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How to chase the Aurora

woman holding lantern in the snow under the aurora northern lights

How to chase the Aurora

Aurora Chasing - that’s what we call it up here. If you dream of watching the best Northern Lights in the world, your host or your hotel will be happy to introduce you to Aurora chasing, a seasonal NWT activity best done late at night in early fall, or from mid-winter to spring.

Ready for your first Aurora chasing adventure? Here are a few great tips that will help you chase the Northern Lights well into the night, on your own or on an Aurora Tour.

Aurora in Prelude Territorial park while rv camping

Find a Safe Spot


Chasing the Aurora means getting away from city lights and finding a spot with a nice, wide-open view of the midnight canvass above. You can use Northern Lights forecasting websites to find the perfect night, but like any good show, you’ll want to be ready and in your seats for when the Northern Lights make their entrance. 

In late August and September, you can chase the Aurora on your own - head away from the lights of town and settle into your chosen spot for a spectacular night. That might mean a beach, a dock, or a large field, with just a few trees on the horizon.  Dress warmly and bring a flashlight, your camera and a tripod. If you are driving when you notice the Northern Lights in the sky spring to life - pull off for safety rather than stopping on the road. Here is the link to a safe Aurora viewing locations map.  

purple aurora with people

chase on an aurora tour

On a clear night, it’s easy to find your own viewing spot and set up for an amazing experience watching the Northern Lights. But when it’s particularly cold or the sky is cloudy, you’ll want to rely on the expertise of a skilled Aurora chaser to guide you. Guided aurora chasing is popular and you’re sure to have an experience watching the Northern Lights that you simply can’t get anywhere else. A local tour operator can often locate a viewing area where the stars and aurora poke through the clouds. Yellowknife is home the worlds first ‘Aurora Hunting’ tour, an Indigenous owned and operated tour with the Aurora Hunter himself, Joe Bailey. 

Aurora Northern Lights Pine Lake Fort Smith

Find the Magic

On an Aurora Tour, you'll be introduced to the deep timeless connection between the Aurora and the people of the NWT as you travel, watching the sky. The Indigenous cultures that have called this territory home know the Aurora better than anyone, and the combined experience of watching Northern Lights while learning about their cultural significance is a magical and memorable experience.

Fall Aurora reflected over lake

The best place to see northern lights

The Northwest Territories are home to the world’s best Aurora, and there’s simply no better place to watch the Northern Lights dance above. Some of the best Aurora watching spots are quick and easy to access if you know where to go or have an experienced guide with you. In either season, our endless lakes make great opportunities to set up the start of your Aurora chase. In autumn, the Northern Lights sparkles on the water, and in winter the vast snowfield takes on the colours of the sky.  

If you want to capture the Aurora for the folks back home, bring a tripod and set your camera for a minimum five-second exposure. And bring some extra batteries. Their power fades quickly in the cold. Photographing the Northern Lights is a skill that requires practice, and it’s important to remember that the experience of standing under the lights will always be more impactful than fiddling with the settings on your camera.

couple looking up at Aurora Northern Lights Inuvik romance

How to dress for Aurora hunting

Before you start out, dress warmly, especially in winter, when a turtleneck sweater, down jacket or parka with hood, a toque or fur hat, scarf, mitts, wind pants and really warm insulated boots are essential. You'll be standing, looking up in awe, and the chill can creep in. With these tips in mind, you'll be ready to make the most of your Aurora viewing experiences across the NWT.

There’s no better place to chase the Aurora than in the NWT. If you’re ready to be stunned as the Northern Lights come to life above, read more about the spectacular opportunities to see the world’s best Aurora here. 

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