Iqaluit (ᐃᖃᓗᐃᑦ in Inuktitut syllabics; formerly, Frobisher Bay) is the capital and largest settlement of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, and is located on a south-eastern inlet of Baffin Island. As of 2011, the population stood at just under 6,700 people.
Iqaluit started life as the site of an American Air Force base in 1942. In 1984 the settlement formerly known as Frobisher Bay changed its name back to Iqaluit. Iqaluit means "place of many fish".
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See the 7 day forecast for Iqaluit at Environment Canada
The season in which you choose to visit Iqaluit will largely determine what you'll be able to see and do. The peak time for visiting Iqaluit is during its brief summer. The ice on Frobisher Bay begins to thaw in June, when temperatures start rising and the nights are short. Hiking is excellent about this time. The bay remains inaccessible during its thaw, but an icebreaker will arrive to clear a path for boats usually by the end of June. July and August are both the warmest and wettest months. Wildflowers and berries flourish, but so do the mosquitos. Fishing on Sylvia Grinnell River is best on the shoulders of summer, when the arctic char migrate down toward the bay and then back up again.
Snow starts falling regularly again in September and continues through early June. The bay stays open to boats until November. Daylight hours become increasingly short in the winter months, but the northern lights are entrancing. January and February are the coldest and darkest months of the year, and life in the town can get a bit grim at this time. April and May are the ideal months for dog-sledding, kite-skiing and other snow activities.
- Unikkaarvik Regional Visitor Centre (Nunavut Tourism), 220 Sinaa Street, ☎ +1 867 979-4636, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 9AM–6PM, Sa-Su 1PM–4PM. Has information on the whole territory, as well as displays on local wildlife and culture in an adjoining museum.
Iqaluit is generally accessible only by air and, under the right ice conditions, by sea. It is not connected by road to any other town. Due to its isolation, and the lack of competition, getting to Iqaluit is a very expensive prospect.
Iqaluit Airport (IATA: YFB) is a public airport located a short walk west of the town centre. It hosts scheduled passenger services from Ottawa, Montreal and Rankin Inlet, as well as from smaller communities throughout eastern Nunavut. Services also connect to Yellowknife and Winnipeg via Rankin Inlet.
- First Air, toll-free: +1-800-267-1247, e-mail: email@example.com. The region's primary airline has nearly daily jet services from the south. It flies from Ottawa, Montreal (via Kuujjuaq, on the northern coast of Quebec) and Rankin Inlet, with connections to Yellowknife and Winnipeg. With its partner Qikiqtani, the airline serves all communities on Baffin Island, as well as Resolute, Igloolik and Hall Beach.
- Canadian North, toll-free: +1-800-661-1505, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Canadian North offers scheduled jet flights from Ottawa, Rankin Inlet, and seven other communities in the Baffin Region. Services to Yellowknife are linked through Rankin Inlet.
- Air Greenland, ☎ +1 299-34-34-34, e-mail: email@example.com. The national carrier of Greenland used to fly to Iqaluit from Nuuk twice per week during the summer months. However, this service ceased in 2015, though the permits remain in place.
Several companies that operate chartered flights out of Iqaluit to nearby communities have offices at the airport. The largest operators are Air Nunavut, Kenn Borek Air and Air Inuit.
- , toll-free: +1-866-388-5888, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Kenn Borek Air, ☎ +1 867 979-0040, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Air Inuit, toll-free: +1-800-361-5933, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Canadian Helicopters, ☎ +1 867 979-0511, e-mail: email@example.com.
Iqaluit is small enough that most things are within walking distance of each other. Taxis charge a flat $7 fee per person to anywhere in town. In the summer, you can rent bicycles from the visitor's centre. There are also several automotive outfitters in town that rent snowmobiles and ATVs.
- , 926 Federal Road, ☎ +1 867 975-5000, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 9AM–5PM. Home to Nunavut's unicameral parliament, this building contains some excellent examples of Inuit art. The main entrance has two spires of wood which resemble a Qamotiq, a type of Inuit dog sled. Feel free to look around the main floor of the building, but be sure to announce yourself to the security guard before going too far. You may observe the proceedings of the legislative chamber from its public gallery. Contact the public affairs office to find out when the next sitting will be. Guided tours of the building are conducted on weekdays at 1:30PM (Jun–Aug) or by appointment. Free.
- Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, 212 Sinaa Street, ☎ +1 867 979-5537. 1PM–5PM daily. Housed in a reconstructed trading post of the Hudson Bay Company, this small museum contains a collection of Inuit art and artefacts. It is on the beach in a red and white building. Free.
- St. Jude's Cathedral, Mattaaq Crescent, ☎ +1 867 979-6561. One of Iqaluit's most recognisable landmarks is a white-domed church designed to resemble an igloo. A fire damaged the original building in 2005, and it was subsequently demolished and rebuilt. The congregation held its first mass in the new cathedral in June 2012.
Iqaluit is the main base from which to explore Baffin Island. Several outfitters organise guided excursions around the island and Arctic expeditions further afield. Keep in mind that most activities are seasonal. Summer activities include trekking, and boat and fishing tours in Frobisher Bay. In the winter months, dog-sledding journeys are an excellent way to get out and explore the landscape. As well as the commercial outfitters, there are several dog-team owners in town who take visitors out for an afternoon or overnight. Kite-skiing is an increasingly popular activity, and frozen Frobisher Bay is considered one of the best spots for it in Canada. Aerial sightseeing tours are easy to organise at any time of the year and there will always be a charter company available to take you up, depending on the weather.
Some of the more reliable outfitters in town include Inupak Outfitting, Northwinds Arctic Adventures, Polynya Adventure and Qairrulik Outfitting. Call the local tourism authority for more. Dates for longer expeditions are usually scheduled well in advance, but even most day trips require a minimum number of people, so be sure to book early to give the outfitters time to organise others.
Opportunities for trekking around Iqaluit are almost endless, thanks to wide open surroundings, including two protected areas on its doorstep. The terrain can be rough, however, and there are very few trails and no roads. You can also rent snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) from several outfitters in town.
- Surrounding the lower reaches of the Sylvia Grinnell River, the Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park contains some excellent tundra scenery. Several hiking trails run along the river, which has good fishing, while another leads to a waterfall. On the bank of the river is an ancient camping ground (Crystal II archaeological site) used by the Dorset and Thule peoples. You will need to have local assistance to find the site. Caribou and arctic foxes can be seen roaming through the area depending on the season. The park is located west of the airport, about 2 kilometres from town.
- Off the coast to the south of Iqaluit is Qaummaarviit Territorial Park. This island preserves another archeological site, a 750-year-old campsite dating back to the Thule culture. It is 12 kilometres from town, and can be accessed by boat in the summer months and by ski, dogsled or snowmobile in the winter months. Going with an outfitter is recommended, and usually gets you there quicker. Camping in the park is not permitted.
- Alianait Arts Festival. This annual festival, held in late June, is a celebration of Inuit arts and culture. It draws musicians and other performers from all over the Arctic.
- Toonik Tyme. The annual spring festival, is held for a week in early April. It involves a large variety of community events, including snowmobile and ski races, traditional games, concerts and feasts.
Inuit artists are recognised internationally for their stone carvings and prints, and there are several galleries in Iqaluit selling arts and crafts from all over Nunavut. In addition, artists often tout their wares along the waterfront and in restaurants, creating excellent opportunities to experience the local art culture.
- Arctic Ventures, 192 Queen Elizabeth Way, ☎ +1 867 979-5992. M-Sa 10AM–10PM, Su 1PM–10PM. Department store run by Arctic Co-operatives.
- , 626 Tumiit Plaza, ☎ +1 867 979-0650. M-Sa 10AM–6PM. Sells Inuit sculptures and jewellery.
- Gallery by the Red Boat, Bill Mackenzie Lane, Apex Beach, ☎ +1 867 979-2055. Call for appointment. Housed in one of the old Hudson Bay Company buildings on Apex Beach, this gallery displays carvings by local artist Saila Kipanek.
- Iqaluit Fine Arts Studio, 1127 Mivvik Street (opposite the airport), ☎ +1 867 979-5578. M-Sa 11AM–5PM. Inuit carvings.
- Malikkaat, 1083 Mivvik Street (opposite the airport), ☎ +1 867 979-6426, e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 10AM–6PM, Sa 10AM–4PM. A gift store selling Inuit-made art, clothing and jewellery from Iqaluit and other communities in the north.
- Rannva Design, 3102 Angel Street, ☎ +1 867 979-3183, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 4PM–6PM daily, or by appointment. Fur and sealskin garments designed by owner Rannva Simonsen.
Local specialities consist mainly of game meats (caribou) and seafood (Arctic char, mussels, scallops and shrimp). Another staple is bannock, a type of bread.
The best restaurants are in the hotels, but all of them are open to non-guests. Prices for food are generally much higher here than in other parts of Canada.
- Caribrew Café, Astro Hill Complex, toll-free: +1-877-979-2222. M-F 7AM–6PM, Sa-Su 9AM–4PM. Located in the Frobisher Inn. Serves espresso drinks, coffee, tea, baked goods, sandwiches, salads and soups.
- Fantasy Palace, 1085E Mivvik Street, ☎ +1 867 979-0606. M-F 7AM–5PM, Sa 10AM–5PM, Su 11AM–5PM. Café with fresh coffee, pastries and ice cream.
- Gallery Fine Dining Room, Astro Hill Complex, ☎ +1 867 979-2222. M-F 7AM–2PM and 5PM–9PM, Sa-Su 8AM–2PM and 5PM–9PM. Nice restaurant in the Frobisher Inn. Brunch on Sundays.
- Granite Room, 1056 Mivvik Street, ☎ +1 867 979-4433. Located in the Discovery Lodge Hotel, known affectionately as "the disco". French cuisine with some pub-style options too. Salad bar at lunch. Home-made soups.
- Grind & Brew, 116 Sinaa Street, ☎ +1 867 979-0606. 7AM–6PM daily. Down on the beach. Serves coffee, pizza and sandwiches.
- , 1036 Ring Road, ☎ +1 867 979-6201. Located in the Navigator Inn. Serves Chinese food and greasy food. Their kooyoo burger is very popular.
- Snack, 163 Nipisa Street, ☎ +1 867 979-6767. 6AM–8PM daily. Fast food.
- Waters' Edge Seafood & Steakhouse, 923 Federal Road, ☎ +1 867 979-4726. 7AM–10:30AM, noon–2PM and 5PM–9PM daily. Located in the Hotel Arctic. Brunch on Sundays.
While many communities in Nunavut have restrictions on the sale, possession and consumption of alcohol, Iqaluit does not. You are free to bring alcohol into the community for your own use, and you can buy and drink it in bars and licensed restaurants. There is, however, no public liquor store.
- Kickin' Caribou Pub, 923 Federal Road, ☎ +1 867 979-4726. M-Sa noon–2:30PM and 4PM–midnight, Su 11AM–4PM. Located at the Hotel Arctic. A good place to relax, with some good pub food. Local musicians perform live on Wednesday and Friday nights.
- Royal Canadian Legion, 944 Iglulik Drive, ☎ +1 867 979-6215. A popular place to go on Friday and Saturday nights. Live music on one side, dance floor and pool tables on the other. You need to be a member of the Legion or have a member sign you in.
- Storehouse Bar & Grill, Astro Hill Complex, ☎ +1 867 979-2222. M-Sa 5PM–1AM. Located in the Frobisher Inn. Has a big screen for hockey, pool tables, dance floor, fire places and comfy chairs.
Being a small town, Iqaluit doesn't have much of a choice in the way of accommodation. Rates for rooms are generally much higher than their value, and amenities can be lacking. Booking ahead and securing a room before your arrival is essential. Budget travellers are restricted to camping and couch surfing, which has a few members based in Iqaluit. When the local college (Nunavut Arctic College) is not in session, visitors can stay out at the college residence, which costs much less than local hotels.
- Accommodations by the Sea, 2536 Paurngaq Crescent, ☎ +1 867 979-6074, e-mail: email@example.com. Bed and breakfast. $170–230.
- Aurora Manor, 2530 Paurngaq Crescent, ☎ +1 867 979-0941. Bed and breakfast.
- Capital Suites, 807 Aiviq Street, ☎ +1 867 975-4000, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Hotel suites. $200–400.
- Discovery Lodge Hotel, 1056 Mivvik Street, ☎ +1 867 979-4433, e-mail: email@example.com. Hotel suites. Also has a restaurant (see section above). $240–340.
- Frobisher Inn, 505 Astro Hill, ☎ +1 867 979-2222, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Part of the Astro Hill Complex, which also houses a bar, restaurant, swimming pool and cinema. $215–260.
- Hotel Arctic, 923 Federal Road, ☎ +1 867 979-6684. Formerly the Nova Inn. $220–250.
- , 1036 Ring Road, ☎ +1 867 979-6201.
- Nunattaq Suites, 4141 Lake View, ☎ +1 867 979-2221, e-mail: email@example.com. Apartment suites. $200.
- Rannva's Bed & Breakfast, 3102 Helen Maksagak Drive, ☎ +1 867 979-3183, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The owner of this bed and breakfast also has a gallery of fur and sealskin garments located on Angel Street. $130.
There is cell phone coverage in Iqaluit, but your phone may not work. This is due to the lack of coverage by the major Canadian wireless companies and outdated infrastructure (which is being upgraded).
Ice Wireless, a regional phone carrier, provides a 3G network and is the only GSM option at this time. Its phones and plans are sold at QITC in the RBC Building on Queen Elizabeth Way. Rogers Wireless has an exclusive roaming agreement with Ice Wireless, so Rogers customers can use the network for a fee, but it is voice-only (data roaming is not available).
The other wireless option is Bell, which operates a 3G/UMTS system; Bell's 2G signal is a CDMA-only network (no GSM) which will be shut down at the end of 2016.
- Iqaluit Centennial Library, 220 Sinaa Street, ☎ +1 867 979-5400. M, W 1PM–6PM, Tu, Th 3PM–8PM, F 3PM-6PM, Sa-Su 1PM-4PM. A public library located in the same building as the visitor centre. Has free internet.
- Qikiqtani General Hospital, ☎ +1 867 975-8600. 24 hours.
- Public Health Centre, ☎ +1 867 975-4800. 24 hours.
- Anglican: St. Jude's Anglican Cathedral, Mattaaq Crescent, ☎ +1 867 979-6561. Mass is at 7PM Th, 9:45AM Su. Services are offered in English and Inuktitut.
- Bahá'í: Baha'i Group, Building 112, ☎ +1 867 979-6580.
- Catholic: Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, 911 Niaqunngusiariaq, ☎ +1 867 979-5805. Mass is at 7:30AM Tu and Th, 5:30pm W, F and Sa, 10AM Su.
- Pentecostal: Pentecostal Church, 761 Fred Coman, ☎ +1 867 979-5779.