This epic landscape of ice-covered lakes and ancient pine forests is, in our opinion, one of the world’s best locations for experiencing the beauty of the Northern Lights. A 20-minute flight by ski-plane from Yellowknife, capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, Blachford Lake Lodge is located on a jewel of a lake set in the frozen splendour of the remote Canadian north. The spacious, handcrafted log lodge offers a blend of rustic charm and modern comfort. Visitors can stay in the eco lodge or, for a real feel of the wilderness, in one of the cosy trapper’s cabins, warmed by a wood-fire stove. Gourmet meals are prepared by the Red-Seal certified chef, and there are a whole range of fantastic winter activities included, from snowmobiling to cross-country skiing, ice skating on the frozen lake to ice fishing. The lodge includes an open dining area, bar and lounge, and even a hot tub outside under the stars.
This sky adventure is being hosted by Cloud Appreciation Society founder, Gavin Pretor-Pinney. He will be giving inspirational, illustrated presentations about the sky, while the Lodge staff will introduce us to the Northern Lights and give help and instruction about photographing them.
Blachford Lake Lodge was one of the destinations on the 2011 royal tour of Canada. William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visited not long after they married. The lodge is remote, rustic, eco and with all the creature comforts.
The swirling greens, pinks and yellows of the aurora are a sight that you will never forget. The colours are caused by the interaction of solar winds – streams of charged particles emitted by the Sun – with the molecules in the upper reaches of our atmosphere. The intensity of the displays depends on the sun-spot activity, which varies in cycles.
We at the Cloud Appreciation Society know more than most how impossible it is to make promises about what will happen in the sky on a particular weekend. But we have chosen the location of this amazing trip to maximise the chances of us witnessing a stunning display of the Northern Lights. Blachford Lake Lodge is remote enough to be away from artificial light pollution and the weekend we’ll be there is on a new moon, ensuring the background sky is as dark as can be. The lodge is right in the middle of the ‘aurora oval’, the ring around the geomagnetic pole within which the Northern Lights form directly overhead. We’ve chosen this time of year for the best combination of longer nights and less low cloud cover and these particular dates are close to a new moon to reduce the competition from moonlight.
The great advantage of staying at Blachford Lake Lodge is that we don’t need to travel to see the lights. When they show, they appear directly overhead. Use the viewing platform, step out onto the frozen lake or enjoy them from the warmth of the hot tub!
Before taking the ski plane out to Blachford Lake Lodge, we will explore Yellowknife, the capital city of Canada’s Northwest Territories. Located on the shores of the Great Slave Lake, this vibrant settlement was founded in the 1930s, during region’s gold rush era. The mining activities have now given way to the business of government of the Northwest Territories region, but the cabins and fish shacks of the Old Town still have a tangible gold-rush atmosphere. The friendly community is a mix of indigenous Inuit, Dene, and Métis peoples with a whole range of immigrants from Europe, North America and elsewhere. This part of our trip will be the perfect introduction to the rich culture and history of this unique region of the world.
Arrive in Yellowknife and Enjoy the Welcome
When you arrive at Yellowknife Airport, you will be transferred to the Explorer Hotel, your home for the first two nights.
Winter clothing rental is included in your package (down-filled parka, ski pants, lined winter boots, mitts and hat). If you have arrived on an earlier flight, you will have the opportunity for a fitting during the afternoon. If you arrive later, there will be a fitting the following morning.
You will receive your CAS Welcome Bag, which will include all the necessary information as well as CAS goodies and your exclusive Society embroidered patch to commemorate the 2018 trip. Take some time to rest from your flight, but don’t forget to look up at the sky! Sometimes the aurora borealis can be seen from the city.
Overnight: The Explorer Hotel, Yellowknife.
Explore the capital of the Northwest Territories
After a leisurely breakfast, you will be met by Rosie Strong, your host for a day of touring Yellowknife, the vibrant capital of the Northwest Territories. Located on the shores of Great Slave Lake the city boasts endless stunning arctic landscapes.
Our tour of Yellowknife with a fantastic local guide will give us an appreciation both of the town’s fascinating mining past and its equally interesting legislative assembly, as well as visiting the Old Town and the infamous ‘ice road’ heading north over the frozen lakes.
Your day will start with a tour of the Yellowknife Mining Heritage Center, which will give you a rich understanding of the colourful history of the city, founded on the gold rush. Then you will move on to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories. This is a fascinating introduction to this remarkable part of Canada and its pioneering consensus system of government.
After lunch at the city’s famous Bullocks Bistro, we will get a city tour of Yellowknife. From the ice road, to the characterful streets of the Old Town, where the pioneer spirit is alive and well, and taking in the views of Pilot’s Monument, we will explore it all, with time for some shopping for anyone who is interested.
In the evening we will gather at the hotel for welcome drinks, where you will meet Cloud Appreciation Society founder, Gavin Pretor-Pinney. We will then all head out to the fantastic Woodyard Brewhouse & Eatery for dinner.
The activity after dinner will depend on what is happening in the sky. Either you will be treated to an exclusive Dene cultural performance – an entertaining celebration of the cultural heritage of this wonderful region. Or if the weather is right and the aurora is active, you will driven away from the city lights to enjoy your first view of the amazing aurora display.
Overnight: The Explorer Hotel, Yellowknife.
Take the Ski Plane across to the Frozen Wilderness
Throw open your curtains and take in that glorious, sparkling snowy vista! Enjoy breakfast at your hotel, and pack up your things – you’re heading east. You will be met in the lobby to be taken to the ski-plane base for the next part of your adventure. At approximately noon today, we depart for Blachford Lake Lodge, located in the true wilderness, 100km east of Yellowknife. Enjoy the breathtaking landscape as we soar over the frozen lakes, forests, and snowmobile trails below.
Upon arrival, you will meet the Lodge team, and enjoy a delicious hot lunch. You’ll get a tour of the facilities and have time to settle into your accommodation for the next three nights. Try out one of the hiking trails, peruse the northern library, or relax in the hot tub before an evening talk from the Lodge staff about the aurora borealis with advice about how best to photograph it. Spend the evening talking to guests and taking in any aurora displays in the vast night sky of these truly stunning surroundings.
Overnight: Blachford Lake Lodge.
Skis, skates, snowshoes, igloos and the lights
This morning you’ll have a chance to enjoy the unspoilt wilderness around you. Go snowshoeing, skiing, hiking, or skating (guided or un-guided). Get to know the remote Canadian beauty of the frozen lakes.
This afternoon there will be an igloo building workshop for you to take part in. Ever wondered how difficult it is to build one of those ice houses? You’re about to find out!
After spending the day outside, head back to the lodge and enjoy a hearty home-cooked dinner and an illustrated Tour of Our Atmosphere talk by Cloud Appreciation Society founder, Gavin Pretor-Pinney. Take a nap if you’d like, but don’t forget to step outside for Mother Nature’s ultimate light show. If you would like, the Lodge staff on ‘Aurora Watch’ will always be happy to wake you up when the aurora is active after you’ve tucked in.
Overnight: Blachford Lake Lodge.
Snowmobiles, saunas and a celebration dinner
After breakfast, at your leisure, there’s another full day of activities in store. Why not try ice fishing this morning (in line with the Lodge’s barbless “catch & release” program)? Today is free for you to choose which of the different activities you would like to take part in.
Included in your package is a two-hour snowmobiling tour to Great Slave Lake. You’ll glide across ice and snow trails on a skidoo – the most common mode of winter transportation in the north.
Relax in the sauna or hot tub before we gather for the group celebration dinner. Take part in our Canadian Skies quiz – with prizes – and savour your last evening in aurora-watcher’s paradise.
Overnight: Blachford Lake Lodge.
We Head Back West as the City’s Winter Festival Begins
You are free this morning to go for a last hike, skate, ski or snowshoe. Your flight departs the lodge at approximately 12:30pm for Yellowknife. From there, you’ll have time to connect to Edmonton, and your flight home. Or why not extend the trip for another night or two (not included in our package). There is plenty more to see in Yellowknife such as the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre, which is the North’s top museum. It showcases the art, culture, industry and history of the territory, with displays featuring everything from mooseskin boats to old-time bushplanes. March 1 will be the first day of the city’s famous Snowking Winter Festival, which takes place within an ice castle constructed out on the Great Slave Lake, so if you are in the second group you might want to consider staying on for this. Blachford Lake Lodge can help you with booking additional nights for you if you’d like.
Approx. $2980 USD + 5% tax / £2240 GBP + 5% tax / €2550 EUR + 5% tax / $3930 AUD + 5% tax, depending on the exchange rate at time of purchase.
Price includes all staff gratuities and everything listed in the ‘What’s Included’ section. Discounts and supplements: There will be a discount of $400 CAD per person for bookings of three or more sharing a cabin. There will be a supplement of + 25% for single occupancy of a cabin.
There are five log guest cabins, each with its own lake view. All cabins have electric lighting and power and feature a minimum of four beds with down duvets. Two of the cabins have en-suite bathrooms and washbasins. The other three are within easy access of the brand new ‘Aurora Comfort Station’, a heated toilet facility and wash basin, fitted with a skylight for aurora viewing. All cabins are heated by wood stove and Lodge staff can make sure they are kept roaring for you. For those who like the easy life with the cosiness of real fire, Raven’s Roost and Eagle’s Nest cabins have pellet stoves, meaning no need for fire-lighting skills!
2 nights’ accommodation Yellowknife
Yellowknife meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner on Day 2, breakfast on Day 3
Winter clothing rental: down-filled parka, ski pants, lined winter boots, mitts and hat
Yellowknife city tour
Visit to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories
Welcome reception (finger food, wine and beer) in Yellowknife
Yellowknife evening cultural activity / aurora viewing (conditions permitting)
All group transfers in Yellowknife
Flights Yellowknife –> Blachford Lake Lodge –> Yellowknife
All meals and snacks at Blachford Lake Lodge
Non-alcoholic beverages with group meals (There will also be an opportunity to purchase alcoholic drinks in Yellowknife to take with us)
3 nights’ accommodation Blachford Lake Lodge (cabin or lodge, depending on package)
Use of all Lodge facilities (lounge, tipi, hot tub, sauna, Northern Library, etc.)
Use of Lodge equipment: cross-country skis, snowshoes, fat-tyre bikes, ice skates, ice fishing equipment, hiking trails, etc.
Two-hour snowmobile tour to Great Slave Lake
Lodge staff as guides for daytime activities
Cloud Appreciation Society talks at Blachford Lake Lodge
Aurora photography and camera advice from the Lodge staff
Spruce Salve making workshop
All gratuities for Lodge staff
A Cloud Appreciation Society welcome bag with special commemorative embroidered patch to mark the trip
Flights between Yellowknife and your home city (but the Lodge’s air department can help arrange these for you when you make contact about your booking)
Winter boots – you’ll need to bring your own
Items of a personal nature