Adventures from My Bucket List · Travel

Crossing Off the Bucket List #1: Seeing the Northern Lights

Snowmobile Tour ♥ North Star Adventures ♥ Bullocks’ Bistro

Dancing Moose Cafe ♥ Capital Suites

Seeing the Northern Lights has always been one of the top items in my bucket list.  Luckily for me, Mr. C wanted to see it as much as I did.  One night, we spontaneously decided to go for it!  We didn’t know the best destination to see the Northern Lights so we did our research that night.

Seeing the Northern Lights - Yellowknife, Canada

We ended up choosing Yellowknife (YK) in Canada to see the Northern Lights for 2 reasons: 

1.  It’s always included in the lists of top destinations to see the Northern Lights

2.  It’s relatively cheaper for us since we’re already in Canada

*Later on, we learned from Joe, our local tour guide, YK is the best place to see the Northern Lights.  There aren’t any mountains or oceans nearby which allows the weather to be more stable.

After choosing a destination, we searched for a Northern Lights or Aurora Tour in YK.  

Although it’s more expensive, we decided to join a tour because we wanted to maximize our chances of seeing the Northern Lights.  We chose North Star Adventures because it had an overwhelming number of great reviews in Tripadvisor.  Plus, they will hunt the Aurora with you!  They will drive you around YK to search for the Northern Lights.  *Click here for my review on the North Star Adventures.

The Northern Lights or Aurora Tour fee depends on the package and hotel that you’ll choose.  

We chose the Yellowknife Aurora Package which included a 3-night stay at a hotel, 2 nights of 4-4.5hr Aurora hunting tour,  2hr snowmobile tour (optional at $149+GST/person), and a personal airport pick-up service.  We ended up paying $610+tax/person for this tour.

On our first night, we didn’t expect to see any Northern Lights because it was cloudy.  

When we looked from our hotel window at around 10:30pm-11pm, we saw it!  Unbelievable!

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Northern Lights captured by our camera from our hotel window.

1st Night of Aurora Hunting Tour

Our tour guide picked us up at 9pm.  The tour had 3 vans with groups of 7-10pax.  It was a bit crowded but we’re still happy that we joined this tour.

We went to 3 areas in search of the Northern Lights.  We didn’t see it at the first site. At the second site, the Northern Lights appeared!  It wasn’t as bright as we expected it to be but it was still incredible.  It was all over the place, it’s unbelievable!  One minute the Aurora is at one direction, the next minute at another.  Our luck finally came! For a brief moment, we witnessed the Aurora Borealis dancing. ♥  

The Northern Lights was dancing like a heartbeat.

A rarer event happened..  We saw a glimpse of magenta.  It seemed as if the Northern Lights was putting a show for us.  At the third site, the Aurora was clearer and appeared larger.

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2nd Night of Aurora Hunting Tour

We had low expectations because the night started as cloudy.  When we reached the first site, clouds filled the sky.  Then, we began to see the stars coming out and the clouds were slowly opening.  We all got excited and our tour guide kept on screaming to the sky, “Aurora! Aurora!”.  Several minutes later, the Northern Lights appeared.  It was brighter and greener than the other night!  It danced for a few minutes.  It was so surreal. ♥  We watched the Northern Lights for an hour until the clouds returned.

We tried to look for the Northern Lights again.  They drove us for a while and we reached 2 sites but the clouds didn’t cooperate.  Nonetheless, we were still ecstatic with what we witnessed at the first site.

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Seeing the Northern Lights at Yellowknife Canada Bucket List

Here’s our 4-day itinerary:

Day 1:

We walked around the city at -20/-30ᵒcKudos to us!  

Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis at Yellowknife Canada
Frozen at -37°C

There are Thai and Sushi restaurants, Shopper’s Drug Mart, galleries, grocery store and cinema.  At the farther end (at least 30 mins of walking), is the Old Town.  Here, we found the popular Bullocks’ Bistro, Dancing Moose Cafe, a frozen lake, and The Bush Pilot’s Monument.  We went up the Monument and saw a beautiful view of the city and the frozen lake.

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Day 2:

  • Snowmobile tour in the afternoon (my review)
  • Dinner at Sushi Cafe (average)
  • 1st night of Aurora hunting tour

Day 3:

  • Lunch at Taste of Saigon (average)
  • Dinner at Bullocks’ Bistro (my food review)
  • 2nd night of Aurora hunting tour

Day 4:

Despite the inconvenience of putting on at least 4 layers of clothes every time we go out, we loved this Northern Lights trip so much, this might be our best one so far! ♥ 

It’s definitely a unique experience, more of an adventure than a vacation.  I saw the Northern Lights and watched it dance.  I was even fortunate enough to witness a slight magenta.  I also rode the snowmobile.  With these alone, I already crossed off 2 items from my bucket list!  How amazing is that?

Aside from the highlights of our trip, I love the whole YK experience.  The locals are very nice (particularly the North Star Adventures crew).  Our long walks during the very cold winter also added thrill to our adventure.  We loved the challenge!  We even saw wildlife like foxes and wolverine (quite scary though).

Tips on seeing the Northern Lights:
  • I highly recommend a trip to YK.  It’s something you must do once in your life.
  • Make your experience even better by taking the Aurora Hunting Tour and Snowmobile Tour with North Star Adventures!
  • If you want to take pictures of the Northern Lights, you should bring a camera and a tripod.  Most camera phones wouldn’t be able to take pictures of the Aurora because they don’t have the required settings like shutter speed, white balance, and ISO.  Tripod is needed to avoid blurry pictures.
  • Don’t rely too much on the online forecast for Northern Lights because the weather changes quickly.
  • If you’re planning to go during winter like we did, bring lots of layers, hand warmers and foot warmers!  These saved our lives.

*Prices are in CAD

 

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46 thoughts on “Crossing Off the Bucket List #1: Seeing the Northern Lights

  1. Wow, so cool! I saw the Northern Lights in Lapland once, though they were really faint. But I just LOVED it! And Yellowknife sounds like a great place; I should put it on my travel list. Thank you for providing such a detailed post and that with a video! So cool!

  2. This is gorgeous. But the cold, oh my god! On the picture, it looks like your eyes are freezing, this is terrifying! As a European girl, I would see the Northern lights in Iceland, Norway, Finland, and I don’t think it would get as cold as -37… we have the Gulf Stream. I admire your bravery!

  3. It has always been a dream of mine to see the Northern Lights. I absolutely love this! I will be featuring your post on Friday Feature Frenzy over at bringinguplife.com today. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks so much for featuring my Northern Lights post, Whitney! I hope you get to experience them too. It’ll take your breath away! 🙂

  4. Sounds like you not only checked it off your list, but made memories to last a lifetime! I saw the Northern Lights in Alaska and I will never forget it. You are right, so surreal!

  5. -37! That’s cold I can’t even begin to comprehend, so massive kudos to you for braving that. I’m hoping to see the Northern Lights from Iceland, which I hear is another prime spot for seeing them, next year. If I can catch half as good a view of them as you managed to experience I will be a very happy man! 🙂

    1. I’m so grateful that disposable heat packs have already been invented! It saved us from frostbites. Wow, I’m so excited for you!! I want to go to Iceland too!! It’s one of our top choices in seeing the Northern Lights. If you get the chance, check the Icelandic caves. I read a blog about it and it looks amazing! 🙂

    1. Thank you!! I’m happy you enjoyed it! 🙂 Any plans on seeing the Northern Lights soon?

    1. Thanks Jessica! You would be able to see it in Canada as long as it’s very dark (away from the populated cities). Yukon is another Northern Lights destination in Canada. 🙂

  6. This trip sounds like an absolute dream. I love the taplapse video feel, even though it’s so short it’s still really well done. As a fellow travel blogger I am in awe of your itinerary post style – tons of information but not boring. 😀 xx

    1. It was so surreal! I hope that more travelers would be able to experience it too. I’m happy you loved the timelapse! Thank you for your kind words, Jaimee. ♥

  7. Great that the aurora forecast cooperated during your trip. This is the first time I see aurora tours exist. I had no idea. We live in Calgary, usually drive about an hour out of the city to see aurora…and the best thing is, you can see it all year round!

  8. We saw the Northern Lights when we married in the Ice Hotel of Lapland, but we weren’t as lucky as you to a) see them from our hotel window!! and b) to see them dancing in the way you did! This is truly incredible – what an amazing experience!! My eyelashes froze as well though, it’s rather uncomfortable feeling isn’t it – but SO worth it!! And doesn’t it feel fantastic to tick more items of your bucket list!

    1. How romantic, that’s one of the best places to see the Northern Lights!! 🙂 We were surprised also by our fortunate events. And yes, it feels fantastic to cross off items from the bucket list especially if it’s as amazing as seeing the Northern Lights!

  9. I’m always really happy when people go Aurora hunting and get to see them, as we’ve friends who tried and been unlucky. As you say it’s just so magical! Great photos sounds like a great time, brought back happy memories of when we saw the lights in Reykjavik (it’s on our blog if you interested)

    1. Thank you so much, Gareth! We were nervous too, at first, because we’re not sure if we were going to see it at all. I’m glad we did! I’m heading to your blog now. 🙂

  10. Great post! I love that you just decided to make this happen! We decide that…but then consider the temperature. (We’re from hot desert/steamy jungle climes!) One day, we will take the plunge! But first, we’re going shopping for VERY warm gear. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Rob! The climate you’re at is very extreme to the one we experienced. Haha You can go at a warmer day. We went there at the peak of winter (because we just decided to go) but you could still see the gorgeous Northern Lights at a more comfortable weather like in September. 🙂 It’s totally worth it!!

  11. I have never been able to experience something as gorgeous and breathtaking as that. It looks absolutely incredible. I’m pretty jealous, but hope to see something as beautiful as that. Congrats on the adventure!!!

  12. Wow the Northern Lights are on our list too and we almost went to Alaska to track them down a few months ago but ran out of time. So great to know you can see them in Canada as well. Love your little time lapse – so lucky the sky was so clear when you were there!

  13. It was how cold? eek!! Though in saying that it looked absolutely amazing and worth the chilly times. One day we’ll get to Canada and get to see the Northern Lights,

  14. Both Northwest Territories and the Yukon are good places to choose. I’ve seen them in the Yukon and in Churchill Manitoba too. It’s really amazing to see the colours streaked across the sky and should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list.

  15. Wow that’s quite an extensive trip. Glad you got to see the Northern Lights and thanks for the videos. Most just post photos. The snowmobile tour seems wonderful as well, and definitely something I want to do. Good to know they have yours for this. A lot of people are never sure how and where to see the lights and this is certainly helpful and well planned.

  16. Wow this is amazing! i think the northern lights are on every ones bucket list as they are just so magical. I am planning to go see some in 2017, in Iceland and Finland. I am so happy that you managed to see them! It must have been your tour guide screaming “Aurora”! Haha! How cold was it at night?

  17. The Northern Lights are on our bucket list too. The colors are just amazing. Thanks for the good tips about visiting Yellowknife, Canada. We would love to do this next time were back home in North America.

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