The Arctic north
Best for: Inuit culture, wildlife, river rafting, kayaking, fishing and the northern lights
ROUTE: There is no ‘route’ here. Itineraries in the two least-visited northern provinces often rely heavily on local operators for safety, and travel is limited to those places with tourist facilities, such as Iqaluit (Nunavut) or Inuvik and Yellowknife (Northwest Territories). WHY DO IT? Natural experiences dominate visits to the Arctic reaches of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, particularly the former where 35,000 people live in an area roughly the size of western Europe. Cultural activities can also be found that offer an insight into its indigenous Inuit people.
This is a region where local know-how is indispensable. Eco-tourism operators offer hiking, dogsledding, kayaking, canoeing and snowmobiling, with some expeditions including the option of spending a night in an igloo. In Nunavut, boat or floeedge trips from Qikiqtarjuaq operate in May/ June, letting you take in the sight of drifting ’bergs as well as sighting polar bears, beluga whales, seals, walruses and narwhals.
The Northwest Territories’ main lures are dogsledding and rafting through the canyons of the Nahanni River and its wild, eponymous national park. The capital at Yellowknife, on Great Slave Lake, has an ‘old’ town – Wildcat Café dates from 1937 – and museums/centres offer insights into the First Nations culture of the Dene people. The greatest wildlife sight here is when thousands of reindeer migrate in spring, with tours (Mar/apr) letting you join the herders en route to the calving grounds.