The Arctic Circle, situated at the northernmost fringe of the world, is fast becoming one of the planet’s biggest tourist attractions. Stretching across three continents, the Arctic Circle is home to a number of natural phenomena, gorgeous sights, and cultural activities that draw thousands of visitors every year. While you may be familiar with some of the Arctic Circle’s attractions, there is a large variety of things to do in this part of the world year-round.
The Arctic Circle has something for everyone, whether you’re an adventurer, interested in cultural events, or simply want to kick back and gaze at the stars. Here’s a guide to some of the top attractions in the Arctic.
The Northern Lights
Also known as the aurora borealis, the Northern Lights is a natural phenomenon created by the Earth’s interaction with the sun. The sun regularly emits solar wind, an array of particles, and when these particles collide with the Earth, the effect creates an array of natural colors in the night sky that are visible in and around the North Pole, one of the focal points of the Earth’s magnetic field.
The Northern Lights are visible year-round but are most easily observed in fall and winter due to excessive sunlight during the summer months. While there is no guarantee of seeing the Northern Lights on any particular night, they are a regular occurrence in and around the Arctic Circle and can be seen at least once per week. Many tour operators based in Alaska and other Arctic locales offer viewing tours catered to witnessing the Northern Lights.
As one of the least-populated regions of the world, the Arctic Circle is home to a large variety of marine life, including whales. Beluga whales can be viewed year-round, while humpback, bowhead, and other types of whales migrate to the Arctic every winter. Whales can be easily viewed in the waters of the Arctic Ocean, from the coast or aboard a cruise ship.
Polar Bear (and Wildlife Watching)
The Arctic features a wide variety of wildlife unlike any in the world, particularly in and around the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska. Polar bears are perhaps the best-known residents of the Arctic, but you’ll have plenty of opportunity to see other kinds of animals year-round, from seals and walruses to Dall sheep, caribou, grizzly bears, and bald eagles.
While the Arctic was only opened to large-scale settlement relatively recently, indigenous peoples such as the Inuit have resided in its frigid lands for generations. These cultures have developed unique folkways and methods of survival based around the extreme climate of the Arctic, and they have preserved those traditions in the face of colonization and modernization.
Centers of indigenous culture in the Arctic include Greenland, northern Alaska, and the northern fringes of Scandinavia. You can find many museums and cultural events dedicated to preserving the heritage of these peoples and sharing it with outsiders.
The Vikings had an extensive history of exploring and settling the Arctic; it was the Vikings who gave Greenland its name, and at one point, their colonies extended into modern-day Canada. While the Vikings are no more, they still left a strong mark on Greenlandic culture, and visitors to Greenland can visit artifacts of Viking influence such as the Hvalsey Church.
Museums of Murmansk, Russia
Situated just east of Russia’s border with Norway, the port city of Murmansk is the largest city in the Arctic Circle. It boasts a number of unique cultural attractions, most notably the Azimut Hotel Murmansk, the tallest building in the Arctic Circle. Murmansk also host the nuclear icebreaker Lenin, the first nuclear-powered icebreaker in the world, now a museum ship, and it is also home to the Alyosha Monument, one of the largest World War II monuments in Russia.
Depending on the time of year and the place where you go, you can partake in a number of outdoors activities in the Arctic, from kayaking and canoeing to hiking, mountain climbing, and much more. If you’re an experienced outdoorsman, kayaking down an Arctic river or scaling an Arctic mountain will provide a decent challenge.
Due to its frigid climate, the Arctic is home to a large number of glaciers and icebergs. Depending on where you go, you’ll be able to observe more than a few. Many cruise lines and tour operators offer guided tours of glaciers and icebergs along their routes.
The Arctic Circle’s bevy of natural wonders and tourist attractions make it one of the most fascinating places in the world. No matter your interests or abilities, you can find something to do in the Arctic, whether it’s climbing a mountain, touring a museum, or just kicking back and watching the Northern Lights from the comfort of a cabin’s front porch. If you’re curious about the Arctic, why not book a tour and see what it can offer you?