Cosimo Commisso transports us to Canada’s northernmost regions and perhaps the country’s most underrated gems
It’s no surprise that most Canadians prefer to trek to warmer climates for their vacations. After enduring six-month winters, polar vortexes and the like, the idea of heading even further north for some “chill” time doesn’t always seem too attractive to Canucks. But this is partly because of the stigma attached to Canada’s northernmost territories — despite being incredibly beautiful and fun places (that aren’t actually cold all the time, believe it or not!), the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut remain the most unvisited areas in the country because they are often associated with long nights, bitter cold and a lack of activity.
For those of you who have never been to Canada’s true north or have never thought to visit one of these places, I want to take this opportunity to share my love for Northern Canada.
I’ll begin with Yukon. Snuggled next to Alaska, this northwesternmost territory feels the most removed from Canada’s most highly populated cities in the south, but the serenity and excitement of Yukon is worth the adventure. Its climate is actually mild by Canadian arctic standards, with its Julys usually peaking at 23 C — so, no, you won’t freeze here, especially if you opt for a summertime getaway. The territory’s motto is “Larger than Life,” which it certainly is — and against its miniscule population (just over 33,000 in 2011), its 10 million square-kilometres makes it feel even bigger.
Yukon is for the nature lover, known for its opportunities to dabble in hunting, skiing and snowboarding, canoeing and kayaking, snowmobiling, ice sledding and ice climbing. Its communities also host a ton of interesting cultural and sporting events like the Yukon International Storytelling Festival, Dawson City Music Festival, Yukon Quest and lots more. And to top it all off? Yukon’s latitude makes it the best spot in Canada to catch a view of the Aurora Borealis.
To Yukon’s right are The Northwest Territories. If you’re a camper, you’ll love this northern jewel with its rugged, mountainous terrain dotted with icy lakes. I’d recommend booking a tour, which will give you a thorough and exciting experience of the stunning landscape. In Yellowknife, be sure to check out the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre, where you can plan out your trip. There’s the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, a museum that’s worth a visit; Old Town, a charming slice of the city that makes for a fun stroll; and the Cameron River Falls Trail, a tranquil spot to get reconnected with nature.
Again, if you’re not exactly chummy with the cold, I’d recommend trekking to the Northwest Territories in the summer (ideally sometime in July) rather than the winter, as its colder months are long and harsh.
Finally, there’s Nunavut. This is the newest and northernmost territory in the country. It’s also the largest, ranking the fifth-biggest country division in the world and containing most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The temperatures here don’t usually exceed 17 C, making it the perfect place to engage in your favourite winter activities like snowmobiling, or perhaps ones you’ve never tried before, like dogsledding. But despite its cooler climate, Nunavut is also known for its lively boating, kayaking, canoeing, camping and hiking scenes. I’d recommend checking those out if you like a good challenge — and a chance to bond with Canada’s outdoors. Another must-try: booking an Arctic cruise, which can take you through the Northwest Passage, the High Arctic or the Baffin route.