Impressions Of Whitehorse, Yukon

Filed Under: Travel

My gosh, this has been a fun couple of days. On Sunday evening we flew from Frankfurt to Whitehorse on Condor. This blog is all about points and the journey portion of travel, so obviously my quick trip to Whitehorse was motivated by Condor’s intriguing seasonal, once weekly flight between the two markets.

I didn’t know much about Whitehorse or the Yukon before learning about Condor’s flight there, but the more research I did, the more fascinating I found it.

Unfortunately we only had the chance to spend one full day there. We landed late Sunday evening, and we flew out this morning. That’s because Andrew has to return to work and I have a big week coming up. Furthermore, yesterday was a Monday and I still “worked,” so in reality we didn’t even have the entire day to explore.

Still, I wanted to share my thoughts about our brief time in Whitehorse. In no particular order:

Whitehorse is much more developed than I was expecting

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but I didn’t think Whitehorse would be especially developed. The city has a population of about 25,000 people, so it’s a small city, but not tiny.

So I was surprised to find just how developed the city was. Whitehorse had at least three Starbucks locations, at least three Tim Hortons, a Walmart, and most major international chains.

Despite more businesses seemingly being major chains than local, I still found the town to be really cute.

The Yukon is beautiful

This isn’t much of a surprise, but my gosh, the scenery around Whitehorse was so beautiful. I couldn’t get over it, and wish I had a lot more time to spend here.

Dog ATVing was fun

Andrew will write a separate post about this, but one of the cool things we did is meet a bunch of sled dogs. I’m sure shortly someone will be around to say that’s cruel, and as an animal lover I had concerns as well. However, after having seen how they treat the dogs and how much fun they have, I felt really good about it. Andrew will address that in greater detail.

I’d love to go road-tripping from Whitehorse

It seems that many tourists coming to Whitehorse rent an RV and then drive all around the region, and I’m sad I didn’t have more time to do that. Not only is the landscape beautiful, but Alaska is just a 2-3 hour drive away, so it could be fun to drive between Whitehorse and Skagway (and beyond).

We almost saw the Northern Lights

In all my travels I’ve never seen the Northern Lights. They intrigue me to no end, though I still haven’t seen them. Maybe I just wasn’t meant to, because I generally hate cold weather, and also hate staying up late.

Whitehorse had cold weather, that’s for sure (those temperatures are Fahrenheit).

So we downloaded an app that’s supposed to show you the odds of seeing the Northern Lights, and it looked like our odds were really good.

Below is what the app indicated the aurora map looked like at 3AM.

While I was up then, unfortunately we just couldn’t get it together and make it work. There was too much light near where we were staying, and we were both tired. Oops. I now really want to plan a trip to see the Northern Lights, though.

So many Filipinos!

I’m always intrigued when the people at a destination aren’t what I was expecting. For example, I remember in Svalbard (the world’s northernmost city) being surprised by how many Filipino and Thai people were living there.

My expectation with Whitehorse was that it would mostly be people who had lived there for many generations. To my surprise, there were tons of Filipinos. Based on what I was told it’s not that they’ve been here for many generations, and it’s also not that they’re on short term work permits.

Rather the reason is apparently because it’s easier to get a visa to live in a city like Whitehorse given the number of available jobs, so a lot of them choose to move there. Then when they see how beautiful it is, they choose to stay.

Canada is an amazing destination

While our time here was limited, this reinforced to me what an incredible country we have just to the North. And I say that as someone who hates cold weather. I now really, really want to take some of those flights I wrote about a while ago to the Canadian arctic. I just need to bundle up. A lot.

Bottom line

While we only had a full day in Whitehorse, I was so impressed. What a cool and surprisingly developed city with some incredible surroundings. I can see why so many people flock to the Yukon and take road trips, either entirely within Canada, or also continuing to Alaska.

I also now need to plan a proper trip to see the Northern Lights.

  1. @ Miro — They actually have permanent immigration officers because they also have flights to Alaska. There were just three of them, and they were super friendly.

  2. Does having Starbucks , Tim Horton’s etc make a developed city? Likely a tourist city and hence has tourist infrastructure. Development is a different think altogether.

  3. Yes, DO go see the Northern Lights! They are absolutely worth it – but be prepared to travel, and wait. Suggest you do it with a chasing lights company – they will identify the right place with little light pollution, and no one else to disturb you. Also do it with other people, as it helps to pass the time, and makes it loads of fun. Oh, and a little something to imbibe to keep you warm helps.

    Here’s my review of our trip to Tromsø in Norway to see the lights

  4. Many years ago, I saw the Northern Lights from my window on a flight from SEA to LHR. They were beautiful. And the snow had a purple hue.

  5. So many Americans don’t know the beauty of their own national parks. Met so many who have never ventured out of 100 miles of their center of mass at that point in their life.

    And these were Democrats. You expect Republicans to be stupid, low IQ, inbred, married to their own sisters kind of people. But even some Democrats are very sheltered.

  6. @Lucky- I’m curious whether it’s called ‘Yukon’ or ‘The Yukon’ locally.

    Great pics. Thanks for sharing a bit of this small corner of the world.

    Also, it should be noted that another good way to arrive at YXY is to book an Aeroplan redemption ex YVR. It’s just 7500 points each way. For now…

  7. Lucky, I mean this in good fun: If 36% is your definition of “very good odds” you must love visiting casinos?

  8. Multiple comments have accused Lucky of confusing First nations residents as Filipino, without doing the research themselves. Quick google search shows that Whitehorse has a Filipino population of about 1000 (and about 4000 First Nations)

  9. I am an Alaskan born citizen of the US and have been to Whitehorse Yukon Territory several times. Coming in from Juneau Alaska. The sled dogs are treated well and are part of the culture. I am married to a Filipina. Lots of Filipinos in Alaska and Canada as a whole. Glad you could spend a little time in our neck of the woods.

  10. Filipinos are very popular as “guest workers”….good English, work hard, get along well with everyone and usually jolly to boot.
    It’s nice to see them thriving in Canada and probably well treated, unlike in those cesspits in the Middle East/Gulf .

  11. If returning to Whitehorse, try taking the Greyhound bus (it’s fine, there’s only a handful of tourists on them) to the Alaska border and then take the train from the border down to Skagway. It’s a lot of fun and the bus and train are timed to sync with one another. The bus driver even stops along the way at scenic spots and lets passengers get off to walk around and take photos. There’s a lot of extra time padded into the bus ride to allow for this. Make sure to sit on the right side of the train when going to Skagway and the left when taking the train from Skagway back to Canada in order to enjoy the best views.

  12. Nick,
    I was referencing lucky’s new found but fairly late enthusiasm for beautiful Canada and how it is common in the USA.

  13. @2PAXFLY I have actually managed to see the Northern Lights twice: The first was vivid, flying from CYVR-EDDF. The second was very faint, I actually didn’t bother watching them for too long, flying from Seattle to Frankfurt

  14. I would also encourage you to ride the train (White Pass and Yukon) between Skagway and Carcross — Carcross is considerably closer to Whitehorse so a shorter bus ride to/from Whitehorse.

    Also we know how you flew into YXY but how did you fly out of YXY?

  15. Canada has a number of policies to lure both citizens and, if they can’t get those, immigrants, to its more remote towns and cities. Few years back, new immigrants to cities like Toronto were suing the government for the unspoken ‘no Canadian experience’ bar to getting that critical first job and a young English lady I know, married to a Toronto native, struggled, with her husband, to get jobs that paid enough to meet the high living costs.

    They latched on to a government scheme to move to a remote 30C in summer, -30 with seven feet of snow in winter city in a central/west province and have thrived. Both were helped into jobs, she training as a teacher, and things like electricity are subsidised.

    They’re staying put.

  16. “Whitehorse had at least three Starbucks locations, at least three Tim Hortons, a Walmart, and most major international chains.” How sad.

  17. The Whitehorse-Skagway route is just beautiful. Lots of good camping and hiking possibilities along the way, in addition to the unique scenery (the finger lakes, the Carcross desert) and wildlife watching possibilities.

    Every September, there’s a road relay race from Skagway up to Whitehorse. Called the Klondike, it retraces the route miners took in 1898. About 200 teams of 10 runners each do it, and folks up here (SE Alaska) train all summer for it, as the legs range in distance from 5.5 miles all the way up to 16 miles. The shorter legs tend to have pretty huge elevation gains. The race starts at 6 PM, so most folks run in the middle of the night. It’s a delirious, drunken affair, and ends with a huge party up in Whitehorse. If you’re looking for a real regional oddity, check it out. This past year’s race just wrapped. During the weekend I saw a brown bear and two cubs and probably the best northern lights show I’ve seen – a solid hour of dancing bands and spirals, including reds and purples.

  18. I’m amazed that you’ve never seen the Northern Lights in all of your travels! I lucked out a couple years ago on an Alaska cruise over Labor Day weekend…it was breathtaking and I could have watched the light dance for hours. I’m actually going to KEF in December as a pre-birthday trip to hopefully see the Aurora there!

  19. Geoff said ”
    “Whitehorse had at least three Starbucks locations, at least three Tim Hortons, a Walmart, and most major international chains.” How sad.”

    Why is that sad.? Those businesses employ people just like any other establishment. Canadiens need affordable places to shop and eat. I get my coffee at Starbucks every day. They employee college students, veterans and retirees. A pleasant place to go

  20. Have seen the aurora on two separate flights from SFO to DXB. The first time I tried to take a picture and Emirates FAs chuckled at me. They were however, kind enough to make sure all lights were out in F cabin to give me best view of the aurora. Really spectacular in the air, can only imagine what it must look like on the ground when whole sky is lit up!

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