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10 reasons to visit the Arctic Circle

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Remote, mystical and breath-taking - find out why a cruise to the Arctic is one of our favourite cruise destinations in both the summer and winter months.

What is the Arctic Circle?

The Arctic Circle refers to an imaginary line around Earth, sitting at around 66°30' north of the equator. It is one of five major circles of latitude mapped out around the Earth and defines the boundary of the Arctic, with anything north of the circle being part of this region.

Measuring roughly 9,900 miles in circumference, there are several countries that have territory within the Arctic Circle, including Russia, Canada, the USA, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Norway. 

Here, we’ll be looking specifically at the Norwegian territory within the Arctic Circle. After all, Norway is the most populated arctic region in the world, with around half of the country situated north of the Arctic Circle. As the homeland of Fred. Olsen, cruising into Norway on board a smaller ship, ready-made for navigating stunning fjords and bringing you closer to the destination is something we are hugely passionate about.

Where do you cross the Arctic Circle in Norway?

Norway has one of the longest and rugged coastlines in the world, reaching from around 58°N to 81°N, so it’s no surprise that large parts lie within the Arctic Circle. Norway is also split into four regions, with the mainland being located alongside Sweden, and Svalbard, Jan Mayen and Bjørnøya situated firmly within the Arctic Circle. These northernmost parts of Norway are also referred to as ‘Arctic Norway’.

The Arctic Circle runs through the middle of Norway, close to Mo i Rana in Helgeland, which is separated from Salten by the Satfjellet mountain range, which also act as a cultural border between the southern and central parts of Sápmi. However, when at sea, your cruise ship will cross the Arctic Circle in the Norwegian Sea close to the small islet of Vikingen – the exact location will shift over the course of a year depending on the angle of the earth’s axis.

Top 10 things to see and do in the Arctic Circle

A truly unique cruising experience, trips to the Arctic Circle are a must-do. Whether you’re seeking an active adventure or want to immerse yourself in true Arctic culture, there’s something for everyone in this part of the world. Take a look at our top ten choices of activities below.

1. Experience the dramatic scenery of the Lofoten Islands

Leknes, Lofoten

The Lofoten Islands are a must-visit when travelling to Norway. Located around 100 miles inside the Arctic Circle, this remote location offers travellers some of the world’s most stunning scenery. With everything from impressive mountains and peaks to open seas, beaches and hidden bays, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to taking holiday snaps. 

An adventurer’s haven, the Lofoten Islands are perfect for those who enjoy walking, fishing, kayaking and sailing. However, deciding when to go to the Lofoten Islands is tricky; just 1500 miles from the North Pole, the weather can be unpredictable. A Fred. Olsen cruise to the Lofoten Islands will have been tailored to ensure guests are visiting it at the best time of the year to really be able to appreciate the areas stunning natural beauty.

If you’re looking for a way to explore the Lofoten Islands, Leknes has a multitude of mountains and cliffs with lush-green landscapes, white sandy beaches and picturesque grass-topped, red wooden houses – a photographers paradise.

2. Take in the stunning surroundings of Tromso

Tromso city seen from Mount Storsteinen under the Midnight Sun in Norway.

Also known as the ‘gateway to the Arctic', Tromso is a perfect destination on your Arctic adventure. This city is one of Norway’s cultural gems and offers something for everyone; whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in Sami culture, go Orca spotting on a whale safari (between November and January) or enjoy the views from atop Mount Storsteinen.

Is Tromso inside the Arctic Circle?

Tromso is situated over 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle and is one of the most northerly places you can visit in the world. It’s a great option for those looking to see the Northern Lights.

While Tromso is famed for its unique natural environment, it’s also the world’s northernmost university town, offering a more lively side to the city. Summer is the perfect time to travel if you’re keen to see it at its most vibrant.

3. Explore above the Arctic Circle at Bodø

Svartisen Glacier, Norway

The intriguing experience of the midnight sun from the summit of Mount Ronvikfjellet is certainly not to be missed, and is also home to the world’s strongest maelstrom – where, when the tide changes, you’ll witness impressive surges as the sea rushes to move between the vast Skjerstadfjord to the outer Saltfjord, at speeds of up to 20 knots.

Take time to explore the impressive Svartisen Glacier, with its lowest point being just 20 metres above sea level – the marked difference between this and the mountains and beaches is awe-inspiring!

4. Experience a natural phenomenon

Guests experiencing the Northern lights

The Norwegian Arctic is one of the greatest places on earth to see the Northern Lights. Travelling to Northern Norway between late September and the end of March gives you the best opportunity to experience nature’s incredible light show, with the lights frequently soaring across clear skies at this time of year. 

While seeing the Aurora Borealis is never guaranteed, your location can vastly improve your chance of seeing the lights. The further north and more remote you go, the greater your chances become.

5. Search for Polar Bears in Svalbard

Polar bears in Svalbald, Norway

Located halfway between Norway and the North Pole, Svalbard offers experiences like nowhere else on earth. Also known as the polar bear’s kingdom, it’s one of the few places in the world where you may be lucky enough to spot these majestic bears in their natural habitat.

Cosmopolitan Longyearbyen offers more than 15 restaurants where travellers can experience Svalbard's locally sourced delicacies. There are also many glaciers to marvel at from the comfort of your cruise ship, as you slice through quiet and still waterways.

6. Marvel at the midnight sun

Midnight sun, Norway

Summertime in Northern Norway provides an opportunity for guests on a Fred. Olsen cruise to experience another natural phenomenon: the midnight sun. 

During the summer months in the Arctic Circle, it’s possible to experience 24 hours of sunlight, giving you more time to enjoy the wonders of this stunning part of the world in a whole new light. 

Like the Aurora Borealis, the further north you are, the more of the midnight sun you will experience. Whether you take an overnight stay in an Ice Hotel, camp in Aurora Huts under a reddish sky or explore the wilderness on a whale safari, there’s so much to enjoy.

7. Observe Arctic wildlife

Arctic fox, Norway

Northern Norway is home to many rare animal species. Before your visit, why not create a list of arctic wildlife you’d be keen to spot, and tick them off as you go. Keep an eye out for the elusive arctic fox or go in search of some of Arctic Norway’s 30,000 reindeer.

8. Dance with whales in the wild

Humpback whale

If you’re travelling in Northern Norway in the winter, your cruise ship will sail slowly along the fjords of the Lofoten Islands and Vesteralen on the lookout for orcas and humpbacks. Be sure to pack your binoculars and camera to capture the memories.

9. Learn about the Sami culture

Sami guides on Reindeer sleds

While the Sami people live across four countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia), around half of the population are settled in Norway. Northern Norway is home to the most ancient Sami settlements, making it the perfect place to experience their way of life, including the ancient sounds, traditional craftwork and working reindeer herds.

Top of our list for learning about the Sami culture is Joik - the folk music of the Sami and one of Europe’s oldest song tradition

10. Cruise the Norwegian Fjords

Seven sister, Norway

The Fjords of Norway are not to be missed on a visit to this beautiful part of the world. With towering mountains, tremendous waterfalls and valleys that roll for miles, you’ll be spoiled with spectacular views. On a Fred. Olsen cruise, our smaller ships are perfect for exploring the winding waterways of the Fjords and giving you the best view of awe-inspiring highlights such as the Seven Sisters and the Briksdal Glacier as you travel closer to the Arctic Circle.

Cruises to the Arctic Circle

Our Arctic cruises have been tailored to show the best of the region, offering a sense of remoteness while providing an eclectic mix of unique experiences. Whether you’re a midnight sun seeker, a wildlife enthusiast or a person who simply enjoys the beauty in nature, Northern Norway has it all. 

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