“This vast and thinly populated wilderness, where most four-legged species far outnumber humans, has a grandeur and beauty only appreciated by experience. Few places in the world today have been so unchanged over the course of time. Get set to appreciate the bustle of Whitehorse before you head off into the wilds beyond.” – Lonely Planet’s Best of Canada: Top sights, authentic experiences.
I was in Yukon two weeks ago for 6 nights (2 nights at Boréale Explorers and Ranch and 4 nights in Whitehorse). For this travel tips Canada series, I would be sharing my experiences in Yukon specifically the different winter activities to do, where to stay and what to eat. By the end of it, I hope I have convinced you why you should visit Yukon in winter.
Where to stay?
Boréale Explorers and Ranch
Best Western Gold Rush Inn
The room at Best Western Inn was clean and well-maintained. But as expected from old building and wood flooring, sound insulation was not great. I could hear the television playing in the next room. Flooring would squeak when people in the next room or upper floor walked around. Anyway, I was mostly out very late on most nights for Aurora viewing so I would be so tired and just slept through. Other than the noice, it was quite a nice stay. The staff I have encountered were very friendly and helpful. It is also conveniently situated on Main Street in Whitehorse, where you can find many restaurants and shops.
What to do?
The town of Whitehorse
Whitehorse is the capital city of the Yukon Territory. It is not immediately appealing but rewards the curious. It has a well-funded arts community and good restaurants. A city tour was provided by Northern Tales. The tour took us around the town with a school bus, stopping at the Visitor Centre and SS Klondike.
SS Klondike was one of the largest stern-wheelers used on the Yukon River. It was built in 1937 and made its final run upriver to Dawson in 1955. It is now a national historic site.
I might also add that Northern Tales Tour is incredible and provide excellent services. Planning and booking of the tours with them through emails were easy and fast reply. They were very patient and answered all my questions. All of the tour guides I met were actually not from Yukon or even Canada. Most of them were from Europe, Japan and other countries but they were so friendly and passionate about Yukon! A special shout out to one of the tour guides, Martina. She is from the Czech Republic but loves Yukon so much. I have been on a lot of tours but this was my first encounter with such a passionate and kind-hearted guide.
Strolling around Boréale Explorers and Ranch
Once again, I LOVE this place very much. I took my time to stroll around the area – I have not felt so peaceful in a while. I absolutely love the emptiness – it was only me and the nature. This allow me to enjoy photographing the area even more!
This is definitely the highlight of my trip! These dogs were too adorable!
I got to do my second dog sledding activity with Sky High Wilderness Ranch as part of the Ultimate Winter Experience/Multi Activity Tour. This is a great mix of the winter experience including Dog Sledding, Snow Mobiling, Snow Shoeing and Tabogganing (the other three are covered below). I did not get to lead the dogs and was only a passenger in the sled but still had lots of fun. As this is a Multi Activity Tour, each activity was very short. Nonetheless, all were amazing. I highly recommend this tour as this will give an overall experience of winter activities, especially if you have a short trip.
I actually have a funny story for the Aurora Viewing on my first night in Boréale Explorers and Ranch. Apart from me, there were one couple and a family of four that stayed in the ranch. They lost the interest to hunt for Aurora as they were not able to see any activity during their stay. So I was the only one who was up late at night – everyone else was already sleeping. But I was still excited – I put on the bulky winter wear, took the tripod and stepped out of the house. I walked into the Aurora viewing site, then a thought came over me…I was the only one out here in the wild! It was COLD & pitch-black! It was quite windy too so I could hear the wind blowing through the trees.
Now imagine this, I was standing far away from the house, it was very dark and the sound of the wind blowing through the trees…it was….real creepy….! I kept imagining things I should not! Ha! I was out there all alone and quite scared to be honest, trying to take some photos but I could not see much Aurora activity. Then, I creeped myself out and decided to head back to the house before midnight.
The second night was much better. There were an additional 6 people coming in to stay! I met a lady from Korea, Miri, who specifically fly to Canada just to visit Yellowknife and Yukon for the Aurora! Talk about passion and interests! A few people stayed till midnight but Aurora activity was again very low so we could not see with our naked eyes. I could capture some Aurora using long exposure. Miri has kindly accompanied me till almost 2am! Thanks to her I managed to get the photos above 😀 Otherwise, I would be creeped out again.
I also did two nights of Aurora viewing at one of the Northern Tales viewing sites. They were located ~20 mins drive north of Whitehorse. These sites were built in the tradition of the historic wall tents, used by gold seekers and trappers one hundred years ago. The tents were kept at a comfortable temperature with a wood fired barrel stove. Hot drinks and snacks were provided too, which were very much needed after being out in -30 degree C and below.
Yukon Wildlife Preserve
Snow shoeing was actually very fun! We were accompanied by a guide. He explained the traditional forms of transportation during winter (snow shoeing) and how it changed throughout history. It was a very lovely walk – views were incredible and stay alert for the wildlife!
We spotted a snowshoe hare, hiding between the trees during our snow shoe walk. It was really hard to spot the hare because the fur is white! We could only see its eyes. The Snowshoe Hare swops its fur coat twice a year to camouflage with its surrounding. In winter, the hare’s fur is a snowy-white; as the days lengthen it becomes a rusty or dark brown with hints of white and black. So smart aren’t they!
Snow Mobiling was great too even though I was only a passenger. We drove around the area and over the frozen lake. Stopped at the lake and the guide showed us how to drill ice fishing holes. It was a nice experience.
Other winter activities to do
I also did some tobogganing, a classic winter-to-dos. Ice fishing looks interesting – I would try this in the future.
Where to eat?
“The food is far better than the coy name suggests! Brunch is excellent at this inviting bistro (try the French toast) and lunch and dinner specials abound. Food is local and seasonal. Good salads, sandwiches and Yukon meats.” – Lonely Planet’s Best of Canada: Top sights, authentic experiences.
I had late lunch and ordered the “Pulled Pork Sandwich with truffle fries”. The sandwich is not too bad. The truffle fries were interesting but rather oily. Portion was huge so consider sharing with friends/family so you can try more dishes.
Gold Pan Saloon
I had several meals here including breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is conveniently located on the ground floor of Best Western Inn. Breakfast was pretty good considering the price – eggs were nicely cooked but not a fan of the potatoes. Lunch and dinner were okay too again considering the price.
This is one of the more modern and hipster-like cafes in Whitehorse. The pastry is quite good and they serve latte! It did get pretty crowded around lunch hour so try going before or after 12 noon.
Other restaurant worth trying is Klondike Rib & Salmon, recommend by Lonely Planet. “It looks touristy and it seems touristy and it is touristy, but the food is excellent at this sprawling casual place with two decks. Besides the namesakes (the salmon kabobs are tops), there are other local faves.” – Lonely Planet’s Best of Canada: Top sights, authentic experiences.
Have you been to Yukon? I’d love to hear your experiences! Leave your comments below. If you haven’t, I hope these photos would inspire you to explore this beautiful territory.
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Next on the travel tips USA series is Boston. Stay tuned!
Camera: Nikon D800 or iPhone7plus.
Lens for Nikon: Tamron 24-70mm F/2.8.
Post-processing: Adobe Lightroom Classic CC.