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Quebec, Canada

Why Now: NOAA recently predicted that the current solar cycle, which began in 2019 and will run until 2030, is likely to peak from now until October. What does that mean for those of us who travel to witness the wonders of the night skies? More chances to see a bright aurora borealis.

The latitude of northern Quebec’s Gyrfalcon Islands falls within the auroral oval—a ring above the geomagnetic poles where more activity happens—making it a good area for sightings, says Shawn Dahl, of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. A Native-run expedition that combines sky gazing with wildlife watching is one of the better ways to make the most of your time in these remote reaches, while two small-town destinations along the Saint Lawrence River offer new opportunities to explore the province’s under-the-radar outdoor settings.

Adventure Intel: In 2022, James May and Jonathan Grenier, Inuit guides from the small northern Nunavik town of Kuujjuaq, started Ungava Polar Eco-Tours. In August and September (the best months for the northern lights, according to Dahl), they offer a half dozen seven-day adventures on six-mile-long Tiercel Island in the Gyrfalcon archipelago, just below the Arctic Circle. You’ll explore by foot, fat bike, ATV, and boat—the latter of which requires experience in this corner of Ungava Bay, where the tidal range can be as much as 63 feet. Sightings of birds and seals are guaranteed, but there are also walruses, a variety of whales—minke, humpback, beluga, and orca—wolves, foxes, and polar bears. Guests are housed in insulated fiberglass domes that can withstand bumps by a disgruntled beast and winds up to 155 miles per hour. May and Grenier harvest caribou, musk oxen, arctic char, Canada geese, and berries throughout the year, and send their bounty to the renowned Quebec chef Kim Côté, who prepares traditional Inuit meals for guests. If you can’t make it to the wilds of northern Quebec, two destinations along the Saint Lawrence have ample dark skies, stunning scenery, and attractions with affordable overnight accommodations. Attitude Nordique, a year-round adventure park in Baie-Comeau, has a new zip line and suspension bridge, plus kayaking, climbing, and canoeing, as well as beachfront lodging and campsites. On the river’s southern shore, in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, gaze at the heavens from one of seven Panora seaside pods, each with a hot tub and deck. The property is just 27 miles from Gaspésie National Park, known for its hiking and an abundance of moose and caribou.

Local Tip: When the aurora borealis—known as aqsarniit by the Inuit—appears, Grenier recommends whistling. “In our culture, they teach us that when you whistle at the lights, they move even more,” he says. “It brings a joyful mood.” —Stephanie Pearson


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