As soon as I stepped off the plane and into Yellowknife airport, the cold literally took my breath away.
I’d known it was going to be cold – after all, I hadn’t spent the last two hours wrapped up in approximately 50 layers for nothing – but still. -35 degrees will always have the power to surprise me.
Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, is situated just 400km south of the Arctic Circle. At the beginning of March, I braved the chill to explore and find out what this remote, gold mining town has to offer. We stayed with much-loved Canadian hotel, Days Inn, for a week of snowy fun. Here are some of the highlights.
Thanks to its northern location and flat landscape, Yellowknife is one of the best places in the world to see the famous Northern Lights. There are a number of tour operators who will take you out aurora hunting, and you can often spot them from town – but by far the most luxurious way to see the “Green Lady” is to visit Aurora Village.
This village in the middle of nowhere is the ultimate in cosy, wilderness chic. As well as a lodge and restaurant, a number of heated tepees are clustered around a frozen lake, upon which you can relax and watch the lights. In the tepees you’ll find a burning wood stove, unlimited hot chocolate and the perfect place to warm up in between (hopefully) Northern Light viewings! Tours at the village tend to last between 9pm and 1:30am (but if you haven’t seen anything by this time you can opt to buy an extension for $25 per 90 minutes).
Aurora Village is also open during a day, and has a completely different vibe. Book an additional tour to enjoy dog-sledding, a giant ice slide, ice hockey and snow-shoeing.
Comfortable, central accommodation
Despite its isolated location in the north, Yellowknife is home to a number of well-known hotels. Days Inn is perfectly located between the historic Old Town and more modern downtown with its shops and amenities. There’s a free shuttle to pick you up and drop you off from the airport, and all of the major tour operators also stop here.
The rooms are spacious, comfortable and well-appointed. Many of our nights in Yellowknife were spent out in the chilly night air spotting hunting for the Northern Lights, and there was truly nothing better than coming back to a toasty room, putting on the huge TV and relaxing with a hot cup of tea in the comfy double bed.
The hotel has you sorted for eating out, too – the Mantle Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Find out more about Days Inn.
Eating and drinking
Yellowknife surprised me with its eclectic menu of eating and drinking options. For classic pub grub, head to the NWT Brewery – this is one of the hippest and most modern places to eat out in Yellowknife, and they also brew their own beer (it’s delicious).
Also, you can’t visit the city without heading to Bullocks Bistro. Nestled on a quiet corner in the Old Town, it doesn’t look like much – but inside, you’ll find colourful walls with every inch filled with customer messages, and some of the best fish and chips I’ve ever had.
For something a bit different, check out Zehabesha, a beloved local institution specialising in authentic Ethiopian fare. The spicy and sunny flavours are ideal for warming you up on those -40 degree days.
Many thanks to Days Inn for hosting me for my stay in Yellowknife.
You can find out more about our travel writer Amy and her adventures in Yellowknife by visiting her blog, Bambi Jane.