Discover Stunning Icescapes & Native Cultures Along Baffin Bay & Beyond
The specific voyage you select for your Greenland/Canadian Arctic expedition cruise will determine which destinations you visit.
This section contains descriptions of the main locations included in the cruise itineraries we offer. Please consult your specific ship's itinerary, listed on the Accommodations page, to find out which locations are included on your northern cruise.
An ice-clad realm of glaciers and icebergs, the birthplace of kayaking, rich in Inuit heritage and one of the best places on earth to see the northern lights, Greenland is entrancing. With few settlements and no roads to connect them, Greenland is best explored from its coast. Landings allow for further exploration on foot, where summer hikes reveal a riot of wildflowers. Greenland’s people, whose history here goes back thousands of years, welcome guests with legendary hospitality.
Canadian Arctic Archipelago
The Canadian Arctic Archipelago is situated in the northernmost extremity of North America. The group of more than 35,000 islands comprises much of the territory of Northern Canada—most of Nunavut and part of the Northwest Territories. Canada's claim to its north rests first on the charter granted to the Hudson’s Bay Company by King Charles II in 1670. Exploration of the Arctic has been a facet of Canadian history from the arrival of the first Europeans in North America and continues today. The ill-fated Franklin expedition of the Northwest Passage was one such exploration. Searches still continue to this day for the HMS Erebus
and HMS Terror.
The largest island in Canada, Baffin Island lies mostly above the Arctic Circle and was named for the English explorer William Baffin. Most historians believe it was known to Norse traders who arrived before 1000 AD, based on archaeological remains of Viking presence. Baffin Island is surrounded by sea ice most of the year except during the brief summer. Its dramatic eastern coastline features black granite peaks, vertical cliffs, deeply indented fjords, and ice fields that spawn massive tidewater glaciers. Its rugged environs are home to prolific Arctic wildlife including caribou, polar bear, arctic wolf, fox and hare. Bylot Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Baffin's northern tip provides nesting habitat for millions of nesting birds—74 different species in all. Iqaluit, the territorial capital of Nunavut, is located on Frobisher Bay.
On the eastern shore of Disko Bay, Ilulissat’s landscape is illuminated by the chiseled magnificence of towering icebergs. Their crackling and rumbling echoes throughout Greenland’s third-largest settlement, which was founded in 1741 as Jakobshavn. Today, the town is home to about 4,500 residents and nearly as many sled dogs. Located 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the Ilulissat Icefjord is the sea mouth for Jakobshavn Glacier, one of the few glaciers through which Greenland's ice sheet reaches the sea. This is also one of the world’s fastest moving glaciers, calving 10 percent of Greenland’s icebergs—more than any other glacier outside Antarctica. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jakobshavn is cited for its critical importance in studying climate change and the 250,000-year-old Greenland ice sheet. Humans have been investigating this particular glacier intently for nearly 250 years. Nearby, the abandoned Inuit settlement of Sermermuit lets the imagine run wild amid 4,000 years of ruins and artifacts spawned by life on the ice.
Remote Sisimiut is Greenland’s second-largest town, a settlement founded by Danes in 1756 and named for the "place where there are fox dens,” although the wide-open landscape shows evidence of habitation for nearly 4,500 years. Surrounding tundra is traversed by hardy reindeer and musk oxen, Arctic char run in the cold snowmelt rivers, and humpback and minke whales ply the coastal waters. A former whaling port, Sisimiut is now predominantly a fishing community where several 18th century buildings still stand, including the 1775 Blue Church, Greenland’s oldest.
The most northerly island in the Arctic Archipelago, Canada’s mountainous Ellesmere Island has a coastline ragged with deep fjords and smoothed at its northern reaches by vast ice shelves that are diminishing rapidly due to global warming. This is a true polar desert marked by rock spires known as nunataks
thrusting through frozen remnants of the last Ice Age along with 151 species of moss. Meanwhile, musk oxen, polar bear, caribou and Arctic hare wander the fragile landscape. Remote Ellesmere Island has seen relatively little human activity since explorations started in the early 19th century—landings mostly the consequence of expeditions to the North Pole. More than 20 percent of the island is preserved as Quttinirpaaq National Park, which means “top of the world” in Inuktitut language. Absent industrialization, Ellesmere’s air is among the Earth’s clearest—an expanse of the frozen north where majestic Arctic tern can rule the skies.
Known as the gateway to Greenland, Kangerlussuaq was founded as a U.S. Air Force base during World War II and is perhaps now most well-known for its easy access to the Greenland ice sheet. Situated just north of the Arctic Circle, next to a long, deep fjord of the same name, Kangerlussuaq boasts 300 days of clear sky each year and some of the world’s finest viewing for the aurora borealis.