Province/Territory: Nunavut

Canada's Arctic capital

  • 60 percent Inuit residents
  • 02 second highest tides in Canada rise and fall eight to twelve metres (26-39 feet) twice a day
  • 4,000 years of Inuit history

Canada’s newest capital city is a modest urban outpost smack in the middle of one of the world’s most rugged wildernesses. Along a small grid of streets an Anglican cathedral is shaped like an igloo and the Legislative Building includes modern lines resembling an Inuit sled. Iqaluit curves around the head of Frobisher Bay, a playground for fishing, kayaking and boating in summer, dog-sledding and snowmobiling under winter’s Northern Lights, and cross-country and kite-skiing during long spring days.  Arctic hares and foxes, lemmings and snow buntings might make an appearance alongside a seaside trail to the former Hudson’s Bay Company post at Apex or amid tundra wildflowers in Sylvia Grinnell Park.

During summer carvers unleash polar bears and walrus from blocks of stone in the sunshine – make them an offer! Browse Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum and art shops for world class prints, tapestries, handmade jewelry and chic sealskin clothing and mitts. Traditional drum dancers and throat singers interpret the rhythm of the Arctic; join the parties during the Toonik Tyme and Alianait! Festivals. Then introduce your taste buds to something new, from muktuk to musk ox, in a part of Canada where surf ‘n turf means freshly hooked Arctic char and caribou served under the Midnight Sun.

Outdoor adventure

  • Go dog sledding and learn to mush a team of indigenous Canadian Inuit dogs.
  • Iqaluit means the “place of many fish” in Inuktitut so grab a rod and try your hand at landing an Arctic Char.
  • Walk the streets of Nunavut’s capital in the colourful glow of the Northern Lights dancing overhead.
  • Tour Thule archaeological sites and see gentle waterfalls and wildlife at Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park, just a 30-minute walk from Iqaluit.

Food & Drink

  • Dine on Northern surf-n-turf - freshly caught Arctic Char and tender medallions of caribou.
  • Eat local and try caribou jerky, muskox sausages and nibbles of muktuk (whale skin and blubber).

Arts & Culture

  • The Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre celebrates all things Nunavut with interpretive displays, guest speakers, Inuit film viewings and a well-stocked northern library.
  • The Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum in a former Hudson Bay Company warehouse houses an impressive collection of Inuit art and artifacts as well as travelling exhibits. There is also a shop for locally made arts and crafts.
  • Head into the Legislature Building – “the Lege” - whose interior is a mini-museum of world class Northern art.
  • Explore Nunavut’s capital, see the highlights and hidden gems with a knowledgeable local.

Events & Festivals

  • Celebrate all things winter during the annual April Toonik Tyme Festival when you can learn to build an igloo, play pond hockey, kite-ski, dog-sled, bite into steaming hot bannock bread and caribou stew, then swallow your shyness to try Inuit throat-singing.
  • Under the late June midnight sun, Alianait! is a 10-day (and night!) multi-cultural arts festival featuring film, circus acts, theatre, music and storytelling.
  • Iqaluit is an artistic hive for everything from stone carvings and prints to jewellery and finely sewn Inuit products which the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association (NACA) showcases during an annual summer art festival.

Weather

  • From May through August, Iqaluit days are long and sunny, averaging 16 hours of daylight with temperatures from 5°C to 25°C.
  • Spring and fall may be chilly in the evening and near the water so be sure to pack jackets, gloves and a hat.
  • The shortest days of December have four hours of daylight with temperatures of -10°C to -32°.
  • Snow is not uncommon during any month of the year so pack warm clothing accordingly.
  • Check out local conditions on the Weather Network
  • Research current local weather at Environment Canada’s Weather Office website.
Quick facts

Area: 52.34 sq km (20.21 sq mi)
Population: 7,250
Status: The least populated capital in Canada
Original name: Frobisher Bay
Iqaluit means: “place of many fish” in Inuktitut
Official Languages: Inuktitut is the language of the Inuit people, plus English and French.
Territorial Motto: Territorial Motto: Nunavut Sannginivut in Inuktitut. “Our land, our strength.”

When to go
  • During spring – May and June - snowmobile or dog team trips are popular across the still-frozen sea ice. This is a good time to go backcountry or kite-skiing. Spring and fall are also good times to visit if you’re prowling for Inuit art and carvings since many artists spend the summertime “on the land” in camps.
  • July to mid-August is the brief hiking, kayaking and cruising season when wildflowers – and bugs! – are out.
  • Mid-August through mid-September are pleasant but cool, largely bug-free months with the tundra turning autumn red and blueberries ripening.
  • Winter might be very cold, but Christmas in Iqaluit is warm and welcoming with feasts and traditional games. Northern Lights are common from October to April.
Getting Here
Getting around
  • The city is small enough to walk around, otherwise plentiful taxis will take you where you want for a flat rate; other passengers may be picked up en route. The Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre also rents bicycles.