Standing at the top of the world, skis sliding on the shifting ice: Reaching the North Pole is the trip of a lifetime for some daring adventurers.
Does it sound too cold and scary to you, or maybe like too much work?
Don’t give up on the Arctic Circle. The northern pinnacle is just one spot to explore in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
The Arctic Circle is made up of the area above the circle of latitude of 66°33′ N, encompassing parts of eight countries. The sun doesn’t set here for at least one day in the summer, with many more days of midnight sun the closer you get to the North Pole.
Across the region, you can search for the aurora borealis, see polar bears hunting their prey, or dogsled and ski along remote, frozen expanses before soaking your weary bones in natural hot springs.
For an extraordinary experience, veteran Arctic explorers recommend Norway’s Svalbard Islands, located in the Arctic Ocean about halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole.
Polar Explorers guide Annie Aggens and National Geographic photographers Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson say that’s where you’ll find the best polar bear sightings in the world -- and plenty of other Arctic animals.
It’s also where you’ll stop on a summer National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions cruise, where Brimberg and Coulson and other experts will explain the science behind the majesty of what you’re seeing and you’ll spot glaciers that have been receding since they’ve been visiting the Arctic. (Bundling up is still required.)
If you have more time, the islands have nature reserves, national parks, hot springs and Huset, a gourmet restaurant in Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost town.
Looking to explore Inuit life in the Arctic? Although most of Greenland is still covered in ice (for the moment), about 57,000 people live in this self-governing territory of Denmark where Inuit culture is very much alive.
Hoping to entertain the little ones? Santa Claus is nearly always in residence at his home in Finnish Lapland (except on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and other public holidays).
If you’re set on planting yourself on the North Pole, you’ve got options.Polar Explorers offers chartered helicopter rides (no skiing required) to the Pole in April, when a Russian base camp is open. Starting at more than $21,000, this is definitely not your typical getaway.
For a heftier investment – both physically and financially – try a 10k ski trip with one night of camping at the North Pole, or ski the last half-degree (a week’s trip) or full degree (two weeks) to the Pole.