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Why Small-Ship Expeditions Are the Best Way to Explore the Arctic

Staying nimble is key when traveling through this otherworldly landscape. Here’s how to do it.

Why Small-Ship Expeditions Are the Best Way to Explore the Arctic

Photo credit: David Merron

The untamed Arctic is a land of dramatic contrasts: brilliant white coastlines engulfed by obsidian seas, and serene icescapes that set the stage for action-packed scenes with prowling polar bears and breaching whales.

Experiencing such sights first-hand remains an unchecked box for many adventure seekers. One of the reasons the polar regions are still relatively untouched by tourism is that exploring them requires specific tools—and savvy guides.

But visiting this mystical area may be easier than you think. Seeing the Arctic by sea—and aboard smaller vessels in particular—provides the best of both worlds when it comes to comfort and accessibility. Quark Expeditions, an AFAR Travelers’ Choice Award winner for most unique cruise itinerary, offers a variety of curated voyages to the untapped trove of the Arctic. The company’s highly experienced field team and bespoke expedition ships create the ideal formula for venturing to underexplored destinations like Svalbard, Norway; Greenland; or Canada’s daunting Northwest Passage.

Here’s why a small-ship expedition is the ideal way to get an unforgettable glimpse at the land of the midnight sun.


Photo credit: Acacia Johnson Unparalleled Access

With nearly three decades of experience—and a fleet of vessels designed for handling the Arctic’s mercurial moods—Quark Expeditions gives adventure travelers an optimal mix of guided itineraries and unscripted experiences. Nimble small ships and their expert Expedition Leaders can easily make micro-alterations to itineraries, taking advantage of ever-changing weather, sea, and ice conditions to create impromptu moments for, say, animal viewings.

Those experiences may happen in Greenland, for instance, which has recently become a sought-after destination for travelers seeking raw, untouched nature. It’s this very appeal that makes the country difficult to explore solo. Greenland’s infrastructure is limited, so ambling along its waterways is one of the more practical ways to see its mystical icescapes.

Spitsbergen, the largest island in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, is another destination that makes sense to see by sea. Quark Expeditions’ specially designed ships can expertly navigate the nooks and crannies of the coast as they penetrate the majestic fjords for which Svalbard is famous, providing unique perspective of the idyllic shores.

The iconic Northwest Passage is yet another journey fit for a seagoing cohort. The remote communities and landing sites of the Canadian High Arctic require an intimate understanding of the climate’s intricacies, as well as cultural prowess that can only be attained by years of trusted presence—expertise that Quark Expeditions’ knowledgeable team has in spades.


Photo credit: Sue Flood

Maximum Immersion…and Comfort

Quark Expeditions’ new ship, the World Explorer, is designed with every element of Arctic travel in mind. This nimble vessel is capable of navigating all the crevices common in polar topography. The ship’s indoor and exterior spaces also feature ample observation areas—decks, domed lounges, and private balconies in every suite—that allow for sightseeing even when the weather makes outdoor adventuring a challenge.

For days when Mother Nature cooperates, hiking excursions, Zodiac cruises, kayaks, and paddle boards allow passengers an even more up-close glimpse of the Arctic’s multifaceted and magnificent personality.

Small ships such as the World Explorer also lend themselves to an ideal guest-to-field-staff ratio. Quark Expeditions is the only polar expedition operator committed to providing one field expert per every eight passengers or fewer, meaning that every guest receives dedicated attention and intimate, small-group learning environments as part of their on- and off-board experience. A hike through Greenland’s ancient Viking and Thule ruins can be much more impactful when the field guide leading it happens to also be the world’s foremost arctic historian.

As remote as the polar regions are, they’re equally rewarding: The ruggedness of the terrain, the variety and rarity of the wildlife, and the dynamic juxtaposition of the landscape make this frontier a lusted-after destination on many travelers’ radar. Visit Quark Expeditions today to start planning your next eye-opening polar expedition.

Quark Expeditions
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