Canadian Arctic

Embark on an incredible exploration of historic Canadian sites, encounter abundant wildlife and experience traditional Inuit culture.

Our Canadian Arctic small ship cruises explore the starkly beautiful Arctic archipelago made up of over 35,000 islands encompassing Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. They provide excellent opportunities to observe iconic polar wildlife, view breathtaking coastal scenery and visit remote communities.

Here, the icy seas and desolate tundra are home to surprisingly diverse plant and animal life. Unlike Antarctica, which has no land animals, you’ll find an array of terrestrial species such as Arctic hare, ptarmigan and muskox happily feeding on the abundant berries, heather and moss. If you are lucky, you might even see polar bears, Arctic fox and caribou, so important to the Inuit. The seas abound with amazing marine life – beluga whale, bowhead whale, walrus, the rare narwhal whale, bearded and ringed seals.

This frozen land is also the historical home of around 200,000 Inuit, whose rich, ancient cultures and traditions still survive in settlements scattered across the north. Summer is the only time to visit, with long daylight hours providing plenty of time to explore.

Canadian Arctic puffins

Encounter Abundant High Arctic Wildlife

Watch out for some of earth’s most spectacular wildlife, including large land mammals like polar bear, caribou and muskox.

The Arctic is also home to even larger marine mammals like whales and walrus. Whale species include beluga and bowhead as well as the rare narwhal with its single “unicorn-like” tusk. There are also many species of seal including bearded seals and ring seals. The shores and cliffs abound with seabirds; some itineraries include the incredible sea cliffs at Prince Leopold Island, home to more than 500,000 birds, including kittiwakes, puffins, guillemots, gulls and fulmars.

Traditional Inuit communities

Visit Traditional Inuit Communities

A journey through the Canadian Arctic offers the opportunity to interact with traditional Inuit communities.

Visit fishing villages and remote settlements to learn about Inuit heritage and culture. The tiny village of Cape Dorset in Nunavut has been called Canada’s “Capital of Inuit Art” and is world famous for Inuit drawing, print making and carving. In the late 1950s, residents pioneered modern Arctic carving and printmaking, marketing it to the world with remarkable success.

Canadian Arctic historic sites

Explore Historic Sites Including Beechey Island

Go ashore to visit sites that were significant to early polar explorers including Beechey Island, where Sir John Franlin and his crew spent their last winter before disappearing.

The most famous of these National Historic Sites of Canada is Beechey Island, the site of graves from the tragic expedition of 1854 led by Sir John Franklin in search of the fabled North West Passage. Even today, the search continues for his ships: the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. At Fort Ross, you can see an abandoned outpost of the Hudson Bay Trading Company. The charter granted to the Hudson’s Bay Company by King Charles II in 1670 is the foundation of Canada’s claim to its northern territories.

Lancaster Sound

Discover Lancaster Sound, The Wildlife Superhighway

The seas of Lancaster Sound offer some of the best wildlife viewing in the Arctic, its abundant waters supporting healthy populations of seals, whales, walruses and seabirds.

As a result the area is also known as the Serengeti of the Seas. They support huge congregations of narwhal and beluga whale, as well as seals, bowhead whale, walrus and polar bear along with millions of migratory seabirds – gulls, fulmars, geese, kittiwakes and Arctic Terns.

Canadian Arctic Zodiac excursions

Zodiac Explorations

Expect shore landings and plenty of explorations in Zodiac inflatable boats.

Anyone of average fitness and agility can get into and out of the Zodiacs. To avoid getting wet, you will be wearing wet weather gear and high rubber boots (wellies or gum boots). Some landings will be “dry” and some “wet”. Zodiacs were developed by the famous Jacques Cousteau and these nimble, rugged boats are the best way to get to shore quickly and efficiently in the challenging polar conditions, as well as being lots of fun.

Canadian Arctic shore exploration

Hike the Tundra

On all polar voyages, there will be ample opportunity to go ashore and walk amongst rolling tundra, often carpeted in wildflowers in the warmer months.

Search for wildlife, walk to glaciers or points of interest, visit Inuit settlements or historic sites. Excursions will vary from short strolls to longer hikes. If you prefer, you can choose to remain on the shore and just enjoy the view.

Canadian Arctic kayaking

Kayak Amongst Icebergs

Sea kayaking is an optional but highly recommended activity, which lets you navigate icebergs at your own pace.

Kayaking excursions are in small groups with guides and some experience is necessary. You will paddle into bays and inlets, circumnavigating icebergs. Sea kayaking is only available on certain voyages and is subject to weather conditions. All equipment, guides and instruction are included. Please request this option (additional cost) at the time of booking.

Want to find out more about our Arctic tours?
Call one of our destination specialists on 1300 363 302.

Canadian Arctic FAQ

The thousands of islands of the Canadian Arctic archipelago abound with wildlife both on land and in the sea, with impressive large mammals such as polar bears and walrus. There are also many interesting historic sites to visit as well as traditional Inuit communities and remote fishing villages.

The weather in the Arctic is very variable and you may experience bright, sunny days as well as white-outs, fog and snow squalls. Temperatures in summer vary from just below to just above freezing. You will need good quality polar clothing in layers, as on sunny days out of the wind, it can be warm enough to strip down to a t-shirt.

Any voyage to the Canadian Arctic will start or end in a Canadian city, so your cruise can be combined with a holiday in mainland Canada. See our Canada & Alaska program for a wide range of tours and adventures.

Most journeys start in a mainland city such as Toronto or Montreal with an overnight stay at a hotel where you will meet the group. The next day, you will board a charter flight to a port like Resolute or Kugluktuk to board your expedition ship. Another charter flight at the end of the voyage will return you to a major city in Canada, or Europe depending on the itinerary.

More of the Arctic