Enchanted with reindeer? Here are the best places to fulfill your Rudolph dreams!
The reindeer is one of nature’s most stunning creatures, with impressive antlers and thick, glossy hair that allows them to move swiftly and easily even in the heaviest snow. Although they can’t fly like how we used to imagine them, reindeer are still as magical as we saw them in our childhood books.
The term reindeer is derived from the Old Norse word “hreinin”, which means “horned animal.” However, they are also known as caribou. Caribou is most likely derived from the Mi’kmaq word “xalibu,” which means “the one who paws.”
A common myth about these animals is that antlers are exclusively found on male reindeer. Each year, both sexes acquire a fresh pair of horns, with males shedding in early December and females shedding in late winter or early spring. As a result, many zoologists believe the herd carrying Santa’s sleigh is entirely female!
In Europe, these magnificent creatures are known as reindeer, but in North America, they are known as caribou. But, regardless of where you are or what you call them, reindeer are fascinating creatures.
Here are the best places where you can see reindeer:
The indigenous Sami people have long lived alongside reindeer in the northern Swedish province of Lapland, and the animals play an important role in their culture and lifestyle. In places like Jokkmokk and Boden, you can see reindeer in the wild and learn about Sami culture by eating a traditional Sami meal that includes reindeer meat.
Cairngorms Reindeer Centre, Scotland
There is just one herd of free-roaming reindeer in the United Kingdom, and it may be found in Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park. The last wild British reindeer was recorded roughly 800 years ago, and this herd was reintroduced to the country in 1952.
The herd has 150 members and is divided between the Cairngorm Mountains and the Glenlivet Estate, and it can be visited as part of a two-hour trek to the foothills with herders to assist with feeding time.
Tromso And Northern Norway
For millennia, the Sami people of Norway have worked and lived with reindeer. As a result, there are several places in northern Norway where you may view wild reindeer. For example, at the Tromso Arctic Reindeer Experience in Tromso, you may feed reindeer, sled reindeer, and have a traditional Sami supper inside a traditional house.
If you want a more hands-off and cozy reindeer encounter, travel to Viewpoint Snohetta, a protected observation platform where guests may see the sole remaining reindeer herd derived straight from Europe’s original mountain reindeer.
Alaska, United States
Caribou herds may be seen all around Alaska, but one of the finest spots to watch them is at the Large Animal Research Station south of Fairbanks, where they hang out with muskoxen.
Guests may take 45-minute tours of the Station to visit the animals and learn more about them. Unfortunately, woodland caribou are essentially extinct in the lower 48 states, with only three “grey ghosts” remaining in Idaho and Washington.
Denali National Park, where over 3,000 caribou wander, is one animal sighting area worth visiting in Alaska. This national park, if nothing else, provides extremely spectacular vistas.
The Kenai Peninsula and routes north of Fairbanks top the list of must-sees for caribou hunters, according to Alaska’s government website.
Except for the Maritimes, caribou may be found in every province and territory in Canada. However, they are most common in Yukon, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and Manitoba. The huge herds of Qamanirjuaq, Cape Churchill, and Pen Island may be found in Manitoba.
Caribou sightings are frequently combined with polar bear safaris departing from Churchill, Manitoba, and you may spot smaller species such as foxes, weasels, and owls in addition to the large ones.
Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia
The isolated peninsula of Kamchatka is one of the greatest spots in Russia to watch reindeer. The indigenous Even people travel with herds through some of the most treacherous terrain imaginable.
There are no roads in or out, so you must arrive by sea or air before transferring by snowmobile to join a tour group for a cultural excursion with the Even. For some visitors, however, the trek is well worth it to see such a pristine piece of wilderness.
The reindeer is the most common land animal on Greenland’s west coast. There’s a good possibility you’ll spot them while hiking in the Greenlandic fells, particularly between Paamiut and Uummannaq. Reindeer are vital to the Greenlandic economy.
The North Pole
Of course, there is one more spot where reindeer can travel freely, but in order to get there, you must have a perfect track record of always being on Santa’s “good list”!
The North Pole reindeer represent the finest of their kind. Unfortunately, traveling to the Arctic and Santa’s workshop is more difficult than it appears, so perhaps this reindeer-watching spot is better left to the elves!
The Mackenzie Delta Reindeer Herd, as they’re known, arrived in this far northwestern Canadian province more than 80 years ago, when caribou populations began to plummet. To remedy the problem, 3,500 people were purposely relocated from – you guessed it – Alaska. Since then, the herd has stayed around the same size.
Temperatures in this area may dip below -30°C, so you’ll need to be prepared with plenty of thick clothing and a skilled guide. Tundra North Tours offers a four-day tour to Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.
Reindeer are very curious animals and may approach you so it is best not to reciprocate the favor.
Keeping your distance might keep you safe as well. During the fall rutting season, lovesick stags may act in unpredictable ways. Drive carefully, especially if you notice a reindeer warning sign or a herd of reindeer in the center of the road.
But don’t worry, they’re not taking a bus to their next destination!