To gaze up at the multicolored, dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis is to enjoy one of Mother Nature's most spectacular displays. The Northern Lights are notoriously elusive, but following these tips and suggestions will help maximize your chances of crossing this one off your bucket list.
When to Go
Clear skies and darkness are the two most critical elements for viewings. Since autumn in Canada's auroral zone tends to be a bit cloudier, the period between December and April offers the best viewing opportunities. It's also important to consider the moon; a new moon is ideal, as there will be less light pollution to detract from the spectacle. The lights tend to peak near the autumnal and spring equinoxes.
Where to Go
Canada's auroral zone stretches clear across the country, from Nova Scotia all the way to the border with Alaska. Since the eastern portion of the country tends to be cloudier, the best opportunities lie west of James Bay. It's a good idea to choose a destination that you'd like to visit anyway, given that the light show is so unpredictable. The town of Churchill in Manitoba is famous for its high concentration of polar bears, while Whitehorse serves as a base for exploring the vast Yukon Territory. Yellowknife, aside from being one of the top Northern Lights viewing spots in Canada, is also an excellent place to learn about Canada's Aboriginal pioneers or try your hand at dogsledding.
How to Go
One of the best ways to see this natural phenomenon is by taking part in a Northern Lights viewing tour from a town like Whitehorse or Yellowknife—local guides know the best viewing spots away from city lights. Multi-day viewing tours from Vancouver take travelers into Northern Canada with the added benefit of multiple chances to see the lights.