The elusive nature of the STUNNING Northern Lights (or aurora borealis) makes it one of the experiences that tops so many travellers’ lists. Luckily for us, Canada has some of the best climates for catching stars and the Northern Lights in the world. So, if you’re looking for the best places to catch these magical lights in Canada, we’ve wrapped up everything you need to know…
What causes the Northern Lights?
Also known as aurora borealis, the Northern Lights are celestial displays of light. The Northern Lights are only created when charged particles interact with the Earth’s atmosphere. This stunning natural light show occurs only in the night sky, lighting it up with colours. It’s no wonder that experiencing the northern lights is on the top of many people’s bucket lists. Put some stars in the background and these landscape can turn into a really beautiful experience.
When is the best time to see them?
You can see the Northern Lights all year round in some parts of Canada. If you’re looking to maximize your chances, darkness in the sky is key. The more hours of darkness, the higher the likelihood of catching them. So, it’s no surprise that the best times to see aurora borealis in Canada is during the winter, from October to March.
Remember to check out the Northern Lights forecast before heading out at night. Use a KP index to check the Earth’s magnetic field and solar wind. The faster the solar wind blows, the more activity you should anticipate for the night. Higher KP index with clear skies means there is a high chance you’ll be able to catch the Northern Lights. So, if everything looks good, head outside between 11pm to 3am for the best hours of darkness.
Where are the best places to see the Northern Lights in Canada?
Stay away from larger cities, which give off lots of light pollution and head up to the northern parts of Canada for the best chances of catching them. Here’s our pick:
The cold, dark winters make Whitehorse one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Canada. Visit the Takhini Hot Springs while you’re up there and make a full trip out of it.
Manitoulin Island, Ontario
For the closest Northern Lights in Toronto, you’ll have to take the drive a couples hours north. Located in Lake Huron, Manitoulin Island is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Ontario. The area is protected by the Canadian government as a Dark Sky Preserve as part of the Bruce Penisula National Park, giving off some of the darkest skies in Ontario. Its conditions make it the perfect spot to catch some bright stars and Northern Lights.
The high latitude of Churchill, Manitoba make it a perfect spot to see the Northern Lights. Not only is Churchill one of the best spots, it also has some of the largest populations of polar bears in Canada. Visit during September to November if you want to catch the polar bears and Northern Lights in the same trip!
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If you’re looking for Northern Lights in Calgary, you’ll have to make the drive up a few hours north to Banff National Park. You’ll get to see beautiful lakes and the Rocky Mountains. The Northern Lights in Banff can be quite unpredictable and challenging given the time of year. Visit in autumn for the highest chances and on a clear night, you may just get lucky!
If you’re looking for the best places to see the Northern Lights in Canada, you MUST have this spot on your list. Jasper National Park is protected as a Dark Sky Preserve, making it a great spot to catch stars at any time of the year.
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Although it is far up north, Yellowknife is worth the trip! With limited light pollution in the area, you’ll have higher chances of catching the Northern Lights here. The flat landscape in the area means you can see the entire aurora borealis in the sky.
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Squamish, British Columbia
It is possible to see the Northern Lights without leaving Vancouver; however, weather conditions must be perfect! From December to March, head north of the city Squamish to see the Northern Lights in British Columbia. Porteau Cove Provincial Park has little light pollution and the beach area is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Canada.
Because we’re located in the Northern Hemisphere, as long as you’re far enough away from the city you should be able to catch a glimpse of the beautiful Northern Lights in Canada. Watch the aurora borealis forecast and take a drive late at night. Trust us, you’ll never forget that sight…