As travelers, we all have our personal traveling goals to overcome (like climbing Mt. Everest!), dream vacation areas and whatnot. Personally, we’ll focus on the untamed lands of the Arctic Circle – more specifically the North-American portion because the total surface of the area is huge. Covering all of it in only one go would deprive you of all the fun stuff to do in the frozen North.
Cez and Agness of eTramping will be your guides through the Alaskan, Yukon, Canadian Northwestern Territories, and Nunavut wilderness. They’ll provide all the cool details on what to visit for the best experience possible. Let’s start from Alaska and move towards the East, shall we?
Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska
With the total surface of this national park being just over that of Belgium, there is no doubt that the “Gates of the Arctic” exceeds every experienced backpackers’ and hikers’ wildest dreams. It consists primarily of portions of the beautiful snow-capped Brooks Range mountains, being traversed by one of only two roads which cross the Arctic Circle: The Dalton Highway.
Depending on how you view it, the remoteness of the park can be a dream come true or a deal-breaker. To access the park, you need to fly in from Fairbanks or hike into it. It also means there are no proper roads and routes to traverse it. This is why it is one of the least visited National Parks in the U.S., though we know many of you will appreciate the lack of crowds which can interfere with your appreciation of nature.
Brooks Range, Alaska
Still, even just traversing the Dalton Highway itself will take you through the spectacular tundra where you can observe the Musk Ox, caribous, and plentiful Grizzly Bears that roam the wilds. The Brooks Range is also the home of the gorgeous Alatna River, possibly the prettiest in North America.
It is the perfect spot for fishing, kayaking, and hiking for those of you who are in love with the untouched Arctic. In April, thousands and thousands of caribous migrate towards the Arctic coastal plain (their calving grounds), and return to the south at the end of July and towards the fall. Truly a spectacular sight and a great opportunity for some excellent photography.
Ivvavik National Park, Yukon
If the Gates of the Arctic reels in just over 10,000 visitors a year, just wait till you hear that Ivavvik only gathers about 100. Just as the former, it is pretty difficult to navigate unless you fly in. But, as you float over the valleys and ridges of the British Mountains, you can’t help but play all the hiking possibilities inside your head in anticipation.
When not spotting Dall’s sheep, grizzlies or caribous, the turquoise Firth River awaits you with fantastic fishing possibilities. Most operators also offer a flying day trip to the nearby Herschel Island. The views on the flight are worth it in themselves.
An even less visited place, here you can practically spend hours taking pictures of the birds, wildflowers and seals that litter the island and its shores. Keep an eye out for entertaining birds like Guillemots, or camouflaged elder ducks through the Herschel bush.
Vuntut National Park, Yukon
When it comes to Arctic travel, you really have to expect the lands to be unforgiving and bring out the best in every traveler looking for a “wild” experience. This is no different for Vuntut National Park, which is only visited by about 30 people each year! Maybe it’s time for some new faces in the Yukon Wilderness?
Your primary base camp will most likely be the traditional Old Crow village, which offers a newly opened visitor center. The remote settlement has only a few hundred locals which can also offer tours and accommodation.
Come here in the beginning of summer and enjoy the caribous and birds in the literal hundreds of thousands. Or, partake in traditional activities with the locals:
- Berry picking
And all sorts of lively commotion that will make you wish for a life in the Yukon landscape.
Inuvik, Northwest Territories
Time for a bit of civilization in the Arctic North (but just a bit before returning to the Canadian tundra and forest.) Inuvik is the home of the Our Lady Of Victory Church, often called Igloo Church due to its shape.
On the artistic side of things, Inuvik houses the Great Northern Arts Festival in the middle of July. It gathers visitors from all around the world, united in their love for northern art workshops which include carving, sewing, jewelry-making, and many others.
But Inuvik and its surroundings are probably best known as a heaven for snowmobile and dog sledding aficionados. The Mackenzie Delta is ripe for exploration, and the winding trails along the Richardson Mountains will make you want to frame the entire landscape back home.
The largest and northernmost Canadian territory makes Greenland seem like a densely-populated capital in comparison. Inuit tribes are the only masters of the land, largely due to the extreme conditions in the area.
However, the same conditions make Nunavut ripe for Arctic cruises of the highest caliber. With polar bears roving the frozen landscape, belugas, narwhals, and bowhead whales circling the glaciers and turquoise icebergs in the icy waters, and dog-sleds as your only means of travel, Nunavut is the end-all of Arctic travel in the North-Americas.
Iqaluit and Its Festivals
Iqaluit, the only city in the area, impresses visitors with its plenty festivals throughout the year. The Toonik Tyme Festival (April) is an occasion to observe traditional Inuit games and igloo-building, as well as races (whether by dog-sled or snowmobile).
In June and July, you can participate in the Alianait and Nunavut Arts Festivals for some impressive local visual arts and cultural performances. Inuit throat singing, drum dancing, and traditional cooking will warm you up with their cheerful atmosphere here in the North. It’s the best way to experience the Midnight Sun, but winter visitors will have just as much fun under the Northern Lights!