Iqaluit (ᐃᖃᓗᐃᑦ in Inuktitut syllabics; formerly, Frobisher Bay) is the capital and largest settlement of the Canadian territory of Nunavut. It is on a southeastern inlet of Baffin Island. As of 2016, the population stood at just over 7,700 people.
Iqaluit is in the Everett Mountains rising from Koojesse (Kuujussi) Inlet, an inlet of Frobisher Bay, on the southeast part of Baffin Island. It is well to the east of Nunavut's mainland, and northeast of Hudson Bay.
It had long been used as a campsite and fishing spot by the Inuit (Aboriginal) people, who called it Iqaluit – "place of many fish" in Inuktitut. The US and Canadian authorities named it Frobisher Bay, after the name of the body of water it borders. In 1984 the settlement's name was changed from Frobisher Bay to Iqaluit.
Iqaluit has been a traditional fishing location used by Inuit for thousands of years.
World War II resulted in an influx of non-Inuit to the area, as Canada and the United States cooperated in the war in Europe. In 1942, the United States built an air base there, on a long-term lease with the Canadian government, in order to provide a stop-over and refuelling site for the short-range aircraft being ferried to Europe to support the war effort.
In 1949, after the war, the Hudson's Bay Company moved its south Baffin operations to the neighbouring valley of Niaqunngut, also called Apex, in order to use the airfield. In the mid-1950s, the population of Frobisher Bay increased rapidly during the construction of the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW line, a system of defensive radar stations—see North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)). Hundreds of mostly non-Inuit construction workers, military personnel, and administrative staff moved into the community, and several hundred Inuit followed, to take advantage of the access to jobs and medical care provided by the base operations. By 1957, 489 of the town's 1,200 residents were reported to be Inuit. After 1959, the Canadian government established permanent services at Frobisher Bay, including full-time doctors, a school, and social services. The Inuit population grew rapidly in response, as the government encouraged Inuit to settle permanently in communities supported by government services.
The American military left Iqaluit in 1963, as their development of intercontinental ballistic missiles diminished the strategic value of the DEW line and Arctic airbases. Canada continued to operate an administrative and logistical centre for much of the eastern Arctic at Frobisher Bay. The founding of the Gordon Robertson Educational Centre, now Inuksuk High School, in the early 1970s at Iqaluit confirmed the government's commitment to the community as an administrative centre. At the time of its founding, this was the sole high school operating in what constituted more than one-seventh of Canadian territory.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
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.
- 1 Unikkaarvik Regional Visitor Centre (Nunavut Tourism), 220 Sinaa Street, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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 (3.25 hours), Montreal, Rankin Inlet, and smaller communities throughout eastern Nunavut. Services also connect to Yellowknife and Winnipeg via Rankin Inlet.
Canadian airlines operating to Iqaluit with schedule services:
- Canadian North, toll-free: , email@example.com. A regional airline primarily operating flights in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and flights travelling between that region and a few large cities in Canada. The airline offers scheduled jet flights to Iqaluit from Ottawa, Rankin Inlet, and seven other communities in the Baffin Region. Services from Yellowknife are linked through Rankin Inlet.
Airlines operating chartered flights from Iqaluit to nearby communities:
- , toll-free: , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Kenn Borek Air, ☏ , email@example.com.
- Air Inuit, toll-free: , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Canadian Helicopters, ☏ , email@example.com.
Iqaluit has a local road system only stretching from the nearby community of Apex to the Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park, 1 km (0.62 mi) west of town. Iqaluit has no public transportation.
Iqaluit is small enough that most things are within walking distance of each other. Taxis charge a flat $8.75 fee per person to anywhere in town (as of 2022). 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.
- 1 , 926 Federal Road, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, ☏ , email@example.com. M-F noon-6PM, Sa Su 1–5PM. 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.
- 3 St. Jude's Anglican Cathedral (Igloo Cathedral), ☏ . One of Iqaluit's most recognizable landmarks is a white-domed church designed to resemble an igloo. The cathedral is the seat of the Diocese of the Arctic, which serves the largest area of any Anglican diocese in the world. The cathedral is also the parish church for the parish of Iqaluit. The building was opened in 2012.
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 [dead link], 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.
- 1 Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park (west of the airport, about 2 km from town). Surrounding the lower reaches of the Sylvia Grinnell River, this park offers 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.
- 2 Qaummaarviit Territorial Park (off the coast to the south of Iqaluit). 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.
- 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.
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, ☏ . M-Sa 10AM–10PM, Su 1–10PM. Department store run by Arctic Co-operatives.
- 2 , 626 Tumiit Plaza, ☏ . M-Sa 10AM–6PM. Sells Inuit sculptures and jewellery.
- 3 Gallery by the Red Boat, Bill Mackenzie Lane, Apex Beach, ☏ . 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), ☏ . M-Sa 11AM–5PM. Inuit carvings.
- 5 Malikkaat, 1083 Mivvik Street (opposite the airport), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, ☏ , email@example.com. Daily 4–6PM, or by appointment. Fur and sealskin garments designed by owner Rannva Simonsen.
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: . M-F 7–9AM, 11:30AM-1:30PM; Sa 9AM–1:30PM (closed Su). Inside the Frobisher Inn. Serves espresso drinks, coffee, tea, baked goods, sandwiches, salads and soups.
- 2 Fantasy Palace, 1085E Mivvik Street, ☏ . M-F 7AM–5PM, Sa 10AM–5PM, Su 11AM–5PM. Café with fresh coffee, pastries and ice cream.
- 3 Black Heart Café, 1405 Masak Court, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-F 7AM-5PM, Sa 9AM-5PM. Coffee, muffin and panini. Locals recommend this cafe.
- 4 Grind & Brew, 116 Sinaa Street, ☏ . Daily 7AM–6PM daily. Down on the beach. Serves coffee, pizza and sandwiches.
- 5 The Frob Kitchen & Eatery, 1405 Masak Court (Astro Hill Complex), ☏ . M-F 7AM–2PM and 5–9PM, Sa Su 8AM–2PM and 5–9PM. Nice restaurant in the Frobisher Inn. Brunch on Sundays.
- 6 Granite Room, 1056 Mivvik Street, ☏ . 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.
- 7 Snack, 163 Nipisa Street, ☏ . open 24 hours. Fast food. Lunch and dinner. Also serves wine.
- 8 Yummy Shawarma & Pizza, 1089E Mivvik St, ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 11AM-7:30PM. Lebanese restaurant serving kebab, authentic shawarma, salads, pizza, pasta and desserts. Delivery available. From $12.
- 9 Big Racks Barbecue, 810 Natsiq, ☏ . BBQ restaurant
- 10 Hunter's Market, 743 Ben Ell, ☏ . The restaurant is inside this general store. You can find burgers, pizza and souvlaki.
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, ☏ . 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, ☏ . M-Sa 5PM–1AM. Has a big screen for hockey, pool tables, dance floor, fireplaces and comfy chairs.
- 3 , 2025 Iqaluit Lane (next to the Syliva Grinnell Territorial Park), ☏ , email@example.com. M-W 4-10PM, Th 4-11PM, F 4PM-12:30AM, Sa noon-12:30AM. The most northerly microbrewery in Canada opened 24 August 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 $14. Their products are also available in restaurants and the beer and wine store.
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.
- 1 Accommodations by the Sea, 2536 Paurngaq Crescent, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Bed and breakfast. $170–230.
- 2 Aurora Manor, 2530 Paurngaq Crescent, ☏ . Bed and breakfast.
- 3 Capital Suites, 807 Aiviq Street, ☏ , email@example.com. Hotel suites. $200–400.
- 4 The Discovery (Discovery Lodge Hotel), 1056 Mivvik Street, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Hotel suites. Also has a restaurant, "Granite Room" (see section above). $240–340.
- 5 Frobisher Inn, 505 Astro Hill, ☏ , email@example.com. Part of the Astro Hill Complex, which also houses a bar, restaurant, swimming pool and cinema. $215–260.
- 6 , 1036 Ring Road, ☏ . Hotel with Navigator Restaurant, which serves Chinese food and greasy food; their kooyoo burger is very popular.
- 7 Nunattaq Suites, 4141 Lake View, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Apartment suites. $200.
- 8 Rannva's Bed & Breakfast, 3102 Helen Maksagak Drive, ☏ , email@example.com. The owner of this bed and breakfast also has a gallery of fur and sealskin garments located on Angel Street. $130.
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 4G/LTE system.
- Iqaluit Centennial Library, 220 Sinaa Street, ☏ . 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.
- 2 Qikiqtani General Hospital, ☏ . 24 hours. Clinicː M-F 8ː30AM-5PM.
- Public Health Centre, ☏ . 24 hours.
- 3 St. Jude's Anglican Cathedral, Mattaaq Crescent. English service 9:45AM, Inuktitut-lamgusge service 11AM; Inuktitut prayer & praise service 7PM. See listing in "See" above.
- Baha'i Group, Building 112, ☏ .
- Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, 911 Niaqunngusiariaq, ☏ . Mass: Tu Th 7:30AM, W F Sa 5:30PM, Su 10AM.
- Pentecostal Church, 761 Fred Coman, ☏ .
- , ☏ .
- Nunatsiaq News, ☏ .