The 8 Countries Closest to the North Pole

Written by Rebecca Mathews
Published: February 2, 2024
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The North Pole is located in the Arctic Ocean on the Earth’s most northerly point and directly beneath the North Star, Polaris. It’s a mass of moving ice and water that experiences cyclones, ice melt, and drift. The ice here is up to ten feet thick, and the water beneath reaches depths of over 13,000 feet! No country owns the North Pole; instead, the area sits in international waters surrounded by five countries, with another three located in the Arctic Circle. Let’s discover the 8 countries closest to the North Pole! 

Greenland, Denmark

Greenland is the closest country to the North Pole.


Lying closest to the North Pole is Kaffesklubben Island. This frozen land belongs to Greenland, an autonomous island of the Kingdom of Denmark that sits near the center of Greenland’s northern shore.

It’s just 443 miles from the North Pole and uninhabited due to its arctic climate, but lichens, liverworts, mosses, saxifrage, and arctic poppy manage to grow there. Kaffeskulbben Island (Coffee Club Island) is just 2,300 feet long and 980 feet wide, but it contains a lake that formed 3,000 years ago from rainfall after glacier retreat. It’s the world’s most northerly lake.

Its unusual name was given in 1921 by Lauge Koch, a Danish explorer who named it after the coffee club in Copenhagen’s Mineralogical Museum.


Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, Canada, is the closest inhabited country to the North Pole.


Canada’s largest and most northern territory, Nunavut, is home to Ellesmere Island, the most northern island in Canada, but its most northerly point is Cape Columbia, which lies less than 500 miles from the North Pole. Large mountain ranges and fjords run the length of Ellesmere Island. In fact, these mountains are so high they rank among North America’s largest.

Nunavut is barely inhabited, but a military base named Alert is situated on Ellesmere Island’s northern portion. This makes Canada the closest inhabited country to the North Pole.


Svalbard Airport

Svalbard, Norway, is 650 miles from the North Pole.


Svalbard is 650 miles from the North Pole. It is a Norwegian archipelago situated halfway between the Kingdom of Norway and the North Pole. It’s managed by a governor and remains an unincorporated area. Seven national parks and numerous nature reserves dominate Svalbard’s largely untouched landscape.

The Svalbard is mostly glacier and inhabited by seabirds, arctic foxes, reindeer, and polar bears. Author Phillip Pullman made the Svalbard famous in”His Dark Materials” trilogy series. Polar bear king Iorek Byrnison lived there.

Alaska, United States

Oil Infrastructure on North Slope

Prudhoe Bay is the end of Alaska’s road system.

©Incomel/iStock via Getty Images

Alaska’s northerly coastal regions on the Arctic Ocean sit close to the North Pole. One of the closest points is actually North America’s most northern point, Point Barrow on Alaska’s North Slope, just 1,300 miles from the pole.

Despite its proximity to the pole, plenty of life thrives here. It’s an arctic wilderness of national parks punctuated by Alaskan natives, caribou, polar bears, wolves, musk ox, and hardy seabirds. Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay mark the limits of Alaska’s road system. From there on, it’s seaplane or sledding.


Abandoned transport, equipment and buildings of the Russian polar station, the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago, the Arctic.

Russia is just 566 miles from the North Pole.

©Igor Batenev/

Rudolf Island’s Cape Fligely lies just 566 miles from the North Pole. This Russian island is a part of the Franz Josef Archipelago and the most northerly point of Russia. It’s almost entirely glacial, and many polar expeditions started out from Teplitz Bay.

Russia has placed a titanium flag on the ocean floor beneath the North Pole in a symbolic claim on the Lomonosov Ridge. Fossil fuel reserves in the Arctic Circle are worth billions of dollars, but each surrounding country is only allowed to harvest resources 200 miles from its shoreline.


Winter landscape at sunset in direct light with colorful sky and clouds, plenty of snow on the trees, Swedish Lapland, Sweden

Part of Sweden lies in the Arctic Circle, which creates a subarctic climate in winter.

©Mats Lindberg/

Sweden is not one of the countries that surround the North Pole, but it is within the Arctic Circle. At 1,934 miles away, it might appear distant, but it’s close enough to experience a subarctic climate in the northern regions.  

Sweden’s capital is Stockholm; it’s a European country, the largest in Northern Europe, with vast tracts of forests and wooded regions. The northern region of Norrbotten lies in the Arctic Circle. Norrbotten covers a third of Sweden and homes Swedish Lapland. Indigenous Sami herd over 250,000 reindeer here, alongside brown bear, lynx, grey wolves, moose, and roe deer.


Two islands off the north coast of Iceland sit in the Arctic Circle.

©Guitar photographer/

Despite its name, Iceland is not next to the North Pole; it actually lies 3,118 miles away! Even though Iceland’s mainland doesn’t reach the Arctic Circle, a series of Icelandic islands do. Grimsey Island is the most northern part of Iceland that’s inhabited. Kolbeinsey Island is the northernmost point. Both islands sit inside the Arctic Circle.

Iceland is situated on a tectonic rift, so it’s prone to geysers and volcanic eruptions. Kolbeinsey Island is formed of basalt, and it is almost entirely eroded. No plants or animals live there, but on Grimsey Island, just 20 miles off the northern coast of Iceland, around 50 inhabitants live beside a puffin colony.


Thousands of reindeer live in Finland’s Lapland region.

©Pav-Pro Photography Ltd/

One-third of Finland lies in the Arctic Circle in its Lapland region. It’s roughly 3,607 miles from the North Pole.

Finland is a northern European country with a thriving capital city called Helsinki. In the north, closest to the North Pole, Lapland is home to reindeer and the native Sami people. The Finnish government protects over 30% of Lapland with national park status.

Brown bears, elk, wolverines, lynx, and gray wolves are abundant in the snowy pine and spruce forests.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Christopher Wood/

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About the Author

Rebecca is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on plants and geography. Rebecca has been writing and researching the environment for over 10 years and holds a Master’s Degree from Reading University in Archaeology, which she earned in 2005. A resident of England’s south coast, Rebecca enjoys rehabilitating injured wildlife and visiting Greek islands to support the stray cat population.

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