Text by: Quartz Co. Editorial Team
Are you among those who are captivated by the mysterious green-hued lights that shoot across the Polar night sky and show up in our social media feeds every winter? For most of us, seeing the northern lights in person isn’t an easy feat. Did you know that the best places to see the northern lights, or as they are also called, auroras, tend to be scarcely populated and visited? The reason for this lies in the very nature of the northern lights and the specific conditions necessary for them to appear.
WHICH CONDITIONS CREATE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS?
Auroras occur when electromagnetically charged solar particles and terrestrial atmospheric gases collide. These collisions most often occur in what is called the auroral zone, located between 2,000 and 3,000 kilometers from the North Magnetic Pole, at a latitude of 65 to 75 degrees, which narrows down the places from which you can observe the Northern Lights to a mere 5% of the globe. That said, during periods of heightened solar activity, such as during solar storms, contribute to making them visible in areas further outside the auroral zone.
WHERE CAN YOU SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN CANADA?
If you're on the hunt to see the Northern Lights, you should aim to be in the auroral zone, far from the light pollution of big cities. Your best bet to catching an aurora is when nights are longer, in winter, and when the moon is new. Keep these tips in mind but know that even the most seasoned adventurer isn’t guaranteed an aurora sighting, since the sky must be as clear as possible to see them well and weather conditions are often fickle and hard to predict in the winter season.
Whitehorse, in the territory of the Yukon, is an amazing place to go watch the northern lights. You’ll feel like you’re walking in the steps of those who lived the Yukon Gold Rush as you gaze up at the sky from one of many lodges, cottages, and retreats just outside the city, to minimize the light pollution. For an even more unforgettable experience, watch the astral phenomena from the Takhini Hot Pools, natural hot springs located just north of Whitehorse and which boast a steady 47°C temperature year round.
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Statistically, the Northwest Territories are the place where you have the best chance of seeing the Northern lights. They are visible there 240 nights out of the year, and give you a 90% of catching them on winter nights. You can enjoy the auroras as you zip across the snow on a dogsled or from the comfort of your own private hot tub.
Muncho Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia
While most of British Columbia is too southernly situated to allow auroras observation, those who make their way up North and out of the coastal cloud cover will be rewarded with views of the northern lights over Muncho Lake and the surrounding mountains. A great option to consider is to stay at the Northern Rockies Lodge, located right on the lake’s shores.
This area of Manitoba may be best known for polar bears and other wildlife sightings, but it’s also a self-proclaimed place of choice for watching the northern lights and it’s easy to understand why. Being located on the coast of the Hudson Bay, right in the heart of the auroral zone, makes Churchill a great place to observe the mesmerizing reflection of the Northern Lights on the lake's waters. Since the town is remote and can be difficult to access, consider booking through an experienced operator such as Frontier North.
La Ronge, Saskatchewan
La Ronge, in northern Saskatchewan, boasts some of the world’s best fly-in fishing lodges. You could spend your day fishing and your evenings watching the northern lights unfurl over the skies during a trip you’ll never forget.
The Atlantic provinces are often overlooked by those chasing the northern lights, but their small population density make them ideal locations for aural observation at the right time of the year. Head to Labrador to take in the unspoiled natural beauty or drive through Prince Edward Island National Park and look to the North for stunning light shows.
Whether you are planning to travel to the far corners of Canada or staying closer to home to observe this celestial phenomenon, remember to dress warmly to appreciate the auroras fully as you spend part of the night outdoors. Put on your warmest boots and your most comfortable Quartz Co. winter jacket for an unforgettable night under the sky.