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How to Get to Baffin Island: Travel Guide

5 min read

Where is Baffin Island located in Canada?

Baffin Island is located in Canadian High Arctic territory of Nunavut. It forms part of the Arctic Archipelago. Greenland is east across Baffin Bay, and the province of Quebec is across the Hudson Strait to the south. Covering an expanse of more than 500,000 square kilometres, Baffin Island is the largest island in Canada and the fifth largest island in the entire world. The easiest way of answering “where is Baffin Island located in Canada?” is to simply reply: “Look for that big island at the top of Canada!”

he rugged beauty and the remoteness of Baffin Island

This sole structure on the wind-swept landscape north of the settlement of Pangnirtung underscores both
the rugged beauty and the remoteness of Baffin Island Photo: Acacia Johnson

Because of its northern location in the High Arctic, Baffin Island experiences midnight sun and polar nights. In late June and early July, Baffin Island experiences almost 24 hours of sunlight —as opposed to just a few hours of light during the shortest days of December. Visitors to Baffin Island have a good chance of witnessing the Northern Lights.

An estimated 11,000 people (mostly Inuit) live on the largely untouched domain of Baffin Island, most of them in Iqaluit. Some of the communities on Baffin Island that travelers can visit on a number of Quark Expeditions voyages to the Canadian High Artic include Pond Inlet, Pangnirtung, Cape Dorset and Clyde River.

Stunning vista of the northeast coast of Baffin Island

The journey to reach Baffin Island is long, in terms of geographic distance, but rest assured travelers are rewarded with
stunning vistas upon arrival. Photo: Quark Expeditions

How to get to Baffin Island

How to get to Baffin Island is fairly straightforward in terms of the route. Once you identify where Baffin Island is located in Canada, you immediately know you'll be heading north.

Most international travelers will fly to Canada, and then take a domestic flight either from Ottawa to Iqaluit, Montreal to Iqaluit or, depending on where they wish to explore in Nunavut, possibly Winnipeg to Rankin Inlet.

The other important factor when considering how to get to Baffin Island is your choice of polar operators to guide you through the Canadian High Arctic, including of course Baffin Island. There are no roads to connect travelers within Nunavut. And, because polar weather conditions prevail, deciding how to get to Baffin Island requires visitors to wisely choose their polar expedition company.

When exploring your options of how to get to Baffin Island, it's important that you ask a number of questions: Does the polar expedition company have years of experience exploring the Arctic? Do they have polar-sturdy ships? Are their vessels small enough to provide an intimate experience while travelling to Baffin Island—and are they capable of navigating fjords and remote destinations near Baffin Island that larger cruise ships (that accommodate a few thousand or more passengers) cannot reach? Will there be polar experts onboard to enhance your journey? And, one of the vital questions these days, does the polar expedition company in question have a comprehensive sustainability policy that ensures that the Arctic environs they explore, including Baffin Island and other remote Canadian High Arctic destinations, are protected.

Quark Expeditions score high on all of these points. Our fleet of small polar ships is the largest in the industry, and our Polar Promise sustainability policy is the most comprehensive in the Polar Regions. Our ships, carrying from 128 to 199 passengers (never more!) can navigate those remote, narrow fjords in and around Baffin Island that most larger ships cannot reach. Plus, we have a full complement of polar experts on board: glaciologists, wildlife experts, polar historians and other experts.
The Endeavour is a classic polar vessel and much loved by both guests and crew

The Endeavour is a classic polar vessel and much loved by both guests and crew. Such trust-worthy vessels are built for polar navigation, especially to places like Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. Photo: David Merron

How to Book a Baffin Island Cruise & Expedition

So, now that you have a good grounding in how to get to Baffin Island, you just need to sort out how to book a Baffin Island cruise and expedition with a experienced polar operator such as Quark Expeditions.

Quark Expeditions offers four voyages that include the Canadian High Arctic, where Baffin Island is located. Your best bet would be to review what's entailed in each of the four trips to get a sense of how to book a Baffin Island cruise and expedition that matches your specific travel desires. For instance, you can take a look at the day-by-day itinerary of the Canada's Remote Arctic: Northwest Passage to Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg Islands voyage and decide that the rugged wilderness experiences of that voyage are exactly what you're looking for. Or it could be that one of the other Canadian High Arctic voyages, such as Northwest Passage: Epic High Arctic, entices you with the chance to journey down the fabled sea route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Companies like Quark Expeditions have trained Polar Travel Advisors—all of whom have experience traveling to the Polar Regions—ready and eager to help you with any questions you may have about how to book a Baffin Island cruise and expedition.

Best time to travel to Baffin Island

The preferred season for navigating the Arctic waters of surrounding Nunavut, where Baffin Island is located, is late July (preferably not any earlier) through August and September. Places like Baffin Island will have less ice at this time of year which makes it easier for ships and Zodiacs to reach seldom-visited and remote destinations.

Things to see and do on Baffin Island

To get a sense of life on Baffin Island, read Spotlight on Baffin Island: A Largely Untouched Arctic Adventure Destination. You can also download our handy and informative Baffin Island Destination Guide, which will explain some of the wildlife that inhabit Canada's largest island: polar bears, Arctic foxes, caribou, Arctic hares, seals, walruses, Arctic wolves and of course whales—narwhals, orca, beluga and bowhead.

Baffin Island is also home to two national parks: Auyuittuq National Park and Sirmilik National Park. Visiting these national gems are among the most popular things to see and do on Baffin Island. Auyuittuq National Park is known for its glaciers, tundra valleys, craggy granite peaks and steep-walled fjords inhabited by narwhal and ringed seals.

Checking out the diverse landforms at Sirmilik National Park is another of the popular things to see and do on Baffin Island. Travelers gaze for hours upon glaciers, red-rock hoodoo spires, steep valleys, sheer sea cliffs covered with nesting seabirds—and of course wildlife, which includes narwhal and beluga whales. Bird-watching, hiking, rock-climbing and skiing are among the things to see and do in Sirmilik National Park in Baffin Island.

Hikers and climbers gravitate to Auyuittuq National Park partly to experience the immense granite peak of Mt. Thor, which, at 1,250 metres (4,101 feet), is regarded as the world's tallest vertical cliff face drop. Mt. Thor is considered one of the Seven Wonders of Canada.

Of course, glacier viewing is also on the list of things to see and do in Baffin Island. The glaciers on Baffin Island are primarily ice caps or ice fields. The two largest ice caps, the 5,935 square-kilometre Barnes Ice Cap and the 5,960-square kilometre Penny Ice Cap are believed to be the last remnants of the Laurentide Ice Sheet. Approximately eight percent of Baffin Island is covered by glaciers.

Learn more about the rugged wilderness that awaits you in Baffin Island by visiting our Canadian Arctic Cruise and Expeditions section.

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