Yellowknife is the capital (and only) city of Canada’s Northwest Territories. Perched on the Northern shores of the spectacular Great Slave Lake just 400 km south of the Arctic Circle, this remote community is a tiny speck of civilisation set among a huge tundra of ice and rock.

In spite of this remoteness (or perhaps because of it!), Yellowknife offers endless opportunities to explore Mother Nature at her finest. From its vast walking trails to promises of the northern lights, this city has so much to offer no matter what kind of adventure you’re after. 

Not much of an adrenaline junkie? Don’t let that put you off. Culture vultures will also find that Yellowknife has plenty to offer thanks to its rich cultural history. In fact, its First Nation heritage and gold mining history is celebrated in many ways across the city. From museums and galleries to local craft stores, there are plenty of places to dive into the city’s past. 

So if you’re looking for a unique destination that offers a combination of scenery and culture, this could be just the ideal destination for your next trip. 

Read on for six of the best experiences to be had in this remote, yet dazzling, part of the world. 

Adventure in Yellowknife

A Land Of Wild Adventures

Adventure is always on your doorstep when you visit Yellowknife.

Take the Great Slave Lake, for example, which happens to be the deepest lake in North America. The lake is so large that some tourists have said it feels like you’re looking out across the wide, open ocean. 

Once central to the Hudson’s Bay Company’s fur trade, these days the lake is more of a water-sports hub. Depending on your preferred mode of transport, you can either hire a boat and set sail or canoe from one shore to the next. Look up to the sky and you may even see a floatplane coming in to land.

Prefer to stay on land? Yellowknife has lots of adrenaline-fuelled experiences just for you. 

Follow the call of the icy tundra on a snowmobile or head out for an exhilarating dog sledding excursion. True daredevils can even chase the tire marks of the Ice Road Truckers and head out to the Dettah Ice Road for a white-knuckle road trip across a frozen lake! 

But there’s no need to go into full adventure mode if you don’t want to. Instead, simply take it slow and admire the view by hiking the rocky landscape of the Cameron Falls Trail. 

Northern Lights in Yellowknife

A Sky Full Of Fire And Lights

There are only around five hours of daylight in Yellowknife during the winter, making it one of the best places in the world to catch a glimpse of the famous northern lights.

In fact, the northern lights are active 240 days of the year in this region, so there’s a very good chance you’ll see the sky alive with green, red and purple flames. Many people choose to spend their evenings outside waiting for the sky to work her magic — just remember to bring something warm to drink!

Music Festivals in Yellowknife

Party Under The Midnight Sun

While the northern lights rule the sky for two thirds of the year, the remaining days are filled with seemingly endless sunshine. During summertime, you can expect to experience up to 20 hours of daylight! This is why Yellowknife is so famous for its epic music festivals in the bright summer months, many of which last all day and long into the night. 

From Folk on the Rocks, a musical celebration of some of the best folk artists in Canada and beyond, to Festival on Franklin, a huge street party marking the summer solstice, Yellowknife is an exciting summer resort for anyone looking to party. 

And even during the darkness of winter, folks in Yellowknife keep the party going. In March, the Naka Aurora Festival celebrates the northern lights, the Long John Jamboree features an international ice carving competition, and the Snowking Festival sees an enormous castle of ice and snow built on the frozen Great Slave Lake. 

If you’re not much of a festival-goer, Yellowknife’s line-up of pubs, bars and cocktail lounges provide year-round nightlife for visitors and locals alike. 

The Woodyard Brewhouse and Eatery acts as a shop-front for the nearby NWT Brewing Company and boasts a long list of craft beers for customers to indulge in. Play it safe with their flagship IPA or sample the mix of honey and chocolate malt in the Honey Bucket Nut Brown. If you’re less about the grain and more about the grape, then Thorton’s Wine and Tapas Room is where you should head.

Local food scene in Yellowknife

Eat Like A Local

Yellowknife has a surprisingly creative and interesting food scene despite being a remote mining outpost.

To dine like a true local, head down to the Black Knight (BK to those in the know) for a few drinks before embracing the cosy, log-cabin atmosphere at Bullocks Bistro. Here you can enjoy a hearty seafood chowder and pan-fried pickerel, which is a local favourite!

Fancy a dish that’s a little more classic? Then head to Wildcat Cafe for bison ribeye, arctic char bagels and beautiful views on the outside deck for a true taste of Canada. If you’re in town late September to early May when Wildcat Cafe is closed for the season, then Copperhouse is a great alternative. Try their homemade smoked bison sausages to warm you up during those chilly winter months.

And for something completely different, visit the Ethiopian restaurant Zehabesha for curried goat and doro wot.

Prince of Wales Museum Yellowknife Northwest Territories Canada 05

Discover The First Nations Heritage

The First Nations are the main indigenous settlers south of the Arctic Circle in Canada and their history is celebrated widely in Yellowknife.

Make the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre your first stop. Here you’ll experience an intriguing journey through the cultural heritage of Yellowknife, and see superb collections of Inuit and Dene art and craftsmanship. 

When you’re ready, continue your trip further back in time by heading to the Cultural Crossroads sculpture, which celebrates Yellowknife’s very early Métis, Dene and Inuvialuit First Nations heritage.

Gold mining and jewellery

Gold Standard Retail Therapy

Yellowknife was built on gold mining and sustained by diamonds, so it’s no surprise this town’s a great spot for jewellery shopping. 

The NWT Diamond Centre is a one-stop shop for assorted bling while independent designers like Tania Larsson use materials from the Canadian Arctic to construct unique pieces by hand. For something other than sparkle, the Old Town boasts some stunning First Nations art and crafts galleries while New Town is bursting with charming little boutiques like Iceblink.

Old Town Yellowknife destination

So, is Yellowknife really worth the trip?

Without a doubt: yes. Remote as it may be, this remarkable little city has something to offer for everyone. From arctic activities to ancient art, there’s no shortage of once-in-a-lifetime experiences to be had here. It’s no wonder more and more tourists from around the world are heading here each year.

Whether you want to admire the beauty of the northern lights, jump on a snowmobile for an icy excursion, or tuck into some cosy, local cuisine, we have no doubt that Yellowknife is well worth the trip.

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