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 into the network - the relative speed of plane makes it the preferred mode
  • Scheduled flights are available but are limited and irregular
  • Expedition cruises arrange connecting charter flights with Ottawa, Edmonton or Toronto
  • Only an expedition cruise from Greenland offers access by water

Getting to your ship in the Northwest Passage


With such expansive distances to cover, flying to the Northwest Passage is unquestionably the fastest, easiest option. Many expedition trips will start or end in Greenland, sailing across the Davis Strait with flights into Kangerlussuaq where a full-sized runway allows for a reliable flight service. Greenland also provides a fascinating contrast to the Northwest Passage.

With a population of only 36,000 living in just 25 communities across the Canadian province 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 limited and irregular scheduled flights.

Charter flights

The Northwest Passage is sparsely populated, and it is not an easy place to get to. Anyone traveling by air will be bound by a handful of fairly unreliable scheduled flights between the communities.  This does make independent travel in the region something of a major challenge and adventure!

Because of this, our expedition trips rely on chartered flights in and out of the more substantial settlements where it’s possible to land larger jets. These flights go from Edmonton, Ottawa or Toronto to settlements including Cambridge Bay and Resolute (in the Northwest Passage), or Kangerlussuaq in Greenland where ships then sail across the Davis Strait. On this route, passengers will also experience the beautiful coastal towns and huge ice that Greenland has to offer.


Direction of travel

We’re often 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.


How do I get to the Northwest Passage?

Illustrated Guide
Swoop Says background image

Swoop says

Given the logistical challenges of trying to explore the Northwest Passage independently, an expedition voyage with charter flights from easily accessible Canadian cities is really the only way to explore this region.

Our best trips to The Northwest Passage

Northwest Passage, Ellesmere & West Greenland

Traversing west to east this voyage takes you to iconic sites such as Cambridge Bay, Lancaster and Smith Sounds and Ellesmere Island, before exploring the fjords and towns of West Greenland. Bears, narwhal, musk ox, beluga and northern lights are…

  • 17 Days
  • $11,995
Arctic Wildlife Safari: Northwest Passage

An all consuming introduction to the Arctic, with a strong focus on wildlife, this trip is hard to beat. Search for bears, narwhal, beluga, walrus and musk ox, marvel at Greenland's ‘big ice’ and learn about the early explorers as…

  • 12 Days
  • $7,595
​Ultima Thule: Northwest Passage & West Greenland

Spending time exploring Canada’s historic Northwest Passage and West Greenland, we like this voyage’s balance and variety as much as exploring little visited spots such as Thule, one of the northernmost towns in the world, and Smith Sound. Big ice,…

  • 20 Days
  • $14,845

Before you go

Visa requirements

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 but generally USA and British citizens do not require a visa.
Looking out onto the ice, Northwest Passage, Arctic

Looking out onto the ice, Northwest Passage

Where to stay

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 to The Northwest Passage

Plan your trip

Northwest Passage Cruises

Northwest Passage Cruises

This labryinthine waterway was long sought by early adventurers as a sea route linking the Northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Canada's Arctic archipelago is therefore no …

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The Northwest Passage

The Northwest Passage

For the explorer, there are few places evocative as the Northwest Passage. For centuries men sought a way through the ice; even today passage is not guaranteed. This is a true …

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