Seeing the Northern Lights in Canada – Best time and places

But, are there Northern Lights in Canada?

While this question might sound surprising to you, many people actually don’t know that you can see the Northern Lights in Canada. After we posted about seeing Northern Lights for the first time on our Canadian Rocky trip, we received many messages from travelers who wanted to visit Canada but didn’t know that it is possible to see the phenomenon in some locations and times.

Can you imagine dreaming about seeing the Northern Lights all your life, then traveling to an incredible destination as Canada and miss out the experience because you didn’t know it’s there?

best countries to see the norther lights in may aurora borealis turism

With this article, we hope to put Canada on the map as a Northern Lights destination. Besides, of course, we will tell you the best time and places to see the Northern Lights in Canada so you can cross this unique experience off your bucket list.

BEST TIME TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN CANADA

Before talking about the best time to see the Northern Lights in Canada, I would like to introduce the concept of KP briefly. (+ info in our Guide on How to Photograph the Northern Lights)

In summary, the Northern Lights are formed when solar particles collide with the Earth’s atmosphere. These particles are attracted to the poles of the globe due to low magnetism of them.

The intensity of the solar particles is measured by the KP index, on a scale from 0 to 9. Higher value means better chances for you to see Northern Lights from places further away from the poles. Or, to put it another way, it is more likely for us to see Northern Lights in the further north regions of Canada, even if KP is not too high.

However, bear in mind that as we travel further north, there will be fewer dark hours during summer months, and darkness is an essential requirement for seeing the Northern Lights.

northern lights in alberta canada

This factor is key when planning your trip to see the Northern Lights in Canada. The best months to see the Aurora Borealis in Canada are from October to March (most hours of darkness).

However, if we want to see the Northern Lights in Canada in August or another summer month, a high KP in the southern parts (still fewer hours of darkness) would give you the best chances to see Aurora Borealis.

best season to see northern lights in canada toronto

In short, the Northern Lights can be seen all year round in Canada, but much easier during winter. Depending on the dates of your trip, head to the north during winter and south during summer to maximize your chances.

northern lights can be seen in canada

Above all, to know when to see the Northern Lights, we strongly recommend setting an alarm system at all times to alert you when KP index suddenly increase. (+ info in our Guide on How to Photograph the Northern Lights).

SUMMING UP, THIS IS THE BEST TIME TO SEE THE AURORA BOREALIS IN CANADA:
  • September and October: Statistically there are usually very high KPs during these months and it is easy to see auroras in Canada even though the days are not as long as in winter.
  • November, December, January, and February: The days are very short and the nights are very dark, so it is easy to see northern lights in the North when the skies are clear.
  • March and April: As it happened with the equinox of autumn, with the one of spring statistically also many Auroras Borealis are seen in Canada.

WHERE TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN CANADA

As we have seen in the previous section, the best places to see northern lights, or at least where there will be more possibilities, are in Northern Canada during the winter months.

northern lights tour yukon canada

This makes the Yukon and Northwest Territories best destinations of Canada to see the Northern Lights. This, however, does not mean that we won’t be able to enjoy an excellent display of lights in other areas of Canada.

Below, you will learn about the best places, divided by territory/province:

1. BEST PLACE TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN CANADA – YUKON

Yukon is one of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis in all of Canada per its latitude and location. In Whitehorse, a top destination, we can even find hotels that specially cater to the Northern Lights chasers. One of these hotels is the Northern Lights Resort & Spa where you can book Chalets with large glass windows for viewing the Aurora Borealis under a warm interior.

2. BEST PLACE TO SEE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN CANADA – NORTHWEST TERRITORIES

Another perfect place to see Northern Lights in Canada would be the Northwest Territories, where its capital, Yellowknife, is one of the most famous locations to enjoy this phenomenon. There are also numerous hotels and activity centers related to the Northern Lights here, such as this small village made with Indian “Tipi” tents where the protagonists are always the Northern Lights. Another city in this territory to be considered per its northern latitude would be Tuktoyaktuk.

3. WHERE TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN CANADA – NUNAVUT

In the remote and arctic Nunavut Territory, we can also see the aurora in its capital, Iqaluit, on the Baffin Island. This is perhaps one of the coldest and most remote and uninhabited places to experience the Northern Lights.

4. BEST PLACE TO SEE THE AURORA BOREALIS IN CANADA – MANITOBA

Also located at a high latitude, the city of Churchill in Northern Manitoba is another Northern Lights destination. We can find companies specializing in Northern Lights Tours here.

In addition to Northern Lights, we can also try a polar bear watching excursion in Churchill between September and November, combining two exciting activities in one trip.

5. BEST PLACE TO SEE AURORA BOREALIS IN CANADA – QUEBEC

To maximize possibilities of seeing the Northern Lights in Quebec, we will have to head to the northern parts of this province, like Kuujjuaq for instance.

6. BEST PLACE TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

At lower latitudes, the best place to see Northern Lights in Canada would be British Columbia/Alberta and the Canadian Rockies in general. Within the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park and Jasper National Park would be the best places.

To estimate your chances to see Northern Lights in other places further south, we should be kept up to date on KP prediction and check if we are at a good enough latitude:

best places to see the northern lights in Canada

If you want to see Northern Lights in a more photogenic environment, we would personally opt for the Canadian Rockies.

Here, the chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis are as high as in other territories at similar latitudes, such as British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, or Quebec. However, the incredible Canadian Rockies landscapes will make our Northern Lights photos even more amazing.

best places to do a northern light tour in canada

Top places to see Northern Lights in Canada

In short, these are the 10 best places where Northern Lights in Canada are seen:

  1. Whitehorse – Yukon: The best place to see Northern Lights in Canada in winter.
  2. Yellowknife – Northwest Territories: One of the most popular places to take an Aurora Tour in Canada.
  3. Tuktoyaktuk – Northwest Territories: It is not so popular but the chance to see Northern Lights here is high.
  4. Iqaluit – Nunavut: One of the coldest places to see Northern Lights in Canada.
  5. Churchill – Manitoba: Besides of Northern Lights, it is one of the best places to see Polar Bears.
  6. Kuujjuaq – Quebec: Although difficult, this is the best place to see Northern Lights in Quebec.
  7. Banff – Alberta: The chances to see Northern Lights here are lower since it is in South Canadá but with a high KP (more than KP6) you can see them.
  8. Jasper – Alberta: Jasper has the darkest skies so if there is a high KP (more than KP6) it is a good place to see Northern Lights in Canada.

Pay attention to darkness as a factor for choosing your Northern Lights destination. Stay away from major cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, where light pollution will mask the Aurora Borealis.

Same goes for clouds – if the sky is covered, you will miss the show. Use a weather forecast system to search for the clearest possible skies. For Canada, you can use this website to assess cloud prediction for the next 48 hours on an interactive map.

BEST NORTHERN LIGHTS TOURS IN CANADA

Although there is a wide variety of options and attractions for tourism in Canada, one of the most requested is the Northern Lights, since it is the best place to see this phenomenon in North America.

northern lights canada quebec

If you are interested in taking a trip to see Northern Lights in Canada, you should know that there are specialized agencies offering what they call Aurora Borealis Packages in Canada. These tours usually take place from October to March, most of them in the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

These packages typically include accommodation in a specialized Northern Lights hotel, a guided tour to see the Northern Lights, history lessons about the Yukon, the First Nations tribes that lived here, and the gold rush, which drove hundreds of dreamers moving out to the northern lands looking for gold and minerals.

northern lights images canada

If you have read our Canadian Rockies Photo Tour article, you would already know that we are organizing different Group Photo Tours around the world for photography enthusiasts.

Canada will undoubtedly be one of our next tours, so if you are not only interested in a trip focused on seeing the northern lights in Canada, but you are also a photographer (regardless of your level) and want to learn how to photograph it, contact us.

You may also be interested in joining our next Iceland photo tour, or our next Lofoten Islands photo tour. In both, we will photograph the incredible phenomenon of the Northern Lights.

best time to see northern lights in canada

OUR BEST NORTHERN LIGHTS IMAGES IN CANADA

You can enjoy and find inspiration with our best pictures of the Northern Lights in Canada below. All images were taken in Yoho National Park on the night of May 27th, 2017 after receiving an alert about an unusual and sudden KP increase (7.8).

As a last tip, if you want to go home with incredible images of the Northern Lights in Canada, I strongly recommend reading our Guide to Photographing the Northern Lights if you haven’t already done so. We talk not only about photography but also about how to find Northern Lights (this includes Canada), and many useful tips on prediction.

HOPE YOU ENJOY READING THIS ARTICLE AND We WISH YOU A GOOD NORTHERN LIGHTS HUNTING IN CANADA!

written by Ascenphotography by danzafra

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