A wilderness to make the heart leap by Polly Evans, Jan 7, 2012
When people used to ask me which was my favourite place on Earth, I used to reply: "My own sofa." Then, five years ago, I visited Canada's Yukon for the first time and my answer changed. The Yukon - which borders Alaska in Canada's far north-west - is not a destination for fans of big-brand shopping or those who care if their nail polish gets chipped: Yukoners just don't get Prada and pedicures.
But if you are yearning for that intense sense of peace that comes only from travelling through vast expanses of untouched wilderness; if you want to feel your heart leap when a mother grizzly with cubs crosses the road in front of you; if you're intrigued by Gold Rush tales of courage and catastrophe; then the Yukon might be the place for you, too.
Hiking, canoeing and fishing are major draws of this sparsely populated land (almost twice the size of the UK, it's home to just 35,000 people). On my visit, I hiked with friends for nine days in Kluane National Park and we never saw another human soul.
But there are many more comfortable ways of answering the call of the wild.
Tour operator Bridge &Wickers is a Yukon
specialist and offers a range of exciting options for the adventurous traveller. You could take a self-drive trip along the Alaska Highway, which cuts through 1,300 miles of mountains, lakes and forests, staying in charming inns and lodges.
For even more freedom, rent a motorhome and stay at lakeside campsites en route. With a 4x4, you could take the Dempster Highway through spectacular mountain ranges and colourful tundra from Dawson City across the Arctic Circle to Inuvik.
Time your journey right and you might see the migrating porcupine caribou herd. This land is also prime habitat for bears and moose, while 137 species of bird, including eagles, have been recorded in the dramatic Tombstone Territorial Park through which the road passes.
Dawson City sprung up to house the Klondike Gold Rush. Home to 40,000 fortune-seekers in 1898, now just 2,000 people live there - and it's because Dawson has diminished rather than developed that the spirit of the Gold Rush lives on.
Visitors can relive the glory days of the dance-hall girls at Diamond Tooth Gertie's or sleep at Bombay Peggy's, whose namesake was a Gold Rush brothel madam. The truly adventurous will down a few bottles of Yukon Gold beer with those characters that locals call "the colourful five per cent" at the bar they've named The Pit.
Whether you are looking for the exhilaration of paddling a remote river, or prefer to photograph scenery from your car, the Yukon's panoramas are accessible to everyone - and with Bridge &Wickers's itineraries, you can take the wilderness the way you like it.
There's only one real danger - after the Yukon, your favourite place on Earth might never seem so enticing again.
Reader offer Bridge &Wickers (0207 483 6555; www.bridgeandwickers.co.uk) offers a two-week Yukon and Alaska self-drive holiday, staying in the best hotels and lodges, from £3,995pp, including flights, accommodation, car hire and transfers. Telegraph readers can save £200 per couple on bookings made by March 31, 2012. Quote: Telegraph offer.
The best way to experience the wonders of Kluane National Park is from above. A number of different helicopter tours are available which take in the majesty of the glaciers below. Not to be missed!