Discover Polar Regions
Antarctica, Falkland Islands, Polar bear holidays, Spitsbergen and Artic Cruises
For those who seek adventure, the polar regions are one of the last unexplored limits of our planet. Far from an expedition in the style of explorers many years ago, polar holidays are increasingly more accessible for those looking to experience pristine beauty in a world of cityscapes and constant development. If you’re prepared to put in a little effort – and certainly not as much as you may think – getting to these regions is a rewarding and surprisingly manageable prospect.
Whether you choose to visit Antarctica or take one of our holidays to the Arctic, you’ll encounter curious cultures and a plethora of incredible wildlife, observing stunning scenery along the way. The two regions are, despite appearances, very different; they share similarities in great sheets of blindingly white ice and snow, deep cobalt waters and jaw-dropping coastlines. But the wildlife that inhabits the two poles is very different, from penguins to polar bears and everything in between.
They are also best seen at different times. The best time to visit Antarctica is between late October and March, our winter but summer for the southern hemisphere, when days and temperatures are at their best and the winter ice has broken up to allow passage to the Antarctic Peninsula. The Artic is the opposite: head north in late June to early September and you’ll find the sun never properly sets and the wildlife is easier to spot. Our summer is the best time to visit the Arctic regions.
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REGIONS OF POLAR REGIONS
Great expanses of snow, sheer cliffs of ice, freezing navy blue waters speckled with icebergs of all shapes and sizes. The huge land mass that is Antarctica stretches across the bottom of our world, constantly changing form as it is buffeted by winds and the bitter Southern Ocean. Antarctica holidays might not be the first thing that springs to mind when planning your next holiday, but consider the possibilities: visiting one of the world’s most unexplored territories, the final frontier in adventure travel, viewing wildlife and landscapes so otherworldly they could belong to another planet. Antarctica is the coldest and, surprisingly, the driest place on Earth – it is actually a desert – covering over five million square miles. As such, its hostile climate means it has remained virtually untouched by humans, though its animal population is flourishing.
Antarctica cruises are the best way to visit this beautiful yet barren wilderness, taking you through freezing waters dappled with icebergs to places like South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, following in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton and other intrepid explorers. The Falklands are scarcely populated by human life and have an infamous, disputed military history, though the wildlife viewing here is astounding. In South Georgia you can retrace the steps of Shackleton as you learn about this tiny island’s varied landscape and surprising history. The Weddell Sea is an enormous bay on the northwest coast of the Antarctica Peninsula, where toothpaste-blue ice formations glitter under moody skies and large groups of penguins hurtle into the sea. Places in Antarctica may be harder to reach but the journey is that more satisfying when you consider the rewards at the end.
At the top of our world, the trees cease to grow. Snow blankets everything in this northernmost region of our planet, the land of the polar night lit by weaving bands of green light and the midnight sun. This ethereal kingdom is the home of the white ‘sea bear’, with black skin and colourless hair and paws the size of dinner plates. This is not fantasy or fiction, this is the Arctic, a destination that draws those seeking adventure. Polar bear holidays are the most popular draw, as travellers head north to Svalbard and Spitsbergen, names that resonate with exploring.
As the largest and only permanently populated island of Norway’s northern Svalbard, Spitsbergen offers the best infrastructure for viewing the great white bears. At roughly the size of Ireland, the island is neither as cold nor as inaccessible as you may think, yet offers an authentic Arctic experience that you can still reach by scheduled flight.
The powerful seas are best explored on an Arctic cruise, sailing deep into the icy froth that surrounds the Arctic ice edge and the breathtakingly beautiful fjords. While you may be outnumbered by polar bears and whales, there is plenty of culture to be found. The communities that sustain a living in this part of the world are used to the sun coming and going for seemingly endless stretches of time. Viking legend has segued into the modern day, creating a vibrant wealth of culture and a population that welcomes all who brave the harsh temperatures. The best polar bear viewing is in the Svalbard Archipelago, where you may also stop at the walrus colonies of Torrelnesset or Barentsøya to hike across the barren Arctic tundra.