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Yukon from May to September. The main Yukon tourism centres are

Dawson City and the capital, Whitehorse, which has several museums and in the SS Klondike a magnificent sternwheeler to recall gold- rush days. Evening entertainment is limited, but Dawson City boasts a well- restored 1899 theatre where the Gaslight Follies perform a variety show based with a gold-rush theme, and Whitehorse has a similar vaudeville show in the Frantic Follies. More cerebral stimulation can be found at the Yukon Arts Centre theatre in Whitehorse, where there is also a two- screen cinema. Ice fishing is permitted in Kluane

National Park, which covers 21,980 square kilometres. Lake trout, Arctic grayling and Rainbow trout are among the fish to be caught in the many lakes, but the park is renowned for the world’s largest non-polar icefields as well as 120 species of nesting birds, Dall sheep and bears. Roads only skirt the park, so exploration calls for kayaks, horses or good boots, though some old mining roads are suitable for tose who want to explore on mountain bikes. In common with the two other

territories, Yukon offers a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) during cold, clear nights from late August until January. Some people find this dramatic spectacle strangely unsettling, but the spectral movements and vivid colours are a major attraction. The Yukon’s two main highways for road trips are the 1,488-mile Alaska Highway between Dawson Creek in British Columbia and Delta Junction, Alaska, and the

457-mile Dempster Highway from a road junction near Dawson City and Inuvik. The Alaska Highway is theoretically an all-weather road, but the Dempster Highway relies on ice to replace two summer-only ferry crossings of rivers, so it is impassable in the spring and autumn. Both roads require preparation and have to be travelled with exceptional care.

Northern Canada NORTHWEST TERRITORIES The immense emptiness of the Northwest Territories is probably the best of the three for Northern Light watchers, and the largest settlement north of the Arctic Circle, Inuvik, is geared up for swathing visitors in down clothing and Arctic boots. There are even hot tubs, glazed pods and heated lounge chairs for two from which to watch the ethereal movements. Visitors often combine this with a dog-sled adventure; much of the Northwest Territories is boreal forest (taiga), though about half of the territory is north of the tree line. The capital of Yellowknife on Great Slave Lake is a relatively young

settlement; its gold rush came much later than those in the Yukon, from 1934, and though gold is still mined it has been overtaken by diamond mining. The Diavik Diamond Mines Visitor Centre demonstrates their production, and the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre gives a good introduction to the territory’s history and the lifestyles of its First Nations people. There is a theatre in the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre offering a variety of music, dance, theatre and children’s programmes. Before the spring thaw, there are dog races and kite skiing on the lake, which also hosts an ice palace. Yellowknife is the starting point for many day and longer tours involving hiking, kayaking, skiing, fishing and riding. Among the more unusual

variations is ice fishing: following a driving lesson on a snowmobile across a frozen lake, a hole is cut in the ice to permit fishing.

Fishing in the territory’s lakes can produce fish of world- class trophy size. Close to the

Beaufort Sea, Inuvik is so much colder that buildings, water, sewage and heating all have to be raised above the permafrost ground. The town’s landmark is a church in the shape of an igloo. Twitchers head for the nearby Mackenzie River delta and its teeming migratory wildfowl, and the tundra is populated by huge herds of caribou and polar bears.

Northern Canada NUNAVUT The most remote and least visited of the three northern territories, Nunavut is mostly Arctic tundra with a population of about 33,000 in an area the size of western Europe. A major part of the territory, created as recently as 1999, is made up of Baffin Island. Its capital and the main airport are at Iqaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay) on Baffin Island. Inevitably nature experiences

dominate tourism, though the indigenous Inuit offer cultural activities. Their 5,000-year-old nomadic lifestyle has been replaced by permanent residence in Western-style houses, but it is still traditional for them to hunt and fish with the onset of spring. Ecotourist operators offer hiking, dog-sleding, kayaking, canoeing and snowmobiling, and some expeditions offer the option of spending a night in an igloo. Boat or floe-edge trips from April to July take in the spectacle of icebergs drifting by as well as sightings of polar bears, beluga whales, seals, walruses and narwhals. Millions of migratory birds nest during the short spring and summer seasons.

Northern Canada SAMPLE PACKAGES FRONTIER TRAVEL 020 8776 8709 A seven-night Yukon wildlife safari by

horseback starting from Whitehorse takes guests into wild mountains and valleys to find, observe and photograph northern wildlife, from £840pp. A seven-night Nahanni Canyons Rafting Adventure trip begins in Fort Simpson (NWT) and takes in the Nahanni’s canyons, rapids and falls using rafts and two-person canoes, from £3,566.

WINDOWS ON THE WILD 020 8742 1556 The Deh Cho Travel Connection is a 15-night fly-drive with flights from the UK to Edmonton, staying in Edmonton, Peace River, High Level, Hay River, Fort Smith, Yellowknife, Fort Simpson, Fort Nelson, Fort St. John and Grande Prairie, from £2,440pp. •


MORE (Parks Canada)

From left: Tombstone Territorial National Park, Yukon,; Northern Lights; Northwest Territories and wildlife in Nunavut


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