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Top 5 Destinations to See the Northern Lights in Canada

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aurora borealis

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the northern lights or Aurora Borealis. The magical phenomenon, which occurs when electrically charged particles from the sun’s atmosphere encounter the Earth’s atmosphere, can cause vibrant colors to streak across the sky. The famous 17th-century astronomer Galileo Galilei named the mesmerizing display after Aurora, the Roman goddess of the morning. Scientists also believe that other worlds in our solar system may experience the northern lights as well!
If you can’t wait to scratch the northern lights off your bucket list, look no further than the Great White North. Canada is one of the best places in the world for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The best time to catch the Northern Lights is between December to April. Not sure where to start? Here are some of the best places to visit if you want to catch a glimpse of this spectacular show.

1. Whitehorse, Yukon

Whitehorse is one of the most popular places to observe the northern lights due to its crystal-clear skies. The city was initially established in 1953 and is the capital of Yukon. The pristine Lake Laberge is a popular area for sightseeing. The body of water sits on the banks of the Yukon River and has historical ties to the Klondike Gold Rush in the earlier part of the 20th century. You can easily rent a cabin by the lake or stay in a nearby bed and breakfast and watch the northern lights, or you can go on a guided tour.

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Yukon

Other things to do while you’re in Yukon:
While you’re in Whitehorse, you should also check out the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can see over 12 different species roaming in their natural habitat. The Yukon Wildlife Preserve spans over 700 acres, which will give you plenty of opportunities to see arctic foxes, caribou, bison and other wildlife.

2. Nain, Newfoundland, and Labrador

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Newfoundland

If you want to have an adventure, you should travel to Nain, Newfoundland, and Labrador. Located at the eastern tip of Canada, Nain is the perfect place to experience the great outdoors and see Mother Nature at its finest. The city is home to the remote Torngat Mountains National Park where you can camp and watch the northern lights. During the day you can explore its rugged mountains and rocky tundra valleys which covers over 9,700 square kilometers (3,745 square miles). It’s not unusual for people to spot humpback whales, caribou, polar bears, and other local wild animals during their stay at Torngat Mountains National Park.
Other things to do while you’re in Newfoundland and Labrador:
Although Newfoundland and Labrador is famous for its snow-capped mountains and untouched nature, there are many local festivals, museums and art galleries to enjoy. We suggest you check out The Rooms at St.John’s. The famous museum celebrates the rich history of the area and holds some of the largest collection of art and artifacts in the region. Visitors can also enjoy breathtaking views of the city while dining inside the museum’s restaurant.

 3. Banff, Alberta

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Banff, Alberta

Located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park is ideal for watching the northern lights since it’s more isolated and is less polluted. Banff sits at an elevation of 4,540 feet (1,384 meters), which makes it the most elevated town in Canada. The park has several historic sites, over a thousand glaciers and mountains that range from 45 to 120 million years old. You can watch the hypnotizing lights dance across the sky and the surface of the Lake Minnewanka, Peyto Lake or Castle Junction.
Other things to do while you’re in Alberta:
You can’t leave Alberta without checking out Jasper National Park. The park is one of the biggest dark sky preserves in the world besides Wood Buffalo National Park. The expansive park measures 11,000 square kilometers (4,247 square miles) and features numerous mountains, rivers, lakes and beaches for you to explore.

4. Iqaluit, Nunavut

Iqaluit is the capital of Nunavut and has numerous arctic outdoor activities for visitors, including dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice fishing and kayaking. This destination is very unique from the other places since it is governed by the Inuit people. Making it the ideal choice for travelers who want to see the northern lights and learn more about the culture and history of the Inuit people.
Other things to do while you’re in Nunavut:
If you will be in Iqaluit in April, try to go to the Toonik Tyme Festival. The weeklong event features musical performances and traditional Inuit activities like dogsled races, snowmobile races and igloo building. You can also go to the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association (or NACA) to learn more about the people and history of Nunavut. The organization throws a festival every summer to showcase some of the local artists in the area.

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Yellowknife

5.  Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Yellowknife is another popular destination to see the northern lights due to its flat landscape and long winter nights. The capital of the Northwest Territories, Yellowknife is also the biggest city in the province. It’s about 400 km (250 mi) south of the Arctic Circle. Tourists flock to Aurora Village to see the northern lights. The hotel has a variety of tour packages and other services for guests. You can also go to Great Slave Lake, which is just outside Yellowknife. According to the city’s official website, the city has a Northern Lighthouse which can forecast when the aurora will be active later on in the evening.
Other things to do while you’re in the Northwest Territories:
Check out the Snowking’s Winter Festival when you’re in Yellowknife. The annual festival is held each March inside a snow castle near Great Slave Lake for the entire month. The Snowking’s Winter Festival has concerts, children’s theatre and much more.
Some advice before you plan your trip:
Now that you know which places to go if you want to see the northern lights, you’ll probably be tempted to book a ticket right away. However, it’s important that you understand when the lights are visible so you will have a greater chance of seeing them. Before you book your trip, check out Aurora Watch and the Aurora Forecast Predictor to find out when it’s a good time to travel to Canada and see them.

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Visiting Canada: 6 Amazing Destinations to Experience in Banff, Alberta

When visiting Canada, travelers should keep in mind the small town of Banff, Alberta. Located a couple of hours west of Calgary, Banff is one of Canada’s top tourist attractions for a variety of reasons. The breathtaking mountainous views, trails, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, gondola lift, caves, hot springs, ski resorts, golf course, and historical relevance are all part of these reasons. Let’s explore this special region more by highlighting six amazing destinations to experience in Banff, Alberta.

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Banff Town

About Banff

There are a few interesting facts to note about Banff; first, this small town is located within the Banff National Park, which is the oldest national park in Canada (1885); second, Banff is located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and has the second highest elevation in Alberta at 4,600 ft; third, the town surrounds Tunnel Mountain (a.k.a. Sleeping Buffalo).

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Lake Louise

With only around 8,000 residents, Banff offers visitors an intimate setting with small town appeal. The historic atmosphere coupled with the awe-inspiring natural surroundings make this resort town a unique mountainous wonderland.
The main consideration for travelers to make is whether to visit in the summer or winter, as the temperatures in the winter can get as low as 8° F and as high as 30° F. Summer temperatures, which are normally a low of 45° F and a high of  70° F, are perfect for sight-seeing and comfortably enjoying the amazing destinations in this area, such as the six highlighted below.

1. Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Usually, resort hotels aren’t the historic destination travelers are seeking to experience, yet the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is a different story. The world famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel was built in 1888 and is a National Historic Site of Canada, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With remodels and upgrades through the years, this fantastic hotel now combines history with modern luxury.

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Fairmont Hotel

With 764 guest rooms and suites, this mammoth hotel looks like a giant castle (Scottish Baronial style architecture) with magnificent mountain views surrounding it. The hotel is situated in a perfect location for guests to play championship golf at the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course, go skiing at three nearby resorts, or to visit the many nearby attractions, such as Bow Falls.

2. Bow Falls

Along the Bow River and within walking distance of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Bow Falls is a great place to sight-see and hike. Although relatively small compared to some waterfalls, the 30 ft main waterfall is very accessible for visitors to see and experience from Bow Falls View Point.
Visitors can use the well-established walkways to go above the falls and see it from different angles, as well as to travel upstream and see the rapids and cascades leading up to it. Being just on the outskirts of town and within walking distance of the hotel, Bow Falls is a convenient and emblematic destination to experience.

3. Banff Gondola

One of the most amazing destinations to visit in the area is the Banff Gondola. The Banff Gondola summit facility sits on top of Sulphur Mountain at 7,486 ft.; this luxurious modern destination includes not only a spectacular gondola lift, but also:

  • Three restaurants
  • Above Banff Interpretive Center and Theater
  • Observation deck
  • Live entertainment
  • Sunset festivals
  • Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk
  • Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station (National Historic Site)
  • Castle Mountain Coffee
  • Gondola Base (Starbucks, candy store, gift shop, fireplace)

The actual gondola lift seats four passengers and ascends or descends 2,292 ft. along 5,120 ft. of track line. Passengers can enjoy the awe-inspiring views of the 6 mountain ranges within the Bow Valley as they travel to and from the Banff Gondola base and summit.

4. Banff Upper Hot Springs

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Hot springs

Located a few thousand feet from Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, the Banff Upper Hot Springs offer travelers a perfect place to take a dip outside in the fresh mountain air; sitting in a steaming pool of naturally-heated mineral water, they can take in the beauty of the surrounding forested mountains, rock cliffs, and the quaint town of Banff below.
After a long day of hiking, biking, skiing, golfing, snowshoeing, riding gondola lifts, swimming, and otherwise enjoying the Banff area, travelers will find the elegantly designed pool house a welcome sight. And, on the hill behind, they’ll see mineral water flowing down a brick-built water-way to a rounded pool below.
Banff Upper Hot Springs offers travelers a nice place to relax as early as 10a and as late as 11p. Being so close to downtown and Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, this destination is a must when visiting Banff.

5. Cascades of Time Gardens

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Cascades of Time Gardens

On the south side of the Bow River, as it curves around Banff (a couple thousand ft. north of Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel), Cascades of Time Gardens sits directly across the bridge from downtown Banff. The historic Parks Canada heritage building is located within the garden and contains learning exhibits about Canada and its people. The beautifully landscaped and designed garden has many areas to relax and enjoy the view and verdant surroundings. Unique wooden gazebos and bridge structures are found along the cobblestone paths, ponds, and canals. Native flowers and shrubs color the way for visitors as they enjoy this special destination in Banff.

6. Cave and Basin National Historic Site

Cave and Basin National Historic Site is the original place where Banff National Park started (and Canada’s entire national park system); located three miles east of Banff Upper Hot Springs, this historic destination has thermal-heated mineral water coming from natural hot springs within a cave and basin area – this being part of a group of hot springs near Sulphur Mountain.
The Cave and Basin building and site has interactive displays, interpretive trails and boardwalks, tours, including lantern tours at night, seasonal exhibits, a gift shop and snack bar, and more. While in Canada enjoying their national parks, travelers can give an ode to their first park, which makes this an extra interesting and fun place to experience.
These six amazing destinations to visit and experience in Banff, Alberta are only a few of the many notable places this region has to offer. Yet, regardless of the exact travel itinerary chosen, Banff is sure to delight and amaze any traveler who finds their way to this unique wonderland in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.From the unique town design that winds around Tunnel Mountain to the high flying gondola lift that takes passengers to luxurious settings on mountain summits, Banff is a fascinating resort town with a mix of historical wonder, natural beauty, and modern luxury.