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Ecotourism in the Arctic - The Cold Deserts

Being one of the largest and last remaining continuous wilderness regions in the world today, the Arctic is a luring ecotourism destination. Ecotourism in the Arctic must be a remarkable experience given its pristine and untouched nature. To the south you'll find lakes, rivers and forests. The farther up north you go, you'll find magnificent glaciers forming atop mountains. At 12,139 feet is Mount Gunnbjorn, Greenland and the northern Arctic circle's highest mountain. The Arctic region comprises parts of Canada, Greenland, Russia, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Alaska (a US state), covering approximately one sixth of the planet's landmass.

Ecotourism in the Arctic is a great way of conserving this unique biome as it provides us with important goods and services. It provides food and fibre to communities in nearby regions; regulates our climate by impacting water and energy exchanges with the atmosphere; and dictates the input of freshwater into Arctic Ocean.

Interesting facts:
- The word Arctic is derived from a well-known northern sky constellation called Ursa Major which in Greek means the "great bear"
- 80% of the Arctic is governed by Canada and Russia
- There's almost 24 hours of sun during the summer and 24 hours of dark during the winter
- The extraction of mineral resources and petroleum contribute significantly to the region's economy
- 1/10 of the world's oil and 1/4 of its natural gas come from the region
- The Arctic sea ice has been shrinking at an average 10% per decade

Wildlife in the Arctic is one of the reasons ecotourism is becoming so popular in these ice cold areas. Be prepared to make the highlight of your ecotourism trip by viewing animals such as Arctic wolves, wolverines, caribou, polar bears and whales - all of which are popular ecotourism attractions. Appreciating indigenous cultures, such as the Inuits (Canada) and Saami (Finland), is also bound to make your ecotourism experience one to remember.

There are many other activities to engage in that can make your ecotourism experience worth the cold. Regardless of your preferences, there's an ecotourism activity for everyone. Take your pick from cross country skiing, sledding, sea kayaking, cruise ships or viewing the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights.

The conditions are harsh, so you don't want what started out as an ecotourism adventure to end up as bad advertising for ecotourism in the area. Keep these tips in mind before you take on a memorable ecotourism trip:

- Make sure you plan your ecotourism trip with credible tour operators and guides
- Bring sunscreen, sunglasses and lip balm
- Mosquito repellent if you're going in the summer
- A backpack that is light and waterproof
- Thermal and waterproof clothing, as well as rubber boots
- Have a camera and binoculars handy
- Dress warm...obviously!

Here are a few places you should consider visiting for your ecotourism trip up north:

- The National Arctic Wildlife Refuge, Alaska
- Anchorage, Alaska
- Churchill, Manitoba, Canada
- Whale River, Quebec, Canada
- Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet, Baffin Island, Canada
- Greenland, Canada
- Kautokeino, Finland
- Jukkasjaervi, Sweden

Click here for tips on what you can do and see while you're on your ecotourism trip. You can also click here and here for more information on Arctic traveling.

Coming up next....Marine Ecotourism!