At one end of the Earth is the Arctic, at the other the Antarctic. Over the course of recent years, these two destinations that are in ways quite similar yet literally poles apart have come to be known as the ultimate in once-in-a-lifetime experience providers. The appeal here is simple yet magical; you are visiting a place few will ever see, to most the still waters and ice sheets remaining a thing of wonder only seen on screen to the soundtrack of Attenborough, perhaps. Expedition here and you’ll bring his words to life in snow and on sea ice, in 24 hour daylight and never-ending darkness illuminated only by the glow of the aurora borealis overhead.
Vast and barren snowscapes might be the first thing that come to mind when you think of the Arctic and Antarctic, but civilisation has a foothold here too. In Greenland, the world’s largest island, locals tell folk tales between fjord discoveries, while the Falkland Islands are home to some of the most charming inhabitants you’ll encounter anywhere on earth, their home a magnet for adventurers and the result being that they always have a story to tell. Reached only by the smallest of cruise ships, the remote Polar regions add new meaning to the phrase ‘off the beaten track’
The world’s largest island is one of local legend and natural wonder, where whales dot the waters and scenery looks just as it did centuries ago. A cruise to Greenland is an opportunity to pair things back, relax and breathe in some of the cleanest air on the planet. Explore the snow-capped south, wildflower-strewn green pastures below drawing farmers, hunters and fishermen with its wares. It’s where many of Greenland’s best restaurants source their super-fresh ingredients too. Greenland’s western region creeps into the Arctic Circle, activities like dog-sledding and snowmobiling making the most of the scenery. It’s also best placed to see a natural draw to the are for many, the dazzling glow of the aurora borealis or ‘Northern Lights’.
The Falkland Islands are totally unique. Hundreds of miles away from the hustle and bustle sits a cluster of isles fiercely fought for. It’s easy to see why and if you ask any of the Falkland’a 3,000 or so residents, they’ll happily share their own take on why there is nowhere else like it. A huge land mass and tiny population makes for vast swathes of untouched wilderness dappled with close-knit communities brought together by near-complete remoteness. There’s a surprising buzz to Stanley, the Falkland Islands capital, with shops and cafes reminiscent of those you’d find. in Scandinavia’s cities. It’s the jump off point for the wildlife encounters many head here for too, from the penguins of Bluff Cove Lagoon to countless sheep of Gypsy Cove and the seven whale species known to call the waters around here home.
Walk in a winter wonderland in Antarctica, a place which has become the jewel in Holy Grail for expedition cruise enthusiasts. Travel here isn’t a holiday, it is an adventure in every sense of the word, a voyage that is taken once and remembered forever. The Antarctic is vast and inhospitable, and therein lies its appeal to cruisers who have explored much of the world and yearn to see something totally unique. Huge seal colonies hug the rocky shoreline and an enormous penguin population teeters on ice throes entirely unperturbed by your presence. Antarctic terns glide above, joined on occasion by the great and elusive albatross. And in the inky waters below, Orca wait for their own catch of the day, any of the above risking becoming dinner with just one wrong move.
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