The least visited of all the provinces and territories; Nunavut only recently became its own territory in 1999 when it separated from the Northwest Territories, but the history of its inhabitants goes back 4,000 years. Consisting of most of the Arctic Archipelago, terrain has massive expanses of tundra, along with rugged mountains and extremely remote villages which are accessible only by plane or boat. The territory is well known for its indigenous Inuit people’s artwork, carvings and handmade clothing. Iqaluit, the capital of the territory, is the largest settlement at just under 8,000 residents.
There are activities to entice the outdoor lover, along with wildlife viewings and historical sites. This is a fly in and fly out destination though, be aware that weather conditions can affect arrival and departures and there are limited places to stay, so book ahead. Food prices in Nunavut are the highest in Canada, be prepared with a high food budget for your stay. For more relevant information for your trip, view the Nunavut visitor’s information here:Website
Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre
Located in Iqaluit, this is a good first stop for any visitor to the area. Along with all the information that you would require to visit any area in the territory, they also host beautiful displays of Inuit art, artifacts and dioramas of Arctic life (including many Arctic animals and scenery), along with cultural programming throughout the year including movie nights, guest speakers, the Inuit Art Experience, various workshops and much more.
Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum
Also situated in the capital city of Iqaluit, this museum is the only one in the territory and preserves and promotes local culture and art. Located in an old Hudson’s Bay Company storage building, the museum offers a permanent gallery of Inuit artifacts and art along with a temporary gallery of exhibitions. You can find a unique museum shop with latest work of local artists here as well.
The Northwest Passage
This area is full of history as it was the sea route of the first arctic explorers. This sea route connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and passes around Baffin Island. Along the way you can see icebergs, abandoned whale stations, Hudson’s Bay Company outposts and ancient Thule sites still littered with artifacts. Keep your eyes peeled for walrus, polar bears and lots of sea birds. There are cruises available through the region or check out the Northwest Passage Trail which you can follow on land to walk along some of the first trails in the region.
Auyuittuq National Park
Home to Mount Thor (1,675 masl), this national park offers some amazing adventure activities such as climbing and hiking. It sits on the Cumberland Peninsula in the southeast of Baffin Island and a large portion of the park is taken up by a remnant of Ice Age glaciations – the Penny Ice Cap. Broad valleys make up the landscape, along with rugged mountains with vertical walls rising up to 1,200 meters in height; Mount Asgard being particularly impressive. If you want a challenging hike, the Pangnirtung Pass is a route through the park ending at the Pangnirtung Fiord. If you are planning on climbing or hiking, you must register with Parks Canada first.
Quttinirpaaq National Park
Ellesmere Island is the second largest island after Baffin Island in the Canadian archipelago and is a destination for serious backpackers and trekkers. This remote, wild area is meant for adventurers, with a multitude of trails to choose from. In the area around Lake Hazen you can find muskoxen, Peary caribou, arctic foxes and wolves, lemmings, and more than thirty species of birds due to a variety of temperatures. Most trips to Quttinirpaaq begin in Resolute Bay.
Sirmilik National Park
If you would like to go to one of the most remote and northern national parks, then this is the one for you. Gorgeous mountains, glaciers, ice fields make up the scenic landscape, along with the coastal lowlands. Visitors come for boating and kayaking to see Beluga and Narwhales. They come to experience the remote wilderness and see historical cultural sites. This is not an easy destination though, as the coast is normally not free of ice until about mid-July and you cannot travel to the park during the ice break up or the ice freeze up.
A fly in destination, Repulse Bay is a fantastic place to jump off with a local guide to experience the area and the wildlife in the region. This bay was originally discovered by Europeans in 1741 and stands exactly along the Arctic Circle, so this is where you will find the Arctic Circle Cairn. It is well known for its excellent carvers and artists. There is a well worn, 5-kilometer trail that follows the southern shoreline of Repulse Bay to the Naujan Thule Site. This is just one of several archeological sites in the area that can be explored by visitors.
This Inuit village on Baffin Island is an extremely remote place to visit, but well worth it for its beauty and cultural aspects. The Nattinnak Centre has visitor information along with a great mini museum with displays on wildlife and local culture with life-size dioramas and interesting fish-skin baskets. The village is conveniently close to both Tamaarvik Territorial Park for camping and Sirmilik National Park for outdoor adventure activities. Pond Inlet is surrounded by mountain ranges, with several dozen glaciers, picturesque fiords and inlets in the area, along with ice caves and geological hoodoos.
Qaummaarviit Territorial Park
This territorial park is located just 12 kilometers away from Iqaluit on a small island. This historical area is home to the archeological remains of the civilization of the Thule Culture (Proto-Inuit – 1000 AD to 1600 AD). There are the remains of 11 sod huts and various interpretative signs which take visitors through the history of this area. This makes an excellent day trip from Iqaluit.
Fossil Creek Trail
This interesting “trail” is located on Southampton Island about 8 kilometers from the community of Coral Harbour and covers a route of about 1.5 kilometers long. This area contains the largest quantity of high-quality marine fossils found in Nunavut. This is where the remains of life from 450 million years ago have been found. You will find informative signs along the route that explain the scientific theories about the remarkable geology that contributed to the formation of the fossil deposits. You can learn what scientists believe the environment at Fossil Creek may have looked like hundreds of millions of years ago, and you are invited to participate in ‘The Great Fossil Hunt’ — the popular search along the creek for some of the best fossils.
Arctic Bay In the northwest corner of Baffin Island, you will find the traditional village of Arctic Bay. The history here goes back 5,000 years and is home to some dramatic scenery. It is a good jumping off point for the nearby Sirmilik National Park. Snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and dog sledding tours are other fun things to do in the area, along with wildlife viewing – you can see marine mammals like bowhead whales, narwhals, seals and occasionally polar bears. There are arctic hares, arctic foxes, lemmings and marmots around here as well, so keep your eyes out.
During the summer months there are active breeding grounds nearby for dozens of species of migratory High Arctic seabirds. Visitors can experience the traditional Inuit games, competitions, dances and community feasts each spring in conjunction with the annual dog sledding race between the communities of Arctic Bay and Igloolik.
There are very finely made crafts, sculptures, carvings, and artworks available from local artists and you can learn about the local Inuit culture at the Qimatuligvik Heritage Organization.
This is a popular place for visitors to view polar bears, as it is on the annual migratory route for the bears. Along with the chance to see the bears, there are numerous Pre-Dorset archeological sites dating from 1000 BC to 500 BC, plus Thule sites from 1200 AD at the nearby Iqalugaarjuup Nunanga Territorial Park. The spring months here offer fantastic fishing, and in the fall, you can find pods of beluga whales congregating near the shores of the cove. To get the most out of the area, book with a local guide or operator.
Northern Lights Viewing
As with all northern Canadian destinations, Nunavut offers excellent opportunities to view the Northern Lights. The phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis is still a wonder to many and are the source of several Inuit legends and folk tales. They are something that everyone should see once in their lifetime. To ensure a great experience, it is best to book with a local operator.
Nunvat’s culinary aspects are based around subsistence living and traditional hunting and fishing. Try some fresh arctic char, caribou, bannock and other local specialities. In some communities’ alcohol is banned, although you will find most restaurants in Iqaluit are licensed. Check out the Kuugaq Café in Cambridge Bay for some traditional foods and fusion cuisine, along with some good coffee. Iqaluit hosts some good restaurants such as the Black Heart Café, Frob Kitchen, the Granite Room and Big Racks BBQ, in which you can find a variety of eats. Sunday buffet brunches are popular as well in Iqaluit and many of the hotel restaurants offer them.
Festivals to Enjoy
Of course, the festivals in the territory are based on the history of the Inuit peoples of the area and the seasons.
In mid-January you can experience the festival of the return of the sun, a five-day extravaganza filled with igloo building, dog sledding, and talent and fashion shows. Artcirq, Igloolik’s own circus troupe, close the festival with an unforgettable performance.
April heralds the return of spring and this is celebrated in several communities through the territory. Visitor’s to Iqaluit can enjoy the Toonik Tyme Festival, which highlights the culture of the community and the return of spring with a week of celebrations including snowmobile races, Inuit games, traditional Inuit activities, igloo building, dog team races, scavenger hunts and a craft fair, Inuit games, and a seal skinning contest.
The Kugluktuk Nattiq Frolics, is held in Kugluktuk, the westernmost community in Nunavut at the mouth of the Coppermine River. This is an increasingly popular celebration of old traditions and highlights pond hockey, archery, snowmobile races, fishing derbies along with a parade at the start of all the fun, traditional dress competitions, bingo, a bazaar, and a monster poker rally.
The spring festival – Omingmak Frolics – in Cambridge Bay isn’t held until May, so visitors could continue from one community to another to continue enjoying the heralding of the spring season. The Alianait Arts Festival in Iqaluit in June features music, theatre, film, storytelling, circus, dance and visual artists from Nunavut.
In Cambridge Bay at the end of June you can find the Nunavut Arts & Crafts Festival, celebrating art through film workshops, art displays and interactive demonstrations, theatre productions, and concerts. Nunavut Day on July 9th is celebrated throughout the territory with traditional Inuit activities like throat singing, square dancing, fiddle music, and other traditional competitions, as well as enjoying community feasts with traditional and local foods including muskox burgers, caribou, seal, local fish, and bannock.
The Northwest Passage Marathon is held in July and is considered the worlds toughest marathon! 50 kms of trails through wilderness, following only markers and inukshuks, this competition is only for the truly determined runners.
September finds visitors in Arviat for the Inummarit Music Festival, which is four days of singing and entertainment.