Arctic vs Antarctica

The Arctic and Antarctic both conjure up images of cold, icy, and far-flung lands but what’s the difference? How can you tell the two poles apart? Where are the penguins? What about the bears? 10 important differences to help you choose the pole for you!

1. The Arctic is sea surrounded by land (Greenland, and northern parts of Alaska, Canada, Norway and Russia) whereas Antarctica is land surrounded by sea.

2. Antarctica has a flagpole!  When you reach the South Pole, head for the red and white striped barber pole, surrounded by 12 flags representing the original Antarctic Treaty signatories. Interestingly, the pole moves 10 metres every year!

3. There’s more to the Arctic than ice – its mountains, rivers, forest, rolling hills and huge stretches of tundra support human habitation. In Antarctica, it’s all about ice! The Arctic still has icebergs but, you guessed it – the icebergs are better in Antarctica!

4. In the Arctic, you get to see Polar Bears, Walrus, Puffins and Beluga Whales. Antarctica is home to Elephant and Leopard Seals, Albatross, Penguins, Humpback and Minke Whales.

5. In the Arctic, you’ll be walking over frozen sea ice, directly below you is the Arctic Ocean! South Pole expeditions operate on ice but usually there’s land beneath it.

6. Antarctica is a little bit chillier than the Arctic but most people will plan their expeditions for the warmer summer and the dryness also makes it easier to handle the cold.

7. Keen on outdoor activities? You can sea-kayak in both the Arctic and Antarctic, but cruise-lines offer more opportunities for camping, cross-country skiing and mountaineering in Antarctica.

8. The Arctic has many large land animals including reindeer, musk ox, lemmings, arctic hares, arctic terns, snowy owls, squirrels, arctic fox and polar bears. The largest land animal in the Antarctic is an insect, a wingless midge.

9. The Inuit people call the Arctic home. In Antarctica, there are no native people living there, just a few permanent and seasonal scientific research bases.

10. There’s a chance of seeing the Northern Lights in the Arctic spring.  There are Southern Lights in Antarctica, but mostly in winter – you don’t want to be there!

No matter which pole you choose, both offer adventures into the great outdoors where the spectacular nature and wildlife are truly awe-inspiring.

Click here for our Antarctica expeditions.

Visit our website for our European Arctic expeditions and Canadian Arctic expeditions.

A man looking at the northern lights over Reine, Lofoten islands, Norway