Canada's Little Town of 30-Day Nights

Fifty days out of the year, the summer sun stays put in Inuvik, Canada. And in the winter (between November and January), the sun remains tucked away for 30 days. The Northwest Territories in Canada cover almost six times the area of the United Kingdom. Among its 33 inhabited communities, Inuvik is its largest, with 3,625 residents calling it home. While locals state a slight solar glow keeps the city from ever being completely dark, if you’ve ever considered experiencing 24-hours of night, this little outpost would be a great place to do so.

Located north of the Arctic Circle, the town was erected in 1955 as an administrative post, but didn’t become recognized as a town until 1979. Today it is the trading, administrative and supply center for the western Arctic and known for its midnight sun and polar nights.

Inuvik is the most-visited destination in the Western Arctic and therefore the easiest to get to. There is year-round road access from the Yukon (not always the case in other cities) and flights frequent the area from Yellowknife. The airport is about an eight-mile drive outside of town via the Dempster Highway, and it’s advised to make arrangements for a car prior to landing, since no rental kiosks are available on-site. Average temperatures in the winter are around 4 F, which will hit you as soon as you take your first step off the plane.

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If you book a room with The Arctic Chalet cabins (one of the few places to get one), they have their own car rental service and guests can choose from three different models of 4x4s. Unfortunately, the property isn’t overly luxurious, but should you want a private cabin, it’s your best bet. The chalets come with queen or double beds, satellite TV, a kitchenette and most have private baths. Their most premium rental, the Twilight Cabin, is more spacious than the rest and has a full kitchen, outdoor porch and propane barbecue. Those preferring a full-service property can stay at the Mackenzie Delta Hotel, whose largest rooms are Executive Suites with a king-sized bed, Jacuzzi tub and high-speed Internet. The Mackenzie Grill and Shivers Lounge is the hotel’s main restaurant and on Tuesday evenings features a Scotch night with the top-shelf liquor on offer.

The town itself isn't much to write home about. It sits on permafrost, and limits digging into the ground. Therefore its water and sewage pipes sit above ground, zigzagging through the streets in metal utilidors (above-ground utility conduits). Around the area is a hospital which only opened in 2003; a college; the Midnight Sun Complex, a multi-use facility; Roy ‘Sugloo’ Ipana Memorial Arena with an NHL-sized rink; and a Curling Club.

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But travelers don’t visit Inuvik just to enjoy the small town vibe, there’s plenty of great outdoor activities to participate in during the polar night. Because of its distinct terrain, Inuvik is great for cross-country skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, hunting and fishing. Inuvik is near the beginning of the tundra, right at the northern edge of the taiga, and as such is a transition zone for the larger Northern animals such as bears, caribou, wolves and musk ox.

Inuvik is also located next to the third largest river in the world, the Mackenzie River, winding 80 miles through various channels before flowing into the Delta. During the winter months it freezes over and becomes a place for snowmobiling and ice fishing. Arctic Adventure Tours offers a three-hour snowmobile trip from the Arctic Chalet to a secluded cabin outside of Inuvik. At the Arctic Loon Cabin, guests can warm up after the tour and enjoy a hot beverage and cozy up by the fireplace. The tour is priced at $195-$225 per person. Another popular attraction within the town is Our Lady of Victory, an igloo church built in 1960. Its interior is decorated with paintings by artist Mona Thrasher and it is one of the most photographed landmarks in the city.

aurora borealis
Photo Credit: MacKenzie Delta Hotel

The area’s main appeal, however, are the Northern Lights. A kaleidoscope of colors, green and blue hues dance in the sky, and feel so close you could almost touch them. To get a better understanding of the cosmic phenomenon, tours such as The Great Canadian Adventure Company offer guided excursions away from man-made light. Although, it is not directly in the town of Inuvik, the town is a two-hour flight away and is one of the better destinations to watch the lights. The four- to five-day tours begin in Yellowknife and guests are escorted to an unpopulated area lined with teepees. Inside, heaters keep guests warm until the electrical storms appear. As you wait, guides will discuss the scientific elements of the Aurora Borealis and will give tips on how to best photograph them. Rates range from $865 to $1,575 per person.

If you’d rather skip having to plan your Canadian vacation on your own, Spectacular Northwest Territories offers an eight-day trip covering the region from August to early April. The trip comes with Return airfare from Edmonton to Yellowknife, three nights at the Explorer Hotel, airport transfers, two buffet breakfasts, three nights at Aurora Village, dinner at Aurora Village Lodge, winter clothing rental and optional activities such as dogsledding, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling. Prices begin at $1,995 per person based on double occupancy and $2,394 for single travelers.

Nicolle Monico

Nicolle is an award-winning writer and Travel Editor using her expertise in the industry to write about luxury travel around the world. You can find her daily searching the web for the latest trends, best new hotels and most beautiful destinations to visit and share with her readers. She's been featured on The Huffington Post, Hard Assets, AMD Entertainment and Remy Martin. In 2014, she was vo...(Read More)

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