Last Updated on March 11, 2023
I talk a lot about the wild and wonderful lands of Nunavut and my time spent there. It seems I can’t get enough. I lived in Nunavut’s capital, Iqaluit, located in north central Canada in what was once part of the northwest territories.
This vast area is the least populous of Canada’s provinces and territories and one of the world’s most remote, sparsely settled regions. So, this article won’t be about city life in this northern province. Rather, it will be about adapting and thriving in the coldest Canadian province.
Snowmobiling in Nunavut
Riding snowmobiles near Iqaluit, Nunavut was one of the best experiences of my life. Racing across the icy terrain, I was struck by just how big the Arctic really is. Compared to other places I’d been, it was mind-bogglingly huge – like riding forever and never reaching the edge. The wide-open horizon seemed to stretch to infinity.
With nothing but white as far as the eye could see, it was impossible to accurately judge how much ground my fellow riders and I were covering…or how cold our toes were getting!
After powering through what felt like endless miles of fluffy white snow (but more likely only a few kilometers), we concluded that civilization really must exist somewhere in this wilderness. After all, someone had built these snowmobiles.
With that realization in mind, we pointed ourselves back toward town and soon after arrived at familiar sights like gas pumps and friendly locals. Another breathtaking adventure in the Arctic was scratched off my bucket list.
It’s not every day you get to experience something so vast and uncompromising.
How Cold? Really, Really Cold
If you’re looking to experience the lowest temperatures in Canada, then look no further than Nunavut. The Arctic territory has held the record for the lowest average yearly temperature since 1948, registering in at an impressive minus 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit – roughly a balmy negative 19.7 Celsius. That’s practically enough to make the abominable snowman remain indoors.
Having felt this frigid Arctic air on my own skin, it’s not at all what I imagined it would be. Yes, it’s bitterly cold and the recognition as Canada’s coldest province is fully justified. However, there’s an exhilarating sense of unity with nature and profound loneliness that are worth experiencing at least once in a lifetime.
Unwittingly, there is a feeling that you are the last survivor, as in numerous apocalyptic films.
Dealing with Isolation
It’s difficult for me to imagine life away from technology, social networks, and at least some interaction with a host of people. At first, this existence excited me and seemed exactly what I was looking for. Very soon however, a feeling of nostalgic longing set in, because my daily work turned out to be extremely routine.
It was interesting for the first week, but then I wanted to communicate with others. Fortunately, I installed a good VPN enabling me to open any site in the world. I was able to access the most important social networks, even Netflix, and securely operate my Android device. To be honest, after a while I regretted accessing my social networks, feeling envious seeing friends and acquaintances drinking in their backyards.
After dealing with these conflicting emotions for several weeks, I eventually got used to it. I was in Nunavut and nothing was going to change that.
The Party That Changed Everything
A seasoned polar diving pro breezed through Iqaluit on his way from one dive trip to the next. During his few days here, he invited us all to a party that would ultimately kickstart my Nunavut life. It’s called Yurt Fest.
Its details are a story for another time. Suffice it to say however that the festive atmosphere with a flaming wooden dog, tea, and multiple zip lines set off an avalanche of Nunavut memories. And when that night finished, it felt like the start of something new.
Friends I made and would see again on weekend hikes or lunches around town became part of my new life… and their camaraderie helped keep me warm on those frigid winter nights in Canada’s coldest province.
Nunavut life is not for the faint of heart; it’s often harsh, but thank goodness for summer.
July temperatures in Nunavut communities like Baker Lake and Rankin Inlet are far removed from the winter’s cold. Temperatures reach a toasty 25℃ (77 ℉) and with long days of sunshine, sunscreen is a must. Thankfully, Nunavut summers provide plenty of opportunities to embrace the warmth of summertime – relatively speaking.
Summer offers the opportunity to see an entirely different side of nature without all the snow cover.
Getting Around Nunavut
Taking the classic road trip through Nunavut might sound like a great adventure, but one just can’t hit the highway and drive across the province as it’s accessible largely by air or sea.
One would surely think an expert driver could master icy roads in a snowmobile. And while I became more experienced the longer I was here, traversing those ground routes required a ton of planning and some courage – something not everyone has. Rest assured, even if your travel gene remains dormant, you can get around Nunavut.
One needn’t fly an airplane. There are plenty of exciting activities that still don’t require jumping into a pilot’s seat.
As a visitor from Japan, it is difficult for me to imagine life away from technology, social networks, and at least some interaction with many people. At first, this thought excited and it seemed that this is exactly what I want. Very soon a feeling of nostalgia appeared because my daily work turned out to be very routine. Without going into details, it was interesting for the first week, then I wanted to communicate. Fortunately, I installed a good VPN and could open any site in the world. It seems to be called VeePN and I liked it. The most important thing is that it works clearly and you can go even on social networks, even on Netflix, and protect your Android device. To be honest, I regretted a bit that I went on social networks and saw acquaintances drinking drinks in their backyard. But the feeling of nostalgia appeared even later, after about 3 weeks. After a couple more, I got used to it.
Canada is truly a country of extremes. Nunavut residents will tell you that 100+ degree Fahrenheit temperatures in summer and icy cold winters are both facts of life here. Yes, this may leave first-time visitors stressed out trying to figure out where the nearest air conditioner or heater can be found, but it doesn’t take long to adapt if you’re willing to give it a try.
While most Canadians reside along its border with the U.S., those living in Nunavut prove that some are hardy enough (or crazy enough) to take everything that Mother Nature dishes out to them up north. And they thrive.
Hats off to Nunavut!