Northern Lights and Arctic Cultures
A Winter Adventure in Churchill, Canada – One of the World's Best Places to See the Aurora Borealis!
LOCATION OF ADVENTURE: CHURCHILL, MANITOBA
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 our northern lights encounters, this morning we attend a planetarium program at the Manitoba Museum that focuses on the science of the aurora borealis. We'll also 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, we board the Hudson Bay Railway to Churchill around lunchtime.
Day 3: Tundra Train to Churchill
Heading northward by rail, we leave the southern prairies behind and enter the landscape of the North. Plains transition to boreal forest, 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 as we approach 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, we may even have a preview of the northern lights outside our large individual windows.
Days 4-6: Churchill – History, Culture, Nature & Aurora Viewing
On arrival in Churchill we transfer to our 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 Native cultures had already been flourishing here against the harsh Arctic climate for thousands of years. We 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, our Expedition Leader introduces us to northern ecology and the stark yet alluring winter landscape.
As night falls, we move into varied settings to await a matchless experience of nature’s magic: the spectacle of the aurora borealis, the legendary northern lights. Each evening will include one of these three unique vantage points on the night sky where you'll be able to witness the phenomenon of the lights in warmth and comfort. Our newly built, custom-designed Aurora Pod® features 360-degree views of the sky, courtesy of our exclusive geometric glass construction. We also spend an evening at the Tundra Lodge, situated on the edge of the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. This unique "rolling hotel" offers warm, comfortable environs for dinner, with a chance to look for the aurora through panoramic windows or from the open observation platforms. Our third view of 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 lights begin begin as a white glow low in the sky that slowly begins 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 we know now 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, we are never guaranteed to see them, but Churchill has some of the most frequent and intense auroral activity on the planet...meaning our 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 Native handicrafts from traditional mukluks to caribou-hair sculptures. We then transfer to the airport for our flight back to Winnipeg. This evening we'll gather one last time for our farewell dinner.
Day 8: Winnipeg / Home
After breakfast, our northern lights tour comes to a close as we transfer to the airport for flights home.
Please note: All of our activities in Churchill are flexible to accommodate varying weather conditions.
Departure and Return Dates for 2016
Jan 30 - Feb 06
Feb 05 - Feb 11 - Special Photo Tour
Feb 09- Feb 14
Feb 13 - Feb 19 Special Photo Tour
Feb 15 - Feb 22
Feb 20 - Feb 26 Special Photo Tour; Full Moon on Feb 22nd
Feb 22 - Feb 29
Feb 27 - Mar 05
Mar 03- Mar 09 Special Photo Tour
Mar 07 - Mar 14
Mar 12 - Mar 18 Special Photo Tour
DATES & PRICING NOTES
Prices from $4,995
Prices are per person based on double occupancy and are given in US Dollars. Dates for 2016 are tentative and will be allocated to guests on a first-come first-served basis. 2016 fees may change slightly. Guests who reserve their space prior to final pricing confirmation will receive the lowest rate within the range offered.
GROUP SIZE LIMIT APPROXIMATELY 10 TRAVELERS
Smaller groups are the best context in which to experience nature, and this is especially true for our photographic adventures. With no more than 10 travelers, you’re assured plenty of space and personalized attention when you need it. As a small group, we maintain the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions in a way that maximizes photo opportunities. Our Expedition Leader, an expert naturalist and accomplished photographer, is always available to answer your questions, provide tips and techniques, and to help you better understand and photograph the amazing natural phenomenon of the aurora borealis, as well as the Arctic landscape and wildlife.
WINNIPEG & CHURCHILL HOTELS
Location: Manitoba, Canada
In Winnipeg, we stay at the Fort Garry Hotel, one of Canada's lavish railway hotels built by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in 1913 and long a symbol of the prairie city's importance as a transportation and commerce hub. Located downtown one block from Union Station, this historic landmark and gracious accommodation built in French chateau style is Winnipeg's finest hotel, exuding an atmosphere of the opulence that prevailed during the glory days of the development of the Canadian West. Relax in the lounge, enjoy a drink in the antique bar, or indulge in a sumptuous treatment at Ten Spa, an authentic Turkish-style bath and spa located on the top floor of the hotel.
In the Arctic frontier outpost of Churchill, hotels are small and simple. While they would certainly not be considered fancy by any means, they are clean, comfortable and conveniently located in the center of town. Every room has its own private bathroom with a shower. Please be aware that hotel space in Churchill is scarce, and to accommodate demand we must use a variety of local properties. Room size, amenities, and range of services may vary among hotels despite comparable pricing.
Our North Country rail journey takes us through a variety of changing habitats, from vast open plains to boreal forest to open tundra. Our sleeper train provides an exciting way to experience these northern environs, giving travelers a modern mode of transport that's reminiscent of days gone by. Though small, private cabins are cozy and comfortable. Each cabin has windows and private toilet and sink facilities (with showers down the corridor), and the meals are taken in the dining car as we survey the passing environment.