Epic Guide: Best Places To See Northern Lights In Canada

Northern Lights
©Photo by GooKingSword from Pixabay

Among the gorgeous natural occurrences to witness in a lifetime, the northern lights phenomenon is one of them. Not everyone is lucky enough to catch this unique celestial display, but you can if you plan well ahead. If northern lights in Canada is on your bucket list, keep reading.

 

The following are the best places you can possibly catch a glimpse of the ethereal northern lights.  

 

What Are The Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights
©Photo by steveowst from Pixabay

 

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, is a unique display of lights in the sky. This phenomenon happens when the sun’s charged particles interact with the atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere. The result is mesmerizing. It’s almost unbelievable how Mother Nature allows us to witness such beauty. 

 

The colors and patterns are never the same. This means every time you witness it is a unique experience. From vibrant greens, reds, yellows to purples, the northern lights are truly a fascinating sight. 

 

The Best Time Of Year To See The Northern Lights In Canada

Northern Lights Green
©Photo by diapicard from Pixabay

 

Before you book your flight to Canada, there are important things to check and make sure of. This includes knowing the best time of year to catch the northern lights. If you visit at the wrong time, you won’t even catch a glimpse of it at all. 

 

Here’s a quick guide on the best times to experience northern lights in Canada:

Autumn (September to November)

If you’re visiting in autumn, your chances of seeing the aurora borealis are not that high. However, there are some parts in Canada where you can start seeing them as early as September. Meanwhile, later in the fall increases your chances of seeing more. 

 

Winter (December to February)

The best time to catch the northern lights in Canada is during winter. It’s during this season that the sky is at its darkest, giving you the best views of the northern lights. Plan your trip from December to January for the best experience. 

 

Spring (March to May)

Spring is still a good time to catch the northern lights in Canada. However, your chances decrease as summer approaches. It’s because daylight hours become longer during this season. Springtime also has many rainy days and cloudy skies.

 

Summer (June to August)

Summer is the worst time to visit Canada if your goal is to see the aurora borealis. You have zero chance of catching it as many parts in this country have longer daylight hours in summer. In fact, sunlight can last until 9 or 10 pm in some parts of Canada. 

 

Now, it’s time to explore the best places to see northern lights in Canada.

 

1.

Whitehorse (Yukon)

Aurora Borealis, Fish Lake, Yukon
©Photo by Anthony DeLorenzo from Wikimedia Commons

 

Whitehorse is one of the best places to see the northern lights in Canada. Nestled in Canada’s westernmost part, the views here of the aurora borealis are one of the best. 

 

In addition to its strategic location, Whitehorse also has the longest season for viewing the northern lights in Canada. From mid-August to mid-April, you can get the best views of the northern lights. 

 

Other Places To See Northern Lights: 

  • Fish Lake Road: There’s a hiking trail near the lake to give you an amazing aurora borealis watch experience. The top of the Fish Lake viewpoint also has a lot of open skies. This spot offers gorgeous panoramic views of the place as well as a great spot to see the northern lights.  

  • Mt. Lorne Ski Facility: Its high spot makes Mt. Lorne Ski a fantastic place to watch the aurora borealis. Aside from that, its higher altitude means limited light pollution. 

  • Kookatsoon Lake: About 20 minutes from Whitehorse, Kookatsoon Lake offers great open views of the northern lights. What makes it special is how the dancing lights can reflect over the lake. 

 

2.

Yellowknife (Northwest Territories)

Northern Lights, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
©Photo by ohjadda from Pixabay

 

One of the best places to see northern lights in Canada is in the Northwest Territories. It’s capital, Yellowknife, is one of the best spots to enjoy this natural phenomenon. It has a flat landscape, giving you an unobstructed sky view of the northern lights. Aside from that, the area’s low precipitation gives regular cloudless skies. 

 

However, you can’t view the aurora borealis year-round in Yellowknife. This is why it’s important to take note of the season and Yellowknife weather for the best viewing opportunities. 

 

In the summer, the sky is too bright in Yellowknife, giving you almost zero chances of catching the northern lights. However, the best times are from mid-August to the end of September and from mid-November to mid-April.

 

Yellowknife is one of the famous places to catch the northern lights. In fact, the locals here have tiny lighthouses that alert visitors and residents when there’s a possibility of northern lights viewing. 

 

Other Places To See Northern Lights:

  • Pilots Monument: Sitting at the center of Yellowknife’s Old Town, Pilots Monument is a great spot for northern lights in Canada experience. Climb on top of the monument and enjoy the dancing nights on clear nights. 

  • Dettah Ice Road: If you prefer to catch the aurora borealis on the road, the Dettah Ice Road is perfect. This road opens only during the winter when parts of the Great Slave Lake freezes. The road is a 6.5 km road of ice that connects Dettah to Yellowknife. It’s popular for taking photos and for viewing the northern lights. 

 

3.

Iqaluit (Nunavut)

Aurora Borealis, Lodge Solar Panels, Ennadai Lake, Nunavut
©Photo by Alan D. Wilson from Wikimedia Commons

 

Nunavut Territory’s capital Iqaluit is among the best places to see northern lights. Located on Baffin Island, it’s one of the most remote spots to catch a northern lights in Canada experience. 

 

Iqaluit is a small community, giving less pollution and obstruction when viewing the northern lights. The skies here also become dark enough to give the best views of the aurora borealis. 

 

Other Places To See Northern Lights:

  • Ennadai Lake: The northern lights over Ennadai Lake is simply gorgeous. It’s a prime location away from the crowds and the serenity adds to the magic of the northern lights.

  • Frobisher Inn: View the aurora borealis in the comfort of a cozy inn. Frobisher Inn offers northern lights tours, sightseeing trails, and even helicopter rides.

 

4.

Kuujjuaq (Quebec)

Aurora Borealis, Canada
©Photo by newsong from Pixabay

 

Kuujjuaq is among the best places to see the northern lights. It is the biggest city in the Nunavik region and is a perfect weekend destination to catch the northern lights. 

 

Kuujjuaq is located in Quebec’s northern region, which is very vast, giving you unobstructed views of the aurora borealis. Aside from that, the region is strategically beneath the auroral oval, which means Kuujjuaq can give the best northern lights views. 

 

Visiting Kuujjuaq from September to March is an excellent time as these months have longer fall and winter nights for northern lights viewing. There are plenty of Kuujjuaq inns and hotels to choose from to enjoy an aurora watch night. 

 

Another Spot To See Northern Lights: Mont Mégantic

When talking about exceptional national parks Canada, Mont-Mégantic National Park is always on the list. About 2.5 hours away from Quebec City and Montreal, the park is an ideal spot to view the northern lights. Sitting atop the mountain, the Mont-Mégantic Observatory is a favorite spot for stargazing northern lights watching.

 

5.

Churchill (Manitoba)

Northern Lights, St. Andrews, Manitoba, Canada
©Photo by Robert Linsdell from Flickr

 

Aside from being home to many Polar Bears, Churchill is one of the best places to see the northern lights. 

 

Other Places To See Northern Lights:

  • From the city center: When aurora borealis is out in full-force, anywhere in Churchill is a great spot. Otherwise, the city center is the best place to see the northern lights in Canada. Just pick a darker spot in the town to get the perfect views.

  • Churchill Northern Studies Centre: This is a great option outside of town. Just 30 minutes away, the Northern Studies Centre offers darker and wider skies for excellent for aurora borealis viewing. 

 

6.

Thunder Bay (Ontario)

Northern lights, Balmy Beach, Ontario, Canada
©Photo by Northern Lights Graffiti Crew from Wikimedia Commons

 

Ontario is the most populated province in Canada. With an estimated 14,490,207 population, Ontario is among Canada’s largest provinces. However, don’t let this discourage you from visiting and viewing the northern lights. Ontario is still home to some areas with the best dark skies where you can see the aurora borealis vividly.  

 

Thunder Bay is a great destination to view northern lights in Canada. However, viewing it over a lake is even more spectacular. For amazing water reflections of the aurora borealis, head over to Lake Superior in Thunder Bay. You can view the dancing lights over the lake here, especially in winter when the sky is at its darkest.

 

Other Places To See Northern Lights:

  • Highway 17: Highway 17 has many various points with less light pollution compared to the city. These spots are excellent for a Borealis watch experience.
  • Silver Islet: A town close to Thunder Bay, Silver Islet offers excellent spots to view the aurora borealis over Lake Superior.
  • Sleeping Giant Provincial Park: Sleeping Giant is among the national parks Canada worth a visit. Just over an hour away from Thunder Bay, the park houses many trails and great views of Lake Superior.

 

7.

Banff (Alberta)

Northern Lights, Cascade Mountain in Banff, Canada
©Photo by Satoru Kikuchi from Wikimedia Commons

 

Banff in Alberta is one of the best places to see the northern lights. All thanks to its vast stretches of land and national parks. To make the most out of your experience, learn about the best Banff weather when viewing the northern lights. 

 

The aurora borealis appears in Alberta any time from September to April. However, you will get the most vivid views from February to April. It’s because these months have darker and clearer nights. 

 

Aside from checking in at hotels in Banff to see the northern lights, Banff Upper Hot Springs are great options. Relax in mineral hot waters perfectly located in Banff National Park. Come night time, enjoy the dancing northern lights. 

 

For nature lovers, camping in Banff is an excellent option to view the northern lights in Canada. There are plenty of national parks in Canada that have camping grounds and Banff is one of them. 

 

Using a permit and a pass, you can camp and view the gorgeous aurora borealis at night. Don’t forget to bring weather-proof camping tents and comfortable camping chairs for the best experience. 

 

Other Places To See Northern Lights:

  • Vermillion Lake and Lake Louise: What could be more beautiful than dancing lights reflecting over a lake? For the best experience, however, make sure to check the best Vermilion weather to view the aurora borealis. Learning about the Lake Louise weather is also key to enjoy the dancing lights. The glacial lake is home to vivid turquoise waters that can give some of the best views of the northern lights. 

  • Jasper National Park: Among the national parks Canada to try camping, Jasper National Park offers many convenient camping spots. For the best aurora borealis views, look for a wide clearing to camp out. 

 

Tips For Seeing The Northern Lights

KP 8 Aurora Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada
©Photo by Northern Lights Graffiti on Flickr

 

Pick the right location: Location is everything when it comes to catching the northern lights in Canada. The closer you are to the North Pole, the higher chances you have of getting the best view. It’s also important to stay away from city lights where light pollution can block your view. The right places are clear and wide open with unobstructed views of the northern horizon. 

Timing is everything: Even experts would agree that it’s hard to know exactly when the aurora borealis will appear. However, it pays to know that they are most visible in winter, autumn, and early spring. So, if you’re planning to see the northern lights, make sure to visit during these months. 

Check the weather: Northern lights in Canada are best viewed on dark and clear nights without a full moon. Before heading out, check out the weather first so you don’t waste your time waiting for the aurora borealis. 

Prepare to stay up late: The northern lights appear late at night, so make sure you are prepared to wait for it. The phenomenal lights often appear between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.

Stay a little longer: If you want to fully enjoy the aurora borealis in Canada, stay for a few nights stay. This gives you more chances of seeing the best of what the northern lights have to offer. 

Bring your camera and gear: To capture the best photos of the aurora borealis, you need a wide-angle lens and a tripod. It should be sturdy enough to withstand the long waiting time and strong winds. 

Dance With The Northern Lights Soon!

Northern lights in Canada are probably topping the bucket lists of many adventurers. How could they not with their natural beauty and unique experience? To fully enjoy this natural phenomenon, make sure to plan well ahead before booking your flight.

 

Check the best season to visit, the weather, and the best places to see the ethereal northern lights in Canada. The best northern lights experience will require a lot of careful planning. Aside from that, it will demand a lot of patience. However, as they say, the beauty of the aurora Canada outweighs all efforts and time. 

David Chan
David is a travel addict and always on the move to curate the best travel contents. During his free time, he’ll be the first person to volunteer to join any travel events just to soak up all the unique travel stories around the world. He believes sharing is caring. So, don’t expect David to stop contributing his wonderful travel knowledge here.

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