When most people think of the Arctic region, the North Pole is what immediately comes to mind. But the Arctic stretches incorporate all of the islands and landmasses that fall within the boundary of the Arctic Circle. Places that fall within the boundary of the Arctic Circle include:
- The Canadian High Arctic
- The Svalbard Archipelago
- The majority of Greenland
- The northern regions of Scandinavia
- Smaller islands scattered across the Arctic Ocean
- Quark Expeditions guests get a close-up view of a tabular iceberg in Svalbard. Photo: Acacia Johnson
So what are some of the best Arctic vacations you can plan? Here are several ideas to help you prepare for a memorable adventure.
Where is the Arctic region located?
The Arctic region is not defined by a specific geographic boundary, especially as the effects of climate change increasingly impact many of the coldest areas. However, since the region stretches southward to include elements of those respective nations, it does include climates and landmasses that you wouldn't associate with the Arctic region.
Areas of Canada, Greenland, and Scandinavia are very green, fertile regions that are home to different types of wildlife. But the North Pole at the heart of the Arctic Circle is a typical polar climate where you can witness large gatherings of animals typically associated with the Arctic region, including the powerful polar bear that roams across the mainland and floating icebergs.
What to expect from an Arctic vacation
A mama polar bear and her cub caught on camera during an Arctic voyage with Quark Expeditions. Photo: Quark Expeditions
For many polar adventurers, the Arctic is on the bucket list and there are many activities to experience on a journey like this one. One of our traveler's guides wrote a comprehensive story detailing their experiences in the Arctic, which you can use to get an idea of what to expect from an Arctic vacation.
One of the best things about a visit to the Arctic is the cultures one can experience firsthand. For instance, the Inuit are found in both the Canadian High Arctic and Greenland, and guests have the opportunity during community visits to witness the rich cultural traditions in both regions. (You'll read more about this in the “Tundra to Table” highlight below!.
How to get to the Arctic
Through Canada and Scandinavia, most adventurers will have a choice between either flying or sailing towards the polar region.
For those that choose to travel by sea, there are several Arctic destination ports that cruise ships sail in and out of frequently. For example, places like Resolute, Nunavut in Canada welcome adventurers eager to explore the fabled Northwest Passage.
15 of the best Arctic vacation ideas
Now, what are some examples of the best Arctic vacation ideas you can experience? We've put together a list of some great opportunities to plan your own dream adventure in the Arctic.
Greenland Ice Sheet Experience
The Greenland Ice Sheet is the second-largest known ice sheet on the planet, and it covers most of the southern coast of Greenland with shimmering thick ice that glows in the sunlight. We have a video of our adventure guides documenting the sight of the Ice Sheet that you can view to build up your excitement!
Quark Expeditions takes guests by helicopter to the Greenland Ice Sheet where they can set foot and walk on the second-largest ice mass
on the planet. Photo: Hugo Perrin
Camping at Tasermiut Fjord
All across the Arctic, you'll find incredible sights of fjords that look like beautiful oases in the middle of these destinations. Greenland is rich in fjords, including the Tasermiut Fjord along the southwest coast. This is one of the highlight experiences offered as part of the Greenland Adventure: Explore By Sea, Land, and Air itinerary that takes you on a 9-day exploration of southern Greenland. The Tasermiut Fjord is one of the stops and you can book a special overnight camping excursion during your stay.
Inuit culinary experiences
As previously mentioned, the opportunity to interact with Indigenous people in many of these locations is a rewarding experience in itself. Quark Expeditions created an entire adventure program dedicated to this opportunity called Tundra to Table. You can get a taste of some of the Inuit cuisine served on this adventure and enjoy storytelling by the Inuit chefs.
The Northern Lights
Guests traveling with Quark Expeditions witness the Northern Lights in East Greenland. Photo: Acacia Johnson
One of the great perks of being in the Arctic is the number of open locations where you can witness the northern lights in the sky. Greenland, in particular, is one of the best places to witness the northern lights so, if Aurora Borealis is on your bucket list, make sure you plan a visit to Greenland for your best chance to witness the phenomenon.
Stand at the North Pole
If you've ever thought about what it would be like to stand at the very top of the world, you can create the opportunity to do so on an adventure to the Arctic. Join a community of like-minded people who share your passion for adventure into the unknown and experience something that only a small fraction of the population will ever witness.
Hot air balloon rides
You might be thinking: hot air balloon rides in the Arctic? Believe it or not, another adventure awaiting you at the North Pole involves hot air ballooning. Fear not, the balloon is tethered for security.
Photograph polar bears
The Svalbard archipelago is one of the best places in the Arctic to witness polar bears. Entire families of polar bears roam across the islands as they hunt for food and shelter. Occasionally, you may see them swimming in the waters around the islands if you book a spot aboard the Spitsbergen Photography: In Search of Polar Bears adventure.
Puffin exploring at Fair Isle
One of the opportunities to explore the Svalbard archipelago includes stops in northern Scotland en route to the islands. Fair Isle is one of those Scottish destinations and it's one of the first places you'll visit aboard the Arctic Saga: Exploring Spitsbergen via the Faroes and Jan Mayen adventure. Puffins are the star attraction on the island, and photographers will surely want to capture pictures of the animals as they play in the wild.
Three destinations in one voyage
Why limit your Arctic adventure to one destination when you could mix it up with several stops along the way? That's one of the main attractions of our Three Arctic Islands: Iceland, Greenland, and Spitsbergen adventure. As the name implies, you'll travel from Iceland to Greenland and onward to Spitsbergen with chances to experience the Arctic landscape and wildlife in all three destinations.
In the Footsteps of Franklin
The Canadian Arctic is made up of a series of islands and natural wonders. This is one of the main attractions of our Arctic Express Canada: The Heart of the Northwest Passage, a 9-day itinerary that takes you throughout the islands of the Canadian Arctic to experience what conditions were like for adventurers who first attempted to navigate those northern waters in search of the elusive Northwest Passage.
A trip to Baffin Island
One of the islands in the Canadian Arctic is Baffin Island, the largest island in Canada and one of the largest on the planet. There are several helpful traveler's guides you can review about past experiences on Baffin Island to give yourself ideas on a journey to the land yourself.
Go on a wildlife safari
The Arctic has an impressive amount of wildlife, some of which you won't find anywhere else in the world. Take advantage of this opportunity by going on a safari to witness animals like seals, caribou, musk ox, and, of course, polar bears that all roam free in the wild.
Among the wildlife spotted during Arctic expeditions are herds of muskoxen. Photo: Quark Expeditions
Mountain biking in Greenland
Not all of the Arctic is covered in ice and snow. There are many areas untouched by those elements, including the mountainous regions of southern Greenland. For those who love to explore the land in greater detail, a mountain biking adventure through this area could be the best experience you'll have in the far north.
Ellesmere Island: Mummified forests
Ellesmere Island is in the far north of the Canadian Arctic, relatively close to Greenland to the east. Due to its proximity to the Arctic Circle, the forest on Ellesmere Island is largely untouched by humans, preserving a large swath of tundra forests from generations ago. Many people describe the forests as mummified remains, which presents excellent photographic opportunities for you on your adventure.
Sail through the Northwest Passage
Finally, you can experience what it was like to sail through the northwest passage in the days of early explorers by hopping aboard the Northwest Passage: Epic High Arctic adventure. On this 17-day journey, you'll explore elements of both the Canadian Arctic and western Greenland by navigating through passages in the far north. Talk about creating a lifetime of memories!
Cruises to the Arctic
At Quark Expeditions, we provide expeditions to the amazing Arctic destinations cited above. You can learn more about those opportunities here and pick a journey that aligns with your idea of the best Arctic vacation you can create.