Chasing the Northern Lights: FAQ

Chasing the Northern Lights: FAQ

I’ve gotten quite a few accommodation questions from people looking to go to Yellowknife to view the aurora borealis. I thought it would be expedient to compile a list of frequently asked questions here so that it can serve as handy reference for everyone.

If you still have any questions regarding a Yellowknife trip, feel free to get in touch by clicking on the Contact button in the menu bar above. I’m no expert, having only been to YK once. But I’ll try my best in answering or connecting you to people who may be able to better answer your question. I’ll continuously update this list of FAQs based on the questions received, too.

Q. Blue Raven B&B, the guesthouse you spent most of your time at, seems like a good option. We’re looking to book it as well but not sure how to go about making an online booking? 
A. You need to get in touch with Tessa, the owner, via email. Tessa told me that they’re pretty full these days so they don’t advertise much. If you need her email address, please ask me directly by clicking on the Contact button so I can put you in touch with her. Be sure to leave a valid email address so I can reply to you.

Q. The Aurora Village tour is pretty expensive. I’m wondering if there are cheaper alternatives to watching the aurora (eg. is it possible to watch the aurora near Blue Raven B&B)?
A. The lake is within 3-5 minutes walking distance from Blue Raven and is the best free place to watch the northern lights. About three quarters of the horizon is low lying and unblocked so you get a massive vista, making it very hard to miss an aurora from there! And no worries about whether the ice is thick enough to walk on – they land planes right on the frozen lake so my guess is it can take your body weight.

Q. Out of your 5 days in Yellowknife, did you see the aurora every night?
A. Yes, I actually did see the aurora every single night (and a different type of aurora each time!) But I recognise that I was quite lucky with it because some extremely unlucky tourists have spent 5 days in YK and not seen even one aurora. That takes some extraordinary stroke of bad lucky, though. Chances are, if you spend at least 4 days in YK, you will get to see at least one aurora.

Disregard the aurora forecasts and stay up every single night. The most magnificent aurora I saw on my trip was on the one night when the forecast basically said “very unlikely to see any aurora activity”. Stay dressed up for the outdoors and be ready to head out the minute there’s a hint of aurora activity.

Q. Does Blue Raven provide free rental of down jackets and boots? If so, what sizes do they come in?
A. Yes, Blue Raven very generously provides free rental of down jackets and boots. And it’s safe to say that they have a very good range of sizes for both – anything ranging from XL to XS.

Q. Is there a shortage of hot water for bathing at Blue Raven? Is bathing time limited to 5 minutes?
A. There is hot water for bathing. I wouldn’t say there is an acute shortage of it but do note that if you don’t help to conserve water, when they run out of water, they really do run out of water until the next time the weekly “refuelling” of water happens.

Blue Raven is off the grid and water is delivered to them once a week only. So do your part and help conserve water so that you’ve got water for your entire stay!

As for bathing time, it’s not like they would put a 5-minute timer on you the minute you enter the bathroom, but I would just say that guests should be prudent and help conserve water by avoiding long showers. Definitely try to keep to the 5 minute guideline.

If you need to warm up after a long session of aurora viewing, bring and use your own heat packs. Those things are a miracle worker and are FAR better than hot water at keeping you warm. I personally used these heat packs and LOVED them: HotHands Body & Hands Super Warmers. They really lived up the to 18-hour claim.

Q. Is there a fridge to store food? And does the kitchen allow for guests to cook lunch or dinner?
A. Yes, there is a fridge for guests to store food and yes, my friends and I were able to cook during our stay.

Q. How much per night did you pay for your stay?
A. I can’t remember how much per night I’d paid in March 2014 but I do remember it was quite reasonable.

Q. Is there anything that you like better about Bayside B&B over Blue Raven B&B? 
A. The only thing I can think of is that Bayside B&B is about 3 minutes closer to the lake than Blue Raven, since the former sits right at the edge of the lake. But that difference is so insignificant I don’t think it’s worth choosing one place over the other.

Some might say Bayside’s location is better because it’s closer to town so you have easier access to the restaurants and supermarket, etc. But I found the location a bit of problem for aurora viewing and photographing if you plan on just staying at the B&B instead of heading out to the lake, since there’s a big glowing red sign advertising a plane company just across from the B&B and that really kills the photos when you’re doing a long exposure shot. Even when trying to enjoy the northern lights with your naked eyes, that red sign really ruined the view for me.

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