The Arctic conjures images of Peary, Amundsen and Rasmussen, intrepid, fur-clad explorers battling the elements in a quest to conquer this extreme environment. Those early explorers were treated to wildlife like nothing else on earth, to awe-inspiring landscapes carved into the bedrock by the expansion and retraction of ice through the ages and to the ice itself forming impenetrable sheets, shifting bergs and mammoth glaciers. They encountered endless days of 24-hour light in the summer and ceaseless darkness during winter, broken only by the swirling colours of the aurora borealis above them.
The Arctic has lost none of the magic or intrigue that attracted these initial pioneers; however, we are now lucky to be able to visit with ease and explore in a myriad of ways.
One of the most popular ways to visit this environment is on one of the luxury small-ship cruises that can cross harsh seas easily and nimbly, meandering between the countless inlets and fjords.
In an environment that often forms the case study for the influence of climate change on the planet, we only work with a carefully selected group of operators who carry out their operations in the most responsible, sustainable fashion possible.
Accommodation options onboard range from basic, sharing cabins to luxurious suites, but all voyages come with an experienced team and expert naturalists to inform you about the area and its inhabitants. They often depart to and from the town of Longyearbyen, which is the main administrative centre of Svalbard, on its only permanently inhabited island of Spitsbergen. Stick to a cruise around the many islands of Svalbard in search of polar bears, reindeer, whales and walruses or head further afield on one of the longer voyages into Franz Josef Land or follow in the footsteps of those boundary-pushing explorers before you to the North Pole.
Longyearbyen itself is certainly worth spending some time, as well as being the branching-off point for cruises between May and August. Throughout the year, it is a hub of activity, and there are many options to explore the surrounding arctic environment. During the polar night, take a guided snowmobile or dog sledge trip deep into the wilderness to see the northern lights from the Trapper's Station or enjoy a cosy Scandi-inspired outpost such as Isfjord Radio for saunas, storytelling and hikes. It is a land still full of further surprises; you will even find Michelin-star cuisine and a globally important, future-proofed seed vault. The Arctic certainly has something to offer everyone.