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Best Time To See The Northern Lights In Canada: 8 Best Spots

best time to see the northern lights
Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

For generations, the beautiful dancing waves of lights have attracted thousands of people with their beauty and attractive light show. They cast a greenish glow, or occasionally a faint crimson, on the horizon towards the pole, seeming to give an effect of the rising Sun. In the northern hemisphere, we call them the northern lights or Aurora Borealis, whereas the southern lights or Aurora Australis are used to describe them in the southern hemisphere close to the South Pole.

The best place to see the northern light is in Canada. One of the most sought views is the streaks of light that can enchant the viewers. Let me get you an overview of the best time to see the northern lights in Canada and where you can get a chance to witness this atmospheric marvel when going aurora hunting.

The phenomenon that gives rise to this beautiful streak of lights is rather violent. Often regarded as the Holy Grail of skywatching, the northern lights are an exhibition of artificial light due to the atmospheric phenomena observed mainly in the high-latitude regions.

It is a solar cycle caused due to solar activity when energized solar flares release solar particles. The coronal mass ejections of the Sun collide with the Earth’s atmosphere, mainly the upper exosphere and thermosphere, at a very high speed. We are protected from this surge by the Earth’s magnetic field. The Earth’s magnetic field then radiates it towards the poles, transforming into a cinematic effect of light, fascinating the spectators of this phenomenon.

Galileo Galilei, an Italian astronomer, was the person to coin these lights the name of ‘Aurora Borealis,’ the Greek god of the north wind. However, the earliest known evidence of the northern lights has been gathered from a painting in France dating back to 30,000 years.

Best Time To See The Northern Lights In Canada

The atmospheric phenomenon which gives rise to the northern lights can be seen with the naked eye. Canada gives a view of the northern lights in almost all four seasons. Although it happens all year round, the possibility of seeing the northern lights increases much more in the winter months, followed by clear nights, dark skies and clear skies. Cloudy weather, cloudy skies, excessive light pollution or city lights hinder the aurora forecast.

The northern lights season is mainly considered the winter months from November to March, the best time to see the northern lights. With longer dark hours, clear nights and minimum light pollution, the time around midnight, from 10 pm to 2 am, is considered the window hours to view the spectacular display.

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Most North Canadian land lies under the aurora zone or the aurora oval in the Northern Hemisphere. The auroral oval is a massive ring above the Geomagnetic North Pole of Earth. Viewing aurora forecasts is also considered the hot spot to witness the spectacular northern lights. Although almost every Canadian city or province can give you a view of the northern lights, the following mentioned are some of the popular northern lights destinations.

1. Some Best Spots To See The Northern Lights During Winter Season

1. Yukon

Yukon’s Wild West has long been the setting for legendary adventures, dating back to the days of the Gold Rush. Dogsledding, fat biking, and roughing it out in the open prospector style are a few activities to try out, and from September to April, you can catch the northern lights while you’re there. Despite being a great reason to visit, the Midnight Sun makes it such that the night sky is not dark enough to observe the aurora borealis in the summer. The aurora sighting can be viewed best in the late winter and early spring.

Take pictures of the frequently explosive show or, even better, watch it in person to ensure you don’t miss anything. In the winter, Northern Tales offers a range of aurora packages and excursions, including ice fishing and dog sledging. Choose between a comfortable, insulated yurt or a warm First Nations-style teepee at the AuroraCentre of Arctic Range Adventures.

To complete the pleasure, incorporate dogsledding, animal viewing, and a dip in Takhini Hotsprings. Boréale Explorers, a team of expert mountain bikers, operates a chic eco-lodge and basecamp in Yurtville, close to Whitehorse, where they organize guided snow riding and aurora combo trips as well as snowmobiling and dog sledging excursions.

Photo by Tobias Bjørkli on Pexels

2. Nunavut

Nunavut also is a great place to see the aurora because of its vast open tundra and northern location. With 16 hours of daylight each day from May to August and 24 hours per day in June and July, the spring and summer seasons in this region are characterized by what seems to be an infinite supply of daylight. Travelling during the long, gloomy months of October through April is best. For instance, there are just four hours of daylight in December. Locals enjoy the regular, rippling aurora displays throughout this time of year.

Consider travelling to a remote traditional Inuit community like Kimmirut, where you may go kayaking and observe icebergs. Alternately, go to Whale Cove, where you may go fishing after a night of aurora viewing and see beluga whales.

Some Other Great Spots To See The Northern Lights In Canada

1. Northwestern Territories

The Northwestern Territories of Canada is also known as the Northern Lights mecca. Here, the lights are typically visible almost every night of the year, indicating high solar activity in the area, which is the best site in Canada. The region is blessed with clear nights, low humidity and a location directly beneath the auroral oval.

Licenced tour operators provide a wide range of experiences along with northern lights experiences, including luxury hotels to stay in. A bus tour from Yellowknife to Great Slave Lake in the aurora season is an even more adventurous experience to see the northern lights.

2. Newfoundland And Labrador

The most breathtaking choice in the summer months from early April is likely an exclusive journey to Torngat Mountains National Park on the Labrador Peninsula. The geology is unusual and stunning, the rock formations are four billion years old, and the Inuit way of life is still practised there. Remote Torngat Mountains Base Camp and Research Station, which opened its doors in the summer, put you in touch with the land, the Inuit elders who live there, and the international scientists who study it. It also offers an unforgettable aurora show in a natural environment.

Broad areas of stunning, undeveloped wilderness can be found in Newfoundland and Labrador, especially in pristine Labrador. The summers also give a view of the northern lights here as there is an increase in solar activity. With the Northern Lights above, people can travel nearly 1,500 kilometres of paths during the winter for aurora sightings. You might include fishing, skiing, and snowshoeing if you’d like.

3. Yellowknife

If you enjoy privacy, fly into a stylishly rustic resort in the autumn season to Yellowknife on a spectacular aircraft journey. Watch the aurora display on the clear skies from the hot tub on the terrace or the dome-shaped rock that overlooks the water in front. The spectacular show can be combined with activities including hiking, fishing, and paddling.

When set against a snow-covered, icy landscape, the northern lights are at their most striking in the winter, which is also the northern lights season. A teepee community south of Yellowknife called Aurora Village offers the most suitable place to watch the performance while being comfortable. The location was built specifically for viewing the aurora and is furnished with roomy, wood-burning, heated teepees, fur-lined couches, and heated, reclinable viewing capsules.

4. Alberta

The sparkling lights, which contrast with the towering Canadian Rockies and are reflected in the glacier-fed lakes, are difficult to duplicate. Northern Alberta is home to the Geophysical Observatory at Athabasca University, which studies how the aurora affects the planet’s magnetic field. Non-scientists should visit Banff National Park in the fall for the best observing sites.

The absence of light pollution and total darkness at night make Banff National Park the greatest site in Canada to view the northern lights. The months of mid-September to mid-May see the most auroral activity. You can typically see the Rockies comfortably in the fall if camping and other popular Rockies activities like hiking and canoeing are included in the trip.

Even though Banff occasionally explodes, you should stay away from crowds. Visit Aurora Watch to find out when there is a good chance of witnessing the aurora. Just ten minutes outside of town, at Lake Minnewanka, you may also see the aurora. On your journey to Peyto Lake or the azure Lake Louise, you could also stop at Castle Junction or Herbert Lake, which are also perennially popular.
Additionally, Wood Buffalo National Park, where 3,000 wild bison roam freely, and Jasper National Park, which is renowned for its beautiful scenery, are the two biggest dark sky preserves in the world. Bring a warm sleeping bag, start a bonfire, and stay up late.

Even though Banff occasionally explodes, you should stay away from crowds. Visit Aurora Watch to find out when there is a good chance of witnessing the aurora. Just ten minutes outside of town, at Lake Minnewanka, you may also see the aurora. On your journey to Peyto Lake or the azure Lake Louise, you could also stop at Castle Junction or Herbert Lake, which are also perennially popular.

Additionally, Wood Buffalo National Park, where 3,000 wild bison roam freely, and Jasper National Park, which is renowned for its beautiful scenery, are the two biggest dark sky preserves in the world. Bring a warm sleeping bag, start a bonfire, and stay up late.

5. Ontario

The best months to see the aurora in Ontario are late August, September and October. Manitoulin Island, Cree Village Ecolodge, and Pukaskwa National Park are the most significant locations to see the aurora. The most excellent place to watch a spectacular aurora show is outside a city with little ambient light.

Although the aurora is more frequently visible in the Arctic Circle Region and further north, Ontario and other lower latitudes in Canada have regular displays of the spectacular sight of the northern lights.

Photo by JACK REDGATE on Pexels

For a comprehensive experience, check out one of the best outfitters in Ontario with aurora viewing capabilities, such as Killarney Mountain Lodge, Gordon’s Park Eco Resort, or Moosonee. While you’re up north waiting for the aurora to show, take advantage of northern Ontario’s many attractions and myriad outdoor adventure opportunities; it’s a wild and beautiful region that isn’t well known but is well worth the trip. Northern Ontario is bordered by the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay.

6. Manitoba

The second-best time to see the Aurora is from September to November. A two-hour flight from Winnipeg will take you to Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge, where you can combine trophy fishing till mid-September with a lights show from the cosy deck.

Here is Churchill, which promotes itself as “one of the top three spots on earth” for viewing the northern lights. Researchers from all over the world come to the hamlet of around 900 inhabitants, which is well-known for its polar bear population, to study the aurora. The experience is elevated by the chance to combine a trip with arctic excursions, which include opportunities to observe animals like beluga whales, polar bears, Arctic foxes, and more.

Churchill sees its peak aurora season in February and March due to the freezing cold temperatures, which can drop to 40 below zero. Around midnight, board a heated Tundra Buggy with a bar with seasoned tour operator Frontiers North. In addition to renting clothing from the Polar Inn & Suites, make sure to include extra batteries because they may break down in the frigid weather.

Set up camp with Northern Tales in a rustic tent camp akin to that of a prospector close to Whitehorse. The outfitter offers contemporary amenities like barrel burners and steaming beverages to keep you warm as you wait to watch the aurora.

Travel along established caribou trails during the day, then spend the evening at Arctic Haven Wilderness Lodge, ideally situated to see the aurora. On crisp autumn evenings, you have the best chance to see the northern lights here. A quick bush plane ride from Yellowknife, NWT, brings you to the lodge, which is located on the Arctic Barren Lands on Ennadai Lake, west of Hudson Bay.

Photo by Jonathan Bean on Unsplash

The sub-Arctic region of Manitoba borders Hudson Bay and is located there. The ideal approach is from Winnipeg, including a stop at the Manitoba Museum to learn more about the northern lights and the finest photography techniques.

You can also see wildlife like grizzlies and wolves in addition to the light show and the backdrop of blazing fall colours. Prepare for constantly changing weather by bringing clothes, strong hiking boots, and an umbrella.

Some Other Places To View The Northern Lights

Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia are among the countries that can view the northern lights since they are close to the Arctic Circle’s core. Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia are among the countries with high southern latitudes where the aurora australis can be seen.

Oslo, Norway’s capital, is too far south of the Arctic Circle to observe the aurora borealis. Norway is a long, thin country. Therefore, you should travel to northern Norway, where Tromsø is firmly located within the aurora zone.

The best viewing conditions for the northern lights can be found worldwide at Abisko National Park in Swedish Lapland. The sky is usually always clear thanks to the region’s particular climate, and light pollution is hardly noticeable. This is the best time to see the northern lights. The Aurora Sky Station is located nearby as well. Between September and March, the parts of northern Finland experience nearly every other clear sky with the lights shining, which is the best time to see the northern lights, but the southern part of Finland experiences only around 10 to 20 evenings each year with the lights shining.

Photo by Tobias Bjørkli on Pexels

The Northern Lights are not frequently visible in the UK. Some areas of northern England can occasionally be seen on particularly dark evenings.

It’s interesting to note that some hotels in Iceland have an “Aurora Wake Up Call” button on the in-room phone. By pressing this wake-up call button, the hotel can wake you up whenever the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) appear in the sky.

Conclusion

Arcs, rays, curtains, and coronas all have distinct appearances that are influenced by the forms of the atmosphere’s luminous components and the observer’s location. Although almost in all seasons, these atmospheric miracles can be viewed in Canada and other countries in the Auroral Zone, winter is the best time to see the northern lights or aurora.

Sometimes as a faint glimmer close to the horizon. Rays are upward-reaching arcs of varying degrees of light and dark stripes. Although they may be near the edge of vision, these can be recognized from moonlight clouds since stars can still be seen clearly through brightness, as surfaces or patches that resemble clouds and sky arcs are seen. Other planets also display the northern lights. In addition to most of the planets in the Solar System, auroras can also be seen on a few natural satellites, brown dwarfs, and even comets.

Also read: Things to do in Killarney Provincial Park.

Written by Jayasmita Saha

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