Are you planning a trip to the Arctic? At first glance it can seem easy, it’s just the Arctic, right? Book a cabin and go, yes? Well, at Aurora Expeditions, we run more than 10 expeditions across the region! In our experience, it’s not uncommon for that ‘trip to the Arctic’ to become ‘that first trip to the Arctic’ once you realise how much you have to uncover.
To help you plan your Arctic holiday – whether it’s your first, third or 13th – follow this handy guide to the Arctic’s most impressive natural wonders.
Arctic & Beyond 2024 Season Brochure
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While superlatives are commonly used – from incredible to majestic to phenomenal – to describe many parts of the Arctic, when you reach the region’s fjords your vocabulary vanishes. Sailing through areas of such stunning natural beauty translate into pinch-me moments, with gratitude replacing language at everything witnessed.
Cruising the Arctic’s canyon-like waterways reveals sheer cliffs and a wealth of flora and fauna. Whether it’s a breaching whale, a rare Arctic seabird, or a range of land mammals peering cliffside, it’s an ever-shifting landscape filled with surprises.
Svalbard’s fjords are breathtaking, not only for their dramatic scenery but because of the plethora of wildlife, thanks to Svalbard’s protected status.
To journey to the world’s largest fjords, head to Greenland to Scoresbysund. This colossal network of fjords extends 38,000 km² (14,700 miles²) and reaches depths of 1,450 metres (4,760 feet) in some areas.
If you’re looking for fjord bang for your buck, book the Jewels of the Arctic: it takes in both Svalbard and Greenland’s awe-inspiring fjords.
The Ilulissat Icefjord
Equally dramatic, though far less permanent, the ice fjords of Ilulissat are, at 400 km², a sight to behold. A UNESCO World Heritage Site (Greenland’s first), city-sized towering icebergs fill the bay, all borne from the impressive Ilulissat ice fjord’s glaciers. From the Jakobshavn Glacier, ice calves at a rapid rate, making it one of the fastest glaciers in the world.
The ice fjord is not the only reason to include Ilulissat, Greenland’s third-largest town, in your Arctic plans. Fall in love with the brightly painted houses across the postcard-perfect town, spy whales amid the glaciers of Disko Bay, and hike past husky dogs to stand in awe of the icefjord’s grandeur.
Not many people get to visit an Arctic tundra in their lifetime. Tundras feature barren land and are home to flora and fauna robust enough to survive the planet’s coldest, harshest climes. Covered in permafrost and snow for most of the year, the treeless plains of the tundra burst to life with wildflowers in the summer months. This draws musk ox, reindeer, Arctic fox and hares, and passing migratory birds, like falcons, snow buntings, and loons.
On our Svalbard In Depth expedition, we hike tundra trails past blooming wildflowers, patiently wait for Arctic foxes to rear their heads, and discover historical explorer camps.
In East Greenland, the multi-coloured tundra reveals the wildlife that grazes its plains. We also visit the Inuit village of Ittoqqortoormiit. The friendly locals welcome you to their home, the most isolated and permanent settlement in the region. Stop by the fascinating museum, enter the pretty church, and encounter Greenlandic sled dogs.
The World’s Largest National Park
For the ultimate national park experience, cruise to Northeast Greenland National Park, the world’s largest! With a landmass bigger than all but 29 of the world’s countries, Northeast Greenland National Park protects some 972,000 km² of land. Covering the Ittoqqortoormiit region, this is the world’s northernmost area of land – and you can experience it on our Jewels of the Arctic expeditions! For thousands of years, Inuit cultures survived these wild and inhospitable conditions, thanks to the high Arctic wildlife that also calls it home.
Once in the park, we take our Zodiacs to enter the remote and seldom-visited fjord system, and walk the tundra to spot grazing musk ox, reindeer, and arctic hares.
Látrabjarg Bird Cliff
In the Westfjords of Iceland, one of Europe’s westernmost points, a phenomenon is waiting for you: the most inhabited seabird cliffs in the world! While millions of seabirds spend time at the Látrabjarg bird cliff, the adorable puffin draws the most attention from Aurora Expedition guests aboard our Iceland: Circumnavigating the Land of Fire & Ice and Iceland, Jan Mayen and Svalbard sailings.
Considered one of the best places in Iceland to see puffins, a visit to Látrabjarg typically results in outstanding wildlife photography – even when shooting from your smartphone. It’s not only puffins you’ll be snapping, but razorbills, fulmars, kittiwakes, and guillemots. Depending on the time of year, catch them soaring, fishing, nesting, or raising their chicks in the craggy Látrabjarg cliffs.
The Vega Archipelago
In Northern Norway, close to the Arctic Circle, the Vega archipelago awaits. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its eider ducks and the accompanying traditional way of life. A visit to Vega is a rare step back in time, as for 1,500+ years, the Vega Island locals have been raising eider ducks for their down.
On the Northern Lights Explorer, we visit the main island in the spectacular 6,500-island Vega archipelago. It’s fascinating to learn of this unique way of life from Vega locals, as well as visit the cute houses they build for eider ducks to nest in, and return to, leaving their eiderdown as they head out to sea with their young. Aside from memories and photos, plan to take home the local’s motto: “to live life slow”.
On our Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic and Greenland, we encounter Devon Island, the largest uninhabited island in the world. Located in Canada’s Baffin Bay, this unusual destination wows with its sublime geology, including glacial valleys and flat-top mountains.
No human calls Devon Island home, and due to its barren landscape, barely any plants or animals survive here. Devon Island’s geometric land patterns, created by thawing and freezing ice in the ground, earned it the nickname Mars on Earth, where the same phenomena occur.
Walk the tundra, watch for birds, and explore the ancient Thule dwellings. Walruses frequent Devon Island’s bay, with every sighting eliciting sounds of joy from guests and crew alike.
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