Things to Consider

  • The Northwest Passage sits in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, which covers a vast 2 million km²
  • Plane and ship are the only ways in -- air is the preferred approach
  • Limited scheduled flights are available, but irregular
  • Expedition cruises arrange connecting charter flights with Ottawa, Edmonton or Toronto
  • Only an expedition cruise from Greenland offers access by water

Flying to the Northwest Passage

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With such vast distances to cover, flying to the Northwest Passage is unquestionably the fastest, easiest option. But with a population of only 36,000 living in just 25 communities across Nunavut’s 2 million km², there is little availability or need for air travel or landing sites, so local airlines, Canadian North and First Air offer only restricted and irregular scheduled flights.

Charter flights

Because there are limited scheduled flights into the Northwest Passage, expedition ship operators rely on charter flights, in spite of the cost. These flights typically operate out of Canada’s Edmonton, Ottawa and Toronto.

Adding a charter flight package to the voyage significantly simplifies the logistics for visitors, so expedition cruise offer the easiest way to access and experience this remote region.

Communities along the Northwest Passage which receive flights include Kugluktuk (Coppermine), Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Resolute Bay and Pond Inlet.

Travelling by ship to The Northwest Passage

Travelling to the Northwest Passage by water is only possible on the handful of expedition ships from West Greenland each summer.

These voyages typically start either in Kangerlussuaq or the capital, Nuuk. After crossing Baffin Bay, they enter the Northwest Passage’s eastern end via Lancaster Sound. The contrast between West Greenland and the Northwest Passage makes for a popular cruise combination.

Whether arriving by air or water, once visitors are in the Northwest Passage, the absence of ferry services makes independent travel almost impossible.

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Swoop Says

Direction of Travel

We’re commonly asked which direction is best to travel through the Northwest Passage. Like any good question, there isn’t an easy answer, mainly because there isn’t much in it.

Perceived wisdom and seasoned Northwest Passage travellers say that, on balance, travelling eastwards and finishing with Greenland’s glaciers wins by a narrow margin.

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Trips to The Northwest Passage

Arriving in The Northwest Passage

Visas

In travelling to the Northwest Passage, which is part of the Canadian Arctic, you will need to ask your local embassy or consulate if you need a visa.

  • United States passport holders can visit Canada without a visa for up to 180 days.
  • British Citizens don’t usually need a visa for Canada, but do need to secure an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) prior to travel.

If you are starting or finishing in Greenland as part of your trip, you will need to check immigration regulations.

Hotel Accommodation

Visitor numbers to this remote region are modest, as is the accommodation. The busier hubs, like Resolute, have a few quite spartan places to stay, while smaller communities like Gjoa Haven may only have one option.

Getting around

The combination of huge distances and the sparse population makes getting around this vast region really challenging.

There simply aren’t the public transport services we have further south. So even if you manage to get a scheduled flight into Resolute, travelling on from there will be very difficult.

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