In 2010 the Queen Charlotte Islands were re-named Haida Gwaii to reflect their indigenous heritage. This was probably one of the first settled places in the Americas and the people have their own way of life and beliefs going back thousands of years. The place feels remote yet is only a two hour flight from Vancouver or a ferry trip from Prince Rupert.
One of the principle attractions of the islands is their natural beauty. They have evolved in isolation (much like the Galapagos) and are home to many unique species. Those who love forests will not fail to be impressed by the pristine temperate rainforests. There is lots of wildlife to see including bears, various species of deer, birds, and marine life. Bear watching and whale watching trips are especially popular.
This means that whether on a boat or on land there is lots for the wildlife lover to see. National Geographic voted the largest National Park on the islands as the best in north America. It has ancient forests, alpine tundra, fjords, mountains and lakes. The forests are particularly interesting as there is not much temperate rainforest left in the world. They are very green with thick layers of moss and trees which are over a thousand years old.
The Haida culture is a fascinating and unique one. A good place to start getting to know it is the Haida Heritage Center in Skidegate. They have examples of the local canoe construction, oral story telling, displays of the many local crafts and, of course totem poles.
Art was always a way for them to express their appreciation of the natural world and many of the traditional crafts continue today. Many Haida people are expert carvers. They tell the stories of their heritage in the totem poles and carvings which adorn their houses. In recent years many artists have been so inspired by the place they chose to make it their home. The arts enthusiast will find a number of galleries and modern artists to visit.
Many tours include a boat trip but they can also be arranged individually. This is surely one of the best ways to experience the archipelago. Many of the wild beaches, abandoned villages and forests can only be accessed from the sea. These are truly remote and special places to see.
Nowhere else on Earth is like Haida Gwaii. It remains relatively unspoiled and evidence of it's unique culture is everywhere. There are many varieties of tour with different focuses for the nature lover or culture vulture. It is also possible to travel independently but there is no transport on the islands so hiring a car or taking one over on the ferry is essential.
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