• Polar bear photography

Best Time to Visit the Arctic

A place of sheer extremes, the seasons vary dramatically in Arctic Canada, with shorter summers of just a few weeks, seeing an average temperature of 18ºC, sometimes rising to 30ºC. By contrast, the winters are long, cold and dry, when the temperature can plummet to a biting -20ºC to -35 ºC. Generally speaking, travel conditions to this region are at their best from May through September, but when planning your trip you will need to consider the optimum travel periods for what you wish to experience, be it the majestic King of the Arctic or the mysterious Northern Lights. 

There are great times to visit Arctic Canada and Churchill throughout the year, depending on the experience you prefer. October and November in Churchill are great for staying out on the tundra with the bears, then in the far north around Baffin Island you can stay out on the floe edge between May and July. March offers the best time to see polar bear cubs emerging from their dens with their mothers, but there is just one week in March you can do this. 

When to head to the northern reaches of Canada depends on exactly where you want to go and what you want to see...

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• Take a look at our Arctic Canada holidays
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Arctic 1

When to go

This is a guide for the country as a whole, indicating good times to plan a holiday, taking into account popular places to visit, wildlife encounters and overall weather. Please remember that where in the country will vary depending on month of travel.

When to go by season

A brief overview of when to go to Arctic Canada by month and some of the highlights of each season.

November - March 

Churchill is one of the three best places on earth to witness the natural phenomenon of Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), caused by the interaction of charged particles from the sun with atoms in the upper atmosphere. At their most impressive from January through March when skies are clearer, this would be worth considering when planning. The winter months are also good times to enjoy winter sports of the area. In March you can see polar bear cubs emerging from their dens with their mothers.

Read more on the following pages:

May - September 

With the fascinating geology and wildlife of the area most visible during the summer months, this is the most popular time to visit with the vast majority of expeditions operating between these months. Temperatures are also at their highest, meaning it is more comfortable. In the far northern reaches you can camp on the floe edge, track polar bears on foot or even snorkel with narwhal. In Churchill you can stay in a luxury lodge and track bears surrounded by the beautiful colours of summer.

Read more on the following pages:

April & October

These are the ‘shoulder’ periods, between the main summer and winter months, and whilst not the peak time to visit, the scenery is still good, and in October you will be coinciding with one of the best times to see polar bears. 

When to go to Arctic Canada if you want to see…

  • Belgua Whales: July and August – when they congregate at Hudson Bay in their thousands
  • Arctic Birds: Spring and Autumn – on their annual migration and to nest. A hot spot for Gyr Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Snowy Owls, Tundra Swans, Arctic terns and gulls.
  • Caribou Migration: End of April – for the spring migration to reach their calving grounds 300 miles north. September – to see them return to the south for the winter surrounded by the stunning colours of autumn.
  • Narwhals: June – when they migrate through the north-west passage to their summer feeding grounds, and get close enough to swim with!
  • Polar Bears: March – for the new-born cubs coming out of their dens. May – September for seeing increasingly hungry bears patrolling the colourful tundra. October – November to see them gather along the Hudson Bay coast to wait for the ice to freeze.
  • Bay Harp Seals: March – when the harp seals give birth on the ice.
Hot Air Balloon, Ultimate Floe Edge Safari

Best time to go to Arctic Canada if you want to experience…

  • Tracking bears on foot: July – November. Stay at wilderness lodges in the middle of polar bear territory and go out hiking each day to encounter the mighty ice bear at eye level.
  • Meeting beluga whales: July – August. Up to 3,000 whales visit Hudson Bay when the ice has melted, and are so curious and playful that you can kayak alongside the, as they chirp and frolic through the water.
  • Camping Safaris: June – August. Specially designed Arctic tents are set up on the sea ice for the best way to experience true wilderness and wildlife such as narwhals, belugas, walrus and polar bears.
  • Northern Lights: December – March. During the polar night you can stay in specially designed northern lights fly-in lodges or Aurora Domes.
Beluga Whales in the OCean

Wildlife and Festivals

Wildlife

October to November sees the Polar Bears take to the tundra just outside of Churchill, where they wait for the ‘Big Freeze’ and the onset of winter hunting season. This is one of the best times to see the polar bears, and you even have the option of staying in a unique Tundra Lodge, with viewing platforms that allow for incredible close range encounters with the bears. 

One of the highlights of the summer months is the arrival of approximately 60,000 beluga whales to the shores of Hudson Bay, with July and August specifically being the best months. It is around this time that Polar Bears start hunting on the shores rather than the pan ice they inhabit during the winter. Keen birders would also see the appeal of Churchill in the summer due to the massive bird migration that takes place in July. 

Festivals

The Hudson Bay Quest is a dog sled race of over 400 kilometres between Churchill and Arviat, taking place in March. Aurora Winter Fest, as the name suggests, is a celebration of activities such as log splitting and moose calling under the skies of the Northern Lights in March. Canada Day on 1st July is also another cause for celebration, with swimmers taking a dip in the Hudson Bay complete with crazy costumes! 

Cta Grid

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