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Nunavut

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Travel Guide North America Canada Nunavut

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Introduction

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Baffin13

© All Rights Reserved TomTay

The far reaches of northern Canada are lit by both the midnight sun in the summer and northern lights in the winter. Nunavut offers cultural experiences with the Inuit people, natural adventures like fishing for arctic char, building an iglu or mushing your own dog team across the tundra. In the north, people go ‘out on the land’. Being on the land is what brings the visitor close to the real arctic experience, and it is only out on the land where you can begin to understand what it means to live here.

The territory of Nunavut was separated out of the Northwest territories in 1999 by the Nunavut Act to settle land claims from the Inuit, the northern indigenous people of Canada. Mostly governed by the Inuit, this territory is becoming a real tourist draw for people who want to see the northern reaches of Canada and touch the Arctic.

The Nunavut Tourism website can be found at Nanavuttourism.com, and a travel guide can be ordered at Arctic Travel.

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Geography

Nunavut covers 1,877,787 km2 of land and 160,935 km2 of water in Northern Canada. The territory includes part of the mainland, most of the Arctic Archipelago, and all of the islands in Hudson Bay, James Bay, and Ungava Bay (including the Belcher Islands) which belonged to the Northwest Territories. This makes it the fifth largest subnational entity (or administrative division) in the world. If Nunavut were a country, it would rank 15th in area. Nunavut has land borders with the Northwest Territories on several islands as well as the mainland, a border with Manitoba to the south of the Nunavut mainland, and a tiny land border with Newfoundland and Labrador on Killiniq Island. It also shares aquatic borders with the provinces of Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba. Nunavut's highest point is Barbeau Peak (2,616 metres) on Ellesmere Island. The population density is 0.015 persons per square kilometre, one of the lowest in the world. By comparison, Greenland has approximately the same area and nearly twice the population.

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Cities

  • Iqaluit - The capital of Nunavut, Iqaluit is located on Baffin Island in the Arctic Ocean of Northern Canada. Iqaluit is Nunavut's largest city and a good base for a number of arctic activites, including viewing polar bear, the Northern Lights, and kayaking between ice flows. Travel information on Iqaluit can be found from the Iqaluit website, or from the Baffin Island tourism website.
  • Rankin Inlet or Kangiqsliniq, though only home to 2,177 souls, is Nunavut's second largest community. Rankin Inlet is located on the on the mainland portion of Nunavut on the shores of Hudson Bay.

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Sights and Activities

Inuit Culture

Explore the history of Nunavut to learn of tales of ancestors who risked their lives in small skin boats hunting whale in ice packed waters, accounts of the Tariassuit (shadow people), or enchanting memories of lives lived in close-knit Inuit communities. See Drum Dancing, where women sit in a circle and chosen men are coaxed to dance by the messages in the ayaya songs that the women are singing and hear throat singing, usually performed by two women who stand face to face, with one singer leading the song and the other repeating the sound of the first. The cyclic sound mimics the calls of birds and animals and other sounds of nature in a fast rhythm.

Dog Sledding

Qimmiit, Eskimo dogs, or canis familiaris borealis have been pulling qamutiit (sleds) across the arctic ice and snow for more than 2,000 years. Though mostly replaced by snowmobiles, dog sleds are still used as a form of transportation in the arctic, and a variety of dog team adventures are available in many communities throughout Nunavut.

Hiking

Lying just 800 kilometers from the North Pole, Quttinirpaaq means the “Top of the World”, and most visitors to this national park on Ellesmere Island remember it as the experience of a lifetime. During the brief summer filled with sunshine 24/7, this polar desert comes alive with an abundance of musk ox, Peary caribou, Arctic hares, and 30 species of migratory birds. There are several routes covering the 130 kilometres trek between Tanquary Fiord and Lake Hazen.

Northern Lights

The full wonder of the Arctic sky,also known as Aurora Borealis, is best seen during the dark winter months, when only a luminous moon lights the snow-covered land and the star-studded sky glows with the dancing colours of the northern lights. The quest of many winter visitors, the aurora borealis, is a truly magical spectacle to behold. Created by the glow of molecular gases in the atmosphere activated by charged particles from the sun, the aurora normally occurs in a broad 500- to 1,000-kilometre-wide belt known as the auroral oval, which is centered on the North Magnetic Pole. Infused with subtly shifting greenish and lilac hues, the northern lights seen across Nunavut emanate a mystical quality.

Mount Thor

Baffin23

Baffin23

© All Rights Reserved TomTay

Mount Thor might be very unknown to regular travellers, it is a very popular mountain among experienced climbers. The main feature and the claim for being famous is the fact that is has the greatest purely vertical drop at 1,250 metres. The average angle of the drop is 105 degrees. Thor Mountain is located in the Auyuittuq National Park, on Baffin Island, Canada. It's part of the Baffin Mountains, which is again part of the Arctic Cordillera. Pangnirtung is the nearest settlement, 46 kilometres away and with about 1,300 inhabitants. It can be reached by plane from Iqaluit, the capital and largest town on Baffin Island, reached in turn from other Canadian cities like Montreal and Ottawa.

Other Activites

  • North Pole Trek - Santa lives in Canada! Reaching the North Pole is no small feat - it’s always moving! In contrast to the Antarctic landmass in the southern hemisphere, the North Polar Region is a vast sea perpetually covered by floating ice. Plunged into total darkness for six months of the year, a polar expedition is only possible during the spring months between March and May.
  • Whale Watching - The three Arctic whales most likely to be sited include the snowy white beluga, the unicorn-like narwhals, and the massive bowhead. The coasts of Baffin Island, with countless inlets, fjords and bays, are ideal for whale watching.

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Events and Festivals

Almost every community in Nunavut hosts spring festivals in April, which may include any or all of traditional games, snowmobile drag races, square dances, parades, and community feasts to celebrate the return of the sun and spring.

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Weather

April through early June is often considered the best month to visit Nunavut. The sun has returned and the daylight hours are long, temperatures are pleasant. Most of the snow accumulates in the early spring, as temperatures warm with the returning daylight. The high mountains and glaciers of Baffin Island get more snow than the territory average, creating some great year-round opportunities for extreme back country skiing or snowboarding. June is a bit of a transition month for communities as most of the snow has melted on the land and the ice begins to break up as well, making it difficult to travel by snowmobile and too soon for travel by boat. But June has sunshine 24/7 - the Midnight Sun. The weather is pleasant. July and August are the summer months. This is when the water activities begin and the boats are returned to the water. Canoeing and kayaking are possible on the rivers and fiords. Central arctic temperatures can reach 30 °C. September thru December is another transition period - days get shorter, the weather is less predictable, and temperatures are cooler. November through March sees extremely cold temperatures and there are few daylight hours, though this is the best time to see the the Northern Lights (Aurora borealis).

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Getting There

By Plane

Nunavut is only 3 hours away from a number of major city airport in Canada. For visitors wishing to travel to the western Kitikmeot region, the gateway cities include Calgary and Edmonton (Alberta) flying thru Yellowknife to Cambridge Bay. Paddlers, fishers, and others enroute to the central Kivalliq region would fly from Winnipeg (Manitoba) direct to Rankin Inlet, and for Baffin Island destinations travellers board in either Ottawa (Ontario) or Montreal (Quebec) for direct service to Nunavut’s capital city of Iqaluit. There is also east-west routing that links Yellowknife, Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit.

Canadian North provides jet service to numerous communities in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut through our three key gateway cites Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa. Reservations can be made by calling 1-800-661-1505 or via the website at First Air

First Air operates scheduled service between Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton & 26 communities in Nunavut, Nunavik, NWT and Yukon. Reservations can be made by calling 1-800-267-1247 or through their website as well.

Overland

There are no roads leading to Nunavut from other parts of Canada, nor between communities within the region. For general travel, all communities are fly-in only. Cambridge Bay, Rankin Inlet, and Iqaluit are the transportation hubs for their respective regions. Most communities are serviced daily by one or more regional airlines, however smaller communities may be less frequent. Charters are also available. Some northern airlines also fly routes between the regions providing extra flexibility in scheduling your itinerary.

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Getting Around

By Plane

There are no roads leading to Nunavut from other parts of Canada, nor between communities within the region. For general travel, all communities are fly-in only. Cambridge Bay, Rankin Inlet, and Iqaluit are the transportation hubs for their respective regions. Most communities are serviced daily by one or more regional airlines, however smaller communities may be less frequent. Charters are also available. Some northern airlines also fly routes between the regions providing extra flexibility in scheduling your itinerary.

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Eat

The diet of the Inuit continues to be drawn primarily from subsistence fishing and hunting, and these staples are collectively known as country food. Generally healthier and much less expensive than chicken or beef brought up from the south, sampling some of the country foods can be one of the most memorable parts of your visit.
Local restaurants often include some kind of northern appetizers or combination entrees on their menus in addition to the standard North American plate. Caribou, a northern staple, is widely available, and is both nutritious and low in fat. Muskox is similar to a well-marbled beef. For seafood, Arctic char has a delicate taste that lies between salmon and trout, scallops are gathered from Cumberland Sound or turbot and Greenland shrimp is sometimes available.
Community feasts offer traditional fare such as raw and boiled caribou, seal and raw frozen char. Another Inuit delicacy is maktaaq - whale skin usually cut it into small bits and swallowed whole.
Due to the remoteness of the area, the prices of most items can be 2-3 times more expensive than what you would expect to pay for the same item in southern Canada.

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Drink

The water in the communities is treated and fine to drink. Many families prefer to haul their own water from nearby sources. Bottled water and soda pop is readily available at local stores, but can be very expensive due to the cost of bringing the drinks to the remote locations.

Restrictions on importing and consuming alcohol in Nunavut are quite different from those in other parts of Canada. Possession of alcohol is prohibited in some communities, and restricted in others. Rules vary from community to community so check with the local RCMP, your outfitter, or the hotel. Please respect the wishes of the community. Trading alcohol for anything is illegal, and do not leave left over alcohol in the community.

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Sleep

Large communities will have hotels and lodges, though they may not be luxurious, although most are clean and functional. Space is limited in the smaller communities, and it is fairly common to share a room with others. Similar to other northern experiences, hotels are expensive - you can expect to pay $140-$180 per night, not including meals. Meals will run on average an extra $60-$90 per day if you eat in the hotel - which is often the only place in town to get a meal.

A number of communities have a bed & breakfast as an alternative to the hotel. You will have to make arrangements with your host or the local hotel for your other meals. Tourist homes are similar, although you usually have access to a kitchen and you are responsible for cooking all your own meals.

Some travellers wish to immerse themselves into the culture and billet with a local Inuit family with a homestays. To arrange a homestay, begin by calling the hamlet office or visitor centre in the community you wish to visit for a list of families offering this service.

Camping is allowed in national parks If you are canoeing, wilderness camping, or hiking outside a national park, you should contact the Inuit Land Administration Office for permit requirements for the area in which you are traveling.

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This is version 10. Last edited at 11:53 on May 20, 13 by Sander. 10 articles link to this page.

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