• Snowy owl, Arctic Canada

Highlights and main attractions of Ellesmere Island

Ellsmere Island is 196,235 square kilometres in area and 830 kilometres in length, making it the third largest island in Canada, and the tenth largest in the world. The most mountainous of all the islands in the Canadian Arctic archipelago, it is dominated by the Arctic Cordillera. A national park was proclaimed on Ellsmere Island in 1988, Quttinirpaaq National Park, right on the northern tip, just 800 kilometres from Greenland. The park is covered in the north by the Grant Land Mountains - 100,000 year old rocks shrouded in ice nearly a metre thick, pierced by nunatals (rock spires). This is one of the driest regions in the northern hemisphere, with hardy plants and willow shrubs surviving where there is enough soil for them to be able to send down roots. Here a strange thermal means a surprisingly warm summer in the otherwise, very extreme climate.

During the summer, this is broken into colourful flowers, especially around Lake Hazen.

Polar bear cubs, Arctic

Location and activities

Being one of the most remote places on earth, there has been little human activity here, although archaeological finds suggest people lived here about 4,000 years ago. The island was originally sighted in 1616 by William Baffin, yet remained unexplored until the 19th Century. This is when the American explorers came and fought many a dark gloomy battle in the stark polar nights over the Arctic waters.

Wildlife found here includes a mixture of herbivores and carnivores, from herds of mustoxen 60 strong and caribou, as well as Arctic hare, Arctic wolf and the King of the Arctic, the polar bear. There are about 30 bird species found here, including Arctic terns, which migrate all the way from the Antarctic each spring, ringed plovers and snowy owls. Marine mammals are discouraged by the ice shelves stretching into the sea in the north, however it is possible to spot walrus, beluga and narwhal.

There are no campsites but accommodation can be organised in some spots to the south of Lake Hazen. We encourage visitors to note any animal or nesting site sightings, without disturbing the fragile ecosystem.

Main access to Ellsmere Island is via small aircraft, and visitors can enjoy challenging hikes through unique and spectacular terrain, as well as nature photography and fishing.


Contact one of our Destination Specialists to start planning your journey to Arctic Canada. Please note we recommend a budget of from £7,000 / $10,000 USD per person for our style of trip to this destination.

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