Something tells me I’m in the minority here, but I would rather spend a holiday in an Arctic wilderness than on a warm sunny beach. I guess to most people that sounds insane but I’m sure I can’t be alone in this. For me there is something hauntingly beautiful about expanses of snow and mountains that a crowded beach full of fat, sweaty tourists can never match.

The great thing about visiting one of the vast snowy expanses our planet has to offer is that you’ll most likely have huge areas of land all to yourself. Forget fighting the crowd for a tiny area of sand, you could be gliding over hundreds of miles of pristine snow instead. As we’re in the heart of winter here in the UK and it’s heading up to Christmas I thought I’d take a look at some of the winter wildernesses I’d most like to visit in the near future.

Alaska is the largest state in the US and also the northernmost. As a holiday destination it’s often overlooked, I’d guess mainly due to its remoteness and extreme climate. As a place to go for your week or two week break I’m not sure I’d really recommend it, especially travelling from the UK, but it is most certainly a place I would want to visit, probably as part of a longer travelling experience.

Boating in Alaska

Boating in Alaska

Northern lights over Alaska

Northern lights over Alaska

The state is larger than Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands and the UK all put together so there’s definitely scope for exploration and adventure while on holiday there. Alaska has more coastline than all the other US states combined and over three million lakes. Fishing and boating are popular activites along with dog sledding. A popular event is the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race that starts in Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska. Dog sledding is the still a popular form of transport in parts of Alaska, due to the conditions making road and rail travel impractical. If you want to see some of the most beautiful scenery the USA has to offer then I’d definitely recommend trying to visit Alaska, just remember to pack warm clothes before you go.

For some of the most stunning coastlines in the world then Norway is a great choice for anyone wishing to visit naturally beautiful place with a sub-arctic climate. All along its vast western coastline are the famous fjords, some of the most striking scenery in the World.

A fjord in Norway, picture from Wikipedia

A fjord in Norway, picture from Wikipedia

Norway claimed second place in the 2008 Environmental Index, just behind Switzerland. The rankings are based on how well the country’s policies have positively benefitted its environment. Looking through the photos on www.visitnorway.com it’s easy to see why. The vast lakes of the fjords are right next to huge mountains and rolling hills and it’s hard to imagine anywhere that can match it. The beauty of the country is that it’s also rather sparsely populated, even the capital, Oslo, is home to just 573,388 people (there are 7,355,400 in London). It’s a long way for anyone coming from the USA but if you’re heading over to visit Europe then I’d certainly think strongly about going. English is pretty much a second language in Norway, so any American visiting should do just fine on that front.

Of course, there’s more to Norway than ‘just’ the fjords. The country is known as the Land of the Midnight Sun and areas to the north inside the arctic circle experience periods of perpetual darkness and light throughout the year. It’s also a great place to see the northern lights, much like Greenland that I blogged about earlier. For a true arctic experience you could also head out to Svalbard, an archipelago to the north of mainland Norway. From here you can go on skiing trips, snowmobile safaris and dog sledging trips. It’s also a fantastic place to see arctic wildlife such as polar bears and walruses. And if camping remember fire guards.

Hopefully with these two examples of winter climates I’ve shown that not every holiday must be in the scorching heat, there’s a lot of our planet to see and much of it is in the polar regions. The great thing about these places is that with their low populations they remain largely unspoiled by human inhabitation and are some of the last places you can go that haven’t been ruined.

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