5 Things You Didn’t Know About Traveling to the Arctic

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When most people think of the Arctic they envision this cold, desolate place that is devoid of any life. Or maybe they think of the big guy—the one with the big red bag that brings toys to all the little good girls and boys?

Most people would be surprised to find that the Arctic has more to offer than cold chills and Santa Claus. In fact, it turns out that the Arctic isn’t as desolate or as cold as we might think. The Arctic isn’t even the coldest place on Earth; that title is given to the South Pole. It’s actually a vibrant, hopping place that’s home to plenty of wildlife, hot springs, a marathon, five countries—and yes, Santa does live there, too. He just happens to live in North Pole, Alaska.

The Arctic is also becoming a popular place to visit, and hundreds of people take North Pole Trips each year (here are three of the most popular tourist routes). Check out some unexpected sights visitors can experience on their Arctic vacations.

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1. There’s More than One North Pole

Before you head to the North Pole for your vacation, make sure you’re going to the right North Pole. Since the North Pole is not on a bed of land, like the South Pole, its location shifts regularly. Located on a bed of ice, the North Pole actually shrinks during the summer and expands during the winter, since ice has more mass than water.

The second North Pole is the magnetic pole, a magnetic point that can change day-to-day underneath the crust of the Earth. The third North Pole is the north terrestrial pole, the unchanging top of the Earth. When you visit the Arctic, you’ll probably be heading to the bed of ice that has plenty of wildlife and other sightseeing.

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2. Many Countries are Located in the Arctic Circle

There are five countries officially located in the Arctic Circle, so visiting this area of the globe is like taking a trip around the world. Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States all have a piece of the Arctic Circle. The United States has Alaska; the northern part of this state is located in the circle, while Denmark has Greenland; all of Greenland is in the circle, and much of Canada is in the circle as well. Taking a cruise from these countries to the North Pole is a great way to explore this part of the world.

In the North Pole, Alaska, visitors can check out Santa’s Village, where the big guy makes the toys. Visitors can drop off letters for Santa (this is where Santa’s letters are delivered each year), get some face time with the big guy or meet the elves.

In Greenland, visitors can go scuba diving, get great views of the Northern Lights, take a dip in hot springs, go hiking, skiing, dog sledding, mountain climbing, museum-hopping, whale watching, and even check out the land of the Midnight Sun—a phenomenon where the sun shines all day and night during certain times of the year.

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3. You’ll See Plenty of Wildlife

Many people think of the Arctic Circle as this cold and desolate place where nothing could survive; they couldn’t be further from the truth. Though it gets incredibly cold in the Arctic, there are still plenty of people who live there year round, like the Inuit tribes of Alaska and Canada.

Plenty of animals can be seen in the Arctic, too. A lot of visitors enjoy coming to the North Pole to see beautiful wildlife, like polar bears, from a safe distance. The Arctic fox is another popular animal visitors can check out by land. Visitors can even take boating trips where they can see whales, like Belugas, Humpbacks, and Orcas. Even though Santa lives in North Pole, Alaska, there are still plenty of reindeer wandering around the Arctic, and visitors can get breathtaking views of these majestic creatures.

Though many people head to the North Pole to check out penguins, a penguin is one animal you won’t find up here. Penguins are actually indigenous to the South Pole; however, visitors can check out plenty of other feathered friends like auks, guillemots, and puffins, which resemble penguins.

A once-mythical creature called the narwhal also lives in the Arctic. The narwhal is a whale with a 10-foot tusk that looks a lot like a unicorn tusk. Historically, people once believed that narwhals were unicorn mermaids who lived in the ocean. Narwhal tusks were once more expensive than their weight in gold. Supposedly, Queen Elizabeth I spent a large sum of money to buy such a tusk. Narwhals are endangered, as the local Inuit tribes use this majestic animal for its meat and tusks. They also use the skin that has plenty of vitamin C. Since the narwhals mainly eat halibut, they are also dying off because of the overfishing of halibut in the area. Since this animal may one day soon become extinct, getting a glimpse of one on vacation would be a rare treat.

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4. There are Seasons in the North Pole

Though the North Pole seems like it only has one season (winter), it actually has four seasons, just like other parts of the world. In July, it experiences its summer; while in December, it has its winter. The warmest it ever gets in this part of the world is 32 degrees, while the coldest temperature is 31 degrees below zero in February. During the summer months, parts of the Arctic Circle can experience what is called “Midnight Sun,” where the sun doesn’t set for months. During the winter, they can experience six months of night at a time.

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5. Visitors Can Run in a Marathon

Finally, if you’re looking for an excuse to visit the North Pole, tell people it’s because you’re training for the North Pole Marathon, the “coolest” marathon on earth. Since the temperatures are extremely low, it’s considered one of the toughest marathons in the world. It takes place every year in April and costs over $15,000 to enter, which covers the cost of accommodations, helicopter rides, and travel to and from the Arctic Circle.

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About the Author:

Lucy Rowe is a 22-year-old student of economics and has studied abroad several times. You can visit her personal blog here, or connect with her on Facebook.

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