Top 10 things to experience in the Arctic

Top 10 Things to Experience in the Arctic

Fridrik Fridriksson
From the glistening glaciers and unique Arctic wildflowers to the intriguing birdlife and majestic aquatic mammals, the Arctic is one of the most spectacular places on earth. Make your Arctic holiday one to remember with these top 10 unmissable experiences.

1. Glaciers

It seems kind of obvious to start with ice of some kind, but in fairness it is quite prevalent in the Arctic regions. Glaciers can be seen slowly making their way through fjords and mountain ranges to the sea. In some locations you can see walls of ice stretching for kilometres on end, seemingly never ending such as at the 190 km long ice wall of Bråsvellbreen, Nordaustlandet, Svalbard. 
Gaze at the magnificent Arctic glaciers

2. Fjords

There is no shortage of fjords in the Arctic, carved by glaciers, they come in all variety of scale and intrigue. A country synonymous with fjords is of course Norway and there you will find fjords with steep cliffs and greenery, including Geiranger, where many a famous social media post picture has been taken. Iceland’s Westfjords are also unique and remote, deserving of a visit, however on your short list you should definitely include East Greenland’s Scoresby Sund, the longest fjord in the world at 350 km.
Admire the intriguing Arctic fjords

3. Wildlife

This is the reason many choose to visit the Arctic. It does not matter if you are an enthusiastic bird watcher or more into the aquatic mammals, you will find something that intrigues you. There are many species that are seasonal wanderers and head North in the summer to feed and breed. This leads to large colonies of birds such as the puffin and guillemot, numbering in the hundreds of thousands if not millions. With some luck humpback whales, beluga or the rare blue whale make an appearance. However many head to the Arctic to see the permanent inhabitants such as reindeer, muskoxen, arctic foxes, walrus or the undeniable King of the Arctic, the polar bear. Svalbard offers some of the best-protected areas in the Arctic to experience wildlife. 
Spot puffins and other birdlife in the Arctic

4. Hard To Get Places

There are a few truly hard to get to places in this world, but if you have the means and are determined enough, you can most likely get there. Often these places are islands far from any other land and sometimes they have inhabitants running a weather or research station. The Norwegian Jan Mayen at 71°N and Bjørnøya at 74°N are such islands, uniquely positioned in the Norwegian Sea. If you happen to be lucky enough with the weather to either catch a glimpse of them or luckier still make a landing, you may be greeted with a smile and an invitation. There is a special tradition to take a naked bath in the frigid waters surrounding the islands, with your only reward a respectful nod and a certificate stating your achievement. Believe me, it is worth it.
Discover the Arctic's hard to get to places

5. Museums

There is a lot of history to discover about the Arctic, the varying cultures, wildlife, and multitude of expeditions. There are many museums that tell these stories, such as the Svalbard Museum in Longyearbyen, National Museum of Greenland in Nuuk, and the Polar Museum in Tromsø, Norway. If you prefer a museum of a different kind the world famous Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavík might be just what you are looking for. Whatever you might be interested in and wherever you go check if there is a unique museum to discover. 
Visit the museums in Longyearbyen in the Arctic

6. Sea Ice

What looks like a desert of ice is actually more important to stable life on earth than we realise, covering the entire North Pole and impacting the food chain and weather patterns of our planet. If you make it to the edge of the sea ice you might be surprised by what you find. Seals depend on sea ice to give birth and polar bears use it to hunt. Krill and cope pods feed on algae that grow under the ice sheet and in turn fish and whales feed on the krill, there is also an abundance of birds looking for their fair share. The algae captures carbon dioxide, helping stem global warming, however the sea ice mass has reduced significantly in recent years, threatening the entire Arctic ecosystem. 
Watch for sea ice in the Arctic

7. Flora

A bouquet of Arctic wildflowers might be just as romantic as a bundle of roses. Most growth in the Arctic is small in stature, but makes up for that with a wide variety of species and colours to discover. The people of the Arctic have survived for centuries using the local plants to stave off potential diseases such as scurvy. If you are into botany or just like taking pictures of pretty flowers you will find something to your liking. If you are in Svalbard at the right time of year be sure to ask about the famous hanging gardens.  
Admire the beautiful Arctic windflowers

8. Icebergs

You will be in absolute awe when you see your first town-sized iceberg and even then what you are seeing is really just the “tip of the iceberg”. Icebergs can be described as the children of glaciers, breaking off from the parent, some larger than others. Visiting the Illulisat Icefjord in western Greenland will take your breath away and might be one of the reasons it is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Be in awe of the incredible icebergs in the Arctic

9. Local Brew

Many of us appreciate a good beer after a hard days work or when going out to celebrate with friends and living in the Arctic is no exception. Svalbard Bryggeri has the title of the world’s northernmost brewery and is located at 78°N in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Up until 2014 it was illegal to brew alcohol in Svalbard, the brewery fought for a changing of the law and since then it has thrived. If you are in town be sure to have a taste. 
Sip on an Arctic beer at the Svalbard Bryggeri

10. Local People

Anytime you visit a place be sure to interact with the local people, they have the best information and stories to share. Some may only have lived in the place for a short time, while others have deep roots and culture associated with the place, such as the Inuit in Greenland and Canada and the native Saami in Norway. You will never forget the experience of playing soccer with the local youth in a small Greenlandic village; their laughs and smiles will stay with you forever. 
Meet the local Inuit people in the Arctic
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