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Best time to visit Arctic Circle

The best time for travel to the Arctic Circle depends mostly on the country you are interested in visiting and the experiences you are after. Find out more about weather conditions in Greenland, temperatures in Svalbard and when the best time to spot a polar bear is.

 

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When is the best time to visit the North Pole and Arctic Circle?

If you’re planning a visit to the North Pole, you’ll have to consider the time you decide to visit carefully. The Arctic Ocean's icy waters are open for a short period between June and July, making it the only possible time to travel on a cruise to this remote destination. 

However, with other destinations within the Arctic Circle, the window for travel lasts longer, allowing visitors to try various activities. Depending on the month, you’ll have a vastly different experience, so it makes more sense to choose activities you want to experience before selecting a departure date. If you've got your heart set on visiting the Arctic Circle, then learn more about the best time to visit and which activities to experience! You can choose between incredible destinations like Greenland, Svalbard, Canada, Alaska, and Lapland.

Best time to visit the Arctic Circle
Best time to visit the Arctic Circle
Polar bear on ice
Polar bear on ice

Facts about the Arctic Circle

The highest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic Circle was 32°C (90°F)
On 30th July 2018, across Northern Norway and Finland saw high temperatures of 32°C (90°F)
What is the lowest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic Circle?
The lowest temperatures ever recorded in the Arctic Circle were –70°C (-94°F) in northern Greenland.

Arctic average temperatures by month

GreenlandSvalbardManitobaAlaskaLapland
January-7°C (19 °F)-13°C (8 °F)-26°C (-14 °F)-7°C (19 °F)-11°C (12 °F)
February-7°C (19 °F)-13°C (8 °F)-24°C (-11 °F)-7°C (19 °F)-11°C (12 °F)
March-8°C (17 °F)-13°C (8 °F)-19°C (-2 °F)-2°C (28 °F)-6°C (21 °F)
April-3°C (26 °F)-9°C (15 °F)-9°C (15 °F)3°C (37 °F)-1°C (30 °F)
May0°C (32 °F)-3°C (26 °F)-1°C (30 °F)9°C (49 °F)6°C (43 °F)
June3°C (37 °F)3°C (37 °F)6°C (43 °F)13°C (55 °F)12°C (54 °F)
July6°C (43 °F)7°C (45 °F)12°C (54 °F)15°C (59 °F)15°C (59 °F)
August6°C (43 °F)6°C (43 °F)11°C (51 °F)14°C (57 °F)12°C (54 °F)
September3°C (37 °F)1°C (34 °F)5°C (41 °F)10°C (50 °F)6°C (43 °F)
October0°C (32 °F)-4°C (25 °F)-1°C (30 °F)2°C (38 °F)0°C (32 °F)
November-3°C (26 °F)-8°C (17 °F)-12°C (10 °F)-6°C (21 °F)-6°C (21 °F)
December-6°C (21 °F)-11°C (12 °F)-22°C (-8 °F)-8°C (17 °F)-7°C (19 °F)

Best time to travel to Greenland

Despite what the name Greenland might suggest, it's covered mostly by snow and ice. You can visit this Arctic beauty all year round, but travel is recommended between May and September when the temperatures are higher, and travellers can experience the phenomenon of the midnight sun. 

Greenland in summer

June to September are the summer months, when locals and travellers can enjoy warmer temperatures and midnight sun. Because of Earth's tilt, 24-hour sunlight is typical for polar regions. During this time everyone wants to enjoy the sunshine for as long as possible and the concept of ‘day’ and ‘night’ becomes something different altogether. It’s the perfect time for outdoor activities such as hiking and spotting wildlife. Summertime is also an excellent time for an Arctic cruise, as chances of spotting polar bears are at their highest.

Greenland in winter

Winter lasts from December till January. During this time temperatures can drop to -20° C (-4° F) with very little daylight. This is the best to watch the northern lights and to go dog sledding.
See all Greenland tours

When to visit Svalbard

Located far north, just like other territories within the Arctic Circle, Svalbard has very distinct seasons. Summertime is the best time to visit and take advantage of all outdoor activities this Norwegian archipelago has to offer. The peak season to experience Svalbard falls between May to September.

Summer in Svalbard

Svalbard's summers are from May to September. Longer days and pleasant temperatures make it perfect for hiking, snowmobile tours, or dog sledding. It’s also the only time when you can discover Svalbard on a ship, as the melting ice makes the area accessible for vessels. Summer is also a peak season for spotting wildlife, including polar bears, the king of the Arctic animal kingdom. Travellers can also experience the midnight sun, as Svalbard enjoys up to 24-hours of sunlight during summer months!

Spring and autumn in Svalbard

Spring and autumn are not clearly defined in Svalbard. Mid-August to end of September is typically considered a transition period before winter time and still a good time to visit Svalbard and enjoy popular activities.

Winter in Svalbard 

Between November and February Svalbard is frozen and not accessible for polar cruises. Return of the polar night is a prime time to observe the northern lights; however, the freezing temperatures and darkness are not suitable for other activities.
See all Svalbard tours

Best time to go to the Canadian Arctic

Northern Canada can be visited all year round, depending on which activities you are interested in. Usually, travellers choose to travel between June and October, when temperatures are warmer, and nature is blooming.

The Canadian Arctic in summer

Mid-May to October is the perfect time to explore Canadian Arctic tundra and taiga. With nature flourishing after the dark, winter months, the region is full of colour and wildlife. It’s a great time for hiking, horseback riding, and seeing animals in their natural habitat, especially polar bears! 

The Canadian Arctic in winter

For all those interested in experiencing the Canadian Arctic winter, the best time to visit is from December to mid-March. The holiday season in December and school winter break in February are the busiest time, so best to book in advance. For those looking for fewer crowds, the best month to travel is in January and first half of March. Popular activities to try are dog sledding, snowmobiling, and watching the northern lights.
See all Arctic Canada tours

When to visit Alaska

There is no such thing as the ‘worst time to visit Alaska’ because it can be visited all year round. However, the most popular time is between May and September, during the summertime when the weather is pleasant, and the state can be explored on a cruise, a flightseeing tour, as well as rail tour

Alaska in summer

Summer in Alaska blooms with colour and is the preferred season for visiting. The peak season begins in mid-May and continues until mid-September with June being the busiest month. With warmer temperatures and up to 24 hours of sunlight, tourists can explore the region by boat, plane or train. The most popular activities include hiking, river rafting, and kayaking.

Alaska in winter

From November through March, Alaska becomes a winter wonderland; the perfect destination for all winter sports enthusiasts. Skiing, dog sledding, and watching the northern lights are some of the highlights of this season in Alaska.
See all Alaska tours

Best time to visit Lapland

Unlike other destinations within the Arctic Circle, the peak season in Lapland is winter. Thanks to the magical snowy landscapes, the region became famous for various winter activities. Lapland is a touristic destination all year round. However, the best time to visit is from December to March.

Lapland in summer

Summer usually starts in June and lasts until mid-September. During those months the sun does not set, and average temperatures reach a pleasant 15°C (59°F). Travellers can enjoy various activities in the region, such as hiking, kayaking, and camping.

Lapland in winter

From December to March, winter takes over Lapland. Snow turns the landscape into a wonderland and visitors can thoroughly enjoy all the winter activities available in the region. Some of the most popular things to do are: watching the northern lights, experiencing a reindeer safari, going on a husky safari, or snowmobiling. As Lapland is the home of Santa Claus, December and the beginning of January are some of the most popular months to visit, and likewise, the most crowded. If you want to avoid crowds, it’s better to travel between late January and mid-March.
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When and where to see polar bears

Best destinations to spot polar bears

Polar bears are one of the most majestic species to walk our planet. The majority of travellers who encounter these animals in the wild will tell you it’s one of the most thrilling wildlife experiences. But where can polar bears be seen and when is the best time to spot them?

  • Norway: Spitsbergen, Svalbard
    The remote archipelago of Svalbard is one of the most popular destinations for observing polar bears. The best way to spot a polar bear is to join an expedition cruise.
    When to go: Svalbard is accessible only during the summer, between May and September. Throughout the rest of the year, the waters around the archipelago are frozen, which makes it impossible for an expedition cruise to get through. 
     
  • Canada: Churchill, Manitoba
    Known as the 'polar bear capital of the world,’ Churchill is considered to be top on the list of polar bear destinations. 
    When to go: The peak season for watching polar bears in Churchill falls between October and November. However, that's not the only time it’s possible to spot them. March, July, and August are also a great time to see polar bear mothers with their cubs.
     
  • Greenland
    Chances of spotting a polar bear in Greenland are not the highest, as the primary breeding place of this beautiful mammal is on a northern part of the island. The best way to spot a polar bear is by cruising along Greenland’s coast.
    When to go: Cruises are usually available between June and September
     
  • United States: Alaska
    The primary location to spot polar bears in Alaska is Kaktovik, located on Barter Island. Polar bears can also be seen in other locations, but Kaktovik provides the highest chances of experiencing them in the wild.
    When to go: The best time to spot polar bears is between mid-August to late September, when bears come to feast on carcasses of bowhead whales hunted by the local population.

Polar bear and walruses
Polar bear and walruses

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