Northern Lights & Arctic Exploration Itinerary
Our northern lights tour begins in Winnipeg. Once a fur-trading hub and later a Canadian Pacific Railway boomtown, today Manitoba's capital is a cultural and commercial center at the eastern edge of Canada’s vast prairies. On arrival, transfer to the distinguished Fort Garry Hotel, one of the city’s most prestigious landmarks. Built in 1913 by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in the style of a French chateau, it remains the grande dame of Winnipeg hospitality. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner with your Expedition Leader and fellow travelers.
Day 2: Fly to Churchill—Town Tour & Northern Lights
Board our chartered flight to Churchill this morning. On arrival, transfer to our hotel, followed by a brief tour of this historic settlement that was originally a Hudson's Bay Company fur-trading post established in 1689. As night falls, we head out in search of the northern lights. The display often begins as a pale glow low in the northern sky, which slowly begins to shift and undulate, often emerging as shimmering curtains of green. Sometimes, pink, red or even violet colors appear. For centuries, the phenomenon of the northern lights was a mystery, inspiring a host of mythical explanations. While we know now that the aurora is caused by the interaction of the solar wind with Earth’s magnetic field, more poetic stories of their origin linger, including the Hudson Bay Inuit’s belief that the lights are the mystical display of their ancestors’ souls dancing in the sky.
Days 3–5: Aurora Viewing by Night, Arctic Exploration by Day
On these dark, icy nights in the Canadian North, we travel outside town to where views of the aurora are best, far from artificial light. Yet we don't stand in the cold as we wait for the lights to appear: each evening includes a different vantage point to witness the phenomenon in warmth and comfort. Our custom-designed Aurora Pod® features 360-degree views of the night sky through a glass ceiling and half-walls. We get another perspective from circular Aurora Domes with Plexiglass roofs: climb the ladder to the upper level for a view in the round, relax on the sofas below, or step outside for a totally clear vista. On another night, view the lights from isolated cabin deep in the boreal forest, which we access on an overland snowcoach expedition—a Nat Hab exclusive, for our guests alone. After a dinner of hearty Canadian fare, look for the lights above the spruce trees while warming up around the wood stove or the bonfire outside. As we marvel at the sky, there are ample opportunities to capture coveted photos with tips from our Expedition Leader.
While nights are devoted to the aurora, daytime excursions focus on distinctly northern adventures, local cultures, and the austere beauty of our subarctic environs. A highlight is a full-day journey on a custom-built snowcoach on the frozen Churchill River and into the North Woods. This new vehicle, designed exclusively for our use, allows passage over wild, roadless landscapes—offering our travelers a true wilderness experience outside Churchill. Within the silent depths of the forest, protected from the wind, choose an optional snowshoe excursion as we look for wolf and moose tracks, and hardy northern wildlife such as Arctic hare and Arctic fox. We're the only souls around out here, since only Nat Hab travelers have this special opportunity.
Back on the tundra, the historic town of Churchill offers encounters with intriguing local people and roving sled dogs. While the Hudson’s Bay Company established a fort here in 1717 as part of its fur-trading network across the Canadian North, indigenous cultures had already been flourishing in this challenging climate for thousands of years. Explore their heritage on a dog sled ride through the boreal forest, during a visit to the Itsanitaq Museum, and via cultural programs featuring the arts and traditions of the Inuit, Dene and Metis peoples. Learn the art of igloo building, and tour the Churchill Northern Studies Center, a field station devoted to research and education on topics pertinent to the western Hudson Bay region.
Day 6: Churchill / Winnipeg
The morning is free to wander Churchill’s main street, where several locally owned shops sell authentic local handicrafts, from traditional mukluks to sculptures made of caribou hair. We then transfer to the airport for our chartered flight back to Winnipeg. Gather for a farewell dinner this evening to celebrate all our Arctic adventures.
Day 7: Winnipeg / Depart
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for flights home.
Please note: Scheduling for all activities in Churchill is flexible in order to accommodate varying weather conditions.
Physical Rating: Moderate
This adventure does not require a significant degree of physical fitness. However, we will be exposed to extremely cold weather, often experiencing temperatures well below freezing, which in itself can be physically challenging. We may also have to walk in deep snow. Most nights we will stay up past midnight to look for the northern lights, which typically appear late at night. It is necessary to climb 10 steps up a ladder in order to access the upper level of the Aurora Domes, for the best view of the sky from this facility. Travelers must be able to walk up and down stairs. All of our activities are optional.