It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for.
Out of the dome of night, a faint swirl of light on the horizon is suddenly a massive river of glowing green and pink above you, a moving masterpiece being painted all over the sky’s ink-black canvas. You bask under these Northern Lights and it’s somehow more powerful and surreal than you imagined. But when the ephemeral light show is over, there’s no need to believe your unforgettable time in the Northwest Territories is over. Far from it. During the day—after the sun rises and the Aurora are impossible to see—there are countless ways to feel reinvigorated by outdoor adventure or thrilling sensory experiences.
Planes, trains and automobiles brought you to the Northwest Territories. Now that you’re here, why not try our original mode of transportation. Two-hour daytrips right up to full-week training courses give you the opportunity to explore the great Northern backcountry by dogsled. Feel the rush as your sled suddenly surges ahead when an eager team of four legged tour guides sets off to show you its boundless winter playground.
In Hay River, DBeck Kennels brings guests out by dogsled to tour the stunning South Slave, while Pokiak Guiding and Outfitting provides guided tours onto the Arctic Ocean in Tuktoyaktuk. Kuptana’s Arctic Adventures will take true adventurers out on the land surrounding the High Arctic community of Ulukhaktok on Victoria Island. If you want a more immersive experience, seek out Arctic Chalet Tours, which offers a six-day dog-sledding package where you can learn to drive a team of white Siberian/Malamute huskies. From their Arctic Chalet outside Inuvik, Olav and Judi Falsnes will guide you through the ins and outs of running a dog team, as you explore a diverse network of forest and river wilderness trails around the Mackenzie Delta.
Beck’s Sled Dog Tours, Tugáh Adventures, North of 60 Aurora Adventures, Enodah Wilderness Travel and more offer a variety of dog sledding packages around Yellowknife. Drive your own team or hunker down and let someone else take care of it. Head out to an outfitter’s tent to enjoy tea and bannock cooked over the fire or enjoy the luxury and comfort of a wilderness lodge after exploring the pristine Yellowknife wilds. Or head down to Old Town and take a guided kicksledding tour around Back Bay and Yellowknife Bay with Sundog Adventures. Really, the choice is yours.
It’s true. When the Northern Lights start their magical dance across the sky, you will lose all track of time. And because you’re sure to be buzzing for hours after witnessing the awe- inducing lightshow, you could be in for some late nights.
Forgive yourself if you aren’t up at the crack of dawn—even if dawn doesn’t happen until 9 a.m. You are on vacation after all. If you sleep in, wake up comforted by the knowledge that there are more than a few delicious restaurants within walking distance to hit up for brunch.
In Inuvik, pop into Alestine’s for contemporary Northern cuisine from their quaint cabin “where the smiles and tea are always free.”
Head down to the Woodyard Pub to sample a huge selection of locally brewed craft beers form the NWT’s only brewery. Or visit legendary Bullock's Bistro for hearty portions of just-caught local fish and endless baskets of fresh bread. On Sundays, the Trader’s Grill in the Explorer Hotel hosts its signature brunch, with breakfast staples like scrambled eggs and sausage alongside dishes like sweet and sour chicken, pork dumplings and barbecue chicken.
You’ve spent much of your evenings looking up to the skies, so why not spend your days looking down—at a hole through three to five feet of ice. Ice fishing in the Northwest Territories is a lot like Aurora-viewing—it requires patience, but it’s rare that a practitioner is ever disappointed. (And boy, will your patience ever be rewarded up here!) On Great Slave Lake alone you can catch Northern Pike, Lake Trout, Whitefish, Burbot and Walleye through the ice. In the High Arctic, you can also catch Arctic Char. And remember, the Northwest Territories is home to some of the biggest Lake Trout, Northern Pike and Arctic Char in the world.
Rivers East Arm Tours in Lutselk’e offers one-day or multi-day ice-fishing trips on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake at an exclusive camp, that includes an outfitter’s wall tent with woodstove and spruce bough floor. Many remote lodges will offer ice fishing packages and hotels in smaller communities can often arrange ice-fishing tours. In Deline, book a guide through Grey Goose Lodge to head out on Great Bear Lake for trophy Lake Trout. In the spring, ask around because most communities will
host ice fishing derbies, which is a time of great excitement.
Yellowknife Bay is the departure point for all kinds of ice-fishing excursions from the NWT capital. Arctic Tours Canada, Yellowknife Tours, Trailblazer Tours and many others will bring groups onto Great Slave Lake for daytrips. Bluefish Services employs the services of its comfortable Snobear snowmachine to bring visitors to its tried-and-true fishing spots. Shawn Buckley with Great Slave Lake Tours also brings guests out by Bombardier to check his nets. Guests will be able to try their hand at jigging for fish and also be able to sample some of the catch.
Unfortunately, you can’t take the Northern Lights home with you. But there’s no shortage of Made-in-the-NWT art inspired by the Aurora--and the landscapes they dance above. From prints to sculptures, clothing to jewellery, each region of the Northwest Territories has its own homegrown Indigenous arts scene and wherever you go, you’re sure to find a keepsake that captures the excitement and wonder of your visit to the North.
The Acho Dene Native Crafts store in Fort Liard has a huge selection of handmade moosehide moccasins, birch bark baskets and more. In Inuvik, visit Inuvialuit Art and Crafts to pick up sculptures, mukluks, uluit and decorative key chains and ornaments. The Tlicho Online Store, run out of the Tlicho Government office in Behchoko, sells beaded Dene moccasins, jewellery and more. The Yellowknives Dene Artisan Shop in Dettah, located in the Chief Drygeese Centre, sells a growing inventory of locally made clothing, jewellery and accessory items.
Head to Old Town to shop for arts and crafts at the Gallery of the Midnight Sun and the Down to Earth Gallery. Make an appointment at Old Town Glassworks to sandblast your own custom designs onto recycled glass to create your own souvenir. In downtown Yellowknife, be sure to stop at Northern Images—an arts co-op with prints, carvings and other works from across the Northwest Territories and the Arctic—and the Yellowknife Book Cellar, with one of the largest catalogues of Northern literature around.
Part of the beauty of the North is that the great outdoors is so accessible. You don’t need to drive for an hour to find a little peace and tranquillity. In the Northwest Territories, it’s everywhere. To get your heart rate up, rent some skis, snowshoes, a fat bike or even take a snowmobile tour, and head out into the heart of nature, where your thoughts will never be clearer.
Local hotels and lodges may have skis or snowshoes available for guest use. If they don’t, they will know who in town offers rentals. In Inuvik, follow ski trails that former local Olympians trained on in the early days of the famed T.E.S.T. program. Aklavik’s Float North Adventures and Tuktoyaktuk’s Oopik Tours and Adventures offer snowmobile tours in the Western Arctic. Chase East Arm Adventures gives snowmachine tours of the dramatic East Arm of Great Slave Lake out of Lutselk’e.
Rent skis or snowshoes from Overlander Sports in downtown Yellowknife to explore the lakes and trails in and outside the city. If you’re looking for some full-throttle excitement, Yellowknife Outdoor Adventures and North Star Adventures offer snowmobile tours from Yellowknife. Or rent a fatbike from Borealis Bike Tours to set off on your own trip down the Dettah ice road or join a guided tour of Yellowknife Bay.