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Inuvik Hub for Unique Experiences in Canada’s Western Arctic

Mackenzie River Delta

Mackenzie Delta is a labyrinth of waterways, offering one of many excursions with Tundra North Tours, out of Inuvik, a northern hub for unique experiences in Canada’s Western Arctic. Credit: Leigh McAdam

Inuvik Hub for Unique experiences in canada’s western arctic

Feel like a dip in the Arctic Ocean? Boating on one of Canada’s biggest river deltas? Experiencing authentic Arctic culture?

Inuvik, a hub for unique experiences, is a small town located on the east channel of the Mackenzie River at the end of the Dempster Highway in the Northwest Territories. Since the highway from Inuvik further north to Tuktoyaktuk opened, adventurers and road-trippers enroute to Tuktoyaktuk—the true end of the road—stop in Inuvik to check out a few sites and book other activities further afield best experienced with locals.

For scenic flights, cultural experiences, Mackenzie River boat trips to the Beaufort Sea, or day trips to Herschel Island or Ivvavik National Park in the Yukon, Inuvik is your gateway.

Tundra North Tours offers these and other day and multi-day experiences. The company is led by Kylik Kisoun Taylor, featured on CBC’s True North Calling and many other outlets. Kylik, along with his guides, feels it is a gift to share the powerful landscapes and Indigenous culture with guests. Spend some time with Tundra North Tours, then check out the places mentioned here, all in Inuvik.

Igloo church in Inuvik

Igloo Church in Inuvik is also called Our Lady of Victory Church.

In winter, because it’s North of the Arctic Circle, Inuvik has temperatures way below freezing for long stretches of time. It’s incredible to experience winter up North, but summer from June through August, sees 56 days of 24-hour sunshine, making it easy to pack a lot into each day.

Visit the Igloo Church

Like no other church you’ve seen, the Igloo Church is the most photographed building in the town of Inuvik. In summer, five weekly tours give you a behind-the-scenes look at the history of the church and how it was built.

The Igloo Church, also called Our Lady of Victory Church, was designed by Father Jules Adam and built between 1958 and 1960 with community help. Wood was barged in from Fort Smith on the Mackenzie. Father Adam was a master of innovation and creativity. Apart from a few sketches on plywood, the design was in his head. There wasn’t much of a budget, especially for expensive equipment like pile drivers. So, Adam came up with a unique design whereby the building rests on a concrete “saucer,” which in turn sits on a thick base of gravel above the permafrost.

Greenhouse, Inuvik

Inuvik Community Greenhouse grows and sells $50K worth of bedding plants.

Get your greens on

Housed in an old hockey arena still showing the marks left from slap shots, the Inuvik Community Greenhouse is where you want to be on a cool day. Not only do the 200 members grow, sell and give away some of their own organically grown food (to the food bank and Arctic Energy Alliance), but upstairs there’s a room for hot (up to 50°C) yoga that’s offered twice a week. A weekly Tuesday market is well supported and the greenhouse runs programs for schoolkids to learn about greenery. In spring the greenhouse grows and sells $50K worth of bedding plants. Take a tour and you’ll feel the enthusiasm for the north, the community and gardening itself.

Alestine's in Inuvik, NWT

Alestine’s offers seating areas and a rooftop deck over the schoolbus it operates out of. Credit: Leigh McAdam

Eat at Alestine’s

You can eat in a couple of the local hotels but if you want a meal with character and you don’t mind sharing a table with a stranger, head over to Alestine’s where the cooking is done in an old schoolbus. If it’s a warm night head upstairs to the rooftop deck – where you can see the Mackenzie River and delta. Order something made with locally caught fish, such as fish tacos. Other options include reindeer chili and poutine. For dessert, split a Piece of Tail – a super tasty deep-fried Eskimo doughnut, with your new seat mates.

Inuvik, NWT

Boot Lake Trail is a short three-kilometre loop trail in Inuvik, NWT.

Walk the Boot Lake Trail

From Alestine’s, walk down the road and hike the three-kilometre loop around Boot Lake. It winds through birch and spruce forest to a lookout over the town and lake. Watch for wildlife and take bear spray—if you know how to use it—for added safety. These are just a few of the sites you can see in Inuvik, a northern hub for unique experiences, in town, or further afield, in Canada’s Western Arctic.

This adapted guest post and images, by Calgary-based travel blogger Leigh McAdam, first appeared in HikeBikeTravel.com.

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