During summer, the farther north you travel, the more daylight you get. Yellowknife and Whitehorse bask under 20 hours of sunshine a day, followed by 4 hours of milky twilight bright enough to read a newspaper by. In Inuvik, Northwest Territories, the summer sun shines around the clock for 6 weeks, starting in June. Even further north, in Sachs Harbour and Uluhaktok, there is 24-hour daylight for close to 3 months. In midwinter, however, these communities experience 24-hour darkness for the same length of time.
The North is divided into two climatic zones: subarctic and arctic, but the division doesn't follow the Arctic Circle. And while there are permanent ice caps in the far-northern islands, summer in the rest of the land gets considerably hotter than you might think. The average high temperatures in July and August for many subarctic regions can be in the 70s and 80s (20s Celsius), and the mercury has been known to climb into the 90s (30s Celsius). However, even in summer, you should bring a warm sweater or ski jacket -- and don't forget a pair of really sturdy shoes or boots.
In winter, weather conditions are truly arctic. Winter is ideal for northern-lights viewing, dog sledding, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and driving ice roads. The mercury may dip as low as -60°F (-51°C) for short periods. You'll need heavily insulated clothing and footwear to travel during this time of year. Spring is an increasingly popular time to visit, with clear sunny skies, highs around 20°F (-7°C), and spring festivals that incorporate traditions such as skinning and wood chopping in just about all of the 33 communities.
Hiking and naturalist trips are popular in late July, August, and early September, when there is maximum daylight and the warmest weather. The ice is off the ocean and lakes, allowing access by boat to otherwise-remote areas. Naturalist-led hikes out onto the tundra make great day trips.
While it may seem natural to plan a trip to the Arctic in summer, the Far North is a year-round destination. Late-winter dog-sledding trips out into the frozen wilderness are popular with adventurous souls. North of Inuvik, in May and June, dog-sled or snow-machine trips visit the edge of the ice floe, where wildlife viewing is superb. And in the dead of winter, there is the 24-hour darkness and the northern lights that lure people north.
Mosquitoes, Deerflies & Other Critters
During summer especially, two of the most commonly heard sounds in the North are the rhythmic buzzing of winged biting insects and the cursing of their human victims. Insect repellent is a necessity, as is having a place you can get away from the mosquitoes for a while. Some hikers wear expedition hats or head nets to ward off the worst attacks. These work well. Mosquitoes can go through light fabric, which is why it's better to wear sturdy clothes, even on the hottest days. Wasps, hornets, and other stinging insects are common. If you're allergic, be ready with your serum.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.