The Arctic Circle has become one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations, with thousands of people flocking to Alaska, Greenland, Norway, and countless other locales to partake in the region’s natural beauty. With gorgeous mountains, unique wildlife, and phenomena such as the Northern Lights, the Arctic Circle is truly one of the most spectacular places on Earth. However, if you’re planning a trip to the Arctic Circle, you will want to know how to stay safe.
The Arctic Circle is one of the most dangerous places in the world for unprepared travelers, with extreme weather, isolation, and wildlife posing the biggest risks. Read on to learn how you can protect yourself and ensure your safety in one of the most remote regions of the globe.
How to Stay Safe in the Arctic Circle
Depending on what you are planning to do in the Arctic Circle, you will need to make different types of precautions. If you’re going on a guided tour to see the Northern Lights, for example, you’ll have less to worry about then, say, someone who wants to hike in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Having said that, there are a number of general tips to keep in mind.
For starters, you should prepare adequately. Regardless of what time of year you travel, Arctic weather is known for changing on a dime, so you should pack warm clothes and shoes designed for long walks. Much of the Arctic is isolated from civilization and you may end up in places that are hundreds of miles away from the nearest city, so you should bring supplies such as food to ensure that you don’t get left in the lurch if something bad happens.
If traveling to the Arctic via car, you should have an emergency survival kit in case your vehicle breaks down. For example, much of the Dalton Highway is uninhabited and cell phone service is unavailable for large stretches. If you have car trouble, you should have the means to stay warm and fed until help can arrive. If planning to drive or hike, tell a family member or friend and leave your contact information with them so they can get assistance if something bad happens to you.
If planning to hike, ensure that you are physically able to make the journey, as Arctic trails tend to be difficult to navigate for inexperienced hikers. While you don’t need to be super-buff (unless you’re planning to hike a major mountain such as Denali), you should be able to climb hills and stay on your feet for long periods of time. If you have chronic health problems, try to avoid hikes and trails that are particularly strenuous on the body.
When it comes to packing food for your Arctic trip, you will want items that don’t require refrigeration or preparation and can be eaten upon opening. You also want food that is high in calories and vital nutrients, so skip candy and other sweet treats that may taste good but lack the nutrients you need to stay alert. Keep food secure and unopened until you’re ready to eat so you avoid attracting animals such as bears.
Due to spotty Internet connectivity in the Arctic Circle, it’s a good idea to bring a map and compass, even if you own a GPS. This will ensure that you don’t get lost. Additionally, research flora and fauna in the region you are traveling to so you know what kinds of hazards to expect. Not only that, knowing what kinds of plants and animals inhabit the area will make identifying them much easier and more fun.
Speaking of wildlife, you should keep your distance from it as much as possible. Many animals will get scared off by humans, but others, such as bears, will become aggressive. You don’t want to provoke animals into attacking you, so stick to admiring them from a distance to avoid any unpleasant interactions.
You should ideally travel with a friend, family member, or group in general so you can watch each others’ backs and ensure that you stay out of trouble. While solo traveling can be fun, it can be hazardous in a region as remote and isolated as the Arctic. Traveling with a group can make your experience both safer and more enjoyable.
When driving, obey all local traffic laws and speed limits. You may want to speed to get to your destination faster, but Arctic roads are often treacherous and feature sharp turns and inclement weather. Many are also not paved, such as the Dalton Highway. You may also want to keep your headlights on, even during the day (this is required by law when driving on the Dalton Highway).
While traveling to the Arctic Circle can be dangerous, if you prepare adequately, you won’t have any worries. By doing your research and keeping your wits about you, your trip to the Arctic Circle can be as painless as possible. Above all else, don’t sweat it. So long as you don’t act foolish or headstrong, you can have a relaxing trip to the Arctic Circle that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.