And soft they danced from the Polar sky and swept in primrose haze;
And swift they pranced with their silver feet, and pierced with a blinding blaze.
They danced a cotillion in the sky; they were rose and silver shod;
It was not good for the eyes of man—‘twas a sight for the eyes of God.
It made us mad and strange and sad, and the gold whereof we dreamed
Was all forgot, and our only thought was of the lights that gleamed.
– From The Ballad of the Northern Lights, Robert Service
Few of earth’s wonders captivate our collective imagination quite like the Northern Lights, thanks in no small measure to the talents of the Bard of the Yukon, Robert Service. More than a century later, experiencing the magic remains a bucket-list highlight for many.
The result of excited electrons from the sun hitting earth’s magnetosphere, the Northern Lights – or Aurora Borealis – dance across northern skies from mid-August through mid-April, however the best chance of catching them is typically during the first few weeks of winter.
If the Northern Lights have captured your imagination, here are a few tips from the folks at Travel Yukon to get you started!
- Check the forecast – Just like the weather, scientists also monitor the solar storms that cause the Northern Lights. To plan your viewing check out the forecast here.
- Clear skies at night – Clear, cloud-free skies are best to enjoy the full spectacle, but do try to avoid full-moon nights, which tend to steal the show.
- Dark skies rule – Yes, you can see the Auroras from Whitehorse and other Yukon cities, but you’ll get a much better look at the spectacle above if you get away from the city lights. Plan for when the skies are darkest – between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Better yet, there’s no extra equipment needed – just look up and enjoy!
- Experience on your own or with a tour – While there are numerous spots to enjoy the show on your own, guided tours are also available. Those in the Whitehorse area might take the scenic route towards Fish Lake or Chadburn Lake Road, while near Dawson, the Midnight Dome is a popular place overlooking the Yukon River and Klondike Valley to experience the midnight sun in summer and the Northern Lights in winter.
- Dress for the weather – Good advice for any outdoor adventure, but those Yukon nights get chilly, so do remember to pack warm.
Enjoy a different experience, depending on when you visit the Yukon.
During fall, colours in the skies are echoed in the riot of seasonal colour on the ground, making it a great time to also enjoy stellar hiking, paddling or a road trip. And because wildlife tends to be active around this time, too, you’ll have a better chance of seeing these other stars of the Yukon.
A winter visit lets you pair the glorious night-sky colours with outdoor activities typical of a Yukon winter, like dog sledding, snowmobiling and ice fishing. Or just cosy up in a cabin or wilderness lodge and enjoy the show.
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