Seeing the northern lights is on plenty of people's bucket lists, but not everyone is aware that Canada is one of the best places in the world to experience this incredible phenomenon. The aurora borealis can be seen from quite a few places in Canada, including several spots in the Rocky Mountains, the central prairies, and the remote northern territories. Instead of planning an expensive trip to Iceland with the sole purpose of seeing an incredible natural light show, head up to the Great White North to catch a glimpse of the aurora without stepping off North American soil.
1.Banff National Park
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There are plenty of things to see and do in Banff National Park, but the opportunity to see the northern lights is one of the biggest draws for many tourists. The park offers an abundance of excellent, secluded spots to watch the show, including remote mountaintops and shimmering lakes, but lucky visitors might even get the chance to see them from the town itself. The lights can be seen here all throughout the year, but the best time to visit is during the winter, when the nights are long and the magnetosphere is at its most active.
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Not many people outside of Canada have ever heard of Churchill, but it's one of the top three places in the world to see the northern lights thanks to its location directly under the auroral oval. One of the best things about Churchill is that you don’t have to brave the cold to watch the night sky; instead, relax in one of the comfortable covered Aurora Domes. The lights are best here between January and March, but they can sometimes be seen in the summer as well. Weather permitting, head to Goose Creek to build a bonfire and admire the show.
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The city of Edmonton is notorious for its cold winters, and although not many visitors are willing to brave the cold, the winter months offer one of the country's best opportunities to see the splendor of the northern lights. The aurora can sometimes be seen from the city, but the light pollution often dims the show and visitors who want the best possible view are advised to head to a location outside the city. The lights tend to be brightest shortly before and after midnight, and they can often be found simply by looking to the north.
4.Gros Morne National Park
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Most people assume that you have to head north to see the northern lights, but a spectacular show can be seen from the country's eastern coast as well. Found on the coast of Newfoundland, Gros Morne National Park is the second largest national park in Canada and one of the country's best-kept secrets when it comes to aurora viewing spots. The lights can be seen from almost everywhere in the park; truly adventurous visitors can even bring a tent, head into the back country to find a secluded camping spot, and spend the night watching the show.
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As the capital of Nunavut, Iqaluit is one of the best places for visitors to base themselves when exploring the remote northern territories of Canada. It also happens to be an excellent viewing location for the northern lights; they're very common between the months of October and April, but visitors will have the most opportunities to see them in December, when some days have as few as 4 hours of daylight. There isn't as much tourist infrastructure here as there is in many other parts of the country, but there's also very little light pollution and plenty of remote viewing spots.
6.Jasper National Park
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Although not as well known as neighboring Banff National Park, Jasper National Park has just as many reasons to visit. The area is one of the largest dark sky preserves in the world, meaning that artificial light pollution is restricted so that the beauty of the night sky can be seen as clearly as possible. The best time for aurora spotters to visit is between September and May, but be aware that the park and the town are typically very busy in mid-October as this is when the Jasper Dark Sky Festival takes place.
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Also known as Mount John Laurie, Mount Yamnuska is located right on the outskirts of the Rocky Mountain Range and is one of the first mountains you'll encounter when driving west from Calgary. The mountain is easily recognizable thanks to its steep rock face, and the summit sits at 7,350 feet. Reaching the summit of the mountain requires a fairly strenuous climb that is not typically recommended in the dark, but there are plenty of good viewing spots near the base of the mountain that will allow you to marvel at its sheer rock face while enjoying a spectacular aurora show.
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Found on the northern tip of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Torngat Mountains are located inside a national park that shares their name. The land is the traditional home of the Inuit people, and the peaks here are some of the highest in eastern Canada. The best way to see the northern lights here is from one of the remote igloo dome base camps; plenty of professionally guided tours are available. The area is extremely remote, and visitors will also have the chance to see animals like caribou, seals, and even polar bears in their natural habitat.
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Whitehorse is the biggest city in Northern Canada, and it also happens to be an incredible place to see the aurora. The city is completely surrounded by wilderness, and there are plenty of tour operators prepared to take visitors to the many incredible aurora watching locations scattered throughout the area. Depending on your interests, you can watch the show while staying at a well-equipped lodge, while enjoying the comfort of an outdoor hot tub, or while escaping the hustle and bustle of life in a remote backcountry cabin. The lights typically appear here between the middle of August and the middle of April.
10.Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
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Many people claim that Yellowknife is the top spot in the world to watch the northern lights, and once you visit, it's hard to argue with that claim. The temperature here regularly drops down to 40° during the cold winter months, but that doesn’t deter intrepid adventurers who want to see the spectacular show of the aurora. It's best to watch the light show from outside the city limits if possible; tours are typically available in the winter and late autumn, and there's something to suit almost every taste and budget if you do your research.
11.Arctic Range Adventure
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Despite the fact that it's based out of Whitehorse, Arctic Range Adventure offers aurora watching tours all across Alaska, the Yukon, and other remote parts of the Arctic. Guests will be given multiple opportunities to see the northern lights on their tour; many tours also include access to the company's Aurora Center outside Whitehorse, where visitors can learn about aurora photography techniques while enjoying complimentary snacks and hot beverages. Winter gear is available for rent, transportation is provided to and from the airport if needed, and optional tour add-ons include snowshoeing, dogsledding, and ice fishing.
208 Strickland St, Whitehorse, YT Y1A 2J8, Canada, Phone: 867-667-2209
12.Arctic Tours Canada
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Arctic Tours Canada provides a wide variety of tours in and around Yellowknife, but their aurora viewing tours are some of their most popular. Tour packages range in length from three to five days; accommodation is included at a local hotel or bed and breakfast, and visitors will either be brought to the company's Aurora Village or taken out into the wilderness to hunt for the northern lights. If the tours on offer don't fit your schedule or your interests, the company is also happy to arrange completely customized tours with activity add-ons for groups or even for individuals.
4916 49 St, Yellowknife, NT X1A 3T5, Canada, Phone: 867-446-7335
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Opened in 2000, the Aurora Village is conveniently located only 30 minutes outside of downtown Yellowknife. The space offers plenty of viewing spaces spread out over five hilltops, some of which boast heated chairs inspired by traditional Aboriginal sleighs, and it can comfortably accommodate more than 400 people. There are also more than 20 teepees scattered throughout the property, which provide visitors with the comfort of a woodstove and complimentary hot beverages. The village also boasts a dining hall; dinners can be booked in advance, but there is also a late-night menu available for hungry aurora hunters.
4709 Franklin Ave, Yellowknife, NT X1A 2P4, Canada, Phone: 867-669-0006
14.Canada & Alaska Specialist Holidays
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Based out of Australia, Canada & Alaska Specialist Holidays is an excellent choice for any Australians planning the adventure of a lifetime to the other side of the world. The company is proud to offer packages suitable for almost every budget, with accommodation ranging from basic cabins to luxury wilderness lodges. Fully customized packages are available if desired, but the company's most popular set packages take visitors to places like downtown Whitehorse and Blachford Lake Lodge in Yellowknife. Airport transfers and city tours are included, and optional add-ons include ice fishing, snowshoeing, and snowmobile driving.
15.Canada by Design
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Dedicated to providing visitors with the best possible experience, Canada by Design offers a selection of aurora adventures leaving from Fort McMurray, Winnipeg, Whitehorse, and Vancouver. Depending on the chosen location, guests will also be able to enjoy activities such as snowshoeing, dogsledding, wildlife viewing, snowmobiling, and relaxing in the therapeutic waters of a natural hot spring. Tours range in length from two to seven nights, but the company recommends that visitors choose a tour of at least three nights so as to maximize the odds that they'll get to see the aurora.
Suite 1200, 675 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 1N2, Canada, Phone: 800-217-0973
16.Discover Canada Tours
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Discover Canada Tours is based out of Western Canada, and because of this, all of their aurora viewing tours conveniently include round-trip flights between Vancouver and Whitehorse. The all-inclusive packages provide almost everything else you might need as well: Meals, clothing suitable for the Arctic weather, transportation to and from the airport in the Yukon, and activities to keep you entertained during the day. Guests will have nightly opportunities to see the aurora from the provided accommodation; Options include a lodge set right on the lakeshore and a stunning 16-acre ranch with a toboggan hill and plenty of walking paths.
1111 Melville St #820, Vancouver, BC V6E 3V6, Canada, Phone: 604-689-8128
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Family owned and operated for more than 30 years, Frontiers North offers an excellent guided tour that introduces visitors to the beauty of the northern lights as well as to the local people and culture. The company has a special "tundra buggy" that takes guests across the frozen river to their cozy lodge, which boasts panoramic windows and a rooftop observation deck for those who don't mind braving the cold. The tour also comes with a variety of daytime activities, including snowshoeing excursions, dogsled tours, and visits to several of the best museums in Winnipeg and Churchill.
140, Kelsey Blvd, Churchill, MB R0B 0E0, Canada, Phone: 204-949-2050
18.Great Canadian Travel
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Established in 1980, Great Canadian Travel has plenty of experience in providing visitors with everything they need to chase the aurora in comfort. They offer five-day tours with two nights accommodation in Yellowknife and two nights at Blachford Lake Lodge; the lights are often seen from the lodge, and one of the nights in Yellowknife includes a guided aurora viewing tour outside of the city. Other highlights of the trip include a handicraft workshop, a scenic flight between Yellowknife and the lodge, and daily guided activities such as cross-country skiing, ice skating, and fat-tire biking.
164 Marion St, Winnipeg, MB R2H 0T4, Canada, Phone: 204-949-0199
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As one of the world's top nature travel companies, Natural Habitat is a company with a passion for introducing travelers to the wonders of the natural world. The company boasts two private locations for aurora watching: Their cozy Aurora Dome and their unique glass-walled Aurora Pods, which offer a 360° view of the night sky. High-quality cold-weather gear is included in the price of the tour, as are activities like dogsledding, tours of local museums and attractions, and cultural experiences with the area's Aboriginal Canadians. All tours are eight days in length, and guests can choose to travel by either plane or train.
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20.Nature Tours Yukon
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Nature Tours Yukon has been operating for almost 30 years, and the company prides itself on offering small group tours led by the most experienced guests in the territory. There are plenty of packages to choose from, including one-night aurora hunting sessions with campfires and complimentary hot beverages, photography trips that take guests right into the Arctic circle, autumn tours that include a trip to see some of the area's most amazing fall foliage, and special Christmas aurora tours. Evening aurora hunting sessions typically last 4 hours, and tours are available between mid-August and mid-April.
Annie Lake Rd, Whitehorse, YT, Canada, Phone: 867-660-5050
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21.Northern Lights Resort & SPA
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Tucked away on a beautiful 160-acre property in the Yukon, the Northern Lights Resort & SPA is a unique bed and breakfast-style resort that provides a multitude of excellent places for aurora viewing. The selection of available packages ranges from basic three-night stays to luxurious all-inclusive stays of up to a week; gourmet breakfasts and three-course dinners are included in all packages, and guests can choose to stay either in a cozy alpine cabin or in an aurora glass chalet that provides the opportunity to see the lights from the comfort of the chalet's queen-sized bed.
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Offering guided and self-guided aurora watching tours in the Whitehorse region between mid-August and mid-April, Northern Tales is a tour company known for their excellent customer service and cozy aurora viewing locations. Most of the tour packages last between three and five days, and accommodation options range from remote backcountry cabins to a relaxing resort and spa just outside the city. Longer tours mean a better chance of seeing the show put on by the northern lights, but the company also offers a single night of guided aurora viewing with complimentary snacks and hot beverages for visitors on a tighter schedule.
411 Main St, Whitehorse, YT Y1A 2B6, Canada, Phone: 867-667-6054
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23.Yellowknife Tours LTD
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Aimed primarily at visitors from China and Hong Kong, Yellowknife Tours LTD provides tours between mid-August and mid-April. All packages include accommodation, airport transfers, and a friendly tour guide, and some also come with meals and activities. Winter gear can be rented for an additional fee if required. Tours are offered in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese; the company ensures that all tour guides have a strong understanding of both Canadian and Asian culture. All tours have a minimum of two or four people, and customized tours are available for groups of twelve people or more.
5022 49 St #16, Yellowknife, NT X1A 3R8, Canada, Phone: 867-444-8179
23 Best Places to See the Northern Lights in Canada
- Banff National Park, Photo: Courtesy of Krista - Fotolia.com
- Churchill, Photo: Courtesy of Krista - Fotolia.com
- Edmonton, Photo: Courtesy of Vibe Images - Fotolia.com
- Gros Morne National Park, Photo: Courtesy of PixieMe - Fotolia.com
- Iqaluit, Nunavut, Photo: Courtesy of stveak - Fotolia.com
- Jasper National Park, Photo: Courtesy of Christopher - Fotolia.com
- Mount Yamnuska, Photo: Courtesy of ambeon - Fotolia.com
- Torngat Mountains, Photo: Courtesy of Nata K - Fotolia.com
- Whitehorse, Yukon, Photo: Courtesy of alcatrax1981 - Fotolia.com
- Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Photo: Courtesy of Sean Xu - Fotolia.com
- Arctic Range Adventure, Photo: Courtesy of serg_did - Fotolia.com
- Arctic Tours Canada, Photo: Courtesy of pictureguy32 - Fotolia.com
- Aurora Village, Photo: Courtesy of shimada yui - Fotolia.com
- Canada & Alaska Specialist Holidays, Photo: Courtesy of icephotography - Fotolia.com
- Canada by Design, Photo: Courtesy of nblxer - Fotolia.com
- Discover Canada Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Damon - Fotolia.com
- Frontiers North, Photo: Courtesy of Olonkho - Fotolia.com
- Great Canadian Travel, Photo: Courtesy of francescodemarco - Fotolia.com
- Natural Habitat, Photo: Courtesy of Alexander Erdbeer - Fotolia.com
- Nature Tours Yukon, Photo: Courtesy of Bob - Fotolia.com
- Northern Lights Resort & SPA, Photo: Courtesy of PiLensPhoto - Fotolia.com
- Northern Tales, Photo: Courtesy of Ihatove_inc - Fotolia.com
- Yellowknife Tours LTD, Photo: Courtesy of norikko - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of James Thew - Fotolia.com