The Best Places to See the Northern Lights in Canada
From hot tubs to helicopter rides, these unique vantage points of nature's most spectacular light show will blow your mind.
What Are The Northern Lights?
The northern lights, also known as aurora borealis, are stunning displays of multicoloured light caused by solar winds meeting and reacting with the particles in Earth’s magnetic field. Sound impressive? Lucky for us, Canada has its fair share of beautiful places to catch a glimpse of these striking skies. You just need to know where to look!
Northern Lights Resort and Spa
Whitehorse, nicknamed the “Aurora Capital,” is one of the country’s premier spots to see the northern lights because of its high latitude. Since Earth’s magnetic field is weaker at the poles, more particles from the solar winds enter the atmosphere and collide with gas particles there, making the lights more visible in these regions.
At Northern Lights Resort and Spa, you can gaze at the colourful sky from one of their Aurora Glass Chalets, which are equipped with floor-to-ceiling wrap-around windows. What could be better than basking in the beauty of the northern lights without having to leave the coziness of bed? Before settling in to view the lights, treat yourself to a day packed with snowmobiling, snowshoeing, hiking, or ice fishing, then unwind with a visit to the spa where saunas, a jacuzzi with a panoramic view, and massages await.
Just don’t expect to catch this natural light show before August—it can be bright outside for up to 20 hours a day, making the winter months the best time to take advantage of this experience.
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Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Yellowknife is another essential stop on our list of where to see northern lights in Canada. There, you’ll find Aurora Village—an Indigenous-owned destination that consists of 21 traditional teepees surrounding a private lake. During the fall and winter, visitors are taken on unique tours to witness the spectacular colours dance through the sky from high up on the nearby hilltop viewpoints. A knowledgeable guide will be on-hand to walk you through the night sky—and they’ll even share a few expert photography tips to spruce up your Instagram. When there’s a break in the lights, you can warm up in a teepee and sip hot chocolate around the fire.
Lutselk’e, Northwest Territories
For those with a bigger budget, this once-in-a-lifetime experience is worth the splurge. Take a chartered plane from Yellowknife to Lutselk’e, a town 200-kilometers east of the Yukon capital in the North Slave Region of the Northwest Territories. There, you can visit the Frontier Lodge, a newly refurbished collection of rustic wood cabins owned by the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation. The secluded location has been a prime spot for seeing the northern lights for the past six decades, the vibrant bands of green and purple over Great Slave Lake lasting for hours at a time. Once you’re there, it’s also worth partaking in Frontier’s world class guided fishing tours. The lake is home to lake trout, arctic grayling, and northern pike. Frontier is also a gateway to Thaiene Nëné, Canada’s newest National Park reserve, where unspoiled nature awaits.
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Churchill Northern Studies Centre
Northern lights can be seen in Churchill for as many as 300 nights a year since it’s in the Auroral Oval, a ring-like region that surrounds Earth’s north pole where the northern lights tend to be the most visible. The Churchill Northern Studies Centre promotes research and education to better understand northern environments, and offers a six-day northern lights learning vacation in February and March. You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the northern lights from both the centre’s indoor glass dome observation deck or the outdoor lookout—all while learning the science behind what you’re seeing, and the research that goes into making these discoveries.
Check out this gallery of spectacular northern lights photography.
The Iceberg Inn is a fantastic budget-friendly option that’s perfect for solo travellers and families on the quest to see the northern lights. Located within walking distance from the train station (which is the easiest way to reach Churchill), the inn provides complimentary breakfast, and the owners advise visitors on the best spots to watch and photograph the sprawling display of colours in the night sky. Churchill is widely known as the Polar Bear Capital of the World and is a popular destination for wildlife lovers, as well. With that in mind, Iceberg Inn offers exciting tours guided by professional wildlife photographer Angela Mak, with expeditions focusing on polar bears in the fall, and beluga whales in the summer.
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Emerald Lake Lodge
Field, British Columbia
The far north doesn’t have a monopoly on the aurora borealis. Under the right conditions, you can catch a glimpse of them in Field, a small town in BC within Yoho National Park. For out-of-province travellers, planning a trip around seeing the northern lights here (or anywhere this south, for that matter) isn’t advised since it can be unpredictable, but locals can check out an aurora forecast and drop in for a visit when the time is right.
Located 20 minutes from Lake Louise, Emerald Lake Lodge has no cell service and limited Wi-Fi to help you really disconnect. Spoil your inner gourmet with three mouth-watering restaurants, offering everything from pizza to free range caribou. You can also enjoy the views of the northern lights from the outdoor hot tub. With the mirror-like Emerald Lake and Canadian Rockies as the backdrop, you’re guaranteed to get the most stunning pictures.
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Photo: Facebook.com/JasperCanadianRockies via @jomsdgzman
Dark Sky Festival in Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is the world’s largest accessible Dark Sky Preserve. This means that light pollution is restricted in the park, making it a magical spot to stargaze and experience the northern lights. In October, the town holds the Dark Sky Festival, which offers a host of events over nine days from yoga under the stars to lectures from scientists and artists, where you’ll learn about the aurora borealis (and other starry phenomena) from experts and see them in action. As in Field, B.C., seeing the northern lights here isn’t a sure thing, but the festival and its many activities are bound to keep you—and the whole family—busy during your stay.
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If you’re looking for adventure, head to Frobisher Inn, where, from October to April, you can take a helicopter ride over Nunavut’s beautiful glaciers and be closer to the northern lights than you ever thought possible. For those afraid of heights, fear not—the helicopter isn’t the only way to experience the aurora borealis. They can also be admired from nearby sightseeing trails thanks to Iqaluit’s characteristic crystal-clear skies. You can also enjoy Inuit cuisine at Frobisher Inn’s in-house restaurant, Frob Kitchen & Eatery, and learn about contemporary Inuit culture at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, just a 13-minute walk from the Inn.
If you liked our round-up of where to see northern lights in Canada, be sure to check out the best places for stargazing.