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How to Get to the Arctic Circle and Traveling to the North Pole

The Arctic is an extraordinary, icy wilderness encompassing eight countries and millions of square miles, with the North Pole in the center.  


A vast area stretching across the top of the globe, the Arctic offers adventures from viewing iconic wildlife and epic icescapes to having rare and enriching encounters with local cultures.


With decades of experience exploring every region of the Arctic Circle, here Lindblad answers all of your Arctic questions.


Where is the Arctic Circle Located?


Map of the Arctic Circle
Located above 66 degrees north, Alaska, Canada, Finland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia are all part of the Arctic Circle.


To visit the Arctic Circle, you will need to cross the invisible line around the globe at 66°33′ north of the equator. 


Traveling to the Arctic means heading north to the Arctic Ocean to the portions of the countries inside the circle. You can go to the Arctic by visiting Norway, Greenland, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Canada, the U.S., or Russia. 


Are You Allowed to Go to the Arctic?


The Arctic can seem like a vast and far-away corner of the planet so you might be wondering “Can I travel to the Arctic?” The answer is a resounding “Yes.” 


People can visit the Arctic on an overland journey, traveling above the Arctic Circle in countries bisected by the boundary. For a more encompassing, far-reaching experience, travelers can choose to explore the region by ship, which affords the opportunity to go between multiple regions quickly and efficiently and to discover remote and rugged shores that can’t be reached by road.


Are You Allowed to Visit the North Pole?


Our guests often ask, “Can people travel to the North Pole?” The short answer is yes, a journey there is possible; however, it requires a monumental effort to reach. There are very limited options and once you arrive, there isn’t much to see or explore in this barren, icy location.


Some travelers are after those hard-earned bragging rights that come with a challenging voyage to the North Pole. You need to decide what you are looking for. Are you the kind of traveler who just wants to check the box or do you want to fully experience the region you are exploring?


If it’s the latter, you may want to consider destinations like northern Greenland and Ellesmere Island, Canada—places above 80 degrees north with incredible wildlife, meaningful cultural encounters, and opportunities for active exploration.


For Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, going somewhere is more than just getting to the coordinates and these other exceptional destinations are sure to deliver extraordinary and memorable experiences.


How Do I Get to the Arctic Circle?


Airplane wing visible over Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
An aerial view of the Greenland ice cap on a flight to Kangerlussuaq, Western Greenland. Photo: Michael S. Nolan


The route of your Arctic Circle travel will depend on which region of the Arctic you choose to explore and with which travel company.


Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic offers 18 Arctic cruise itineraries that span from Norway to Greenland to Arctic Canada and beyond. If you book one of our Arctic tours, you’ll receive specific details on how to get to the Arctic from the USA or from wherever you might be traveling.


Most Arctic cruises begin with a flight from your hometown to a gateway city like Oslo, Norway or Reykjavik, Iceland. From there, you are often met by expedition staff who will bus you to the port to embark your ship.


How to Get to Svalbard (Spitsbergen)


When you travel to Svalbard, you typically fly into Oslo, Norway. From there, it’s a three-hour flight to Longyearbyen. This hub of the Svalbard Archipelago on the island of Spitsbergen is the embarkation port for cruises in the region.


The airport in Longyearbyen is the most northerly airport in the world that offers regularly scheduled flights, but keep in mind there is limited capacity and those flights are relied upon by locals who call the town home.


Flights between Oslo and Longyearbyen book up far in advance for the short summer travel window, which is why Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic charters our own charter flights for our guests, to ensure they have a guaranteed flight.


Although there are daily flights, schedules can be inconvenient. Depending on the embarkation times of the cruise you are taking, you might need to overnight in both Longyearbyen and Oslo as flights can arrive in the early  morning hours. This can add days to your itinerary.


How to Get to Greenland


Hikers in front of the Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland
Guests walk the boardwalk trail in Sermermiut Fjord, laden with icebergs, Icefjord, Ilulissat, Greenland Photo: Ralph Lee Hopkins


There is no international ferry service to Greenland. Most travelers fly into Kangerlussuaq from Oslo, Reykjavik, or Copenhagen. Kangerlussuaq is conveniently located at the head of a picturesque 120-mile fjord. 


The national airline, Air Greenland offers daily flights from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq and weekly flights from Reykjavik. Although small, “Kanger” is much more than just a runway, it is the gateway to Greenland and it immediately welcomes travelers with awe-inspiring views of the surrounding fjord.


In addition to Air Greenland, Icelandair also offers flights to Kanger but they do fill quickly so flight arrangements should be made as soon as possible after booking your expedition. Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic offers full-service air assistance for travelers who would like help booking flights to Greenland or any of our other destinations, in the Arctic or elsewhere.


As of November 2024, Greenland will open their own international airport in Nuuk, and in addition, they are constructing new airports in Ilulissat in the northwest and Qaqortoq in the southwest. These exciting developments will allow locals more opportunities to move around their country and visitors with more options to enjoy the variety of experiences Greenland has to offer.


How to Get to Iceland


A hiker stands in front of the Dynjandi waterfall
A hiker stands in front of the thundering Dynjandi waterfall in the Westfjords region of Iceland. Photo: Andrew Peacock


More than 20 airlines fly to Keflavik, which is Reykjavik’s international airport. From North America, United, Delta, Icelandair, Play, and Air Canada are among many airlines that serve Keflavik. 


Depending on the departure city, travelers can fly from the eastern seaboard to Iceland in just over five hours and find themselves in a surreal, natural wonderland that feels worlds away.


Because flights are plentiful, there are a range of options to choose from and you can simply select the best route that works for your schedule, budget, and other relevant factors.


There is also a multi-day ferry from Denmark to Iceland that stops in the Faroe Islands. M/S Norröna sails from Hirtshals, Denmark, to Tórshavn on the Faroe Islands and on to Seyðisfjörður, Iceland.


How to Get to the North Pole


While there are almost no expedition cruises to the North Pole, and most companies do not go there, it is still possible for very adventurous travels to visit.


People can fly to the North Pole aboard an airplane or helicopter from Svalbard or travel on an icebreaker from Murmansk, Russia. Serious adventurers can reach the North Pole traveling overland by ski or dog sled.


How to Get to the Northwest Passage


An aerial view of ice near the Arctic Circle in Alaska
A guest searches the iridescent ice of the Beaufort Sea from the bow of the National Geographic Endurance, Northwest Passage, Alaska. Photo: Ralph Lee Hopkins


Because it’s located entirely within the Arctic Circle, the Northwest Passage is enclosed by ice much of the year. As it covers about 900 miles along the northern coast of North America, this route that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via the Arctic Ocean has multiple entry points. 


For your convenience, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic charters flights between New York City and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, where you embark on our epic Northwest Passage adventure. We also charter flights between the expedition end point of Nome, Alaska, and Anchorage, where you can connect to a flight home.


How to Get to the Canadian Arctic


Our explorations in the Canadian Arctic begin in Greenland, where we can cross the Davis Strait and continue either north, west, or south as we explore remote places like Baffin Island, Ellesmere Island, and the coast of Labrador.


These destinations all offer a variety of history, expedition activities, and striking landscapes, as well as iconic wildlife: Two of the Arctic’s most elusive animals can be seen more easily in the Canadian Arctic, the polar bear and if you are very lucky, the narwhal.  


Canadian Arctic adventures with other travel operators can also begin in Resolute Bay Airport in Nunavut, Canada; Iqaluit on Baffin Island; Cambridge Bay, or Kugluktuk in the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut. Canadian gateway cities with charter flights to these remote outposts include Toronto, Ottawa, and Edmonton.

Why Visit the Arctic?


three polar bears walk on ice in the High Arctic
Polar bears roam the deep pack ice surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the high Arctic. Photo: Sven Lindblad


Traveling way up in the Arctic is often a life-changing experience, filled with opportunities to witness massive icebergs and rare wildlife, otherworldly landscapes and spectacular light, as well as chances for enriching encounters with vibrant Indigenous communities of the far north.


Many of our travelers have shared that the best way to visit the Arctic is on an expedition cruise—they believe it’s the most rewarding, safe, and hassle-free way of visiting the Arctic Circle and its surrounding areas.


If you are considering a trip, you might not want to wait too long. Studies have shown that the Arctic is experiencing extreme environmental changes and is warming at least two times as much as the rest of the planet. The animals and ecosystems that rely on this dynamic icy landscape will continue to be affected in the coming years.


When you explore this incredible part of the globe, you will discover firsthand what makes it so special and why it is truly worth saving.


What Can I See in the Arctic?


A killer whale in Svalbard, Norway
An Atlantic killer whale surfaces just north of Tromso, Norway. Photo: Michael S. Nolan.


Going to the Arctic is a nature lover’s dream for the rare chance to see wildlife like polar bears, reindeer, and musk oxen in their natural habitats, as well as walruses and a variety of whales and seals. On many Arctic Circle tours you will marvel at stunning fjords, colossal ice forms, thundering waterfalls, and carpets of wildflowers.


To learn more about the diverse regions of the Arctic Circle and what you will do and see on our different itineraries, view our Discovering the Arctic webinar.


What Can I Do in the Arctic?


A Zodiac in front of an iceberg in Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland
Guests explore the towering icebergs of Greenland’s Ilulissat Icefjord by Zodiac. Photo: Michael S. Nolan


Throughout your Arctic cruise, you’ll enjoy an array of Arctic excursions. Take a Zodiac to the foot of iridescent icebergs and calving glaciers, stroll sea cliffs aflutter with gannets and puffins, or experience Inuit culture. Travel to the Arctic can also mean a chance to view the Northern Lights.


If you explore the Arctic with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, you will find the diversity of experiences is unmatched. Each day brings new options to choose from, whether that’s hiking, kayaking, visiting a museum, observing wildlife, attending a lecture about the history or geology of the region, or capturing photos with help from a Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic certified photo instructor.


Our expeditions sail with 10 or 12 staff members who provide expertise on a wide range of topics. Our deep experience in the Arctic and long partnership with National Geographic are key, and guests who choose to sail with us will travel with leading naturalists, cultural experts, noted historians, and undersea specialists who are all extremely knowledgeable about the Arctic.


For more ideas for Arctic activities, see our list of top things to do in the Arctic Circle.


How Do People Travel Around in the Arctic?


The most practical way for people to travel around the Arctic is on a polar expedition vessel, built to navigate in the demanding elements and conditions experienced in the region. Regularly scheduled flights are few and book quickly, and many locations do not have the infrastructure for tourism you might expect in places like Amsterdam or Sydney, or even Anchorage, Alaska.


Also, distances are vast and roads are few. In Greenland, there is only one road that connects between two towns. Otherwise, all travel between towns and cities is done by boat, helicopter, or plane.

The easiest way to get to the Arctic Circle is by flying to your Arctic Circle cruise departure port. Cruises to the Arctic Circle are the best way to go to the Arctic and to venture near the North Pole.


National Geographic Endurance in the Trollfjord, Norway
The National Geographic Endurance is purpose-built to navigate places like Trollfjord, one of Norway’s most beautiful fjords. Photo: Michael S. Nolan.


A small, ice class expedition ship can explore areas larger ships cannot. It is a formidable task going up above 80 degrees north and the purpose-built ships in the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic fleet are prepared for the challenges of the polar environment.


Experience is also of utmost importance when navigating terrains and weather conditions that can change on a dime. We have been sailing the region far and wide for more than 50 years and maintain an outstanding safety record in one of Earth’s most remote destinations.


Common Arctic Cruise Departure Ports


The port of departure for your cruise depends on your Arctic travel company itinerary. If you take a cruise ship to the Arctic Circle with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, departure ports include Kangerlussuaq, Greenland; Longyearbyen, Norway; and Reykjavik, Iceland.


Other Arctic Cruise departure ports include Aberdeen, Scotland and Murmansk, Russia.


The largest city north of the Arctic Circle, Murmansk has been a popular Arctic port. However, due to Russia’s current war with Ukraine, it is difficult if not impossible to obtain a visa. In addition, Russia is currently on the U.S. Department of State’s Do Not Travel List.


How Is the Arctic Different from Antarctica?


Three reindeer grazing in Edge Island, Svalbard, Norway
A pack of reindeer graze on Edge Island, in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. Photo: Ralph Lee Hopkins


The Arctic encompasses several countries of differing sizes spread far across an enormous ocean. Antarctica, however, is one large landmass that makes up the planet’s so-called “seventh continent.”

Millions of diverse peoples, including Indigenous cultures, live in the Arctic, but you won’t find any permanent inhabitants in Antarctica.


On trips to the Arctic, you may see polar bears, arctic foxes, reindeer, and musk oxen. In contrast, Antarctica has no terrestrial animals, but is known for marine mammals and avian species, including albatross and several types of penguins.


Here’s a helpful graphic that shows the differences between the Arctic and Antarctica at a glance.


Whether you have your sights set on the seventh continent or the far north, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic offers polar expeditions to help you get there in safety and comfort.


Explore our Arctic expeditions