Venture deep into the far reaches of the Arctic Archipelago in the footsteps of great explorers to discover the fabled Northwest Passage. Aboard the National Geographic Explorer, set out into an ice-sculpted world where polar bears roam, walruses loll, and hardy Inuit communities maintain their traditional way of life. Then trace the coast of Baffin Island south to discover the wild shores and colorful history of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Experience the extraordinary icescapes of the Northwest Passage, and, conditions permitting, cross the Hecla and Fury Strait, impenetrable to most ships.
Search for polar bears, arctic foxes, and caribou on the tundra, and humpback, minke, and beluga whales out at sea.
Wander amid the ruins of the Viking village of L’Anse aux Meadow, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Encounter the legacy of Vikings, whalers, German missionaries, and French colonists as we explore Newfoundland and Labrador.
Itinerary - 24 Days
Day 1 — U.S./Edmonton, Canada
Fly to Edmonton and check into the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald in time for a welcome dinner. (D)
Day 2 — Kugluktuk, Nunavut
A morning flight brings us to Kugluktuk, a traditional fishing hamlet and the most westerly community in the territory of Nunavut. Here, embark the National Geographic Explorer and set sail towards the Northwest Passage. (B,L,D)
Days 3 through 11 — Exploring the Northwest Passage
Amundsen Gulf marks the western edge of the Arctic Archipelago, and from here, the passage continues into open sea to Alaska. We’ll strike out north into the heart of the archipelago, exploring the ice-choked channels and glacier-carved islands that stretch for hundreds of miles—a stunning display of raw geology. As we navigate these waterways, we’ll take our cues from nature, following wildlife, stopping for hikes on the tundra, and dropping anchor in a beautiful fjord or an iceberg-strewn bay to kayak or explore by Zodiac. We may encounter ringed seals, arctic foxes, walruses, and polar bears, and maybe even beluga and bowhead whales and the rare narwhal. We’ll pass beneath steep cliffs on Lancaster Sound, and learn about the Inuit peoples who have hunted and fished here for thousands of years. (B,L,D)
Days 12 through 16 — Baffin Island
All eyes will be on the Bridge as the Captain and his officers study the satellite imagery to determine whether ice conditions allow us to go south or north around Baffin Island. Our sights are set on the Fury and Hecla Strait, a narrow passage filled with islands and so clogged with ice—even during the summer months—that most ships find it impassable. The strait is named after the two ships of Sir William Edward Parry, who spent many years searching for the Northwest Passage.
If we are able to navigate the channel, we will embark on an exciting adventure far off the beaten path, discovering the islands of the Foxe Basin and Hudson Strait on foot, and by kayak and Zodiac. If the Fury and Hecla Strait proves impassable, we’ll round the north end of Baffin Island, where whales, birds and polar bears are plenty and opportunities to explore abound.
Days 17 through 20 — Exploring Newfoundland and Labrador
Voyage south along the coast to Newfoundland and Labrador, stopping at scenic Ikkudliayuk Fjord. At Hebron, see examples of Germanic mission architecture at the Moravian Mission, established in the 1830s to minister to the Inuit. Pass through Mugford Tickle, a channel flanked dramatically by the 4,000-foot Kaumajet Mountains. Continue to Battle Harbour, once the economic and social hub of the southeastern Labrador coast, and visit restored 18th-century whaling buildings. (B,L,D)
Day 21 — L'Anse Aux Meadows
In 1960, the remains of a Viking village established in the 11th century were discovered at L’Anse aux Meadows, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Walk among the Norse ruins and reconstructed sod huts and learn the saga of the Vikings in North America—nearly 500 years before Columbus arrived. (B,L,D)
Day 22 — Îles de la Madeleine
A cluster of wispy islands isolated in the gulf of St. Lawrence, the Îles de la Madeleine are home to miles of dunes, grassy hills, and red sandstone cliffs. Local experts guide us across this landscape of caves and sea arches while visiting colorful fishing villages and learning about Acadian culture. Weather permitting, set off to explore on a bike or in a sea kayak. (B,L,D)
Day 23 — Saint Pierre Island/St. John’s, Newfoundland/U.S
Disembark at Saint Pierre Island, France’s oldest remaining overseas territory, and board our private charter flight to St. John’s. Continue on a homeward-bound flight, or enjoy a complimentary overnight stay in St. John’s. (B,L)
Day 24 — St.John, Newfoundland
For those extending their complimentary overnight stay in St. John’s, enjoy a tour of the picturesque capital city of Newfoundland; visit Cape Spear and Signal Hill, discover the botanical gardens, or visit the historic Rooms Museum, a cultural center and art gallery. (B)
Gil Grosvenor has served National Geographic since 1954, first as a writer and photographer, then as the editor of National Geographic magazine, president of the Society, and, until 2010, as chairman of the board. Gil was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004. He was the fifth generation of his family to serve as National Geographic president and his great-grandfather, Alexander Graham Bell, was the Society's second president.