LIGHTING UP THE NIGHT: Where to see Canada’s Northern Lights

From Alberta to the Alaskan border and Nunavut to the Northwest Territories, there’s a swag of spots right around Canada to see the Aurora Borealis when the colours start swirling.

From Alberta to the Alaskan border and Nunavut to the Northwest Territories, there’s a swag of spots right around Canada to see the Aurora Borealis when the colours start swirling.

The first time I spied the Northern Lights I was standing in a Fort McMurray field. It was a frosty night in the middle of an Alberta winter,  and the display was so vibrant it was like a Disney animator created the spectacle.

My second encounter was on the deck of an ice-strengthened ship cruising the Northwest Passage deep inside the Canadian Arctic. The bolts of pink and red above reflected in the opaque surfaces of the icebergs surrounding the vessel.

The third moment was in The Yukon, during a late-summer stay at a luxury lodge near Whitehorse. I spotted a purple haze creeping across the horizon during the few minutes of darkness when the sun finally set close to 2 am.

 

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Canada is one of the best places on the planet to savour the Northern Lights. With visitors exploring this lovely land, from the famous national parks near the US border to the isolated islands in Nunavut’s north. Witnesses  The Aurora Borealis dance across the night sky when conditions are right.

Here are three places that not only offer better-than-average chances of glimpsing the Northern Lights but let curious travellers see a rare side of out-of-the-way Canada.

 

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES

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Locals boast the Northwest Territories is the best place on the planet to catch the Northern Lights. The Aurora is visible around 240 nights every year – with the province capital Yellowknife an excellent base for autumn or winter visits.

Hop on a bush plane to remote Blachford Lake Lodge and spend days exploring the backcountry by foot, skates, snowshoes or snowmobile. When night falls the show begins, you can head to Aurora Village to camp under the stars in a cozy tepee.

 

THE YUKON

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It takes three hours to fly from Vancouver or Calgary to Whitehorse with the journey whisking travellers to an authentic frontier town that not only boasts a menagerie of wildlife, awesome scenery and gold-rush tales but easy Aurora access.

Stop at Takhini Hot Springs to do a spot of sky-gazing while soaking in soothing thermal water, check into the Northern Lights Resort & Spa for a comfortable lodge experience, or simply drive a few kilometres from town and park in a clearing to watch the ribbons of colour from the front seat.

 

MANITOBA

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Churchill is a secluded settlement on the edge of Hudson Bay in Manitoba’s icy north. Not only is it a wildlife lovers dream, looking for close encounters with polar bears and beluga whales. It’s an almost guaranteed Northern Lights location during the cold months.

Between September and November stay at Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge, during February and March join a Frontiers North after-dark expedition on board a comfortable Tundra Buggy, or dine at RAW: Churchill which is a pop-up shack with see-through ceiling inside the Prince of Wales Fort.