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 : Culture
Arrive in Winnipeg and transfer to the Fort Garry Hotel. Built in 1913 by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in the style of a French chateau, this distinguished landmark remains the grande dame of Winnipeg hospitality. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner with your Expedition Leader and fellow travelers.
This morning board your flight to Churchill. On arrival, take a short tour of this frontier outpost town that was originally a Hudson's Bay Company fur-trading post established in 1689. Once night falls, head out in search of your first opportunity to see the spectacle of the northern lights. The display often begins as a pale glow low in the northern sky that slowly begins to shift and undulate. Wavy patterns evolve, colors appear and change, until the lights look like shimmering curtains of green. Sometimes other colors appear, including red, purple and yellow. For centuries, the phenomenon of the northern lights was a mystery, inspiring a host of mythical explanations. Now it is known that the aurora borealis 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.
On these dark, frigid nights in the Canadian North, look for the aurora in optimal locations away from the glare of artificial lights in town. Each evening includes a vantage point on the night sky where you can witness the phenomenon in warmth and comfort. The custom-designed Aurora Pod® features 360-degree views of the heavens, courtesy of its exclusive geometric glass construction including clear half-walls and a glass ceiling. Look for the lights from Plexiglass Aurora Domes. Relax on the sofas below, climb the ladder to the upper level for an unimpeded view in the round, or stand outside in the open air for a totally clear vista of the skies.
While the nights are focused on the aurora, daytime excursions highlight the austere beauty of your environs and cultural dimensions of the region. On drives onto the tundra, look for northern wildlife such as Arctic hare and Arctic fox, both artfully camouflaged by their winter-white fur coats. Just a few miles from town, you’ll see where the Hudson’s Bay Company established a fort near the mouth of the Churchill River in 1717 as part of its fur-trading network across the Canadian North. Yet indigenous cultures had already been flourishing in this harsh climate for thousands of years. Explore their heritage on a dog sled ride through the boreal forest, during a visit to the Eskimo Museum, and through cultural presentations featuring the arts and traditions of the Inuit, Dene, and Metis peoples.
This morning, there’s free time to wander Churchill’s main street, where several locally owned shops sell authentic local handicrafts, from traditional mukluks to sculptures made of caribou hair. After lunch in town, transfer to the airport for your return flight to Winnipeg, where you return to the Fort Garry Hotel.
Your northern adventure continues with highlights of Manitoba’s capital. On a tour of Winnipeg, learn about the rich history of Canada’s fourth-largest city, located at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. The region was a trading center for aboriginal peoples long before the arrival of Europeans, when French fur traders built Fort Rouge here in 1738. In the early 1800s, Lord Selkirk, who controlled the Hudson Bay Company, imported settlers from Scotland to farm the fertile land in the Red River Valley. The Red River Colony was later incorporated as the City of Winnipeg in 1873, ushering in a future as a railway and business hub. Today, Winnipeg is the cultural and commercial center of Canada’s prairie region. Included in your tour is a visit to the acclaimed Manitoba Museum, with exhibits reflecting the natural and human heritage of the province. Visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights—the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. Tonight your group will gather for a farewell dinner.
After breakfast, 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. Since the northern lights are a natural phenomenon, they are never guaranteed, but Churchill has some of the most frequent and intense auroral activity on the planet—meaning odds are very good. 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.
Roundtrip flights between Winnipeg/Churchill; 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