Unless you’re going on an impulsive, soul-seeking adventure, chances are that your travels require a lot of preparation, especially when you’re venturing to an unfamiliar climate. How do people deal with insane heat?How do they manage to survive in the freezing cold? The Arctic, known for its cool-to-cold climate (with the occasional balmy summer day), its polar bears, the North Pole, and the Northern Lights, is an absolutely beautiful place to visit. While the Arctic is home to about four million people, it is also home to unpredictable conditions and wildlife — so when it comes to Arctic travel, it’s important to take precautions.
From packing to emotional prep, there’s a lot that you need to keep in mind before you explore the tundra (and even after your adventure begins). These 10 things will help to make your experience the trip of a lifetime.
1) Pack properly!
One of the most important things to keep in mind when visiting the Arctic is the need to layer, layer, layer. That far north, the weather can change unpredictably, depending on the season, week, or even day. Laying your clothes is essential, but you can’t just throw on three sweaters and call it a day — you need to dress strategically. Here’s a basic guide to help you get started:
This will keep moisture away from your skin. Make sure to avoid cotton, which takes a long time to dry and draws the warmth away from your body. Try to stick to synthetics, wool, or silk.
The mid layer acts as insulation to help keep in the warmth. Wool, down, and synthetics are all good options here. And don’t be afraid of wearing multiple mid layers! You can always take a few off if you get too toasty.
This layer keeps the elements (cold and moisture) away from your body. It should be both breathable and waterproof! The last thing you want is for your inner layers to get wet.
They should be waterproof, insulated winter boots that are comfortable to walk in. Having an additional liner is also a good idea, as it provides an extra layer between your toes and the cold ground.
Don’t forget about your head and your hands! Make sure to bring a good hat and something to cover your face, as well as a waterproof pair of mittens and a thin liner (silk liners work well!).
2) Visit local communities.
This is a great tip for anywhere your travels take you. It’s always, always, always a good idea to get to know the people who call your travel destination their home. They know the area better than anyone else, so they’re a great resource to have while you’re there. Even better, you’ll get to know their culture, food, and traditions intimately, while hopefully making lasting friendships along the way!
3) Bring your camera.
The Arctic is a place unlike any other. Its ice formations, wildlife, deep blue waters, and tundra make a beautiful landscape for memories that can be saved forever with a photo. (Also, they help you make your friends jealous and might even convince them to come with you next time!)
If you’re lucky, you might even see the Northern Lights, one of the rarest and most exquisite sights of all! You’ll want a photograph to help you remember that bucket-list experience.
4) Be open to trying new things — especially foods.
When it comes to Arctic travel, there are so many new things to do, see, and try — especially when it comes to the food. Because edible plants can be scarce in the Arctic (with the exception of berries and other vegetables in the summer), a lot of the nutrition comes from eating meat and hunting local wildlife.
However, this doesn’t always mean that the people of the Arctic eat things that other people are used to, like chicken, beef, or pork. Some of the most popular foods in the Arctic are seal, caribou, musk oxen, and even more!
And fish lovers, you’re in luck! Arctic char, salmon, and whitefish are also hugely popular dishes there.
5) Bring sun protection.
Don’t forget to bring sunscreen and polarized sunglasses! The reflection of the sun off of the snow and water can be intense on your eyes, and even if just your nose is exposed, any sunburn is a bad sunburn. Remember: just because it’s cold, that doesn’t mean that the UVA and UVB rays disappear.
6) Know if you’ll be visiting while the Midnight Sun is out.
If you’re planning on visiting the Arctic between July and August, you should be prepared for almost constant sunlight. In July, the sun is above the horizon for almost 24 hours, and in August there are about 17 to 20 hours of daylight. each day This is a unique experience in and of itself, but if the Northern Lights are what you’re after, it’s probably better to travel in the early spring or autumn
7) Learn about the geography.
Eight countries are located at least partly above the Arctic Circle — the United States (Alaska), Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Greenland, and Iceland. This means that your Arctic travel will be a unique cultural experience, depending on which part of the region you visit. Each trip promises to be full of rich culture and exciting adventures!
8) Purchase travel insurance.
You should definitely have it! Travel insurance is always a good idea, but many parts of the Arctic are very remote, which can pose additional risks. Make sure that you pay to cover anything that could potentially go wrong. This will help you manage your stress as you travel, letting you fully focus on taking in the beauties of the Arctic.
9) Respect the wildlife.
Trust us, we get it. Polar bears look so cute and soft in photos — and they’re adorable in real life, too. But they’re still wild animals, just like seals and Arctic foxes and any other animal you may see while on your expedition.
Wild animals want to protect their home and family, just like you do, so please keep a safe distance and be sure not to startle them when in their territory. The Arctic creatures are absolutely beautiful, and it’s a gift to see them in person, but we need to remember and respect that we’re just visitors in their home.
10) We need to protect the Arctic.
We wish we didn’t have to make this point, but here we are…
if we want to keep visiting the Arctic, we all need to play our part in protecting the environment. Annual temperatures in the Arctic have risen by an average of 2.3 degrees Celsius since the 1970s. Arctic sea ice is melting rapidly, and the minimum sea ice is declining at an unprecedented 12.8 percent per decade.
The melting ice and increasing temperatures means that many animals, especially polar bears, are losing their habitat and their food source. In 2008, the United States announced that polar bears were officially a threatened species; even worse, their numbers could continue to plummet without immediate action on climate change.
We could write a whole separate article about climate change and ways we can help (and maybe one day we will), but for now, we urge you to do your research and find ways you can help!
Mother Earth is full of endless arrays of beautiful landscapes and wildlife, and She has given us everything we have. From the Arctic to the Antarctic, and everything in between, the world is ours to explore — carefully, respectfully, and enthusiastically.
To get out there and see this beautiful planet we get to call home, plan your Arctic travel with Acanela Expeditions. We go to Iceland, Greenland, Finland, and Canada — and we’d love to show you around!