The summer is a fantastic time to explore the highlights of Iqaluit and enjoy the outdoor activities this exciting destination offers. We could talk about the ways this trip is unique or tell you why to come, but I thought it would simply be most enjoyable to take you on a visual tour of this trip through my eyes.
Last year I had the great fortune to experience our Taste of the Arctic Summer Getaway myself and thought I would take you along with me as I explore all of the highlights and bucket list activities we got to try!
Join me on a visual tour where I’ll describe all the amazing stops we made to cultural and historic museums, craft shops of Inuit art and textiles, and the exciting outdoor activities Iqaluit has to offer.
Arriving in the North!
Imagine if you will, you’ve flown from the Ottawa airport which is surrounded by trees, and then you are flying over Hudson Strait where you may have spotted a few floating icebergs standing out against the blue channel.
Then you spot Baffin Island for the first time. Rolling tundra hillsides littered with little pools of water leftover from the winter canopy of snow. The plane starts to descend and you have views of Sylvia Grinnell River carving deep banks into the hillside and flowing almost right next to where you land.
As soon as you arrive in the airport you notice displays filled with Inuit art and stunning souvenirs, but don’t get distracted, there are incredible opportunities ahead!
Your Arctic Kingdom guide will meet you outside of the departure/arrival gate near the baggage where they will have a company sign and then organize everybody before collecting your bags. Then you’re off to your comfortable hotel accommodations and time to enjoy Iqaluit.
Now, this is can be helpful information because the beginning can be the most befuddling time, but once you meet your guide its time to sit back and let the fun commence!
The Adventure Begins!
Iqaluit is a maritime city that is nestled into the tundra hillside, so I was instantly taken with the landscape. You can breathe in the fresh sea air blown through the city from Frobisher Bay. The colourful homes filled me with joy and reminded me a little of a smaller Halifax above the tree line.
Our days were filled with visits to local historic features like the Hudson’s Bay Company trading post. It rests on the eastern shoreline and stands as a pillar of Canadian history.
In Canada, we don’t have the far-flung history to have relics like ancient cathedrals, but we have the iconic white and red painted buildings of the Hudson’s Bay Company and communities like Iqaluit and Apex that bring our past to life.
Next stop, a tour of the local microbrewery with a little treat at the end. We travelled by passenger bus to the brewery through the town with our friendly guide, Marie Claire, pointing out local businesses and telling stories of the community.
We were greeted at the front door by our brewery tour guide, Mosha, who is one of the brew extraordinaires. We were shown their facilities as Mosha described each of the functions and processes for making their delicious beverage.
Once we learned how it was made, it was time to try it!
Each of us who wanted one was brought a test flight of their different types of beer. Since this was only a taste test, there was no pressure to try the smaller amount, but it was delicious. Someone even raved that they don’t often enjoy the taste of beer but that their porter was amazing!
We travelled back to our hotel for dinner and a restful sleep before another day of fun.
The Adventure Continues!
Curious about what kind of outdoor activities you can try in Iqaluit? We offer the chance to hike on the tundra surrounding the city, kayaking on the Arctic ocean, and exploring Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park.
Now considering that some of these activities depend on the weather conditions, our schedule was flexible but never lacking activity.
For example, we were supposed to start the day with kayaking but the wind would have made it less enjoyable. So, our guide, M.C. had looked at the weather report and saw that the next day was supposed to be less windy.
So instead of kayaking, we went hiking on the tundra! We were joined by another guide, François, who led us over the dramatic hillsides describing the history of the city and local vegetation.
The locals call this area the ‘road to nowhere’ because it may seem a vast expanse to nothing, but really this is the trail to the northern communities. And so, it was explained to us that it was really the road to everywhere!
Did you know that an inukshuk is actually used as a trail marker? Like beacons, these stone structures sit atop elevations to lead the way or herd caribou. These are often mistaken for the human-shaped structures that are actually called ‘inunnguaq’. It was interesting to hear the differences and meanings for them, considering one of them is represented on the flag Nunavut. Can you guess which it is?
I’ll bet you never would have guessed that the tundra has such a colourful richness. Like trees in autumn, the end of the summer marks a saturation of colour. The hillside becomes spotted with deep and vibrant reds and yellows; and you may understand the colour’s of the territory’s flag even better.
After our hike, we enjoyed a delicious lunch of artisan sandwiches that included local delicacies like Arctic char. The afternoon was spent touring the town with our guide bringing us to top destination around Iqaluit as we grew familiar with the city.
The next stop along the way, a stunning curated Inuit museum and gallery, the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum.
This beautiful museum hosts exhibits of Inuit history, a gallery of Inuit art from communities across Nunavut, and a terrific gift shop that is a collection of Inuit art that builds the art industry to directly benefits the artists.
We had a truly unique treat and special guests, Mary Itorkcheak and Alassua Hanson. These two remarkable artists are from the city and have been working on their musical portfolio. They showed their diverse talent across genres while mixing them with their traditional experiences and sounds. We can’t thank our friends and partners enough that help us share educational and cultural experiences. Hearing their voices and thoughts is such an important reason so many of us travel to these exceptional places and meet such incredible people.
As we continue our town tour and the next cultural and historic highlight is the Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre. Here you can explore the exhibits that discuss and describe life for Inuit over time. There is rolling film that displays real footage documenting the everyday life of Inuit living in igloos. Displays of arctic animals and details on the geography give you a sense of the environment surrounding Iqaluit.
Then we stopped into some more craft and souvenir shops like Carving Nunavut. As you walk through the city you notice striking sculptures and beautiful works that bring incredible life to the community.
We had some free time to explore the city that we’ve gotten to know better and return to shops we wanted to spend more time in. Our guide gave us a terrific set of restaurant suggestions with traditional and local foods.
Exploring the Landscape!
The way this trip is organized, one day focuses on town tours while the other focuses on experiencing the incredible outdoor activities you can enjoy in Iqaluit.
With beautiful weather, we knew this would be a great door for our activities and to start the day we set off for Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park. Here our guide took us on a wonderful walk through the Sylvia Grinnell River valley. See the resilient vegetation that fills the valley or little critters known to roam the area like Arctic hare.
We arrived at the sheltered pavilion where we took a break to rest and enjoy some lunch and snacks. Our guide had brought northern delicacies to try like arctic char and muktuk which is whale blubber, a common staple in many arctic communities.
We explored the famous waterfall, one of the beautiful features of this stunning park. Look out to the rocky mouth of the river where it meets Frobisher Bay.
Here we were able to try some fishing for the arctic char that gave Iqaluit its name which in Inuktitut means, “place of many fish.” Standing from the shore we cast into the ancient river looking out to scenery I had never really experienced before, and it was absolutely striking.
The afternoon was spent kayaking around Frobisher Bay. If you have kayaking on the Arctic Ocean, then here is the perfect chance! We had a fantastic kayak guide named, Pamela Woods, who helped our group, which ranged from all ages and experience levels to try this iconic activity.
Have you ever dreamed of kayaking next to icebergs but still with summer weather? The group got a feel for things and then paddled to Apex, past the Hudson’s Bay trading post. We finished our kayak as the sun began to set, leaving a fairytale-like golden light on the water.
Then after a delicious dinner, we had a truly special treat. We had a campfire with hot beverages and treats like s’mores. Then as we sat around telling stories someone noticed the northern lights were sparkling above!
You can absolutely see the northern lights during the summer, it just needs to be a little later at night when it gets efficiently dark out. Iqaluit is below the Arctic Circle so it does have nights that are dark enough to see this spectacular show of greens, purples and blues twist and dance over your head.
That night I sure slept well!
The next day we had a little time in the morning to visit our favourite stops before our flight. It truly is a spectacular city filled with beautiful art. Anyone who wanted to bring home arctic char for friends and family grabbed some quickly on our way to the airport.
At the airport, we took one last photo together. Everyone stood in front of the airport sign which hosts 4 languages and a great landmark.
Trip to Iqaluit
Are you interested in visiting Iqaluit? Do you want to try some of these exciting activities at this exceptional destination?
The north is one of the best-hidden gems for travellers. Iqaluit is a fun maritime city that is full of Inuit cultural highlights and historic sites, surrounded by breathtaking scenery for photos and one of the most enjoyable landscapes for outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and fishing.
Get the details on this summer getaway now and find out just how easy it is to travel to Iqaluit. Click here information about our Iqaluit Getaways here.
Artists of the North
We want to thank the incredible partners and inspirations that are a voice for the north and offer incredible insight into a culture and experience we all too often don’t get to hear. There is such remarkable talent and dedication that artists like Mary Itorkcheak and Alassua Hanson give to their work.
Iqaluit is one of many remarkable communities that are full of culture and artists. Communities like Kinngait (formerly Cape Dorset), near Iqaluit, are renowned for the number of artists and an array of exceptional art. I was fortunate to talk to the person beside my on my flight departing Iqaluit who was travelling with his band from Arviat.
One of the most well known artist is the band The Jerry Cans. They combine traditional Inuit throat singing, rock folk, and maritime music mostly performed in Inuktitut to “reflect the challenges and beauty of life in the Far North.” They created Nunavut’s first record label with the goal of “to support Inuit and Indigenous musicians.”
Their performance at the Canadian Juno awards gave this band a national and global platform and showed just how great they are:
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By: Mat Whitelaw