Northern Canada Pictures Guide

Northern Canada snowy home

Aurora in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Northern Canada. Photo by LG-Pro2.

Visiting Northern Canada

Northern Canada consists of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, encompassing over one half of Canada (an area the size of Western Europe) but with just 100, 000 human inhabitants.
We’re throwing Manitoba’s Churchill into this chilly pot of a page too since it’s also part of the vast and icy northern bleakness dominated more by nature than by man, where the long winters are white tinted with technicolor Northern Lights and the short summers a colourful mass of wild flowers.

Hiking the Chilkoot Trail near Whitehorse, YT, Yukon Territory, Canada

Hiking the Chilkoot Trail near Whitehorse, YT, Yukon Territory. Photo by Anthony DeLorenzo.

When to go there

A Polar bear seen from a Tundra Buggy near Churchill, Manitoba, Northern Canada

A Polar bear seen from a Tundra Buggy near Churchill. Photo by Ian Stewart. More on Manitoba polar bear tourism

Best weather: June- August.
For Wildlife watching: October/November for polar bears awaiting the arrival of ice and seals, September OK.
July-August for thousands of beluga whales, seals and migrating birds.

Northern Canada main attractions

Churchill, Manitoba

An overview of Churchill, Manitoba, with a 'polar bear jail' bottom right, Northern Canada

An overview of Churchill, Manitoba, photo by Peterfitzgerald.

A ‘polar bear jail’ is visible bottom right under the curved galvanized roof. This is where bears that have wandered into town are kept until they can be transported to an area that offers food other than humans.

On the frozen shores of Hudson Bay small and unattractive Churchill is the best place on earth to see polar bears, whether out on the icy tundra in a Tundra buggy, or rooting around Churchill’s garbage cans lit only by the northern lights. Other creatures that make this desolate land their home are white foxes, arctic hares, lemmings, owls, falcons, whales, seals and eco-tourists.

Temperature in Churchill averages -27C (-16F) in January, and 12C (54F) in July, summertime.

Winter in Churchill lasts from October to June and the short summer sees a flurry of wildlife activity as hundreds of species of birds, beluga whales and fur seals stop by en route for their breeding grounds.

Needless to say wildlife watching is the main attraction in bizarre and isolated Churchill, with the northern lights as technicolor wallpaper, nature’s way of saying ‘it’s not really so dull out here! ‘

The best time to see polar bears is October to early November as they chill out while waiting for the Hudson Bay to freeze over so they can get to ringed seals, their staple diet.
Bears that spend too much time scavenging for food in Churchill are put in bear jail until the bay freezes. Staying at a simple but friendly and informative tundra lodge is a good option as you’ll be surrounded by bears without a daily drive but costing about $6, 000 pw per person! Yow!

The best time to see beluga whales is the July-August calving season in the Churchill River estuary.

The best time to see birdlife is June-August, with 270 species recorded in the area.

Northern lights (aurora borealis) are frequently seen here December-April and in late August.

Getting to Churchill

No roads go to Churchill so tourists generally fly in (2 hours) via the international hub of Winnipeg, Manitoba, or take the train (48 hours). Thompson, Manitoba, is the nearest paved road to Churchill and trains run from there to Churchill. More on Manitoba polar bear tourism

The Northwest Territories

Virginia Falls in Nahanni National Park, Northwest Territories, Northern Canada

Virginia Falls in Nahanni National Park, Northwest Territories. Photo by Paul Gierszewski.

Northwest Territories are inhabited about 50% by Inuit and North American Indians who live by hunting and fishing in the massive forests and rivers, they often coming into conflict with oil and mineral exploration companies. Recently Yellowknife, the capital of the province, has seen unusual expansion as a controversial diamond production centre.

The area around Great Slave Lake is home to many native people and a wilderness activity destination.
Temperatures in Northwest Territories vary greatly, with the sub-arctic south generally -20C to -30C in winter and 10C to 20C in summertime. The northern polar region generally experiences -15C to -50C in winter and 5C to 15C in summer.

This region’s best natural attraction is Nahanni National Park (a World Heritage Site) and its towering Virginia Falls, twice the height of Niagara.

The Yukon

Mountain biking around Cantlie Lake near Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Northern Canada

Mountain biking around Cantlie Lake near Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Photo by Anthony DeLorenzo.

In northern Canada bordering the USA’s Alaska, the Yukon region offers tourists spectacular, isolated alpine lakes, mountains and the largest non-polar icefield in the world in the Kluane National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), complete with fresh icebergs plopping into Lowell Lake and heavenly light shows most winter nights.

The capital and largest city in the province is Whitehorse but the tourist favourite is little cowboy town look-alike Dawson City where the old-fashioned western style that harks back to the Klondike Gold Rush days is now mandatory for new construction, thus preserving the ambience and tourist potential indefinitely. Good move city council!

Travellers that like rugged landscapes, hiking, biking, panning for gold and even golf (9 holes on the Top of the World Course), this could be your kind of place.

The Dempster Highway, Canada’s most northerly major road is one of the world’s great drives, heading on all-year gravel from Dawson City into the Arctic Circle as far as Inuvik town on the Mackenzie River. Your paintwork will never be the same again.

Dawson City, Yukon, Northern Canada

Dawson City, Yukon. Photo by Dlogic.

Temperatures in sub-arctic Dawson average 16C (61F) in summer -27C (-17F) in winter.
Get there: fly in or drive year-round from Whitehorse on the Klondike Highway. There is no rail service.
Things to see and do in Dawson City

Nunavut

The frozen Arctic Sea in Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, Northern Canada

The frozen Arctic Sea in Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut. Photo by/of Lanny Fisher.

Nunavut (which means Our Land in Inuit), is Canada’s newest province, created in 1999 from the eastern part of the Northwest Territories; much of it is just cold, barren, Arctic tundra inside the Arctic Circle.
It is home to mostly Inuit people (aka Eskimos) who have a great affection for this bleak and unspoilt land. The Inuit city of Iqaluit offers tourists some interesting cultural insights and handicrafts.
And by the way, Eskimo is considered to be a pejorative term in Canada and Greenland, though not in other Inuit communities of Alaska and Siberia.

Main attractions for Nunavut visitors, apart from Inuit culture, involve hiking, wild camping, kayaking, wildlife watching, iceberg explorations, fishing, hunting (strict quotas, seasons and methods) and big ship cruises.

Fog rolling over a typical Nunavut community, Northern Canada

Fog rolling in as usual (just when you were getting used to a little warmth) in Arctic Bay, a typical Nunavut community. Photo by Mike Beauregard.

Summer Bug off

Buffalo desperately trying to shake off biting flies in the Northwest Territories, Northern Canada

Buffalo desperately trying to shake off biting flies in the Northwest Territories. Photo by Nadine.

Some parts of Northern Canada, particularly the far north, experience a dramatic number of insects in July and August, especially mosquitoes and blackflies. Be prepared. Check tent netting and zippers, bring DEET based repellent, anti-bug hats, anti-sting medication and read Bugbog’s mosquito page.

The far north USA state of Alaska is also wild, unspoilt and speaks English!