INUVIK (“the place of man”) is the farthest north you can drive on a public highway in North America – unless you wait for the winter freeze and follow the ice road carved across the Mackenzie River and the Arctic Ocean to the north. Canada’s first planned town north of the Arctic Circle, Inuvik is a battered spot begun in 1954 as an administrative centre to replace Aklavik, a settlement to the west wrongly thought to be doomed to envelopment by the Mackenzie River’s swirling waters and shifting mud flats. Inuvik is an interesting melting pot of around 3500 people, with Dene, Métis and Inuvialuit living alongside the trappers, pilots, scientists and frontier entrepreneurs drawn here in the 1970s when a boom followed the oil exploration in the delta. Today, the local economy also relies on government jobs, services, tourism and the town’s role as a supply and communication centre for much of the western Arctic.  For 56 days from late June, Inuvik basks in round-the-clock sunshine – it’s well worth timing your trip to coincide with the mid-July Great Northern Arts Festival (w gnaf.org), ten fabulous days of exhibitions and performances by local and international artists.

Wandering the town provides an eye-opening introduction to the vagaries of northern life, from the strange stilted buildings designed to prevent their heat melting the permafrost (which would have disastrous effects on the piles or gravel pads that serve as foundations), to the street-level “utilidors”, which carry water and sewage lines – again, to prevent the permafrost melting.

The influence of Inuvialuit people in local political and economic life has increased, to the extent that the Western Claims Settlement Act of 1984 saw the government cede titles to various lands in the area, returning control that had been lost to the fur trade, the Church, oil companies and national government.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Canada features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Go solo: the 20 best places to travel alone

Go solo: the 20 best places to travel alone

Solo travel can be one of the most rewarding ways to explore the world. Whether you'd rather spend it on a desert island or in a frenetic new city, here are the…

21 Dec 2016 • Rachel Mills camera_alt Gallery
Road trip Canada: 5 of the best routes

Road trip Canada: 5 of the best routes

Rugged and vast, Canada has much to explore and enjoy. Driving gives you freedom to travel at your own pace, allowing you to pull over and appreciate scenery al…

05 Dec 2016 • Stuart Forster insert_drive_file Article
15 awesome images of Canada

15 awesome images of Canada

Canada is has vast and varied landscape, from beautiful beaches to glassy mountain lakes. It's difficult to capture the country's real beauty in a photograph, b…

09 Sep 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month