The Arctic Circle is located at the top of the Earth and is an impressive place to adventure if you love scenic landscapes and winter activities. If you cherish exploring untouched wilderness landscapes, the Arctic is full of icy terrain, massive glaciers, and wide open spaces.
Around mid-June, there is approximately one day or more when the sun remains continuously above the horizon, and there’s a time around mid-December when the sun does not rise for a day or more.
The average temperatures in the Arctic Circle vary depending on the location and the time of year. However, average temperatures are usually around -30 degrees Fahrenheit or lower in winter. Summer temperatures range from 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Arctic Circle is the most northern circle of latitude on Earth. It’s located at about 66 degrees 30 feet north. Countries included in the Arctic Circle include Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the United States (parts of Alaska), Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), and Iceland.
Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, is a small village about 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Jukkasjärvi is known for its stunning display of the Aurora Borealis, its rich Sami cultural heritage, and its breathtaking Arctic wilderness that offers a range of outdoor activities.
Visitors often come to experience the breathtaking Northern Lights and partake in winter activities such as dog sledding and snowmobiling through the pristine wilderness. Summer offers the midnight sun, river rafting on the Torne River, and a chance to learn about the indigenous Sami culture. Jukkasjärvi is also famous for its ICEHOTEL, which is sculpted from ice blocks each winter.
December offers a classic winter experience featuring temperatures ranging from 8 to 18°F. For those who want to avoid the deepest cold but still enjoy the unique offerings of Jukkasjärvi, the shoulder seasons of mid-April to May and September to mid-October might be ideal.
Known as the “Gateway to the Arctic,” Tromsø, Norway, is the perfect destination for explorers looking to start their Arctic adventures and is about 220 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Many people venture to Tromsø for hunting, fishing, and seeing the Northern Lights.
Whether you prefer taking in scenic views from Mount Storsteinen via cable car or exploring the stunning Arctic Cathedral, Tromsø offers a wealth of attractions during the winter months, including Northern Lights, dog sledding through snowy landscapes, and whale watching in the fjords.
One of the best times to visit Tromsø is during the autumn months of September and October. This is a great time to catch the Northern Lights without the extremely negative temperatures that come in the dead of winter. The temperature usually ranges from the mid-30s to low 50s °F, but be sure to pack your rain jacket as there is considerable rainfall during this period.
Arguably, one of the most famous Arctic Circle destinations is the capital city of Reykjavík, Iceland, which is situated about 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle. It has risen in popularity over the years mainly because of its beautiful Northern Lights, abundance of museums, and lively nightlife.
Some of the best winter activities to try while visiting Reykjavík include skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and glacier hiking. After you have finished a morning of adventures, there is no better way to relax and take in the extraordinary scenery than by relaxing in the nearby geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon.
If you are looking for the best time to visit Iceland during the winter months to enjoy winter sports and activities, February is a great time to explore Reykjavík. It offers excellent opportunities to witness the enchanting Northern Lights, and the Winter Festival of Lights typically occurs during this month. Anticipate temperatures ranging from the upper 20s to the upper 30s °F during this period.
Rovaniemi, Finland, the official home of Santa Claus, is a remarkable city located about 5 miles south of the Arctic Circle. It is famous for its Santa Claus Village, where visitors can visit Santa every day of the year. This festive village is full of shops, restaurants, cafes, and activities for everyone to enjoy. Experience the most popular adventures, such as dog sledding and reindeer rides. For a more exhilarating option, consider opting for a snowmobile tour.
The ideal time for a Rovaniemi visit is in December, with its iconic Santa Claus village and the opportunity to meet Santa himself during the prime Christmas season. Despite being the busiest time to visit, the magical atmosphere makes it worthwhile. Make sure to dress warmly; with temperatures ranging from 10 to 25°F, you will want to stay toasty while exploring this picturesque holiday town.
Fairbanks, Alaska’s second-largest city, is known for its stunning Northern Lights displays. The city is a captivating destination for those seeking unspoiled natural beauty within the United States and is about 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle.
Known as the Golden Heart of Alaska, Fairbanks has a deep history tied to the gold rush and has an immense Native American culture. It’s an excellent choice for U.S. citizens looking to see the Northern Lights without traveling to another country. It is also a gateway for visitors who journey to Denali National Park.
In the winter, indulge in dog sledding, Aurora viewing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. If you would like to learn more about the Native American culture, check out the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center, where you can discover more about Alaska’s cultural roots.
The prime time to visit is during November for great views of the Northern Lights and to catch some good fish while ice fishing. The weather typically ranges from -5 to 10°F, so pack plenty of warm layers.
Yellowknife is the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories and is located about 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle. This old mining city is popular for its Northern Lights and indigenous culture. During the winter, there are a handful of winter activities to embark on besides viewing the vibrant Northern Lights, including ice fishing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and snow tubing. Visiting the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is a must for those interested in indigenous culture.
The optimal time to explore Yellowknife for winter activities is in November, offering the opportunity to witness the beautiful Northern Lights and experience relatively mild weather, with temperatures usually between 5 and 20°F.
Nuuk is the capital of Greenland and is famous for its brightly painted houses on the waterfront. It’s situated about 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle. This small city is known for its beautiful waterfalls, Inuit culture, icebergs, and outdoor adventure. Some of the best winter activities to embark on include snowshoeing, viewing the Northern Lights, and glacier hiking.
The best time to visit for winter activities and aurora sightings are late September and November. Within this period, the temperatures generally range from the upper 20s to the mid-40s°F.
The large city of Murmansk is famous for being a starting point for many Arctic adventures, with numerous fishing journeys setting sail from here. This city is 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle and is popular for its gorgeous Northern Lights displays, and January is one of the best months to witness them.
January is a fantastic time to visit Murmansk, not only because of the Northern Lights but also because of the Snegoled Festival. This incredible celebration is centered around massive and intricate ice sculptures and is a must-see event when visiting during the winter season. During this timeframe, you can expect temperatures to range between 10 and 20°F.
Beyond experiencing the Northern Lights and the ice sculpture festival, visitors can participate in snow tubing and skiing activities. Another popular attraction to check out while visiting the area is the Lenin Icebreaker.
Your Arctic Vacation Awaits
Vacationing in or near the Arctic Circle offers an escape into a world of stark, haunting beauty where the sun barely rises in the deep winter. It’s a place where the aurora borealis dances across star-filled skies, and the landscape is a sprawling canvas of ice, snow, and rugged mountains. The Arctic Circle is not just a destination; it’s an adventure into some of the planet’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders, a test of the human spirit against the elements, and an unforgettable journey into the wild.
Abby and Sam Price are the founders and storytellers behind Trekking Prices, a couple's travel and outdoor adventure blog. They are passionate about sharing their travels, tips, and recommendations with others.