Canada is prime territory if you’re an admirer of the northern lights. And, let’s be honest, who isn’t? This astonishing natural phenomenon can be experienced at a variety of interesting locations across the country, and here are some of the best places to witness the magic.
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Given there’s a 90 percent probability of viewing the aurora borealis here in winter, it’s no wonder why Yellowknife is considered the most popular Northern Lights destination in Canada. The nights are generally clear and free of precipitation, the landscape is flat and lacking in obstructions, and because it’s situated directly under the auroral oval, the stunning light displays appear overhead instead of along the horizon. Yellowknife Tours is one of the biggest tour operators in the city, offering multi-day adventures with nightly northern light displays. While you admire the night sky you can cruise on a snowmobile, experience a wild dog sled ride, or enjoy some ice fishing.
The northern lights are visible across the Yukon from fall to spring, but the capital city of Whitehorse is a hot spot for tour operators who offer really neat, specially designed tours. Northern Tales, a popular tour company in the region, has a wide variety of viewing-experiences to choose from. They mix aurora borealis sightings with relaxing getaways in spas and hot springs, remote journeys to secluded cabins and yurts, and vigorous adventures with dog sleds.
Athabasca Country, Alberta
Located between Edmonton and Fort McMurray, this rural Northern Alberta region is home to Athabasca University’s Geophysical Observatory, which is just one of just 18 stations in North America studying the magnetic effects of the aurora borealis. If the view of the northern lights is enough to captivate top scientists, it will definitely enchant the average tourist. The observatory at the university is not open to the public, but the surrounding region is a beautiful spot to cross-country ski or snowshoe while you watch the skies.
North of Saskatoon, there is a wealth of Saskatchewan destinations to choose from for a incredible northern lights experience. Eleven provincial parks, many open year-round, provide the perfect setting for an aurora-themed camping trip. The northeast city of Melfort has been called “the city of the Northern Lights” due to the frequency in which they appear. And the town of La Ronge is a starting point for many northern lights adventure tours, including fly-in ice fishing trips and dog sledding expeditions over frozen lakes. Paws and Paddles Wilderness tours is a popular local operator.
This northern town is famous for its polar bear population, but it’s also one of the best places on earth to view the northern lights. Due to its dark skies and ideal location under the auroral zone, Churchill provides dancing light displays more than 300 nights of the year. Combine a northern lights and polar-bear tour through Great White Bear Tours, where you’ll explore the region on polar rovers. If you prefer something a little warmer, Natural Habitat Adventures has custom-designed the Aurora Pod, a heated glass building with a 360-degree view of the night sky, so you can experience the northern lights from the comfort of reclining seats.
The arctic region of Quebec provides the perfect conditions for an aurora viewing. The land stretches under the aurora oval, and sparsely populated, which means there’s no light pollution to tarnish the view. There aren’t many established northern lights tour operators here, but that makes it the perfect opportunity to build your own adventure: visit the Kuujjuaq—the largest village in the area and try trout fishing or caribou hunting; take a boat out onto the Hudson River for a nighttime sail; spend a few days in an igloo in the wilderness. Whatever decide to do, you can bet it will be enhanced by an incredible backdrop.
Battle Harbour, Newfoundland & Labrador
This quaint, historic village is only open from June to September, but sky-watchers still flock here to catch the northern lights in action. The village operators hold nighttime tours that offer the perfect opportunity for photographers to snap shots of the lights with a picturesque village in the foreground. And if you’re looking for a little more adventure, just outside the town lies an expansive landscape, where you can explore fjords and icebergs as you continue your northern lights experience.