DISCOVER THE UNDISCOVERED IN YUKON, CANADA
When you consider Canada, a plethora of iconic images come to mind. Perhaps foremost are its majestic mountains and emerald green lakes, but consider for a moment experiencing these beautiful vistas away from the bustling tourist trails and combining them with historic ‘gold rush’ locations, the ethereal display of the Northern Lights and an unimaginable array of wildlife. Canada’s Yukon territory is an unspoilt land of breath-taking proportion and a destination of unmistakable beauty.
Sitting in the northwest corner of Canada, adjacent to the US state of Alaska, Yukon is one of North America’s most impressive wilderness destinations. If you have an adventurer’s spirit, a love of nature and a passion for exploration, Yukon should be at the top of your holiday destination list. It is not a choice for the feint-hearted, but it is a voyage of discovery with very rich rewards.
Without doubt, a self-drive itinerary achieves the most from any holiday to the Yukon, allowing you to combine scenic journeys along the legendary Alaska, Top of the World, Klondike and Dempster Highways with historic communities, cultural attractions and picture-postcard destinations. The Yukon can be visited year-round, although its remote location and harsh winters encourage all but the hardy to travel in the warmer months of May through September.
The Wilderness is Waiting
A staggering 80% of Yukon is pristine wilderness. It’s impressive that this Canadian territory is home to Mount Logan, Canada’s highest mountain, as well as Kluane National Park which is one of the world’s largest non-polar icefields and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but these landmarks represent just the start of its overall attraction. Hiking and biking are everyday pursuits when exploring the iconic wilderness parks of Kluane, Tombstone, Herschel Island, Chilkoot, Ivvavik and Fishing Branch. The famous Alsek, Tatchenshini, Snake, Wind, Firth and Yukon Rivers in addition to countless crystal clear lakes provide for leisurely days kayaking, sailing or canoeing, not to mention some quite legendary fishing, believed by many to be the best in the world.
Wild about Wildlife
The statistics are quite staggering! Roughly the size of France, Yukon has a tiny population of just 34,000 people, the majority of whom are concentrated around the largest city of Whitehorse. Compare this to its non-human counterparts: 160,000 caribou, 70,000 moose, 22,000 mountain sheep, 7,000 grizzly bears, 10,000 black bears and over 250 species of birds, and it brings into perspective how sensational it is for wildlife watching. Home to three national parks, six territorial parks and four Canadian Heritage Rivers, Yukon’s unique geographic landscape and varied eco-systems allow its wildlife to thrive with little threat. All three North American bears: Black, Grizzly and Polar, reside in the Yukon, in fact this is the most stable Grizzly habitat in North America and home to 30% of the continents population. The thick crops of berries and seasonal salmon runs provide the perfect feeding preparation for their long winter hibernation.
Join the Gold Rush
Of course the Gold Rush is synonymous with the Yukon. It is embedded in its history and infuses every Yukoner’s life even today. The Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 drew settlers from across the continent, eager to enjoy the extravagances afforded by the golden bounty which had initially been found in Bonanza Creek near Dawson City in 1896. Today this authentic frontier town remains loyal to its historic routes, with its wild-west style store fronts painted in vivid hues, a plethora of heritage sites and multi-cultural attractions. Using Dawson City as a base, visitors can take a step back in time and try their luck gold-panning at Claim 33 (a fun way to discover just how difficult the easy looking process was!), before visiting Dredge No. 4 which showcases the transition from manual panning to machine searching. The gold rush inevitably created heroes and villains, winners and losers and a whole host of entertaining tales and fables which are still shared today.
Natures Magical Show
There are very few natural wonders which create the spine-tingling feeling and magical awe you encounter when witnessing aurora borealis. Also known as the Northern Lights, the dense dark night skies created by Yukon’s remote setting, provide the perfect conditions for some of the most dramatic undulating ribbons of green, blue and red light. Although dependent on weather conditions and cloud cover, the best chance of dramatic aurora viewing is between autumn and spring.
Unless you have an infinite length of time to spend in the Yukon, it’s impossible to experience everything, so here are a few of our favourite things you might want to include in your itinerary:
• White Pass and Yukon Route – This vintage rail journey follows tracks constructed in 1901 on a spell-binding adventure. Climbing almost 3,000 feet in just 20 miles and featuring cliff-hanging turns, historic tunnels and numerous bridges, it boasts views which simply cannot be witnessed any other way.
• Carcross Desert – The smallest desert in the world at just 642 acres, 10,000 years ago this was the bottom of a large glacial lake! Carcross is home to Yukon’s oldest store as well as being the burial place of the three prospectors who started the Klondike Gold Rush.
• Emerald Lake – Located just 35 minutes from Whitehorse, Emerald Lake’s shimmering turquoise waters draw visitors from across the world. Unsurprisingly the lake holds the accolade of Yukon’s most photographed natural feature.
• Dog Sledding – A vital part of Yukon’s heritage and ultimately its survival, was the use of husky dogs for transportation. Today the tradition is kept alive by Yukon Quest, a gruelling two week, 1,000 mile annual race across the Yukon and Alaska. Muktuk Dog Kennels, home to over 60 dogs offers dog sled journeys in winter and dog walking tours in warmer months.
• Diamond Tooth Gerties – Located in Dawson City, this old-west style gambling hall is absolutely bursting with character. Enjoy on-stage live acts and historic-style gaming which transport’s you back to a bygone era.