Eric Rock: Man under Northern Lights, inukshuk, igloo, Northern lights and stars
Colin McNulty: Dog Sledding Brad Josephs: Sled dog, Igloo group, Dog Team, Aurora Pod
Eddy Savage: Train Station, Tundra Sunset
A Winter Adventure in Churchill, Canada—One of the Best Places on Earth to See the Aurora Borealis
Frequently Asked Questions
Click on a question below to open the answer.
The northern lights—or aurora borealis—can be seen in a variety of locales throughout the polar north, but the most vivid displays occur underneath an oval-shaped ring that circles the North Geomagnetic Pole. As earth’s magnetic field lines dip toward this “aurora oval,” solar particles stream toward Earth at very specific points on its surface. Churchill, Manitoba, happens to be one of these very best points, not only because it sits right underneath the aurora oval, but also because it sits at the frozen Hudson Bay, which provides more reliable winter weather compared to islands and marine coastal areas elsewhere near the poles.
When charged particles emitted from the sun during a solar flare strike atoms in Earth’s atmosphere, electrons release a photon, or a particle of light. The high quantity of these collisions in Earth’s atmosphere produce various colors, which creates the aurora borealis.
Although aurora activity happens throughout the year and may be seen whenever the skies darken, the best time of year to view the aurora borealis is December or January through March because of significantly clearer skies than other months.
Wintertime in Churchill can certainly be cold—that’s why skies tend to be clear and the northern lights tend to be at their brightest. Daily high temperatures rarely rise above 0ºF, though it could be markedly colder. Nighttime lows are generally between -17 to -27ºF. Days tend to be dry and sunny, though there is rain or snow an average of three to four days each winter month. Because Churchill is located along the Hudson Bay, winds can be high.
It’s impossible to guarantee anything in nature, including the appearance of the northern lights. However, after operating hundreds of departures during our nearly 20 years of aurora viewing in Churchill, Manitoba, we have missed the lights only a handful of times. Of course, each week brings a different experience. We may see a display of brilliant colors every night; at other times the viewing may be somewhat muted due to cloud cover or hazy skies. We never know what each week will bring, but we do know that Churchill is among the best spots on the planet for viewing northern lights!
Every night is different, but we generally head out to one of our northern light viewing locations shortly after dinner. Most locales provide comfortable and ample space to “wait” for the lights to appear. While waiting, the Expedition Leader may give a presentation, or we might hear stories from a local. Often the group will stay up until after midnight, depending on the aurora activity that evening.
Prime polar bear viewing season in Churchill is during October and November. When the ice forms across the water of the Hudson Bay during late fall into the winter months, the bears disperse onto the northern bay to hunt. You can find our Polar Bear Adventures here.
While the nighttime is reserved primarily for northern lights viewing, the days in Churchill will be filled with exploration and cultural experiences. We will explore the historic area surrounding Churchill, as well as participate in activities such as igloo building, curling, snowshoeing, visiting the Itsanitaq Museum and Parks Canada, dogsledding, and visits with locals.
After meeting the group in Winnipeg and overnighting there, we will travel to Churchill via our privately chartered airplane.
We recommend travelers wear layers on this trip, starting with a thin base layer, a second fleece layer, and a heavy outer layer that is of the warmest variety and is also water repellent and wind resistant. A down winter parka, insulated pants, fleece jacket, hat, mittens, neck gaiter, and a pair of boots will be provided by Nat Hab, but thin gloves are highly recommended to ensure no bare skin is exposed to the elements, even when taking pictures. Snow and even rain may be expected. For further details of what to bring, peruse this helpful packing list and check out Nat Hab’s online Gear Store for some of the key items recommended for your adventure.
So that our guests do not have to purchase expensive warm weather clothing that might be used only once, Nat Hab provides guests with high-quality, down-filled parkas. We also include the use of warm snow pants, mittens and Arctic boots, and we give each traveler a warm hat and fleece neck gaiter to keep.
Nat Hab rates this trip as “Moderate”. Although the itinerary is not immediately physically challenging, travelers will be exposed to Churchill’s cold temperatures, which may be taxing. The itinerary also includes long days and late nights. If guests arrive prepared, they will be able to physically participate in each day’s activities without issue. Please click here for further details of the physical requirements of this trip.
Churchill’s hotels are clean and comfortable but also simple and small. They are conveniently located in the center of the town, with easy access to all of the most important destinations.
Both the Aurora Domes and the Aurora Pod are heated for our guests’ comfort.
U.S. dollars are widely accepted in Canada, but to get the best value for your dollar it is recommended you exchange money to Canadian currency before arrival in Churchill. It is best to exchange at your home bank, so you have cash available upon arrival. Click here to check the current exchange rate. The majority of services in Manitoba take credit cards, but they are not accepted everywhere. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards. There is an ATM at the Fort Garry Hotel.
Free Wi-Fi will be available at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg. Although Internet connection is offered at the hotels in Churchill, the connection may be slow and unreliable. There is spotty cellphone service in town, so do not expect to rely on your phone for communication.
Yes! Families or friend groups can reserve entire departures on a private basis. Please call our office at 800-543-8917 to get details on group size and pricing.
Guests are responsible for booking round-trip flights from their home city to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Although you must arrive in time for an orientation dinner on Day 1 of your adventure, it is highly recommended to arrive a day early in case of inclement weather. On Day 2 of the trip, the group will travel from Winnipeg to Churchill via charter plane, which is booked by Nat Hab. You will return to Winnipeg in the early evening of the second-to-last day of your tour. Please check the Getting There & Getting Home information on the Dates, Prices & Info page for info on required arrival and departure times for this adventure.
Nat Hab is happy to reserve a hotel room for you in Winnipeg before your Churchill tour begins, but please note that pre-nights are subject to availability at the time of booking. Please speak with our Travel Desk if you’re interested in booking extra nights.
There are many attractions in Winnipeg during the winter season, such as walking among the ice sculptures on display at the Forks National Historic Site, sleigh-riding at Birds Hill Park Ranch (20 minutes north of Winnipeg), walking around the trails at Assiniboine Park, visiting the Assiniboine Park Zoo prepping for your astral trip at Manitoba Planetarium, or touring the Royal Canadian Mint. A fabulous museum is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which is located near the Forks.