It’s easy for us to forget about the territories when we’re talking about Canada, but the reality is, they have a lot to offer. The Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut are much more than just cold, desolate tundra—they offer breathtaking sights and unique experiences that you pretty much won’t get anywhere else. Here’s why they should be next on your travel bucket list.
1. It’s the best place to see the Northern Lights
Photo by auroravillage.com
Between fall and spring are the best times to catch the Aurora Borealis, with ideal conditions being clear night skies away from the city lights. One of the most popular places to view the lights is the Northwest Territories, since most of the land is flat and directly under the Auroral Oval, offering unobstructed views of this dazzling phenomenon. Aurora Village is an Aboriginal-owned operation that’s a 20-minute bus ride north of Yellowknife where you can take in the light show with an experienced guide and stay in heated teepees. In the Yukon, you can see the lights while soaking in a heated pool at the Takhini Hot Springs, which is 28 km from downtown Whitehorse.
2. You can experience the Inuit way of life firsthand
Iqaluit is the perfect place to learn about the Inuit culture and its traditions. Here, you can take a comprehensive tour of the town, learn how to build an igloo or even stay in one overnight. Talk about quintessential Arctic experiences!
3. It has an incredible array of fascinating (and uncommon) wildlife
The floe edge of Baffin Island is a great place to get a glimpse of polar bears, northern birds, seals, beluga, and bowhead whales, and even spiral-tusked narwhals (the unicorns of the sea!) in the summer when they return to this area. Tour companies like Adventure Canada and Arctic Kingdom run one-week expeditions where participants camp by the floe edge and travel by qamutiq—a traditional Inuit sled—to observe Arctic wildlife. They’re pricey, but this is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
4. You can take a stroll in broad daylight—no matter what time of day it is
Where else in the country can you experience 24 hours of daylight in the summer or total darkness in the winter? Old Crow, Yukon, and Inuvik, Northwest Territories (and pretty much anywhere else north of the Arctic Circle) are places where you can experience the strange sensation of the sun never setting—just imagine taking a stroll outside at midnight in broad daylight.
5. It’s home to breathtaking scenery
There are so many gorgeous, photogenic landscapes to take in that it’s difficult to decide where to start. The Dempster Highway is one way to capture many of them; it can be a challenging 736-km drive that starts in the Yukon’s Dawson City, crosses the Arctic Circle, and ends in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, but the views are spectacular and you may even run into some mountain goats, moose, caribou or wolverines along the way.
Another option is Kluane National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Yukon that offers stunning settings for hikes with lush valleys, mountain ranges that include Canada’s five tallest mountains (the tallest being Mount Logan) and the world’s largest non-polar ice fields.