When to Visit
When's the right time to come to the Northwest Territories? The answer is obvious. The right time is now.
Up here, every season is surreal and unforgettable. Summer, of course, boasts open water, splendid camping, hot weather and the delirious midnight sun. Autumn offers vivid colours in the mountains and bountiful berry-picking in the Barrenlands, plus blissful displays of the Aurora Borealis. The Northern Lights are even more striking as the crystal-clear winter sets in, making the colder months of the year the NWT's prime tourist season. And finally, in the springtime, the sun returns with vigour to bathe this snowcapped land, making this the perfect period for snowmobiling, dogsledding, ice-fishing, skiing and more.
Where to Visit
Once you've decided when you want to visit, you just have to settle on where to go.
With breathtaking national parks to many unique cultural heritages and histories, the NWT has no shortage of attractions. Consider starting with a region of the territory and going from there. You can visit the Dehcho and its crown jewel, the Nahanni National Park Reserve. Or instead choose the Sahtu, with its tight-knit communities along the Mackenzie River and world-class fishing on Great Bear Lake. Maybe you'd rather experience the Western Arctic, rich in ocean adventure and Inuvialuit and Gwich'in stories. Or roll into the South Slave to gawk at wild waterfalls and the hulking beasts of Wood Buffalo National Park. Or perhaps you've always wanted to head to the North Slave, home of the capital Yellowknife, the global aurora hotspot. Whatever your choice, you won't be disappointed.
What to Expect
Certainly, a more relaxed and humane pace of life.
But remember that not all NWT towns are built the same. In Yellowknife and larger communities like Fort Smith, Hay River and Inuvik, you can expect to find most - if not all - of the every-day amenities you would in the south. Once you arrive in smaller communities though, you may not have access to a 24-hour-a-day grocery store or gas station, for example. So be sure to plan accordingly.
What to Pack
This depends on when you're planning to come.
In winter, bring all of the outdoor gear you'd expect to need to stay warm in Northern Canada: a thick parka, heavy-duty winter boots, mitts, a scarf, toque and snow-pants. You can definitely rent or purchase these items in Yellowknife and most NWT communities, but when you take that first step off of the plane in the brisk and magical Northwest Territories, you want your only focus to be on the mesmerizing Aurora Borealis dancing miles above you.
Come summer, you'll want to pack your sunscreen (for the 24-hours of daylight, of course). If you plan on spending time in the backcountry, you will want to pick up some bug-spray and maybe even bring a bug-jacket. And for longer hikes outside of NWT communities, it may give you peace of mind to take some bear-spray with you, just in case you have a chance encounter with one of the territory's furrier residents.
Most importantly, make sure you bring your sense of adventure. The Northwest Territories is a land of beauty, with friendly and hospitable people eager to make yours an unforgettable visit.