Even before the shock of the cold air had finished flooding my lungs, I could feel my heart racing with anticipation for the adventure waiting for me. And this rugged little town did not disappoint.
Located on the fringe of the Arctic Circle, Churchill, Manitoba, is neither a predictable vacation spot nor an easily accessible one. Reachable only by train or plane, it is a “getaway” in every sense of the word — which could be part of the reason it’s found favour with celebrities ranging from Martha Stewart to Julianne Hough. But of course, the main draw is not its remote location; it’s what’s waiting for you once you arrive.
Churchill is widely known as the best spot in the world for seeing both polar bears and beluga whales, making it a magnet for TV and film crews, adventure-seekers and nature lovers. It’s also one of the top locations on the planet to watch the spectacular light show known as the aurora borealis — the northern lights.
The last couple of years have been a particularly stellar time to enjoy the lights, thanks to changes in the sun’s magnetic field that have created a boost in solar activity. The lights are typically most active from February to March, and Churchill offers visitors an unrivalled view.
Since the lights only come out at night, there’s plenty of time during the day to do things like explore Churchill’s quaint, rustic side. From the Itsanitaq Museum to Fifty Eight North, we found several ways to share this town’s fascinating, storied past in a thoroughly modern way. And if it’s adventure you’re looking for, traipsing through the boreal forest on snowshoes is one way to find it. If you like your adventure a little faster, head over to Wapusk Adventures, home of the “Ididamile” dogsled ride, for a one-mile trail ride through Churchill’s boreal forest behind an eager and joyful team of dogs.
With such full days, it seemed impossible that the nights could have more to offer, but as the skies began to darken we loaded onto a massive Tundra Buggy and headed across a frozen river to escape the distractions of Churchill’s lights. Forty minutes later, we reached our desolate destination, and if as on cue, the lights began dancing across the sky. The ethereal shapes made by atmospheric gases slithered through the sky in shades of green that varied from deep emerald to bright neon, often resembling colourful smoke. Majestic hues of purple occasionally wove themselves through the sky like a ribbon, and the show went on for hours. We oohed, we ahhhed and we could not take our eyes off of them.
I realized that, once more, Churchill had taken my breath away — and this time, it had nothing to do with the frigid air.Story by Paula FelpsPhoto: ©Yvette Cardozo