northern lights canada

The top 10 places to see the Northern Lights in Canada

The Northern Lights make Canada one of the few countries in the world where we're fortunate enough to experience the natural phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis, not only regularly, but in all its glory.

The spectacle is largely based on solar activity and is not easy to forecast, but is generally best witnessed when the night is as dark as possible — in Canada, that means from 9:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. between the months of October and March — and in a rural area with no light pollution. 

Though the Northern Lights are, unsurprisingly, better witnessed the further North you go (up to a certain point, the Aurora Oval), there are still places to catch them across the country:

Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

For a lot of Ontarians, a standard view of the night sky boasts a smattering of a few dim stars and the vague outline of a couple of constellations, at best. 

Light pollution and southern geographic location are the reality for many of Ontario's residents, which doesn't make it the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of the Northern Lights.

Still, there are some remote, northerly locales that are known to be decent viewing spots for the phenomenon, like the province's 7,653 sq. km Algonquin Park.

Torngat Mountains, Newfoundland and Labrador

Located in the national park of the same name, the Torngat Mountains are part of a subarctic region of northern Labrador.

The area has a number of significant spiritual and cultural Inuit sites, as well as natural wonders including fjords, some of the oldest rocks in the world, and wildlife not seen in other parts of the country, such as caribou and polar bears. And, the Northern Lights — known as aqsarniit in Inuktitut — if you're lucky.

La Ronge, Saskatchewan

This town in Saskatchewan's Boreal Forest may be small and modest, but its northerly location, clear skies, and flat landscape make it one of the best places to catch sight of the Northern Lights. A number of tours specifically to see the lights operate out of the area and nearby Melfort, which is also known as a prime viewing spot.

Fort Nelson, B.C.

Home to the aptly-named Northern Lights Festival, this small northeastern B.C. town is known for having a high number of clear nights during peak Northern Lights season.

It is also the most northerly municipality in the province, so residents and visitors are that much closer to being under the Aurora Oval, where all of the action takes place (thanks to the geomagnetic North Pole).

Banff, Alberta

Alberta, like Ontario, has a light pollution problem, but if you can escape from the urban centres of Edmonton and Calgary to one of Alberta's many national or provincial parks — like Banff — you can count on some stunning wildlife and scenic mountain views that may include the Northern Lights. The show is well-complemented by the park's many clear, reflective lakes. 

Nunavik, Quebec

Located in rural northern Quebec, the Nunavik region falls under the Aurora Oval, and so is an ideal spot to watch the lights' dance. Local tour company Adventures Inuit states that Northern Lights shows in the area can last up to 45 minutes and stretch in ribbons and arches up to 1,000 km long.

Churchill, Manitoba

One of the most renowned sites for Aurora Borealis watching is this Manitoba town bordering the Hudson Bay. 

Light displays take place most nights of the year due to Churchill's northern location, and there are a number of unique ways to view them, ranging from a heated dome atop the Churchill Northern Studies Centre to Natural Habitat Adventures's Aurora Pod, a specially-built glass dome with 360-degree panoramic views.

Iqaluit, Nunavut

Canada's territories are undeniably the best place to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis, as they are the only parts of the country full located inside the Northern Hemisphere's Aurora Oval. Sightseeing trails over glaciers and through the tundra of territorial parks are the perfect places to explore and take in the colourful night sky.

Whitehorse, Yukon

The Whitehorse Northern Lights experience is unparalleled. Visitors can enjoy the show luxuriously from the Takhini natural hot pools, from the middle of a dog sledding tour, from a private glass chalet, or from just about anywhere.

As Travel Yukon says, though the lights aren't the most predictable, you'll know they're putting on a show when someone at the bar yells "Northern Lights!” and "a big, happy huddle of strangers abandons their drinks in unison and storms toward the too-small door."

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Arguably the most popular destination in the country for Aurora Borealis seekers, Yellowknife has the perfect landscape and climate for the lights: clear, crisp, dry nights free of obstruction under the Aurora Oval. Local experts at Yellowknife Tours offer an array of different ways to experience the phenomenon.

Lead photo by

Leonard Laub in the Yukon

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