Surrounded by endless expanses of northern lakes, forests and great wilderness, the NWT’s capital city YELLOWKNIFE is named after the copper knives of the First Nations Slavey people. Today, this city of 22,000 attracts adventure seekers who come to experience the city’s legendary hospitality, its Northern Lights, an array of cultural events and a mind-boggling selection of canoe routes and fishing spots. Despite its large-city size, Yellowknife has managed to keep its frontier town atmosphere.

The city’s high-rise core of offices and government buildings exists to administer the NWT and support its population in a region whose resources – despite the discovery of diamonds to the north in 1991 – should by all rights support only a small town. Even the Hudson’s Bay Company closed its trading post here as early as 1823 on the grounds of economics and, except for traces of gold found by prospectors on the way to the Klondike in 1898, the spot was a forgotten backwater until the advent of commercial gold and uranium mining in the 1930s. This prompted the growth of the Old Town on an island and rocky peninsula on Great Slave Lake, and then in 1947 the New Town on the sandy plain behind it. In 1967, the year a road to the outside world was completed (Edmonton is 1524km away by car), Yellowknife replaced Ottawa as the seat of government for the NWT. Oiled by bureaucratic profligacy and the odd gold mine, the city has blossomed ever since.

Much of Yellowknife’s accessible hinterland is an ideal playground for paddlers and naturalists, or for hunters on the trail of the region’s 400,000-strong herd of caribou. Shops around town sell a variety of expensive northern Aboriginal crafts, but these are cheaper than you’ll find in more southerly cities.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Canada features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

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
8 reasons Vancouver is cooler than you think

8 reasons Vancouver is cooler than you think

Vancouver sometimes gets knocked for being a bit dull – and while it’s true that its residents can be earlier to bed than in the rest of North America, thi…

05 Sep 2016 • Rachel Mills insert_drive_file Article
Lunenburg: Canada's most colourful town

Lunenburg: Canada's most colourful town

Twenty years ago the facades of the wood-built buildings in Lunenburg, a UNESCO-listed fishing town in Nova Scotia, were white with black trimming. The only exc…

29 Oct 2015 • Stuart Forster 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