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Where to See Northern Lights in Canada

Canada is one of the best countries in the world (if not the best) for catching a glimpse of Aurora Borealis. Here, it’s a frequent sight that can appear in the midnight sky in almost every season of the year. The mesmerizing game of light is not exclusive to remote northern areas. There’s a high chance of witnessing the phenomenon in the cities, smaller towns, next to the lakes, in the middle of the forest, or by the shores of the oceans. This is your guide on where to see the Northern Lights in Canada and have it finally checked off on the bucket list.

General tips for viewing the Northern Lights in Canada

The Aurora Borealis is a magical thing to see, but it doesn’t come easily, and you have to follow some rules to have the best chance of making it to the show.

First of all, you should be in an area with minimal light pollution. Lakes, meadows, and remote beaches will do. That doesn’t mean that you can’t see it from the city, but the spectacle will be much more intense when there are no artificial lights around.

Secondly, season matters. Different Canadian regions have different Aurora sightings at different times. For example, the Yukon is an all-around kind of destination, while in Ontario, autumn is the best time to see the Northern Lights.

Thirdly, the weather should be your friend, and checking the forecast is obligatory for increasing your chances of catching the Aurora. The best-case scenario is when there are no clouds above and the sky is completely clear.

Regarding the best time, expect the Lights to show up between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. September to March is the optimal period for Aurora hunting in Canada, as it includes fall and spring equinoxes with the highest solar activity.

The websites that will facilitate your Northern Lights chasing are Aurora Forecast, which covers the whole of Canada, and Aurora Watch, with a focus on Edmonton and Alberta.

Yellowknife - Northwestern Territories Yellowknife - Northwestern Territories
Credit: Yellowknife - Northwestern Territories by GoToVan via Flickr.com

Yellowknife - Northwestern Territories

Residents of the Northwestern Territories are privileged to see Aurora 240 nights a year on average. This fact alone can make the heart of any Borealis hunter beat faster. Yellowknife, the capital of the province and a Canadian city you definitely want to visit, is among the best places to see the Northern Lights in Canada thanks to easy plane access, a developed infrastructure, and an abundance of Aurora-themed activities. The skies are among the darkest on the continent here, there are thousands of bodies of water for a more scenic viewing, and thanks to a geographical position at the so-called Auroral Oval, the Lights here are at their most intense. 

Accommodation tip: See the show of the Northern Lights unfolding above from a quaint wood-stove heated teepee at the local hit Aurora Village.

Churchill - Manitoba Churchill - Manitoba
Credit: Churchill - Manitoba by Emmanuel Milou via Flickr.com

Churchill - Manitoba

With its Hudson Bay grandeur, high probability of polar bear viewing, ancient Inuit culture heritage sights, and fantastic bird-watching, Churchill is a gem of Canada’s far north. Also, the town is a Promised Land for anyone who wants to have an easy Northern Lights sighting; the area gets the phenomenon on average 300 days a year. That’s a perfect recipe for a successful hunt. The remoteness is another big draw for adventurers; there’s simply no road into the town. The only way to reach it is by plane and train. But once you arrive at this Arctic outpost, the activities menu is truly fascinating. You can rent an igloo with an Aurora view, go beluga and bear-watching, stay at the viewing dome on a rocket range, and embark on a photography tour. 

Accommodation tip: Aurora Domes allows you to see the Aurora Borealis in an unforgettable way and spend the most romantic night in your life.

Banff National Park - Alberta Banff National Park - Alberta
Credit: Banff National Park - Alberta by © Christy Turner | Dreamstime.com

Banff National Park - Alberta

One of the most impressive national parks in Canada also happens to be a fantastic place to see Aurora Borealis. It also presents the perfect balance between remoteness and civilization, as the best vantage points are close to Banff town, so you won’t have to be too far out. Come in autumn, preferably October and November, for the highest chances of seeing the Northern Lights. Breathtaking lakes of the area are the go-to places for some enchanting Aurora-watching experiences. The best spots are Lake Minnewanka, Peyto Lake, and Herbert Lake. 

Where else to see the Northern Lights in Alberta: Wood Buffalo National Park and Jasper National Park are two other highly popular spots for Aurora-watching thanks to being Dark Sky preserves with excellent conditions to witness the phenomenon.

Manitoulin Island - Ontario Manitoulin Island - Ontario
Credit: Manitoulin Island - Ontario by © Bazim0804 | Dreamstime.com

Manitoulin Island - Ontario

Yes, it’s possible to see the Northern Lights on a short day trip from Toronto; that’s the magic of Canada. Thanks to some spectacular bodies of water like Lake Huron and Lake Superior, as well as plenty of dark sky areas, you can easily spot the Aurora if you come at the right time to the right place. Manitoulin Island is generally considered to be one of the safest bets for Northern Lights watching in Ontario, with the local Eco Park being a top choice for rewarding starry sky gazing. Another location worth checking out is Killarney Provincial Park, one of the most beautiful small towns in Canada with impressive wilderness. The best chances for Aurora viewing are found in Ontario’s North, with Moosonee and Thunder Bay taking the lead. 

A tip for an unforgettable rail journey: Connecting Cochrane with Moosonee, the Polar Bear Express is a legendary Ontario train that lets you enter the Arctic by tracks and even see the Aurora while on board. 

Whitehorse - Yukon Whitehorse - Yukon
Credit: Whitehorse - Yukon by Studiolit via Flickr.com

Whitehorse - Yukon

Yukon is without any doubt a Northern Lights province; the smallest of Canadian territories is a land of spectacular wilderness and absolute connection with nature. Whitehorse is your ideal base for any Aurora-related activities. While you can even see the phenomenon inside the town border sometimes, it’s best to venture into the wilderness that surrounds it for the best chances. One of the most popular spots would be Fish Lake, providing the darkest of skies and easy car access. Also, you’ve got a wide array of specialized Northern Lights-watching tours starting from Whitehorse for an expert-guided experience. 

Unconventional Aurora watching tip: Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs is a truly royal way to see the Northern Lights from the heated comfort of a natural hot tub. And it’s less than 30 minutes away from Whitehorse, too.

Fort Nelson - British Columbia Fort Nelson - British Columbia
Credit: Fort Nelson - British Columbia by © Mumemories | Dreamstime.com

Fort Nelson - British Columbia

British Columbia has some awesome spots where the Aurora Borealis shines bright, and the Northern Rockies region is your best pick. Although quite a remote area only serviced by the small airport in Fort Nelson, it will gift you with countless moments of awe from the natural panoramas and unspoiled terrain. Nonexistent pollution in local, provincial parks makes stargazing extremely easy, and you’ve got vast, majestic open spaces to take a full breath and get one-on-one with British Columbia’s grandeur. The top spots to see the Northern Lights here are Muncho Lake, Liard River Hot Springs, and Stone Mountain. 

Top accommodation tip: The Northern Rockies are a popular camping spot, so choose your campground and enjoy the night under the stars in the best Canadian way possible.

Iqaluit - Nunavut Iqaluit - Nunavut
Credit: Iqaluit - Nunavut by Alan D. Wilson via Wikimedia Commons

Iqaluit - Nunavut

Arctic allure awaits you in Iqaluit, the far-away capital of the gargantuan Nunavut territory. If you’re an adventurous type, then the tundra of this enigmatic region calls your name. Aurora Borealis graces this land often, and Iqaluit gives you a strategic position to be ready to see the phenomenon in its cosmic beauty. Get on a helicopter ride over the glaciers, try snowshoeing and dogsledding, get on a specialized Northern Lights-chasing tour, and forget about the buzz of the big cities in the Big North. 

Best time to come to Nunavut for the Northern Lights: October to April is an optimal season for Aurora watching, with the most intense dance of light happening in winter.

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