Polar
Photo credit
Matt Palmer
Coastline
,
Antarctica

Polar

Cold, Dry and Covered in Ice

Inspiring you to tour the Polar biome and embark on a journey of discovery through its breathtaking areas of natural beauty and diverse wildlife

Discover Tours

Polar ice can be found at the most extreme points of our planet: the Arctic, home to the often mythologised North Pole, and the southernmost point of all, the glacial and largely uninhabited continent of Antarctica.

These frozen landscapes are home to animals that we see nowhere else on earth: from minke whales to chinstrap penguins, our polar regions are a veritable wonderland of unique life forms. Those of us lucky enough to visit might catch a glimpse of this world from sailing boats as we cut a swathe through the icy waters of the Arctic north or, at the opposite end of the Earth, alongside the majestic ice sheet that makes up Antarctica.

Antarctica is made up of the largest single mass of ice on Earth, covering 14 million square kilometres in the midst of the Southern Ocean. At the South Pole, the average winter temperature is -49 degrees.

It’s hardly a secret that massive threats to this delicate environment exist. Currently around 10% of the Earth’s surface is covered by ice, although this is decreasing at an alarming rate. In fact, the polar ice caps are now melting six times faster than they were in the 1990s, with 6.4 trillion tonnes of ice being lost from Greenland and Antarctica alone between 1992 and 2017. With their home habitats diminishing, the animals that reside here are the first to feel the brunt of human-made changes to this most precarious of landscapes.

Biome Map Image
Terpsichores, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / modified from original

Polar characteristics

  • Temperatures below freezing
  • Long winters
  • Ice caps
  • Low levels of biodiversity
  • Little precipitation
  • Glaciers
  • Ice sheets
Icecubes
Cassie Matias
Icecubes,
Antarctica
Polar climate
Temperature High
26
°C
Temperature High (Avg)
Temperature Low
-80
°C
Temperature Low (Avg)
Precipitation
254
mm
Precipitation (Avg)

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Climate Change

The melting of polar ice caps and glaciers is well documented, and possibly the most prominent example of climate change in action. The warming of the sea around the poles causes increases in weather events such as typhoons and hurricanes, and can increase coastal erosion. Flooding and destruction of polar habitats are also consequences of this, with estimates saying that 400 million people could be at risk of flooding by the end of the current century.

Other threats to these regions include increased pollution and overfishing. As their natural habitat in the Arctic melts, polar bears in Russia are increasingly being forced towards nearby towns in search of food, which has the potential to cause conflict with human inhabitants.

Top Polar tours

For those planning a trip to the Arctic Circle, another world awaits. Exploring this part of the world might include walking on glaciers, camping out to try and spot the Aurora Borealis, dog or husky sledding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, kayaking, sailing, hiking, snowshoeing and even taking a helicopter ride over the ice.

Many will visit the Arctic with wildlife watching in mind, and there are few better places on Earth from which to do it. Many visitors will spend time whale watching and polar bear spotting, as well as taking the opportunity to seek out seals, walrus and Arctic seabirds in their natural environment.

Unlike the Arctic, trips to Antarctica always need to be organised via a tour company. Tours will always be by boat, and activities could include taking a kayak to try and spot whales and dolphins, disembarking to visit penguins, and camping, scuba diving, or even (if you dare) taking an icy plunge into the water.

South Atlantic Ocean
66 north

South Atlantic Ocean, 

Antarctica

Tours in the Polar biome

Green Arrow
Green Arrow
Vinson

Vinson

Location Icon
Antarctica
Tour type
Tour Type
Small Group
Activity level
Activiy Level
5 - Challenging

18 days from

TBC / person

View trip
Delve Deep: Iceland 2024

Delve Deep: Iceland 2024

Location Icon
Iceland
Tour type
Tour Type
Small Group
Activity level
Activiy Level
2 - Light

8 days from

£2,229 / person

View trip
Classic Iceland Adventure

Classic Iceland Adventure

Location Icon
Iceland
Tour type
Tour Type
Adventure Tours
Activity level
Activiy Level
3 - Average

7 days from

£5,899 / person

View trip
Picturesque Solo Iceland Tour

Picturesque Solo Iceland Tour

Location Icon
Iceland
Tour type
Tour Type
Small Group
Activity level
Activiy Level
1 - Easy

8 days from

£2,466 / person

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Iceland North & South - 6 days

Iceland North & South - 6 days

Location Icon
Iceland
Tour type
Tour Type
Small Group
Activity level
Activiy Level
2 - Light

6 days from

£2,405 / person

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Iceland Explorer

Iceland Explorer

Location Icon
Iceland
Tour type
Tour Type
Adventure Tours
Activity level
Activiy Level
3 - Average

10 days from

£3,299 / person

View trip
Trekking Eastern Iceland

Trekking Eastern Iceland

Location Icon
Iceland
Tour type
Tour Type
Active, Walking, Hiking and Trekking
Activity level
Activiy Level
4 - Demanding

6 days from

£1,599 / person

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Iceland Northern Lights & Golden Circle

Iceland Northern Lights & Golden Circle

Location Icon
Iceland
Tour type
Tour Type
Adventure Tours
Activity level
Activiy Level
3 - Average

5 days from

£1,279 / person

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Iceland Adventure: Northern Lights & Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Iceland Adventure: Northern Lights & Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Location Icon
Iceland
Tour type
Tour Type
Adventure Tours
Activity level
Activiy Level
3 - Average

7 days from

£1,979 / person

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Canadian Rockies

Canadian Rockies

Location Icon
Canada
Tour type
Tour Type
Small Group
Activity level
Activiy Level
3 - Average

15 days from

£2,420 / person

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Vancouver Island & Northern Rockies

Vancouver Island & Northern Rockies

Location Icon
Canada
Tour type
Tour Type
Active
Activity level
Activiy Level
3 - Average

11 days from

£2,999 / person

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Canada & The Rocky Mountaineer

Canada & The Rocky Mountaineer

Location Icon
Canada
Tour type
Tour Type
Coach Tours
Activity level
Activiy Level
1 - Easy

12 days from

£6,499 / person

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Hiking in the Canadian Rockies

Hiking in the Canadian Rockies

Location Icon
Canada
Tour type
Tour Type
Active
Activity level
Activiy Level
3 - Average

8 days from

£1,750 / person

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Real Canada

Real Canada

Location Icon
Canada
Tour type
Tour Type
Adventure Tours
Activity level
Activiy Level
2 - Light

12 days from

£1,920 / person

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High Arctic Explorer - Canada to Greenland (Ocean Endeavour)

High Arctic Explorer - Canada to Greenland (Ocean Endeavour)

Location Icon
Canada, Greenland
Tour type
Tour Type
Adventure Tours
Activity level
Activiy Level
1 - Easy

13 days from

£11,135 / person

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High Arctic Explorer - Greenland to Canada (Ocean Endeavour)

High Arctic Explorer - Greenland to Canada (Ocean Endeavour)

Location Icon
Greenland, Canada
Tour type
Tour Type
Adventure Tours
Activity level
Activiy Level
1 - Easy

13 days from

£10,320 / person

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Banff & Jasper & YOHO & Kootenay & Waterton Lakes National Park 7-Day Tour from Calgary

Banff & Jasper & YOHO & Kootenay & Waterton Lakes National Park 7-Day Tour from Calgary

Location Icon
Canada
Tour type
Tour Type
Active
Activity level
Activiy Level
1 - Easy

7 days from

£1,026 / person

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Active West Coast Canada Discovery

Active West Coast Canada Discovery

Location Icon
Canada
Tour type
Tour Type
Small Group
Activity level
Activiy Level
4 - Demanding

8 days from

£1,599 / person

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Active West Coast & Canadian Rockies

Active West Coast & Canadian Rockies

Location Icon
Canada
Tour type
Tour Type
Active
Activity level
Activiy Level
4 - Demanding

16 days from

£3,499 / person

View trip
Western Journey – Western Canada Holiday

Western Journey – Western Canada Holiday

Location Icon
Canada
Tour type
Tour Type
Coach Tours
Activity level
Activiy Level
1 - Easy

8 days from

£1,510 / person

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Western Canada Discovery

Western Canada Discovery

Location Icon
Canada
Tour type
Tour Type
Small Group
Activity level
Activiy Level
1 - Easy

9 days from

£1,138 / person

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Polar areas of natural beauty

The stunning ice caps and expansive seas of our polar regions will be a familiar sight, even if only from photographs. Key areas of natural beauty within the Arctic include Prince Leopold Island in Nunavut, Canada; Svalbard, found in the Arctic Circle between Norway and the North Pole, and the Northwest Passage, which explorers searched for for three centuries before it was discovered. The Aurora Borealis is also often a highlight of trips to this region. In Antarctica, Drake Passage, the South Shetland Islands, Blood Falls, and the Lemaire Channel are all locations of note.

Wildlife

Polar animals

Polar regions are home to whales, seals and snowy owls, with five species of penguin found in the Antarctic and 19 subpopulations of polar bear in the Arctic. Other animals found in the Arctic include reindeer, narwhal, walrus, Arctic and snowshoe hare, Arctic fox, wolverine and Atlantic puffin. Birds including the sheathbill, snow petrel, kelp gull and south polar skua call the Antarctic home.

Polar plants

Because of the harsh conditions, there is very little plant life in polar regions. Algae, lichen and moss can survive here, but few other plants have adapted for this level of cold.

Polar countries

Areas that make up the Arctic include parts of Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. The continent of Antarctica, on the other hand, has no countries within it - rather, it is a mass of ice that is mostly uninhabited and used by various countries for research purposes.

Zip Lining
Zip Lining
Winter Sports
Winter Sports
Whale Watching
Whale Watching
Snorkelling
Snorkelling
Skiing
Skiing
Sailing
Sailing
Rail
Rail
Rafting
Rafting
Primates
Primates
Polar
Polar
Photography
Photography
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Kayaking
Kayaking
Hiking
Hiking
Food & Drink
Food & Drink
Festivals
Festivals
Canyoning
Canyoning
Canoeing
Canoeing
Birdwatching
Birdwatching
Big Cats
Big Cats
Cruise
Cruise
Wildlife
Wildlife
Culture
Culture
Cycling
Cycling
Safari
Safari
Mountaineering
Mountaineering