The Arctic Circle

An Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983

The Arctic Circle

The Arctic Circle is the most northernly major circle of latitude, at approximately 66°30′ N. It marks the area within which, for one or more days each year, the Sun does not set (June 21) or rise (December 21), and the length of continuous day or night increases northward. It has its southern counterpart which is called Antarctic Circle. Interestingly, the position of the Arctic Circle is not fixed: it depends on the Earth’s axial tilt and it’s currently drifting northwards about 15 m/year.

Map of the Arctic Region, showing Greenland, Canada, and Iceland.

Climate beyond the Arctic Circle

The climate of the Arctic is characterized by long, cold winters and short, cool summers. Most of the arctic region is north of the tree line, has permanent snow and ice, and permafrost (permanently frozen ground). However, thanks to the compensating effect of the Gulf Stream, the Atlantic coast of Europe (Norway and Russia) is ice-free all year and their climate is classified as subarctic despite being north of the Arctic Circle. Other factors affecting the climate are elevation, proximity of the sea and topography.

Life beyond the Arctic Circle

Despite the rough, unfavourable conditions, especially during the winter, some areas of the Arctic have been inhabited by indigenous peoples for thousands of years. As of today, around 4 million people lives north of the Arctic Circle (for example in Hammerfest, the northernmost town in the world with more than 10,000 inhabitants, and home of the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society (Isbjørnklubben)), and more and more tourists are visiting the area looking for an adventure either during the Midnight Sun or the Polar Night, and to catch the Northern Lights. Since they live beyond the possibility of any agricultural activity due to the climate, the main source of income has always been fishing, trapping, hunting and pastoralism, and recently, starting to exploit the area’s natural resources.

You may find this article by The Atlantic about living in Tromso interesting, which attempts to explain how locals have a different view on the Polar Night and how they cope with the long winters.

Related Tours

We will experience serene snow-covered Arctic landscapes. Throughout our journey guides and specialists will outline the history of this stark region and the nature of the peoples who wrested their living from it.

10 days
Departing Oct, Jan
Iceland church in Vik

Our journey to the land of the Midnight Sun gives an insight into the history of this Icelandic nation. In geological terms, Iceland is very young and the landscape is alive with nature’s forces. Our program explores glaciers, national parks and majestic waterfalls as we learn about Iceland’s natural heritage and its Viking past. Iceland is also teeming with birdlife, with the 14 kilometre longest precipitous cliff in Europe, host to millions of seabirds.

17 days
Departing Sep, May, Aug
Discover Greenland’s history and culture

Greenland is the largest island in the world, the majority of it lies above the Arctic Circle. Few places are quite so difficult to reach. During this program we have been at great pains to ensure that our party gets to this conversation-stopping land and that while we are there we obtain the most comprehensive overview of this vast landmass. We visit during the summer, experiencing the burst of seasonal flora, which caused the early voyagers to name it Greenland.

4 days
Departing Sep, Jun

Explore the Faroe Islands on this fully escorted, five-day small group tour designed for mature travellers. This tour gives you chance to visit some of the islands’ most stunning sights and to explore the capital of Tórshavn, while discovering the interesting history of the Faroes and its unique culture. This tour can be an extension to a Scottish Isles or Scotland tour.

5 days
Departing Oct, Sep

Uncover a Viking past and view of the world’s biggest fjords on this journey through Scandinavia. In low-lying Denmark we tour the Zeeland, the sea land, and our program includes the vibrant capital of Copenhagen. In Norway we travel through endless forests, skirting great fjords to Bergen. Extensions available in Tromsø or join our Norwegian Coastal Voyage.

13 days
Departing Jun

Experience Denmark’s rich contemporary culture and discover its history, architecture, food, and natural wonders. On this tour, we are immersed in the Danish landscape and culture, we visit the happiest city in Europe, the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, and the home of the Danish Royal family, among many other wonderful sites.

20 days
Departing Aug, May