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.
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.
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.
There’s nowhere else in the entire Arctic Region which can deliver such a heady cocktail of history, wildlife, scenery & northern hospitality.
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.
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.
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.
Northwest Passage cruises
Traversing the heart of the Northwest Passage this compact trip focuses on the region’s fascinating history and wildlife. Planned visits to numerous locations linked to the Franklin expedition, narrated by onboard historians, combine with renowned wildlife hotspots such as Lancaster…
Northwest Passage and Greenland cruises
Spending equal time exploring Canada’s historic Northwest Passage and West Greenland, we like this voyage’s balance and variety as much as exploring little visited places like Thule, one of the northernmost towns in the world. Big ice, rich history, exotic…
Initially heading northwards up the West Greenland coastline before exploring Baffin Island and traversing the Northwest Passage, this voyage offers a rich blend of history, culture, scenery and wildlife. Pay your respects at the Franklin Expedition graves at Beechey Island,…
This comprehensive westbound voyage stands out for its compelling combination of West Greenland, in-depth exploration of remote Baffin Island and the historic Northwest Passage. Jaw dropping scenery, towering icebergs, thrilling wildlife encounters, Inuit community visits and fascinating history pervade this…
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.
Plan your trip
When to Visit The Northwest Passage
While the window of opportunity to explore the Northwest Passage each year is narrow, it's important to understand the nuances between these key months in terms of both wildlife…
Getting to The Northwest Passage
The Northwest Passage, a beautiful and sparsely populated labyrinth of islands stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Vast distances and limited transport means …
The Northwest Passage
The search for the Northwest Passage is one of the greatest stories in the annals of exploration, capturing the imagination of generations. But this watery labyrinth is much …
Help Me Choose
We're all clear on where the Arctic is located and why we want to visit, but its vastness and the sheer variety of experiences on offer can be a real challenge when deciding …