The Arctic is made up of the Arctic Ocean and nearby seas. Unlike Antarctica, it is not a continent.
However, various countries lay claim to different parts of the Arctic, including certain oceans and ice caps, as part of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This treaty allows countries to claim the ocean and ice that had earlier belonged to no nation in particular. Today, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Canada, Iceland and the USA each have territory that lies within the Arctic Circle.
Having a claim in the Arctic, with its natural resources, tourism and research opportunities, can prove to be incredibly valuable for these countries. As climate change increasingly affects the Arctic (and the rest of the world), there has been growing interest in the political and environmental governance of the region.
Of the lands today claimed by various nations, many were originally occupied – and continue to be occupied – by indigenous peoples. The indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic are primarily descendants of the ancient Thule people and have occupied the region for thousands of years. These indigenous cultures survive in both the archaeological sites like 4000-year-old Sermermiut, and the many communities that still practise traditional ways of life.
So, how do you get to the Arctic?
Depending on which part of the Arctic you’re visiting, your journey could begin in any number of places. If you’re exploring Franz Josef Land, for example, you’ll likely begin in Russia. If you’re exploring Greenland, you can fly in from Iceland or from mainland Denmark. It’s even possible to set off from Aberdeen, stop in at Scotland’s remote Fair Isle and then continue to cruise to Spitsbergen. You'll need to follow the visa rules for the country you're departing from, as well as the countries that have claims to the Arctic territory you are travelling through. Please speak to your booking agent for more information on obtaining visas for the Arctic.
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