Northern Lights: Why Whitehorse, Yukon, is the best place to see the Aurora Borealis
Situated in the northwest of Canada, the small city of Whitehorse is the capital of this territory, and a hub for travellers looking to immerse themselves in Canada’s greatest winter activities.
With the Solar Maximum approaching as early as 2024, find out below why now is the time to book your trip to Whitehorse to see the Yukon’s Northern Lights.
By day, you could be experiencing the thrill of dog sledding or snowmobiling, soaking up snow-covered scenery by snowshoeing or cross-country skiing – or even trying a spot of ice fishing! Then, once darkness falls over this winter wonderland, it’s time to gaze up in awe as the Yukon’s Northern Lights glimmer and dance across the night sky.
What is the best month to see the Northern Lights in The Yukon?
With long, dark nights, the winter months are the best time to see the Northern lights in the Yukon. During the summer months, this territory experiences another natural phenomenon, the Midnight Sun, and so for your best chance of witnessing the Aurora Borealis, we’d recommend timing your visit between December and late March.
With accommodation filling up quickly, you’ll want to book sooner rather than later. Aim to organize your trip at least three months in advance to avoid any disappointment.
Is Yellowknife or Whitehorse better for the Northern Lights?
Within a country as large as Canada, it’s no surprise there’s more than one destination for viewing the Northern Lights. But equally, with a lot of distance to cover, you may well be wondering which is the better pick.
With Yellowknife being the capital of the Northwest Territories, this city also draws in visitors for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of the Aurora Borealis. However, a key difference between Yellowknife and Whitehorse, is the impact this city will have on your budget.
For the best chance of viewing the Northern Lights in Yellowknife, you will most likely need to book an additional tour from the city. By contrast, Whitehorse offers easier access, with hardly any light pollution you can see the Northern Lights from accommodations located just outside the city. On our Yukon Northern Lights Premium Tour for example, you can view the Northern Lights from your very own balcony (or private cabin if you’re looking for a more romantic getaway)!
With more flight options to Whitehorse than Yellowknife too, your choice between these two destinations really comes down to convenience and budget.
Best place to see the Aurora Borealis in Whitehorse
Just as you can’t always guarantee sightings of wildlife on a safari, the same can be said of a natural phenomenon like the Northern Lights. For the best chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis, you’ll want to take into account factors such as light pollution, accessibility and the time of night.
With little light pollution and plenty of lodgings around the city, the best place to see the Aurora Borealis in Whitehorse is often right from your accommodation. Rather than taking a tour out into the freezing night, you can simply wrap your coat and layers on over your pyjamas and hop outside at any time!
Depending on your style of travel, you may choose a self-guided or guided trip to the Yukon. Bear in mind that a guide can also offer recommendations on the best places to go to help boost your chances of seeing the Northern Lights too.
What is the Solar Maximum and when will it be?
As the Earth revolves around the sun, so the sun goes through its own cycle approximately every 11 years. During this time the sun transitions from low to high solar activity, with the peak of this known as the solar maximum.
When the solar maximum occurs the sun’s magnetic poles flip and the number of sunspots increases. These sunspots can be even larger than the size of the Earth and are where the sun’s magnetic field is much stronger.
Solar flares also increase and, if fired toward Earth, they interact with the gases in the atmosphere to create even more vibrant Northern Lights.
While the current sun cycle was expected to peak in mid-2025, experts are now forecasting this peak to begin much earlier in mid to late 2024.
Experiencing the Northern Lights during the Solar Maximum in the Yukon
With the Solar Maximum offering an even more dazzling Aurora Borealis in the Yukon, now is without a doubt the perfect time to start booking your Northern Lights adventure. While the sun’s current cycle will peak as soon as mid-2024, solar activity is already on the increase and so spring 2024 is an excellent time to visit.
A Yukon Tour with Discover Canada Tours during this time will also be focusing on providing visitors with the best possible experience of the Solar Maximum, combined with the option of adding other exhilarating activities such as dog sledding! With all transport, accommodation and warm gear included, these tours offer the perfect winter package.
However you decide to experience the Northern Lights in the Yukon, remember accommodation in this remote region is limited and so you’ll need to book in advance (by at least three months). The impact of the solar maximum on the northern lights is going to be an adventure for scientists and travellers alike over the next few years, and a truly exciting time to witness one of nature’s greatest spectacles!
Written by Hannah Lane.