five routes to the Arctic.
Who has not dreamed of someday reaching the ends of the Earth? Ever since the first explorers of the 16th century, the North Pole has been a constant source of fascination. Now, this extreme environment is within reach. Here’s a rundown on our itineraries to the Arctic Circle.
Spitsbergen, a taste of the Frozen North
Approaching the North Pole along the chiselled coastline of Spitsbergen is an unforgettable experience. With its magnificent fjords and spectacular glaciers this island, part of the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard is the Arctic in a nutshell. Located between the 74th and 81st parallels north, it is the last inhabited landmass before the sea ice begins.
Former whaling towns and nature reserves abounding in wildlife punctuate the voyage along the coast. On the edge of the Arctic ice, where seals, foxes and polar bears coexist, smaller boats – Zodiacs or kayaks – make great observation decks. You can then disembark to try « brevandring », the Norwegian technique of walking on ice.
Greenland, an island at the ends of the Earth
If there is a land untouched by time and forged of wild beauty, it is Greenland. After reaching Kangerlussuaq by plane, your journey continues by sea. First port of call: Baffin Bay on the west coast. Passing by majestic glaciers, fjords with UNESCO World Heritage, status and charming villages painted in bright colours, your voyage takes in marvel after marvel, and all surrounded by the Arctic’s most imposing icebergs.
Exploring this island, 80% of which is covered by ice sheet (the second largest glacial mass after Antarctica), also allows you to observe the world’s largest colonies of narwhals with their impressive twisted tusks. And of course, you’ll also learn about the culture of the Inuit and their lifestyle of hunting and fishing which has been passed down through the generations.
Alaska, doorway to the Northwest Passage
With its history of gold prospecting, Alaska is a land of legends, and perfect for exploring from the sea. Departing from Seward, which is connected to Seattle by air, the cruise begins with ice and fire along the peninsula’s south-eastern coast. The first stop-offs are at the small ports of Ketchikan, the salmon capital of the world, and Sitka, a former Russian colony, where significant collections of carved totems are to be found. After cruising alongside the gigantic Hubbard glacier, which covers 3,500 km2, the ships enter Katmai National Park with its impressive volcanic craters and plains covered with virgin forest. It is a paradise for salmon-fishing grizzly bears.
The circuit continues through the Aleutian Islands, where volcanoes still smoulder, and then to the Pribilof Islands, a sanctuary for southern fur seals. Rorquals, dolphins and humpback whales frolic in these polar waters. At the edge of the Bering Sea lies Nome, the gateway to the legendary Northwest Passage which links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and through which this Arctic voyage continues on towards Greenland.
Eastern Siberia and the Northeast Passage
Discovered in 1878, the Northeast Passage, known as the Northern Sea Route, links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at the north coast of Siberia. This itinerary starts at the Gulf of Anadyr and heads towards Cape Dezhnev before reaching Wrangel Island, a nature reserve home to reindeers, snowy owls, sea lions and polar bears.
From the Laptev Sea, the ship makes its way through the sea ice to the Severnaya Zemlya islands, where the nomadic tribe of the Nenets, lives, before reaching the Barents Sea. Here you’ll find whale jawbones, walrus colonies, hot springs and more. Awe-inspiring discoveries, both natural and historical, punctuate this route through the heart of the world’s coldest seas.
Barneo, last stop before the North Pole
Adventurers keen to brave extreme conditions can try to reserve one of the 60 sought-after spots in the Russian base camp Barneo, 60 km from the Pole on the 89th parallel. It can be reached by plane from Spitsbergen in Norway. There are a variety of ways for visitors to continue from the base camp: snowmobile, dog sleds and a several-day-long trek on skis, with bivouacs on the sea ice. And all in temperatures of -30°C !
Whatever your route to the North Pole, extreme sensations and emotions are sure to be part of the package!