5 things you need to know about viewing the northern lights in Churchill, Manitoba

Posted October 05, 2021 | Author Breanne Sewards

Would it surprise you to learn that Manitoba is among the best places on Earth to experience one of the world's great natural wonders? Standing alongside The Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef and Mount Everest is the humble Aurora Borealis. Well, maybe not so humble, when you consider the jaw-dropping show this wonder puts on nearly 300 days out of the year in Churchill, Manitoba. If you have witnessing this phenomenon on your list, here are 5 things you need to know about the northern lights in Churchill, Manitoba.

Churchill is one of the best places in the world to view the northern lights

Churchill, Manitoba is a remarkable place that is known around the world for its congregation of polar bears in the fall and its thousands of beluga whales in the summer. Savvy travellers and nature lovers also know that it is one of the top places in the world to see the northern lights. There are certain criteria that must be met in order to see the lights, and from February to March, Churchill frequently checks all the boxes. There must be an increase in solar storms on the sun, there must be clear skies, you must be located in the auroral oval and there must be a high KP index. Phew. The good news is, Churchill is situated beneath the auroral oval and therefore has a significantly higher chance of meeting these requirements as it only needs a KP index of 1 or higher. The TLDR version of this is that Churchill wins when it comes to beating the serendipitous odds of the aurora borealis.

As it happens, multi-course dinners go well with the Aurora Borealis

If seeing the northern lights wasn't once-in-a-lifetime enough for you, tack on one of the world's most unique dinner reservations and experience dining beneath the aurora borealis with Dan's Diner. Offered exclusively by Frontiers North, this dining adventure begins aboard the massive Tundra Buggy® that will carry you across the frozen Churchill River to the warmth of Dan's Diner: an enclosed dining hall with panoramic windows and skylights that are optimal for viewing the lights as you dine. Surprise, surprise: gourmet food pairs excellent with nature's most dazzling display.

dans diner churchill northern lights

You can also experience dogsledding, snowshoeing and more

While your nights on a trip like this are more than spoken for, the daytime is wide open to experience some of the cultural adventures that Churchill has to offer. Try dogsledding with renowned musher Dave Daley of Wapusk Adventures, or strap on a pair of snowshoes for a trek along the frozen shores of the Hudson Bay. The Itsanitaq Museum holds one of the finest and oldest collections of Inuit artifacts in the world, dating from Pre-Dorset (1700 B.C.) through Dorset, Thule and modern Inuit times. Plan to spend at least an hour marvelling at the tiny and intricate carvings displayed.

Mural of northern lights overlaid with a persons face and a beluga whale, painted on the side of a building in Churchill.

While driving through town, you may notice a number of colourful murals painted on the walls of businesses, apartment buildings and more. These are the Churchill Sea Walls, a collection of 18 murals painted by artists from around the world to raise awareness on how to protect the ocean.

And while the polar bears are long gone and hunting on the ice (though, if you're doing a DIY trip, you will still need a bear guide just in case), you may very well see other types of wildlife such as snowy owls, ptarmigan and Arctic fox.

There are a variety of packages and options available when planning your trip

There are a number of packages to choose from when planning your trip to see the northern lights in Churchill. The Churchill Northern Studies Centre provides an affordable option for those seeking a glimpse of the aurora borealis.

Being 30 minutes outside of the town of Churchill, it also provides ideal conditions for viewing the night sky.

Frontiers North Adventures' various trip packages depart from Winnipeg, offering northern lights viewing in the cozy Aurora Lounge, which is situated away from town on the other side of the frozen Churchill River.

Northern lights trips are also available with Nat Hab, giving you exclusive access to the warm Aurora Pod that has been specifically designed for watching the aurora borealis with 360-degree views of the sky.

If you prefer to plan your own trip and do activities at your own leisure, consider Nights Under Lights, a guided evening photography outing based at a yurt in the middle of the boreal forest, or Discover Churchill, which focuses on photography tours.

Seeing the northern lights will change your perspective forever

Like all beautiful things on Earth, the aurora borealis has long been the subject of poetry, prose and art. And we do mean a long time. Drawings believed to be depicting the northern lights were found on the walls of caves in France dating back 30,000 years. In Inuit mythology, the lights are interpreted as the spirits of the deceased, playing a game of ball with a walrus skull.

While the science of the northern lights is being better understood every day, there is no doubt that a certain magic still remains. You will feel it too, as you lay beneath a wide-open sky that dances with vibrant ribbons of green, white and purple. It's a life-changing and humbling experience when you realize how utterly tiny you are in the enormity of the universe...yet oh-so-significant, too.

About The Author

Hey! I'm Breanne, Editorial Content Specialist for Travel Manitoba. First to jump in the lake and last to make it down the River Trail. Lover of croissants, cats, and croissant-shaped cats. Got a story idea? Email me at bsewards@travelmanitoba.com.

Editorial Content Specialist