The Arctic Circle is a huge place, divided between eight countries. As such, it’s fairly difficult to just point at a map and decide “we’ll go here!” When you have so much land to cover and so much interesting stuff to see, picking a favourite can become a nightmare.
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Luckily, Agness and Cez of eTramping have put their travel knowledge to the test and today they share some of the best adventure spots in the far north. Prepare your Santa hats and get cozy, because you’re in for quite a ride!
1. Santa Claus Village, Rovaniemi, Finland
Did you think we were kidding with the Santa hats? Having opened up his workshop in 1985, Santa continues to put a smile on the face of over 300,000 kids (even the bigger ones) every year. Visit Santa’s post office (where he receives hundreds of millions of letters), get up close with his reindeers, and even take a picture with the man himself.
Maybe enjoy a reindeer or husky sled ride with the family and explore the white Finnish wilderness around Santa’s home. And, of course, get your fill of Finnish treats (they put salmiakki, a type of salty liquorice, on everything – careful, it’s an acquired taste).
2. Snow Village, Lainio, Finland
While you’re in Finland, you might as well pay a visit to the Snow Village of Lainio. This location quite literally has a snow hotel, restaurant, and even church where people get married. Every year, skilled craftsmen carve the buildings out of snow in preparation for the hordes of people coming to see the unique landmark. The décor and lighting in the place will leave you with a warm feeling in a comparatively cold setting.
3. The Lofoten Islands, Norway
When Vikings were sailing “seas of gold,” they were most likely referring to the Northern seas painted gold by the summer Midnight Sun. Daydreaming aside, the Lofoten Islands are the stage for a truly spectacular natural show rarely found anywhere else.
4. Svalbard, Norway
Speaking of fjords, Magdalenfjord in Svalbard is the perfect example of a landscape that will help you remember that wide-eyed child you were a long while ago. Clean air, clear blue skies, a few polar bears on the shores and tubby walruses in the sea are a spectacle you cannot miss. When it’s too cold, warm up in the Svalbard and North Pole Expedition Museums and soak up all the phenomenally-presented information about local natural (and man-made) history.
5. The West Coast of Greenland
If there ever was a great place for an Arctic cruise, then this side of Greenland would be it. This is mostly because it’s the prime location (in the North, at least) to watch icebergs. Contrary to popular belief, the icy giants will not boringly stand still while the ship cruises by.
Millions of tons of ice is shed into the ocean, sometimes creating veritable small tsunamis, leaving everyone on board speechless. The whales circling the waters and various Arctic birds littering the skies only complete the fantastic view.
6. Murmansk, Russia
Though not the northernmost human settlement (that honour is reserved for Svalbard), Murmansk is nonetheless the biggest city at the top of the world. The great Arctic port is a testament of Russian endurance to the cold, though summers here are much gentler than other regions. Visit the concrete giant Alyosha, have a tour of the first nuclear-powered icebreaker (the 1957 NS Lenin), and plenty of other relics from the bygone Soviet era.
7. Wrangel Island, Russia
The Wrangel island is actually the first Russian Arctic nature reserve, as well as an important UNESCO site due to its sheer northern beauty. It’s quite different to see polar bears this close rather than from cruise ship, we can tell you that much. The Russian rangers never harm the bears if they get too close, so you can safely examine the furry giants without much trouble.
Other giants roaming the island include the Muskox and walrus, but beautiful snowy owls and snow geese also inhabit the area (depending on when you visit, of course).
8. Yukon, Canada
The least inhabited region of Canada is also home to the most fascinating of North-American creatures. If you visit the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, for example, you’ll have the opportunity of encountering cute arctic foxes, caribous, elks, moose, deer, the muskox and wood bison, and many more.
Head further north and Tombstone Territorial Park awaits you with its picturesque cold lakes and subarctic scenery. Don’t worry, the Park’s name is the only scary part. Camping in the Yukon wilderness, skiing, dog-sledding, and other fun winter activities will leave you both exhausted and happy at the same time.
9. Alaska, United States
Alaska needs little presentation to rank it among the top 10 most picturesque views on the planet. From the snow-capped Brooks Range to the Alatna River, witness the majesty of Mother Nature in the Arctic state. Many animals also present in the Yukon can be spotted around here, including the caribou and Dall’s sheep. You won’t see polar bears here, but the fearsome grizzlies will surely provide a great spectacle. Especially if you’re lucky enough to spot Mother Bear and her cubs looking for food.
10. The North Pole
No journey within the Arctic Circle is complete without a trip to the geographic North Pole. You will have to board a nuclear icebreaker to get you there, though the view at “The Top of the World” is quite spectacular. The luckiest of you can experience the place in a hot air balloon ride, weather permitting.
Obviously, don’t miss the Humpback, Beluga, and Killer whales who can brave the extreme conditions up north. Oh, and the ever-present polar bears. And no, they most likely won’t have Coke bottles with them unless one somehow gets washed up on shore.
Where will your Arctic Circle adventures take you?