Summary : In the same land that hosts the brief, brilliant summer of beluga whales and the polar bears of autumn comes an amazing phenomenon that illumines the dark winter skies. The ethereal northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, meaning “north wind of the dawn,” brighten the night sky in a mystical display of color. Churchill, Manitoba has one of the heaviest concentrations of auroral activity on Earth, making it an ideal destination for a northern lights tour. View the lights from varied heated vantage points including our new custom-built Aurora Pod®, offering 360-degree views on the night sky in warmth and comfort through its geometric glass top and sides. On this exciting Arctic adventure, your days are filled with distinctly northern activities such as dog sledding, and your nights with the potential for the best aurora viewing on the planet.
Activities : Child-Friendly, Culture
$5,995 to $6,195
Arrive in Winnipeg and transfer to the Fort Garry Hotel. Built in 1913 by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, the French chateau-style hotel remains the grande dame of Canada's prairie capital, offering first-class hospitality. Enjoy a welcome dinner this evening with your Expedition Leader and fellow travelers.
In preparation for your northern lights encounters, attend a planetarium program at the Manitoba Museum focusing on the science of the aurora borealis. Tour exhibits reflecting the human and natural heritage of the province, including the history of Canada's northern indigenous cultures. Contingent on the train schedule, board the Hudson Bay Railway to Churchill around lunchtime. As darkness falls, make your way to the train’s new glass-domed observation car for possible sightings of the northern lights from this panoramic indoor vantage that allows you to gaze straight up into the sky.
Continuing northward on the train, leave the southern prairies behind and enter the landscape of the subarctic. Throughout the day, enjoy the fishbowl view of the wild expanse beyond as you relax in the domed observation car. Plains transition to dense boreal forest, also called taiga, the coniferous zone that circles the planet beneath the Arctic Circle and comprises one-third of the earth’s forests. This morning, disembark for several hours, with time to eat lunch in town and explore the frozen waterfall at Pisew Falls Park. Back on board this afternoon, watch stunted spruce trees and boggy muskeg give way to frozen tundra as you continue toward Churchill, a frontier town on the edge of Hudson Bay. The “Tundra Train” is relaxing and comfortable, and each cabin has its own private bathroom. At night, you may get a preview of the northern lights outside the large individual windows of your sleeper cabins, and from the observation car.
On arrival in Churchill, transfer to your hotel and take a brief tour of this historic northern outpost town. The Hudson’s Bay Company established a fort here in 1717 as part of its fur-trading network across the Canadian North, but indigenous cultures had already been flourishing here amid the harsh Arctic climate for thousands of years. Explore Churchill's heritage and traditions on a visit to a local dog musher, enjoying a dog sled ride through the boreal forest; at the Eskimo Museum; and through cultural programs featuring the arts and traditions of the Inuit, Dene and Metis peoples. Outside town, your Expedition Leader introduces you to northern ecology and the stark yet alluring winter landscape.
As night falls, await nature’s magic: the spectacle of the aurora borealis, the legendary northern lights. Each evening holds an opportunity to witness the phenomenon in warmth and comfort. The custom-designed Aurora Pod® features 360-degree views of the sky, courtesy of its exclusive geometric glass construction. Another view on the lights happens in Plexiglass Aurora Domes positioned outside town in complete darkness. Relax on the sofas below, or climb the ladder to the upper level for an unimpeded circular view of the heavens.
Often, the aurora begins as a white glow low in the sky that slowly starts to shift and undulate. Wavy patterns evolve, colors appear and change, until the lights look like shimmering curtains of green. Sometimes, you even see yellow, red or purple tones. For centuries, the phenomenon of the northern lights was a mystery, inspiring a host of mythical explanations. The aurora is caused by the interaction of the solar wind with the earth’s magnetic field, and more poetic stories of their origin linger, including the Hudson Bay Inuit’s belief that the lights are the ethereal display of their ancestors' souls dancing in the sky. Of course, you are never guaranteed to see them, but Churchill has some of the most frequent and intense auroral activity on the planet...meaning your odds are very good!
The morning is free to wander Churchill’s main street, where several locally owned shops offer authentic local handicrafts from traditional mukluks to caribou-hair sculptures. Then transfer to the airport for your flight back to Winnipeg. This evening gather one last time for a farewell dinner.
After breakfast, your northern lights tour comes to a close as you transfer to the airport for flights home.
Departure dates and itinerary subject to change. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to confirm departure schedule before purchasing air tickets. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Physical Requirements: Moderate
This adventure does not require a significant degree of physical fitness. However, you will be exposed to extremely cold weather, often experiencing temperatures well below freezing, which in itself can be physically challenging. You may also have to walk in deep snow. Most nights you 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 the activities are optional.
Round-trip transportation between Winnipeg and Churchill (train and plane); airport transfers; accommodations and meals as per itinerary; gear on loan (parka, fleece neck buff, fleece jacket, waterproof pants, mittens and boots); professional expedition leaders and assistants; most gratuities; permits and entrance fees; taxes. Subject to change without notice.
Travel to and from start and end point of trip; alcoholic beverages; some gratuities; optional activities; items of a personal nature; optional travel insurance.
Photos: © Alexander de Vries, © Brad Josephs, © Eric Rock, © Megan Emmett