North America’s Northwest Territories is the perfect destination if you’re looking to explore some of the most breathtaking scenery on Earth. With abundant natural beauty and history, you’re sure to find something that interests you in each of the territory’s five provinces.
From Yellowknife, the capital city and home to Canada’s only active oil sands mine, to the remote Inuvik region, where you can witness the stunning aurora borealis up close, there’s plenty to see and do in this vibrant corner of Canada. Are you searching for the Best Places to Visit in Northwest Territories? Are you thinking of a trip to North America and wondering what to explore in Northwest Territories? We’ve got you covered.
The Northwest Territories are an immense tract of Canada that lies north of the 60th parallel and almost reaches the North Pole. This is the land of towering mountains, mighty rivers, and treeless tundra. It’s a harsh land that will make an everlasting impression on you after your visit.
It extends from the high Mackenzie’s in the west to tundra regions in the east (and even through Nunavut Territory). During the short summer, which lasts only a few weeks, the region bursts into a furious growth spurt, with plants and animals (and humans) making the most of every warm day. Since the sun barely sets, doing as much as possible in the shortest amount of time is more straightforward.
Its extra-long days have earned it the nickname “land of the midnight sun.” Conversely, it is dark virtually around the clock during the winter, the so-called “polar night.” During the winter, virtually every part of the territory can reach -30 degrees Celsius. Here are some of the best tourist attractions in the Northwest Territories to help you make the most of your visit.
Northern Lights is one of the best places to visit in Northwest Territories. There’s no need to introduce you to the Northern Lights. It’s a top 10 bucket list item we’re discussing. The bright reds, blues, greens, and yellows dance and shift across the night sky in this natural phenomenon. In case you didn’t know, the Northwest Territories offer some of the best aurora borealis viewings in the world (if not THE best).
Some people prefer to experience the Northern Lights in style. Rental companies offer traditional lifestyles like hunting, skiing, and dog sledding. You can see the lights with a sky-high view of your destination or enjoy lower-cost accommodations in the form of a hotel room or lodge. No matter which option you choose, you’ll be able to witness Mother Nature’s scenic wonder.
Nahanni National Park Reserve
The remote Nahanni National Park Reserve is one of the best places to visit in the Northwest Territories for outdoor adventurers. Known for its stunning canyon scenery and raging Nahanni River, the Nahanni River challenges experienced canoeists and rafters in the Mackenzie Mountains. Another impressive waterfall in Canada is Virginia Falls, created by the South Nahanni River spilling over a 90-meter precipice.
Another attraction in this immense national park is Rabbit kettle Hot Springs, which nourishes an array of rare plants. Although the hot springs are lovely, tourists are only permitted to visit them as part of a guided tour due to their fragile nature.
Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, is steeped in history, having grown up around the 1930s gold rush. While the miners’ tents of Old Town have long since been replaced, there is a beautiful mix of wooden heritage buildings, arts and cultural institutions, and a vibrant community life, all fuelled by the mining industry.
Adults looking for an exciting time have plenty of options in Yellowknife – from boat tours and houseboating on the magnificent Great Slave Lake to the stunning waterfalls at Hidden Lake Territorial Park, visiting the galleries of local artists, and admiring the Bush Pilots Monument.
Whatever you’re into, Yellowknife has something for everyone – so why not explore the city’s exciting history and culture in a user-friendly way? Discover an enchanting winter wonderland at the Snow King Festival! Marvel at the dazzling Auroras Borealis and participate in the festival’s festivities. With its giant snow castle and fun activities, March offers plenty of opportunities to join in the fun.
Don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in all the town has to offer and make unforgettable memories that you can treasure for years to come. Adults, this winter getaway is for you!
INUVIK’S IGLOO CHURCH and TOWN
Discover Inuvik – a small town 200 km above the Arctic Circle, where you can fly or drive! Driving the Dempster Highway from Dawson City in Yukon is an option, as is arriving by plane. For those short on time, flying is the best choice. With only a few accommodation options, it is best to book in advance.
Inuvik, meaning “place of the people,” boasts a unique location on the Arctic Ocean. There are plenty of activities, such as fantastic fishing and the iconic Igloo Church. To help plan your visit, you can get a free guide here.
Great Slave Lake
Great Slave Lake is one of the best places to visit in Northwest Territories. Exploring Great Slave Lake – the deepest lake in North America and the tenth most significant lake in the world – is a fantastic experience. With Yellowknife, the provincial capital, on its border, there are many ways to enjoy it. Take to the skies and jump in a floatplane for stunning views, or rent a kayak or fishing boat to explore the lake’s shoreline, where you can catch lake trout and pike.
If you’re feeling brave, why not traverse the lake by snowmobile – there’s ice here for eight months of the year, and you might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights! So don’t miss out – come and experience all that Great Slave Lake offers in a friendly, user-friendly way.
TUKTOYAKTUK and PINGOS
Tuk is an Inuvialuit community that is the perfect destination for an adventurous getaway! Visitors can make their way around the area with the new road connecting Inuvik and Tuk. Or, they can take a guided tour with a local operator and experience traditional Inuvialuit activities such as trying the local cuisine and even dog sledding.
The Pingo National Landmark is a must-see while you are here. It is home to pingos – mounds of earth-covered ice that can reach up to 70 meters (230 ft) in height and 600 m (2,000 ft.) in diameter. Boardwalks and interpretive signage provide a great way to explore this remarkable feature.
Plus, the Northern Lights are breathtaking during the fall and winter months. If you’re looking for the perfect getaway for adults, then Tuk is the ideal destination! With its beautiful scenery, unique activities, and local operators offering guided tours and experiences, you can have an unforgettable time here. Why not come and explore Tuk and its surrounding areas today?
Located on the southern bank of Great Slave Lake, Hay River is the southernmost port on the Mackenzie River System. During the four- to the five-month summer season, it’s a bustling spot where barges, fishing boats, and coast guard launches are loaded with freight – primarily building materials and fuel – destined for settlements along the Mackenzie River and in the Arctic. Hay River is rich in history, having been home to First Nations people for many years.
The town was also the region’s first Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, established in 1868. The quaint wooden houses of the old town are still nestled at the mouth of the Hay River. Hay River should be on your list for adults looking for an exciting destination with a user-friendly atmosphere! Residents of Hay River can often be found fishing in Great Slave Lake, the Hay and Mackenzie Rivers, and returning home with bountiful catches.
The town is also home to the Diamond Jenness School, a unique architectural structure named after an anthropologist who first studied the northern native culture in 1910. Its remarkable purple hue makes it a local landmark. For a scenic outdoor experience, visitors can explore Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park, located south of town. Here, they can discover the magnificent Hay River canyon and Alexandra and Louise Falls, as well as take advantage of the various trails and viewing areas.
Wood Buffalo National Park
Wood Buffalo National Park is one of the best places to visit in Northwest Territories. Canada has a national park larger than Switzerland; Wood Buffalo National Park is 44,807 square kilometers. It’s home to the world’s biggest beaver dam, a massive herd of roaming bison, and is the only remaining natural nesting area for the endangered whooping crane. If you want to explore, you can go on foot or by canoe.
Camping is a great way to spend a few weeks in the park and not see everything. Don’t miss the Salt Plains – the dried remains of an ancient seabed that is 380 million years old – with salt-like minerals visible on the surface, almost like stalagmites. Wood Buffalo National Park is an excellent destination for adults to explore, offering unique wildlife watching and a user-friendly experience.
The Northwest Passage
The 16th century saw Dutch and English navigators searching for the Northwest Passage – a waterway that could provide access from the Atlantic Ocean, through the Arctic, to the Pacific Ocean. This was driven by the hope to find a sea route for trade with the Far East to avoid the Portuguese monopoly on trade around the Horn of Africa.
Martin Frobisher made the first attempt in 1576, believing the legendary sea of ice to be just a frozen lake. John Davis followed, navigating through the strait that would later bear his name, and reaching Baffin Bay. Henry Hudson’s quest for the Northwest Passage led to the discovery of Hudson Bay in 1609/1610, and William Baffin journeyed as far as Lancaster Sound in 1616.
Nevertheless, he declared the Northwest Passage didn’t exist, and thus no more exploration took place for two centuries. For adults, this user-friendly information outlines the history of the Northwest Passage, from the 16th century when Dutch and English navigators sought a sea route to the Far East to the discoveries of Martin Frobisher, John Davis, Henry Hudson, and William Baffin. Although William Baffin declared the passage did not exist, explorers resumed their search for the route two centuries later.
In 1818, John Ross set off on an English expedition with a scientific aim. After 11 years of searching, he discovered the magnetic north pole on the Boothia-Felix Peninsula in 1829. Then, in 1845, the ill-fated Franklin expedition set out to explore the Arctic coast of North America – their last sighting was in Lancaster Sound in July of that year, and all its members were found dead on King William Island.
It wasn’t until 1850-53 that explorer Robert McClure could map the frozen straits and walk the Northwest Passage. However, the first person to successfully make the east-west journey was the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen, who did so from 1900-03. This information, presented in a user-friendly tone, is ideal for adults interested in learning about John Ross and the history of exploring the Northwest Passage.
Victoria Island is one of the best places to visit in Northwest Territories. Victoria Island, the third largest island in Canada’s Arctic Archipelago, lies far north of the Arctic Circle. Ice-Age glaciers left behind a terrain of moraines, drumlins, and glacial lakes, creating a unique and mesmerizingly monotonous landscape. When you established the new Territory of Nunavut in 1999, the island was divided administratively into two.
Iqaluktuutiak (Cambridge Bay) on the island’s southeast coast is the central hub for the region’s administration and supply. It is where Sir John Franklin “discovered” Victoria Island in 1826, bringing European seafarers, missionaries, and fur traders hoping to find the Northwest Passage. Until the 1950s, the Copper Inuit used the area mainly as a summer camp, “Iqaluktuutiak” in Inuktitut, meaning “good place to fish.” Modern-day Iqaluktuutiak is home to a stone-built Catholic church and a wind-generation plant.
This remote spot is a must-see destination for adults looking to explore something unique and off the beaten path. Ulukhaktok, formerly known as Holman, lies on the west coast of Victoria Island and is the second most significant destination. At the tip of the Diamond Jenness Peninsula, this small community is a great place to visit and has adapted well to the increasing number of tourists who are flocking to the North. With its golf course offering spectacular views of the Beaufort Sea, Ulukhaktok has something to offer everyone. So, what are you waiting for? Come and explore this fantastic place!
I hope you have enjoyed our list of the Best Places to Visit in Northwest Territories. As we all know, there are so many beautiful places and destinations in this world it can be hard to decide where to start. Victoria Island is the perfect place to start your Northwest Territories adventure! This stunning island has a lot to offer tourists of all ages, and I am sure you will love spending your time here. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and explore!
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