arctic travel arctic holiday arctic trip arctic cruise travel to the arctic holiday in the arctic arctic

Arctic Travel Guide
where to go, when to go, what to expect


Arctic Cruise and Adventure Travel With Cool Antarctica and ExpeditionTrips

The Arctic is a familiar and yet an alien place. It is recognizable as the place you probably imagine when you think of winter and as the home of polar bears, caribou (reindeer), arctic foxes and wolves. It is also a huge almost boundless, wide-skied spectacularly scenic wilderness with a rich history and many endemic peoples.

In the summer months travel above the Arctic Circle with up to 24 hours daylight is easier that you might imagine. It is possible to access the Arctic from multiple points around the world, to fly or cruise there directly, or fly and then join a cruise ship. We can help guide you through the options for Arctic travel, where to go, how long to spend there, the specific itinerary and the level of comfort or luxury you are looking for. Guided by a mixture of ice and wildlife experts, and seasoned seafarers who will look out to make the most of the plan while taking opportunities that present themselves along the way, we can ensure your Arctic visit is as memorable as it can be.

We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we say that we have lost our connection to ourselves.
Andy Goldsworthy

We are the caribou people. Caribou are not just what we eat; they are who we are. They are in our stories and songs and the whole way we see the world. Caribou are our life.

Polar Bear Pack Ice in Baffin Bay Between Baffin Island and Greenland

A polar bear on seasonal sea ice half way between Baffin Island and Greenland.

Uummannaq Town, Greenland

Svalbard - inside the Arctic Circle

  How much does it cost?

From about USD $3,000 for a cruise place in a twin cabin, (triples may be available for less) this does not include the price of air fare and other associated costs to and from your point of embarkation and return. There are many price points up to USD $50 000 and even beyond. Solo travellers can pay a supplement for a private cabin or can be paired with another traveller of the same sex in a shared cabin at the standard shared cabin rate. Of course the higher prices get you the more luxurious cabins on the more luxurious vessels.

Boats and ships can be chartered privately if you want to put together your own trip and run your own itinerary, cost somewhat negotiable depending on length of trip and time of year, but similar per passenger to the mid to high priced scheduled trips.

$8,000 -$12,000 per passenger for a 10-14 day cruise is a reasonable price to expect and will give a good choice of trips, ships and cabins.

Land based trips flying in and out are between about $5,000 and $10,000 per person, there is usually one standard rate rather than a range of cabins available as with ship based cruises.

It is also possible to arrange Arctic trips as a budget traveller (relatively speaking) organizing flights, accommodation in a hostel or camping and daily activities yourself. Be aware however that as the Arctic has to import much of its food and supplies from elsewhere, that prices of many things are more expensive than you would expect at home, this applies in ordinary stores as well as at tourist facilities. Cafes and restaurants are not so common and can be an expensive option, even relatively modest establishments. Land based tourism in the Arctic isn't so developed, scheduled trips and events may not run unless there are enough people to make it worthwhile for the operator. Travelling as a group can be more successful in this regard.

  When and where do trips take place?

Arctic trips by ship around ice-free coastal zones take place between spring and late summer, a five month period from May to September. In high summer in the high Arctic you may have constant daylight over the whole period of your trip.

Lower temperatures, shorter days and thickening sea-ice from October to April mean that trips by sea and a little later on, by land come to an end. Even during the summer season sea ice can be unpredictable and the itinerary will vary according to what is possible if ice prevents the planned itinerary from taking place. There are a number of icebreakers that operate tourist cruises in the Arctic so allowing them to go places that other cruise ships cannot.

Land based trips start in March when there is a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights and day length is around 12 hours though temperatures are still cold, they continue through to nearly the end of November with the later season trips visiting polar bears building up at the edge of forming sea-ice before the winter migration.

Temperature Range;   May to August  - 2C to + 12C / 28F to 54F average daily high and low

May & June (Late Spring / Early Summer)

  • Salmon are returning from the sea in Alaska
  • Polar bears will still be hunting seals on the ice floes.
  • Caribou migrations.
  • Winter snow and ice still in abundance especially on the mountains. The scenery is white, clean and pristine with pack ice and icebergs.

July and August (Mid Summer)

  • Normally The Arctic's warmest months.
  • Arctic flowers in full bloom, best in July.
  • Longer days create great light conditions and fabulous photo opportunities at midnight.
  • Receding ice allows for more exploration.
  • West-Greenland whale watching trips underway now.
  • Wildlife sightings their height, especially birds.
  • Best time for beluga whales in Canada
  • Best time for seeing polar bears on Svalbard
  • North-west passage accessible.

October - November (Autumn / Fall)

  • Polar bears assemble in Canada waiting for the winter sea-ice to form, this month and into November.

  Tourism in The Arctic

Defining the region. The Arctic is often considered to be the area north of 60 degrees.

The Arctic consists of an ocean which includes the North Pole surrounded by land. The Arctic Circle where conditions of 24 hours of daylight can be experienced in the summer months is relatively easy to reach, more so than the Antarctic Circle, Whereas most Antarctic trips don't reach the Antarctic Circle, many Arctic trips can be spent wholly or partially inside the Arctic Circle.

The Arctic comprises of parts of a number of different countries, there are around 4 million permanent residents. There are some large towns and cities, the largest being Murmansk in Russia with 325,100 inhabitants, though many of the people are spread rather thinly in smaller towns and communities. There are also many large habitations near to the Arctic with air and sea ports which makes for easy access.

The human population is the biggest contrast between the two poles, the Arctic has been inhabited by people for many thousands of years whereas the Antarctic has never had any indigenous population and still doesn't have any permanent residents. There are many groups of Arctic peoples such as the Inuit, Chukchi, Sami, Yupik, Buryat and Inupiat amongst others each with their own traditions and cultures.

Arctic tourism appeals to people who want to experience the fabulous wildlife, the pristine landscapes and wide open spaces and local cultures.

There are many ways to visit the Arctic, ship based cruises, residential lodges deep in the wilderness and more traditional accommodation in hotels, hostels and all standards of overnight lodging combined with day trips and short tours of a few days out and away from the main habitations.

There are cruises and trips that take place all around the Arctic region, it is even possible to go to the North Pole itself on board a nuclear powered icebreaker, or sail the fabled North West Passage. Different regions have different characteristics and must-see places and events

Weather and ice particularly if cruising often set the schedule for journeys to the Arctic. An amount of flexibility is necessary as to what will happen when even in midsummer. There will be alternatives and the very things that cause your itinerary to be altered can themselves be a different or better alternative to what you the plan was.

The Arctic populations

The Arctic Circle and 60 degree north line,
Arctic communities are shown.

The Arctic centered on the North Pole
Sea surrounded by land

Topographic map of the Arctic region.
Seasonal ice is not shown though permanent ice-caps are. This view shows the sizes of features more accurately unlike the huge size that Greenland in particular appears on Mercator projection maps.

  Where do trips leave from?

There are a number of easy access points to the Arctic all around the northern hemisphere, for most people unless you want to go to a specific region it is possible to go north to the Arctic without needing to go very far east or west. Flights are regular and frequent, as affordable as many other routes and often direct.

Northern Europe

One of the easiest places to access the Arctic is through Northern Europe due to the closeness to many centers of population and the frequency of flights to Arctic travel hubs. The gulf stream that warms the west coast of Europe keeps the North Atlantic largely ice free past the British Isles, Iceland, the coast of Norway and even as far north as the Arctic Ocean around Svalbard in the summer months though this is well inside the Arctic Circle. Cruises around the European section of the Arctic therefore are very popular as shipping is less likely to be affected by sea-ice than in other parts. Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Svalbard, and Russia in the area of the Barents Sea are all good starting points to experience the Arctic.

North America

There are a number of places to reach the Arctic across North America. Alaska offers many opportunities with a number of towns and cities where vacations can be taken or used as bases to strike out into the wilderness. The predictability  and relative lack of ice in North Pacific and the "Inside Passage" makes it a reliable place for cruise ships in the summer months. Many large ships with "shows and restaurants" style cruising also ply these waters if this is your thing, some cruises are aimed squarely at families.

There are many cruises that start or end in the Canadian Arctic that include scheduled or charter flights to / from major airports such as Edmonton or Ottawa. A number of smaller habitations such as Resolute, Iqaluit and Cambridge Bay have airports that can transit passengers from larger cities to waiting cruise ships. In the East, Newfoundland and Quebec can be the start or end points for cruises.

Land trips often focus on wildlife and photography with small groups of 10-30 people. They can start earlier in the season than sea trips before the sea-ice has started to melt and disperse and can continue later when sea-ice is starting to reform again. Trips of this sort operate in Canada from wilderness lodges or camps, on Baffin Island flying in from Ottawa or Yellowknife and In Churchill for close up polar bear watching flying from Winnipeg. In Alaska, they operate from a number of starting points.

East Russia

The town of Anadyr in the far eastern region of Chutotka region is a hub for land and sea journeys into the Russian Arctic. It is also the starting or ending point of longer cruises along the Northeast Passage ending at Svalbard, and as one end of journeys that include Nome in Alaska.


The Arctic is a geographic rather than a political region and documentation or visas may be required depending on your country of origin for all or any of the countries you may visit during your Arctic trip.

  What kind of experience?

There are wide variety of ways in which to experience the Arctic. This is a trip that you should plan in advance more so than to many places in the world. Getting a ticket and deciding what to do when you are there could lead to some disappointment. There simply aren't enough tourists reliably arriving for there to be many speculatively offered trips and experiences with any degree of confidence. In this way, the Arctic is the opposite of those places you have been with touts trying to get you to go on a boat trip leaving in half an hour. To make the most of a trip to the Arctic, you should plan your activities in advance as far as possible or arrange a visit where the itinerary is determined for you, a cruise fulfills the brief perfectly.

Many Arctic cruises aren't like what may come to mind when you think of a cruise to warmer climates with onboard entertainment the priority and shore visits less important, though the larger the ship, the more likely there is to be entertainment provided. Cruises to Alaska are more likely to be of this ilk and some are aimed at families with children.

You will find  a number of very well informed and experienced guides on many Arctic trips who will give lectures on a regular basis about various aspects of Arctic history and natural history. These will also often be around to socialize in the evenings along with some of the ships crew and captain.


Contact our travel partners who will help you find the best cruise for your requirements

More details about visiting the Arctic

An Icelandic farm

Arctic Cruises and Land Based Trips

Arctic - Svalbard / Spitsbergen - Sample Cruises - 2017

Trip Highlights Prices USD* Days
Around Spitsbergen - Kvitoya Circumnavigation of Spitsbergen, attempt to reach rarely visited Kvitoya, sea-ice, sea-bird colonies and other wildlife, hiking, child-friendly. $4,900 -
$8,850
10
Svalbard / Spitsbergen Circumnavigation Historic sites, sea-ice, glaciers, wild flowers, lush tundra, walrus, polar bears, reindeer, huge sea bird colonies, optional kayaking. $10,784 -
$21.420
12
Norway's Fjords & Arctic Svalbard Fjords, Lofoten Islands, sea-bird colonies, wild-flower tundra, hiking, child-friendly, optional kayaking. Trip operates in reverse on 07/15/16. $18,650 - $34,340 19

Arctic - Greenland and Canada - Sample Cruises - 2017

Iceland and East Greenland Spectacular scenery of East Greenland and Western Iceland, Inuit culture, museums, historic sites. Fjords, mountains and ice, geothermal hotsprings. Seabirds, look out for humpback and minke whales. Optional kayaking. $6,495 -
$15,995
13
Greenland to Canada - Icebergs & Wildlife Historic Canadian and Greenlandic site, abundant wildlife, rich Inuit culture and dramatic icy landscapes. Polar bears, whales and walrus, hike across the tundra, Ilulisat, UNESCO World Heritage Site. Optional kayaking. $6,495 -
$13,995
13
Greenland and Northwest Passage - Franklin's Legend West Greenland through the fabled Northwest Passage, Beechey Island, polar bears, walrus, sea-birds, Inuit culture, historic sites, glaciers, ice-bergs, made famous by explorers Roald Amundsen and Sir John Franklin. $26,995 - $52,995 20

Arctic - Land Based - Sample Trips - 2017

Churchill - Tundra Lodge Polar Bear Adventure Polar bear experience staying at the Tundra Lodge outside Churchill. Constant proximity to polar bears, a unique northern adventure. Optional dog-sledding and helicopter trip. $8,695 7
Ultimate Alaska Wildlife Photo Safari Denali National Park, Mt. McKinley, grizzlies, moose, wolves, caribou, sea-lions, sea-otters, seals, black bears, orcas, porpoise, brown bears fishing for migrating salmon and much bird life. Glaciers and ice-bergs, transport by rail, road, boat and small plane. Expert naturalist guide, optional kayaking. $12,095 14
Trip Highlights Prices USD* Days

Alaska - Sample Cruises - 2017

Alaska's Inside Passage - Western Coves Isolated waterways where bigger cruise ships can't reach. Tongass National Forest, glaciers, Frederick Sound, Chatham Strait, Tracey Arm Wilderness. Optional kayaking, paddle board, hiking, snorkeling. Child-friendly. $3,595 -
$6,595
8
Alaska's Famed Passages of Discovery Wildlife, ice, Tlingit culture, deep fjords, 900 miles between Juneau and Seattle. Snow-capped mountains, wildlife and birds, waterfalls, tree-lined narrow passageways, glaciers, kayak through the narrows, hike into the rainforest. Fewer visitors at this time of year mean greater chances seeing bears and other wildlife. Child-friendly. Itinerary operates in reverse on alternate voyages. $3,495 -
$5,595
13
Notes

* Prices are based per person, the lowest price is usually for triple occupancy in a basic cabin, the highest for double occupancy in the best available suite.

Options may be at additional cost and are usually booked when the cruise is booked - it may be too late once the cruise has started.
Picture credits: Map of the Arctic - maps used courtesy of Uwe Dedering under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license