Arctic map & highlights & itineraries

Sailing around this fairytale region is possible for just a few months each year – the long Arctic summer, when pack ice melts and routes around Greenland and Svalbard become iceberg filled corridors, with fjords, glaciers and views towards towering, snow-draped mountain ranges. Arctic cruise itineraries are broken up by shore visits to walk across blooming tundra, hike up mini mountains, look for polar bears and other wildlife, and visit the many communities that thrive in one of the planet’s harshest environments. Zodiacs and rigid inflatable craft take you ashore, as well as allowing for close-up views of 100m-high icebergs, long tusked narwhals and ghostly beluga whales.
Baffin Island

1. Baffin Island

Enormous, frozen Baffin Island is a haven for Arctic wildlife, including walrus, seals, polar bears and huge colonies of seabirds. Sail past glaciers, fjords and Arctic plant life, looking out for rare beluga and bowhead whales. Meet the Inuit inhabitants of Pangnirtung and Pond Inlet, who create wonderful carvings, textiles and drawings, blending traditional and contemporary styles. Nearby visitors' centers showcases their lifestyles and histories.
Eastern Siberia

2. Eastern Siberia

The frozen sea between Russia and the US was once known as the Ice Curtain – but today, navigating these waters is possible for a few months each year. The wilderness islands include the Wrangel Nature Reserve, whose mammoth steppe vegetation is filled with strange endemic flora. Visit the remains of a 3,400 year old Eskimo camp, and look for grey whales, polar bears, musk oxen and Pacific walrus.
Franz Josef Land

3. Franz Josef Land

Set off from Spitsbergen, looking out for bowhead whales and stray polar bears, and in a couple of days you’ll reach Franz Josef Land, an uninhabited cluster of islands far above the Arctic Circle. The islands’ lunar-like landscapes host abundant wildlife, including walrus, guillemots, little auks and – yes – more polar bears. With an itinerary dependent on the weather and the movement of wildlife, every day here is an adventure.
Lofoten Islands

4. Lofoten Islands

Splintered from Norway’s northern coastline, the Lofoten Islands can be explored before flying on to the icy reaches of Svalbard. The archipelago’s arctic location belies its warm character; this is a land of colourful fishing villages linked by bridges, stunning fjords and Northern Lights. Stay in a cabin overlooking the Arctic Sea, look out for white-tailed eagles, and snowshoe over the frozen hills.

5. Longyearbyen

Svalbard’s capital has a population of just 2,000. Museums reveal artefacts from early polar explorers, as well as the human and natural history of the archipelago. Try dog sledding, kayaking and even coal mining – and unusual insight into life on the roof of the world. You can’t leave the town unaccompanied; polar bears are present all year round. Brentsburg, a nearby Russian settelemnt is a popular day trip.
North East Greenland

6. North East Greenland

Northeast Greenland is the world’s largest National Park. Epic fjords bordered by 2,000m high mountains shelter narwhals and walrus. Vivid turquoise glaciers splinter into the 100m-high icebergs of “iceberg alley”. On land, explore tiny Ittoqqortoormiit, with its primary coloured houses, and see how people live on the isolated edge of the Arctic, alongside musk oxen, polar bears – and the Northern Lights.
North Pole

7. North Pole

Sail an icebreaker on one of the world’s most elusive cruises – to the North Pole. Just one or two expeditions take place each summer, during the scant few weeks when the passage is navigable, smashing through thick pack ice to reach the top of the world – the North Pole. Voyages stop off at far-flung Russian islands, and you’ll get to “walk around the world” in seconds.

8. Svalbard

Far beyond the Arctic Circle, this archipelago is the stuff of icy legend. Walrus and auks, reindeer and bearded seals, foxes and 3,000 polar bears inhabit the snowy shores and mountains, surrounded much of the year by pack ice. Eerie, white beluga whales bob offshore. Spitsbergen, the largest island, has glaciers and fjords to explore. Trek across flowering, windswept tundra, and visit the polar research station.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Arctic cruising or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Arctic cruise itineraries

Wildlife Cruise (14 days):
Svalbard > Longyearbyen > Greenland Sea > Eastern Greenand > Denmark Strait

Eastern Siberia (15 days):
Alaska > Eastern Russia > Wrangel > Herald Islands > North Siberian coast > Bering Strait > Chukotka Coast

Baffin Island (13 days):
Ottawa > Iqualuit > Lower Savage Islands > Monunemtal Island > Pangnirtung village > Sunshine Fjord > Auyittuq National Park > Qikiqtarjuag Inuit settlement > Isabella Fjord > Gibbs Fjord > Pond Inlet > Sirmilik National Park > Devon Island > Prince Leopold Island > Resolute > Edmonton
Written by Vicki Brown
Photo credits: [Page banner: steve estvanik] [Baffin Island: NASA ICE] [Eastern Siberia: Boris Solovyev] [Franz Josef Land: Hnkoman rephet] [Lofoten Islands: Cornellier] [Longyearbyen: Frode Bjorshol] [North East Greenland: Rita Willaert] [North Pole: Polar Cruises] [Svalbard: Rob Oo]