Canadians are lucky. We don’t have to cross any borders to see the northern lights. Of course, many of us may have to travel a while: the Aurora Borealis are best seen between 66 and 69 north latitude, which, fortuitously, includes the northernmost parts of the country. If watching the dancing sky lights that signal an electromagnetic storm is on your bucket list, keep in mind that you’ll have the best chance of seeing them clearly between December and May, with the best chance of catching them occurring between January and April.
Aurora Village, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Yellowknife is a natural first destination to check out the Aurora Borealis, as it sits nicely underneath the auroral oval. The ring around the top of the world where the northern lights are most likely to appear. In fact, the northern lights are likely to appear 200 nights out of the year in the Northwest Territories, thanks to the area’s clear skies and low humidity. Aurora Village, 25 minutes outside of Yellowknife, offers an ideal spot to catch the lights from the top of five viewing hills scattered across the property. Relax in heated viewing chairs, modeled on traditional Indigenous sleighs, that swivel 360 degrees to give you the best possible view. To warm up, duck into one of 21 heated teepees, complete with wood stove and hot drinks.
Takhini Hot Pools, Whitehorse, Yukon
There are loads of places to watch the aurora in Yukon (in fact, you might have better luck seeing them further north in Dawson City), but the chance to watch them while soaking in naturally mineral-rich hot springs is pretty hard to resist. Head to Takhini Hot Pools, about 25 minutes outside of Whitehorse, where you can sink into the hot water and (hopefully) watch the dancing lights from the steamy warmth of one of two pools.
Muncho Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia
You need to get away from B.C.’s coastline to see the aurora clearly — there are too many clouds close to the ocean to get a good view. Head north up the Alaska Highway and stop at Muncho Lake Provincial Park between December and May, and you may be rewarded with a light show. While the park’s campground isn’t open during the winter, the park is still accessible (check the website for visitor alerts). People have actually reported aurora sightings year-round. Get there in daylight to get a look at the unusual “folded” limestone mountains and the park’s aqua-green lake.
Salmon Valley Church, British Columbia
20 minutes north of Prince George on Highway 97 you’ll find Salmon Valley Road. Head down the road about 5-10 minutes, and you’ll come to an old church and a favourite spot of photographer Kris Foot. (Check out this article for other great aurora-watching spots in B.C.) The secret to great northern lights photography? Get away from the lights of the city and wait for a clear night. An aurora alert app doesn’t hurt either.
Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador
According to Canadian Geographic, the best place to catch the northern lights in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is from the top of the aptly named OMG Hill at the Birch Brook Nordic Ski Club. If you don’t feel like making the effort to climb the hill (understandable), Northern Lights Dog Sledding will take you on a two-hour nighttime ride across the snow. Even if the aurora doesn’t make an appearance, you’ll still get a spectacular view of the stars.
Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
A dark sky preserve (as is the nearby Tobeatic Wilderness Reserve), Keji, as it’s familiarly known, is far enough away from the lights of Halifax that the northern lights are visible on nights of significant electromagnetic activity. Head out on a clear, moonless night and look towards the northern horizon to increase your chance of seeing the aurora. The dark sky preserve also offers night hikes, outdoor amphitheatre shows and even nighttime canoe excursions.
Moose Factory, Ontario
Make your way to Cochrane, then hop on the train for the five-hour trip to Moosonee. From there, take a boat taxi, helicopter or regular taxi, depending on the time of year, across the Moose River to Moose Factory. The Cree Village Ecolodge is the perfect spot for both aurora viewing and learning about the area’s Indigenous culture and fur trade heritage.
Although Churchill is best known for its polar bears, it’s also a fantastic spot to see the northern lights. Peak viewing time is between January and March, but the lights are visible up to 300 nights per year. While you can take a tour out of the city in a heated tundra buggy, you can also watch the aurora from the viewing lounge or deck at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. A quick 20-minute drive out of Churchill will take you to the Aurora Domes, a number of plexiglass domes where you can watch the lights in heated comfort.