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Northern Lights & Arctic Cultures

Northern Lights Tours

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 illuminates the dark winter skies. The ethereal northern lights—also known as the aurora borealis, meaning "north wind of the dawn"—brighten the night in a mystical display of color. Churchill has one of the heaviest concentrations of aurora borealis activity in the world, making it a peerless destination for a northern lights tour. View the lights from varied heated vantage points including the 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 : Birding, Culture, Hiking

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Itinerary
Day 1
Winnipeg, Manitoba

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 Winnipeg, offering first-class hospitality. Enjoy a welcome dinner this evening with your Expedition Leader and fellow travelers.

Day 2
Manitoba Museum / Train to Churchill

In preparation for your northern lights encounters, this morning attend a planetarium program at the Manitoba Museum that focuses 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.

Day 3
Taiga & Tundra via Train to Churchill

Heading northward by rail, leave the southern prairies behind and enter the landscape of the subarctic. Plains transition to dense boreal forest, also known as taiga, the coniferous zone that circles the planet beneath the Arctic Circle and accounts for one-third of the earth’s forests. Stunted spruce trees and boggy muskeg give way to frozen tundra on the approach to Churchill, a frontier outpost town at the edge of Hudson Bay. The “Tundra Train” is relaxing and comfortable, and each cabin has its own private bathroom. At night, you may even have a preview of the northern lights outside your large individual windows.

Day 4 – 6
Churchill—History, Culture, Nature & Aurora Viewing

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 against the harsh Arctic climate for thousands of years. Explore this First Nations heritage on a dog sled ride through the boreal forest, on a visit to the Eskimo Museum, and through cultural programs featuring the arts and traditions of the Inuit and Dene peoples. Outside town, your Expedition Leader introduces you to northern ecology and the stark yet alluring winter landscape.

As night falls, await a matchless experience of 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 from varied locations. Your 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 step up 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, yellow or red. For centuries, the phenomenon of the northern lights was a mystery, inspiring a host of mythical explanations. While it is now known that the aurora is caused by the interaction of the solar wind with the earth’s magnetic field, more poetic stories of their origin linger, including the Hudson Bay Inuit’s belief that the lights are the magical display of their ancestors' souls dancing in the sky. Of course, since the lights are a natural phenomenon, there is never a guarantee to see them, but Churchill has some of the most frequent and intense auroral activity on the planet meaning your odds are very good!

Day 7
Churchill / Winnipeg

The morning is free to wander Churchill’s main street, where several locally owned shops offer authentic First Nations handicrafts from traditional mukluks to caribou-hair sculptures. Transfer to the airport for your flight back to Winnipeg. This evening gather one last time for a farewell dinner.

Day 8
Winnipeg / Depart

After breakfast, your northern lights tour comes to a close as you transfer to the airport for flights home.

Notes

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.

Train Schedule: Train timetables are unconfirmed until shortly before each departure. Changes to train schedules may affect the itinerary on Days 2-4.

Six Day Itinerary: 2/10/2016
The total length of these departures is six days. You will fly to Churchill mid-morning on Day 2. The Churchill inclusions and activities are identical to the regular itinerary. Depending on flight schedules, you may have time to take a guided tour of the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg after your return flight on Day 5. You will not have a planetarium program.

Getting There & Getting Home: Arrive in Winnipeg on Day 1 in time for the 7:00 pm Welcome / Orientation Dinner. You are free to depart at any time on the final day.

Full Moon:
Trips run when there is a full moon, a new moon and at all times in between. During a full moon the foreground is brighter, making for interesting photographic images. During a new moon, the sky is darker so the lights may appear slightly brighter. The lights viewed near Churchill tend to be bright;  the phase of the moon makes little impact on the quality of viewing.

Included:
R/T transportation between Winnipeg and Churchill (train and plane, except as noted above for the 6 Day itinerary); accommodations; all meals; services of Expedition Leaders and assistants; most gratuities; airport transfers; permits and entrance fees; all taxes.

Not Included:
Travel to and from start and end point of trip; alcoholic beverages; some gratuities; optional activities; items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry, etc.); optional travel insurance.

PHOTOS: © Eric Rock (NHA); © Court Whelan (NHA); © Megan Emmett (NHA); © Colin McNulty (NHA)

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