Tourism Nunavut
Credit: Tourism Nunavut

A Time of Transition

In 1999, Nunavut was officially designated a distinct territory of Canada—the first change to the map of Canada in half-a-century. But there is nothing new about Nunavut. It has been continuously inhabited since Paleo-Eskimo peoples first arrived some 4,000 years ago.

This contrast between ancient culture and a 21st century stature characterizes the cultural transitions in modern-day Nunavut. Two generations ago, many Inuit people still lived a nomadic lifestyle. Today, Inuit strive to keep deep traditions alive within a global community. For the Nunavut visitor, this means rich cultural experiences are easy to come by—yet modern amenities are always close at hand.

Winter travel is generally done via snowmobile—but dogsledding is still active. Wintertime dogsled races are held annually in communities such as Arctic Bay, Igloolik and Iqaluit (the territorial capital). And outfitters can put you at the helm of a team of energetic huskies. It is equal parts cultural and natural, thrilling and serene—contact Nunavut Tourism to discover how you can drive a team of qimmiit (dogs) across the wide-open tundra.

Arts and crafts have been a part of Arctic culture for thousands of years. However, rather than “culture” as it is known to the Western World, Inuit use the phrase “illiqusiq,” which simply means “the way it is done.” With a nomadic history in an unforgiving environment, Inuit always searched for the most logical means in which to accomplish a task—today, rifles have replaced the bow-and-arrow for subsistence hunting, GPS is used to navigate the tundra and pop-culture mixes with traditional song and dance. But traditional arts are still vibrant. Stone, antler and ivory carvings are plentiful. Sealskin boots and ornate beadwork make for unique fashion accessories. And world-class printmaking from Cape Dorset and Pangnirtung enhances any home décor. Artisan workshops are available for a hands-on experience as well. It is a cultural experience so rich, so deep—yet so close. (And interestingly, Inuit traditions have influenced the rest of the world. After all, who hasn’t heard of an igloo, kayak or Inuksuk?) 

Spring is the New Winter

In most of Canada, springtime means flowers, greenery and stowing away your parka. In Nunavut, spring is the new winter. Temperatures rise as the longer days of March, April and May arrive, but Nunavut is still very much snowbound—an ideal place for backcountry skiers, dogsledders, ice-fishers and those who love authentic wintertime adventure.

Operators offer amazing winter (spring) experiences—tour the frozen landscape via snowmobile in search of wildlife like caribou or wolves and marvel at the aurora borealis at night. Or, for high-excitement in the High Arctic, try kite-skiing—retrace a caribou migration route along Hudson’s Bay via the power of the wind.

There is so much more—bird-watching expeditions seek out ptarmigan and snowy owl in the winter environs and ice-fishing operators will take you into the wilds search of Arctic char or lake trout. Combine these with a tour to the floe edge and you may even get to see narwhals and walrus. And experienced, hardy explorers even set out via ski into remote Auyuittuq National Park. Welcome to bucket list winter adventure. Welcome to Nunavut.