Choosing the Arctic Circle for a summer holiday might seem an odd choice to those who need to tick the sun, sea and sand boxes.However, crossing the Arctic Circle in the summer makes sense as temperatures are much higher and some regions are bathed in sunlight full time.
Given the rapidly shrinking ice caps, it’s best not to put family adventure holidays to the Arctic at the bottom of your bucket list. But where to go? Here’s my pick of the best Arctic adventures.
Trekking in Alaska
No phrase is guaranteed to make you feel more intrepid, adventurous and downright valiant than “I’m going trekking in Alaska”. One third of Alaska is located above the Arctic Circle, and while trekking through it is certainly not for the fainthearted, it is surprisingly doable as long as your outdoor skills and physical fitness are up to scratch. For nature lovers- which we can assume you are if you’re rambling through Alaska- the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the best option. It’s America’s largest Wildlife Refuge and home to a wider variety of animal life than any other protected Arctic area. Among the 37 species of land mammal and more than 200 species of bird are polar bears, grizzly bears, caribou, wolves, wolverines, muskoxen, snow geese and peregrine falcons.
Bear Watching in Finland
The Arctic Circle may not be the first destination that springs to mind when you think of safari holidays, but Oulanka National Park on the edge of the Arctic Circle in Finland is the perfect destination for nature lovers. The approximately 290 sq km protected park is home to bears, moose, the golden and white-tailed eagle, and you might even be lucky enough to spot wolves, wolverines and lynxes. The park is also a playground for hikers, with a number of marked trails winding through the largely untouched pine forested landscape. What’s more, the park has a number of huts which visitors can stay in overnight for free. Alternatively- and if you don’t mind a curious bear poking his nose into your tent- you can set up camp in designated camping areas.
Chasing the Northern Lights in Norway
Seeing the Aurora Borealis is one of the traveller’s most sought after experiences, as the hundreds of galleries and videos online will attest. No matter where you are within the Arctic Circle, there is no guarantee of a sighting, but the Norwegian city of Tromsø is a reasonably good bet. Located almost 220 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the so-called ‘capital of the Arctic’ is a favourite with Aurora hunters. In addition to the abundance of snow sports available, it also has a cable car that rises 420 metres above sea level and the world’s northernmost botanical gardens. However, if you’re set on visiting the Arctic in the summer, best leave it until August, when the Aurora reappear after a summer of hiding behind the 24 hour daylight.
Russia- Franz Josef Land
Franz Josef Land is an ice-covered archipelago of 191 islands, roughly half way between Russia and the North Pole. It was discovered less than 150 years ago, and was the object of an ownership tussle between Norway and Russia in the 1920s- Russia won. The group of islands remains one of the wildest and most remote regions in the world and it has long been the destination of choice for adventurous polar explorers. Visitors can reach the islands by ice-breaker through the Barents Sea, although there is a narrow, small airstrip on Graham Bell Island, the former home of a Soviet airbase. A hardy variety of animals make their homes on and around the islands, including polar bears, Arctic foxes, beluga whales and seals, while walruses stay particularly around Stolichky and Applenov Islands.
Sail to the North Pole
Go one step further than Franz Josef Land and sail to the North Pole for an experience to tell the grand kids about. Leaving Murmansk in Russia, it’s possible to reach 90 degrees north in just eight days aboard a hefty icebreaker, passing Franz Josef land on the way. However, those who eagerly take compasses aboard in the hope of seeing the needle whizz around wildly will be disappointed- it will simply point to the magnetic North Pole, in northern Canada. True North, as the Arctic Ocean’s North Pole is known, is in the middle of the ocean and almost completely covered in moving ice, so there’s nothing in particular to see (although you may see a couple of people parachuting onto the North Pole from an aeroplane!) But we defy you not to shout, ‘Made it Ma! Top of the world!’
Laura’s list of dream adventure holidays includes trekking through both the Arctic and Antarctic Circles in the same year.
Image Courtesy: Microsoft