When I talk about the arctic it’s usually in relation to me complaining about how cold it can get in New York City or some frosty metropolitan center. It’s sorta my humorous West coast take on what normal people call ‘seasons’. That said, for those who want to do the arctic well, Canada’s arctic offers visitors a glimpse into a different life; spectacular scenery and wildlife; a sense of timelessness and an experience that will last a lifetime.
We like this brand new tour series called “A Touch of the Arctic”, offered by The Great Canadian Travel Company, because it features the opportunity to spend two, three or four nights in a traditional Inuit community. This is enough time to explore the area, learn about the cultures of the region, meet local peoples and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of these remote villages.
The programs have no organized day tours, although they may be available in the communities (and arranged locally), to allow each participant to customize their own Arctic experience. Accommodation is in the comfortable and welcoming Inns North properties, each owned by the local co-operative. The Inuit communities are not used to many tourists –they are simply home to a small and tightly-knit group who will be happy to talk to you of their lives, their land and their culture. Life in the north runs at its own pace, and operates on a very different wavelength; which is a great part of the fascination of these villages. A tolerance of the northern lifestyle will add immeasurably to the enjoyment of your northern expedition.
The communities offered:
Kimmirut lies on the southern coast of Baffin Island and is home to just 400 people. It is a “new” community, first settled in the early 20th century. There is evidence of habitation of the Dorset people from thousands of years ago. Kimmirut prides itself on its warm, friendly people, traditional way of life and indigenous culture.
Qikiqtarjuaq lies at the northern end of Auyuittuq National Park, and means “Big Island”. The area is rich in wildlife, whales, walrus and narwhal, and offers spectacular scenery. Enjoy the walking trails, watch icebergs in the Davis Strait, rock climb or simply enjoy the community of 470 Inuit who call this village their home.
Pond Inlet is one of the major tourist attractions of Baffin Island, and offers visitors ample opportunities for wildlife viewing, including the spectacularly rich birdlife of the region. Local tours may be arranged through the co-op to see the ice floe edge, and learn about the remarkable wildlife of this region.
Repulse Bay lies on the Arctic Circle, and visitors to this traditional community will be delighted by the wide bay, the wildlife, the hikes and ancient settlements. You can take a tour of the Arctic waters of Repulse Bay to look for narwhal, orcas, bowhead whales, seals and possibly polar bears. The community is renowned for its excellent artists, especially for its carvers who work in bone, ivory and stone.
Pangnirtung, an old whaling village, is an iconic destination lying at the southern end of Auyuittuq National Park and has been a favorite for tourists for many years. Pangnirtung has achieved an international reputation for producing high-quality traditional arts, as well as printmaking and weaving. The tour to this community will allow you the chance to enjoy magnificent scenery, and learn some of the history of the people of this fjord village.
Programs are priced from $2427 – $4006, depending on community and length of stay and include round trip air from Ottawa or Winnipeg to the community; 3 nights’ accommodation (4 or 2 nights in Repulse Bay); and all meals. The programs also operate year round.
The Great Canadian Travel Company also offers a 3-day, 2-night trip to Iqaluit, the capital city of Nunavut (population 6,000) for only $1499 per person, including accommodations and round trip air from Ottawa or Montreal.