The skies across the country will light up with the breathtaking colours of the aurora borealis during the solar maximum this year. Here are some of the best spots to catch the view.
The aurora borealis is a regular sight for those lucky enough to visit the Yukon between fall and spring. Though the light display is visible across the territory, most northern lights tourism companies are based in Whitehorse.
Get away from the city’s light pollution and view the dramatic display from yurts and lodges or, for a real treat, combine northern lights viewing with a soak in the Takhini Hotsprings, just 20 minutes from the capital.
If learning about the science and folklore of the natural phenomenon is more your style, head to Watson Lake, Yukon to check out the Northern Lights Space & Science Centre, open year-round.
Muncho Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia
Muncho Lake Provincial Park is a convenient and picturesque stop along the Alaska Highway that crosses northern British Columbia. Watch the lights reflect off of Muncho Lake at the Northern Rockies Lodge — open year round.
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, is one of the top northern lights tourism destinations, and with good reason. Not only is Yellowknife – and most of the Northwest Territories – directly under the auroral oval, it is also mostly flat, providing unobstructed views of aurora borealis displays above. Yellowknife also receives very little precipitation making nearly every night a clear night, and, because of the city’s latitude, aurora displays appear directly overhead instead of just along the horizon as in the south.
View the northern lights while dogsledding or from a hot tub through one of many northern lights tourism companies or head out around midnight to the nearest hill to take in the breathtaking display.
Can’t make it to Yellowknife? AuroraMAX, a five-year educational project, broadcasts the northern lights displays above Yellowknife online.
Dawson Creek, British Columbia
To see the northern lights in British Columbia, you’ll need to get away from more than the city. You'll also have to escape the cloudy weather on the coast. Inland northern British Columbia, such as Dawson Creek, is a great place to spend a night with your eyes to sky before beginning a trip up the Alaska Highway.
One of the fastest growing cities in the country, residents of Alberta's capital see their share of aurora borealis, even in the city. Twitter captured the excitement last October when the aurora borealis made a stunning appearance over the skyscrapers of Edmonton. Plus, with dark skies just a short drive away, Edmontonians and visitors have many opportunities to catch the view on clear nights.
Even scientists agree this is a great spot to view the northern lights. Athabasca County, Alberta is home to one of just 18 stations in North America studying the magnetic effects of the aurora borealis. Athabasca University's Geophysical Observatory isn’t open to the public, however. Instead, head into the countryside on a snowmobile, dogsled or cross-country skis to take in the breathtaking view.
Fort McMurray, Alberta
Located on the 56th parallel, Canada’s energy capital sits under the auroral zone. Try out one of several northern lights tourist operators in Fort McMurray, Alberta or take in the view on your own.
With eleven provincial parks north of Saskatoon, many open year-round, there are plenty of places to tilt back your head and enjoy the action in the sky above. If adventure catches your fancy, Paws and Paddles Wilderness Tours in Air Ronge, Saskatchewan offers dogsledding northern lights tours. Or, visit Melfort, in the province’s northeast, to see if it lives up to its nickname, “the city of the northern lights”.
From polar bears to northern lights, this town is has a bit of everything for tourists looking for a taste of the North. Churchill, Manitoba sits under the auroral zone, and according to Travel Manitoba, the aurora borealis dances across the sky more than 300 nights a year. Venture out on a multi-day excursion or visit the Churchill Northern Studies Centre to learn more about astronomy and aurora.
North shore of Lake Superior
Lake Superior, the largest of the five Great Lakes, provides a dark backdrop to the northern lights. Take in the view while driving along the north shore of the lake or marvel at the beauty of the lights from the small community of Silver Islet.
Moose Factory, Ontario
For a unique northern lights viewing experience, visit the Cree Village Ecolodge in Moose Factory, Ontario. Learn about Cree culture during the day, then spend your nights taking in the breathtaking aurora borealis from the dock on the Moose River.
Manitoulin Island, Ontario
Watch the northern lights reflect off the water from this idyllic island in the northern part of Lake Huron. According to local myth, the island is home to Gitche Manitou. When you see the northern lights dancing overhead, it is a sign that the Great Spirit is home.
Torrance Barrens Night Sky Preserve, Ontario
Perhaps the closest dark sky to Toronto, the Torrance Barrens Night Sky Preserve is the place for southern Ontarian urbanites to take in the beauty of the night sky. The northern lights even makes an appearance on nights of strong geomagnetic activity.
It’s not uncommon to see the northern lights dancing above Iqaluit, Nunavut – when the sun sets, that is. Though much of the territory sits north the auroral zone, there is very little light pollution to impede the view. Unlike the other territories, though, Nunavut has little to no aurora tourism infrastructure. Visitors to the territory must find their own way to enjoy the natural phenomenon.
Most of Nunavik, the northern region of Quebec, is situated beneath the auroral oval. Kuujjuaq, Quebec, on the west shore of the Koksoak River, is the largest village in the region. Visit the village for the sea-run trout fishing or the caribou hunting, but don’t forget to look up at the stunning aurora borealis displays overhead.
Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador
This town on the Trans-Labrador Highway is a great spot for viewing the aurora borealis in eastern Canada. Find your way to the top of the “OMG Hill” at the Birch Brook Nordic Ski Club on a clear winter night and see the colours of the northern lights reflect off of the snow-covered trails.
Battle Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador
This restored village and national historic site provides a quaint foreground to your northern lights photography. Though only open from June to September, the lack of light pollution and northernly location make it a promising location for skywatchers.
Prince Edward Island National Park, Prince Edward Island
Even Canada’s smallest province has visible displays of the northern lights on nights with strong geomagnetic activity. With a population of less than 150,000, there’s little light pollution to hinder the view. Head to the PEI National Park on the north side of the island and watch the aurora borealis dazzle over the Atlantic Ocean.
Tobeatic Wilderness Reserve and Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
This south-eastern Canadian province may not top any list of northern lights hotspots, but the view at Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site and the adjoining Tobeatic Wilderness Reserve shouldn’t be underestimated. Kejimkujik, a Dark Sky Preserve, and Tobeatic have the darkest skies in the province, a crucial factor when trying to view the northern lights this far south. The nearby Trout Point Lodge has an astronomer on staff to take guests stargazing and alert them of northern lights displays.
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