The Polar Regions lack the sand beaches of other regions, with coastal areas largely covered by ice licks, ice cliffs and ice sheets year-round. There is, however, a number of islands surrounding Antarctica, with some hosting research stations and receiving tourists in the summer months.
The North Pole lies close to the Canadian Arctic Islands, most of which form part of Nunavut province and are accessible in the summer months, if not year round. Here visitors can take in abundant wildlife including polar bears, seals, Arctic fox and an outstanding array of birdlife. The Russian Arctic Islands are also home to wildlife, but these little explored islands are largely not open to tourists.
Canadian Arctic Islands, Canada: A number of Canada’s 35,000 plus Arctic Islands lie close to the North Magnetic Pole including Ellesmere Island, Baffin Island, Victoria Island, Lougheed Island, Ellef Rignes Island and Melville Island in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. These isolated islands that receive few visitors house weather research stations.
Balleny Islands, Antarctica: This chain of mostly volcanic islands extends for roughly 100 miles and includes the islands of Young, Sturge and Buckle. Largely glaciated, the islands were first discovered in 1839.
Ross Island, Antarctica: Three volcanoes form this 1,530 square mile island that sits off the coast of Victoria Land in Antarctica. The island was used as a base by early expeditions to Antarctica, and the huts of Robert Scott’s expedition still stand here, today preserved as a historical site. Scott Base, Antarctica’s largest settlement, is situated on the island and inhabited by mostly New Zealanders.
South Orkney Islands: Administered as part of British Antarctic Territory yet also claimed by Argentina, the South Orkney Islands were discovered in 1881 by sealers. The archipelago houses an Argentinean-run meteorological station that is continuously staffed.
South Shetland Islands: Lying 75 miles north of Antarctica, the South Shetland Islands are claimed by both Argentina and Britain. Popular among whalers and sealers in the 19th and 20th centuries, the islands today house a number of research stations operated by different countries and are popular among tourists during the summer season, when temperatures hover around 1°C. Visitors can access the island by air via the Chilean-run airfield situated on King George Island.
Russian Arctic Islands, Russia: Hundreds of islands sit in Russia’s Arctic territory, almost all of which are uninhabited and little explored. Among the islands are the New Siberian Islands, Ayon Island, Franz Josef Land and Wrangel Island.
Deception Island, Antarctica: A popular stop on expeditions to Antarctica, Deception Island has both historical and natural attractions in the form of a chinstrap penguin colony at Baily Head, the protected remains of an early 20th century whaling station at Whaler’s Bay and appealing hot springs at Pendulum Cove.
Paulet Island, Antarctica: Stop off at the remains of an expedition hut once used by the Nordenskjold expedition on your way to the highest point of the island for wonderful views of the surroundings. Also not to be missed is the Adelie penguin colony.