March 28, 2024

Your Ultimate Guide to the Northwest Passage Expeditions

- By Jules Torti

Continue reading Your Ultimate Guide to the Northwest Passage Expeditions

Are you eager to follow the sea route of fearless early Arctic explorers and navigate one of the world’s most historic waterways? This western corridor slices through Canada’s Arctic frozen archipelago, skirting the northern coast of North America—it’s one of Canada’s most culturally and historically significant landmarks.

European explorers searched in vain for this vital passage for 300 years, intent on finding a commercially viable western sea route between Europe and Asia. Our 17-day small-ship polar expedition navigations: Into the Northwest Passage and Out of the Northwest Passage come with a little more pampering and comfort but still retains all the irreplaceable thrills and chills of early expeditions.

Both journeys are an incredible introduction to the land of two names—from its mineral depths, sovereignty battles, glacier faces, Inuit resilience, explorer graves and polar bears. There’s so much to learn about climate change, icebergs, colonialism, narwhals, belugas, tundra flora, early seafaring and Inuit traditions. 

What’s so different about the two itineraries? Are they really the same, but reversed? (They’re not!) In this Ultimate Guide to the Northwest Passage post we break it down like a calving iceberg for you!

Both trips include the following:

  • checkmark icon A complimentary expedition parka jacket (shell)
  • checkmark icon A $250 donation to the Discovery Fund that supports local youth outreach, community support and habitat projects. 
  • checkmark icon All the amenities of the 198-passenger Ocean Endeavour. There’s a doctor, paramedic and medical clinic for complete peace of mind. On the ship there are several lounge areas, multiple viewing decks, a library, a gym and 24/7 coffee and tea.
  • checkmark icon The opportunity to kayak or mountain bike (additional fee)

You may choose to enhance your adventure by kayaking. Qajaq is the proper phonetic spelling of “kayak” and the Qajaq program is an intimate way to connect with the marine environment. Rated as a moderate activity, some kayaking experience is required and there will be a minimum of two kayak excursions during the voyage.

If you prefer turf over surf, you can also rent a Kona mountain bike to spin around on during a predetermined community visit! Aboard the ship, you are welcome and encouraged to participate in the daily schedule of workshops, lectures and entertainment. Provided that the sea conditions are favorable, you can join the exclusive Wild Women polar plunge club and take a deep dive into the Arctic Ocean. 

Though it may seem like the route into the Northwest Passage is simply flipped to go out of it, the navigations do differ! However, on both routes you will see:

Beechey Island 

Franklin’s crew wintered on Beechey Island during their search for a Northwest Passage but became icebound off King William Island the next year. Beechey Island Sites is a testament to the resilience of several ship crews who had winter encampments here, beginning with Franklin’s team in 1845-46. Three of his 130-person crew are buried here. The experience includes an introduction to the Guardians of Terror Bay program. This is the first national historic site (home to the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror) to be co-managed by Parks Canada and Inuit in Nunavut.

Tallurutiup Imanga (Lancaster Sound)

Explore one of Canada’s newest National Marine Conservation Areas. Narwhal, beluga, and bowhead whales frequent this area. Sea conditions permitting, there will be Zodiac excursions on this sub-zero safari!

Talluruti Island (Devon Island)

Located on the northern border of Tallurutiup Imanga, it’s the largest uninhabited island on Earth at over 31,069 miles (50,000-square-kilometers). The island’s landscape is a crazy contrast of  flat-topped mountains, spectacular glacial valleys and a substantial ice cap. Talluruti translates to “a woman’s chin with tattoos on it” and visually describes the crevasses and streaks on the island that (from a distance) resemble the traditional tattoos.

What’s so different between the two itineraries?

Into the Northwest Passage

August 27–September 12, 2024 (17 days)

Embark: Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Disembark: Kugluktuk, Nunavut

Flight path: This trip begins in Toronto, Ontario (YYZ) with a northbound charter flight to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (SFJ) and returns from Kugluktuk (Coppermine), Nunavut to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (YZF). 

We will see: Davis Strait, Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), Prince Regent Inlet

Davis Strait 

This route follows the Davis Strait which splits between southeastern Baffin Island and southwestern Greenland. Narwhals, bowhead and pilot whales are known to cruise through the Strait in the company of little auks (dovekies) though sightings are always dependent on zooplankton and schools of fish like the Arctic cod.

Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet)

We will attend a vibrant cultural performance by the talented Tununiq Arsarniit Theatre Group. There will be drum dancing, unforgettable throat singing and storytelling by the Mittimatalik and those who proudly call this frozen scape home. You’ll also have views of Bylot Island which has the largest breeding colony of greater snow geese in the Canadian High Arctic and 74 unique species of Arctic birds.

Prince Regent Inlet 

We will spend two days in this area—birders can check off thick-billed murres and ivory gulls! Beluga, narwhal and bowhead whales reside in these ice-strewn waters as well.

This carefully curated itinerary begins in Greenland, navigates the Ilulissat Icefjord (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Davis Strait; crosses the imaginary Arctic Circle and includes remarkable tundra hikes and unforgettable Zodiac cruises.History unfolds in museum and cultural center visits through traditional art, throat singing, drumming and storytelling. We explore the abandoned Royal Canadian Mounted Police post and Hudson’s Bay Company site at Dundas Harbour.

Out of the Northwest Passage

September 1–September 17, 2025 (17 Days)

Embark: Kugluktuk, Nunavut

Disembark: Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Flight path: This trip begins in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (YZF) with a northbound charter flight to  and returns from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (SFJ) southbound to Toronto, Ontario (YYZ). 

We will see: Bellot Strait, Ausuittuq (Grise Fiord), Smith Sound

Bellot Strait 

This narrow passage separates Somerset Island from the Boothia Peninsula. As we sail through this 1.2 mile-wide (2km) waterway, we’ll join an exclusive club–those who have seen the northernmost part of continental North America.

Ausuittuq (Grise Fiord) 

Asuittuq means the “place that never thaws.” This frozen expanse sits 715 miles (1,150km) above the Arctic Circle. In 1953, Inuit were relocated here by the Canadian government under false pretenses, with the hidden agenda of asserting Canadian sovereignty. The “Inuit Relocation Experiment” was an embarrassing failed attempt—we’ll meet community members and hear poignant stories about their lives and dreams.

Smith Sound

We will follow the ancient Inuit travel route that divides Ellesmere Island from Greenland and served as the main route for fearless explorers and adventurers searching for the North Pole.

Similar (but opposite and a little bit different) to Wild Women’s Into the Northwest Passage Expedition, this unique trip twist offers the opportunity to travel ancient Inuit and explorer routes out of the Northwest Passage via Bellot Strait, Ausuittuq and Smith Sound and the  Kangerlussuaq Fjord (Søndre Strømfjord)–the longest fjord in the world.

Now it’s up to you, fearless Wild Woman! Which navigation will it be? Into or Out of the Northwest Passage?

*Please note that upon booking, charter flight arrangements will be made for you by WWE and added to your trip’s final balance.

Please confirm you are a person.

Find Your Trip Let's Talk!