Photo of the Northern Lights from Canada


Witnessing the Northern Lights is an unforgettable travel experience, and Canada is one of the best locations to view this seasonal spectacle. Travellers cross the globe to Canada in hopes of getting a glimpse of this incredible natural wonder. Unfortunately, getting a spectacular show of the Aurora Borealis is not as easy as simply travelling to Canada. There are several factors including weather, timing and location that will maximise your chances of seeing this fantastic light display. That is why Cover-More has compiled the complete guide to get you the ultimate view of the Northern Lights while visiting Canada.

The basics

The science behind the spectacle

The Northern Lights are caused by streams of charged particles from the sun, called solar wind, which are directed by the Earth's magnetic field toward our planet's polar regions. As the charged particles are drawn earthward, they interact with electrons in the upper atmosphere and release the energy that creates the visible light show known as Aurora Borealis.

How long Aurora Borealis lasts

The Northern Lights usually last for several hours at a time. However, more minor displays sometimes only last from 10 to 60 minutes, and the more light pollution that is present, the less time this light show will be on display.

Where to go

Head up north

In order get the most memorable view, visit a region located at a high latitude. Canada is a primary destination for a Northern Lights show because it extends deep into the Arctic Circle. In fact, the 'Aurora Oval', or the region that displays Aurora Borealis, covers the majority of the country including the provinces of Yukon, Northern Saskatchewan, Northern Territories, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. However, Northern Alberta's Fort McMurray is renowned for some of the most reliable Northern Lights activity and clear visibility to witness it.

When to go

Visit during the winter

This unique and fascinating natural wonder appears from September to March, particularly on dark, clear nights. Sometimes it is possible to see the lights as late in the season as April, however the ability to view the Northern Lights decreases when the sky begins to get brighter in the spring and summer months. Typically there are two waves throughout the night, one that occurs around 10 pm and the other happens around Midnight. Unfortunately, this light show can be incredibly fleeting, appearing and disappearing a moment later.

Take a tour

Keep in mind that there are no set rules for the Northern Lights, and like any natural occurrence, you can never know with certainty when the lights will appear. Your best bet is to take one of many of the guided tours offered throughout Canada for a more likely chance of viewing the Aurora Borealis.

Know ahead of time

There are several websites and applications that predict the weather forecast for the 'Aurora Oval'. It is helpful to be aware of the weather before you book a tour or plan your itinerary so you can maximise your visit and get the best view of the Northern Lights possible during your time in Canada.

What to bring

Do not forget warm clothes

While packing always required a few travel hacks, the number one necessity for your adventure to see the Northern Lights is warm clothing. Packing heavy layers is key as Canada is especially cold in their winter months. Also, you will be standing outside for some time in temperatures as cold as -9°C in order to view this magical occurrence. Packed layers should include thermals, hats, mittens and plenty of wool socks.

Pack your digital camera

Unfortunately, even the most advanced smartphones are not cut out take top-notch photos of the Northern Lights. But this light show is not an event you will want to forget, so brush up on your photography skills and pack a digital camera to capture the most vivid images of the Northern Lights.

Witnessing the Northern Lights is an experience that should be on every traveller's bucket list. Make sure you get a chance to view Aurora Borealis during your holiday to Canada, among the many any other outdoor endeavours this country has to offer. Not looking for an adventurous holiday? Tailor your travel insurance coverage to match your needs for your next trip to Canada.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Image Editor; cropped from original.