Planning A Canadian North Arctic Adventure

Planning A Canadian North Arctic Adventure

23

I’m currently working on my latest aspirational award redemption, and it involves travel in economy…

I really want to fly with Canadian North

In 2018, I wrote about my fascination with visiting the Canadian Arctic. I’ve flown over the region a countless number of times on long haul flights, and have always gazed out the window in amazement at how beautiful it is.

Flying over Canada on a Turkish Airlines flight to Los Angeles

I’ve also visited Whitehorse, thanks to Condor’s unique seasonal flight from Frankfurt to Whitehorse, and had a great time.

What I hadn’t realized up until several years ago was just how accessible much of the region is, even with points. Canadian North is the largest airline in northern Canada, as the airline has a fleet of over 30 planes. The fleet is kind of avgeek heaven no less, ranging from a 42-year-old Combi (meaning it’s part cargo and part passenger) Boeing 737-200, to a 34-year-old ATR-42 turboprop.

And not only does the airline have a fleet that avgeeks will enjoy, but take a look at Canadian North’s routemap. HOW COOL IS THAT?!

Canadian North’s routemap

Best of all, Canadian North is a partner of Air Canada Aeroplan, meaning you can redeem points for these flights. You can even book directly on aircanada.com. Aeroplan has distance based award pricing, and within the Americas you can expect to pay the following number of points for a one-way economy award:

  • An itinerary of up to 500 miles will cost you 6,000 points
  • An itinerary of 501-1,500 miles will cost you 10,000 points
  • An itinerary of 1,501-2,750 points will cost you 12,500 points

These flights are a particularly spectacular use of points, given how expensive these flights are in cash. For example, a flight from Ottawa to Pond Inlet ordinarily costs almost $1,500, while you could book it for just 12,500 Aeroplan points, plus taxes and fees.

Canadian North ticket cost with Aeroplan points
Canadian North ticket cost with cash

Any tips for visiting the Canadian Arctic?

That brings me to a question where I could use some help from OMAAT readers. I’m trying to plan a quick trip for next summer on Canadian North. Presumably I’d start in Montreal or Ottawa, and go from there. But the question is, where do I go?

Collectively OMAAT readers know everything, so I’m sure this is no exception. Say you wanted to spend a long weekend (three or four days) visiting the Canadian Arctic, and wanted a combination of cool destinations and flights that are fun for avgeeks — what kind of a routing would you plan?

Looking at the routemap, Grise Fiord was of course the first destination I thought of, since it’s the furthest north. However, looking at the flight schedule, it appears the destination is only served via a Canadian North codeshare agreement with Kenn Borek Air, so that wouldn’t be eligible for points redemptions through Aeroplan.

And these fares aren’t cheap either. For example, a one-way ticket from Grise Fiord to Resolute Bay (a 239-mile journey) costs ~$875.

Fares in the Canadian Arctic aren’t cheap!

Iqaluit seems like an obvious stop, since it’s the biggest city in the region, and where you have to transit through to most other destinations. But where would you go from there?

Bottom line

I’ve long been fascinated by the Canadian Arctic, and it’s actually pretty accessible thanks to Canadian North. For those of us who are into miles & points, Canadian North is also pretty accessible thanks to Aeroplan. While an untraditional aspirational redemption, I still think this is a pretty cool opportunity.

If anyone has any tips for planning an itinerary on Canadian North, I’d love to hear it!

Conversations (23)
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  1. Jim Napier Guest

    Canadian North is a great airline. The announcements are in English, French and Inuktitut. Although when I was departing from Ottawa, the plane was too heavy with cargo, and some of it had to be unloaded. This was bad because there was a massive snowstorm getting worse. Our boarding passes were stamped with the fact the plane could turn around at any time before we reach the halfway point, but if we get past halfway,...

    Canadian North is a great airline. The announcements are in English, French and Inuktitut. Although when I was departing from Ottawa, the plane was too heavy with cargo, and some of it had to be unloaded. This was bad because there was a massive snowstorm getting worse. Our boarding passes were stamped with the fact the plane could turn around at any time before we reach the halfway point, but if we get past halfway, the journey would continue to Iqaluit (We made it). The only other airline, First Air, chickened out and never even made the journey. The airport in YFB is beautiful and only 5 years old. You can presently book the Frobisher Inn in Iqaluit on Rocketmiles for 2000 bonus AA miles per stay. The Frobisher is nice. You can see a movie at a small theater, or visit Iqaluit's most happening pub The Storehouse without going outside on a snowy night. There is a Pizza Hut in town, but for half the price, try the superior pizza at the pub. It's too bad The Discovery hotel isn't on Rocketmiles as it's such a great boutique hotel with the nicest restaurant in town with prices to match. Musk Ox stew and Arctic Char are on the menu. The Y2K Diner is just fine. A French couple run it. Definitely check out the visitor's center. They have great displays and will happily run videos to your heart's content on whatever your interested in. They showed me a great and fun Billy Connelly special during his visit to Baffin Island. My personal thing is fur trading posts. The HBC was North America's first chain and they were all painted the same. I made my way to nearby Apex to see it. The silence was beautiful. You can rent a truck at the airport, but there's no need. For a flat fee of $6 the local taxi will take you anywhere, even Apex. I have Verizon but my phone didn't work. The wifi at the hotels and Tim Horton's was super slow, think 5 minutes to upload a picture. You will never forget your trip there. And yes, after spending $3000 on trips there in the past, spending 12,500 Aeroplan miles is the better deal. Sometimes you can even find flights YOW-YFB for 8000 miles. I get about 32 cents per AmEx point this way. Can't beat that!

  2. Oscar Saunier Guest

    When I was a out patient RD, working with children was always difficult. Either their parents were obese, so that following any recommendations was futile, or the patients had themselves been overweight once, and so were pushing all their anxieties onto their children.To this day I have no idea what to tell parents with overweight children, except to move more. I fear for their mental and physical health.

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  3. iamhere Guest

    No surprise that they are not cheap fares. Consider that there are limited options and the planes generally are small.

  4. worldtraveller73 Guest

    I would make time in your travels to go into a grocery store and take some photos of the food grocery prices up there. It's almost worth it's own post. $20 for a gallon of milk and $20 heads of lettuce come to mind. Worse than the Maldives (laughing)

  5. Ephemeraltime001 Guest

    If was you, I would start of my journey in Ottawa due to the extensive amount of flight to Iqaluit, then I would go to Pangnirtung (YXP) Or Quikitarjuaq (YVM) for the amazing mountain views :) if you have more time pond inlet is also an amazing place to go and visit (YIO)

    I also contacted you thru insta if you have more questions!

  6. G.O. Guest

    Lived in both Nunavut and Northwest Territories for 7 years. Be prepared for very slow/ non existent internet. Everything runs through satellite and speeds used to be excruciatingly slow. Kevin stated most of what I was going to write about (e.g. 2 Aeroplan seats per day), and A B's transarctic route suggestion. If you want to go to Nunavut beyond Iqaluit, I suggest Kinggait (Cape Dorset) as well for the print shop. Pangnirtung is probably...

    Lived in both Nunavut and Northwest Territories for 7 years. Be prepared for very slow/ non existent internet. Everything runs through satellite and speeds used to be excruciatingly slow. Kevin stated most of what I was going to write about (e.g. 2 Aeroplan seats per day), and A B's transarctic route suggestion. If you want to go to Nunavut beyond Iqaluit, I suggest Kinggait (Cape Dorset) as well for the print shop. Pangnirtung is probably the closest community to Iqaluit that is most scenic. It also has a smaller print shop. If you want a hiking challenge you can do the Pangnirtung Pass at Auyuittuq National Park in the summer. My friends at Inukpak Outfitting organize expeditions (they also do dog sledding in the winter), based in Iqaluit but operating essentially anywhere. I'll send them this post. Be prepared to spend a lot of money for hotels that aren't very good, especially in communities (e.g. beyond Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, and Cambridge Bay). I've had to share rooms with strangers in the past. The communities are VERY small but everyone is friendly. Pond Inlet is also very scenic but further up Baffin Island. Most of Nunavut outside Baffin Island is quite flat. You can buy beautiful carvings from locals at the bars. They'll come to your table, but as others stated, some things can't legally be brought into the US like parts of mammals (sealskin goods, bones, etc). Food is also extremely expensive. If you plan on continuing on beyond Nuna to Northwest Territories, and depending on the time of year, you can rent a car in Yellowknife and drive out to see some waterfalls and other smaller communities. Happy to connect if you want further suggestions :) had a great time up there.

  7. GA Guest

    Definitely visit Churchill! Polar bears and northern lights. Only accessible via plane or train.

  8. Real Northerner Flyer Guest

    You would be better off flying from YOW to YZF then fly YZF to YCB via 656 (you get to stop in 3 communities within the Kitikmeot region) then you can overnight in Cambridge Bay or spend a few nights and explore the small community and if your lucky you can have a chance to fly on the 737-200 (if it's still operational) and then pass through Kugluktuk (YCO) and that way you get the best bang for your buck and explore Nunavut.

  9. West Coast Flyer Guest

    I'd recommend spring for the best experience in Nunavut (April-June). Summer can have some rough weather and mosquitoes larger than most poodles in Miami. Buy the best cold weather gear you can find, don't compromise.

    Booking ahead is key, and it's not unheard of to have to spend an extra day or two in the smaller communities if your flight gets cancelled due to weather. Also look at what some local tour operators can provide...

    I'd recommend spring for the best experience in Nunavut (April-June). Summer can have some rough weather and mosquitoes larger than most poodles in Miami. Buy the best cold weather gear you can find, don't compromise.

    Booking ahead is key, and it's not unheard of to have to spend an extra day or two in the smaller communities if your flight gets cancelled due to weather. Also look at what some local tour operators can provide for you in terms of getting out on the land for some dogsledding, snowmobiling, or northern lights watching. Iqaluit is a great first stop and Pond Inlet has some amazing vistas when the weather behaves.

    Bring lots of money, especially if you want to buy some local souvenirs. Also keep in mind that some items can't be taken back to the US (items made from polar bear, walrus, and narwhal for example).

  10. Adele Guest

    Be prepared for sky high accommodations prices. In the smaller communities it can easily go over $250 a night per person (yes, even if two people are staying in one room with one bed). And that’s of course not going to be anything glowingly luxurious.

    I visited Nunavut 3 times in the past 5 years, primarily for hiking. Having your flights delayed by 2 days due to weather or mechanical is not unusual, especially...

    Be prepared for sky high accommodations prices. In the smaller communities it can easily go over $250 a night per person (yes, even if two people are staying in one room with one bed). And that’s of course not going to be anything glowingly luxurious.

    I visited Nunavut 3 times in the past 5 years, primarily for hiking. Having your flights delayed by 2 days due to weather or mechanical is not unusual, especially when heading to some challenging airports like YXP (which is located in a fjord and has very strict weather minimums). Canadian North has been good to me at shifting things around in response to that, but to make things easier, book everything as a single itinerary if you can.

    Stay at b&b type places and talk to local people. Life is very different up north, missing out on that would be worse than missing out on the northern lights (which you won’t see in the summer anyway).

  11. Prateek Guest

    I am going to both YZF and YFB in 2023, the latter during an Aug long weekend the the former during the labor day weekend. Car rentals are exceptionally expensive (no unlimited miles out of YZF) otherwise I planned to make the drive to Wood Buffalo national park on the NWT-AB border. In YFB, I will just spend the full day that I have going to Sylvia Grinnell territorial park, which is walking distance from Iqaluit. Plenty to do there from what I read.

  12. JA Guest

    I went to YFB this summer for a weekend. I live in Ottawa so it was super easy. I flew up on the 7:00 AM flight on Saturday and came back on the 5:00 PM flight Sunday. While I enjoyed Iqaluit, I would have liked to visit parts of Nunavut with more wildlife, maybe Pangnirtung or Pond Inlet. The flight times did not work for me to do that this past summer (regardless of award...

    I went to YFB this summer for a weekend. I live in Ottawa so it was super easy. I flew up on the 7:00 AM flight on Saturday and came back on the 5:00 PM flight Sunday. While I enjoyed Iqaluit, I would have liked to visit parts of Nunavut with more wildlife, maybe Pangnirtung or Pond Inlet. The flight times did not work for me to do that this past summer (regardless of award availability).

    I also used Aeroplan points two years ago to fly Calm Air to Churchill, MB and saw a ton of polar bears. Amazing award redemption.

    1. Wolfgang Guest

      Hello JA,

      Booking Calm Air can only be done by calling Aeroplan?

      I tried looking for flights on the AC website, doesn't show any flights with them.

    2. Kevin Guest

      You can actually call Calm Air directly for aeroplan flights. Redemption fees are usually over $200 but better than paying an arm and leg for a full fare. You used to have to call aeroplan, but now calm air will see if there's availability for your dates, get your aeroplan info and then call aeroplan themselves.

  13. JS Guest

    I went to YFB this summer for a weekend. I live in Ottawa so it was super easy. I flew up on the 7:00 am flight on Saturday, and came back on the 5 PM flight on Sunday. While I enjoyed Iqaluit, I would have loved to explore other places with more wildlife, maybe Pangnirtung or Pond Inlet, but the flight schedules didn't work (regardless of award availability).

  14. Andy Diamond

    Just one hint: Make sure you can reserve accomodation, wherever you plan to stay (well, except YEG, YOW, YUL) at the time of the flight reservation. Most locations have very few hotels/hostels and they are not huge either.

  15. A B Guest

    Resident of YFB here.
    Kinngait/Cape Dorset has a famous print shop, but make sure you go on weekdays.
    Pond Inlet and Pangnirtung both have beautiful scenery if you're the outdoorsy type.
    The trans-Arctic YFB-YRT-YZF is avgeek cool in that you're getting on a 737 to cross the country, and you don't have to pass through security before getting on the plane.

    One word of warning - delays in the small communities can...

    Resident of YFB here.
    Kinngait/Cape Dorset has a famous print shop, but make sure you go on weekdays.
    Pond Inlet and Pangnirtung both have beautiful scenery if you're the outdoorsy type.
    The trans-Arctic YFB-YRT-YZF is avgeek cool in that you're getting on a 737 to cross the country, and you don't have to pass through security before getting on the plane.

    One word of warning - delays in the small communities can sometimes run into days, so don't book this trip right before something you absolutely have to be somewhere for.

    1. Kevin Guest

      YFB resident. If you're booking aeroplan book very far in advanced. Canadian North only has 2 aeroplan seats per flight, and basically everyone up here has aeroplan CCs so those seats get snatched up pretty quick.

      If you come during the summer you won't see the northern lights, but on the summer solstice we get about 20 hours of sun, and the rest of the 4 hours of the day is basically twilight.

      Lots of...

      YFB resident. If you're booking aeroplan book very far in advanced. Canadian North only has 2 aeroplan seats per flight, and basically everyone up here has aeroplan CCs so those seats get snatched up pretty quick.

      If you come during the summer you won't see the northern lights, but on the summer solstice we get about 20 hours of sun, and the rest of the 4 hours of the day is basically twilight.

      Lots of outfitting companies in town that can take you on boating or on the land excursions.

      Pangnirtung to Qikiqtarjuaq has a popular hiking trail between communities. About 46kms north of Pang is Mount Thor, which has the greatest vertical drop on earth.

      Cape Dorset, now known as Kinggait has some amazing carvers. Some carving dealers only buy from Dorset carvers. World renowned print artist Kenojuak Ashevak is also lived most of her life in Dorset.

      Hotels include Aqsarniit, Capital Suites, Discovery, and the Frobisher Inn. Also numerous airBNBs and B&Bs. It can be very expensive for just a small room just so you know.

      Aqsarniit, Disco, and the Frob have their own restaurants. The one at the Frob can be really slow. Attached to the Frob is a pub called the Storehouse. There's also a sports bar called the Chartroom. And there's the Nunavut Brewing Company. NuBrew doesn't have a kitchen but you can bring your own food in. If you like the beer and want to take some home you can only buy it at the Beer and Wine store just so you know, and that's because of strict liquor laws. There's also The Snack. Food isn't the best but they deliver late into the night as well. Hunters Market has the best pizza in town in my opinion. There's also Yummy Shawarma. Blackheart Cafe is a popular spot as well. Booster Juice near the Frob, but they've been having staffing issues.

      Budget and Driving Force are the two rental agencies, but have limited amount of vehicles. But sometimes you can post on Iqaluit Public Service Announcements on FB asking if anyone is willing to let you rent their vehicle for a few days. I know it sounds odd, but it does happen.

      Lots to do around here. We have a small movie theater attached the the Frob. Disc golf course is popular. I love going to Sylvia Grinnell Falls and hanging out by the waterfall enjoying the nice weather. Lots of trails too.

  16. AJO Member

    Ulukhaktok has a golf course, if you're into that sort of thing...

    1. 305 Guest

      I played "tundra golf" in Denali this past summer. Sure, the course was in terrible shape as it's next to impossible to maintain great golf grass there, but the experience was beyond unique.

      The scenery is obviously amazing. Teeing off at 11pm for 9 holes is definitely something you can't do in most places. Also, the ground being still mostly frozen meant some great bounces and rolls. Nothing like driving the green on a 300+ yard hole.

  17. Daniel Guest

    As an avgeek, I guess a must-do will be travelling to Yellowknife and stopping by the Buffalo Airways hangar for a free tour (which is advertised on their website and needs to be booked by phone).

  18. Brian G. Member

    I went to YFB this summer on Canadian North, you can definitely find one or two days of activities to do in that city. BTW if you rent a car good chance the local Budget office will just refuse to honor the reservation.

  19. Mick Guest

    Next summer?! Worry about that in May 2023 :)

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Adele Guest

Be prepared for sky high accommodations prices. In the smaller communities it can easily go over $250 a night per person (yes, even if two people are staying in one room with one bed). And that’s of course not going to be anything glowingly luxurious. I visited Nunavut 3 times in the past 5 years, primarily for hiking. Having your flights delayed by 2 days due to weather or mechanical is not unusual, especially when heading to some challenging airports like YXP (which is located in a fjord and has very strict weather minimums). Canadian North has been good to me at shifting things around in response to that, but to make things easier, book everything as a single itinerary if you can. Stay at b&b type places and talk to local people. Life is very different up north, missing out on that would be worse than missing out on the northern lights (which you won’t see in the summer anyway).

4
Kevin Guest

YFB resident. If you're booking aeroplan book very far in advanced. Canadian North only has 2 aeroplan seats per flight, and basically everyone up here has aeroplan CCs so those seats get snatched up pretty quick. If you come during the summer you won't see the northern lights, but on the summer solstice we get about 20 hours of sun, and the rest of the 4 hours of the day is basically twilight. Lots of outfitting companies in town that can take you on boating or on the land excursions. Pangnirtung to Qikiqtarjuaq has a popular hiking trail between communities. About 46kms north of Pang is Mount Thor, which has the greatest vertical drop on earth. Cape Dorset, now known as Kinggait has some amazing carvers. Some carving dealers only buy from Dorset carvers. World renowned print artist Kenojuak Ashevak is also lived most of her life in Dorset. Hotels include Aqsarniit, Capital Suites, Discovery, and the Frobisher Inn. Also numerous airBNBs and B&Bs. It can be very expensive for just a small room just so you know. Aqsarniit, Disco, and the Frob have their own restaurants. The one at the Frob can be really slow. Attached to the Frob is a pub called the Storehouse. There's also a sports bar called the Chartroom. And there's the Nunavut Brewing Company. NuBrew doesn't have a kitchen but you can bring your own food in. If you like the beer and want to take some home you can only buy it at the Beer and Wine store just so you know, and that's because of strict liquor laws. There's also The Snack. Food isn't the best but they deliver late into the night as well. Hunters Market has the best pizza in town in my opinion. There's also Yummy Shawarma. Blackheart Cafe is a popular spot as well. Booster Juice near the Frob, but they've been having staffing issues. Budget and Driving Force are the two rental agencies, but have limited amount of vehicles. But sometimes you can post on Iqaluit Public Service Announcements on FB asking if anyone is willing to let you rent their vehicle for a few days. I know it sounds odd, but it does happen. Lots to do around here. We have a small movie theater attached the the Frob. Disc golf course is popular. I love going to Sylvia Grinnell Falls and hanging out by the waterfall enjoying the nice weather. Lots of trails too.

3
worldtraveller73 Guest

I would make time in your travels to go into a grocery store and take some photos of the food grocery prices up there. It's almost worth it's own post. $20 for a gallon of milk and $20 heads of lettuce come to mind. Worse than the Maldives (laughing)

2
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