8 reasons to visit the Arctic on an expedition cruise

Destination Reviews

Visiting the polar regions feels like it's going to be a once in a lifetime experience, but beware! You might find that one visit is not enough…

As well as acquiring a taste for layering up, hopping into a zodiac and exploring pristine wilderness in the company of expert guides, you will probably also develop a 'must do' list which will dominate your future holiday planning. If you have been to Antarctica and think you therefore don't need to visit the Arctic, think again! These are our eight top reasons to venture northwards again and again…

1. Polar bears

You mustn't miss catching a glimpse of one of these magnificent beasts - or better still, seeing one close up. The team up on the bridge of your expedition vessel will be constantly scanning the landscape for the yellowy tinge of bear fur, and when they spot something, they will aim to get nearer, either by navigating through the ice, or getting the zodiacs on the water. Closer up, you will get to admire their grace as they hunt, swim or lope across the ice, jumping from ice floe to ice floe.

2. Walrus

With luck you'll find a group of walrus lying together on a stony beach, snorting, groaning and occasionally raising a pink tinged flipper in the air (the pink is from blood vessels close to the surface, enabling them to regulate their temperature), or heaving themselves with surprising agility to wallow in the shallow waters.

Walrus in Spitsbergen, the Arctic

3. Narwhal

I've never seen a narwhal, and they are notoriously shy. So I am full of envy for a friend who saw a whole pod frolicking in the waves ahead, in the remote waters of the Russian Far East. Sort of like a cross between a whale and a unicorn, it has a single long, spiralled tusk jutting from its head.

Narwhal in Arctic Bay, Canada

4. Bird cliffs

Seeking out bird cliffs at the height of the nesting season is a must. You will see (and hear, and smell!) whole colonies of common murre, thick-billed murre, razorbill, kittiwake, little auk, Atlantic puffin and more perched on tiny ledges across the sheer cliffs. Look out for Arctic foxes roaming at the cliff foot in the hope that an egg or a chick will fall.

Guillemots on the bird cliffs of Svalbard

5. Indigenous people

Nothing could be more fascinating than the rich cultures and civilisations of the many different peoples who have carved out a living in the hostile Arctic regions. Meeting them, you will learn much: about their ancient folklore, their art, their craftmanship, their traditions, and above all, about climate change and its implications for them and the wildlife with which they share the land.

Indigenous art from Uelen in the Russian Arctic

6. The Midnight Sun

Once you are north of the Arctic Circle, travelling during the summer, you are truly in the land where the sun doesn't set. You can sit out on deck at midnight, the still air a magical dusky purple, and see the glowing sun glinting golden on the waters.

View of the sun in the Arctic from Ponant's Le Commandant Charcot

7. The North Pole

How extraordinary that even without being a serious scientist or polar explorer, you can actually reach latitude 90° north, around 430 miles from the nearest landmass, and stand at the top of the world (Ponant's amazing ice breaker Le Commandant Charcot will take you there).

Ponant's Le Commandant Charcot at the North Pole

8. The North West Passage

The elusive northern sea route between the Atlantic and the Pacific was sought out by numerous explorers and sea captains over hundreds of years stretching back to Elizabethan times, leaving tales of lost and icebound ships, expeditions that never returned and others that limped back with depleted crews. Nowadays, the receding ice means that ice-strengthened ships sailing late in the season often achieve their goal - but moving ice means there is never a guarantee of success.

Baffin Island, Northwest Passage cruise

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Our expedition cruising guide to the Arctic will tell you everything you need to know, including when to visit, what to see and how to get there.

Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Adventures. Her most recent adventure was a cruise on Silver Origin and she has also sailed with Seabourn, Ponant and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite adventure destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Mekong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

More about Edwina

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