Nunavut, Canada’s Youngest Territory
Nunavut is the newest, largest, and northernmost territory of Canada, officially founded in 1999 with a population of 33,330. About 85 % of the population are Inuits.
This treeless, ice-covered wilderness is probably further north than you can imagine. The sparse population density of Nunavut makes Greenland look crowded. Add polar bears, narwhals and beluga whales to the icy landscape and you might get the picture.
The Territory’s capital is Iqaluit on Buffin Island at the northern Bay of Frobisher Bay. The island is known for its ice-capped mountains and tundra valleys. Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park and Qaummaarviit Territorial Park located only a short distance from the city are both worth a trip.
The Territory is known for its indigenous Inuit people’s artwork, carvings and handmade clothing which is displayed at the Sunakkutaangit Museum in the capital, Iqaluit, on Baffin Island. Distinctive soapstone carvings and beautiful prints have long captured the imagination of art enthusiasts around the world, and today are produced by a whole new generation of artists.
One of the largest unspoilt natural heavens on earth
Enjoy the arctic wildlife and the Inuit way of life. Explore the top of the world and watch the dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis in amazement.
Prohibition in Nunavut
Most of us don’t know much about this Territory, it’s too far off the map. Once you start researching the Canadian North you learn how the Inuit people were forced out of their semi-nomadic way of life only two generations ago. You find out about the traumatic effect of residential schools as well as the forced relocation and the effect it still has today on the people. When I came across the Vice International video about prohibition, I was shocked.
How to Get There and Around
No roads or rail routes connect the 25 communities of Nunavut with each other. The only way to get there and around is by air or by boat. Be prepared for the high cost of getting there and have a flexible attitude. Severe weather conditions can delay air travel in the north.
You can reach the gateway communities of Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay by air travel from any major centre in the world.
In Canada, Iqaluit is served from Montreal, Ottawa and Yellowknife. Cambridge Bay is linked to Yellowknife and Rankin Inlet to Yellowknife and Winnipeg. Smaller communities are reached from those three hubs.
If you are flexible, check on standby flights to save money.
You only have limited Cell phone service available.
When to Go
Prime visiting time is during the short summer season July and August. April and May are the ideal time for dog-sledding and other snow sports and activities. June is the month of the midnight sun and the Iqaluit Alianait Arts Festival.
Where to Stay
Nunavut communities offer a variety of accommodations from relatively large hotels in the major centres of Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay to more modest accommodations in the smaller communities.
If you are looking for a more remote northern experience, there are some excellent wilderness lodges.
The cheapest accommodation in Nunavut is camping. Several communities offer campgrounds nearby equipped with tent pads, fire pits and outhouse facilities. Still, all camping in Nunavut is considered wilderness camping and requires preparation and specialized gear.
Land and Climate
Because of Nunavut’s size, the weather varies widely from place to place. Coming here for the first time you have to realize that this is the Arctic, which is much colder on average than most of the populated regions of the world.Chily temperatures, snow from September to June and high winds cause extreme windshield factors.
All the communities are isolated and rely on air transport and the July ‘sealift’ bringing a year’s supply. The rest of the year the harbours are not accessible. Water is rationed and delivered daily from central village deposit trucks.