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North America > Canada > Northern Canada > Nunavut > Baffin Island > Iqaluit

Iqaluit

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Iqaluit (ᐃᖃᓗᐃᑦ in Inuktitut syllabics; formerly, Frobisher Bay) is the capital and largest settlement of the Canadian territory of Nunavut. It is located on a south-eastern inlet of Baffin Island. As of 2011, the population stood at just under 6,700 people.

Understand[edit]

Iqaluit started life as the site of an American Air Force base in 1942.

In 1984 the settlement changed its name from Frobisher Bay back to Iqaluit, which means "place of many fish".

Climate[edit]

Iqaluit
Climate chart (explanation)
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See the 7 day forecast for Iqaluit at Environment Canada
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Road to Nowhere, Iqaluit

The season in which you choose to visit Iqaluit will largely determine what you'll be able to see and do. The peak time for visiting Iqaluit is during its brief summer. The ice on Frobisher Bay begins to thaw in June, when temperatures start rising and the nights are short. Hiking is excellent about this time. The bay remains inaccessible during its thaw, but an icebreaker will arrive to clear a path for boats usually by the end of June. July and August are both the warmest and wettest months. Wildflowers and berries flourish, but so do the mosquitos. Fishing on Sylvia Grinnell River is best on the shoulders of summer, when the arctic char migrate down toward the bay and then back up again.

Snow starts falling regularly again in September and continues through early June. The bay stays open to boats until November. Daylight hours become increasingly short in the winter months, but the northern lights are entrancing. January and February are the coldest and darkest months of the year, and life in the town can get a bit grim at this time. April and May are the ideal months for dog-sledding, kite-skiing and other snow activities.

Visitor information[edit]

  • 1 Unikkaarvik Regional Visitor Centre (Nunavut Tourism), 220 Sinaa Street, +1 867 979-4636, e-mail: . M-F 9AM–6PM, Sa Su 1PM–4PM. Has information on the whole territory, plus displays on local wildlife and culture in an adjoining museum.

Get in[edit]

Iqaluit is generally accessible only by air and, under the right ice conditions, by sea. It is not connected by road to any other town. Due to its isolation and the lack of competition, getting to Iqaluit is a very expensive prospect.

By plane[edit]

  • 1 Iqaluit Airport (YFB IATA). Iqaluit Airport is a public airport a short walk west of the town centre. It hosts scheduled passenger services from Ottawa, Montreal, Rankin Inlet, and smaller communities throughout eastern Nunavut. Services also connect to Yellowknife and Winnipeg via Rankin Inlet. Iqaluit Airport on Wikipedia Iqaluit Airport (Q2415100) on Wikidata
  • First Air, toll-free: +1-800-267-1247, e-mail: . The region's primary airline has nearly daily jet services from the south. It flies from Ottawa, Montreal (via Kuujjuaq, on the northern coast of Quebec) and Rankin Inlet, with connections to Yellowknife and Winnipeg. With its partner Qikiqtani, the airline serves all communities on Baffin Island, as well as Resolute, Igloolik and Hall Beach.
  • Canadian North, toll-free: +1-800-661-1505, e-mail: . Canadian North offers scheduled jet flights from Ottawa, Rankin Inlet, and seven other communities in the Baffin Region. Services to Yellowknife are linked through Rankin Inlet.

Several companies that operate chartered flights from Iqaluit to nearby communities have offices at the airport. The largest operators are Air Nunavut, Kenn Borek Air and Air Inuit.

Get around[edit]

Iqaluit is small enough that most things are within walking distance of each other. Taxis charge a flat $7 fee per person to anywhere in town. In the summer, you can rent bicycles from the visitor's centre. There are also several automotive outfitters in town that rent snowmobiles and ATVs.

See[edit]

Legislative Building in Iqaluit
  • 1 Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, 926 Federal Road, +1 867 975-5000, e-mail: . M-F 9AM–5PM. Home to Nunavut's unicameral parliament, this building contains some excellent examples of Inuit art. The main entrance has two spires of wood which resemble a Qamotiq, a type of Inuit dog sled. Feel free to look around the main floor of the building, but be sure to announce yourself to the security guard before going too far. You may observe the proceedings of the legislative chamber from its public gallery. Contact the public affairs office to find out when the next sitting will be. Guided tours of the building are conducted Jun–Aug on weekdays at 1:30PM, or by appointment. Free.
  • 2 Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, 212 Sinaa Street, +1 867 979-5537. Daily 1PM–5PM. Housed in a reconstructed trading post of the Hudson Bay Company, this small museum contains a collection of Inuit art and artifacts. It is on the beach in a red and white building. Free.

Do[edit]

Outdoor activities[edit]

River at Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park

Iqaluit is the main base from which to explore Baffin Island. Several outfitters organize guided excursions around the island and Arctic expeditions further afield. Most activities are seasonal. Summer activities include trekking, and boat and fishing tours in Frobisher Bay. In the winter months, dog-sledding journeys are an excellent way to get out and explore the landscape. As well as the commercial outfitters, there are several dog-team owners in town who take visitors out for an afternoon or overnight. Kite-skiing is an increasingly popular activity, and frozen Frobisher Bay is considered one of the best spots for it in Canada. Aerial sightseeing tours are easy to organize at any time of the year and there will always be a charter company available to take you up, depending on the weather.

Some of the more reliable outfitters in town include Inupak Outfitting, Northwinds Arctic Adventures, Polynya Adventure and Qairrulik Outfitting. Call the local tourism authority for more. Dates for longer expeditions are usually scheduled well in advance, but even most day trips require a minimum number of people, so be sure to book early to give the outfitters time to organize others.

Opportunities for trekking around Iqaluit are almost endless, thanks to wide-open surroundings, including two protected areas on its doorstep. The terrain can be rough, however, and there are very few trails and no roads. You can also rent snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) from several outfitters in town.

  • Surrounding the lower reaches of the Sylvia Grinnell River, the Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park contains some excellent tundra scenery. Several hiking trails run along the river, which has good fishing, while another leads to a waterfall. On the bank of the river is an ancient camping ground (Crystal II archaeological site) used by the Dorset and Thule peoples. You will need to have local assistance to find the site. Caribou and arctic foxes can be seen roaming through the area depending on the season. The park is located west of the airport, about 2 kilometres from town.
  • Off the coast to the south of Iqaluit is Qaummaarviit Territorial Park. This island preserves another archaeological site, a 750-year-old campsite dating back to the Thule culture. It is 12 km from town, and can be accessed by boat in the summer months and by ski, dogsled or snowmobile in the winter months. Going with an outfitter is recommended, and usually gets you there quicker. Camping in the park is not permitted.
  • The Itijjagiaq Trail, part of the Trans Canada Trail system, runs 177 km from Iqaluit and Kimmirut. It does not connect to other parts of the Trans Canada Trail. One branch heads north for several kilometres, while the other begins with a navigable water trail about 25 km across Frobisher Bay to the Katannilik Territorial Park on Meta Incognita Peninsula.

Festivals[edit]

  • Alianait Arts Festival. This annual festival, held in late June, is a celebration of Inuit arts and culture. It draws musicians and other performers from all over the Arctic.
  • Toonik Tyme. The annual spring festival, is held for a week in early April. It involves a large variety of community events, including snowmobile and ski races, traditional games, concerts and feasts.

Buy[edit]

Enchanting night view of Iqaluit in September fog

Inuit artists are recognized internationally for their stone carvings and prints, and there are several galleries in Iqaluit selling arts and crafts from all over Nunavut. In addition, artists often tout their wares along the waterfront and in restaurants, creating excellent opportunities to experience the local art culture.

  • 1 Arctic Ventures, 192 Queen Elizabeth Way, +1 867 979-5992. M-Sa 10AM–10PM, Su 1PM–10PM. Department store run by Arctic Co-operatives.
  • 2 Carvings Nunavut, 626 Tumiit Plaza, +1 867 979-0650. M-Sa 10AM–6PM. Sells Inuit sculptures and jewellery.
  • 3 Gallery by the Red Boat, Bill Mackenzie Lane, Apex Beach, +1 867 979-2055. Call for appointment. Housed in one of the old Hudson Bay Company buildings on Apex Beach, this gallery displays carvings by local artist Saila Kipanek.
  • 4 Iqaluit Fine Arts Studio, 1127 Mivvik Street (opposite the airport), +1 867 979-5578. M-Sa 11AM–5PM. Inuit carvings.
  • 5 Malikkaat, 1083 Mivvik Street (opposite the airport), +1 867 979-6426, e-mail: . M-F 10AM–6PM, Sa 10AM–4PM. A gift store selling Inuit-made art, clothing and jewellery from Iqaluit and other communities in the north.
  • 6 Rannva Design, 3102 Angel Street, +1 867 979-3183, e-mail: . Daily 4PM–6PM, or by appointment. Fur and sealskin garments designed by owner Rannva Simonsen.

Eat[edit]

Iqaluit in June

Local specialties consist mainly of game meats (caribou) and seafood (Arctic char, mussels, scallops and shrimp). Another staple is bannock, a type of bread.

The best restaurants are in the hotels, but all of them are open to non-guests. Prices for food are generally much higher here than in other parts of Canada.

  • 1 Caribrew Café, Astro Hill Complex, toll-free: +1-877-979-2222. M-F 7AM–6PM, Sa Su 9AM–4PM. Inside the Frobisher Inn. Serves espresso drinks, coffee, tea, baked goods, sandwiches, salads and soups.
  • 2 Fantasy Palace, 1085E Mivvik Street, +1 867 979-0606. M-F 7AM–5PM, Sa 10AM–5PM, Su 11AM–5PM. Café with fresh coffee, pastries and ice cream.
  • Gallery Fine Dining Room, Astro Hill Complex, +1 867 979-2222. M-F 7AM–2PM and 5PM–9PM, Sa Su 8AM–2PM and 5PM–9PM. Nice restaurant in the Frobisher Inn. Brunch on Sundays.
  • 3 Granite Room, 1056 Mivvik Street, +1 867 979-4433. Located in the Discovery Hotel, known affectionately as "the disco". French cuisine with some pub-style options too. Salad bar at lunch. Home-made soups.
  • 4 Grind & Brew, 116 Sinaa Street, +1 867 979-0606. Daily 7AM–6PM daily. Down on the beach. Serves coffee, pizza and sandwiches.
  • 5 Snack, 163 Nipisa Street, +1 867 979-6767. open 24 hours. Fast food. Lunch and dinner. Also serves wine.
  • 6 Yummy Shawarma & Pizza, 1089 Mivvik St Building 1089e, +1 867 979-1515. M-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 11AM-7:30PM. Lebanese restaurant serving kebab, authentic shawarma, salads, pizza, pasta and desserts. Delivery available.

Drink[edit]

Iqaluit waterfront in August. 2011

While many communities in Nunavut have restrictions on the sale, possession and consumption of alcohol, Iqaluit does not. You are free to bring alcohol into the community for your own use, and you can buy and drink it in bars and licensed restaurants.

  • Beer and wine store, on Niuraivik. Tu-Sa noon-7PM.
  • 1 Royal Canadian Legion, 944 Iglulik Drive, +1 867 979-6215. A popular place to go on Friday and Saturday nights. Live music on one side, dance floor and pool tables on the other. You must be a member of the Legion or have a member sign you in.
  • 2 Storehouse Bar & Grill, Astro Hill Complex, +1 867 979-2222. M-Sa 5PM–1AM. Has a big screen for hockey, pool tables, dance floor, fireplaces and comfy chairs.
  • Nu Brew (Nunavut Brewing Company), 2025 Iqaluit Lane (next to the Syliva Grinnell Territorial Park), +1 867 979-2337, e-mail: . M-Th 4PM-10PM, F 4PM-midnight, Sa noon-midnight (call to confirm). The most northerly microbrewery in Canada opened 24 Aug 2018. The brewery has four beers available: the Flow Edge light lager, Frob Gold British golden ale, Aupaqtuq (“red” in Inuktitut) Irish red ale, and a Celebration Ale. You can sample all four for $15. Their products are expected to be available in restaurants and the beer and wine store by the end of 2018.

Sleep[edit]

Many houses in Iqaluit are on stilts

Being a small town, Iqaluit doesn't have much of a choice in the way of accommodation. Rates for rooms are generally much higher than their value, and amenities can be lacking. Booking ahead and securing a room before your arrival is essential. Budget travellers are restricted to camping and couch surfing. When the local college (Nunavut Arctic College) is not in session, visitors can stay at the college residence, which costs much less than local hotels.

Connect[edit]

There is cell phone coverage in Iqaluit, but your phone may not work because of the lack of coverage by the major Canadian wireless companies and outdated infrastructure (which is being upgraded).

Ice Wireless, a regional phone carrier, provides a 3G network and is the only GSM option at this time. Its phones and plans are sold at QITC in the RBC Building on Queen Elizabeth Way. Rogers Wireless has an exclusive roaming agreement with Ice Wireless, so Rogers customers can use the network for a fee, but it is voice-only (data roaming is not available).

The other wireless option is Bell, which operates a 3G/UMTS system.

Internet[edit]

  • Iqaluit Centennial Library, 220 Sinaa Street, +1 867 979-5400. M W 1PM–6PM, Tu Th 3PM–8PM, F 3PM-6PM, Sa Su 1PM-4PM. A public library in the same building as the visitor centre. Has free internet.

Cope[edit]

Healthcare services[edit]

St Jude's Anglican Cathedral

Religious services[edit]

  • 2 St. Jude's Anglican Cathedral, Mattaaq Crescent, +1 867 979-6561. Services Th 7PM, Su 9:45AM. One of Iqaluit's most recognizable landmarks is a white-domed church designed to resemble an igloo. Services are offered in English and Inuktitut. After a fire damaged the original building in 2005, it was demolished and rebuilt. The congregation held its first services in the new cathedral in June 2012.
  • Baha'i Group, Building 112, +1 867 979-6580.
  • Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, 911 Niaqunngusiariaq, +1 867 979-5805. Mass: Tu Th 7:30AM, W F Sa 5:30PM, Su 10AM.
  • Pentecostal Church, 761 Fred Coman, +1 867 979-5779.

Publications[edit]

Go next[edit]

By air to Kuujjuaq, Rankin Inlet, or Ottawa.

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