Sandy Creek near Katlodeeche NWT © Aaron Tambour
The beauty of the Northern Lights has captivated people for thousands of years. In the Northwest Territories, the world’s Northern Lights mecca, the Aurora dance an average of 200 nights per year.
Canada’s subarctic is home to crystal-clear nights, ultra-low humidity, and a location directly beneath the Earth’s band of maximal Auroral activity—the “Auroral Oval”—creating the perfect conditions for frequent viewings of nature’s most beautiful light show.
The colours of the Aurora vary based on what layer of the atmosphere is being “excited.” The most common colour is an eerie green glow. Those Aurora are caused by the excitement of oxygen atoms about 120 kilometres above the Earth’s surface.
Seeing Northern Lights in the Northwest Territories is a different experience from seeing them anywhere else. In the Northwest Territories, the Northern Lights are the strongest in the world—the colours are brighter, the displays last longer, the movements are more elaborate—all of this creates a world of spectacular dances performed almost every night.
The Northwest Territories enjoy two real Aurora seasons: fall and winter. When the midnight sun retires for the year and the night skies return, so do the epic Northern Lights shows. By early August, darkness has crept back to the North. The best part of the fall Aurora season is that you can combine it with your favourite summer and fall activities: camping, paddling, and road-tripping, all without needing a -30° C certified parka.
The winter Aurora season begins in earnest in November and lasts until April, when the midnight sun overtakes the night sky. Licensed tour operators provide all manner of Northern Lights experiences, from rugged “aurora-hunting” adventures to pampered stays at luxury lodges, giving you a front-row seat to the mysterious, magical and life-affirming cosmic dance.
Select from a range of daytime activities, from driving on an ice road to driving a dog team, completely outfitted for the great outdoors. By night, travel out of town by bus or minibus to a single location, or one of several key viewing spots along the highway, for an awe-inspiring evening of Aurora viewing.
If your dream winter vacation is a snowy wonderland and a snug log cabin with amber light glowing behind frosty windows, book a winter package at a Northwest Territories lodge. Most activities are included, along with winter gear. During the day, sample cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, Dene net fishing, dogsledding or snowmobiling. Then warm up in the sauna or hot tub before tucking into a delicious home-cooked meal. Bundle up, bring a hot drink, and get ready for Mother Nature to put on a show.
The Northern Lights don’t just fire up in winter and fizzle when summer rolls around. While it’s true that skygazers must stay up a bit later to enjoy the cosmic light show in early August and through September, they’re in for a treat when the sky finally turns dark enough for the Aurora to emerge. According to many, seeing the Northern Lights is best in summer.
The world’s wildest light show is waiting for you in the Northwest Territories. Book your experience today at
The Northwest Territories is so many things. It’s the start of a journey. An attitude. A destination like no other. It is a place from the pages of history. A place that still lives free and wild. Big and big-hearted. Full of adventure and discovery. And more accessible than you think.