Earlier this year I put out a survey to hear from my readers and learn what they wanted to read more about in 2017. "More Canada!" was one thing my readers said, "More in-depth articles!" was another, and "More great pictures!" was a third. One comment stuck with me, however, and that was to stop writing about places I haven't been to. I confess, I have done that upon occasion, such as when I write about Christmas traditions around the world or spooky places in Canada. I took this piece of advice to heart so I've tried to talk more about places I've been, and only touch on places I've read about.
This article goes against all that.
I have never been to Northern Canada. I've always wanted to, but fate just hasn't sent me up there yet. Nevertheless, I did my best to research these locations. One day I'll get up there and visit these places, but for now we'll just have to dream about them together.
Before getting started, we need to remember that things are different in Northern Canada. With three territories spanning the width of Canada, there is much more than one could ever imagine. My knowledge of the territories is minimal, so this tour will only talk about some of the places I've heard about. If there's anything else I should add to my tour, please let me know in the comments.
This tour starts in Dawson City, a city with a population that was once 40,000 but has now fallen to just over 1,000. Brought to fame by the Klondike Gold Rush, thousands of people from around the world flowed into this town looking to make it big. Many went home penniless while others died in the unforgiving wilderness. Their stories inspired Jack London to write some of his most famous works, such as White Fang, To Build a Fire and Call of the Wild.
London spent several years in the Klondike, and his presence inspired the creation of the Jack London Museum. Here you can see historical archives and photographs about London's life before, during, and after the gold rush. The museum even has a replica of the house he once lived in while out looking for gold. This structure is made of half the wood from his real house, with the remaining wood on display in Oakland, California – London's hometown.
If you're interested in the history of Dawson, you can also visit the Dawson City Museum, the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre or the Dawson City Cemetery. For a more unconventional cemetery, you can also visit the Paddlewheel Graveyard, a massive graveyard full of decaying passenger vessels.
If you'd rather be outdoors exploring the beauty of the Yukon, there are several hiking and walking trails nearby worth exploring. For an added treat, you can hike (or drive) up to the Midnight Dome and witness one of the most breathtaking views of the north. At 1,700 feet high, the Midnight Dome offers an unparalleled view of Dawson City, the Yukon River, the Klondike Valley and beyond.
Driving in the north is tricky, and many have lost their way. Instead, the recommended form of transportation is flying. You can fly or drive for six hours to Whitehorse, but keep in mind that this is the shortest distance on this tour you'd be covering.
Like Dawson, Whitehorse grew out of the Klondike gold rush. Unlike Dawson, Whitehorse's population didn't collapse when the gold dried up. It continued to grow and stole Dawson's title as the capital city in 1953. While here you should first visit the MacBride Museum of Yukon History to get a better understanding of this booming northern city. Then hop the Whitehorse Waterfront Trolley to see the roaring Yukon River in all its glory.
If you're into history, you'll want to visit the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, the Copperbelt Railway & Mining Museum, the SS Klondike and the Old Log Church Museum. For those who like getting outdoors instead, the Takhini Hot Springs are a perfect place to rest and relax, while the Miles Canyon Basalts offer a dynamic view of a volcanic landscape prior to glaciation.
Our next destination is Nahanni National Park, Northwest Territories, my favourite Canadian National Park. I've written about Nahanni multiple times on my blog and I'm embarrassed to say I've never been there. It's on the top of my bucket list of places to visit in the Northwest Territories. Nahanni is known for its lurching mountains, thick forests, and waterfalls twice the size of Niagara. It's also known for its mysterious happenings of beheaded corpses. It's these stories that have earned this national park location names like Headless Creek, Deadmen Valley, and Funeral Range. Not only is this national park incredibly spooky, but it's the largest national park in Canada – nearly the size of Switzerland! It's never been fully explored, it's full of mystery, it's full of beauty and it's the perfect place to visit while in Northern Canada.
If you make it out of Nahanni alive (joking!), your final destination is Yellowknife, the capitol of the Northwest Territories. As with visiting any provincial or territorial capitol, one of the first places you must visit is the Legislative Assembly. Unlike other assemblies in Canada, the one in Yellowknife is inside an igloo-like structure with a polar bear skin on the floor as a rug. Don't let that fool you, however, as this building is impressively modern and is a prime example of combining modern and traditional styles of architecture.
After you're done at the Legislative Assembly, your next stop should be the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre. Here you can learn about the city's history, mining and geology, natural history and Aboriginal culture. While in Yellowknife you can explore the many museums, shop in its 1930 themed Old Town, or try some of the over two dozen eateries around the city. Menus vary from fresh fish to elk and include cultural treats like bison and musk-ox. For more traditional meals, you can also order Chinese, Japanese and Italian food too.
You can then end your time in Northern Canada at Aurora Village, the best place to see the Northern Lights in Yellowknife. Sleep in a tipi, immerse yourself in the beauty of the north and watch blue and green lights dance across the night sky.
That concludes my "Five Canadian Adventures to Take in 2017" series. We've covered Atlantic Canada, historical cities in Canada, French Canada, Saskatchewan and now Northern Canada. I left a lot out of these 5 articles, as there's a lot more to discover. Are you planning to explore Canada later this year? Let me know where you're heading in the comments below!
Don't forget to check out all the articles in this series!
If you've ever passed through Medicine Hat, or you're spending a few days in the area, you've probably wondered what to do there. To most people outside the city, Medicine Hat might seem like a sleepy little prairie town in the Canadian Badlands; but for those who live in Hell's Basement, they'll tell you that this city is one of the most exciting places you can explore in all of Alberta.
I've gone to Medicine Hat three times in the past two years, and while I'm no expert on this thriving city, I know where the hidden gems are. If someone I know is passing through the area, I tell them they need to visit Medicine Hat. To help explain why, I put an article together for anyone else interested in visiting the Hat.
If you're spending 24 hours in Medicine Hat, you'll need somewhere to sleep. Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is a little under an hour away and a great place to camp. Camping in Cypress gives you the choice to explore the park, the city, and everywhere in between.
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.
Canada's 150th birthday cannot be complete without visiting the country's capital city... but which one should you visit? While Ottawa is the current capital of Canada, there have been four other capital cities, and it has changed seven times. It started in Kingston (1841 – 1844) and then moved to Montréal (1844 – 1849), believing it to be safer from the Americans. After the citizens of Montréal burnt it down, it rotated between Toronto (1849 – 1852 and 1856 – 1858) and Québec City (1852 – 1856 and 1859 – 1866). Finally, it was placed right on the border between the two provinces in Ottawa (1866 to present day). This tour ventures into each of these five cities and explores what makes them so unique.
Since the capital flip-flopped location seven times, it would be much more convenient to go through the cities geographically then historically. If we started in the West, we would start in Toronto, Ontario, Canada's biggest city. While G Adventures only mentions the CN Tower and Kensington Market, there is much more to see in this city. You could visit the 18th century Casa Loma Castle, stroll through the artistic Graffiti Alley, visit Ripley's Aquatic Aquarium, or go drink and dine in the Distillery District. Looking for more outdoorsy stuff? Check out the Toronto Islands, the famous High Park or the Toronto Zoo. You can even take a boat out onto Lake Ontario and see the city's iconic skyline!