The Antarctic vs. The Arctic: Which Destination is Right for You?

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Cuverville Island, Antarctica Photo: Andreas Kalvig Anderson

The Arctic and Antarctica offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences. However, the two destinations are actually quite different.

Some people love vacationing in huge cities with dense populations or traveling to popular tourist destinations. Others prefer heading somewhere away from big crowds, where they can enjoy beautiful landscapes and wildlife, relax and unplug from the rest of the world for a while. If you're the latter type of traveler, a trip to either Antarctica or the Arctic should be in the cards in your future. Why? These two destinations are some of the most remote - and most beautiful - in the world. Perfect for solo travelers, adventurous honeymooners or really anybody who wants to see the world as they've never seen it, the Arctic and Antarctica offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences. However, the two destinations are actually quite different. Here's how to decide which one is right for you:

Key Differences
Antarctica is its own continent, made up almost completely of ice and located at the southernmost point of the globe. It's the only continent on Earth that's never been permanently inhabited, and thus, exploring the stunning landscapes provides almost exactly the same experience as it has since humans first started to venture across it. The Arctic, on the other hand, refers to an ocean - not a land mass. The islands you'll visit during cruise vacations to the Arctic are likely to be northern parts of Iceland, Greenland, and Norway, all of which have been inhabited for a long time and offer interesting and exciting histories, along with their picturesque sights.
One aspect many people consider when deciding whether to make a trip to Antarctica or the Arctic is the differences in wildlife. On a cruise to Antarctica, which is colder than the Arctic, you'll almost entirely see sea-dwelling creatures, including whales, seals, and, of course, penguins, along with several other bird species. While you definitely won't find penguins in the Arctic, you may find yourself face-to-face with terrestrial animals, such as polar bears, reindeer, arctic foxes, and many other creatures. 
Though both the Arctic and Antarctic offer stunning landscapes, they are markedly different. The Arctic offers breathtaking views of fjords, mountains, and glaciers, and there are more green areas with trees and vegetation than you may expect. Antarctica, which is almost totally covered in ice, has icebergs and glaciers of incredible height, without any of the vegetation the northern polar regions have. You'll find yourself surrounded by rocks and ice in amazing formations like you've never seen before.

On a cruise to the Arctic, you'll have any number of opportunities for educational or adventurous excursions. During port visits in small communities, you'll explore seaside towns and interact with locals. On trips to Spitsbergen and other less-populated areas, you'll be able to go on hikes, enjoy dog-sledding like a native Inuit, take tours of ice grottos, and even go on snowmobile safaris. In Antarctica, your excursions may be slightly limited but no less incredible. You'll be able to go kayaking amid glaciers, go on wildlife hikes to see penguins and seals, watch whales while on board your ship, and experience the amazing continent in the same way as hundreds of explorers before you have.

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