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March 21, 2018, Yukon, Canada

High and mighty

Snow-capped mountains, gold-rush history and breathtaking views await visitors to the Yukon

DAVID MENG

BE QUICK. Ahead: Snowy mountain peak with white, driven snow blowing like magic dust over its crest.

Missed it? Tsk, tsk. There’s no turning back; helicopters aren’t designed to do U-turns. But if you missed one mountain, don’t worry, there will be dozens of others sliding past the perspex canopy of your chopper.

Welcome to the Yukon, a sparsely populated territory in north-western Canada with almost half a million square kilometres of mountains, lakes, glaciers and tundra. And there is abundant wildlife: Bears frequently amble across the roads.

This is where the famous Klondike gold rush took place in the late 19th century. This is northern nirvana. No traffic jams. No crowds. No stress.

The Yukon has so much to offer. You can follow in the footsteps of the stampeders who braved the isolation and the harsh weather in search of gold. You can still try panning for gold, but the real riches lie in the region’s history and natural beauty.

So travel north. Enjoy the wide-open spaces. Keep your fingers crossed that you see the Northern Lights. And don’t forget your camera.

Canoeing

You haven’t experienced the Yukon spirit if you haven’t gone canoeing.

A great place to do it is Lake Kathleen in Kluane National Park. You can go hiking in the mountains as well, and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. The park has campsites and is home to Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak at 5,959m as well as the country’s largest ice field and North America’s most genetically diverse grizzly population.

Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall

Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall in Dawson City is a must-see.

It is Canada’s oldest casino and is named after the late Gertie Lovejoy, who was most famous during the gold rush era for sporting a sparkling diamond between her front teeth. Gerties has a famous high-energy and memorable cancan show.

After sunset

After sunset, the Yukon hills take on a colour of their own as a deep shadow settles across the ancient valleys. The many types of native foliage — birch, spruce, pine and aspen — lose their natural hue as the light fades, and the hills take on an intriguing range of blue tones. On a cloudless evening, they form a beautiful contrast against a light-orange sky, before the last light of the day is finally extinguished.

Dawson City

The bright colours of the buildings in Dawson City have an interesting history. During the gold rush, the only way to get supplies to the remote area was by a wood-burning sternwheeler (or paddle steamer) that plied the river in the warmer months, when it wasn’t completely frozen over. Paint, therefore, was ferried on these vessels and people took what colours were available, rather than what they wanted.

Getting there

There are no direct flights from Singapore to Vancouver although Singapore Airlines offers code-share services there.

Air Canada, United and WestJet are among the airlines that fly from Vancouver to Whitehorse, the Yukon’s capital. There are great mountain views en route.

Traveller’s tips 

- The temperature can go as low as minus 30 deg C in the winter, but generally, it is around minus 22 to 25 deg C at night and minus 10 to 15 deg C in the day. In the summer, it is generally within the 15 to 20 deg C range.

- The Yukon Visitor Information Centre in Whitehorse is at 100 Hanson Street.

- Dawson City (530km from Whitehorse) and Haines Junction (150km from Whitehorse) are worth visiting, especially if you want to do sightseeing flights. Two helicopter companies operate out of Dawson City — Trans North Helicopters (www.tntaheli.com) and Fireweed Helicopters (www.fireweedhelicopters.ca).

- The Northern Lights are a popular tourist attraction at certain times of the year.

- Speed limit signs in the Yukon are for kmh, not miles per hour.

- Check camping and trekking options and other facilities at www.travelyukon.com 

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