Whether it's something we've actually committed to on paper, or merely an informal collection of our wildest dreams shelved away in the furthest recesses of our minds, most people have a travel bucket list. The Arctic and Antarctica are popular bucket list holiday destinations, thanks to their pristine environments, remote locations and the relatively unique experience of visiting one of them.
Among bucket list-worthy polar experiences, a few are definitely among the most popular: Crossing the Arctic Circle, reaching the geographic North Pole, and setting foot on the continent of Antarctica.
But as technology improves, polar exploration expands and new experiences become possible. Previously unreachable destinations have become accessible. And these intriguing and lesser-known polar destinations promise all the adventure and wonder an intrepid explorer can handle.
Consider these incredible bucket list trips:
Wildlife Haven St. Andrews Bay on South Georgia
South Georgia is widely recognized as one of the best places on earth to view wildlife, but St. Andrews Bay is an almost unreal experience. It might be the single place on earth most densely populated with wildlife -- everywhere you look, you'll see penguins and seals.
Hundreds of thousands of them, in fact. The 2-mile bay and beach area of St. Andrews Bay is home to over 110,000 breeding pairs of king penguins and thousands of elephant seals and fur seals.
Make History in a Soviet Icebreaker Expedition
This year, the Kapitan Khlebnikov icebreaker will attempt to make polar history as the first passenger vessel to sail through the Lincoln Sea and Kennedy Channel. This history-making attempt will be part of the second of four legs of an epic 75-day Arctic Circumnavigation expedition.
Paranormal Hotspot Deception Island
Abandoned research stations, airplane hangars, whaling stations and military bases litter uninhabited Deception Island, the deserted horseshoe-shaped land mass in the South Shetland Islands. Home to the veritable ghost town of Whalers Bay, the island has attracted the attention of the paranormal community. Rumors of ghostly activity on the island are so prevalent that the SyFy channel's Destination Truth television show team performed a supernatural study and night investigation.
Greenland's Natural Hot Springs
Greenland is one of the hottest tourist destinations on the planet, literally. Its tiny island of Uunartoq Qeqertaq (the Warming Island, so named in 2005 when retreating glacial ice resulted in disconnection from the mainland) boasts three natural hot springs - the Nanortalik Hot Springs - averaging 98F (37C). Enjoy these naturally soothing and blissfully warm waters as you watch icebergs float by.
Cuverville Island and Its Gentoo Penguins
Gentoo penguins are the real star of the show at Cuverville Island just off the Antarctic Peninsula, set against the backdrop of stunning rocky beaches and the moss-covered cliffs. A designated ‘Important Bird Area' (by Birdlife International), the island is home to the largest colony of gentoos on the planet.
Bucket List Trips in the Arctic and Antarctica
Whatever your polar bucket list holidays, we've designed a polar experience to help you achieve it. Join the Quark Expeditions Community Hub and see what other travelers are saying, tweeting, and Instagramming about their polar adventures! Get inspired to kick a few items off your own bucket list.
Photos courtesy of Quark Passengers: Emma Capel, C. King, Christopher Michel, Henny Miltenburg, Laura Bradway.