Some people dream of seeing a polar bear in the flesh, lumbering across the icy tundra at a safe distance. Others crave that indescribable feeling of standing in such a remote location that it’s entirely possible no human has ever stood there before. Others are fulfilling a lifelong dream of reliving the adventures of legendary explorers from centuries past, setting off on adventurous wilderness tours, or learning firsthand about the traditions and culture of arctic people.
Whatever calls you on an arctic expedition, it’s not until you experience it in person that you can truly begin to appreciate its sheer scale and spectacle. From Greenland to Russia to the Canadian Far North, the Arctic is vast, extreme, unforgiving -- and stunningly beautiful.
Here are 5 of the most beautiful arctic views you might see for yourself on an arctic holiday:
5. Towering, Noisy, Incredible Arctic Bird Cliffs
There is nothing else in this world like witnessing firsthand the spectacle of a sheer rock face suddenly coming alive with thousands -- even hundreds of thousands -- of arctic birds.
At one such bird cliff, Cambridge Point on Coburg Island in Nunavut, Canada, over 30,000 pairs of black-legged kittiwakes and 160,000 pairs of thick-billed murres nest. The open water there provides a valuable source of nourishment in the early breeding season.
Another of the best sites for birders is Herschel Island, in the Beaufort Sea. Nearly 100 bird species are found in its bird cliffs, with roughly half of those choosing the site for breeding. Learn more about the Arctic’s best bird cliffs here.
4. The Power of an Authentic Icebreaker from Overhead
Crowd-favorite Kapitan Khlebnikov icebreaker is back in service for 2016 after an extensive refurbishment and will undertake an incredible 75-day circumnavigation of the Arctic. Its 24,000 horsepower engine and advanced icebreaking technology are incredible to behold from the deck, but passengers also have an option to sightsee from high overhead, thanks to the ship’s two onboard helicopters.
They’re a critical part of our attempt to make polar history this summer, first by landing at Cape Morris Jesup, the most northerly point in Greenland. The helicopters will scout ahead and, if conditions permit, Khlebnikov will make history as the first passenger vessel to cross the Kennedy Channel.
3. Arctic Marine Life from atop a Paddleboard
More than a trendy fitness craze, paddleboarding is an adventurous sport that offers travelers a unique vantage point from which to explore not only the rugged shoreline, but the diverse marine life just beneath the surface of icy, crystal clear waters.Standup paddleboarding was offered to Antarctic passengers for the first time in 2015, and this year it’s an included option during Adventure Week at Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge. Perched on top of a board similar to a surfboard, paddlers can navigate their way through calm waters, around ice floes and into deep canyons, in places previously inaccessible to travelers.
2. Incredibly Resilient Wildlife
The 36 mammal and 17 marine species of arctic wildlife are a marvel, each in its own way, but collectively as some of the hardiest animals on the planet. They’ve adapted and thrived in the unique climate, from Somerset Island in Nunavut where the Cunningham River teems with beluga whales near Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, to the icy waters of Greenland where narwhals and killer whales put on a show for visitors -- and everywhere in between.
You might have the opportunity to see and photograph musk ox, Arctic fox, polar bear, ringed seal and other unique species. Brush up on your wildlife photography skills before your trip and keep the camera ready!
1. Greenland’s Northern Lights
Perhaps the most mesmerizing spectacle you can encounter on an arctic trip, Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) displays in Greenland are among the best on the planet. Near Kangerlussuaq, where there are 300 clear nights a year, vivid red, blue, green and purple hues dance across the sky.
Sometimes moving slowly but often known to “dance,” the spectacular Northern Lights are sometimes accompanied by a soft whistling sound. Folklore passed down over hundreds of years advises that you answer only in whispers.
Ready to start planning your own polar adventure? Contact an experienced Polar Travel Adviser or sign up for our newsletter to learn more about the spectacular sights and beautiful views you might experience on your arctic expedition in 2016/17.