The word Arctic is generally used to define the region inside the Arctic Circle and includes a number of different countries and destinations. This vast area spans over 5.5 million square miles and covers a total of 6% of the earth’s surface. There is often a debate as to where the Arctic begins but the general belief is that anything further north than sixty six degrees is included. This encompasses the majority of Greenland, along with areas of Russian, Canada, Alaska, Norway, Sweden and Finland as well as the entire Svalbard archipelago. Iceland does not strictly meet this criteria but we do still offer a range of expedition cruises to the country.
On your Arctic expedition there is a chance that you may encounter polar bears, reindeer, walruses, Arctic foxes and various species of bird, but no penguins. Penguins are found in the Antarctic and it is a common myth that they and polar bears ever encounter each other in the wild. Aside from the wildlife, there’s majestic frozen landscapes and thriving local communities to discover; making for a truly memorable trip.
Whenever you think of the Arctic region, one of the first symbols that comes to mind is a polar bear. These kings of the Arctic Circle are at the top of the food chain, have no natural predators besides humans, and proudly roam these lands all year round.
One of the best places to spot polar bears is the main island of the Svalbard archipelago, Spitsbergen. Here, it is essential for people heading out into the wild to always be on their guard and there are even rules in place that state doors have to be kept unlocked in case someone finds themselves being chased. A sighting of one of these beasts is sure to live with you forever.
A fjord is characterised by a long, narrow inlet of water between two high cliffs and the ones found in Norway are some of the best in the world. The stretch of coastline along the west and north of the country is littered with these naturally occurring landscapes; providing a relentless feast for the eyes and perhaps a sore finger from all the camera clicking that will ensue.
Iceland and Greenland also have impressive fjord systems, but it is the Norwegian ones that seem to get all the attention, and you’ll soon see why.
Fishing is the primary industry for many towns and villages in the Arctic region, and many of these are situated on the island of Greenland. Traditional fishing huts will line the shores in these areas, highlighting the fact that the locals rely on what they catch to feed their families and to bring in as much income as possible.
Whilst visiting these villages, such as Ilulissat, you may well get the chance to witness the fisherman in action. However, regardless of whether you do or not, the beauty and charm of these places will fill you with a warm feeling enough to rid those extremities of any oncoming frostbite.
If nature had a home then it would definitely be in Iceland. It may holiday in places like Australia, The Grand Canyon and on the Amalfi Coast, but its permanent residence is definitely on this small island which lies at the joining of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Norwegian Sea.
Everywhere you look there is a beautiful panorama to appreciate, and there is so much diversity on offer. Very few destinations can provide volcanoes, waterfalls, mountains, glaciers, fjords and icebergs in such a confined area and it really does make for a dramatic experience. If Iceland’s wonders don’t open your eyes to the beauty of nature then they may well be superglued shut.
The indigenous people of the Canada and Greenland are collectively known as Inuit, but there are so many other groups of natives that inhabit the various countries that you will visit on your expedition. You may well get the chance to interact with some of them during your journey and this is sure to be a humbling experience.
Engage with them as they hunt for seals in kayaks, fish for that night’s meal and carry out activities that have been part of their way of life for hundreds of years. There are also a few museums found in Greenland and Canada which depict Inuit life and give you a great understanding of their history and culture.
There will definitely be no shortage of icebergs during your Arctic expedition and a great deal of these will be found in the Canadian Arctic. Areas such as the Northwest Passage, Hudson Bay and Baffin Bay are brimming with them and so this is definitely a part of your trip where you will want to be on deck to witness them as they silently and eerily float past.
There are even different names given to icebergs that help to describe their shape. For example, there are ‘dome’ icebergs that are rounded, ‘pinnacle’ ones which have one or more peaks, and, perhaps most amusingly, ‘blocky’ icebergs which…well…look like a block.