Scandinavia has 180 snow-related words and more than 1,000 describing reindeer.