Arctic Overview

The Arctic and North Atlantic / North Pacific islands and coastlines offer some of the finest scenery and wildlife experiences in the world. Eight nations have territory north of the Arctic Circle, although just six have coastline there; United States, Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), Iceland, Norway, and Russia. It is this area, north of the circle, where the sun will remain continuously above the horizon mid-summer, bringing life to the region.

Witness enormous colonies of seabirds thronging the cliffs and shores, and enjoy the thrilling antics of whales and dolphins at sea, and seals and walrus hauled out on the rocks and ice floes. Depending on the destination you will likely encounter the very symbol of the Arctic - the Polar Bear. All of this happens under the midnight sun allowing for seemingly unlimited viewing and photographic opportunities.  Though remote and sparsely populated today, many of the places visited are historically rich and testimony to the thriving cultures of the past. 

Galapagos Travel first began traveling to the High Arctic in 2001, and began sharing it with our own explorers in 2004.  Today we know the area well; we know the Tour Operators that specialize in it; we know many of the vessels that ply the rugged coastlines; and we know the logistics of getting you there.


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Spitsbergen (Svalbard) &
the Norwegian High Arctic

Spitsbergen with its rugged mountains, sweeping tundra, ice caps and glaciers, is a true High Arctic archipelago, and only 500 miles from the North Pole. Its abundant wildlife was once a huge draw for whalers and trappers but now discerning visitors are discovering the attractions of huge Arctic seabird colonies and the chance to enjoy and photograph species like Walrus, Reindeer, Arctic Fox and of course, Polar Bear.  Without a historic native population the wildlife of Spitsbergen is generally more abundant and easier to see than in other Arctic regions.

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Northwest Passage & Canadian Arctic

Canada’s northeast and northern coast and Northwest Passage is as remarkable as it is historic – this is an area that fired many an imagination during the great age of exploration – connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.  Long rumored to exist it wasn’t until 1906 that Roald Amundsen finally found a route through.  Mid-to-late-summer there are expedition options visiting the more rugged eastern half of the passage, often in conjunction with a visit to western Greenland.  Visit Inuit communities, historical sites, and wildlife hotspots (ask about our best Polar Bear experience ever, that was had here).  Other wildlife highlights might include musk ox, caribou, grizzly bear, walrus, seals, and whales.  Most wildlife tends to be shy so one has to work a bit harder for the best sightings and photography.  By late summer the barren flat tundra is ablaze in fall colors.

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Russian Far East

The Russian far-east has only recently begun to open up tourism and expedition cruising, and still on a limited basis, and subject to fickle government approvals.  Two expedition ships visit the region most summers, offering several itineraries in the area.  Main destinations are the Kamchatka Peninsula and Siberian Coast, and the High Arctic and Wrangle Island.  Early season in the southern reaches is a paradise for keen birders, with many hard-to-find species quite possible.  The same area is home to Kamchatka brown bears.  Polar bears are typically range restricted to areas with snow and ice, so found only in the far north and Wrangle Island.

The trip was fantastic. Sunshine every day, temps always in the 40’s or 50’s, sea and bird and mammal life was everything we could have wanted - whales, polar bears, arctic foxes, reindeer, walrus, seals, and birds, birds, birds. The guides were terrific, the food always good and plentiful, the crew efficient and professional, and overall a wonderful experience.
— Harlan & Doris; Spitsbergen July 2014