Baffin Island is in the Eastern Canadian Arctic, lying between Greenland and the Canadian mainland. Covering 507,451 sq km (195,928 sq mi), it is the largest island in North America and the fifth largest in the world. It was named after the British explorer William Baffin but the overwhelmingly Inuit population know it as Qikiqtaaluk.
Made up of a dozen or so sparsely populated communities, Baffin lives up to its reputation for being unspoiled, untamed and undiscovered. With 60 per cent of the island lying above the Arctic Circle and summer temperatures struggling to reach even 5° c (41° f), this rugged ice-covered landscape is not for the fainthearted. However the rewards for any visitor are great, with unrivalled scenery and the chance to see the rich and diverse arctic wildlife, including polar bears and whales in then’ natural environment.
Getting to Baffin Island is only feasible by air. The island has only one airport (Iqaluit) which deals with external flights and another six which handle internal transfers. Arriving at Iqaluit you will find a thriving First Nations community. This capital of the newly-formed state of Nunavut ca provide all you need for a kayaking, canoeing or trekking holiday.
Most of the finest mountains are located on the Cumberland Peninsula at the head of the south Pangnirtung fjord. Much of the area is inch included within Auyuittuq National Park, and is accessible from Pangnirtung a small coastal Inuit settlement. From here, access to the peaks is by boat, dog sled, float-plane or ski-plane, depending on ice and weather conditions.
The sheer vastness of the island is difficult to take in and any traveler should plan ahead, not be too ambitious and allow extra time for weather related delays, even in summer.
Population: 11,000 (2005)
When to go: June to August
How to get there: By air from Montreal, Ottawa or Yellowknife.
Highlights: Kimmirut – famous for its aboriginal stone-carving industry. Auyittuq national park: a pristine wilderness within the Arctic Circle. Pond inlet: a stunning mix of mountains, icebergs and glaciers. The Pangnirtung pass – a spectacular 100 km (62 mi) hike around fjords.
You should know: In the summer the inhabitants of Iqaluit leave their homes to live in tents and visitors are invited too. There is no better way to plan a trip than to sit around a campfire, under the midnight sun and discuss it with the people who know the landscape best.