Photo Story | Canadian High Arctic and Greenland

Ten Must-Dos and Must-Sees on Heart of the Arctic

© Danny Catt

Each Adventure Canada expedition holds its own unique itinerary highlights. Incredible art and culture, fascinating wildlife, vibrant communities, and stunning landscapes are what wow us on this special trip. Read more about our ten picks for the top experiences of this trip of a lifetime, the Heart of the Arctic.

The heart of the Arctic is the artistic communities hugging the south shore of Baffin Island. It’s the flowing, flowery tundra of Quebec’s Ungava region. It’s the chic Inuit cities, staggering peaks, and great glaciers of West Greenland. It’s islands of bird cliffs and bears. It’s fjords that swallow the ship. And it’s seas where bowheads, belugas, and walruses splash. Welcome to the polar world at its richest—a place teeming with culture, creatures, and life-changing experiences.

Iceberg viewing

© Danny Catt

1. Cruise glacier-flanked Frobisher Bay, an inlet both ancient and modern

Slicing into the south end of Baffin Island, Frobisher Bay looms large in more ways than one. At its head is dynamic Iqaluit, Nunavut’s capital, where office towers sprout from the tundra while seal hides dry in the sun. Further down the inlet you might see dizzying cliffs, snow-clad peaks, traditional fish-camps, and a constellation of islands, including one where Martin Frobisher mined for gold more than 400 years ago. Staggeringly high tides, of up to eleven metres, mean your time on deck will never be dull; the scenery is always changing.

Walking in kimmirut

© Danny Catt

2. Experience rural Inuit culture in the quaint community of Kimmirut

In Inuktitut, Kimmirut means “the heel,” a reference to the great marble knob that guards the local harbour. Thanks in part to its sheltered setting, this is among the oldest permanently inhabited spots on Baffin Island, with a storied legacy as a Hudson Bay trading post, a producer of Inuit jewellery and ivory scrimshaw art—and, you’ll find, as an easy-going place to get friendly with the locals. What’s more, the surrounding countryside combines blooming tundra and stunning stone hills, making trekking a joy.

Print makers tools in kinngait cape dorset

© Lee Narraway

3. Witness the crafting of Inuit art in famously creative Kinngait

Welcome to the epicentre of Inuit art! Long called Cape Dorset, this community recently renamed itself to an Inuktitut name, Kinngait, referring to the weathered mountains that dot the surrounding Baffin Island landscape. That environment, and the creatures and traditions nurtured there, have inspired generations of local printmakers and carvers, many of whom have achieved global fame. Meet them in their studios, watch them work their magic, and have a chance to purchase their outstanding creations.

walrus colony at shoreside

© Lee Narraway

4. Seek walruses, whales, seals, and seabirds in fabled Hudson Strait

Dividing continental Canada from the Arctic Islands, Hudson Strait is fast-flowing, often icy, and burgeoning with striking critters. Sailing this waterway is a rite of passage. Stroll the outer decks, hot coffee and binoculars in hand, keeping watch for school-bus-sized bowhead whales, grinning belugas, snorting walruses, and seabirds galore. Learn from friendly experts about the region’s past and present—about the Inuktitut language, Inuit traditions, polar politics, and the explorers, like Henry Hudson, who passed this way.

arctic botany

© Dennis Minty

5. Trek the delicate, timeless tundra of the Ungava Peninsula

Arctic landscapes are humbling. They make you feel small and yet strangely imposing, dwarfing you even as your voice booms over the expanses. On the north shore of Nunavik, the Inuit region of Quebec, stretch your legs—and your senses—on the eternal polar plains. Kneel down and notice the profusion of tiny flowers, forming a garden only thumb high. Trek to a far outcrop, ogling geology that’s nearly a billion years old. And of course, keep your eyes out for quivering hares, coy foxes, and other animal friends.

Polar bear akpatok island nunavik

© Stephen Gorman

6. Gawk at the riotous bird cliffs of Akpatok Island, a mecca of thick-billed murres

Like a dark fortress rising up from Ungava Bay, Akpatok Island is both inspiring and fearsome. From a distance, its quarter-kilometre-high walls appear stately and brooding, but as you draw closer you realize: they’re a riot of life. Wheeling, shrieking, diving for fish, and nesting in nooks on the limestone are seabirds that Inuit call akpats—or, thick-billed murres, a member of the auk family. The profusion of birds, chicks, and eggs attracts Arctic foxes and, yes, polar bears, making this a fine spot to seek the white lord of the North.

Bird at sea

© Danny Catt

7. Sail historic Davis Strait, a crossroads of whalers, Inuit, and explorers

For at least a millennium, this shivering sea has united Europe and Arctic North America. Inuit travel here, as did Vikings, Scottish whalers, explorers like Franklin and Amundsen, and more. On the outer decks keep your eyes peeled for pilot and sperm whales, sea birds, and fantastical icebergs.

Modern glass and metal building Nuuk Greenland

© Dennis Minty

8. Shop (and sup) ’til you drop in Greenland’s cosmopolitan capital, Nuuk

Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, bridges old and new. The charming harbour pays homage to colonial Denmark (note the 170-year-old Our Savour’s Church and the towering statue of missionary Hans Egede) as well as to modern Greenland (catch the seaside Inuit sculptures and the amazing national museum). Downtown are chic boutiques and coffeeshops, but also the distinctively Indigenous parliament house and a market where hunters sell sea mammal meat. Shop, eat, stroll the streets, and enjoy big-city living on the world’s coolest island.

Greenland zodiac glacier

© Danny Catt

9. Experience the west Greenland coast, where the Arctic is sublime

Everything about Greenland's geology owes its existence to ice. Inland is the greatest ice sheet in the Northern Hemisphere. Along the coast are a labyrinth of fjords, the product of eons of grinding ice—much of it still sparkling in the cirques. And at sea? If you're lucky you might spot some bobbing bergs, sailing to who-knows-where. Explore this glittering land- and sea-scape by ship, Zodiac, or on shore. Make sure your camera has a spare memory card, because you might just fill it up!

Kangerlussuaq muskox

© Danny Catt

10. Cross the Arctic Circle in west Greenland’s greatest fjord

Sailing up Kangerlussuaq Fjord (Søndre Strømfjord) is a true polar pleasure. A whopping 190 kilometres long but just two klicks wide, this remarkable seaway is flanked all along by frosted peaks and glaciers. En route you’ll cross the Arctic Circle—an achievement few travellers can claim. And at the end of it all is humble-but-historic Kangerlussuaq. Once a United States air base key in fighting the Nazis, it’s now Greenland’s main international airport. Look for muskoxen, scruffy trees, and several fine souvenir shops around the airport terminal.