From October until April, Baffin Island is one of the best places in Canada to view the Northern Lights because there is very little light pollution to interfere with their viewing, even in the capital city of Iqaluit. During winter, the region also averages about four hours of daylight per day, and temperatures can range from -10 to -32°C (14 to -25.6°F). So viewing the Northern Lights in the Arctic is not for the fainthearted, but the natural phenomenon is worth it.
Iqaluit, the capital city of Nunavut, sits on Baffin Island. Less than 8,000 people live in the city, and 60% of the population is Inuit. It’s home to the igloo-shaped St Jude’s Cathedral, museums and shops focused on Inuit art and history, and colorful Arctic houses. May to August is the best time to visit the territory’s transportation and business center, as this is when the city experiences an average of 16 hours of daylight per day. Iqaluit hosts two main summer festivals annually: Toonik Tyme Festival and Alianait Arts Festival. The city also has three unique territorial parks surrounding it.
The Northwest Passage is a historic sea trade route through the Canadian Arctic archipelago and the Arctic Ocean, which joins the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. One of its sections loops around Baffin Island, starting in the east in Baffin Bay (the sea separating Nunavut and Greenland), and heading to the northern tip of Baffin Island. There are quite a few companies that specialize in Northwest Passage cruises, which include a lot of iceberg and wildlife viewing. For more information, check out Adventure Life and One Ocean Expeditions.
Baffin Island is a must-visit for avid bird-watchers. In Nunavut, there are over 100 bird species, and most of them are migratory. The best time to bird-watch in Baffin Island is from May until August. Some of the bird species you could see include snowy owls, different types of falcons, rough-legged hawks, ptarmigans, ravens, and several seabird species such as puffins and gulls. Nunavut Tourism has a comprehensive list of the many bird sanctuaries and wildlife areas located on Baffin Island.
Did you know that Nunavut has the most artists per capita in the world? There are many shops, galleries, and museums showcasing and selling locally made Inuit arts and crafts on Baffin Island. Carvings Nunavut, located in Iqaluit and owned by an Inuit entrepreneur, has thousands of handmade sculptures, clothing pieces, and jewelry for sale in the shop and online. Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum also has an amazing collection of Inuit art and artifacts and hosts fascinating traveling exhibitions.
Carvings Nunavut, 626 Tumit Plaza, Iqaluit, NU, Canada, +1 867 979 0650
Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, 212 Sinaa, Iqaluit, NU, Canada, +1 867 979 5537
There are so many outdoor activities to enjoy on Baffin Island. Fortunately, several local companies offer these adventures to visitors. Firstly, there aren’t any roads outside of Iqaluit, so locals travel between communities via dogsled and snowmobile. Other snow-based activities include cross-country skiing and tobogganing. On the water, go boating, rafting, canoeing, or kayaking.
Alongside the birds previously mentioned, many other amazing animals call the Arctic landscape of Baffin Island home. Some of these animals include beluga and bowhead whales, caribou (the most important land animal to the Inuit), muskox, polar bears, seals, and walruses. You may also be fortunate to see a narwhal, which is called the unicorn of the sea because of its long, singular tusk.