Hiking in the Arctic and Antarctica

There really is no better way to take in a new place than by exploring it on foot. With that in mind Oceanwide Expeditions offers you the chance to explore your way inland from the Polar shorelines with a wide variety of treks and hiking expeditions built for everyone. From the casual explorer to the hard-core hiker.

Do I need to be experienced? How physically fit do I need to be?

For the basic walks you just need to be in reasonably good shape and health. The hikes last usually somewhere between 2 and 6 hours. Keep in mind that there are no paths and that you will be travelling over fairly rugged terrain and will be taking on some hills. There are usually 1 to 3 different types of walks offered (except in the case of our sailing vessel the Noorderlicht) per landing ranging from a casual stroll to a challenging hike. In the Antarctic the longest hike takes about 2 hours while in the Arctic the longest hike can last a full day (we send you off with a packed lunch).

We do reserve the right to suggest that a passenger try another activity if it seems like they will not be able to enjoy a particular hike. This is done partly for the enjoyment of the other passengers and partly for safety concerns – if there is a health incident there is no help beyond basic first aid in the vicinity. Our experienced guides will be able to recommend a particular hike to you based on your fitness level. If you have any questions at all about your health or skills please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us, we’d be more than happy to help you sort out your concerns.


You  want to bring clothing that is suitable for the changeable weather of the Polar Regions. Layers are your friend – you’re going to get hot as you work your way around the tundra and you’ll want to be able to shed a layer or two without losing a big percentage of your elemental protection. With that in mind we suggest:

  • Hiking/walking poles.
  • A backpack (25 litres is a good size).
  • Rubber boots that are high enough to get you from the Zodiac to the shore and have a good gripping sole for the shore landings and walks. (Boots are provided on the Plancius and Ortelius, not on the Rembrandt van Rijn and Noorderlicht).
  • A waterproof bag (especially for cameras) – you’re likely to get splashed during the Zodiac ride from the ship to the shore.
  • Straps for tying snowshoes onto your back or backpack.
  • Ankle-high sturdy hiking boots for the actual treks (you can use your rubber boots as hiking boots as well).
  • You might want gaiters (knee-high waterproof protection) to keep your lower legs dry while hiking.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Sunblock.
  • Thin under-socks (to stop blistering) and thick over-socks. (Bring some dry spares as well.)
  • A 1-litre water-bottle.
  • Thermal under-gloves (fleece finger gloves) and warm outer-gloves or mittens (you might want a spare set of these as well).
  • A turtle-neck or neck gaiter.
  • A urine-collection bottle (regulations forbid leaving human waste behind in the Antarctic). Try looking for something like a wide-opening Nalgene bottle (they sell specialised versions for ladies at outdoor shops).
  • Thermal underwear.
  • A fleece jacket or vest.
  • A down jacket or spare fleece jacket.
  • A breathable (e.g. Gore-Tex) jacket and trousers.
  • Trekking trousers.
  • A warm fleece hat.
  • You might also want to bring along binoculars, and a Thermos bottle.

Don’t bring regular cotton clothing like t-shirts or jeans if you can avoid it because if it gets wet (either from outside moisture or sweat) it will stay wet – not a good thing in a cold environment.

Do the hiking activities cost more?

No, they are covered in the cost of your cruise with us.  

Are the hikes safe?

Generally speaking, the hikes are as safe as hikes anywhere else that involves rugged terrain and hills. You will, however, be facing the cold of the Polar Regions. Every hike group is accompanied by a specialist guide. In the Arctic, especially around Svalbard, your group’s guide will be carrying a rifle due to the possible threat of polar bears.All of the walks are in areas that are outside of glaciated terrain. Treks inside these glaciated areas bring people into contact with crevasses and are therefore considered mountaineering. These mountaineering trips are always accompanied by at least one UIAGM-certified mountain guide.

Hiking in the Antarctic

We should make a special note regarding the Antarctic hikes in that the hiking options are more limited than the Arctic thanks to the terrain. There are however plenty of hiking opportunities on the nearby islands in the Weddell Sea, on the South Shetland Islands, and on South Georgia Island. On South Georgia one has the chance to trace the final section of the explorer Shackleton’s famous walk.

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