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polar bear on an iceberg

Arctic Cruises & Tours

For the truly adventurous traveller who wants to spend their next trip crossing the Arctic Circle, a polar cruise or tour to the Arctic makes for the perfect getaway! As a wide-spanning region, a trip to the top of the world is certain to be a high-energy experience you won’t soon forget.

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Crossing the Arctic Circle

Want to go whale watching and see other native species like Arctic foxes and reindeer? How about skiing down pristine mountains, or kayaking amongst massive icebergs? Whatever your dream trip looks like, you’ll find it in the Arctic.

As the Arctic Circle covers several countries and regions at the top of the earth, there are many options for travellers looking to visit this part of the world. Visit Svalbard, one of the world’s northernmost inhabited cities located in Norway, where polar bears outnumber people; explore Iceland’s glaciers and lagoons; go dog-sledding in Finland; go whale watching in Greenland; or spend time in Russia’s vast north. You can even take the Northwest Passage, a historic sea route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, on the northern coasts of Canada and Alaska

Arctic Circle map
Arctic Circle map

Did you know?

As many as 8 countries lay within the Arctic Circle
Canada, USA (Alaska), Russia, Greenland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and a small part of Iceland
The Arctic Circle is home to the largest, most secured seed vault in the world
More than 4000 plants including life-sustaining food crops are safely stored in Svalbard, in case of natural disaster.
The Arctic Ocean is the smallest of all the world's oceans
With 8.9 million square kilometres (5.4 million square miles), the Arctic Ocean is far behind the Pacific Ocean- 100.5 million square kilometres (62.46 million square miles) and Atlantic Ocean- 66.1 million square kilometres (41.1 million square miles) in size.

When to visit

arctic fox on snow
  1. High season

    From June to August

    During the high season in the Arctic, from late June to August, the sun remains in the sky for 24 hours each day and conditions are good for many activities. This is the peak season for polar cruises in the region, as ships are easily able to manoeuvre through the water. Temperatures generally range from -10°C (14°F) and 10°C (50°F), though some more southern areas see much warmer summer temperatures!

  2. Shoulder season

    April, May, September

    Visiting the Arctic in the early spring, between March and April, offer visitors the opportunity to see newborn polar bear cubs up close! This is also a great time to see the northern lights, so if that’s on your bucket list (and if it’s not, why?!) a visit to the Arctic during the shoulder season could mean checking that quintessential experience off the list.

Places to visit in the Arctic Circle

The Arctic Circle encompasses eight countries, so if you’re planning a visit to this remote destination, the first question you’ll have to answer is: where do you want to go? Think carefully about the kind of activities you’d like to do and the animals and sights you’d like to see in order to make the best decision for you.

Popular Arctic tours

Wildlife

  • polar bear

    Polar bears

    Polar bears can be found in Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, and Svalbard. The best time to see polar bears is in the summer when some of the Arctic ice has melted away and the bears spend most of their time on shore. Polar bears in the wild are an incredible sight to behold, but make sure you always listen to your guide’s advice and practise reasonable safety precautions when you’re anywhere near them.
  • reindeer looking at the camera

    Reindeer

    There are 15 subspecies of reindeer, and most of them live above the treeline (the point after which trees cannot grow) in the Arctic. You’ll find these famous animals in places like Norway, Alaska, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, and Russia.
  • group of narwhals

    Narwhals

    These mysterious and strange creatures live only in the coldest waters, extremely up north where the Arctic ice meets the sea. You’ll have the best chance of seeing narwhals in the summer, in northern Canada and Thule, in Greenland’s north.
  • arctic fox on snow

    Arctic foxes

    Look closely if you want to spot these adorable creatures! In the winter, their grey fur turns pure white, allowing them to seamlessly blend in with the snow around them. The Arctic fox is the only mammal native to Iceland, and visitors can even explore the Arctic Fox Centre in Sudavik, home to two live Arctic foxes rescued as pups in 2015.
  • muskox looking at the camera

    Muskox

    Visitors looking to see this impressive animal should head to the north of Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Russia, with a small population in Scandinavia. They are one of the few large mammals able to live in the Arctic year-round! If you’d like to see calfs, they’ll appear in late April or May.
  • walrus on snow

    Walruses

    A smaller species of Atlantic walrus can be found in Svalbard and Greenland, as well as certain regions of northern Canada. However, the world’s largest species of walrus can be found in the Pacific, in Alaska and Russia’s east. You’ll find walruses relaxing on the beach when the sun is out, so try to time your visit with the midnight sun!

Things to do in the Arctic

Choose your Arctic cruise

Which Arctic cruise ship is right for you?

If you’re dreaming of cruising in the Arctic, one of the first choices you’ll have to make is in regards to your ship! There are two main types of cruise ships that will take visitors across the Arctic, and both of them offer vastly different experiences. 

Expedition cruise ships are former working ships, providing an authentic experience with few frills, and accommodating about 80 passengers at a time. If you’re looking to see the Arctic the way scientists and explorers have in the past, this is the boat type for you. You may not have access to amenities such as an onboard gym or luxury cabin, but you’ll definitely have a life-changing experience when you explore the Arctic on an expedition cruise ship!

Luxury polar cruise ships accommodate double the amount of passengers as an expedition ship (160), and are more focused on comfort. Here, you’ll find hotel rooms over cabins, fine dining, and generally, a more comfortable experience - for a price! If you want to splurge and spend your trip to the Arctic in a more relaxed environment, a luxury ship will provide modern and comfortable rooms with a sleek design, and a generally more upscale experience. A benefit of travelling on a luxury ship is that, generally, additional fees such as food and tips are included in the cost.

Boats in the Arctic
Boats in the Arctic

Luxury Arctic cruises

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FAQ

  • What is a fly and cruise tour?

    Fly and cruise tours allow you to discover Arctic in different ways. Given the nature of exploring this region, in some instances, you will fly to a region and then sail to a sightseeing destination. Some tours will give you the option to save on sailing time with a flight option one way and a cruise option the other. It all depends on the type of tour you pick.
  • How much does an Arctic cruise cost?

    Depending on your budget and desired experience (including things such as preferred destination, time, and activities), an Arctic cruise can vary in price. At TourRadar, prices can begin at under $1,000 USD and can go on to exceed $30,000 USD. 
  • How risky is polar travel?

    Weather and ice can cause problems on shore and on the ship but cruise operators will always prioritize the safety of their guests and crew, eliminate most if not all of the risk. The ships are designed and built for the polar region, equipped with GPS and other necessary technology, and are manned by a highly experienced crew. Arctic cruises are scheduled during the summer to ensure a successful expedition.
  • Do I have to be in good shape for a polar tour?

    To enjoy the trip in full, you should be in good general health and able to walk reasonable distances, sometimes over uneven terrain, and be able to get in and out of a zodiac with ease. For those who are seeking more adventure, some cruise operators offer one or more activities such as sea kayaking, cross-country skiing, camping, snowshoeing, mountaineering, or diving. A higher level of fitness is required depending on the activity but you are always welcome to stay on board if you prefer.
  • What is there to do on the ship?

    There are plenty of activities to choose from while sailing to the polar regions. Depending on the selected itinerary and cruise operator, you will be able to learn about the history and environment by attending on-board lectures conducted by regional experts. There are also other activities available, such as board games to play in the lounges and fully-stocked libraries.
  • What documents must I provide in order to join the expedition?

    Forms may differ depending on the tour operator and destination. Generally, you will need to sign a cruise contract and fill out medical forms. Your tour operator might also ask for your flight information to arrange a pickup. Keep in mind to always check visa requirements before your departure.
  • Can I extend my stay in the disembarkation city?

    An extension of stay is usually possible, but it can vary depending on the tour operator. If you wish to have extra time exploring the disembarkation city, contact your tour operator and ask for possible options.
  • What additional major expenses will I incur?

    In most cases, you will have to arrange transportation to the embarkation and disembarkation point. If you wish to extend your trip you will also have to cover any additional cost of accommodation. You might also have to purchase outdoor clothing suitable for polar conditions. Some tours will include a complimentary parka, so double-check with your tour operator beforehand.
  • Are single travellers welcomed?

    Single travellers are welcome on Arctic cruises and tours! You will be assigned a room with a traveller the same gender as you, or, if you prefer to travel alone, you may also be allowed to pay extra for a single room. Solo travel to an exciting destination such as Arctic Circle is a great way to meet like-minded travellers!
  • Are there family polar tours?

    Although children are not discouraged from taking a polar trip, some cruise operators won't accept passengers who are under 6, 12 or 18. Please check with your TourRadar Polar Specialist for cruise operators who offer family expeditions.
  • How far in advance should I start planning my trip?

    When it comes to cruises, we recommend travellers book their tour 12-18 months in advance. Booking in advance allows you to secure your preferred cabin size and choose any additional activities you may wish to take part in. Depending on the cruise, you might opt to kayak, camp, or hike. Keep in mind that the Arctic is accessible only between late June to August, with each month offering different highlights. Plan in advance to be able to enjoy your dream cruise.

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Our team of experienced tour specialists have travelled to hundreds of countries around the globe and have decades of first-hand travel experience to share. Contact us now to have all of your tour-related questions answered!

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