Northwest Territories — Overview
Canada’s Northwest Territories contain more than twice as many wild caribou as people. Just 40,000 people live in this vast region three times the size of California. Although the Northwest Territories’ population may be small in number, it is certainly rich in diversity. English, French, Métis, Inuit, and at least six prominent First Nations groups are all represented here, which recognizes nearly a dozen official languages.
Nearly half of the Northwest Territories’ population live in its rough and tumble capital, Yellowknife, the area’s only city and main entry point for nearly all tourists. Yellowknife has experienced several boom and bust periods throughout the years, as first a gold, and now a diamond, mining community. Yellowknife is also the departure point for many air, bus, and automobile excursions to the rest of the Northwest Territories.
The varied landscape in the Northwest Territories is rivaled only by the diversity of its people, much to the surprise of visitors expecting a remote land of nothing but ice and snow. Summers may be brief, but temperatures can climb just as high as those in southern Canada, and darkness doesn’t set until well into the night, if at all. Northwest Territories waters are pristine, filled with giant fish waiting to be tempted, and offer thrilling outdoor activities like canoeing along Canada’s longest river and whitewater rafting past a waterfall three times as tall as Niagara Falls.
Although Northwest Territories hotels can be costly, true luxury accommodations are few and far between, even in Yellowknife. Most bed and breakfast establishments and traditional hotels are rather modest, but contain most of the basic conveniences found in hotels of their caliber anywhere else. In more isolated Northwest Territories parks and other locations, visitors who do not want to camp in the wilderness can rent fully-equipped RVs or stay in secluded lodges accessible only by air.
Indeed, floatplanes are the primary—if not the only—means of transportation to many parts of the Northwest Territories, which have no passenger rail service and only a handful of permanent, year-round roads across its vast lands. Yellowknife Airport is, by far, the largest in the Northwest Territories and the first entry point for most guests. Long car or bus journeys along the Dempster, Liard, or Mackenzie highways are the only other way to get into the Northwest Territories.
Travel across the region can be just as challenging, if not more so, than getting there. Hiring professional guides is highly recommended for first-time visitors, not only for making travel arrangements to the most secluded areas of the Northwest Territories, but also to let visitors know how to best keep their distance from the large and potentially dangerous wildlife who roam these secluded lands.
- Go whitewater rafting past the Mackenzie Mountains and Virginia Falls
- Paddle down Canada’s longest river, the Mackenzie
- Catch fish in some of the world’s most pristine waters
- Marvel at the breathtaking Northern Lights from the warmth of an outdoor hot tub at a luxury log cabin
- Take a scenic road trip past five towering waterfalls, then hike up the Hay River Canyon to receive an official ’North of 60’ certificate for making it along the 203-mile Waterfalls Route
- Look up at Canada’s tallest pingo, a huge mound of earth-covered ice, near Tuktoyaktuk—the only official national landmark
- Sample bison and caribou dishes that appear on the menus of many Northwest Territories restaurants