Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.
Today (February 4, 2019): Top 10 best things to do and see in the Arctic Circle.
The Arctic Circle is the most northerly of the earth’s five major circles of latitude, comprising parts of eights countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the United States (Alaska), Canada (Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut), Denmark (Greenland) and Iceland. It is a wonderfully diverse region, which includes much more than initially meets the eye. From the stunning and captivating natural environment, to the vast array of wonderful wildlife and tales of history that have gone before, there’s plenty to see. In this article, I’ll tell you the top 10 things to do and see in the Arctic Circle. Whether it’s taking in the natural scenery, or discovering modern and impressive conveniences that sit juxtaposed against the sheer white land, there’s enough here for the keen luxury traveler. I’ve combined a mixture of unconventional luxury, unique experiences and simple, fun discoveries.
There is more information below the slide show. Think I missed one? Share your favorite attraction in the Arctic Circle in the comments.
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10. LEARN ABOUT THE VIKINGS’ RICH HISTORY
History buffs beware, you’re about to enter into the heart of the Viking land. The Arctic Circle surrounds much of the Viking’s historical home, and if longboats, beards and helmets are your kind of history, you’ll find yourself in the reach of plenty of Viking museums and guided tours, such as the famous Lofotr Vikingmuseum in Vestvågöy Norway. The museum features the largest Viking-era house ever found. The impressive 83-meter (272-ft) structure is reconstructed in full size, just off the original house site. Every year in August, Vestvågöy hosts a five-day Viking festival featuring more than 100 Vikings from near and far, a market, game shows, games, competitions, lectures, theater, concerts and more. The festival is very family-friendly and popular among visitors and locals alike.
9. EXPLORE THE RUGGED TERRAIN OF THE SVALBARD ARCHIPELAGO
The magnificent Svalbard archipelago, located between Norway and the North Pole, are a collection of islands on the edge of Earth. With a relatively (for its location) mild climate, Svalbard makes a great choice for Arctic explorers looking to dip their toes into something cooler after having possibly already had a taste of mainland Scandinavia. Today, a modern community built on a truly impressive natural landscape, Svalbard has plenty to experience in the way of concerts, festivals and culture. In addition to a few thousand polar bears, the islands are home to almost 3,000 human inhabitants, over 2,000 of which live in Longyearbyen, the administrative centre and largest settlement of the islands. Rich wildlife, arctic nature, and old mining towns are all found on the islands, which have a stark and eerie beauty that’s all their own.
8. STAY IN THE WORLD’S MOST NORTHERLY BOUTIQUE HOTEL
Word has it that if you venture out far enough across the Svalbard Islands, you’ll find a Boutique hotel at the end of the world. Originally an outpost and base for radio operators in the 1930’s, the world’s most northerly boutique hotel, lets guests enjoy the unconventional combination of icy, rugged terrain and first-class luxury suites. The best bit? The radio transmitter and satellite dishes are still intact outside the building for an authentic experience, reminding guests of the hotel’s past as an important link for telecommunications between the Norwegian mainland and Svalbard. After a day of exploring, you can relax and wrap up in a cashmere throw in one of the beautifully styled guest rooms, or take a seat in the cosy sitting room. The connection to your surroundings extends to dinner, with an Arctic feast of smoked seal, whale, halibut and reindeer.
7. OBSERVE ARCTIC WILDLIFE
Despite its unforgiving climate, the Arctic is home to a broad range of beautiful and varied inhabitants. The many species that roam the icy region include the distinctive Arctic reindeer (or caribou is it is also known), which is rare today, mainly because of its elusive nature, but also because it is edging towards extinction due to climate change. Joining the Arctic reindeer is the Arctic fox, which is native to Iceland, and the musk ox, which lives in the frozen Arctic and roams the tundra in search of the roots, mosses, and lichens. Another iconic Arctic animal is the massive tusked walrus, most often found near the Arctic Circle, lying on the ice with hundreds of companions. Perhaps the main attraction in the Arctic Circle is the polar bear (but more on that later).
6. VISIT THE GLOBAL SEED VAULT
If you do find yourself in Svalbard, I urge you to visit the Global Seed Vault. What is that? You ask. Well what sounds like a futuristic monolith pulled from the depths of a 1970’s sci-fi, does actually look like one too. The Global Seed Vault is a storage facility, located deep inside a mountain and designed with military precision to stand up to the harsh elements of the region. Its purpose? To safely store and protect valued crops from the dangers of ruin. A natural disaster, war or farming error could wipe out an entire genome of crop, so here they are kept safe as the ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply, offering options for future generations to overcome the challenges of climate change and population growth. Permafrost and thick rock ensure that the seed samples will remain frozen even without power. Sound impressive? Wait until you see the incredible building up close.
5. GET UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH WOLVES IN A LUXURY HOTEL
Now I know what you’re thinking: why would anyone want to get up close and personal with wolves. Terrifying, fierce and wild, those are just some of the words that spring to mind when thinking of the Arctic wolf, but there is a demand to encounter them out in the wild. In Bardu, Norway you can stay in the aptly named Wolf Lodge, where you’ll be treated to an oversized luxury suite, a private chef and plenty of encircling wolves. But fear not, you’ll be separated from the cunning canines by floor-to-ceiling windows. In addition, the wolves at Polar Park are accustomed to human contact, and enjoy our company as part of their natural environment. Still, it’s not an experience for the faint hearted. An all-inclusive stay at Wolf Lodge is one of the most exclusive, highly coveted experiences in the whole Nordic region, and is priced accordingly. There is only availability for around 15 stays each year.
4. LEARN ABOUT THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE AND THEIR CULTURE
One of the Arctic’s best kept secrets is its indigenous people, who count for around 10% of an estimated 4 million people that call the Arctic their home. They used to be called Eskimos, which came from a Native American word for ‘eater of raw meat’. Now the Arctic people are officially known as the Inuit, which means ‘the people’, or singularly, Inuk, which means ‘the person’. Still surviving today, the admirable Inuit culture has continued its trait of adaptation to their surroundings whilst fully integrating with the local European population. Today, both live in harmony and learn from each other. To be able to experience this is a must-see that you can’t put into words. Indigenous peoples of the Arctic have adapted over centuries to a life on ice. Their lifestyle, traditions, economy, and history are tightly linked to one of the harshest environments in the world.
3. WATCH THE NORTHERN LIGHTS FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR ROOM
As a discerning traveler, you’ve probably already chosen your accommodation, and who can blame you? One of the best moments of your holiday will be arriving at your hotel, chalet or apartment and lying back on the bed, excited for the trip ahead: you’ve arrived. Next, your thoughts turn to the sights. In the Arctic Circle, the Northern lights are top of the list. But what if I told you that you didn’t have to leave your hotel to see the beautiful Aurora Borealis? Well in Hotel Husafell, Iceland, which sits at the heart of the country’s aurora zone, you don’t. Amid the dramatic landscapes of West Iceland’s Highlands, Hotel Husafell is within easy reach of glaciers, lava caves and Snæfellsnes National Park. Built conscientiously from sustainable design, Hotel Husafell celebrates the wild and creative essence of Iceland.
2. TAKE A 6-STAR CRUISE THROUGH THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE
By now, most experienced travelers are familiar with the concept of a luxury cruise: premium suites, all-inclusive dining options and spacious relaxation areas. Most are also up-to-speed with what an Arctic adventure is: experiencing new and interesting landscapes, discovering extreme terrains and venturing through remote environments you never thought you’d travel to. But have you heard about Scenic Eclipse? The World’s First Discovery Yacht, which from 4th June will embark on the first of twelve Arctic cruise itineraries scheduled for 2019. Scenic Eclipse will marry Arctic expedition cruises with 6-star luxury, as she will offer helicopter and submarine excursions as well as a personal butler service and in-built spa suites. There’s nothing on Earth like this top-tier premium experience.
1. CATCH A GLIMPSE OF THE ELUSIVE POLAR BEAR
A list of the best things to see in the Arctic wouldn’t be complete with an ode to the magnificent polar bear. Scarce by nature and decreasing in numbers, it can be difficult to spot one. Thrust into the spotlight as the symbol of the devastating effects of climate change, polar bears have become the world’s best known endangered animals and more and more travelers are now lining up to see them – while they still can. Nicknamed the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”, Canada’s small community of Churchill is the best place in the world to spot these elusive creature, but you can also witness polar bears in their native habitat in Svalbard (Norway), Kaktovik (Alaska), Wrangel Island (Russia), and Greenland. If you do manage to catch a glimpse of the incredible creature as it makes its way across its natural home in the Arctic terrain, you’re sure to never forget it.
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I did not know one can visit the Seed Vault…..I’m adding it to my list, thank you
That’s indeed a list. Loved it. Amazing post.