Crossing the Arctic Circle and reaching the top of the globe has long been a milestone moment for explorers. The most northern of the five major circles of latitude around the Earth at 66.33 degrees north, the invisible line of the Arctic Circle circumnavigates 9,900 miles around the globe and comprises the northernmost reaches of eight nations—Canada, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.
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Although the Arctic Circle itself isn’t visible, the signs that you’ve crossed into the northernmost section of the globe are evident: Due to the Earth’s tilt, the region experiences a full day of darkness here every winter as well as a 24-hour stretch of uninterrupted sunshine every summer.
Aboard a Lindblad-National Geographic expedition ship, you can visit the far corners of Iceland and the fjords of Greenland, the fascinating coast of Norway and the remote expanses of Arctic Svalbard as well as the Lofoten Islands. Our journeys also head to Canada’s northernmost climbs and the fabled Northwest Passage. Along the way, you’ll have opportunities to spot abundant Arctic wildlife and possibly witness the psychedelic swirls of the northern lights in the skies above.
There are myriad adventures to be had at the top of the globe in and around the legendary Arctic Circle. These are just some of the unforgettable moments you can experience if you join us to navigate this vast and icy geography.
Search for Polar Bears, Narwhal, Muskox, and Other Iconic Arctic Wildlife
The wildlife that inhabits the Arctic is as fascinating and diverse as the area itself—majestic polar bears and nimble arctic foxes, roaming reindeer and grazing muskoxen, high flying terns, wallowing Atlantic walrus and gregarious beluga whales. No matter which part of this vast geography you choose to explore, there’s something rare and special around every corner, and wildlife big and small to spot throughout the Arctic summer season. In Iceland, where half the world’s population of puffins can be found, we'll see these beloved birds in their summer breeding grounds along the rocky coastlines. And as we head far north into the frigid waters of Arctic Canada and Greenland, there is potential to catch a glimpse of the elusive horned narwhal. These "unicorns of the sea" are rare to spot which makes sighting them especially thrilling.
Cruise Among Epic Ice Forms
Along with the iconic wildlife, many an Arctic explorer is drawn north for the prospect of seeing some of the most epic ice formations in the northern hemisphere. Among the most notable that we visit is the Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage site in western Greenland. The icebergs here are so concentrated that they completely fill the landscape and your line of vision. But don’t expect a static ice experience. Dating back 25,000 years, the ancient ice is ever-changing, shifting and reeling through the fjord as it heads towards the ocean. On Greenland's eastern coast, we’ll witness the grandeur of Scoresbysund, the largest and longest fjord system on Earth, where you can marvel at the aqua-hued icebergs carved into impossible geometric formations.
Visit the World’s Northernmost Settlement
Known as the Gateway to the Arctic, Longyearbyen is just 818 miles from the North Pole, nestled into snowy Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago. Just a few thousand people live here year-round, but this old mining town holds some impressive “only here” distinctions that you’ll be able to witness for yourself on our expeditions to Arctic Svalbard. A few of its most notable attractions include: the world’s northernmost church, northernmost museum, northernmost brewery, and the northernmost university where the 300 students study, not surprisingly, the northernmost wonders of the Arctic.
Watch for the Northern Lights
As you head north over the Arctic Circle, one of the greatest natural phenomena may surprise you in the night sky. The aurora borealis is a play of solar-infused particles crashing into Earth’s atmosphere, creating a brilliant pattern of light in the northern sky when they do. When visible, these ghostly lights range from a grayish green haze to vivid ribbons of green and purple and pink, to incandescent waves of light sweeping across the stars. While there's no guarantee you’ll see the northern lights—weather conditions need to be clear and cloudless and there are seasonal considerations as well—we do our best to have you in position to spot them as we climb to the high latitudes where they're more likely to be visible in the inky night sky.
Encounter Daily Life in the Far North
There are nearly four million people that live at or above the Arctic Circle, and connecting with these intrepid residents is the best way to understand their remote culture and communities. Deep in the Tundra, meet the indigenous people whose daily lives are deeply connected to this extraordinary land. For example, on Baffin Island we call in on Pond Inlet, a small Inuit community in the Canadian High Arctic known for its friendly locals and intricate soapstone carvings. Or on the southernmost tip of Greenland, we visit the small fishing village of Nanortalik to meet some of the residents for a performance of local folk music and dance as well as to explore reconstructed longhouses and learn about the construction of traditional boats and kayaks.
Sail in the Wake of History
Follow in the footsteps of history as we traverse the storied Northwest Passage. For hundreds of years, some of the world’s greatest explorers raced to uncover a trade route to connect Europe and China. They were diverted by harsh conditions that turned their voyages into month-long expeditions which many ships and people did not survive, until finally, in 1906, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen found a way through. Much like these early Arctic trailblazers, you'll sail through this historic region, but with all the creature comforts of our state-of-the-art polar ship National Geographic Resolution. As we explore the legendary passage, our expert team will recount the heroic efforts of boldfaced names from history against a spectacular backdrop of glaciers, snow-capped mountains, and rugged tundra.
Kayak at the Top of the World
There are few things as unforgettable as kayaking inside the Arctic Circle. Exploring at water-level provides a uniquely intimate view of this icy landscape and its wild inhabitants, and kayaking lets you control the pace with which you experience your often-surreal surroundings. Watch for puffins gliding above or seal heads popping up from beneath the sea as you take in the stillness and the calming sounds of water lapping around you. We carry both single and tandem kayaks, allowing you to paddle solo or take to the water with a traveling companion. Either version can be quickly deployed so that guests can get up close and experience the Arctic’s amazing wilderness without delays.
Take the Polar Plunge
Ten seconds. That’s how long most people spend in the icy Arctic waters after taking a polar plunge. But that 10 seconds will provide enough memories to dine out on for years to come as you recount the frozen feat to friends and family back home. The temperature of the waters that you'll plunge into on our voyages are definitely polar, falling somewhere on the thermometer between 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit. But, you’ll have a cheering support system to pump you up as you jump in, and the Lindblad Expeditions staff will be waiting with dry towels and hot cocoa (and perhaps even a restorative shot of vodka) to warm you back up. There’s also a professional photographer to capture your plunge in all its glory and provide proof of your bragging rights.
Enjoy an Exclusive Musical Performance, with a Puffin Audience
Sometimes the most monumental art is found in the most unlikely of places. Grimsey is one these locations. Iceland’s northernmost island is usually known as a puffin paradise, with millions of the roly-poly, orange-beaked birds calling the island home, along with about 100 humans. It may seem an odd spot for a concert at first, or even second, glance. But Lindblad Expedition’s ethnomusicologist Jacob Edgar excels at curating the perfect soundtrack for every destination. In Grimsey, he often coordinates with local Icelandic musicians to perform a concert at the edge of the world, a truly memorable celebration of the Arctic Circle. It’s hard to not be moved by the music as you take in the setting surrounded by the ocean, with puffins and terns joining you to listen to this hauntingly beautiful music performed exclusive for our guests.