Nature's Greatest Show

Video c/o Destination Canada

Video c/o Destination Canada

The Aurora Borealis is getting stronger as we head toward the Solar Maximum, a time of increased solar activity that leads to more vibrant and more consistent Northern Lights.

There's no better time to plan a trip to see this celestial wonder. And luckily for us, Canada is one of the top destinations in the world.

How to See the Aurora Borealis in Canada

Photo: Travel Manitoba

Photo: Travel Manitoba

Stay Cozy in a Lodge

A lodge stay is one of the easiest ways to see the Northern Lights.

Aurora lodges, like the one featured in our Lakefront Cabin Stay near Carcross, are situated away from city lights, surrounded by nature. When staying at a lodge, you don't have to travel to see the lights — simply step outside and gaze up at the sky.

Lodge packages, such as our Northern Flavours Aurora Getaway or our Unforgettable Yukon stay, feature all-inclusive dining options included in the stay, and many have optional daytime outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling in the fall and snowshoeing, snowmobiling and dogsledding in the winter.

The best part is that a lot of these lodges have a wake-up service for when there is Aurora activity in the sky. This allows you to stay in the warmth of your room and even get some sleep without missing the show.

Go Aurora Hunting

When visiting Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, you can join in on an authentically northern experience: Aurora Hunting.

This Indigenous-owned-and-operated Aurora Hunting Winter Getaway is not stationary but rather takes you on the road in search of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis. With many years of experience, the guides not only tell engaging stories but know the best spots to showcase this natural phenomenon for incredible photos and a one-of-a-kind experience.

Mobility is a key benefit to Aurora Hunting. If cloud cover in one location is taking away from the visibility of the Northern Lights, you always have the flexibility to try somewhere else, something that is not possible at stationary viewing sites.

Visit A Dedicated Viewing Site

Dedicated viewing sites are spaces set up outside of city centres where there is little to no light pollution. They are designed to face the correct way in order to best see the Aurora and they often consist of warm huts, tipis, yurts or cabins where you can relax while waiting for the Northern Lights to appear.

There is usually an outdoor viewing platform and outdoor fire pits for staying warm. On these types of holidays, you will stay in a hotel in the city (such as Yellowknife or Whitehorse) and your local guide will pick you up around 10-10:30 pm, take you to the dedicated village area and then return you a few hours later (hopefully after having seen some amazing Northern Lights).

Our Aurora Borealis Adventure, our Yellowknife and the Northern Lights package, as well as our Roam Responsibly package are great examples of this type of trip. As far as guided Aurora tours go, visiting a dedicated site is the most economical.

Self-Guided Aurora Viewing

If you are more of an independed traveller, it is possible to create a self-guided Aurora trip. Book a cabin, hotel or Airbnb-type of accommodation and rent a car for the most flexibility. You don't need to visit any purpose built viewing sights to see the Aurora Borealis when visiting places under the Auroral Oval (such as the Yukon or Northwest Territories), but the Lights are best viewed in areas with little light pollution so getting away from city centres is key.

Our Whitehorse Eco Retreat combines a stay at a fully equiped cabins on the outskirts of Whitehorse with a car rental and pro tips for local viewing sights and guidance on how to get the most out of a self-guided tour.

Where to see the Aurora Borealis in Canada

Photo: Travel Manitoba

Photo: Travel Manitoba

Since the Aurora is an interaction of the sun’s released particles with the Earth’s magnetic field, the best places to see the Northern Lights is under the Auroral Oval, a 2,500 km radius that extends from the magnetic pole. Much of Canada sits under this Auroral Oval, which means the Aurora is clearly visible from the northern parts of nearly all of our provinces and in all three territories.

While you can catch a glimpse of the Aurora when visiting many spots in Canada, we focus our Aurora Borealis packages and experiences in three regions of Canada where the Northern Lights are most likely to be visible due to good weather conditions, the darkness of the skies, low to zero light pollution and the availability of local experts who know where and when to head out for Aurora viewing.

The three regions that we currently recommend are the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Churchill in northern Manitoba. These regions are situated directly under the Auroral Oval and when the Lights come, they are directly overhead. As you get further south from the Auroral Oval, the Aurora will appear more on the northern horizon rather than overhead. If you travel further north, the Lights can appear on the southern horizon.

When to see the Aurora Borealis in Canada

Photo: Frontiers North Adventures/Travel Manitoba

Photo: Frontiers North Adventures/Travel Manitoba

To see the Northern Lights at their best you need dark and clear skies. For this reason, summer is not a good time to see the Aurora since many of our northern areas experience nearly 24 hours of daylight and while the Aurora may actually be out, it is not visible.

Typically Aurora viewing is good from mid-August when the skies start getting dark enough to see the Lights until mid-April but this can vary based on location. Which month is best for you to visit will depend on what else you’d like to do on your holiday.

The Yukon’s Aurora season runs from late August until mid-April but you’ll get a different experience based on when you visit. September in the Yukon, for example, offers an explosion of red and golds on the tundra. February brings beautiful cold weather with enough daylight hours for daytime winter activities (as opposed to December when the days are much shorter).

In the Northwest Territories, there are basically two Aurora seasons — you can visit in the warmer weather from mid August until the end of September or in the colder weather from mid-November to early April. October through to mid-November is not a good time to go as the area tends to get a lot of precipitation during those weeks and the cloud cover makes Aurora viewing difficult.

In Churchill, the best times for Aurora viewing are during the clear and dark skies of February and March but that’s not to say you can’t see beautiful Aurora at other times. In fact, if you are lucky, you could combine an Aurora viewing trip with the area’s beluga whale migration season in August or polar bear viewing season in October and November.

Don’t be afraid to visit these amazing northern places in the winter — yes it does get cold but we have winter clothing rentals that will keep you toasty warm while out both during daytime activities and for your Aurora nighttime adventures.

Please let us know if you have any questions or would like to book a trip.