The Honest Reason Why No One Visits Nunavut

Snowmobiling in Iqaluit Nunavut

Hi everyone! If you’ve known me for more than five minutes, you’ll have inevitably heard me talk about Nunavut. I lived and worked as a tour guide in the territory for four months back in 2015.

And I think it was the most unique, incredible, life-altering experience I’ve ever had. I swear, I am not exaggerating. And over the last few years I’ve sung Nunavut’s praises; I’ve preached and lectured, I’ve sung it from the rooftops: “Go to Nunavut!!!”

But very rarely, if ever, do people act on my advice. I’ll give them tips, I’ll show them hacks, I’ll practically plan an itinerary and all the logistics for them. But when push comes to shove, no one goes to Nunavut. And my question is why?


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Is it because it’s expensive to travel there? Yes, flights and arctic safaris are expensive. But there are travel hacks to seriously minimize flight costs, and you don’t need to do an arctic safari to catch a taste of the Canadian Arctic.

Is it because it’s far away? It can’t be – while the very tip of the territory (the part that essentially kisses the north pole) is very far away, the capital city of Nunavut is only a four hour flight from Ottawa. It’s easier than visiting Europe!

Or is it because, deep down, these people don’t actually want to visit Nunavut? They like the idea of Nunavut… but not enough to go through the effort of planning a trip. It’s on their travel list… but not anywhere near the top. I think this is the honest reason why so few people visit Nunavut.

So my next question becomes why don’t people actually want to visit Nunavut? And after some careful consideration, I think I’ve figured it out.

Nunavut is part of Canada

I believe that if Nunavut was its own country, more people would visit because people love counting countries. But once they’ve already been to the Rocky Mountains or Niagara Falls, people cross Canada off their bucket list.

There are so many countries to explore, you can’t waste your time revisiting Canada for something as logistically inconvenient as Nunavut. Similarly, Canadians themselves would rather use their travel opportunities to explore somewhere completely different than Canada (without realizing that Nunavut is, in fact, completely different than the Canada they know).

And Canada doesn’t always remember that Nunavut is even a part of Canada

When I told my Canadian friends that I was going to be living in Nunavut, one third of them looked at me quizzically and said “where?” I had to pull it up on Google Maps because in the five years since grade 10 geography, they had completely forgotten about Nunavut (you know, the territory that encompasses 1/5 of Canada’s landmass).

The other two thirds looked at me with a mix of disgust and confusion and said “why?” They added things like “but there isn’t anything there but ice” and “wait, do people actually live up there, willingly?”

The fact of the matter is that many Canadians don’t know anything about Nunavut (in all fairness, a lot of the people who I spoke to live in the Greater Toronto Area, and many people in the GTA don’t know anything about any part of Canada anyways).

Yes, there is a ton of ice. Yes, there are no trees. And yes, there is an area of Nunavut formally known as the barren lands. I would argue however that Nunavut is anything but barren.

In fact, it is bursting with life. Moss, lichen and shrubs paint the ground in colours that rival Algonquin in October. Seals, beluga, polar bears and caribou are just a few of the many creatures that call this territory home.

And the people that live in Nunavut? They are kind and generous and in many ways misunderstood by the rest of the country. I lived in Nunavut for four months and I’ve barely started to understand the complex and fascinating history and culture that is so vibrant throughout the communities.

Like good wine and symphony, Nunavut is a subtle taste

In the age of hyper-connectedness and hyper-activity, I think people have lost appreciation for things that don’t immediately resonate with them. It takes us less than a second to decide that we’re bored of something and in need of stimulation. I think about good wine and symphony.

Subtle nuances between each glass go unnoticed by a generation aiming for quantity over quality. It takes time to develop an appreciation for the complexity and depth of an orchestra piece, something humans generally no longer have an ear for. I think Nunavut is the same.

Nunavut is not a beach resort you visit to drink away your stress. You don’t get escapism in Nunavut.

This landscape won’t immediately take your breath away like mountain ranges do. Nunavut requires you to slow down and pay attention and spend a little more time consciously taking everything in.

Like a detective, you must look to the ground or scour the hills, waiting for the territory to reveal itself to you. And all this takes a bit of effort and a bit of patience, two things that are in short supply these days.

Why you should still go to Nunavut anyways

I know I’ve given you ample reasons to never visit Nunavut. But in all honesty, that would be a mistake. Nunavut is magical. The land stretches on forever in every direction, the view unobstructed by trees.

The Arctic Ocean, with its icebergs and wildlife, is dynamic, unpredictable and exciting to experience. You’ll learn to be present and appreciate the little things. A world you never knew existed will open up before you and you’ll be forever changed. I know that sounds cheesy, but I do think Nunavut changes you.

If for no other reason than the realization that things are not always as they seem (especially things close to home). Seriously, Nunavut will blow you away.

Interested in reading more about Nunavut?


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14 thoughts on “The Honest Reason Why No One Visits Nunavut

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    • voyageurtripper says:

      Really! Yay I’m so happy. When you’re approaching the time to start planning the trip, please let me know and I’d love to help you with ideas/logistics. It’s a really rewarding place to visit, but there isn’t a ton of information available. 🙂

  2. Chelsea says:

    I work for an Inuit organization in Ottawa and have had the privelege to study and visit Nunavut a few times. I cannot wait until it is safe for me to return. It has definitely won me over! Can’t wait to visit the other Arctic regions as well!

    • Mikaela says:

      That’s awesome! – I’m in the same boat – so keen for travel to be safe again and to return. I haven’t been to Yukon or NWT yet, so they’re both high on my list.

    • Mikaela says:

      Very safe! There are so many people with dogs around Iqaluit and it’s probably once of the best places for a dog. So much open space, very little traffic. Iqaluit gets very little wildlife so you don’t need to worry about polar bears, etc. I think you and your family would love it!

  3. Lesley Wood says:

    Thanks for this Mikaela,
    This is super helpful. Myself, partner and teen are dreaming of going next summer. We like hiking and are intermediate canoeists but don’t really know if we are up to 20 day paddles and 10 day hikes. Nor can we swing thousands of bucks for packages. Any suggestions for 4 day paddles or 2 day hikes? Also, we want to support local Inuit-run businesses as we travel. Any thoughts? Thanks again!

    • Mikaela says:

      Hey Lesley! Thanks for the comment! I recommend getting in touch with Inukpak Outfitting (in Iqaluit). I believe they do some overnight camping trips that involve hiking or paddling. I haven’t done an overnight trip with them before, but I’ve done two day trips with them and they are excellent! They aren’t Inuit-run but they are local. The Travel Nunavut website might have the names of independent Inuit guides as well. Definitely while you’re in Iqaluit purchase some art from local artists – that’s a great way to support too 🙂

  4. Suzanne says:

    I love your article… I was thinking of returning to the Yukon or NW Territory…but what about Nunavut ??
    Suz Santa Cruz, California

  5. Heidi says:

    My mom, Wendy was 19 years old when she answered a help wanted add for a waitress in a bar in “Frobisher Bay”. She made the trip from Cobalt, Ontario to Frobisher in 1975. It was there she met the bars piano player, Robert Campbell from Peterborough, Ontario. I was born in 1976 in the Frobisher Bay hospital. We all made the trip back to Ontario the same year.

    Recently it struck me- an overwhelming urge to visit Iqaluit. I’ve been doing my research and calculating the cost. It’s trip I’ve set my heart on.

    My mom passed away in 1993, and my father in mid ‘00. I’ve started searching for anyone who knew of them, but it will be very difficult as I don’t remember the names of their old friend in the North.

    That’s my little story. Thank you for your insight, and tips for travel. 💛

    • Mikaela says:

      Thanks for sharing your story Heidi! I hope you can get to Iqaluit soon! Let me know if you have any questions about planning your trip 🙂

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