The aurora borealis, or the northern lights, is nature's most spectacular phenomena. The amazing light shows, caused by geomagnetic storms in the upper atmosphere, are most visible in the autumn, winter and spring in the Northern Hemisphere — so if you’re looking to head north this year to see nature’s most dazzling display, here are some of Canada’s top locations:
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (Yellowknife Tours)
Yellowknife is Canada's most popular destination for viewing the northern lights; there are numerous tour operators, though all one really needs to do is look up. Yellowknife Tours is the biggest northern lights tour operators in the city. They allow guests to view the lights while mushing a dogsled or while ice fishing over Great Slave Lake with their multi-day tour experience.
Battle Harbour, Newfoundland & Labrador
For those interested in photographing the northern lights, Battle Harbour provides a quaint backdrop. Battle Harbour is a restored village and a national historic site. The village is only open from June to September, but village operators hold nighttime tours near the end of the season. The lack of light pollution makes it a perfect viewing location.
Whitehorse, Yukon (Northern Tales Tours)
Many go to the Yukon to view the northern lights; Whitehorse’s Northern Tales is one of the more popular Yukon operators. They offer a variety of packages that take guests out into the wild. Guests can view the lights from a cozy secluded cabin or after a day of being pampered in a remote spa. However, the more energetic should try their Sourdough Rendezvous Tour. See the northern lights in the evening — then try dogsledding, flour-packing, whipsawing and chainsaw chucking during the daytime.
All of Nunavik — Arctic Quebec — is situated under the auroral oval. Since the region is so sparsely populated, there is virtually no light pollution; however there is almost no northern lights tourism infrastructure so visitors must find their own way in terms of viewing adventure. Therein lies the excitement. View them from a boat in the Hudson Bay, in a small town like Kuujjuaq, or outside of an igloo in the wilderness. The possibilities are endless.
Fort McMurray, Alberta (Alta-Can Aurora Tours)
Located on the 56th parallel, Fort McMurray is right near the auroral zone — Alta-Can Aurora Tours not only attracts North American viewers, but viewers from around the world. While the nights are reserved for northern lights viewing at a private location, the days are filled with hiking, local shopping and cross-country skiing. This is a tour for those who don't want to freeze their fingers off viewing the aurora borealis, as the private viewing location is indoors and heated — though still an excellent spot.
Paws & Paddles Wilderness Tours (La Ronge, Saskatchewan)
In the summer, Paws & Paddles Wilderness Tours is a popular canoe expedition operator. However, when the water freezes over, they switch over to sled-dog and northern lights tours. Guests help hook up the dog team before they are taken over a series of small frozen lakes. The night is spent in a trapper-style wall tent in the wilderness, whittling away the hours under the light show around a campfire before returning the next day.
Aurora Viewing at Inn on the Lake (Marsh Lake, Yukon)
The Yukon Adventure Company takes guests up to Inn on the Lake, Yukon from October until April to view the northern lights. While this is a great solo or group getaway, it is perfect as a romantic getaway for couples. Guests enjoy a sauna-sits, hiking or skiing during the day before cuddling up on the porch with a blanket or kicking back in the hot tub at night to view the lights. (Ice fishing is also available; guests smoke what they catch.) The cabin is spacious, secluded and very private — the perfect setting for a peaceful wintertime vacation.