Four spellbinding Arctic adventures

Northern Lights in Iceland
The ethereal beauty of the Northern Lights – just one of Iceland’s many attractions

On board the strongest ice-breaking vessel in the world, the 50 Years of Victory, the “sound of two-metre-thick ice collapsing is almost otherworldly”, says Debbie Pappyn in The Daily Telegraph. In the winter the vessel guides cargo ships through the frozen Northwest Passage, but in the summer it takes 100 passengers on a “mind-blowing journey” to the North Pole.

Tourists depart from the Russian port of Murmansk and sail towards Franz Joseph Land, “the kingdom of the polar bear and the land of silence and endless white”. The ship’s “warm and cosy” interiors hark from the 1980s and are “crammed with memorabilia” and feature portraits of the “never-smiling captain” and Russian president Vladimir Putin. Two days after leaving, Pappyn’s group reaches 90 degrees north and “in true Russian style, we celebrate our arrival with vodka”. After setting foot on top of the world, she warms up with “steaming wine and schnapps while the crew sets up a barbecue on the ice”. The sun comes out, the wind picks up, clouds arrive, then it starts snowing. It’s “quite normal to experience four seasons in one hour”.

Over the Icelandic snow

For a road trip with a difference, spend a few days driving across Iceland in an Arctic truck, says Carlton Boyce in the i newspaper. These “imposing red 4x4s” will carry you smoothly, if slowly, across the thick snow. Boyce’s first night is spent in a wooden camping shelter after eating charcoal-cooked lamb with a “tarragon-infused Béarnaise sauce and sips of aquavit”. The next morning hot, strong coffee is served for breakfast and the day is spent playing with the cars on a “vast snow-covered mountain”. Boyce and his team nosed their way through rivers and deep snow “before ploughing, quite literally, our way to the top of a mountain pass”. The second night was spent in “sophisticated wooden chalets in Minniborgir”, followed by hours in the hot tubs that sit outside each house.

King crab, 7D ice hotel, Norway

Frozen fjords and soaring eagles

If you’d rather keep your feet on solid ground, surrounded by frozen fjords and soaring eagles, try a stay at the 7D ice hotel in Kirkenes, northern Norway, says the Daily Mirror. Each of the 20 rooms is decorated with snow carvings, ice sculptures and ice beds. No matter what the temperature is outdoors, the hotel never falls below -4C. For visitors who prefer heat there are log cabins inspired by the indigenous Sami people, with heated flooring and panoramic windows – “perfect for trying to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights”.

The hotel offers activities such as snowmobiling, hiking, king crab fishing and husky sled rides, followed by the chance to dine on “reindeer and potatoes, washed down with fruity shots of crowberry”, then nights of “peaceful silence”.

Extreme dining in Lapland

Gourmets with a taste for the cold and the wild should head to Swedish Lapland, “one of the most extreme places on earth”, says Kate Proctor in the Evening Standard. “Food here is the opposite of fast-food culture and mass production,” says her guide Anders Bergwall, Sweden’s answer to Bear Grylls.

He makes a seven-course menu with roe, reindeer and cloudberries, and ends it with local cheese dunked in the after-dinner coffee. Other visitors stay in Lapland to spend a night at the famous Ice Hotel 365, where the tasting menu, served on blocks of ice, includes salmon and soy jelly, char with moss and slow-cooked elk. The meal is washed down with Islager, a beer made from the same Torne River ice as the hotel itself.

Luxury at the Blue Lagoon

Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is getting its first luxury hotel. The man-made geothermal spa, which sits in the middle of a lava field on the Reykjanes peninsula, is one of the country’s most popular attractions. Celebrity visitors who have popped by for a soak include everyone from Jay Z and Beyoncé to Justin Bieber. The result is “it’s crowded”, says Betsy Blumenthal in Condé Nast Traveller. So the Lava Cove and Moss Hotel will open on the south-west side of the lagoon this autumn.

The four-part complex will offer a private swimming hole, a subterranean spa, a luxury hotel and a restaurant “where guests can sample the local cuisine over a seven-course chef’s tasting menu”. The compound will be sustainable, powered by clean geothermal energy. The aim is to offer an intimate way to experience the wonders of the Blue Lagoon so there’s “no need to fight over selfie space”.