Arctic What to See

What to See

The Arctic Landscape – The first thing that strikes most first-time travelers to the Arctic is its immensity. Vast stretches of azure seas, massive sandstone mountains, high rugged cliffs, enormous stretches of cobblestone beaches, giant icebergs, enormous snowfields and more fill the view. The region is a huge, open-air geological museum, with many stories written in the countless strata exposed by time. With no one around, this wilderness is as pristine as they come, with the cool air fresh and invigorating.

Wildlife – The star of the show is always going to be the polar bear, however there are other photogenic animals that we may encounter. These include the Arctic fox, the Svalbard reindeer, plus the tiny vole. There are also between fifteen to twenty species of marine mammals, including whales, dolphins, seals and walruses. Three species of whales can be seen year-round, and these include narwhale, beluga and bowhead whales. Birdlife is intriguing as well, with barnacle geese, king eider, common eider, Brünnich’s guillemot, little auk, northern fulmar, ivory gull, Arctic skua, thick-billed murre and black-legged kittiwake in the region among other species. In late summer, in particular, the region is one of the best in the world for sheer numbers of seabirds.

Northern Lights – The northern lights easily rank as one of nature’s most stunning wonders. Spectral, flowing, radiant purples, blues, yellows, reds, and greens pulsating in the quiet, starry Arctic night is simply phenomenal. Seeing the northern lights are premier experience in the bucket lists for many international travelers. It’s overall rarity, remote geo-specificity, weather dependent-ness, and the challenging climes in which it occurs, all create circumstances that make a specific expedition to see them an excellent idea.

The northern lights are an astral phenomenon that occurs high up – between 90 to 150 kilometers above sea level – when electrically-charged particles from the sun plunge towards our world. The particles become visible when they crash with gases in the Earth's atmosphere. Our magnetic field steers these charged particles towards the openings near the north and south poles, so the best place to see them naturally is near either of the magnetic poles. Up north, the phenomena is called the aurora borealis – or the “northern lights” – while in the southern hemisphere they are known as the aurora australis, or “southern lights.”

Usually, your best chances of seeing the northern lights are any cloudless night between October and March, primarily because the long polar nights make them easier to see. A clear, dark night is essential to see them. Often the most spectacular displays happen a few hours before and after midnight.

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