The Arctic is starting to pop up more and more on luxury travellers’ must-visit lists. Part of its appeal is that for a very long time Arctic cruises were so exotic that they were almost the thing of fantasy, meshed in with tales of explorers risking life and limb to find the elusive Northwest Passage.
Nowadays the Arctic has been tamed (at least a little bit) and cruises run the gamut from hardy explorations to outright luxury vacations complete with hot tubs and top tier meals. Plus they provide the best way to get up close and personal with the wonders of the North.
That being said… just what experiences should you be shooting for? What should you put at the top of your Arctic must-see lists? These 10 Arctic experiences should help give you some idea of what to search for when you navigate your way to our Great White North.
10. Go Viking hiking
Remnants of Viking history are still standing on Greenland. You’ll be able to see where the famous ex-pat Erik the Red had his farmstead, the remains of the Gardar settlement (seat of the bishop of the Norse settlements), and the still-standing Hvalsey Church which was built all the way back in the year 1300 A.D.
9. Put your feet up in fantastic lodges
If cruising isn’t your thing, there are some truly beautiful lodges nestled in the northern reaches of more than one country. Some are so remote they’re only accessible by ski-plane. Included in our list of these high-class hideouts are the Blanchard Lodge in Canada, Brandon Lodge in Sweden, and the Arctic Panorama Lodge of Norway.
8. Go kayaking
One of the great attributes of the Arctic is its quiet. One of the best ways to appreciate and enjoy that quiet is to putter around under your own power, no engines allowed. Kayaking lets you dip in and out of small bays and get up close to the beauty of passing icebergs.
7. Explore the towns of Greenland
Greenland is an amazing melting pot of Inuit and European cultures. The art, the food, and the people themselves present an environment that you’re not likely to encounter anywhere else in the world.
6. Stay in an ice hotel
With architecture carved out of the ice itself ice hotels are breathtaking, if a little bit chilly. But all you have to do to stay warm is bundle up or snuggle up with your S.O. during the nights, and then spend your days skiing or whipping around the countryside on a snowmobile or dog-sled.
5. Celebrate Christmas in Lapland, Finland
The Finns claim that Santa makes his home in Finland. We’re not entirely convinced on that point, but we do know that they do Christmas up right. Help some locals decorate their tree, light up Christmas Eve with ice lanterns, get a nice pre-Santa glow on with a spot of Glögi (a spiced and mulled red wine), and take a traditional Christmas spa to put a relaxing cap on the night.
4. Dive under the Arctic seas
Prepare yourself to glide through a world of startling and ever-shifting blues. Climb sideways, hand-over-hand, along the bottoms of blue-white icebergs. Meet and greet a surprisingly diverse array of wildlife including crabs, corrals, and waving anemones. And when you finally manage to drag yourself away warm yourself up on board your cruise ship with a hot toddy
3. Go whale-watching
One of the most awe-inspiring encounters you’ll ever have, whale-watching always gets a recommend for Arctic must-see lists. This one takes a little more work than some of the other points though – do a little research so that you hit the right area at the right time of the year to max out your chances of meeting up with our giant mammal cousins of the seas.
2. Make friends with the polar bears
Another staple of trips to the Arctic is the chance to spot the Kings and Queens of the North – the polar bears. If this experience hits the top of your Arctic must-see list then set your course for either the Spitsbergen region of northern Europe or Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.
1. See the Northern Lights
No list of Arctic experiences can be complete without mentioning the Northern Lights. The reason why they’re mandatory is simply that they really do live up to their reputation. They’re enormously beautiful and somehow empowering, making you feel connected with the sun (a borealis is caused by solar radiation), the Earth, and the pristine Arctic environment around you.
Photography pro-tip: When taking pictures of the Northern Lights try to put something else in the frame that will create a reference of scale – a mountaintop, your cruise ship, or perhaps your significant other.