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A once-in-a-lifetime sojourn to the Canadian North

Canada’s North is a part of the country like no other. Even seasoned travellers who have vacationed across the country will find themselves awestruck by the midnight sun and otherworldly landscapes. You may even feel like you’ve stepped into another country entirely. This exhilarating itinerary – focused on Whitehorse and Yellowknife and surrounding areas – offers adventure for couples and families alike. In the North, the sun shines long and the days are filled with wonders – it’s a destination for anyone seeking a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Illustrations by Jeannie Phan
Motion design by Yan Aftimus Rosa

Day 1-5
Fly to Whitehorse

A non-stop plane ride to Whitehorse with Air North, the Yukon’s premiere airline, will start you right in the centre of the action. A city with a vibrant arts and restaurant scene, Whitehorse is probably best known for its nature experiences, attracting travellers from all over the globe.

Pull on your hiking boots and head to Miles Canyon, which can be accessed by foot or by car. Created by prehistoric lava and located only a few kilometres from downtown Whitehorse, Gold Rush prospectors called this location the Grand Canyon, and used it as the main route when travelling North. Today, its sublime rock faces and turquoise water make it a popular destination for tourists and locals.

Peer into the rushing waters of Miles Canyon.

It’s all about the journey as you make your way through Tombstone Territorial Park.
Government of Yukon

Get in touch with the natural landscape through an Indigenous lens with Whitehorse Who What Where Tours. Their Carcross/Southern Lakes tour will take you through a photographer’s paradise including pristine lakes, rushing rivers and even the Carcross Desert, said to be the smallest desert in the world. Learn about local history along the way.

Or, try horseback riding with Sky High Wilderness Ranch along the old trails of Fish Lake or trot to new heights and check out the mesmerizing panorama of Tombstone Territorial Park. And not to worry if travelling by steed is something you’ve never tried. Whether you’re new to riding or a retired jockey, experienced guides can find you the right horse and trail for your level.

Looking for a true break from the daily grind and have a bit more time to travel? Turn off that cellphone and head out on a multi-day canoe trip along the Yukon River (there are 8, 13 and 20-day options). Excursions leave from Whitehorse, offering views of landscapes only visible from the water. You may even get a chance to relive the Klondike experience as some routes travel all the way to Dawson City for a stay at a swanky hotel – a welcome destination after rubbing elbows with the wild for days. (Fun fact: Before Dawson City’s first bank opened in 1898, everything was paid for in gold nuggets or gold dust.)

After a long day (or a week) in Mother Nature’s playground, take a load off at one of Whitehorse’s premier restaurants. Oysters and a crisp Chardonnay are on order at Wayfarer Oyster House (named one of Canada’s best new restaurants by enRoute magazine in 2019). Located just off Main Street and walking distance from anywhere in downtown, the food ranges from seafood chowder to clams to sablefish collars. Their Caesar is even topped with an oyster!

If you fancy a pint, some pub-style nibbles or tasty arctic char tacos, Gather Cafe and Taphouse is a sure bet. Whitehorse is known for its craft brewing expertise, so head to Polarity Brewing for a tasty pint (like their Little Green Men IPA).

Immerse yourself in the vibrant arts culture here by visiting the MacBride Museum’s two locations – the downtown location and the MacBride Copperbelt Mining Museum. Named Canada's most under-rated attraction by MSN Travel Canada, the downtown location features more than 40,000 objects that tell the artistic story of this incredible land. Live music and storytelling events are a regular occurrence. Meanwhile, at the MacBride Copperbelt Mining location, you can take a train ride through the Boreal forest or get an interactive history lesson on copper mining in the region.

For more of a hands-on artistic experience, learn the ins and outs (pun intended) of sewing and beadwork at Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre.

Get crafty with hands-on experiences at Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre.

Day 6-10
Fly to Yellowknife

Air North makes travelling the region easy, so scoot on over from Whitehorse to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories – this non-stop flight takes less than two hours. Once back on land, prepare to experience spectacular sights in some of the country’s most pristine and majestic national parks.

One of the most notable highlights of a summer trip to the Northwest Territories is experiencing the midnight sun, where even as night turns to day, the sunshine never ends. Up in places like Aulavik National Park, the northernmost of all the NWT national parks, the sun doesn’t set between April 30 and August 13. But even in Yellowknife, you can experience the long, long days and bright-sky nights. (On summer solstice – June 21 – the city gets about 20 hours of sunlight, with no real darkness.)

Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve is Canada’s newest national park and is more than 26 square kilometres of protected lands managed by territorial governments and local First Nations. Located northeast of Yellowknife and at the East Arm of Great Slave Lake, this park can only be accessed by water or air. Once you’re here, consider a Frontier Lodge tour where you can get to know the immense territory – kayaking, canoeing, fishing and hiking – on multi-day trips.

In Yellowknife, even the city skies are stop-and-stare striking.

Raft down glacier alley in Nahanni National Park Reserve.

North Star Adventures, a 100 per cent Indigenous-owned and locally operated tour company, offer a wide range of Northern excursions, from river boat rides on the mighty Mackenzie River (called Dehcho in Dene), fishing for super-sized pike and trout on Great Slave Lake and day trips into UNESCO World Heritage Site Nahanni National Park Reserve. They also arrange visits to a traditional Inuit community on the shores of the Arctic Ocean to learn about and experience their life and culture. There’s also opportunity to see the aurora borealis. According to North Star (known as the region’s best “Aurora Hunting” tour company), late August and September is the best time to see the northern lights in all their dazzling glory.

The North is full of quirk and character, so be sure to spend some time in Yellowknife as well. Dine on fresh fish and chips at Bullocks Bistro, home of the Slurp n’ Burp (their version of surf and turf featuring Buffalo Rib Eye steak). Then quench your thirst with a locally brewed pint at the Woodyard Brewhouse and eatery, home of NWT Brewing Co.

As you prepare to head back home, don’t worry if you don’t manage to fit all these adventures in one go – the North is ready and waiting to welcome you back again soon.

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Destination Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

CREDITS: Concept and oversight by JESSICA ROBINSON; Editing by SHELLEY WHITE; Art direction & Design by AASHISH ARORA ; Developed by KYLE YOUNG;

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