Here's How You Can Literally Travel to the North Pole, If You've Ever Been Curious

It ain’t just a magical flying sled away, alas.

Santa Claus makes a lot of bold claims: He has a sleigh that can fly and a magical bag of full of infinite gifts. He knows the naughty/nice status of all children on Earth. He can reach every chimney across the globe in the span of one nightfall. 

But as professional travel journalists, we’re here to tell you that Santa makes no allegation more ludicrous than saying he lives at the North Pole, because — trust us — that place is pretty effing hard to get to.

Technically speaking, the “True” North Pole is nothing more than the northernmost point on Earth, and, in fact, is just a spot in the Arctic Ocean with no land to be claimed. (Explain that, Santa!) Sometimes there’s ice, but it’s just passing through, and in fact, the nearest solid land is a whopping 430 miles away at Kaffeklubben Island (off Greenland).

Is that to say that you can’t actually ever truly get to the North Pole? Of course not! Don’t you know you can do literally anything if you just believe in yourself and have unlimited disposable funds and zero life obligations? Yeah, man! The world is wild.

Anyway, since the North Pole is really just a geographic point in the water and sometimes a floating piece of ice, you can’t exactly go onto Kayak.com and just be like “JFK --> North Pole.” Instead, you will have to book a whole expedition, and it will probably look something like this:

  1. Book a flight to Longyearbyen, Norway. It’s an Arctic village with a specialty tourism industry, specifically catering to North Pole adventurers.
  2. NOTE: A cursory search shows this to be a 2-day, 3-leg flight that goes from NYC to Reykjavik to Oslo to Longyearbyen, and will cost you about $1,900 on Icelandair.
  3. From Longyearbyen, charter a 2.5-hour flight to the floating Barneo Ice Station, which ranges from 20 to 60 miles south of the North Pole. 
  4. From Barneo Ice Station, you’ll take a half-hour helicopter ride to the North Pole. Since the Pole’s status is unpredictable, you may wind up just staring at a spot in the ocean from a helicopter — or landing on a bank of ice in the Polar Sea.
  5. You’ll then return to Barneo (or Longyearbyen, depending on your expedition), and that is most likely where you will celebrate your voyage over 0° with appropriately-chilly champagne and “polar gifts” (whatever those are…hopefully bears?).

Obviously there are many variables depending on which expedition company you choose and what itinerary you sign up for. But it looks like the average price for a North Pole expedition begins at around $25,000 (not including your flight to Longyearbyen).

Another option? Book a trip on a Russian “icebreaker” which is essentially a cruise ship that chugs up through the ice until you reach True North. All you have to do is pay your own way to Helsinki, Finland (about $500 from NYC), and then you’ll be chartered to Murmansk, Russia, which is the point of departure. These cruises start around $26,000 and last about a week — and you’ll sail right up to the North Pole and then float around on it. Victory!

Now listen, if neither of those options are delivering the deeply icy experience you thought you'd be having, there is an alternative: traveling to the “Magnetic” North Pole, which is where your compass points. Although it’s not “true” 0°, it is still a frozen Arctic wilderness, and will probably fulfill whatever Pole-shaped hole is in your adventurer’s heart.

You can reach Magnetic North by signing up for a guided tour or booking a race — and either way, you’ll be traveling “overland,” meaning you ski or sled through the Arctic while basically camping on glaciers. These treks vary from 300 miles to 500 miles and are exceptionally physically and mentally grueling. But hey, at least they will only cost you $35,000!

Now, if all of that sounds a little too much like living The Revenant, you can always just say eff it and travel to North Pole, Alaska, a small town in Fairbanks that is decorated in candy canes. It's a lot easier to get to, perpetually festive, and honestly probably where Santa Claus actually lives. Merry Christmas!

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