What is the Arctic Circle?

Arctic Circle United States Alaska

The Arctic Circle crosses Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Greenland, Canada and the United States (Alaska).

The Arctic Circle is one of five major circle of latitude. It marks the division between the most northern region of the Earth known as the Arctic and the Northern Temperate Zone to the south. In layman’s terms, the Arctic Circle is the latitudinal line where at least once per year the sun is visible at local midnight.Likewise, at least once per year the sun is not visible during local noon. This exact location of this northern circle continually fluctuates in part due to lunar tidal force. It currently sits at 66°33′46.7″ north of the equator. This location is denoted by a signpost approximately 200 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska.

The Arctic Circle passes through Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Iceland, and the United States (Alaska). There are approximately four million people worldwide living in the Arctic. The largest Arctic cities are Murmansk (307,257) and Norilsk (175,365) in Russia and Tromsø in Norway. The largest Arctic city in North America is Barrow, Alaska with around 4,000 inhabitants.

Alaska is known as “The Land of the Midnight Sun” for this reason. During the summer, tourists often find it hard to sleep and need to use blackout curtains because the sun does not set in the evening. In the weeks preceding and following the summer solstice, the sun only briefly sets in the early morning hours throughout Alaska. In the winter, the sun can only be seen for a few hours each day.

Who lives above the Arctic Circle?

Until recent history, the majority of the Arctic was populated by nomadic hunter-gathers. In North America, the Inuit/Eskimo populated the northern extremes of Alaska, Canada and Greenland. Most of these communities live on the shores of the Arctic Ocean with the exception of Anaktuvuk Pass, the only inland Eskimo settlement in Alaska. To the south, the Athabaskan Indians live along the Yukon and Tanana rivers. Almost all of these villages are not accessible by road and are not intersected by the Dalton Highway.

Most of the Native Alaskan communities have the modern amenities of urban life. They have electricity, live in Western A-frame houses, watch satellite TV and drive cars and trucks. Check out this short video about life in Barrow, Alaska:

How can I visit the Arctic Circle?

I’m interested in visiting the Arctic Circle and receiving an Arctic Circle Certificate! How can get there? Can I drive my rental car there?

Arctic Circle Tour Arctic Circle Signpost

This Arctic Circle Signpost (200 miles north of Fairbanks) is the last stop on the tour.

Approximately half of the 200 mile journey north of Fairbanks is unpaved, gravel road. Car rental companies strictly forbid driving their rental vehicles off of paved roads. They check underneath all returned car with a mirror and look for chipped windows. Airlink Shuttle and Tours offers a day-long Arctic Circle adventure. We will pick you up from your Fairbanks hotel, go shopping for food and drink for the 12 – 14 hour trip and then head north. Along the way we stop at the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, Yukon River, Finger Mountain and finally the Arctic Circle Signpost where you receive your official certificate.