A Starter Polar Expedition Guide


The polar regions are home to immaculate views and unique wildlife populations found nowhere else in the world. Very few people will have the opportunity to visit the vast icy waters and landscapes that characterize the poles. If you have the privilege of joining a trip, embarking on a journey to the world’s polar regions can transform your understanding of our planet and leave you in greater awe of this incredible Earth we inhabit. This comprehensive guide is designed to help you navigate the complexities of planning a polar expedition, offering insights into the distinct characteristics of Antarctica, the Arctic, Greenland, and Iceland. As our travelers know well, Journeys International facilitates goal-driven travel that pushes explorers just outside their comfort zones and into the ultimate zone for personal growth, and expedition cruises or overland journeys can be an excellent way to do just that. With a focus on immersive experiences, wildlife encounters, and the profound beauty of these remote areas, we aim to equip you with the knowledge to choose the adventure that best suits your spirit of exploration.

Close up of penguin nestingThe Allure of Antarctica

Seasons and Climate

The best time to visit Antarctica is during the Southern Hemisphere summer, from November to March. During this period, the ice recedes enough to allow access by ship, and the continent is alive with newborn wildlife.


Antarctica’s ecosystem is robust and unique, home to several species of penguins, whales, seals, and seabirds. The region offers one of the world’s most extraordinary wildlife viewing opportunities.


From zodiac cruising among towering icebergs to setting foot on the actual continent, every moment in Antarctica is an adventure. Mountaineering, cross-country skiing, and kayaking in icy waters provide deeper connections with this untouched wilderness. Journeys offers both a more in-depth expedition cruise and a quick fly-in option that can be an extension journey from South America.

Suggested Trips: Antarctica Expedition Rare Journey


polar bear on iceberg

Exploring the Arctic

Seasons and Climate

The Arctic is most accessible from June to August when the region thaws, offering 24 hours of daylight. This period is ideal for wildlife spotting and exploring the diverse landscapes.


The Arctic is the kingdom of the polar bear. It’s also home to walruses, arctic foxes, and a rich variety of birdlife. The region’s biodiversity is a draw for nature enthusiasts and photographers alike. Svalbard is considered the “Wildlife Capital of the Arctic” and makes for an incredible adventure for wildlife lovers.


Embarking on an Arctic cruise offers chances to witness polar bears in their natural habitat, visit remote communities, and explore the dramatic fjords and glaciers of places like Svalbard. The majority of our Arctic trips at Journeys are polar cruise options.

Suggested Trips: Rare Spitsbergen Explorer


Shows waters in Ilulissat, Greenland, where a group of people are kayaking in between icebergs at Disko Bay, north of the Artic Circle near Ilulissat Icefjord at sunset.

The Wonders of Greenland

Seasons and Climate

Like the other destinations in the far north, Greenland is best visited from June to September. The milder weather allows for exploration of its fjords, ice sheets, and small towns.


Though not as densely populated with wildlife as the Arctic and Antarctica, Greenland offers sightings of whales, seals, and seabirds against the backdrop of some of the world’s most spectacular icebergs.


Hiking through Greenland’s dramatic landscapes, visiting Inuit villages, and kayaking in iceberg-filled waters offer an intimate experience with the island’s natural wonders and cultural heritage. Journeys offers both expedition cruises and overland adventures to this country.

Suggested Trips: Greenland Explorer


Rainbows are inevitable at Skogafoss

The Magic of Iceland

Seasons and Climate

Iceland can be a year-round destination, with each season offering its unique allure depending on your travel goals and appetite for unpredictability. For first-timers, we generally recommend traveling from April – October. Summer provides endless daylight to explore the volcanic landscape and more predictable weather, but wintertime can be ideal for hearty explorers in search of the Northern Lights.


While not known for large wildlife, Iceland’s birdwatching opportunities are significant, especially the puffins along its coastlines.


Iceland is a land of contrasts, with opportunities to explore geysers, waterfalls, black sand beaches, and glaciers. The country’s rich Viking history and unique culture add depth to the natural beauty. Our Iceland adventures at Journeys are primarily overland trip that can be part of a stop-over or deeper adventure, depending on the traveler’s desires.

Suggested Trips: Iceland Circumnavigation and Glimmer of Iceland


Preparing for Your Expedition

Packing Essentials

The key to enjoying these remote destinations lies in preparation. Essential items include waterproof gear, layers for cold weather, binoculars for wildlife viewing, and cameras to capture the breathtaking scenery. Wool base layers are excellent for regulating body temperature.

Environmental Consideration

As these pristine environments face threats from climate change and human impact, it’s crucial to choose eco-conscious travel operators, like Journeys, and adhere to guidelines that minimize your footprint.

Physical Preparedness

While you don’t need to be an elite athlete, some level of physical fitness will enhance your experience, especially for activities like kayaking and hiking. Expeditions often offer optional shore excursions and other activities with options for exploration that fit a variety of fitness levels and interests. You can opt-in to what is best for you, from bird-watching from afar to more vigorous hikes.

Choosing Your Expedition

When selecting your polar expedition, consider what draws you to these remote corners of the Earth. Is it the dream of seeing a polar bear roam free, the thrill of crossing the Drake Passage, or the allure of hiking through lava fields under the aurora borealis? Each destination offers a unique path to adventure, defined by its wildlife, landscapes, and the experiences it offers.

The journey to the polar regions is not just a voyage to the ends of the Earth, but a journey into the heart of our natural world. It’s an opportunity to witness the raw beauty of our planet, to understand the importance of its preservation, and to return with stories of unforgettable encounters. Whether you’re drawn to the silent majesty of Antarctica’s icebergs, the rugged beauty of the Arctic, the cultural richness of Greenland, or the volcanic wonders of Iceland, a polar expedition is an invitation to adventure, a call to explore the most remote and spectacular regions of our world, where every moment is a story waiting to be lived.