Nunavut — Attractions
Most Nunavut attractions lie within the stunning northern scenery of its national parks and other protected areas, which can only be reached by air and where wildlife greatly outnumber humans. However, Nunavut’s small population also contains the world’s largest per capita group of artists. Iqaluit’s Nunatta Sunaqutangit Museum may be Nunavut’s biggest cultural center, but thriving art galleries can also be found in tinier villages like Cape Dorset and Pangnirtung.
Nunatta Sunaqutangit Museum
This Inuit cultural museum and art gallery was housed in a rotating series of Iqaluit locations like the library and liquor warehouse until moving to its present and permanent location in the mid-1980’s. Nunatta Sunaqutangit is now situated inside a former Hudson’s Bay building adjacent to the Unikkaarvik Visitors Centre on Iqaluit’s seashore. Permanent exhibits include Rankin Inlet pottery and an impressive display of traditional Baffin Island carvings dating as far back as 1969. Resident elders frequently give fascinating lectures and visitors can make donations or purchase original artwork at the Nunatta Sunaqutangit gift shop.
Address: Building Number 212, Iqaluit, NU X0A 0H0
The Cape Dorset Art Gallery
Cape Dorset, the self-declared ‘capital of Inuit art’ lies on Baffin Island’s southwest tip. With 22 percent of its workforce comprised of people who make art their primary career, Cape Dorset boasts a higher percentage of artists per capita than any other Canadian community. Many of the prints, paintings, and carvings displayed in the village gallery are auctioned off, and the original artist receives all proceeds. Cape Dorset’s successful stone block printing workshop was patterned after Japan’s ukiyo-e workshops.
Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts
Pangnirtung’s largest arts and crafts gallery in Nunavut celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011. In addition to its retail displays, Uqqurmiut also includes a print shop and tapestry studio for the thriving local artists in this Baffin Island community. Today, visitors throughout the world travel to Uqqurmiut to admire these intricate hand woven tapestries and prints.
Address: Pangnirtung, NU X0A 0R0
Sirmilik National Park
This national park on the northern Baffin Island’s only permanent residents are the Inuit who still fish and hunt the same way their ancestors did centuries ago. The park’s three main regions are the long and narrow Oliver Sound fjord, the wide river valleys within Borden Peninsula’s plateau, and the rugged Bylot Island filled with towering glaciers and mountain peaks. Appropriately enough, the park’s name also means ‘place of glaciers’ in English.
Address: Sirmilik National Park of Canada, P.O. Box 300, Pond Inlet, NU X0A 0S0
Auyuittuq National Park
James Bond fans may recognize Mount Asgard in Nunavut from the Spy Who Loved Me, but this southern Baffin Island park also includes the even taller Mount Thor on Cumberland Peninsula. The ‘land that never melts’ may be lacking in vegetation or wildlife, but is rich in granite peaks and stunning glaciers. Backpackers can follow the footsteps of generations of Inuit along the Akshayuk Pass next to the Owl and Weasel rivers. Skiers can soar down Auyuittuq National Park’s stunning ice fields. All visitors must register and attend orientation sessions at either the Qikiqtarjuaq or Pangnirtung park offices prior to any recreational activities though, in order to help preserve the delicate ecosystem.
Address: Auyuittuq National Park of Canada, P.O. Box 353, Pangnirtung, NU X0A 0R0
Ukkusiksalik National Park
This national park may only be open for approximately one month in the middle of Nunavut’s brief summer, but those able to fly or boat to this stunning area around Wager Bay will encounter more than 500 archaeological sites from the Inuit who lived in this largely uninhabited area between the year 1000 and the mid-20th century. The seven main hiking trails of varying difficulty take trekkers past Sila River’s four towering waterfalls, Butterfly Lake, and the reversing falls of Ford Lake and Wager Bay. The 62-mile Wager Bay is frozen during most of the year in a region that contains the biggest snowdrifts and highest wind chill in all of North America.
Address: Ukkusiksalik National Park of Canada, P.O. Box 220, Repulse Bay, NU X0C 0H0
Quttinirpaaq National Park
Visitors to Ellesmere Island national park have literally arrived at the top of the world - or at least the top of Canada. Only Wood Buffalo National Park is larger among Canadian national parks and Northeast Greenland National Park is the only park on Earth situated further north. Nunavut’s highest mountain, the 8,583 foot high Barbeau Peak, is among the most significant landmarks in this polar desert where trees don’t grow and where the sun never sets in summer. Hikers can trek between the two main access points, Lake Hazen and Tanqueray Fjord, or around two ice caps named Viking and Ad Astra.
Address: Quttinirpaaq National Park of Canada, P.O. Box 278, Iqaluit, NU X0A 0H0
Northwest Passage Trail
This walking tour around the King William Island settlement of Gjoa Haven allows visitors to follow the footsteps of the countless European settlers who spent centuries searching for the elusive Northwest Passage, which the Inuit had already navigated for generations before their first encounter with Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. A bronze memorial plaque dedicated to Amundsen, the first European to successfully find and travel across the Northwest Passage, stands at the end of a seaside path lined with rocks.
Address: King William Island
Fossil Creek Trail
Budding paleontologists will enjoy the ‘great fossil hunt’ along this creek on Southampton Island, which was once buried beneath a shallow and warm sea much closer to the equator. Many of the Fossil Creek Trail’s marine fossils date back at least 450 million years. Visitors are free to search for and admire fossils, but they cannot remove any finds from their original location without a Nunavut Paleontology Permit. Overhanging cliffs and waterfalls dominate Southampton Island’s scenic landscape in this pretty area.
Address: Southampton Island