Canadian Arctic Tours

Beyond Canada’s continental north you will find the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, with over 36,000 islands, most lying deep within the Arctic Circle. A cruise in this remote region takes you through incredible wilderness scenery of fjords, glaciers, mountains and pack ice. The Canadian Arctic is also well known for its diverse wildlife, history and rich Inuit culture. It is home to seals, whales, polar bears, caribou, musk ox, walruses, Arctic wolves and foxes as well as thousands of seabirds that nest in the cliffs. Encounter small indigenous communities and the archaeological remains of hunting lodges that date back thousands of years.
 
It is in this region that you can follow in the wake of the legendary explorers Amundsen, Baffin and Franklin who searched for the Northwest Passage, a fabled trade route across the Arctic from Europe to the Far East. The two ships under Franklin’s command disappeared mysteriously before Amundsen made the first successful navigation of the route on his 1903-6 Gjoa expedition.
 
Discover some of the planet’s most dramatic glaciated landscapes on an expedition cruise to the Canadian Arctic, one of the most intriguing destinations of the Far North where not only the scenery but also the wildlife, history and culture will captivate you. 
 

We just came back from a cruise to Canada’s Arctic and Greenland and it was a life-changing experience. An excellent adventure, beautiful scenery, terrific crew and staff. We hiked, swam in the polar seas, sang, learned, took thousands of pictures of the vast vistas, wildlife including whales and polar bears.

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Featured Canadian Arctic Trips & Deals

POPULAR  From 8,865

Spend a week exploring the Canadian Arctic at this unique wilderness lodge and world-class beluga whale observation site on Somerset Island in Nunavut, Canada.

POPULAR  From 9,150

The great appeal of this voyage is the immediate immersion into the Arctic wilderness from the very first day.

POPULAR  From 9,150

This voyage will appeal to both lovers of wildlife and the dramatic history of early polar exploration. 

Canadian Arctic Tours

11 NIGHTS From 9,850

We journey up the wild east coast of Baffin Island, discovering deep fjords, soaring mountains and immense glacial systems.

12 NIGHTS From 12,950

This iconic voyage explores the remote Northwest Passage and stunning fjords of the Baffin Island coastline before crossing to Greenland and its mindblowing icebergs. 

Articles On Canadian Arctic

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Posted on Fri, 15 Jun 2018

As peak tourist season reaches an all-time high in South America, the best-known and most visited sites are inundated with waves of excited visitors. And why not? July, in reality, is a glorious month to travel extensively through most of the continent, with the dry climate facilitating hiking, extensive sightseeing and, of course, flight and road transfers in between fabulous …

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Press release: Celebrate the oceans of the polar regions on a Chimu Exclusive Cruise

Posted on Fri, 08 Jun 2018

Sydney, Friday 8th June 2018 To coincide with World Oceans Day today when the planet will celebrate the entity that connects all, Australia’s largest polar experts, Chimu Adventures, have launched their most recent Chimu Exclusive Cruise to Antarctica. This is their ninth departure between late 2018 and early 2020. In Shackleton’s Wake, aboard the small and newly refurbished Ocean Atlantic, …

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Researchers Uncover World’ Largest Human Sacrifice Site, Peru

Posted on Mon, 04 Jun 2018

In what has been hailed ‘one of the most pivotal archaeological discoveries in modern times’, archaeologists in Peru reveal they have uncovered possibly the world’s largest human sacrifice site. Human Sacrifice Site Perhaps it was an exceptionally bad year for their much-needed crops. Maybe, experts say, a catastrophic series of ravaging floods destroyed the coastal areas of northern Peru. Whatever …

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Discover the Galapagos – Your Island by Island Guide

Posted on Wed, 30 May 2018

One destination, 13 Islands, one unforgettable experience: Your Island by Island Guide to the Galapagos takes you on a whirlwind journey of astonishing sights and captivating wildlife. A trip to the Galapagos Islands is unlike any adventure you’ll ever have and that’s because this magnificent place is unlike any other you’ll ever visit. The world’s most famous wildlife-watching destination – …

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Paraguay Country Guide – Best Things to Do

Posted on Tue, 29 May 2018

Landlocked and surrounded by much more prominent countries, Paraguay is a far-too-easily overlooked South America destination, something we’ve been itching to change. Whilst the country may not boast any world-famous attractions (except for a stellar access to Iguazu Falls) there’s actually a lot this small unassuming nation can offer the discerning traveller looking for something else. Something more. With a …

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Cruise Antarctica – Top 5 Items You Shouldn’t Forget to Pack

Posted on Fri, 18 May 2018

Buck the trend and pack like a professional: discover the 5 items people always forget to take to an Antarctica expedition. Packing for an Antarctica expedition is both exciting and exasperating yet with the sheer amount of packing guides out there (including our own comprehensive Antarctica packing guide) you should get a fairly good idea of what will be useful …

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Press release: Visit the most remote destination on the planet on a Chimu cruise to East Antarctica

Posted on Tue, 15 May 2018

Sydney, Tuesday 15 May 2018 Following the adventure of their 2017 voyage which saw travellers sail 4025,1 nautical miles; identify eight species of penguins; spot thirteen mammal breeds; experience air temperatures of -6 Celsius and cross the Antarctic Circle no less than six times, polar specialists Chimu Adventures invite those who want the ultimate Antarctica experience to get involved in …

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What Not to Pack When Travelling to South America 

Posted on Tue, 15 May 2018

Whether you’re planning a wildlife-watching trip to the Pantanal, a rumble in the jungle of the Amazon, an expedition to the frigid ends of Antarctica, multi-day hike to Machu Picchu or, perhaps, a luxury cruise to the Galapagos, chances are one of the first things you’ll be researching is a comprehensive packing list. Now, before we even know where in South America you’re planning to go, we guarantee that you’ll pack …

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Best Things To Do in South and Central America – JUNE Guide

Posted on Tue, 15 May 2018

June marks the start of winter in most of Latin America and this month offers the most varied array of attractions and highlights. A month where you can really do it all: ski in the south, hike in the centre and snorkel in the north! And although this is also the start of the high tourist season in the continent, …

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The Arctic’s Inuit Culture

Posted on Mon, 14 May 2018

Shaped and influenced by the forbidding landscapes they’ve inhabited for thousands of years, the Inuit culture of the Arctic region is one of the most fascinating on the planet. Hardy, resilient, mysterious and immensely ingenious, the Inuits of the northernmost regions of the Americas, Europe and Russia have not only survived on some of our planet’s harshest environments but indeed …

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Country Information

WHEN TO GO
The best time to travel to the Canadian Arctic is during the summer months of July to September when the ice floes open up, allowing access to the thousands of islands that make up the Canadian Arctic archipelago. These are the warmer months when temperatures average 10°C across much of the region.
In July, the month of least sea ice, the sun is over the horizon for 24 hours a day. Coastal areas are free of ice, channels open up and there is an abundance of wildflowers and wildlife. There is the chance to see polar bears and walruses hunting on the ice, whales (humpback, beluga, bowhead and narwhals), ringed seals, Arctic foxes and many bird species.  
Slightly later in the season in August and early September, whales become more abundant with bowheads, minke, fin, blue and sperm whales. Wildlife on land is plentiful with sightings of polar bear, walrus, caribou, Arctic fox, Arctic hare, reindeer and musk oxen being common. There is a profusion of birds including the Arctic tern with Baffin Island home to over 70 species of birds.
If you want to travel in the footsteps of early Arctic explorers such as Franklin, Peary and Amundsen and cross the fabled Northwest Passage, then you will need to travel in July or August. This sea route linking the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through Canada’s Arctic Archipelago is only accessible during a short window when temperatures rise above freezing and the thick pack ice that covers the route for most of the year has receded enough to allow ships through.    
 
WEATHER
During the height of the winter months, average daily temperatures across the Canadian Arctic are below -20°C, with February being the coldest month. Temperatures in the south eastern parts can be higher as a result of relatively warm winds blowing off the North Atlantic. In the coldest parts of the Canadian Arctic including parts of Ellesmere Island, winter temperatures can fall as low as -50°C. In the main summer months of June to August, temperatures generally average 10°C. Inuvik, in Canada’s Western Arctic has average highs of 19.5°C in the summer with a record high of over 32°C having been recorded. 
Baffin Island experiences a later spring thaw than other parts of the Canadian Arctic and cloudy foggy summers. Snow can occur at any time of the year but is least likely in July and early August. The island is surrounded by sea ice for most of the year, this only disappearing completely from the north coast for short periods between June and September. Average summer temperatures are 4-8°C, with average highs of 7-12°C. In winter temperatures average -26°C. 
Ellesmere Island is the most northerly island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, its northern coasts being within 800km of the North Pole. The summers are cool and brief and the winters long and very cold. In the interior, temperatures as low as -56°C have been recorded. In the summer, temperatures rise above freezing and water flows from the ice caps. Ellesmere Island is a polar desert, with around 60mm annual precipitation in the north of the island.
 
WILDLIFE
The wildlife of the Canadian Arctic ranges from polar bears, musk oxen, caribou, seals and whales (including beluga, narwhal and bowhead) to Arctic foxes, hares and wolves and thousands of seabirds.  
Baffin Island is home to prolific wildlife and at the northern tip, Bylot Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary provides nesting habitats for over 70 species of birds. The caribou migrate from the north of the island to the south in the winter. Polar bears are found all along the coast but most prevalent where there is pack ice and both Arctic and Baffin Island wolves are found on the island. Ringed seals are year round visitors with harp seals arriving in the summer. Beluga, narwhal and bowhead whales are also found off Baffin Island in the summer.
Musk oxen, polar bears, caribou and Arctic hares are seen on Ellesmere Island as well as many bird species and 13 species of spider! Quttinirpaaq National Park lies in the northeastern corner of Ellesmere Island with Arctic hares, lemmings, musk oxen and Arctic wolves residing in the park. Ringed and bearded seals, narwhals, polar bears and walruses can also be found here as well as a small population of Peary caribou. In the summer the park is a nesting site for many birds including long-tailed jaegers and red knots.
Victoria Island is home to a herd of dolphin-union caribou (island caribou) that migrate annually across the sea ice to their winter grazing area on the mainland.
 
CULTURE AND CUSTOMS
The Inuktitut word 'Inuit' means 'the people’ and refers to the indigenous people of the Canadian Arctic who live in Nanavut and the Northwest Territories. There are 8 main Inuit groups in the Canadian Arctic - Labrador, Ungava or New Quebec, Baffin Island, Iglulik, Caribou, Copper, Netsilik and Inuvialuit. The Inuit’s traditional nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle is well adapted to the Arctic’s extreme conditions. They survive by hunting, fishing and trapping and traditionally speak Inuktitut of which there are many dialects. 
The igloo was the traditional winter shelter of the Inuit, made from blocks of snow and sometimes lined with caribou skins. Since the 1950’s, many Inuit now live in settlements with permanent buildings and modern facilities such as heating, electricity and a supply of fresh water. Nowadays, firearms supplement traditional hunting tools, wooden boats are often used instead of skin boats and snow-mobiles sometimes replace dog-sleds. But many traditional items are still used including harpoons, sealskin boots and caribou jackets.
The rich culture of the Inuit dates back over 4,500 years and as well as the archaeological remains of ancient hunting lodges, you may also be able to listen to traditional throat singing, where a wide range of sounds are produced from deep in the throat and chest. The Inuit are well-known for their soapstone, ivory and bone carvings and their prints and etchings. Dancing, singing, drumming, storytelling and poetry are all important in their native culture.   
 
TOURISM AND SUSTAINABILITY
Although there is always the danger that tourism can have a negative impact on a region such as the Arctic, there can also be benefits. By travelling to the Canadian Arctic you gain a much better understanding of its sensitive ecosystem, the life that it supports and the threats. Many travellers return from their Arctic travels as advocates on Arctic issues, spreading the word about the problems that face this incredible area. 
Vast reserves of oil and also natural gas are believed to lie above the Arctic Circle and oil exploration and drilling are huge threats to the Canadian Arctic. Drilling not only destructs the environment but it also poses a threat to the subsistence lifestyles of the Inuit. The clearing and logging of huge tracts of land results in loss of habitat for the wildlife on which the Inuit depend for hunting and trapping.
Tourism can provide the Inuit with employment within the tourist industry that in turn can lead to sustainability. Several Inuit communities now see tourism as a way of preserving their economic independence, their culture and their unique way of life that they have struggled to maintain for decades. National park and wildlife reserve fees also help to maintain, protect and monitor these wilderness areas.
 
GEOGRAPHY
The Canadian Arctic Archipelago is a group of over 35,000 islands to the north of the mainland that comprise much of the territory of Northern Canada. The archipelago extends 2,400km west to east and 1,900km from the mainland to the northernmost tip of Ellesmere Island at Cape Columbia. The 3 largest islands are Baffin, Victoria and Ellesmere, the 5th, 8th and 10th largest islands in the world. Devon Island lies between Baffin and Ellesmere Islands and is the largest uninhabited island in the world. The islands are separated from each other and the mainland by a series of waterways known as the Northwest Passages.
Baffin Island is the largest island in Canada, with the Hudson Strait to the south separating it from the mainland and Baffin Bay separating it from Greenland. Its dramatic landscape features vertical cliffs, fjords, ice fields, massive tidewater glaciers, lakes and black granite peaks. The Baffin Mountains run along the northeastern coast, the highest peak being Mount Odin at 2,147m. In the centre of the island is the Barnes Ice Cap.
Ellesmere Island is the most northerly island in the Canadian Arctic archipelago with Cape Columbia being Canada’s most northerly point of land. The Arctic Ocean lies to the north, Greenland to the east and its northern coasts are within 800km of the North Pole. The island is mountainous and rocky with deep fjords and vast ice shelves extending from the northern coast. To the north are the Mountains of Grant Land that are shrouded in thick ice. The island is a polar desert, with rock spires (nunataks) projecting through the ice. Ellesmere is home to Barbeau Peak (2,616 m), the highest mountain in eastern North America; Lake Hazen, the largest lake north of the Arctic Circle, plus Agassiz and Grant Land ice caps - the largest ice caps in Canada. 
 
HISTORY
  • The Canadian Arctic has been occupied by the Inuit and their predecessors for over 4,500 years
  • There were attempts by explorers to find the fabled Northwest Passage trading route between Europe and the Far East dating back to the 15th century 
  • The first Europeans to explore the waters around the Canadian Arctic were Frobisher, Davis, Baffin & Bylot in the late 16th century and early 17th century
  • Baffin & Bylot first recorded Jones and Lancaster Sounds, later recognised as the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage
  • Sir John Franklin’s 1845 expedition to find the Northwest Passage was the most famous, both ships under his command and all crew members mysteriously disappearing. HMS Erebus was finally located in 2014
  • Canadian sovereignty over all of the islands was established in 1880
  • Roald Amundsen was the first to successfully navigate the Northwest Passage in 1903-6 in the Gjoa
  • High Arctic Weather Stations were established by Canada-USA in the 1940’s and 50’s 
  • The territory of Nunavut was created in 1999 comprising most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and a large proportion of Northern Canada
 
FOOD AND DRINK
The traditional diet of the Inuit includes mainly hunted meats such as seal, whale, walrus, polar bear, Arctic hare and caribou as well as fish, birds and bird eggs. Plants are not cultivated but native plants are gathered including berries (crowberries and cloudberries), grasses, fireweed, tundra plant roots, tubers and seaweed.
Despite the lack of vegetables in their diet, adequate vitamins are derived from the meat and fish in particular from the oils, liver and brains. Most foods are eaten raw, boiled or frozen. Typical dishes include akutaq (berries mixed with fat), suaasat (soup made from seal, whale, caribou or seabirds) and bannock (flatbread usually cooked on a stick over an open fire). In recent years, Western-style food has been introduced into the Inuit diet with foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates leading to diet-related medical problems and tooth decay.
In general, on Arctic cruises to the Canadian Arctic, all meals are taken on board your expedition vessel. The food is of a high standard - plentiful, tasty and nutritious, prepared by professional chefs who serve a wide variety of dishes. The majority of meals tend to be buffet style, but dinners may be served to your table. Beverages such as tea, coffee and hot chocolate are included whereas soft drinks and alcohol must be paid for. Most ships have well stocked bars and a good selection of wines.
 
FURTHER READING
  • Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez
  • Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition by Paul Watson
  • An Intimate Wilderness: Arctic Voices in a Land of Vast Horizons by Norman Hallendy
  • The Last Gentleman Adventurer by Edward Beauclerk Maurice
  • White Eskimo by Stephen R. Brown
  • Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage by Kathleen Winter
  • The North-West Passage by Roald Amundsen
  • Journal of a Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage by William Edward Parry 

Frequently Asked Questions

What money do they use in the Canadian Arctic?

The unit of currency in Canada is the Canadian Dollar (CAD). 
Please check websites such as www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for up to date exchange rates prior to your departure.
 
On all Arctic cruises meals are included but drinks and souvenirs need to be purchased separately. Most cruise ships accept Euros € and US $. Major credit cards, in particular Visa and MasterCard are also widely accepted on board. 
 

What language do they speak in the Canadian Arctic?

The main official language of Canada is English with French being the official language of Quebec. The traditional language of the Inuit is Inuktitut of which there are many dialects.

Do I need to be fit to go to the Canadian Arctic ?

A high level of fitness is not necessary for Arctic cruises to the Canadian Arctic, but you need to be in good health as although there is generally a doctor on board the ship, you may be a long way from any other medical assistance. The majority of activities are focused around shore excursions and zodiac cruising and so you need to be agile and able-bodied enough to climb into and out of the inflatable zodiacs from both the ship and the shore. On shore landings you may need to negotiate uneven and slippery ground. Shore excursions generally involve some walking.

Is it safe to travel in the Canadian Arctic?

All of our tours are 100% tried and tested to ensure that when you travel with us, you’re doing so in a controlled and safe environment with trained experts. We consistently monitor weather conditions and will always provide you with the best possible adventure without risk of injury to you or the vessel. While some activities may need to be rescheduled or cancelled due to weather, every effort is made to have a contingency plan should such conditions become a reality during your expedition. We use our vast experience and knowledge when picking the vessels we sell to provide you with an adventure that’s unforgettable for all the right reasons.

Do I need a visa to travel to the Canadian Arctic?

An eTA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) is required by citizens of the following countries flying into Canada.
  • Australia
  • European Union
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
 
Citizens of the USA do not need a visa or eTA to enter Canada.
Citizens of South Africa need a visa to enter Canada.
 
For other nationalities, please visit the website of the relevant consulate.

How long will I spend in the Canadian Arctic ?

Arctic cruises to the Canadian Arctic vary in length but generally spend 7 to 10 days in the region. Some cruises focus only on Baffin Island with 7 to 10 days spent exploring the island. 
There are also cruises that combine the Canadian Arctic with other parts of the Arctic such as Greenland. These are generally around 2 weeks in duration, with 8 days in the Canadian Arctic.
Northwest Passage Arctic cruises are generally between 17 and 20 days but there are shorter 13 day voyages available.