Adventures in Canada's Far North

• A WorldWeb.com Travel Guide for Nunavut, Northern Canada.
NunavutCanada’s newest territory—is situated in the dramatic geography of the nation’s northeast and is includes part of the continental mainland as well as numerous islands bordered by seas, straits and bays. Its lands and seas are vast and unspoiled, owing to the territory’s unique position and unusual climate. For thousands of years the only inhabitants of Nunavut have been First Nations people who have lived in the extreme climate and isolated landscapes through knowledge learned and built through many generations.

Today, however, accessibility to the territory has increased dramatically. There are no roads to Nunavut, so visitors reach the territory primarily by airplane and parts of the territory can also be accessed by helicopter and boat. The largest destination is Iqaluit, which is the territory’s capital and largest town. Arviat and Rankin Inlet are also popular stops, while some bold travellers choose to visit smaller communities or remote destinations where no settlements exist.

As accessibility has increased over the last two decades, so has tourism, drawing in people with a wide variety of interests: enthusiasts interested in learning more about the history and culture of the First Nations people, sightseers who want to explore the amazing natural wonders and sportsmen who yen for the adventures the territory’s landscapes and seascapes offer. No matter what experience tourists seek, there are plenty of tours and activities to keep visitors busy all year around.

TOURING THE VAST LANDSCAPE

Arriving by plane, the landscape and seascapes unfold below and the rugged wilderness is never ending—transforming from temperate grasslands to icy northern tundra—and the sea changes dramatically—from deep blue waters to shallow ice shelves enclosed by undulating fjords. This sightseeing venture can be continued by an airplane tour with Purlaavik Outfitting in Iqaluit, which takes visitors on an awe-inspiring adventure in the sky.

Though the landscape is most dramatically seen form the air, the plentiful wildlife is best seen from the ground, especially in winter. Large herd animals can be seen from the air but most animals in the northern regions are solitary and many mammals have creamy, almost white pelts, specifically adapted to blend in with the snow. A couple of operators in Iqaluit offer snowmobile tours, and to enhance this experience, a couple more custom outfitters in Baker Lake and Pond Inlet combine snowmobiling adventures with other activities. These outfitters can also arrange accommodation and meals making a northern adventure a snap to plan.

The bravest of explorers can partake in an expedition far from large settlements, in the most untamed parts of Nunavut. Ellesmere Island is a silent landscape, where no other human contact can be found, only the company of caribou, muskoxen, hares, and walruses living amongst blue glaciers, cavernous fjords and icy waters. Adventurers can sign up for camping and backpacking tours on Ellesmere Island with Whitney and Smith - Legendary Expeditions or Sea to Sky Expeditions. The former leads enthusiasts on treks across the island in the footsteps of the first Europeans who explored this region, just 600 miles from the North Pole and to archaeological sites that are over 4000 years old, while the latter offer similar excursions with the addition of ventures on sea kayaks and canoes.

FEELING FIRE & ICE

During long arctic winters the darkness is absolute—lit only by the stars, the moon and the northern lights in the sky—and the world is silenced by thick blankets of snow. But as Earth approaches the summer solstice the sun shines all day and night, melting the ice and painting the landscape with small, bright flowers.

The winter’s dark nights and isolated landscape make Nunavut an ideal place to take in one of Earth’s greatest natural phenomenon: the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights. Since settlements in Nunavut are small, it is easy to escape man-made lights and a fitting experience is an excursion on a dogsled to a scenic point away from any lights. Adventurers can sit back and enjoy the ride or take up the opportunity to mush their own dogsled team. Dogsled outfitters can be hired in many of the area's main communities and adventurers can sit back and enjoy the ride or take up the opportunity to mush their own dogsled team.

During summer, visitors can take advantage of the long days by choosing a special activity such as a photography and painting tour. Arivat Tundra Adventures takes photographers to scenic spots to capture historic settlements, abandoned hunting camps, magnificent wildlife and awesome tundra as well as providing opportunities to take candid pictures of Canada's northern people.

Wildlife viewing is a popular hobby and Nunavut's animals can be viewed from land or sea. Adventure Canada in Resolute takes adventurers on comfortable vessels to remote areas of the territory to see massive polar bears, breeching whales and ringtail seals.

CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE AND HISTORY

First Nations people have inhabited Nunavut for over 4000 years. Though these people have never built permanent structures and the invention of their written language is fairly recent, the ancestors of these people have left an indelible mark on the territory. A rich oral traditional has passed knowledge, history, and legend down through the generations.

The extraordinary people that inhabit this boundless landscape today are eager to share their complex aboriginal history and culture. An exploration of aboriginal culture is available through tour companies and outfitters in many communities, and both Central Arctic Tours and Outfitters in Cambridge Bay and Qimuk Adventure Tours in Iqualuit offer tours of the vast landscape, historic areas and archeological sites that focus on the relationship of First Nations people with their natural environments. This includes information on how people have survived and thrived in the harsh climate, how their belief systems have evolved and how their traditions have been preserved through storytelling.

Nunavut is one of the most untamed and untouched landscapes on Earth, offering unique opportunities for exploration and adventure. Visiting Nunavut is a long journey, even for Canadian travellers, but is a rewarding experience, filled with sights and adventures that most people only dream of. Whether visitors are recreationists, vacationers, or honeymooners, for all of those who have a strong sense of adventure, the people and land of Nunavut have plenty to offer.

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