This blog post was written before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when physical distancing and other COVID health and safety protocols were not in effect. The businesses and communities featured in this article may be once again welcoming visitors but please double check as some are only open with limited operations and others have not yet reopened.
Nunavik, Quebec’s far north, is one of the most remote regions in Canada bordered by the Hudson Bay to the west, Hudson Strait to the North and Ungava Bay and Labrador to the East. This region is filled with scenic tundra, taiga forests, untouched environment spoiled with lakes, rivers, and mountains, plus rich culture and an abundance of wildlife making it a perfect destination for cultural and adventure seekers. As a representative of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC), I joined a group of journalists on an authentic Inuit adventure to Nunavik, Quebec’s far north.
Nunavik is home to some spectacular Provincial Parks, including the Pingualuit National Park. The Inuit called this area “pingualuit,” which means “pimple.” This humorous name was inspired by a meteor that struck the area over one million years ago creating a perfectly circular crater popping out of the flat, treeless landscape resembling a giant pimple. Stretching over three kilometres in diameter, this crater is now filled with some of the purest water on earth. A hike to the top offers amazing panoramic views of the crystal-blue water overlooking an untouched wild tundra.
Not many animals can survive such a harsh arctic climate, but an impressive amount of wildlife is on display in Nunavik. Wildlife encounters include everything from stunning polar bears laying on the rocks to hundreds-of-thousands of migrating caribou to the ancient pre-historic musk-ox on Diana Island or even majestic beluga whales swimming through the Hudson Strait. Inuit Adventures offers Inuit guided tours of the big three arctic wildlife animals – caribou, musk-ox and polar bears – which can be seen in Nunavik.
A trip to Nunavik is not complete without learning about the fascinating Inuit culture and impressive resilience of the Inuit people, who have called this region home for thousands of years. The Inuit in Nunavik have worked very hard to bring back pure-bred huskies, which almost went extinct in the region. These dogs were essential to the Inuit’s way of life, especially for surviving the harsh arctic winters. In an effort to save these dogs in the region, Nunavik organizes an annual dog sled race that goes through all the communities in Nunavik. This event has seen overwhelming success and has helped the resurgence of the important animal in Inuit culture.
Throat singing, which also nearly died in Nunavik, is an impressive form of musical performance unique to the Inuit. Performers stand side by side facing each other and create deep guttural throat sounds emulating from the stomach while staring at each other in the eyes. This is an entertaining performance to see who will last longer and usually ends with one of the performers laughing. The cultural art form was first created as a game by Inuit women to pass the time while the men were away hunting. The Kuujjuaq Throat Singing Group has been working hard to revive throat singing in Nunavik, teaching the cultural art form to younger generations.
Witnessing Inuit games is also very impressive. We witnessed the one-foot-high kick Inuit game where players would jump with two feet, kick a piece of caribou hide tied to a string and land one-footed on the same leg they kicked with. This sounds easy enough, except when the caribou hide is tied over seven feet high. This game requires extreme athleticism, strength, and skill. It was used to keep the Inuit people in peak physical conditions for hunting.
Nunavik is a unique place spoiled with a vibrant Inuit culture, untouched natural landscapes, an abundance of wildlife and magical displays of the northern lights. For me, this was a trip of a lifetime; it was a trip of first experiences. It was my first time seeing a polar bear, musk-ox and a caribou. It was also my first time seeing the northern lights and my first real immersive experience with Inuit culture. As one of the most remote regions in Canada, Nunavik Tourism gives visitors a chance to unwind, relax and enjoy some of the best sights, wildlife displays, and vibrant cultures Canada has to offer.