The Arctic Circle
Sitting at Earth’s most northerly latitudes, you can think of the Arctic as the planet’s hat. The main focus of this area is, of course, the North Pole, however there is so much more to it than that. Surrounding the North Pole is the Arctic Circle which stretches out into different countries, forming a line around the top of the Earth. Let’s take a closer look at this fascinating part of the world.
Where is the Arctic Circle?
The Arctic Circle sits at approximately 66º, 30'N latitude. When you look at a map, the line is quite off-centre as the Earth’s tilt affects exactly where the line is drawn. This slightly random-sounding position for the line is worked out as the latitude above which the sun doesn’t rise on the winter solstice, and doesn’t set on the summer solstice.
What’s the weather like in the Arctic Circle?
When you think of the Arctic Circle, you’re probably thinking it’s very cold! This is true at its most northerly points, with an average of -45°C (-50°F) in winter, but there is quite a variation in temperature as you head south. The lowest ever recorded temperature in the Arctic Circle was in 1991 at a pretty chilly -69°C (-93.3°F). The highest temperature was recorded in 2021 at 38°C (100.4°F) in a Russian town.
If you’re looking to visit the Arctic Circle, it is a good idea to do some research at the specific area you are going to for the most accurate temperatures – but either way, you’ll want to pack warm clothes and good boots if you’re planning to visit this part of the world!
Which countries are in the Arctic Circle?
The Arctic Circle stretches to include 8 different countries. They are: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States of America. As you’d expect, only the very northernmost territories of these countries are within the circle, but they come together to form the Arctic Council. Between them, they look to manage areas such as biodiversity, the climate, the Arctic peoples and more.
Who lives in the Arctic?
There are over 4 million people that call the Arctic their home, with 10% of these being Indiginous to the area. The people of these communities are keeping traditional ways of life going which are unique to them.
One of the most northerly populated areas is Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago that sits between mainland Norway and the North Pole. This area is one of the best places to see classic Arctic wildlife such as polar bears, arctic foxes and walrus.
Which parts of Norway are in the Arctic Circle?
Roughly one third of Norway and its archipelagoes is considered to be in the Arctic Circle, approximately 185,000km². The Lofoten Islands are a particular favourite for tourists with their dramatic views which rest way above the Arctic Circle.
On your way to these islands, you could also stop off at Senja, an idyllic island sitting between Tromsø and the Lofoten Islands. There you’ll find all of the beautiful scenery you expect with dramatic mountains and picture-perfect fjords but with very few other tourists around.
How can I visit the Arctic?
One of the best ways to visit this wild and wonderful place is via an Arctic cruise. This will take you between the different major sites of the Arctic Circle and can range in length to suit your needs. You can also plan a trip to Norway and enjoy excursions to the more wild parts of the area.
When should I visit the Arctic Circle?
When you should visit depends on what you’d like to see. In the summer months, you can experience the midnight sun where the sun never sets. This is due to the tilt of the Earth, meaning the Arctic never faces away from the sun’s rays during this time of year. Alternatively, you could brave the Arctic winter and experience the opposite with darkness during the day. This is the best time to see the stunning northern lights – in Norway you ideally want to be looking at the sky between September and March to maximise your chances to see this spectacular natural phenomenon.
The idea of visiting the Arctic Circle could feel like a daunting one, but it shouldn’t. It is a breathtakingly beautiful area with sites and experiences on offer you’ll find nowhere else. So whether you’re looking to experience 24 hours of sun or a natural light show from the northern lights, check out the Arctic Circle for your next adventure!