10 Indigenous-led Northern Lights Experiences in Canada

by Tuan

In autumn, winter, and spring, the skies near the Earth’s geomagnetic poles come alive with nature’s greatest light show. In the Northern Hemisphere, colorful ribbons of light swirl and twirl across the inky black sky in a mesmerizing, ethereal show known as the northern lights or aurora borealis. In 1619, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei named this phenomenon aurora borealis after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek god of the north wind, Boreas. But long before Galileo gave the lights a scientific name, Indigenous peoples living in northern regions bore witness to the magic of the lights. Today, Indigenous tour operators and guides lead visitors on aurora-viewing tours on the lands their ancestors have lived on since time immemorial. Here are some of the best Indigenous-led northern lights tours in Canada.

Meet the Expert

Debbie Olsen is an award-winning Métis writer and a national bestselling author. Follow her adventures at www.wanderwoman.ca

What causes an aurora, and where can you see it?

The magical phenomenon of an aurora is caused when charged particles from the sun collide with Earth’s atmosphere. Particles that enter the Earth’s atmosphere are funneled toward the Earth’s geomagnetic poles, and as the particles become excited, they emit colors, creating glowing rings around the geomagnetic poles. These rings are known as auroral ovals. While the northern lights can be viewed in many northern areas, locations inside the auroral oval provide the brightest and most frequent northern lights displays. Northern Canada, northern Alaska, and parts of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Greenland are under the northern auroral oval.

Related: Northern Lights, Explained: What They Are and How to See Them

Northwest Territories, Canada

The Northwest Territories is one of the best places on the planet for aurora viewing. Clear, dark skies, low humidity, and a strategic location under the auroral oval allow the northern lights to shine 240 nights per year. It’s been estimated that during the aurora season, travelers to Yellowknife have a 95 percent chance of seeing the northern lights. The destination is also home to many Indigenous-owned tour companies – each offering a unique aurora-viewing experience. 

Heated Seats With 360-degree Views

Elizabeth Rhodes/Travel + Leisure

Just outside Yellowknife, Aurora Village has been one of the best places to view the northern lights since it first opened in 2000. There are 21 traditional teepees and hilltop viewpoints surrounding a pristine lake at this Indigenous-owned destination for northern lights viewing. On cold northern nights, guests stay warm inside the teepees, around bonfires, or on heated outdoor seats that swivel to offer 360-degree views — one of the most comfortable ways to see the northern lights. 

Aurora Viewing by Dog Sleds

Elizabeth Rhodes/Travel + Leisure

Dog sleds are a traditional mode of winter transportation for residents of the far north. Long before the invention of automobiles and snowmobiles, people traveled by dog sled. Owning a dog sled today is less common — unless you’re a tour operator who offers dog sledding tours.  North of 60 Aurora Adventures Inc. in Yellowknife offers guests the chance to travel by dog sled across a secluded frozen lake to watch the aurora. They also have a skydome structure that they use for aurora viewing. Hot beverages and bannock are served at the end of the tour.  

A Cozy Cabin, Dinner, and a Show

Elizabeth Rhodes/Travel + Leisure

Bucketlist Tours offers a small-group aurora-viewing experience that includes Indigenous storytelling and a delicious light midnight meal at a cozy cabin outside Yellowknife. The meal includes traditional homemade fish chowder, hot bannock, coffee, and tea – including a number of northern herbal teas. There’s also traditional northern clothing on hand, and while guests wait for the northern lights, they can dress up for photo ops. The company offers a variety of other Indigenous tours year-round.  

Learn the Legends of the Northern Lights

There are countless legends about the northern lights – mankind’s attempt to explain a seemingly incomprehensible phenomenon. Learning the legends of the lights can be almost as fascinating as seeing them, and it’s part of the experience when you take an aurora-viewing tour with B. Dene Adventures. “Our aurora tours are unique because they include traditional drumming, cooking fish over a fire, and the sharing of our language and culture,” said Bobby Drygeese, company owner. “Guests love speaking with our Elders and hearing Dene legends and stories.” While they wait for the aurora to show itself, guests relax in a warm cabin or teepee on Akaitcho Bay on the shores of Great Slave Lake outside Yellowknife. 

Aurora Hunting

Elizabeth Rhodes/Travel + Leisure

Most aurora-viewing tours are offered from a base camp, but North Star Adventures does things differently. Instead of staying in one place and waiting for the northern lights to become visible, they go aurora hunting. “Aurora hunting is kind of like storm chasing,” explained company owner Joe Bailey. “It’s exciting and it can increase your chances of seeing an aurora.” If it’s cloudy in one location, they simply move to another location in search of clearer skies and better views. Bailey called his tours “aurora hunting” to pay homage to his Dene ancestors. While guests wait to see an aurora, Indigenous guides share Dene legends. 

Aurora Viewing by Voyageur Canoe

Narwal Northern Adventures offers a unique early-season aurora-viewing experience from a 29-foot, 12-person voyageur canoe. During the fur trade period, waterways were highways and canoes were used by voyageurs to transport men and furs. This special aurora-viewing tour allows guests to be completely surrounded by light when the aurora shining in the skies above reflects on the water. A traditional meal of soup, bannock, and beverages is also provided. 

Stay Warm in a Brand-new Aurora Teepee Lodge

Courtesy of AuroraTours.net

Winter aurora viewing is warm and comfortable at a brand-new aurora teepee lodge with Aurora Tours.Net. There are several traditional teepees as well as a large trapper-style tent complex. The experience includes the chance to try on traditional clothing and furs, enjoy storytelling, and wait in comfort for the northern lights to dance across the sky outside Yellowknife. 

Yukon, Canada

The Yukon has famously dark skies, an abundance of clear nights, excellent guides and tour operators, and a strategic location under the auroral oval. 

On the Doorstep of Kluane National Park

Located at the edge of Christmas Lake near Kluane National Park, Shakat Tun Adventures’ Shakat Tun Wilderness Camp is a great place to experience Southern Tutchone culture and see the northern lights in the traditional territory of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. Owner James Allen is a former Chief and an incredible storyteller. Besides showing you the best places to see the northern lights, he can tell you the Southern Tutchone legends related to them. This company also offers several other cultural experiences. 

Manitoba, Canada

Churchill, Manitoba is directly under the auroral oval, and it is sparsely populated and therefore has low levels of light pollution.  It’s a great location for viewing the northern lights, and there are several Indigenous-owned companies that can help you see them.   

Dog Sledding and Northern Lights Viewing

Wapusk Adventures offers dog sledding during the day and northern lights viewing during the evening and night on their property outside of Churchill. Guests can stay warm inside a teepee or a cabin while they wait for the aurora to come out and dance across the sky. Wapusk Adventures is an award-winning company started in 2001 by David Daly, who traces his Indigenous ancestry to a Métis community in the Red River Valley in the 1500s. 

A Female-owned Indigenous Tour Company

Beyond Boreal Expeditions takes guests to areas just outside Churchill in a warm vehicle to handpicked aurora-viewing sites. Along the way, they learn about Churchill’s culture and receive coaching on how to photograph the northern lights. There is also the opportunity for individuals, couples, and families to get professional aurora portraits taken. 

From source: https://www.travelandleisure.com/indigenous-northern-lights-experiences-in-canada-7971314.

You may also like

Copyright @2024 by Lakelawn Motel.