Bearded seal being watched by travellers (
Article Words : Wanderlust team | 04 December

The Wanderlust guide to visiting the Poles

The Arctic and Antarctica are poles apart, but packed with similarly spectacular wildlife, icebergs and adventures. Plan your adventure now.

Penguins on a rock ( on a rock (

Looking for inspiration?

There’s more to the poles than vast expanses of ice and snow.  Both are home to an astonishing variety of wildlife. And at times the scenery will quite literally take your breath away.

There are also an awful lot of activities to keep you busy too. The Wanderlust team have put together a list of their top 10 polar experiences – from kayaking in the Svalbard archipelago to walking amongst penguins in Antarctica and South Georgia. Polly Evans reveals the 6 ultimate Arctic adventures including polar bear encounters in Russia and staying with indigenous families in Canada.

Still need to be convinced to get your thermals out? Try reading Paul Goldstein’s impassioned odes to the poles – both the Arctic and the Antarctic. The man truly has a way with words.

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Top 10 polar travel experiencesWanderlust team

6 ultimate Arctic adventures – Polly Evans

Nautical Views: Paul Goldstein from Antarctica

Nautical Views: Paul Goldstein from the Arctic Circle

Paradise Harbour, Antarctica ( Harbour, Antarctica (

The Antarctic

There is something very special and almost spiritual about Antarctica. Whether it’s the sheer scale and magnificence of the scenery or the stunning variety of the wildlife, it is a place that stays with you. Geoffrey Roy shares his experiences from the coldest continent on earth.

It’s certainly a place that Mark Carwardine keeps going back to. He has compiled an Antarctica travel blueprint, featuring three unmissable trips, to help you make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime journey. Whether you’re after the classic Antarctic experience or one that focuses more on wildlife or the continent’s history, Mark has a trip for you. 

Need more options? Then head over to Clare Wilson’s list of 7 ways to get to Antarctica.

Should you decide to take an Antarctica adventure cruise, make sure you swing by Phoebe Smith’s list of the 5 things she wishes she’d known before on embarking on hers. Learn from her mistakes!

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The coldest continent on earth: Antarctica – Geoffrey Roy

Antarctica Travel Blueprint: 3 unmissable trips – Mark Carwardine

7 ways to Antarctica – Clare Wilson

5 things I wish I’d known before my adventure cruise to Antarctica – Phoebe Smith

Icebergs in Greenland ( in Greenland (

The Arctic

You’ll certainly find no shortage of things to do in the Arctic. Nigel Richardson headed to the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in winter and spent his time snowmobiling and ‘sailing’ the semi-frozen waters on the Dutch schooner, Noorderlicht. With its creaking glaciers and dazzling aurora, there’s no better time to visit, he says.

Amy Watkin went on an Inuit adventure cruise in Arctic Canada. Sailing from northern Québec to Nunavut, she enjoyed unrivalled access to local people and their ancient hunting grounds, not to mention getting the chance to experience the region’s best wildlife-spotting. Phoebe Smith, on the other hand, went aurora hunting in Arctic Norway and discovered plenty to keep her occupied whiles she waited for the fickle lights.

Heading to Svalbard to see the glaciers, sea ice and abundant wildlife? Angie Butler offers 5 tips for a successful trip.

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Icebound: Spitsbergen in winter – Nigel Richardson

An Inuit adventure cruise in Arctic Canada – Amy Watkins

Hunting the aurora in Arctic Norway – Phoebe Smith

5 tips for a successful Svalbard trip – Angie Butler

Polar bears in the Canadian Arctic ( bears in the Canadian Arctic (

Extreme wildlife

Remote, pristine and inhospitable to human habitation. It’s no surprise then that both poles are a haven for wildlife. So much so that world-renowned wildlife photographer, Mark Carwardine, has visited Antarctica 18 times. He reveals the very best wildlife encounters on and around the continent, from comical penguins, majestic humpbacks and fearsome leopard seals.

Lyn Hughes, on the other hand, headed north to Svalbard and reveals top tips for spotting polar bears in the northern wilderness.

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Wildlife encounters in Antarctica – Mark Carwardine

Wildlife in Antarctica – Mark Carwardine

Polar bear chasing in Svalbard – Lyn Hughes

Rugged up on ice float? (
On Ice float (

Staying warm and healthy

Travelling in the extreme cold of the poles can be exhilarating. But it can also be seriously bad for you health of you are poorly equipped.

Our resident expert, Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth is on hand with top-notch advice on how to deal with cold including treating exposure and frostbite. She also has advice on preparing and equipping yourself to avoid these conditions in the first place.

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Out in the cold – Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth

Dealing with the cold – Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth

Penguins in Blue Iceberg Bay ( in Blue Iceberg Bay (

Capturing it all on film

Snow and ice, it has to be said, looks fantastic in photos. But taking great snow and ice pictures can be a challenge to even the most accomplished photographer using the most sophisticated camera. With a few pointers, though, you can shoot better snow and ice shots – whatever your skill or equipment level. Check out Steve Davey’s advice on how to take great snow photographs.

If it’s inspiration you’re after, then look no further than the great images captured by our readers on their Arctic and Antarctic adventures.

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Cold snaps: How to take great snow photographs – Steve Davey

Readers’ photos from the poles

Northern Lights over the Arctic ( Lights over the Arctic (

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our Visiting the Poles travel guide is the place to start. Make sure you drop by our  Visiting the Poles experiences page as well. We've rounded up the latest travel news about visiting the poles too.

If you have a particular question about visiting the poles, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all they know. Or check out the questions that have already been asked about visiting the poles. The answer to yours might already be there. 

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Visiting the poles travel guideWanderlust team

Visiting the poles experiencesWanderlust team

Latest travel news about visiting the poles

Forum posts about visiting the poles

Community content about visiting the poles

Ice cave at sunset (
Ice cave at sunset (

Ready to go?

Here's a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From wildlife watching cruises around Spitsbergen to expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula there’s something to suit every taste and budget. 

Our Trip Finder can help you plan your next polar adventure


Main image: Bearded seal being watched by travellers (