Reasons to Go

Retrace the routes of legendary explorers and discover extraordinary scenery, remarkable wildlife and unique Inuit culture.

  • Set foot on one of the world’s most remote and least populated regions
  • Tread in the footsteps of the early explorers amongst the myriad islands, channels and bays
  • There’s nowhere better for sightings of the Arctic Big 5 - keep a keen eye out for polar bears, belugas, walrus, musk ox & narwhal
  • Visit the remote Inuit communities living on top of the world - a warm welcome is guaranteed

About the Northwest Passage

What is the Northwest Passage?

The Northwest Passage is a sea route connecting the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via waterways through the islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Explorers for centuries sought the existence of a navigable passage. However, it wasn’t until 1903 – 1906 when the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, proved it with the first successful transit.

Today it is more easily transited, but passage is not guaranteed as the ice is ever changing. That makes this a true expedition for anyone who visits this spectacular part of the world.

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What’s so captivating about the Northwest Passage?

For many people the history of this region is enough to bring them here. That might be to follow in the footsteps of Franklin and visit Beechey Island, or to explore the remains of sod houses left by Inuit families. There is recent history in abundance to be found in the 37 remote settlements throughout the region.

Wildlife is a huge draw, and while it is not so obviously abundant as in other parts of the Arctic, the big five are all there and regularly sighted so keep an eye open for bears, musk ox, narwhal, beluga and walrus.

Then there is the place itself. This is a world shaped by ice, an ever changing seascape contained by islands, glaciers and ice caps bathed in an almost ever changing light.

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Northwest Passage Tours

Most Northwest Passage cruises depart in August and September, when late summer ice allows safe passage through the narrow channels. There’s no definitive route to traversing the Northwest Passage, so focus on the planned landings when choosing a cruise. Most start or finish in West Greenland, and time of year and the direction of travel are important variables worth considering.

The distances are significant. Trips range from 13 to17 days, so the speed of your ship will make a big difference to your experience.

Cruises are limited and there is strong demand: booking 12 to 18 months ahead is recommended. 

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Discover the Northwest Passage

Northwest Passage Wildlife

This part of the Canadian Arctic has a thriving wildlife population and is home to all of the 'Arctic Big 5': polar bears, beluga, musk ox, walrus and narwhal

Wildlife spotting will be an integral part of your trip through the Northwest Passage and a good sighting can change the plan for the day.

As the ice recedes in summer and the channels open up whales, seals and walrus follow rich lines of food. That migration brings followers with it, most notably the bears who are likely to be anywhere there is something to hunt.

For more details on what you can see and what to look for have a look at our guide.

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Northwest Passage Ships

As your floating hotel and basecamp for the duration of the voyage, it’s crucial that you choose the right ship for you. The number of ships plying the Northwest Passage for the few short weeks it's accessible each summer is quite small in comparison to other parts of the Arctic, but there is a good variety in terms of both size and style.

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Northwest Passage Landing Sites

Few would argue that the best part of any Northwest Passage cruise is the daily landings off the ship, accompanied by your knowledgeable expedition staff: walking the tundra, observing wildlife from a zodiac, learning about life on the edge of the habitable world during community visits. This is your opportunity to really get under the skin of the region and experience it firsthand.

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Northwest Passage cruises

Northwest Passage and Greenland cruises

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How much does a Northwest Passage cruise cost?

Due to the logistical challenges of travelling in such a remote area, the distances covered and the overall duration, these trips aren't low cost.

Prices start from around USD$9,600 per person. On top of the actual voyage cost, there’s an additional mandatory charter flight package which can add on USD$1,500 - $2,500 per person, depending on the routing.

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