The Arctic Circle
One of the world’s last remaining true frontiers, the Arctic is as enigmatic as they come. But with warming weather patterns threatening this icy region, it is a place to see now rather than later – before it changes irrevocably.
With steely seas littered with bobbing bergs and immense ice caps stretching into the horizon, the Arctic can seem eerily barren upon first inspection. Look a little closer, however, and you’ll find a host of species, from polar bears to narwhals, whales to walruses, eking out an existence amid these awe-inspiring landscapes.
Save from some hardy indigenous settlers and a select few daredevil explorers, few humans have managed to penetrate the Arctic, with most having been frightened away by the harsh terrain and frigid temperatures. Nowadays, it is possible for travelers to explore the Arctic in comfort, whether on land or – more commonly – by water.
Travel through the ice-swarmed waters of the Northwest Passage in a purpose-built icebreaker ship
Go wildlife-watching in Svalbard, an archipelago where polar bears outnumber humans
Marvel at glaciers glimmering under the midnight sun in Franz Josef Land
Paddle past snow-capped peaks and icebergs on a sea kayak excursion
See the dazzling green and purple hues of the Northern Lights
Though many travelers opt for cruises, it is possible to find a base on dry land. The Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge in Nunavut stands some 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and has 16 private tented cabins. The real draw here are the expeditions: expert guides will take you on hiking, kayaking and ATV excursions where you can see breaching beluga whales, stampeding muskoxen and even polar bears.
For gourmet dining in the Arctic circle, head to Fiskekompaniet in Tromsø, Norway. The restaurant majors in fresh-from-the-boat seafood, with everything from shellfish to halibut making appearances on the menu, while the sleek dining room offers stellar harbor views.
Celebrate your arrival at 90 degrees north, the literal top of the world, with a champagne toast followed by a hot-air balloon ride over the North Pole.