Baffin Island

Overview

Introduction

These northern Arctic islands rank as one of the most exotic destinations in the world. Only the most adventurous travelers should seek out destinations beyond the few towns of Baffin Island.

Most visits begin with a scheduled flight to Iqaluit (pronounced ee-KA-loo-eet), the island's largest community and capital of the territory. Although there's little to do in the town itself, Iqaluit is a good base for exploring Baffin Island and a transit point for nearly all flights in Nunavut.

While there, take time to see the igloo-shaped legislative chambers; the Baffin Regional Visitors Centre, which provides a good overview of the how the territory came into existence; and Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, which houses a collection of Thule (pronounced TOO-lay) and Inuit artifacts. Within walking distance of town is Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park, which gives a taste of the tundra wilderness beyond city limits.

A short boat ride from Iqaluit is Qaummaarvit Island, a historical park that contains the remains of an ancient village used by the Thule. A boardwalk leads through sod houses to graves and tent rings that are believed to have been in use around AD 1300.

On Baffin Island is Kekerten Historic Park, where you can explore an old whaling station (erected in 1857) and visit the graves of some hardy souls who spent their lives in pursuit of the great bowhead whale.

The Inuit of Cape Dorset are known for their mottled dark-green soapstone carvings. The stone is quarried at nearby Korak Inlet. Locals spend summers at the site doing the actual carving, and the finished product is sold in town through the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative.

Auyuittuq National Park, one of the few national parks in the world north of the arctic circle, is the final destination for many Baffin visitors. Auyuittuq (the name means "the land that never melts") is a beautiful, pristine wilderness filled with mountains, valleys, fjords and meadows. It offers excellent hiking and mountain climbing. Guides can be hired in the town of Pangnirtung, located a short boat ride from the park.

For those who want to continue into the Arctic, Quttinirpaaq National Park Reserve protects the northern tip of Ellesmere Island. It covers 15,250 sq mi/39,500 sq km—most of which is ice. Glaciers, valleys, Tanquary Fjord, the Hazen Plateau and Lake Hazen are all part of this beautiful area. Even though it's a true polar desert, there are thermal oases that are warm and moist enough to support plant and animal life. Wildlife includes numerous bird species, hares, musk ox, Peary caribou, arctic foxes and a few polar bears. Winters are long and harsh, and summers are brief and cool.

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