Arctic Canada and Greenland
For nature and wildlife lovers, few places rival with the Canadian Arctic and Greenland. Endless mountain ranges, some covered in tundra alive with flowers, others as barren as a desert, are the domain of muskoxen, Arctic fox and hares. Deep-blue iceberg-studded straits, bays and seas, are home to polar bear, walrus and whales, including the elusive narwhal. Visit Inuit settlements and remains of expeditions of discovery, hike to marvellous views or kayak the still waters at the bottom of towering bird cliffs. The Arctic will leave you speechless at time, full of energy at others, changed forever.
best time to travel
June sees long days and lots of ice, which is good for wildlife. In July wildflowers and sea birds start to come. Late July - mid-August wildflowers and wildlife are peaking. Mid-August and early September are good for fall foliage, dawn and dusk make for scenic photography and there is a better chance to see northern lights.
places to go
A note about polar cruises
When cruising in the polar regions, one can never be sure which places one will visit. A sudden change in weather conditions may necessitate a reroute. Or you may find a pod of whales to follow, or an iceberg to circumnavigate. And that is the beauty of polar cruises - you never know what is around the corner; you just know it will be yet another highlight.
Located in Davis Strait, Monumental Island is a well-known spot for walrus as well as polar bears
The east coast of Baffin Island is spectacularly scenic and holds such gems as Qikiqtarjuak (the iceberg capital of the world), the Inuit settlement of Pangnirtung, the dramatic cliffs of Cape Mercy and Sunshine Fjord with its excellent hiking opportunities. Polar bear, beluga and right whale, narwhal and ring and harp seals are often seen along Baffin's coast.
Along the southwest coast of Greenland lie old Norse settlements which loom large in the imagination of many people. It was at Brattahlíð that Erik the Red lived, while at Hvalsey the famous medieval Norse Cathedral stands, the largest Norse building in Greenland.
Ilulissat is home to the fastest-moving glacier outside of Antarctica, moving at about 19 metres per day. Cruise the iceberg-studded Jacobshavn Icefjord where massive tabular icebergs enter Disko Bay.
Famous for the so-called middle ice, Baffin Bay is known for its abundant wildlife which keeps close to the ice edge. Keep a eye out for fin, sperm, sei and humpback whale as well as the numerous species of Arctic seal and seabirds that abound in the bay.
A massive outlet of water streams out of the Arctic through Lancaster Sound and in the resulting mixing of water, nutriens well up which provide food for myriad of wildlife. Prince Leopold Island is one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the Canadian Arctic.
It was at Beechey Island that Franklin’s ill-fated expedition spent its last winter in 1845 before vanishing in the ice. Three of his crew are buried here and visiting their graves is a poignant reminder of the lives lost during the exploration of the Canadian Arctic.
Peak tidal flows in Bellot Strait can reach up to seven knots and the resulting mixing of water provides ample food sources for marine mammals such as harp seal, bearded seal and polar bear.
This bay is shallow enough to trap belugas during low tide, and the bay is a known hotspot for polar bear.
Victory Point & King William Island
Key places in the saga of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition, sites along the shore of King William Island, like Victory Point, are good locations to reflect on the quest for exploration that opened up the Arctic.
See unusual wildlife
Canadian Arctic and Greenland waters harbour plenty of wildlife and you may encounter polar bear, barren-ground grizzly bear, muskox, caribou, walrus, Arctic fox, Arctic seal, harp seal, bearded seal, beluga, humpback and bowhead whales and narwhal.
Visit an Inuit village
When cruising the Canadian Arctic you will be sure to stop in such villages like Pond Inlet. These are great places to meet with locals and purchase Inuit carvings, jewellery and other local crafts. In Greenland you may stop in places like Sisimiut, where you may meet traditional kayakers and see them perform "eskimo roles'.
Cliffs such as those on Leopold and Cobourg Islands are locations where breeding birds find a safe haven from predators such as polar bear and fox. Birds such as murres and fulmars breed here by the hundreds of thousands, soaring overhead as you cruise in zodiacs along the base of high cliffs.
Hike the mountains
There is no experience quite like hiking up a pristine mountain in Greenland or Canada's Arctic, walking through tundra flora and enjoying the spectacular panorama of icebergs, sea and glaciers.
Kayak the seas
Hear the swish of water passing your hull, glide across a still bay with mountains and glaciers reflected in the water, get up close to whales and other wildlife. Experience the serenity of the Arctic to its fullest.
Cruise by zodiac
Zodiacs are sturdy inflatable boats used to explore hidden coves and inlets, while on the lookout for wildlife. Cruise through the ice, land at a historic site, or float at the bottom of a bird cliff.
Have a BBQ
As you enjoy the camaraderie and great food served on deck, the captain will make sure the ship turns slowly a full 360 degrees, giving you a fantastic view of the panorama around you.
Be out on deck
With the long light of polar summer nights you may find yourself waking up at unusual hours. Take the opportunity to go out on deck alone and watch the scenery and wildlife drift by. Deckside is where it all happens!
Learn from the experts
Polar cruises all bring expert lecturers along, teaching you about such subjects as history, flora and fauna, photography and exploration.
Ponder the sacrifices
At some point during your cruise you will visit historic sites and come eye to eye with poignant reminders of those who gave their lives during the exploration of the High Arctic. Take a moment to learn more about their fate and honour their sacrifices.
Long days & short nights
As you get close to the Arctic Circle, the days lengthen and nights shorten. In June and July, above the Arctic Circle, the sun will not set at all and this a great time to come out on deck at "night" and see what nature has on offer.