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Are you an explorer at heart?

Do you remember reading tales of excursions to the farthest reaches of the earth in history class when you were young?

Do you remember reading tales of excursions to the farthest reaches of the earth in history class when you were young? If these stories filled you with fascination and joy, you may well be an explorer. Though it's true that there aren't many parts of the map that haven't been visited, you can still participate in experiences that take you well beyond what anyone else you know has seen. You can also follow in the footsteps of explorers of old. If you're interested in this way of traveling and you don't mind the cold, consider cruise travel. In a small ship, you can make voyages to nature's extremes - both at the northernmost and southernmost places accessible - that would not be possible in any other way. Read on for a taste of just some of what you could experience if you chose to embrace your longing for exploration:

Midnight sun in winter

You probably know that the sun doesn't set for much of the year in the Arctic circle during the spring and summer. However, did you know you can experience the frigid Arctic winter and the midnight sun at once? To do this, you must advance past the 80th parallel. With a Norway cruise to Spitsbergen, the northernmost part of the country and a place where there are more polar bears than  human inhabitants, you can do exactly that. Once the province only of trappers, miners and brave explorers trying to make it as far north as they could, Spitsbergen is now open to you. From beginning at Tromsø to approaching North Cape from the north, the experience of a cruise to Spitsbergen is something you will only truly understand once you have gone. When you have had the experience, you will be one of the very few people on Earth who can claim to have made this voyage.

If Spitsbergen bathed in the midnight sun doesn't slake your thirst for adventure, perhaps you'd prefer to head to the other end of the world.

Exploring Antarctica

You don't have to be a researcher or an explorer of centuries past to experience Antarctica's glories. You can easily take a cruise there - but ensure you're on a smaller vessel if you want to see everything that's available to you. Larger ships can't go everywhere, and some of the most fascinating parts of Antarctica aren't accessible with them. Instead, a smaller cruise ship will give you a voyage much closer to those of the explorers you've read about - though without the risk of frostbite or getting irretrievably lost. You will almost certainly meet some of Antarctica's permanent inhabitants, like penguins, seabirds and seals, which will be the opportunity of a lifetime for animal lovers. You may even have the chance to follow in the footsteps of great explorers like Scott and Shackleton, each of whose expeditions have left traces that you can still visit today.

While Antarctica is no longer unknown territory, it is still remote and rare to visit - which should satisfy any explorer.