Personal Finance

Whitehorse and the Northern Lights on a Budget

White Horse on a Budget

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It has always been a lifelong dream of mine to see the Northern Lights.  A bucket list item for me.  There’s something about the aurora borealis and the green lights dancing in a dark sky that makes me happy and amazed at the wonders of nature.  If you haven’t seen the Aurora check out this video by TSO Photography on Vimeo.  It will make you want to see the aurora too!

I am not lucky enough to live at a latitude to see the aurora borealis on a regular basis, sometimes there are visible aurora in Vancouver but its the rare occasion and the light pollution is bad in the city so it’s hard to see it anyway.  Therefore, we thought a trip to Whitehorse would be appropriate.  The best times to see the aurora are January to April.  They say in September it is nice too and you won’t have to bother with winter gear.

Whitehorse has about 25,000+ inhabitants and downtown is very small.  We walked around downtown Whitehorse in about 20 to 30 minutes.

Getting There

To save money on the flight, we travel hacked and used Aeroplan points.  Unfortunately, there were black out dates and hence no available return flight.  Therefore we booked a one-way Air Canada ticket with Aeroplan (7500 points from Whitehorse to Vancouver) and with taxes and fees, that only cost $25.

For the other flight (Vancouver to Whitehorse), we took Air North, which is Yukon’s airline.  The airfare is more expensive (marginally) than Air  Canada but the perks are so much better.  After the taxes and fees, a one way flight from Vancouver to Whitehorse cost $280.  Air North’s staff were friendly, smiling, and they fed us (without charging an arm and a leg.  Meaning they fed us for free)!  Hot sandwiches and best of all, fresh delicious cheesecake.  I could not believe that Air North was a Canadian airline.  Highly recommended.

So total cost of my return flight was $305.  It could have been $50 if the flights were available.  From Vancouver to Whitehorse, flights usually run around $500 to $600.

Getting Around

It is easy to walk around downtown Whitehorse.  Dress appropriately!  A lot of tour operators can arrange to pick you up from the hotel that you are staying at therefore having a car isn’t an absolute necessity.  There are accessible taxis around town.

Where to Stay

There are many hotels in downtown Whitehorse.  The rates are approximately under $90 in the winter.  Air North has two night packages including flight for a lot of the hotels downtown such as Gold Rush Inn or Canada’s Best Value Inn.

Inn on the Lake is a beautiful hotel/log cabin that has a unique setting and was featured by Martha Stewart Living .  There are unique rooms and delicious meals and breakfast.  There’s an outdoor hot tub and snowshoes for you to use.  You can wander out to the frozen lake to stare at the sky (and hope to see the lights).  It’s not cheap but it is reasonable if you’re looking to treat yourself.

What to Do

Of course, you have to try and see the Northern Lights.  Expect to go out and see it more than once, you’ll likely need to go out at least four times because the aurora forecast, the weather forecast, and other reasons can affect the aurora borealis sighting.

The cheapest way is to rent a car and take it to a remote cabin area and download the Aurora app (but there might not be reception for your cell phone, so plan ahead).

If you’re less adventurous that that, Northern Tales has a great a la carte option for those who want to see the Northern Lights.  For a bare bones package, to view the northern lights it costs $125 which includes transportation to the viewing area.  The chance to see the northern lights isn’t 100% however.  Estimate to go out at least 3 times if you’re really intent on seeing them.  That’s $375.

Dog sledding is another fun activity to do.  At Sky High Wilderness ranch, they give you four dogs per sled and you are in charge of the dogs (or maybe they are in charge of you).  The cost was about $200 after taxes and transportation from the hotel.  It was only for about 3 hours but we had a great time.

In conclusion, I stayed up until 3:00am most nights waiting for the Northern Lights to appear.  On the one night that we didn’t go out to watch it, the aurora forecast wass strong and so I was able to see this flicker of green light but it didn’t look like the pictures!  Nonetheless, I can safely say that I ‘saw’ the Northern lights.

Readers, have you been to Whitehorse before?  Have you seen the Northern Lights before? What are your thoughts?

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