Northern Lights tours in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Dancing across the night sky in radiant hues, the Northern Lights — or Aurora Borealis — are nature’s way of putting on a dazzling light show. The Northern Lights are caused by charged particles from the sun colliding with atoms in Earth’s atmosphere.
Yellowknife, nestled in Canada’s remote Northwest Territories, is one of the world’s premier destinations for this ethereal display. Its clear skies and minimal light pollution allow for an unforgettable viewing experience. Imagine standing under a dark sky ablaze with colourful lights casting their glow on the landscape below.
The travel experts at northernlightscanada.com specialize in planning Northern Lights trips in the Northwest Territories. We take care of all the arrangements in the area, booking the best aurora-viewing tours, hotels, and experiences. We provide personalized travel support from planning through travel.
Read our following travel guide to the aurora in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories to learn more.
Table of contents
- Most popular Aurora tours in Yellowknife
- Yellowknife Aurora tour packages: what to expect
- Best time to view Aurora Borealis in Yellowknife
- Recommended duration of stay in Yellowknife for Northern Lights viewing
- Best Places to see the Northern Lights in Yellowknife
- Outdoor activities to enjoy while on a Northern Lights trip
- How to choose the best northern lights tour in Yellowknife
- Where to stay in Yellowknife to see the Northern Lights?
- Best Restaurants to try in Yellowknife
- Transportation options in Yellowknife
- Frequently Asked Questions
Most popular Aurora tours in Yellowknife
Enjoy three unique aurora viewing experiences, including a relaxing evening in a geo dome. Yellowknife — the capital of the Northwest Territories — has deep cultural roots to discover. Along with outdoor activities, such as dogsledding or snowmobiling, you’ll have the chance to discover the region’s rich Indigenous cultures.
Trip length (number of nights): 4
Nights in Yellowknife: 4
Aurora viewing evenings: 3
The fall version of our winter tour, you’ll be dazzled by the vibrant fall foliage during the day and the spectacle of the Northern Lights at night. During this season in Yellowknife, you’ll be immersed in its stunning beauty, enjoying outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing and wildlife tours.
Trip length (number of nights): 4
Nights in Yellowknife: 4
Aurora viewing evenings: 3
Yellowknife Aurora tour packages: what to expect
Trips to the see the Northern Lights in Yellowknife offer many other activities (1). From exploring the spectacular untouched landscapes to discovering the region's vibrant cultural, there is always something to do. Your days can be as active or as relaxed as you like.
Once you arrive in Yellowknife, you'll be transferred to your accommodation. Most evenings will be spent with a local guide, who will take you to a special location to see the lights. You don't have to travel far outside of Yellowknife to get away from any light pollution. These locations are set up with comfort in mind: you'll have warm clothing and snacks, and there is usually a campfire.
During the day, you can enjoy various activities, from hiking and fishing in the fall, to dogsledding and snowshoeing in the winter.
Location: Yellowknife, the capital city of Canada's Northwest Territories, is a beacon for those in search of the surreal beauty of the Northern Lights. Located just over 400 kilometers (248 miles) south of the Arctic Circle, this northern city experiences some of the most extreme weather conditions, from long, harsh winters to short, hot summers. But it's the winter nights that are the main attraction for many, as they play host to the stunning spectacle of the aurora borealis.
Climate: Due to its northern location, Yellowknife sees high levels of geomagnetic activity, which leads to the creation of the vibrant colors associated with the Northern Lights. The weather conditions in the region are relatively stable during the winter, with little precipitation or wind, and low humidity, which means clear skies that are perfect for aurora viewing.
Best time to view Aurora Borealis in Yellowknife
Late November to early April
These are considered the best months for Northern Lights viewing in the Northwest Territories. During this period, the nights are long and dark, providing the perfect canvas for the vibrant colors of the aurora.
December to February
The heart of winter brings the longest and darkest nights of the year, increasing chances of seeing the Northern Lights. However, the weather can be quite cold, so visitors should be prepared for sub-zero temperatures.
Known as Aurora month, March often sees increased solar activity, leading to more frequent and intense displays of the Northern Lights. Plus, the weather begins to warm up slightly.
Early August to mid October
The fall months also offer fantastic Aurora viewing opportunities. When the nights become dark again after the Midnight Sun of summer, the Northern Lights become visible. Different activities are available in the fall (hiking, for example) than in the winter as it is before the snow arrives.
Factors affecting the visibility of Northern Lights
The visibility of the Northern Lights is largely dependent on weather and climate conditions (2). Here are some important factors:
Clear, cloudless skies are crucial for viewing the Northern Lights. If the sky is overcast, it may be difficult to see the Northern Lights.
Dark skies are essential for Northern Lights viewing. The darker the environment, the more vivid the lights appear. Therefore, it is often recommended to go outside city limits, away from artificial lighting, for the best views.
The intensity and frequency of the Northern Lights are influenced by solar activity. Increased solar activity often leads to more spectacular auroral displays.
Recommended duration of stay in Yellowknife for Northern Lights viewing
The recommended duration of stay in Yellowknife for Northern Lights viewing is at least three to four nights. This gives visitors a higher chance of witnessing the spectacle, considering that weather and solar conditions can be unpredictable. It also allows enough time to explore other attractions and activities in and around Yellowknife.
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Best Places to see the Northern Lights in Yellowknife
There are lots of great places to view the stunning Northern Lights in and around Yellowknife.
1. Ingraham Trail
This scenic route hosts several viewing spots, including Vee Lake and Yellowknife River Day Use Area, with minimal light pollution.
2. Aurora Village
Aurora Village is on the Ingraham trail and is one of the popular places to visit for Northern Lights viewing in Yellowknife. The facility has five hilltop viewpoints, heated outdoor viewing seats, and 21 white teepees.
3. Local tours
Guided tours in Yellowknife specialize in aurora hunting, taking you to the best viewing spots in the area. Local guides can usually give you tips on how to take photos of the Northern Lights too.
Outdoor activities to enjoy while on a Northern Lights trip
There are many exciting outdoor activities available in Yellowknife. Since Northern Lights viewing experiences take place in the late evenings, there is plenty of time in the day to explore the outdoors. Here are some suggested activities:
Experience an exciting dog sledding adventure near Yellowknife after your night under the Northern Lights. The silence of the wilderness creates an unforgettable experience.
2. Ice fishing
Try your hand at ice fishing or net pulling on one of the many frozen lakes around Yellowknife. This unique winter activity can be enjoyed during the day or at night under the shimmering aurora.
3. Cultural experiences:
Learn about indigenous culture and history in the Northwest Territories on a storytelling tour.
Traverse the snowy landscapes of Yellowknife on a snowmobile. It's a thrilling way to explore the region.
Strap on some snowshoes and trek through the stunning snow-covered landscapes. Ideal for quieter evenings when the aurora is less active.
How to choose the best northern lights tour in Yellowknife
Determine Your Budget: Knowing your budget beforehand can help you choose the best option for you. Our Northern Lights Canada packages include accommodation, some transportation, guided Northern Lights viewing experiences, and multiple activities. A knowledgeable guide can provide insight about the Northern Lights, local geography, and culture.
Check the Itinerary: Ensure the tour includes activities and sights that interest you. Activities could include ice fishing, snowshoeing, hiking, or cultural experiences, depending on the time of year you choose to visit the Northwest Territories.
Please reach out to one of our Vacation Advisors for help choosing the Northern Lights trip that meets your needs.
Where to stay in Yellowknife to see the Northern Lights?
The city of Yellowknife sits on the Northern shore of Great Slave Lake and is the largest city in the Northwest Territories. There are fantastic restaurants, shops, and accommodation options in the city. Downtown hotels are the perfect choice for a trip to Yellowknife as they are located near amenities and are easy to access. Two of our favourite hotels in Yellowknife are the Explorer Hotel and Chateau Nova.
1. Explorer Hotel
Explorer Hotel, located in downtown Yellowknife, offers modern rooms and suites with comfortable amenities. It has a fitness center and business facilities. There is a restaurant on site, as well as a lounge with a fireplace — the perfect place for a drink in the evening.
2. Chateau Nova
Chateau Nova sits in the Northeast area of downtown Yellowknife. The property has comfortable rooms and a range of amenities, including a fitness centre, steam room, and sauna. There is a modern steakhouse-themed restaurant and lounge on site, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Both hotels are in the city, so are a great base for your Northern Lights viewing adventure. While the Northern Lights might be visible from the hotel on strong nights, it's recommended to venture outside the city for the best viewing experience. Our itineraries include tours that take you to a different Aurora-viewing locations.
Best Restaurants to try in Yellowknife
After a night under the Northern Lights, warm up with some local flavors in Yellowknife. The city offers a diverse food scene, from Ethiopian and Vietnamese to fresh seafood and brewpubs. For a taste of the local cuisine, try fish, bison, or elk dishes. Top picks for places to eat include Bullocks Bistro, Fishy People Butchery, and NWT Brewing Company. So, whether you're looking for comfort food or adventurous eats, Yellowknife has you covered.
1. Bullocks Bistro
This iconic restaurant is well-known for its fresh, locally sourced fish like Great Slave cod, Lake trout, and Whitefish. Their speciality is the fish and chips, served in a homey, rustic setting.
2. NWT Brewing Company
The city's first and only microbrewery, it offers a wide selection of locally brewed craft beers. The adjoining Woodyard Brewhouse and Eatery serves up a creative menu featuring pasta, burgers, steak, and fish dishes.
3. Trader’s Grill at The Explorer Hotel
Trader’s Grill offers a sophisticated dining experience with a menu featuring Canadian and international dishes. Try their Grilled bison ribeye or pan-fried whitefish for a taste of the North.
4. Fishy People Butchery
Fishy People has a quaint dining room that serves up sharing plates featuring seasonal, local ingredients. Fish are hand caught by local fisherman.
Transportation options in Yellowknife
1. Taxi services
Yellowknife has a few taxi companies that provide transportation around the city. They are easy to use for short distances within the city. Taxis are the ideal transportation for getting from your hotel to restaurants in the evening, for example.
2. Guided tour companies
Many tour companies in Yellowknife provide transportation as part of their aurora viewing packages. Tour guides have extensive local knowledge and can take you to the best viewing spots.
How to reach Yellowknife from other cities
Yellowknife is most easily reached by plane. There are daily flights from various Canadian cities to Yellowknife. The Yellowknife Airport is approximately 5 kilometres (3 miles) from downtown Yellowknife.
Unfortunately, there is no direct train service to Yellowknife. One can drive to Yellowknife from other Canadian cities, but it's a long journey. From Edmonton, it’s approximately 1,450 kilometres (900 miles), which is a 15-hour drive. From Winnipeg, it's approximately 2700 kilometres (1677 miles), which is a drive of around 28 hours without stops.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Yellowknife the best place to see the Northern Lights?
Yes, Yellowknife is one of the best places in the world to witness the Northern Lights due to its geographical location under the auroral oval.
What can I do in Yellowknife apart from watching the Northern Lights?
Yellowknife offers a variety of activities such as dog sledding, ice fishing, and snowshoeing.
What should I wear during my Northern Lights tour?
Dressing in layers is crucial due to the harsh winter temperatures. Don't forget thermal undergarments, insulated boots, and a warm hat! If you visit in the fall months, the weather is warmer, but you’ll still need to bring layers.
Can you see the northern lights in Yellowknife?
Yes, Yellowknife is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights due to its geographic location and minimal light pollution.
How long does the Northern Lights season last in Yellowknife?
The Northern Lights season in Yellowknife generally lasts from late August to mid-April, with peak viewing times in winter.
What is the likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights in Yellowknife?
Due to its northern latitude and clear skies, the likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights in Yellowknife is quite high, particularly during the winter months. On average, the Northern Lights are seen on 240 nights each year in Yellowknife.
What is the best time of day to see the Northern Lights?
The best time to view the Northern Lights is during the late evening and night, typically from 10pm to 2am.
What is the average duration of a Northern Lights display in Yellowknife?
The duration of a Northern Lights display can vary greatly, from a few minutes to several hours, depending on solar activity and weather conditions.
Are there any safety considerations or precautions to take while viewing the Northern Lights in Yellowknife?
Dress warmly, as temperatures can be extremely cold. In remote viewing locations, it's essential to have a reliable form of transportation (we recommend a guided tour) and be aware of wildlife.
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