It doesn’t get wilder than this. Canada’s remote Northwest Territories is chock-full of untamed forests, indigenous villages, colossal waterfalls, and epic rivers and lakes, perfect for fishing and water adventures. Add to it the majestic aurora borealis and you’ve got yourself an Instagram paradise. Read on for ten places that have to be seen to be believed.
Nahanni National Park
The Nahanni River and the alpine river valley it inhabits is photogenic in a hundred different ways. Take a selfie with your catch of the day, likely to be Arctic grayling or lake trout. Frame the towering granite walls and deep canyons, and be on the watch for wolfs, grizzly bears, black bears, caribou, moose, and mountain goats that roam the region. Don’t forget to pack a dry bag. You’ll need it to keep your camera safe as you soak in the hot springs or brave the white-water in a canoe.
The Nahanni River leads to Virginia Falls (also known as Nailicho), a thundering waterfall cascading more than 90 metres, nearly twice the height of Niagara, flanked by lofty evergreens, completing a perfect picture. National Geographic rates Virginia Falls as one of the top twenty places in the world – and who are we to argue?
Inuvik ‘Igloo Church’
This tiny town packs some aesthetic punch and to reach it you’ll need to travel to the end of the earth – literally. Situated 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle in the magnificent Mackenzie Delta, Inuvik is well worth the effort to get there. Strike up a conversation with the welcoming locals and photograph the iconic sites, such as the famous domed "Igloo Church", designed to reflect traditional snow-houses of the region. Inside, you’ll find beautiful artworks by the famous Inuvialuit artist Mona Thrasher.
Tuktoyaktuk Winter Road
For the ultimate social media bragging rights take a drive along the road made famous through the Ice Road Truckers television series. The 137-kilometre Tuktoyaktuk Winter Road, two hours from Inuvik, forms part of the famous Dempster Highway, taking you all the way from Whitehorse, in Yukon Territory, to the Arctic Circle in Northwest Territories on a sealed bitumen road, rather than sheets of ice!
Wood Buffalo National Park
Whether you’re a budding landscape photographer or a seasoned professional, Wood Buffalo National Park is the ultimate subject. Canada’s largest national park is the site of the world’s largest inland delta, at the mouth of the Peace and Athabasca Rivers. This intriguing park is home to the wood bison, bears, wolves, and the last surviving whooping cranes on Earth. As you take in the soaring Caribou Mountains and the shimmering salt plains, you’ll know you’ve stumbled across one of the planet’s greatest natural treasures.
Known as Canada’s ‘Diamond Capital’, Yellowknife is your most likely port of entry into the Northwest Territories and a truly eclectic town. Check out the original shacks and log buildings in the ‘old town’ and make a beeline for the iconic Wildcat Café, Yellowknife’s legendary pioneer eatery. Built as a traditional log cabin structure in 1937, this Heritage Building reflects the mining camps of the era and serves up traditional northern fare, including bison burgers and Great Slave pickerel.
Blachford Lake Lodge
Jump on a seaplane and make the 25-minute journey from Yellowknife to Blachford Lake Lodge for the perfect vantage point to capture the mystical Northern Lights. Soak in a hot tub as the night sky ignites with dancing shades of vibrant greens, reds and blues. When the sun rises, skate the frozen lakes, explore the backcountry by snowmobile, or mush your own team of huskies. One thing is certain – you’ll create a minor Instagram frenzy.
Northwest Territories serves up some of the best views of the aurora borealis in the world. Photographs simply cannot begin to portray the heart-stirring experience of witnessing the enchanting light display first hand – but it won’t stop you from trying to capture every moment. There’s every chance of viewing the aurora straight out your window in Yellowknife, or you could stay at the Aurora Village nearby for a world-class experience. For a crystal-clear, unobstructed vantage point head to Pine Lake, nestled within the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve in Wood Buffalo National Park, where urban glow won’t get in the way of the greatest lightshow on Earth.
North Nahanni Naturalist Lodge
Sample traditional Dene culture at North Nahanni Naturalist Lodge, perched on the shores of sparkling Cli Lake in the Mackenzie Mountains. Fill your Instagram feed with images taken on flightseeing tours of mountain ranges, plateaus and canyons. Immerse yourself in Dene culture through incredible artworks and feast on true farm-to-fork fare, such as moose stew, bannock and whitefish.
Paddle the remarkable Keel River through untouched wilderness close to the border of Yukon Territory. The pristine terrain and turquoise waters are steeped in history, culture, and an abundance of wildlife. Keep your camera on hand to zoom in on caribou, moose, eagles, and mountain sheep. Hear the echoes of Dene hunters who, for 12,000 years, hunted for beaver and moose and used their hides to build skin boats that traversed the river. Join a tour with Canoe North Adventures and paddle in the wake of aboriginal travellers from a distant era.
Snow Castle, Yellowknife
The heart and soul of Yellowknife’s annual SnowKing Winter Festival, the Snow Castle gets bigger and better every year, attracting crowds from around the world. The wintery palace, constructed entirely out of ice and snow sits on the ice of Great Slave Lake, featuring a café and stage, adorned with snow sculptures, crystalline windows and an impressive dragon’s head carved from ice. Position yourself on the bridge of the Snow Castle for an action shot of happy festival-goers gliding down the slippery-dip to the icy courtyard floor.
Slave Lake houseboats
The Northwest Territories’ quirkiest neighbourhood floats year-round on Great Slave Lake. A colourful collection of houseboats exists entirely off the grid, with a history that dates back to the 1980s when a couple of families decided to create homes using old river barges. Today, the Lake is home to a community that lives here through all four seasons, using the icy pathways to make their way to land during winter. Share this unique hamlet with your social media audience and watch the ‘likes’ pour in.
The Barren lands east of Great Slave are a magnet for photographers as the autumn foliage erupts during August and September and berries break out in clusters on every bush. This treeless land turns crimson with wildflowers, stretching towards a never-ending horizon, and the legendary beast who call this domain home come out to play. Keep the camera poised for muskoxen, moose, caribou, grizzly bears, ptarmigans, wolves, and beavers.
Take a road trip on the Mackenzie Highway to the Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park, where you’ll find an incredible natural wonder, Alexander Falls, not far from the town of Enterprise. Be mesmerised by torrents of cascading pure water spilling into the Hay River from ten storeys high. A few kilometres downstream you’ll find Louise Falls, a stunning natural gem. Together, the waterfalls make up Twin Falls Gorge. Dip your toes into the river, soak up the solitude of this wonderful, remote wilderness, and capture these precious moments with your camera along the way.