This popular post was first published in 2015.
Unlike a lot of places you might dream of visiting, the Arctic isn't just a single country or destination. And yet there's an iconic arctic experience that adventurers crave: challenging tundra, rare animals, massive icebergs, rich culture and history, and all the room in the world to explore.
So where is the Arctic, and how can you get there?
The region we know as the Arctic comprises about a sixth of the world's area and is home to approximately 4 million people. Unlike its southern counterpart, much of the northern Polar Region is made up of water surrounded by land. This will continue to be the case as polar ice melts, freeing up waterways and allowing for further exploration. It's an area so rich in history – the human presence in the Arctic dates back thousands of years – yet it remains relatively unknown to so much of the planet.
Which Countries & Bodies of Water Make Up the Arctic?
The Arctic is generally described as everything north of the Arctic Circle, a line of latitude that spans the globe at approximately 66° 34′ N. Eight countries have territory north of this line – Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark (which includes Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
Those 8 nations have formed the Arctic Council to address issues important to the region. The council's goal is to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction on matters such as development and the environment.
The Arctic Ocean is the smallest and shallowest of the world's oceans, but it dominates the Arctic region. Connected to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Arctic Ocean is comprised of many large seas and bays, including Baffin Bay, plus the Barents Sea, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, Davis Strait, East Siberian Sea, Greenland Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea and others.
How to Get to the Arctic
Because the Arctic is so large and so diverse, there are plenty of ways to get there. The method you choose will depend on why you're going and the experience you want to have.
Commercial and charter flights will take you inside the Arctic Circle to Canada's Far North, Greenland, Russia or elsewhere; however, Arctic communities are so few and far between that air travel from one to another to explore on your own is an incredibly expensive undertaking.
Besides, what are you going to do by yourself when you get there?
An arctic cruise will also get you to the Far North, but traveling with hundreds or thousands of other passengers presents its own set of challenges, since big ships are limited as to the landings they can achieve, and landing sites are limited to those that can accommodate very large groups of people.
If you're looking to really sink your teeth into the Arctic with a more immersive, personally rewarding experience, a small expedition ship is just the ticket, enabling you to explore more remote regions and access shallower bodies of water. Also, it doesn't take hours to get everyone organized and off a small ship for a shore excursion, because you're traveling alongside dozens, not hundreds, of people.
Now there are even more options for time-constrained travelers and those who prefer not being at sea for extended periods of time. If you've ever wanted to visit Greenland or another iconic Arctic destination but thought “I'll never have time for this” or “Cruises just aren't for me,” check out our Fly/Cruise options below.
Fly/Cruise Makes It Easier & Faster to Visit Greenland
An arctic Fly/Cruise expedition shaves off a night and day each way of your journey between Iceland's major airport in Reykjavik and your point of embarkation/disembarkation at Constable Point in Greenland. In just 10 days—just over a week-- you can enjoy an incredible and authentic arctic expedition.
On top of saving you time, this gives you a unique way to experience the best the Arctic has to offer. It's a faster-paced journey, but you'll still enjoy the same in-depth, industry-leading educational programming. From the time you board your charter flight, the adventure is on and it's go, go, go as you're constantly ready for your next arctic experience!
Intrigued? Read on to learn more about how you can get unprecedented, super-convenient access to the most remote and pristine destinations on the planet.
- Read more Arctic adventure stories from expedition experts and travelers like you
- See a variety of Arctic expedition brochures and download yours free