The most extreme places on the planet, the Polar Regions test endurance and stagger belief in equal measures. Home to fascinating wildlife and beautiful, snow-capped vistas; the Arctic and Antarctic have captivated adventurers for centuries, and now can be explored by those more accustomed to luxury travel.
With limited transport links, cruising the outer rings of the Polar Regions is amongst the only ways to enjoy these extreme locations. But with stunning stretches of clear water and endless snow-capped vistas, this is no bad thing – providing experiences you won’t forget in a hurry.
Countries: (At least partially within the Polar Regions) Arctic, Antarctica, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia
Number of Port Cities: 27
Busiest Port: Tromso
Popular Ports: Tromso, Barentsburg, Bear Island, Haugesund, Honningsvag, Leknes, Qikiqtarjuaq, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Antarctic Peninsula
Regular Visitors: Queen Mary 2, P&O Britannia, Regal Princess, Explorer of the Seas, MSC Fantasia, Celebrity Silhouette, Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Eclipse, MS Rotterdam, Pacific Princess
Must Visit Destinations
Regarded as the major cultural hub above the Arctic Circle, Tromso is sometimes cited as the last remnant of civilisation as you move north towards the planet’s apex. The stunning Arctic Cathedral is an absolute must-visit if you take the time to honour Tromso. Having recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, the cathedral is a distinct glass triangle.
Technically an archipelago, Svalbard, is about as north as you can go before you start to head south again. A frozen tundra, Svalbard is one of the Earth’s most northern inhabited areas – with a community of humans and polar bears calling the archipelago home.
The beautiful city of Haugesund in Norway is an important port city and economic hub for northern Norway. A mixture of classic Scandinavian architecture and modern builds make up a truly eclectic city which belies its position in the Arctic Circle.
Don’t be put off by the impossible to pronounce name, Qikiqtarjuaq is a charming Inuit island in Canada. With a small population of just over 500 people, the island is a renowned whale watching spot – giving visitors the chance to glimpse these wonderful animals in the midst of the surrounding mountains.
A cruise around the Scotia Arc chain of islands off the eastern tip of the Andes unveils an array of scenic spots just waiting to be discovered. This beautiful chain of islands, including the Falklands and Elephant Island, feature a stunning mix of diverse wildlife and awe-inspiring scenery.
Known as the ‘Galapagos of the South’, South Georgia Island is said to boast more wildlife per square foot than anywhere else on Earth. Hundreds of thousands of penguins join seals and whales at the foot of snow-capped mountains, making the island a stunning place to visit for wildlife fans.
If you are trying to find the perfect place in the Arctic Circle to glimpse the Aurora Borealis, Eastern Greenland might just be the answer. Almost every month of the year sees the night sky over this freezing part of the world light up with wonderful shows of green, blue, rose and gold. Or head over in summer when it is perpetually light.
Another tongue-twister, the small Greenland town of Ittoqqortoormiit is a spectacular little settlement, built upon the world’s longest glacial river system. However, the conditions have to be just right for you to be able to reach this amazing place, so good luck.
Hero image sourced via Flickr Creative Commons: PJ Hansen