Briefly known as Frobisher Bay, Iqaluit reverted in 1987 to its original name, which means “place of many fish” in the native Inuktitut language. The largest settlement in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, the town began as a United States Air Force base in 1942 but has since become an international hub for air and marine transport, serving as a gateway to Baffin region communities, polar excursions and Greenland.
Boasting a rugged coastline and situated just south of the Arctic Circle, Iqaluit tends to attract hearty outdoor types, especially in the winter. Dogsleds and snowmobiles regularly zip across the wilderness stretches just outside of town, and wildlife enthusiasts can trek to see polar bears, seals and caribou. In the short summer months, local residents enjoy the abundant wild berries and sunny days. Any time of year, the expansive natural spaces give Iqaluit travelers a sense of rejuvenation.
When looking for things to do in Iqaluit, stop first into the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum. Located in a compact building near the town's airport, the museum is a top Iqaluit attraction that houses an amazing collection of Inuit and Arctic artifacts and art—including clothing, tools and carvings. Particularly prized is the museum's large selection of ceramics, which depict the region's animal life as well as traditional activities like sea kayaking and hunting.
Another popular Iqaluit attraction is St. Jude's Anglican Cathedral, a distinctive architectural find. The structure is entirely white and shaped like an enormous igloo. Its altar takes the form of an Inuit sled, and many of its other interior elements give a nod to the area's rich native history. A short walk south of the cathedral brings visitors to the town's coastline, dotted with fishing boats and rocky beaches that encourage long strolls to take in the seaside views.
For a more thorough wilderness experience, head west to Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park, a major Iqaluit attraction with vast stretches of tundra. The park's wide river is a favorite fishing spot for catching Arctic char, and interpretive hiking trails describe the region’s cultural heritage. Lucky travellers may even catch the aurora borealis on some nights. This natural light show is caused by the collision of charged particles with stable atoms in the atmosphere.
Further west, Katannilik Territorial Park provides even more extensive stretches of lakes, gently sloping hills, ocean inlets and overland trails. Terraced ridges formed by receding glaciers provide stunning and impressive views, while surprisingly rich plant life blankets part of the park's valley. In the summer months, the area blooms with vivid wildflowers like bluebells and dwarf fireweed, and Inuit travel to the valley to pick wild blueberries, mountain cranberries and bearberries.
Whether perusing the intricate carvings of native Iqaluit peoples or taking a dogsled tour across the tundra, travellers will find an array of things to do in Iqaluit. The town's rugged charm and vistas of the surrounding wilderness make Iqaluit a unique travel destination.