CANADIAN AFFAIR - THE TRAVEL EXPERTS
Call us today on 0203 424 6305

Where to see the Northern Lights in Canada

posted March 20, 2018


where to see the northern lights in canada

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are a spectacular natural phenomenon which so many of us have on our list of things to see in our lifetimes. What may surprise you is that one of the best countries to see them at their finest is Canada. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the mysterious dancing lights!

 

What is the Aurora Borealis?

The stunning spectacle of the Aurora Borealis occurs when electrically charged particles from the sun collide with gases upon entering our atmosphere. The collisions emit light which paint the sky with dream-like shapes and patterns. The Aurora can be many different colours, although the most common shades are green and pink – green for oxygen collisions and pink for nitrogen ones.

aurora over Yukon

 

When can you see the Aurora?

Although the phenomenon of the Aurora happens all year round, it can only be seen during winter as the rest of the year, the skies are too bright to see the lights. That means you’ll need to plan your Northern Lights tour for the winter time. November to March is usually the best time to see the lights, when the skies are darkest. The time of night when the light appears varies depending on your region, but usually between 10pm and 2am is a good bet.

 

Where are the best places to see the Northern Lights?

Much of Canada lies under the auroral oval, offering excellent opportunities to view the Lights from multiple locations. You can see the Aurora from British Columbia and Alberta in the West to Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador in the East. Simply decide which region you’d like to visit and find the spot to suit you!

Aurora Borealis in Canada

 

Whitehorse, Yukon

One of the best places to experience the magic of the Aurora is Whitehorse in the Yukon, where you can combine the best of the sky’s incredible light display with exciting winter activities.

The northern lights are a regular sight for those lucky enough to visit Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon, between autumn and spring. Northern Lights tours takes you away from the city to view the dramatic displays where there is no light pollution. Relax in a heated cabin or walled tent, while guides treat you to hot chocolate, tea and marshmallows beside a bonfire.

 

Northern Lights

Where to watch

Our favourite way to watch this amazing light show is in an exclusive viewing spot – a comfortable, warm cabin resembling those from the Gold Rush era – complete with snacks and hot drinks. Allow the beauty of the Aurora to take your breath away while you sit back and enjoy the view, listening to local stories about the area and its ancestry. Tours will transport you to the darkest spots, set up tents or cabins and provide the drinks, snacks and storytelling.

 

Where to stay

There are so many places to stay in Whitehorse. Try a romantic night in a Caribou tent or a more glamorous stay in a central downtown hotel. Discover an authentic experience in a local lodge or cabin on the shores of Lake Laberge.

 

What to do in the day

Not only does Whitehorse offer exclusive viewing spots at night, there is so much to explore during the day. Visit the city’s most popular attractions including Main Street, the Old Log Church Museum and Schwatka Lake. Getting out and about is the best way to meet the friendly locals while you’re at it. A dip in the Takhini Hot Springs – an outdoor pool providing a warm sanctuary to the cold weather – is also not to be missed.

 

While you stay in Whitehorse you can explore the scenic city, which was a Gold Rush settlement, and take in the stunning backdrop of the nearby mountains. During the day, go for a soak in the natural mineral Takhini Hotsprings, a 20-minute drive from Whitehorse. Also nearby is the Yukon Wildlife Preserve which is home to wood bison, woodland caribou, elk and lynx. Visit the Preserve and see animals like Dall sheep, mountain goats and moose in their natural habitats. With other activities including dog sledding, ice fishing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing, you won’t be short of things to do. Just make sure to pack your warmest clothes!

 

Our holidays

Try our Northern Lights of the Yukon tour. This 6 night tour spends 3 nights in Whitehorse with nightly Northern Lights tours and 3 nights in vibrant Vancouver. Includes accommodation, admission to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve and a trip to the Takhini Hot Springs.

 

Northern Lights in Canada

 

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Yellowknife sits on the shores of Great Slave Lake and is one of the closest cities in Canada to the North Pole. Yellowknife is one of the top northern lights destinations for two good reasons: it is directly under the auroral oval and, due to the area being mostly flat, it offers unobstructed views of the aurora borealis displays above. Unlike in the south, where the northern lights can be seen along the horizon, the displays here are seen directly overhead.

From a history in gold and diamond-mining to the popular month-long Snowking Festival, there is so much of interest in this provincial capital.

 

The northern lights across the sky with greens and blues

Where to watch

During winter, the surrounding lakes freeze and the flat landscape is ideal for unobstructed views of the skies. Low levels of rain in the region mean that most nights, the sky is clear. The latitude of Yellowknife also means that the Northern Lights appear directly overhead rather than on the horizon as with more southern regions.

 

Where to stay

Choose a modern, all-suite hotel which boasts the opportunity to see the Northern Lights right from your private balcony! Alternatively, a welcoming hotel in the centre of Yellowknife offers easy walking distance to attractions and activities in the town.

 

What to do in the day

There are so many winter activities to do in the day that you don’t need to worry about being bored! Dog sledding, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling… the list goes on. The Northwest Territories are renowned for their wildlife, so make the most of the opportunity to spot wolves, moose and bears in the wild. The nearby Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary is home to a herd of free-roaming wood bison.These magnificent animals are bigger even than polar bears.

 

Our holidys

Try our Yellowknife Nature Discovery Experience for 5 nights and 6 days. Includes meals and accommodation, Aurora hunting, float plane trip, tour of the bison sanctuary and more.

 

Aurora Eagle River1 2013 Roy Neese

 

Churchill, Manitoba

Known as the Polar Bear Capital of the World, this area is desolate and achingly beautiful in equal measure. The town sits under the auroral zone and Travel Manitoba says the northern lights can be seen dancing in the sky over 300 nights a year. From polar bears to Northern Lights, Churchill offers a truly unrivalled Arctic experience. Boasting excellent displays of the Aurora, tourists can find a little of everything in Churchill.

 

northern lights in canada

Where to watch

The Lights are best viewed when the sky is darkest from January to March but can be seen throughout the year here. In winter, watch nature’s greatest show from the comfort of a plexi-glass Aurora Dome, specially-made to maximise the views of the sky.

 

Where to stay

For the comforts of home, choose to stay in an inviting hotel in Churchill. For a more authentic experience, opt for the traditional lodge stay while on-board a Tundra buggy explorer trip across this wild expanse of the Arctic.

 

What to do in the day

Perhaps best known for its excellent wildlife spotting opportunites, it would be silly to miss out on seeing polar bears during your time in Churchill. The best way to get up close and personal to the bears is on a tundra buggy tour. Climb aboard and drive out into the wilderness for a unique view of the magnificent bears.

Hudson Bay is also famous for the thousands of beluga whales which migrate to the rich waters every year. However, this migration happens during the summer when it isn’t possible to see teh Aurora because of the long days (and even midnight sun!)

 

Our holidays

Try our Churchill Town and Tundra Enthusiast tour. This exciting trip combines the opportunity to see magnificent polar bears in the day with the chance of watching the Northern Lights at night.

 

wood buffalo national park

Edmonton, Alberta

While it is generally best to escape the bright lights of a city to see the northern lights, residents of Alberta’s capital see their share of the Aurora Borealis. There is even a dedicated website which predicts aurora activity in the Edmonton region: http://www.aurorawatch.ca/

In the past, Edmontonians have captured incredible displays dancing above the city’s skyscrapers on clear nights. If you are renting a car in Canada, there are lots of dark skies only a short drive away from Edmonton where you can see the northern lights in their full glory.

drumheller northern lights

 

Where to watch

There is no perfect place in or around Edmonton to watch the lights. You can see them over the city itself sometimes, but they will be faint due to the light pollution. Your best bet is to simply drive out of town to the quiet, dark countryside. Elk Island National Park, less than an hour’s drive from Edmonton, is a great place to see pristine, starry skies and spot the lights.

 

Where to stay

We’ve got plenty of hotels in downtown Edmonton which are perfect for staying at while you’re in the city. Edmonton lends itself really well to a fly-drive holiday as it is easy to fly into the city, hire a car and get yourself around.

 

What to do in the day

Edmonton is the capital of Alberta and widely regarded as one of Canada’s key urban centres. The city boasts a family friendly and fun atmosphere, with all ages being able to enjoy the city’s wide open spaces, festivals, museums and amazing shops. Elk Island National Park, mentioned earlier, is known for its conservation efforts for wood and plains bison herds. It is a beautiful place in winter, full of aspen woodlands, bugling elk and howling coyotes. You could also try a snowy Segway tour of the River Valley. Just remember than Edmonton is very cold in winter, so bring your snow gear!

 

Our holidays

Our Prairies to the Pacific driving holiday takes in Edmonton as well as other Northern Lights hot spots like Jasper and Drumheller. The holiday lasts 13 nights and 14 days, and includes your return flights and nightly hotels.

Canadian Aurora September 2011

 

Top tips for seeing the Lights

The best time of year for viewing the lights is during the winter months, usually from November to March. This can vary by location, so it’s a good idea to check for your region

Be prepared to stay up late! The best chance you can have to view the lights is usually between around 10pm and 1am, and most sightseeing tours will operate around these times

Find somewhere dark – light pollution will seriously inhibit your opportunity to see the lights. If you’re heading out to see them yourself, drive away from the city to somewhere well out of town. Remember to drive carefully and carry supplies with you.

Wrap up warm! Nights in Northern Canada in the winter can be very cold. Make sure to wear thermals, hat, gloves, insulated jacket and snow boots. If you go with a tour group, they may provide suitable clothing for you.

Bring provisions – a hot drink and snack will keep you awake and keep the cold at bay. Aurora hunting groups will often provide a snack and a drink around a campfire for you, in which case you only need to bring your storytelling.

aurora in canada

How we can help

A holiday to see the Northern Lights is an unforgettable experience, and with so much to do and see in Canada, our best piece of advice is don’t forget your camera! Whatever you choose to do on your holiday to Canada, Canadian Affair can offer help and advice on where to go and what to do. Contact one of our experts for more information.

 

Latest on Twitter

Canadian Affair on Facebook


Stay in touch & get regular updates

Sign up to our newsletter...

Invalid email