Polar landscapes

This article explains the difference when it comes to Antarctica vs Arctic.

Comparing these opposites might help you decide which icy wonderland to venture to next or at least answer some questions you might have.

Antarctica vs Arctic – Where are they located?

Nestled at the bottom of the world, Antarctica is a vast, icy continent situated at the geographic South Pole. It is entirely surrounded by the Southern Ocean. 

It’s a place of extremes, boasting the coldest temperatures on Earth and surreal landscapes of ice and snow. The continent is located almost entirely within the Antarctic Circle.

In contrast, the Arctic is a polar region located in the northernmost part of our planet. 

It spans the Arctic Ocean and includes parts of Russia, Canada, Greenland, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. 

Continent vs Territory 

This is one of the key differences when comparing Antarctica vs Arctic. The Arctic is not a continent like Antarctica but a region defined by the Arctic Circle.

On the other hand, Antarctica is a continent, and it might be, for many visitors, the last one out of the seven continents to visit.

Is There Anything But Ice?

Antarctica vs Arctic landscapes

Well, let me simplify this. Regarding landscapes and sceneries, the Arctic is definitely not just snow!

Antarctica’s scenery is a study in contrasts, with towering ice cliffs, expansive ice shelves, and vast, desolate plains of snow. The landscape is dominated by massive glaciers and even the iconic Transantarctic Mountains, creating a pristine and surreal environment.

The Arctic, on the other hand, is characterised by a more dynamic landscape. It features a mix of frozen sea ice, tundra (barren Arctic land), and boreal forests.

Visitors can witness the mesmerising Northern Lights or Midnight sun, explore fjords, and marvel at the rugged beauty of Arctic coastlines. 


Antarctica vs Arctic wildlife penguin and polar bear

Ok, first of all, there are no polar bears in Antarctica. And there are no penguins in the Arctic. These are important facts when comparing wildlife in Antarctica vs the Arctic.

But let me explain more. 

Antarctica is a wildlife enthusiast’s paradise, home to thriving colonies of penguins, seals, and seabirds. The nutrient-rich Southern Ocean surrounding the continent also supports a diverse marine ecosystem, with whales and various species of fish calling these icy waters home.

The Arctic is equally rich in biodiversity, with polar bears, Arctic foxes, reindeer, and various seal species inhabiting the region.

The Arctic Ocean teems with life, including narwhals, beluga whales, and countless seabirds. 

The Best Time To Visit

Antarctica vs Arctic tourists

The Antarctic summer, from November to March, offers the best conditions for exploration, with milder temperatures and longer days. This is when wildlife is most active, and the iconic penguin chicks hatch.

And unless you’re a researcher, this is the only time you will visit Antarctica on a commercial cruise.

The Arctic experiences distinct seasons, with summer (June to September) being the prime time to visit. During this period, the ice retreats, and wildlife, including polar bears, is active. 

The Arctic summer also provides an opportunity to witness the Midnight Sun.

Indigenous People

Antarctica vs Arctic Native People

Antarctica has no permanent human residents and is governed by the Antarctic Treaty System, which dedicates the continent to scientific research and prohibits military activity.

While certain countries in the past have claimed parts of Antarctica, according to this treaty, the continent doesn’t belong to anyone. 

The Arctic is home to indigenous communities, such as the Inuit, Saami, and Nenets. Each has a very unique culture deeply connected to the Arctic environment.

Respecting and understanding these indigenous communities is crucial when visiting the Arctic region.

Who Owns It?

Antarctica vs Arctic Flags

Governance in Antarctica is guided by the Antarctic Treaty System, signed by numerous countries. This international agreement aims to preserve the continent for scientific research and environmental protection. So, in practice, all research teams share information, and Antarctica is not part of any country. 

The Arctic, with its diverse regions falling under the jurisdiction of different countries (such as Norway, Russia, Canada and a few more), is governed by national laws and international agreements.

The Arctic Council plays a crucial role in facilitating cooperation among Arctic nations. 

When choosing between Antarctica and the Arctic, one must consider the icy landscapes and wildlife and the best time to visit each region.

Whether you’re drawn to Antarctica’s pristine isolation or the Arctic’s dynamic beauty, both polar paradises promise unforgettable adventures, each with its own story to tell. And now you know the few differences between Antarctica and the Arctic.

I visited the Antarctica Peninsula on this 9-night cruise in December 2023, and it was an unforgettable trip!

Our ship for this Polar adventure was fantastic and now I’m inspired to book this 12 Day North Atlantic Expedition to explore the Arctic, travelling on the same vessel.

Want to explore all of your options for trips to the Arctic and Antarctica? Choose from these cruises to Antarctica or these Arctic Expeditions with Viva Expeditions. Quote this code: VIPNOMADS to your Polar Specialist when reserving your trip and get an extra 5% discount!

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