8 of the Best Places for an Arctic Adventure

A polar bear walking along a flat surface covered with sea ice with a snow-covered mountain in the background and a blue sky and low,white clouds above
The polar bear population outnumbers the human population in the Svalbard archipelago.

Roi Shomer / Getty Images

Some of the world's most remote and exciting destinations are not found in dense jungles, on unspoiled islands, or atop towering mountain ranges, but in regions near the Arctic Circle. It might be fair to characterize this part of the Earth as stark and barren, but if you look past the weather, there is a lot to explore in the Arctic.

Destinations like Greenland, Scandinavia, Alaska, and the Russian Far East offer plenty of adventure, beautiful natural landscapes, and an abundance of wildlife. The waters of the Arctic Ocean, meanwhile, are home to some of the least-seen marine species on the planet. The cold weather of the Arctic can be an obstacle for some travelers, but the top of the globe is one of the most unique and unvisited places on Earth.

Here are eight places to find adventure, nature, and extraordinary experiences in the Arctic.

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Manitoba, Canada

A green aurora borealis with. a tinge of pink in a clear, blue sky over a snow-covered, tree-lined area in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

Alan Dyer/Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

Visitors who want to explore the northlands of Canada can take a long-haul train the 625 miles from Winnipeg, Manitoba to the town of Churchill. During the 45-hour journey, riders pass through the incredible natural landscapes of the province. 

Churchill, which sits on the shores of Hudson Bay, is often referred to as the Polar Bear Capital of the World. Tourists can view these mammoth white bears from specially reinforced buses called “tundra buggies.” Polar bears congregate near the shore of the bay in late fall and early winter. For summertime travelers, it is possible to see a number of migrating bird species on land and to spot beluga whales in the waters near Churchill. Due to its position beneath the Northern Hemisphere’s Auroral Oval, in Churchill, the northern lights (aurora borealis) are visible most nights of the year.

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Greenland's Backcountry

Small group of harp seals reclining on a small piece of ice floe the blue ocean water with another ice floe behind them, near Scoresbysund, Greenland.

Patricia Hamilton / Getty Images

Greenland is the world's largest island and most of its landmass sits north of the Arctic Circle. For eco-tourists, Greenland is considered one of the last frontiers because of its lack of transportation infrastructure and its sparse population (fewer than 60,000 people live in an area of more than 800,000 square miles). More than three-quarters of Greenland is covered by ice, making it possible for people who want an Arctic experience to find plenty of places to explore. 

The most attractive aspect of Greenland is its wilderness. Apart from population centers along the southern coastline, getting around requires a bush-plane flight, snow-machine ride, or even a trek on skis or a dog sled. Kayaking, glacier walking, and mountain climbing are available for adventure seekers, while nature lovers will see polar bears and caribou on land, seals and walruses on shore, and whales in the coastal waters around Greenland.

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Svalbard, Norway

A pair of walruses resting on floating ice in a fjord in Northern Svalbard

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Svalbard is a group of Norwegian islands that are located in the Arctic Sea. This is the northernmost tip of Europe, so the islands are characterized by raw Arctic landscapes, with mountains, glaciers, and icy, frigid conditions for most of the year. 

Wildlife such as polar bears, foxes, caribou, and reindeer can be seen on land, while whales, seals, and walruses swim in the cold coastal waters. In the summertime, tourists can bird-watch and kayak in Svalbard, while wintertime visitors can enjoy a real Arctic adventure that includes dog sledding, skiing, and mountain climbing.

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Russian Far East

Two brown bears in the shallow, blue lake with a large mountain with bits of remaining snow behind them in Kamchatka, Russia

Evgeniia Ozerkina / Getty Images

Eco-tourists and adventurers in search of something off the beaten path might find this region, thousands of miles from Moscow, a true paradise. One of the most attractive territories in the Far East is Kamchatka, a peninsula that juts down into the North Pacific just a few degrees south of the Arctic Circle. Kamchatka is best known for its large brown bears which are easy to spot in places like Kronotsky Nature Preserve, a huge swatch of protected land that is teeming with wildlife.

Other creatures like bighorn sheep, giant river otters, and wolverines are also part of the park’s animal population, as are birds, including golden eagles and falcons. The area’s waters boast seals, sea lions, whales, and salmon. Most eco-tourism attractions are located in the southeastern portion of the peninsula where visitors can watch whales, climb volcanoes, trek though wild forests, and fish for salmon in rushing rivers.

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Iceland

The back of a whale as it moves through the blue waters of Iceland with the snow-capped mountains of Reykjavík in the distance

Matthew Micah Wright / Getty Images

Sitting in the North Atlantic and hugging the Arctic Circle, Iceland is the northernmost nation on Earth. This land of glaciers, volcanoes, and rugged coastline is a prime spot for eco-tourism. Thanks to the jet stream, Iceland is actually relatively warm, considering its near-Arctic location.

Summertime trekking, ice climbing, glacier walking, wildlife tours, dog sled expeditions, and trips to volcanoes are on the agenda for nature-minded visitors. Iceland is perfect for people who want to see unique, almost otherworldly, landscapes. However, one of its best attractions of this northern nation is actually located in the North Atlantic waters off Iceland's shores. Whale watching is possible year-round, with many boats leaving directly from the capital city of Reykjavik.

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Lapland, Finland

Green aurora borealis in the blue sky above snow-covered evergreen trees and a snow-covered ground in Lapland, Finland

Roberto Moiola / Sysaworld

Lapland is a region that stretches across the northern parts of Scandinavia. The winters can be especially harsh at these far-northern latitudes. People who visit during the colder times of year are usually in search of the aurora borealis, which can be seen especially clearly in the northern regions of Scandinavia. 

During the warmer months, Lapland can be appreciated as one of the last truly remote wilderness areas in Europe. Hiking and trekking opportunities abound, with the most isolated and rustic experiences found in Finland.

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Alaska's National Parks

herd of porcupine caribou migrating across snow covered land in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska with the Brooks Range in the background and a large, low cloud in the sky

Johnny Johnson / Getty Images

America's Arctic paradise can be found in Alaska. Like many other far-northern territories, Alaska is sparsely populated and still dominated by nature. This state is known for its vast national parks. Some of the most remote are located in regions that sit near or above the Arctic Circle. 

To experience Arctic Alaska up close, eco-tourists can head to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where a herd of 197,000 porcupine caribou roam. Because of the remote nature of the refuge, a guide is recommended for any excursions. Other parks include the roadless, trail-less Gates of the Arctic National Park, which can only be reached by bush plane, and the Noatak Nature Preserve, a park that follows its namesake river from the mountains to the coastline. All of these parks have limited to non-existent infrastructure, so it is possible to have a true wilderness experience.

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The North Pole

a white polar bear walking on snow-covered melting ice floe in Nunavut, Canada near the North Pole

AndreAnita / Getty Images

For some, a visit to the North Pole is a lifelong goal. The journey to reach the top of the globe is an adventure in itself. Most visitors travel to the North Pole on an ice-breaking cruise ship or by plane and helicopter. 

As one of the last remaining truly untouched regions on Earth, visitors will have the unique opportunity to see whales, seals, and polar bears in this remote region that these animals call home.