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The Best Places To See The Northern Lights In Canada - Aurora Borealis

Updated on June 20, 2012

If you are wondering where the best places to see the Northern Lights in Canada are then you are in the right place. Here we will give you some top Aurora Borealis spotting tips and tell you where you are most likely to see the Northern Lights from if you are heading to Canada. If you want to catch a glimpse of the most spectacular light show on earth, then this page should help you out.

The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis as it is also known is one of natures most impressive displays. These lights dance high in the night skies up around the Arctic Circle. In the far South you also get the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights which are much the same. Catching a glimpse of these famed displays is not always easy. However, there are plenty of places in the Northern hemisphere where you have a good chance of seeing something. One of the best countries for viewing is Canada.

The Northern Lights

Seeing The Northern Lights In Canada

Canada is one of the largest land masses on earth. It stretches high into the Arctic circle and covers vast areas. Due to this fact Canada is one of the best countries in the world for seeing the Northern Lights. Tourism in the country always does well over the winter as people flock to the area to try to see something. One of the issues with the country though is that as it is so vast, travel can be difficult and some places are very hard to get to. Some of the best places for seeing the Aurora are simply not accessible. So getting there is one thing you need to take into consideration when planning a trip.

Another thing to take into consideration if you are in search of the Aurora is timing. You need to plan for the best time to see the Aurora. It’s no great surprise that the winter months with their long dark nights are ideal viewing. Ideally you want to be looking to plan your visit sometime between October and March. Although sometimes you can still get lucky a little later into the year. Another issue is that the lights run on a long cycle, in other words some years are better than others. It is thought that the displays reach their peak every thirteen years or so. The years 2010 and 2011 were very poor years for viewing, the good news though is that the Aurora should be at it’s most active in the years 2012 and 2013.

So if you are planning a visit to the north, where exactly should you be looking to head? Well below we have listed some of the best Aurora Borealis spotting locations in Canada. We have taken into consideration not just the geographical location, but also the practicality of getting there.

Aurora Over Dawson City

Dawson City, Yukon

To start with then we have to mention Damson City which is the most northerly destination on our list. Dawson City was the capital city of Yukon up until the 1950’s when it changed to Whitehorse. Dawson was the site of the Klondike Gold Rush that brought much wealth to the area in the early 1900’s. Now the city is a bustling little community of around two thousand people. There is some real wilderness scenery up in the area with spectacular mountains and wild lakes. In the wintertime the temperature plummets to way below freezing, but the welcome you receive will warm your spirits.

Being so far north Dawson City gets more nights of Aurora activity than any of the other destinations we will look at. On the downside though the weather does not always play it’s part quite as well as it should. Other areas do enjoy more clear skies than Dawson, but that said if you head up there for a few days you stand a very good chance of getting a clear night for viewing.

There is a decent amount of accommodation in Dawson with a few nice hotels. There is an airport in Dawson City but flights are quite limited, you can fly from Whitehorse airport which is probably the best option. For the best views of the Aurora head away from the lights of the city and get out into the wilds. This far north the nights are long and dark and there are plenty of hours in which you can view the lights. Just remember if you are heading out you need to take the proper precautions in order to deal with the low temperatures.

Looking Out Over Lake Labarge

Lake Labarge, Yukon

Possibly the best spot in the whole of Canada and probably one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights is Lake Labarge. This lake sits about 50km north of Whitehorse, which is the state capitol of Yukon territory. Whitehorse itself is a good sized town with plenty of hotels, stores and services. It also has an international airport which makes it very accessible and there are lots of flights that come into Whitehorse everyday.

Lake Labarge itself is a large body of water that is pretty much considered wilderness territory. In this area you are miles away from any light pollution and the silence in the area can be deafening. Despite being seen as a wilderness there are places you can stay dotted around the area. There are various companies that offer logs cabins on Lake Labarge and these are wonderful if you are wanting to stay for a few nights. In the winter the temperature drops way below freezing and the lake actually freezes over, so you can walk out into the middle of the lake and look skywards.

Although Lake Labarge is not as far north as some of the areas in Canada it does still get some stunning displays. The Aurora activity does not need to be that strong if you want to see something. If you get a time of year when the Aurora is active then Lake Labarge really is a stunning location to watch the Northern Lights from.

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Fort McMurray, Alberta

When you find Fort McMurray on a map you may be surprised at how far south it is compared to some of the other places that you can view the Aurora from. Don’t let this put you off though, the way the lights work means that they arch down over central Canada and they often pass right over this area in Northern Alberta. Situated a long way inland Fort McMurray is around 400km from Edmonton which obviously has excellent travel links. So getting to this area is not overly taxing.

The great thing about Fort McMurray is that due to it’s central location it often gets long clear spells of weather, something essential for viewing displays. It is thought that of all the areas in Canada this is the one with the most clear night skies. So although further north there may be more nights when the lights are active, you stand just as much chance of seeing them here in Alberta.

Along with the obvious attraction of the night sky this area also has some stunning mountain scenery and plenty of activities to get involved with during the day light hours. The area also has some good accommodation ranging from luxury hotels to snug little cabins.

Aurora Over Yellowknife

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

If you want somewhere a little bit different then we suggest heading to Yellowknife. This is slap bang in the middle of Canada and is far enough north to give some dazzling displays. The city of Yellowknife is home to around 20,000 people so it’s a decent size and has plenty going on all year round. There is also an airport hear and you can fly in from most of Canada’s major cities.

This is a stunning area of natural wilderness. Head away from the lights and the darkness is vast. Being a long way inland the area does tend to get long clear nights which as we have already mentioned is very helpful. From the city there are companies who do tours out to see the lights or you can make your own way into the wilderness. The city boasts some good accommodation and you can also find some excellent cabins out on the vast Great Slave Lake, these are ideal if you want to stay somewhere quiet for perfect nighttime viewing.

Located around 500km south of the Arctic Circle this is a prime spot for Aurora Borealis displays. The weather can get very cold in the winter so wrap up warm, but if there is an active display you are almost guaranteed front row seats if you head to Yellowknife.

Newfoundland And Labrador

If you want to try the east of Canada then heading for the areas of Newfoundland and Labrador is a great idea. This vast area is not all that far north but they do often get some wonderful light shows. The area is famed for it’s scenery and if you head up to the Torngat Mountains National Park there are some areas of outstanding beauty. Another nice place to visit is Bell Island on the southeast coast. This is a lovely quiet island that can produce some wonderful displays if the conditions are right.

Although this area does probably not give you your best chance of seeing the Northern Lights it does offer some wonderful scenery and there are lots of chances to catch a glimpse of the Aurora if you get the right conditions.

As you can see there are plenty of places you can visit if you want to see the famous Northern Lights. We have tried to give you a range of options all with their own special plus points. In our opinion though the best all round area for seeing the Aurora in Canada has to be Lake Labarge. As well as this short list of places there are lots of other great spots in Canada that you can see these wonderful displays from. Most people assume that the further north you head the more likely you are to see something, but that is not always the case. Ideally you want to plan ahead, check the Aurora forecast and then be very patient. One thing is for sure, if you're in the right place when activity is high, then you are in for a sight you will never forget.  


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