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To See the Arctic Before You Die: The Most Picturesque Towns in the Arctic Circle

22 October 2020

An Arctic expedition is so incredible that it will make your head spin in wonder. If you are an avid traveler, this type of expedition is what you need. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience worthy of boasting. Don’t be deceived by the claim that the Arctic is a desolate, icy place where only fools who want to freeze to death choose to live. Believe us, it is so far from the truth. There are many inhabited towns in the Arctic Circle that enchant more and more travelers due to their unusual weather, sights, and natural anomalies. 

If you are wondering where to begin your Arctic adventure, let us assist you in this intricate task. Here is a list of Arctic towns that we certainly recommend visiting.

Arctic adventure | Ragnar

Barrow, Alaska, United States

Barrow has many aces in the hole to make you itch to visit the Arctic. It is a place where the ground never thaws and where the snow falls even in mid-summer. None of the plants there grow taller than a few inches. That’s why Barrow inspires the impression of a desolate Arctic place, but that is not the complete truth. There are people who have lived here for a long time. 

With a total population of 5,000 people, the town seems to be a lively place despite the severe weather conditions. Since 60% of the residents are representatives of the native Alaskan tribe called the Iñupiat, you’ll have the opportunity to meet these people and get to know more about their lives and culture. 

Though the sun sets for months during the wintertime and stays up for months in the summertime, Barrow’s residents have adapted to such conditions. They are used to living in balance with the rhythms of nature. But for you, it will be a rather exciting experience.

We promise Barrow will amaze you with its humanless landscapes and will evoke the feeling of desolate nothingness in some areas. Standing so close to the open ocean causes such a trembling sensation — it seems that Barrow is located at the uttermost point of the earth. 

Barrow, Alaska, United States - visit the Arctic

Alert, Nunavut, Canada

Alert is not a typical Arctic town. It is rather a military outpost as well as a weather and intelligence station. There are about 200 temporary residents who live there, primarily to work. 

Alert is situated within walking distance from the North Pole. It is only 800 kilometers away. The weather on this desolate land is pretty severe. The summer offers you 24 hours of sunlight, while the winter gives 24 hours of darkness. The normal wintertime temperature drops to -33°C, but it may drop even further to -50°C. 

Why should you visit Alert? In the summertime, icebergs start floating into the harbor, where you’ll see wildlife you are likely to have no chance of seeing in other less Arctic places. Polar bears and seals are attracted when the ice moves in, so they will surely fall under your prying eyes, especially if you rent a dogsled to see the beauty of the local nature. 

Not many would choose to live in a place where the temperature is so low that it can freeze your eyeball. And not many can endure the four months of darkness, where the sun does not come up for such a long time. But there is something incredible in the desolate beauty of Alert. 

Alert, Nunavut, Canada - alert is not a typical Arctic town

Nome, Alaska, United States

Nome is the final point for the world-renowned sled dog race known as the Iditarod, and it is also a town for its extensive gold digging. Its mysterious aura is something that attracts tourists from different parts of the world. Many local residents believe that a UFO has been stealing Nome’s people. Even the Hollywood movie The Fourth Kind reveals that people often go missing in Nome. But no worries! The police state that people were not stolen but were so drunk that they could not find the way to their homes. As a result, the freezing weather caught them. As you may have noticed, Nome’s people know how to party.

A population of under 4,000 residents lives in this detached, desolate, and cold Arctic place, but Nome is attractive in its desolation. Its vast snowy sights will draw your gaze in wonder. Even when the temperature is below zero, such views awaken the pristine feeling of returning to your roots. Such mind-relaxing sensations penetrate every cell in your body. 

Another interesting thing about Nome is the number of artifacts referring back to the gold rush in Nome’s history that still remain on its territory: oil railroad tracks, dredges, steam engines, and mining claims. All of these are abandoned now, but they still produce a striking impression. Besides, you’ll see plenty of tundra plants such as wildflowers and the area’s cold-loving residents, including bears, foxes, wolves, lemmings, shrews, and moose. 

Nome, Alaska - final point for the world-renowned sled dog race

Kotzebue, Alaska, United States

Kotzebue is an Arctic town with 3,500 residents (mostly Iñupiat Eskimos), and from the inside, it looks like an ordinary town you might find anywhere. It has many B&B’s, a hotel, several churches, and a restaurant called Little Louie. 

Although you won’t find much entertainment here, the lives of Kotzebue residents are much more picturesque. Not only are they surrounded by eye-pleasing views, but they also continue doing what their ancestors did even a century ago: hunt seals, geese, ptarmigan, caribou, and moose. It is an essential part of the subsistence lifestyle of the locals. 

For tourists, Kotzebue is magnetic in its appeal because of its tundra landscapes braided with frost rivers and majestic mountains, as well as its access to the naked but engrossing ocean where you can enjoy the view of boats crowding near the beach — and even sail one! This will help you get the whole Kotzebue experience. Believe us, boating is the most romantic way to watch the sun disappear over the horizon, leaving only a reddish-gold veil and poetically reflecting off the ocean water. 

By the way, don’t forget to include the town’s Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in your bucket list since it contains all you need to know about the Kotzebue indigenous culture, its plants, animals, and birds.

Kotzebue, Alaska - Arctic town

Longyearbyen, Norway

Longyearbyen is one of the northernmost settlements in the world and the capital of the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, which has about 2,000 permanent residents. Due to the severe weather conditions of the area, there is no use in building paved roads in the town. They all end up destroyed by the cold. People mostly get around the island on snowmobiles. The funny thing is that Longyearbyen has more registered snowmobiles than residents.

Winter here is the same long, snowy, cold experience as that of other towns in the Arctic Circle. But freezing cold doesn’t scare off tourists who are itching to see plentiful wildlife and have breathtaking adventures. 

The idea of visiting the town becomes more appealing when you know that it has many places where you can hide your not-weather-beaten bodies: hotels, shopping centers, a church, restaurants, bars, shops, a hospital, and the North Pole Expedition Museum. It is fascinating that such a lightly populated Arctic place has an education center, called the University Centre of Svalbard. It specializes in geology, geophysics, biology, and technology — disciplines that are in demand among local companies.

One way or another, Longyearbyen will rope you into the adventure of exploring the Arctic glaciers, mountains, and local animals. And you can be sure that these majestic views and cuddly-looking animals are going to blow you away. 

Longyearbyen - the capital of the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard

So why should you visit these Arctic towns?

The reason is that Arctic towns such as those listed above are impressive, and the cold air that strikes you to the marrow does not have the power to extinguish the whole brag-worthy adventure you’re going to have. Instead, it accompanies and boosts your experience because of the natural anomalies of the region, including the aurora borealis, the long polar nights, and the midnight sun. You should visit these places that we like to call “ultima Thule” — or the edge of the world. 

Arctic towns truly have a majestic aura, and they always have an ace up their sleeves. Choose the Arctic town you most like, pack your bags, and voilà! You have an unusual and once-in-a-lifetime traveling experience just waiting for you to step out and go. 

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