Your Guide to Northern Lights in North America

Cultured Travel’s client in Fairbanks March 2021

At Cultured Travel, we love connections with nature. The northern lights are among the world’s most breathtaking scenes. If the aurora borealis is on your bucket list, ample viewing spots exist close to home. This magical phenomenon draws tens of thousands of visitors a year. From our first-hand account, these dancing lights will touch your soul. Plus great news: There are a few places right here in North America that are considered some of the best northern lights viewing in the world. 

Fairbanks, Alaska

Our founder Valerie in Fairbanks March 2021.

Situated directly under the Auroral Oval lies the town of Fairbanks, Alaska, in the perfect position for northern lights viewing. In addition to its prime location, Fairbanks receives very little precipitation. This results in many clear night skies. 

Fairbanks aurora season runs from August to April and generally can be seen four or five nights over any seven-night period. Visitors who stay three nights or more have a 90% chance of witnessing the lights. Spot the lights on a guided tour, on a deck under a blanket, or venture out yourself in the wee hours to try and catch a glimpse. 

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada 

Also located under the Auroral Oval is Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Yellowknife offers some of the world’s best northern lights viewing. Choose from over 200 nights a year.

Canada’s Northwest Territories features two northern lights seasons. From mid-August until the end of September is the fall season, with the temperatures on land and water both (comparatively) warm. The winter season for aurora viewing runs from mid-November until early April. Winter here may be chilly, but there’s something magical about witnessing the northern lights dance above a blanket of snow and ice. 

Idaho Panhandle National Forest, Idaho

Set against a stunning mountain backdrop, the Idaho Panhandle National Forest provides visitors with aurora borealis displays each winter. Priest Lake receives the most attention, roughly 50 miles south of the Canadian border. Photographers and northern lights enthusiasts flock to this gorgeous mountain lake.

Although the northern lights are active throughout the year, visibility only occurs in certain months. Optimal viewing in Idaho is from September through to March, on dry and clear nights. 

Churchill, MB Canada

Another region located directly under the Auroral Oval is the northern Canadian town of Churchill, Manitoba. Early fall or late winter/early spring (end of January through to April) presents the best aurora viewing opportunities in Churchill. 

Visitors to Churchill can witness more than one natural wonder. Polar bears frequent the area in the summer months. In the winter, the “lords of the Arctic” hunt seals on the icy Hudson Bay. It’s hard to imagine a more magical vacation, with days spent spotting these magnificent creatures in the wild, and nights marveling at mother nature’s greatest light show – the northern lights. 

Want to cross the northern lights off of your bucket list? Contact us, and make it a reality! 

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