Antarctica has been preserved as a nature reserve under the successful Antarctic Treaty since its inception in 1964. Here visitors with special permits can visit 20 Specially Protected Areas and two Sites of Specific Scientific Interest as well as three seal reserves.
The North Pole is essentially a mass sheet of ice and therefore not protected under the jurisdiction of any single country. There are, however, some national parks in the land areas closest to the North Pole, in the Arctic region, with highlights including Greenland’s vast Northeast Greenland National Park and Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park.
Special Conservation Area, Antarctica: The entire Antarctica region was designated as a Special Conservation Area in 1964 by the Antarctic Treaty Parties. Within the area are 20 Specially Protected Areas and two Sites of Specific Scientific Interest. Permits are required for entry to these protected areas, most of which are situated along the continent’s coast.
Seal reserves, Antarctica: There are three designated seal reserves in Antarctica, all of which require visitors to have a permit. One seal reserve is located in the South Orkney Islands; another area is situated in the southwestern Ross Sea, while there is also a seal reserve at Edisto Inlet.
Ellesmere Island National Park – Nunavut, Canada: Canada’s most northerly national park is a haven for wildlife such as polar bears, Arctic wolves, musk ox, caribou and walrus as well as dozens of species of migratory birds. The park can be reached from Resolute Bay.
Northeast Greenland National Park, Greenland (Denmark): The most northerly national park in the world, Northeast Greenland National Park, was designated as an international biosphere reserve in 1977 and is virtually uninhabited by humans. Polar bears and walrus can be seen here, as can musk ox, reindeer and Arctic hare.
Gates of the Arctic National Park – Alaska, United States: Situated in the Arctic Circle, this scenic part encompasses vast areas of the Brooks Range and is a large as Switzerland. Trekkers can wander for days to take in the wilderness, stopping at any on of the 10 small community settlements that are located within the park. Devoid of trekking facilities, trekkers need to bring all equipment with them.
Quttinirpaaq National Park – Nunavut, Canada: The most northern national park in Canada sits on Ellesmere Island and ranks as the world’s second most northerly national park after Greenland’s Northeast Greenland National Park. The polar desert landscape features ice and rock, offering perfect trekking terrain, and the province’s highest peak, Barbeau (2,616m).
Urho Kekkonen National Park - Lapland, Finland: One of Finland’s largest protected areas, Urho Kekkonen National Park was established in the 1980s and offers easy Arctic trekking. Visitors can see the long-held tradition of reindeer herding in this winter wonderland.