Your best friend is heading off to climb some mountain, and your cousin is jetting to a remote desert island. How on earth do you top that? Quite easily, as it goes. As part of our brand-spanking-new line-up for summer 2014, we’re now offering a 15-night cruise aboard Thomson Spirit to the Arctic Circle. Uh-huh, the Arctic Circle. Home of the North Pole, wild reindeer and Sir David Attenborough. And bags more besides. So, what can you expect to see during your ‘Arctic Affair’? To give you a little taster, we’re focusing on 3 stand-out ports of call…
Ny Alesund, Spitsbergen
This settlement on the island of Spitsbergen has a population of 35 people. With any luck they all get on, otherwise the atmosphere in the world’s northernmost post office (latitude 80… no biggie) could be a bit awkward. Although, the fact that they’re all brainbox scientists dedicated to mapping and monitoring Norway’s polar landscape, has me assuming that it’s just like being on the set of The Big Bang Theory. So what’s there to do here? A kilometre-long tourist trail punctuated by story boards will lead you through Ny Alesund, explaining exactly what goes on at the different science stations. You’ll also have a chance to do some research of your own. Just don’t stray off the beaten track. Or you’ll have Sheldon and his 34 buddies to answer to.
In Norwegian, the word Flam translates as ‘little place between steep mountains’. Which is no exaggeration. Tourists flock to Flam for the spectacular scenery they clock from one of the steepest railway tracks in the world. The train chugs up to heights of 865 metres above sea level, and you’ll fill up your memory card with birds-eye views of the area’s plunging valleys and mirror-like fjords, as you navigate hairpin bends and cliff-edge tunnels. No need for those knuckles to turn white, though… the railway has been running safe and sound since the Forties. Nothing about this region is mediocre. With its labyrinthine caves, copious waterfalls and rustic wooden lodges, it has more charm than Michael Bublé in a roomful of mums.
Longyearbyen will have you feeling on top of the world. Literally. Located at 78 degrees north, it’s the world’s northernmost town. It has a population of around 2,000 people – mostly Norwegians – and is home to a shopping mall, a cinema, and a scattering of bars and restaurants. Which practically makes it Disney World, in comparison to its neighbouring communities. Beyond the town’s multihued borders, signs of civilisation dwindle, and it’s all about the nature. Reindeer, foxes and polar bears populate the countryside of Svalbard – the island archipelago that surrounds Longyearbyen – and Alaskan huskies, as part of the workforce, are ten a penny. The best place to take in the striking landscape is from the bow of a boat. Check out the bird cliffs at Fuglefjellet and the deserted mining towns of Grumant, on a boat safari. Once in a lifetime stuff.
Do you fancy a cruise to the Arctic Circle?