Viewing Aurora Borealis in Canada is an incredible adventure

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Clear skies and north latitude make Canada ideal for observing the phenomenon

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September 28, 2020 • • September 28, 2020 • • Read for 4 minutes • • Join the conversation Tour operators in Whitehorse, Yukon, bring people with teepees and heated yurts to an area outside of town to keep warm while you wait for the Northern Lights to appear. Tour operators in Whitehorse, Yukon, bring people with teepees and heated yurts to an area outside of town to keep warm while you wait for the Northern Lights to appear. Photo by Greg Olsen

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The colorful dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis are so magical that there are countless legends about them. Some legends say that the lights are earthly manifestations of the gods, while others say that they are the spirits of the ancestors. Regardless of which legend you believe in, there is no doubt that an aurora is a spectacular wonder of nature.

Canada’s clear skies and northern latitude make it an ideal place to observe auroral activity. Long dark winter nights are the main time – although you can see the Northern Lights as early as August. Here are some of the best places in Canada to see nature’s greatest light show.

Whitehorse, YT

The Yukon is legendary for its reliable northern lights displays, and aurors can be spotted throughout the area. Mid-August through mid-April is the high season, and dark, clear skies provide the best aurora viewing. From Whitehorse, head towards Fish Lake or Chadburn Lake Road to avoid light pollution. There are many companies that offer aurora sightseeing tours from Whitehorse. On such tours, guests are transported outside of town by bus, where heated yurts are set up so they can relax and comfortably wait for the aurora to come out. The magic window is usually between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.

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Yellowknife, NT

The capital of the Northwest Territories is one of the best places in North America to see the Northern Lights. The flat landscape along the shores of Great Slave Lake offers uninterrupted views and the low rainfall results in an abundance of cloudless skies. There are many tour operators offering aurora sightseeing tours, and there is even an “aurora village” with heated tipis, excellent viewing areas, and seating for up to 400 people. Mid-November to early April is aurora high season here.

Iqaluit, NU

There is something magical about the dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis. A traditional Inuit story tells that the lights are ancestral spirits playing ball with the skull of a walrus. Nunavut, Canada’s newest territory, is an excellent spot for auror spotting. Aurora activity is most visible during the coldest months of the year, but spring and fall provide good aurora activity with much milder temperatures that allow for more comfortable viewing. Several tour operators offer Aurora tours from Iqaluit.

Nunavik, QC

The Nunavik region in northern Quebec is a hotspot to spot auroras. The Inuit village Kuujjuaq is the largest municipality in this region with around 2,800 inhabitants. Tourism company Inuit Adventures offers multi-way aurora sightseeing tours that fly from Montreal. During the day, guests experience Inuit culture, visit archaeological sites, and observe wildlife. Aurora tours run from mid-September to late April.

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Muncho Lake Provincial Park, BC

It’s a spectacular place where the Northern Lights reflect off the glassy, ​​clear waters of Muncho Lake in northern British Columbia. Not far from the Yukon border, this 12-kilometer lake is one of the highlights of the Alaska Highway. The lake is surrounded by mountains, so there are great hiking opportunities in the area. If you want to watch the aurora dance from the comfort of a hot spring, the Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park is just minutes away. Mid-August to mid-April is the high season for aurora viewing.

Fort McMurray, AB

The aurora is located at the 56th parallel and dances in the skies over Fort McMurray on cold, clear evenings from October through March and occasionally in other months. The aurora is usually seen around midnight, but can occur anytime between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. and last for hours or just minutes. There are tour operators who offer aurora sightseeing tours from Fort McMurray.

Melfort, SK

About 280 kilometers north of Regina, Melfort has been dubbed the “City of Northern Lights” due to the frequency of auroral activity in the region. Spruce Haven Park is a good place to see aurora in Melfort. If you’d like to see the aurora while camping, drive two hours northwest to Prince Albert National Park. The Saskatchewan Province marketing slogan is “Land of Living Heaven,” and northern Saskatchewan in particular lives up to that reputation.

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The pas, MB

January through March is the main viewing time for the aurora borealis in most parts of Manitoba, but in the northern region the dancing lights can be seen for up to 300 nights a year. In the pas, known as the “gateway to the north”, the northern lights are said to be visible all year round when the sky is clear. The Pas is an isolated group of communities at the confluence of two rivers, approximately 630 kilometers northwest of Winnipeg.

Manitoulin Island, ON

Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron is the largest freshwater island in the world at 2,766 square kilometers. There are more than 100 inland lakes on the island and above them some of the darkest skies in Ontario. Gordon’s Park is Canada’s first dark-sky commercial nature reserve and is a great place to see the Northern Lights. Spring and fall are the best times for aurora viewing, and the park hosts aurora borealis-themed weekends.

What is an aurora?

The colorful dancing lights of an aurora arise when charged particles of the sun are trapped in the earth’s magnetic field. This most often happens near the magnetic poles. The phenomenon is called Aurora Borealis at the North Pole and Aurora Australis at the South Pole.

Tips for Viewing Aurora

– Clear, dark skies are best for aurora viewing. Try to plan an aurora trip with the new moon rather than the full moon. Choose a viewing location outside of the city, away from light pollution.

-Check the weather forecast before you set off. The cloud cover obscures an aurora.

– Check the Aurora forecast at spaceweather.gc.ca or follow @AuroraMax on Twitter and Facebook for notifications.

– Debbie Olsen is an award-winning writer and photographer and a national best-selling author. Her latest book is 150 Nature Hot Spots in Canada. Follow her on wanderwoman.ca.

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