Written by Quark's extraordinary president, Hans Lagerweij.
Even as frigid temperatures grip typically mild areas this winter, travelers are gearing up for Arctic expeditions this summer. In fact, 2014 is shaping up to be a banner year for travel in and around the Arctic Circle, as travelers and mainstream media alike are eager to explore and share their adventures at the top of the world.
Recent “top destinations” lists from CNN, New York Times and The Guardian celebrate Icelandic destinations like Jokulsarlon and Hella for their northern lights displays, expected to be particularly spectacular this year thanks to increased solar activity. In fact, viewing the northern lights has become the number one travel experience for Britons.
NYTimes.com, though they feature Jokulsarlon and the Thjorsarver Wetlands in Iceland and the Faroe Islands as top travel destinations in 2014, claim, “There aren't many reasons to visit the frigid region surrounding the North Pole.”
Northern Lights, East Greenland (photo courtesy of Quark passenger Robert Lee)
We beg to differ.
As polar tourism increases each year – and especially with the advent of social sharing – people are increasingly realizing just how much more the Arctic has to offer.
Once a destination reserved only for the extremely adventurous or wealthy, the Arctic Circle has become a destination of choice for all types of travelers. Of course, we visit each polar region during their respective summer season, enabling passengers to experience more flora and fauna than is available in winter. You won't get away with running around in your t-shirt and shorts, but the Arctic is surprisingly mild in peak tourism season.
Zodiac cruising photo courtesy of a Quark passenger
Now, adventure options like a helicopter tour, zodiac cruising or even a hot-air balloon ride are attainable for Arctic travelers. Cultural learning opportunities abound, as the people of Sisimiut (Greenland), Spitsbergen (Norway) and other communities dotting the Arctic landscape invite us to enjoy their art, traditions and beautiful surroundings. As The Guardian points out, several blockbuster films have been filmed recently in Iceland, which is gaining some notoriety as the “Hollywood of the North.”
Franz Josef Land is a place few can say they've seen and to actually reach the North Pole, to realize you're standing in the one place on earth where a step in any direction will take you south, is a once in a lifetime experience.
Except it's not… not anymore. The Arctic Circle is no longer an out of reach destination. We have passengers join us year after year, to experience new adventures or revisit favorite Arctic destinations. Greenland, Iceland, Spitsbergen, Nunavut – these are places you fall in love with and never really leave. You take them with you and the call of the Arctic stays strong, calling you back.
Quark passengers enjoying hot springs in Greenland
The Arctic is a place like no other; one that has to be experienced to be believed. This year, we expect to welcome aboard more old friends and new passengers than ever before. Will you join us?
Feature photo by Quark passenger Yukun Shih.