Dancing Lights Fill the Sky
The blue-green and yellow-green bands of light swirl and dance from one horizon to the other, illuminating the snow-covered landscape. It’s a cloudless, dark night and your eyes are locked skyward watching the Aurora Borealis, often called the Northern Lights, from one of the best vantage points on earth, Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories. The Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon of colorful lights displayed in the sky created by interactions between charged solar particles and atmospheric gases in the enormous magnetic fields circling the North Magnetic Pole. Because Yellowknife is located at 62°, right under the Auroral arc, the lights are often the brightest here.
The Aurora Borealis viewing season extends from mid-August through mid-April—basically when the sky is dark enough so you can see the lights. But, the most favorable conditions are when it’s the darkest, January through March, and the skies are clear.
Yellowknife is snow adventure central during the winter. You could go dog sledding by day or night, when you can combine the adventure with Aurora viewing. You decide if you want to ride behind a musher controlling the sled, or learn to mush your own team. During the day, you can go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or trophy pike fishing on the Great Slave Lake. Outfitters offer snowmobiling tours that can include Aurora viewing. Other adrenaline-inducing activities include ice-road tours and winter fly-ins for caribou viewing. Take advantage of your daylight hours to experience all that this area has to offer, but save your nights for the extravaganza in the sky.
Packages are available which include Aurora viewing, lodging, and other activities. You can stay in Yellowknife, choose a wilderness, lodge, or even stay in a teepee. —LF
Northwest Territories ( 800/661-0788 in Canada or 867/873-7200 international; www.spectacularnwt.com).
When to Go: Aug–Apr; very best time Jan–Mar.