When you think of a vacation in the Northwest Territories, nature’s beauty comes to mind; matter of fact, this is actually an understatement as those who have visited the area’s lakes and national parks agree that words cannot describe the hypnotizing panorama of the Great North.
The Northwest Territories are situated in northern Canada, bordering Nunavut to the east, Saskatchewan and Alberta to the South, British Columbia is southwest, Yukon to the west, and the sea to the north. It covers an enormous amount of land yet, like Canada’s other northern regions, it remains barely populated. This is good news for those wanting a vacation in the Northwest Territories in order to get away from the maddening crowds and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature.
Weather in the Northwest Territories
Roughly half of the territory sits above the tree line; consequently, it gets a bit of a warmer climate than its neighboring territories. However, since it covers over 500,000 square miles, you can expect a range in climate from north to south.
The northern coast experiences a polar climate, characterized by a substantial lack of warmth during the summer months. While the sun shines almost 24 hours a day in the summer, the winter rarely sees any light. Temperatures can reach as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Southern portions of the territory have a subarctic climate with short, mild summers, averaging 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and long, cold winters, averaging daytime temperatures of -4 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime lows of -22 degrees Fahrenheit.
While thunderstorms are rare, occurring mostly in the southern areas, the territory experiences arctic blizzards, violent snowstorms that cause whiteout conditions and can bring about temperatures of -60 degrees Fahrenheit. While these phenomena are a thrill to watch when you are safe and sound inside, visitors should take weather warnings very seriously.
Yellowknife – It is the capital of the territory and the highest populated city with less than 20,000 habitants. Seeing its first settlement in 1935, when gold was found in the region, it is a relatively new city. Every vacation in the Northwest Territories must include a trip to The Gold Range Bar, the oldest drinking establishment in the area, and the inspiration for “Solomon Gursky Was Here,” a novel by Mordecai Richler. Hay River – This small town of approximately 3,500 people is second in line as the most populated area in the territory. It is said to have been inhabited as far back as 7,000 BC, but it was not until 1892, that settlers brought dairy cows and started building log cabins. Anyone interested in the country’s history will certainly enjoy a visit to Hay River. Inuvik – Here is a town known for its Igloo Church – a must-see. Since1989, for 10 days in July, the Great Northern Arts Festival celebrates its local artists, artisans, and performers.
Things to Do
Regardless of the season, there are a multitude of things to do on a vacation in the Northwest Territories. Whether you play in the snow, visit a wilderness lodge, or hike one of the hardest trails in North America, there are enough activities here to keep you busy and happy.
Cross-country Skiing – It is a way of life to dwellers in the Northwest Territories. Some trails have been made famous by Canada’s first cross-country team to participate in the Olympics. Hiking – From scenic trails for the casual stroller to challenging treks for the advanced backpacker, the region offers memorable hiking adventures. Canoe Heritage Trail is known to be a worthwhile challenge. There are also guided tours on horseback or on foot in the Mackenzie Mountains. Rafting – Visitors from around the world take a vacation in the Northwest Territories just to go white water rafting. Expeditions on major rivers are always accompanied by seasoned guides. Canoeing and Kayaking – There is virtually every type of freshwater adventure available here. A peaceful canoe ride on a lake surrounded by unspoiled wilderness is a breathtaking experience, while kayak enthusiasts burn off adrenaline on the Pelican Rapids and the unforgiving Rapids of the Drowned. Some of the fastest moving waters in the world flow through this area. Dog Sledding -Dogsleds rule in this region. You can choose to drive your own team of huskies or leave it to the experienced mushers. Lovers of nature enjoy a long run through the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary, with an overnight stay in an insulated tent; and they can watch the northern lights. Wildlife Watching – Canada’s most pristine wildlife areas are found in the Northwest Territories. Take a guided tour through a wildlife sanctuary and you may spot a moose, bison, black bear, fox, caribou, wolf, or perhaps a grizzly. At the edge of a floe, you may be lucky enough to observe some whales. Shopping – Souvenirs are truly one-of-a-kind. Clothing is made from traditional materials with exquisite bead work while unique carvings and paintings are created by the local artists. Do not forget that since the diamond boom of 1991, this is the ideal place to buy some sparkle to take home with you.
Whatever it is you choose to do, rest assured that your trip to Northwest Territories will be memorable.
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