On the edge of the mountains and civilization, where the sky stays dark for most of the winter, and magical lights dance across the heavens is a one-of-a-kind retreat you can only experience to truly believe. As soon as I found this place, I knew it was somewhere I wanted to visit! The Borealis Basecamp is just under an hour north of Fairbanks in Alaska. The lack of light pollution from a large town along with its unique igloo cabins, make it the perfect place not only to enjoy the amazing beauty of Alaska but also the breathtaking views of the Northern Lights.
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Chasing the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights have been very high on my bucket list. When we visited Churchill there was a possibility we could have seen them. Actually, had there been a slightly clear sky we probably would have. But alas, it was lots of clouds and snow while we searched for polar bears. So this trip had the main goal of seeing this amazing phenomenon that many only dreams of.
Since you are never guaranteed to see the lights, we had some backup trips in mind just in case. However, we were extremely blessed! And I mean extremely! I can go into many more details about the Northern Lights, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I literally just deleted a paragraph because I was starting to ramble on about the lights. I’ll work on another post about the lights specifically. For now, let’s talk about Borealis Basecamp.
Let’s start with booking. They offer a variety of different packages here, which include not only your own igloo but some pretty awesome activities! Essentially, the package is built around how many nights you select to stay. There are only 20 igloos at the moment, so they can sell out quickly! One thing that is included is your transportation because the Basecamp is going to be about 45 minutes out of Fairbanks, Alaska. A shuttle will pick you up at a pre-determined location in Fairbanks, or you can schedule a private car to pick you up in Fairbanks, or at Chena Hot Springs. The same for going back after your stay.
While you’re heading to the Basecamp, keep your eyes open for moose! You will also drive by old mining areas and the incredible Trans-Alaska Pipeline. I will mention that the roads are not great! When we were there, there was lots of snow and ice compacted on the road. While that did make for a bit of a bumpy road, we were told that it actually made the roads less bad. That all that snow and ice helped by filling in the holes and in the summer, once all of that was gone, the actual roads were usually in rough shape. So, if you get car sick at all, I highly recommend you take something before you hop in the van!
Check In to Borealis Basecamp
Once you arrive at Basecamp you will check-in at the main building. The driver will take your bags to your igloo while someone walks you over so they can also explain a few things to you. The first thing is your heater. You will have a Toyo Stove. In fact, that will probably be the first thing you notice when you walk in, how hot it actually is! They ask you to keep it at 80 degrees to help keep ice buildup from forming on the windows. You can turn it down while you’re in there though. Personally, I can’t sleep well when it’s that warm, so we definitely turned ours down a bit at night.
The next major item they will show you will be your toilet. Yes, you read that correctly! The Borealis Basecamp is what you would call off-grid. That means that all of the propane and water is brought in (and wastewater taken out). That means there is no technical sewer. There is running water for your sink and shower from the tank next to your room, but your toilet is a dry one! It’s really hard to justly describe it, so watch the video! Essentially, it’s a large bag that vacuum seals your waste in it. After so many flushes, the bag must be replaced. I had heard a few people say how many flushes, but really it depends on how much, not how frequently.
Beds Beneath the Northern Lights
In your igloo there are either 1 or 2 beds, whatever you booked. When we booked, all of the 2 beds were sold out so mom and I were planning on just sharing a bed. We figured to lay underneath the stars and Northern Lights would be worth it. However, when we got there we asked if they could separate our beds, and they did! The staff was so great about that!
There was also a table with some coffee, tea, and hot cocoa options so you could make your own cup in your igloo, along with a hot water kettle to help make those drinks. We had actually brought some Cup Noodles we picked up in Fairbanks, so the hot water kettle was great in helping us make a small lunch. There are also basic bathroom items like a hairdryer, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion. Finally, yes there was Wi-Fi. While it did work, it wasn’t the strongest of signals in the igloos, but stronger in the main building.
Dining at Latitude 65
After you get settled in your igloo and explore the grounds a little, it’s time for dinner at Latitude 65! For lunches and dinners, you’re going to want to make reservations. However, breakfast is a complimentary buffet, and reservations are not required for that meal. The restaurant had some amazing dishes on its menu. Not only is it a higher-caliber restaurant, but it’s the only restaurant, so expect prices to be a bit high. It was worth it though! I’m a pretty basic girl and I had the smoked salmon mac & cheese that first night, and it was delicious!! There was also a nice wine selection!
As I previously mentioned, the reason we decided to go to Fairbanks, Alaska in the middle of the winter was to see the Northern Lights. I realize some people go chasing the lights and never actually get to see any. That was NOT the case for us! The first night at Borealis Basecamp, before we even got to dinner, they had made an appearance. I had found and lined up the photographer before we got there, so while we were at dinner he texted, and shortly after we got our amazing photos with the Northern Lights. I really wanted to have pictures of us with the lights, and since this was my first time photographing them, I didn’t want to screw that up! Luckily Nathan (of @eletricmoosestudiosfbx) was there! Many people just reached out when they got there, but I recommend touching base before so you’re on his radar.
Northern Lights Wake Ups
One of the great things about not just here, but many places up this way in Alaska, is that they’ll wake you up if the lights decide to make an appearance. Obviously, we were awake when they first appeared that first night, but they didn’t last forever. Then eventually we went to bed only to be awoken again around 2 am by the alarm in our igloo. When the lights make their appearance the staff walk through Basecamp with a remote that turns on the alarms. These were a little cooler than just a phone call because you could change the tune of your alarm. There were around 20+ options to choose from.
Fun Times at Borealis Basecamp
Now, as far as activities at the Borealis Basecamp, there’s plenty to keep you busy and to help you enjoy the beautiful land all around you!! There is a sled dog experience (dog sled ride), snowmachine ride, heli-flightseeing, reindeer meet & greet (yes, real reindeer!!!), wood-fired sauna, sunset Hagglunds tour, UTV rides, heli tolovana hot springs (helicopter ride to your own hot springs), and an arctic circle tour. I mean, if you’re this far north in Alaska, why not go all the way to the Arctic Circle!? Additionally, there are things like fat-tire bikes, snowshoes, and some snow tubes. In the evening they light the bonfire. I heard there were some s’mores fixin’s, but with it as cold as it was (in the negatives) we never decided to hang out by the fire so I can not confirm that.
Previously the Borealis Basecamp focused on winter/autumn bookings and activities. However, they are expanding into the summer months. Here you’ll be able to take a UTV ride along the pipeline, take a walk with the reindeer through the Boreal Forest and feed them, take a ride to the Arctic Circle, visit a sled dog kennel, take a sunset Hagglunds tour, go on a helicopter tour, visit the sauna, and experience the amazing food at Latitude 65.
While the majority of those visiting in the autumn and winter may be chasing those Northern Lights, it’s a little tougher in the summer months. While technically there could be activity, you need it to be dark enough and clear enough to see it. Just remember, there’s a reason it’s called the land of the Midnight Sun.
Borealis Basecamp, I’ll Be Back!
Overall I absolutely loved my visit to the Borealis Basecamp near Fairbanks, Alaska! It was a gorgeous location and incredibly peaceful while also connecting you to the beautiful landscape. Laying in bed and watching the lights dance across the sky, or even just the brilliantly bright stars twinkling. Even though it was beyond cold out there, I loved being there and would definitely go back! Check that one off the bucket list! ✓✓
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