8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Nunavut

Officially created in 1999, Nunavut Territory is an administrative unit hived off from the former Northwest Territories. Nunavut, in the language of the Inuit who live here, means "our land" and covers the whole of the eastern section of northern Canada. With an area of 1.9 million square kilometers, Nunavut is almost eight times the size of the United Kingdom and comprises roughly one fifth of the total area of Canada. Its southern border is the 60th parallel, while the north extends to within about 800 kilometers of the North Pole. Most of the Territory is situated above the tree line, in a region of predominantly treeless tundra with dwarf shrubs, grasses, mosses, and lichens. Fiords cut deep inland from the coast.

Craft- and handicraft-based businesses have achieved extraordinary success. Produced mainly in small workshops, the leather goods, jewelry, ivory work etc. have great appeal for tourists throughout Canada. Hence, in addition to meeting the demand from the as-yet small number of tourists who visit the Far North, there is a lively "export trade" to the major tourist centers of the Canadian South (including Québec, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Banff, Lake Louise, and Vancouver).

1 Baffin Island

Baffin Island
Baffin Island

With its breathtaking landscape, the hospitality of the Inuit people, and the numerous opportunities for an unusual holiday, Baffin Island is a strong draw for tourists. But it can hardly be said that it suffers from invasions of visitors. The island is the fifth largest in the world with a coastline and landscape that vary considerably. On the eastern coast, very similar to Norway with its steep fiords and small offshore islands, lies a long, narrow Alpine-like mountainous zone - reaching heights of 2,591 meters in Auyuittuq National Park on the Cumberland peninsula. The main administrative town is Iqaluit on Frobisher Bay. The only way to get to the far north island is by air, and that is rather expensive. The cost of living is high and the climate very "unfriendly", not to mention the hordes of insects, which descend on the unfortunate traveler in summer; all in all, the region is perhaps somewhere for the specialist.

2 Auyuittuq National Park

Auyuittuq National Park
Auyuittuq National Park Mike Beauregard / photo modified

Meaning "land where it never thaws", Auyuittuq National Park sits on the Cumberland Peninsula in the southeast of Baffin Island. The Penny Ice Cap, a remnant of Ice Age glaciations, takes up a large portion of the park. The landscape is characterized by broad valleys and rugged mountains with vertical walls rising up to 1,200 meters in height, that of Mount Asgard being particularly impressive. Pangnirtung Pass is a route through the park ending at the Pangnirtung Fiord.

3 Iqaluit

Flag waving in the wind
Flag waving in the wind

For many years, whalers, scientists, traders and missionaries frequented the gateway to Baffin Island at the end of Frobisher Bay. The Inuit name of Iqaluit means "many fish", but only in 1942, when the area was developed as a U.S. military airfield, did it grow in size. Now the service and administrative center of the Baffin Region, Iqaluit is a modern town with a complete infrastructure of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly as well as hotels, schools, a hospital, weather and radio station, and camping-site.

Qaummaarviit Territorial Historic Park, once home to the Thule People, is located on an island and accessible by ski, dogsled, or snowmobile during the winter months, and by boat during the open-water season. Visitors can see the remains of the Thule sod houses and artifacts dating back more than 750 years ago.

4 Ellesmere Island

Grise Fiord
Grise Fiord Mike Beauregard / photo modified

Ellesmere Island lies in the extreme north of Canada, and is the second largest island - after Baffin Island - on the Canadian archipelago. It was from Ellesmere's Cape Columbia that Peary set out in 1909 to walk to the North Pole. In the extreme north, Quttinirpaaq National Park is a mountainous and glaciated country. In this predominantly dry Arctic waste, pockets of (relatively) warm and moist temperatures enable plants to grow and animals to exist, such as in the area around Lake Hazen. Here can be found muskoxen, Peary caribou, arctic foxes and wolves, lemmings, and more than thirty species of birds. Most trips to Quttinirpaaq begin in Resolute Bay. To the south end of Ellesmere Island, Grise Fiord is a very small community with good hunting conditions and a beautiful Arctic landscape that can be viewed during canoe or snowmobile tours.

5 Sirmilik National Park

Sirmilik National Park
Sirmilik National Park Mike Beauregard / photo modified

Soaring mountains, rugged glaciers, and a wide variety of wildlife describes Sirmilik National Park. It is one of Canada's most remote and northern national parks, encompassing Bylot Island, Oliver Sound, and the Borden Peninsula. The land is made up of beautiful mountains, glaciers and ice fields, and coastal lowlands. Some visitors come here for boating and kayaking, however, the coast is normally not free of ice until mid July. During ice break up and freeze up, travel to the park is not possible.

6 Repulse Bay

Repulse Bay
Repulse Bay Leslie Philipp / photo modified

Reached only by plane, Repulse Bay thrives on tourists who come in search of land and sea adventures, under the wisdom of Inuit tour guides. The "European" chapter of this part of Canada's history opened in 1741 when Captain Middleton sailed into the deep bay - known to the Inuit as "Naujaat" (gulls' nesting place) - in search of the Northwest Passage. In his disappointment of not finding the Arctic route, Middleton christened the bay Repulse.

7 Belcher Islands

Sedimentary rock in the Belcher Islands
Sedimentary rock in the Belcher Islands Mike Beauregard / photo modified

Off the Hudson Bay coast lie the barren Belcher Islands, which support polar bears as well as Beluga whales and walruses in the surrounding waters. Some people come here to kayak; however, the Belcher Islands are extremely remote and see very few visitors each year. There is an airstrip in Sanikiluaq, which services the area.

8 Pond Inlet

Culvert cabin in Pond Inlet
Culvert cabin in Pond Inlet Mike Beauregard / photo modified

Set on the Baffin Island coast, Pond Inlet is an Inuit village to the west of a rugged mountainous terrain. It attracts visitors for its natural beauty and culture, though the region is extremely remote and therefore costly to access. One of the top tourist attractions in the community is Nattinnak Centre with displays on the history, geography, and wildlife of the region.

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