Now that’s a great question! Polar bears are an enigma of the great north, a symbol of raw power, unbearably cute, and now the poster-child of climate change. Experiencing the rush of seeing a polar bear in the wild is one of life’s greatest thrills, and it may not be something our descendants get to do. And there are several places where you can go and experience the world’s largest land predator for yourself! Before I go further, the places I’m about to list are the ones where you stand a very good chance of actually seeing a polar bear. There are many more places where polar bears may live but it can be very hard to actually see them!
In North America, your best bet is to head to Churchill, Manitoba. This crazy little northern community is actually nicknamed ‘Polar Bear Capital of the World’. It is no exaggeration to say that polar bears actually do walk through the streets, especially during the polar bear season in October and November every year. Polar bear tourism in Churchill is well established, so you can choose your own adventure: anything from staying a few nights in town and taking a day tour or two in specially designed tundra vehicles (picture a giant bus crossed with a monster truck, made comfortable!), all the way to spending a week out in a remote lodge and going on foot, with a highly trained guide of course, to see polar bears. No matter which trip you choose, Churchill offers you probably the best chances in the world for seeing polar bears up close and personal.
If Churchill isn’t for you, then maybe you’ll prefer the wild ruggedness of Alaska. Polar bears are certainly found in Alaska, specifically in the Kaktovik region, and so are black bears and brown/grizzly bears. This means a polar bear vacation in Alaska could mean you get to see all three North American bear species in one trip! Alaska is more off-the-beaten-track than Churchill as far as polar bear viewing is concerned, so it could be perfect for you if you are a more adventurous traveller. In addition to bears, you’ll find chances to see Northern Lights, bathe in natural hot springs, and maybe even see moose and caribou too.
Feel like heading across the pond to see your polar bears? In my mind, there is one destination that stands out most as the best European polar bear destination: the island of Svalbard, Norway. Polar bear viewing here will be different as the trips are normally based out of expedition-style cruise ships. This means that your viewing may be a bit more distant, however the rich diversity of Arctic life that can be experienced on these cruises is second to none! Trained naturalists generally accompany these tours, shedding light on all that you see, and making a cruise round Norway’s polar regions an unforgettable experience.
So there you have it, my three favourite places in the world to view polar bears. The only thing you need to do now is decide which one is best for you and be on your way to an epic polar bear adventure!