Ottawa sunsets among best in Canada thanks to natural advantages

A mix of natural gifts gives Ottawa more spectacular sunsets more often than other parts of Canada, experts say.

'Goldilocks' conditions mean region's end-of-day skies are often spectacular

The Ottawa area's skies often give people evening shows in the form of colourful, calming sunsets.

Better than most others, it turns out.

Experts say a mix of natural gifts gives Ottawa more spectacular sunsets more often than other parts of Canada.

"From a geographical point of view, from an atmospheric point of view, you've got a lot going for you," said David Phillips, a climatologist with Environment Canada.

Phillips said it's very hard and extremely subjective to declare somewhere as having "the best" sunset, but the Ottawa area does have many natural features that make them more enjoyable:

  • Ottawa and Gatineau don't have skylines that completely block sunsets, as can happen in larger cities. The slopes of the Ottawa Valley are also not very steep, which give a good view of the horizon.
  • The area has the right kinds of clouds, "high cloud" such as cirrus or altocumulus, to reflect the sun's rays. This would distinguish the Ottawa area from foggier regions along the coasts.
  • Ottawa is the right latitude, not too far north or south.
  • Unlike southern Ontario, where there are more pollutants in the air, and places such as Northern Ontario and the prairies with purer air, the Ottawa area has just the right amount of contamination in the air. 

"It's those Goldilocks kind of conditions, you don't want it to be too pure and you don't want it to be hazy," he said.

"Ottawa seems to fit the bill, just enough impurities from nature and from human beings to create that scattering of the suns rays to produce those brilliant sunrises and sunsets."

Photographer agrees

Nature photographer Nina Stavlund said she's travelled the world taking pictures and Ottawa's sunsets are better than all but one location.

Ottawa-based nature photographer Nina Stavlund says sunsets in Greece are the only ones she's seen that are better than Ottawa's. (CBC)

"I compare the sunsets here in Ottawa with the sunsets I had in Greece," she said.

"I lived in Greece for three years and they're very similar, those are the two places on the planet I've seen beautiful sunsets like that."

Stavlund said she thinks the growth in popularity of smartphones to take photos of sunsets and social media to share them means more people can appreciate them.

But what she thinks about when she sees a particularly scenic one is timeless.

"It's the end of the day and it's the time when everything gets very quiet," she said.

"You can reflect a little bit and I think most people do, The day is over and they are grateful for their day or they have things happening that day and they think about 'Oh I'm so lucky' or 'This is so beautiful and gorgeous.'

"I think sunsets just make us think and feel more."

Get involved

On mobile? Click here to vote on what you think about Ottawa's sunsets.

After you vote, send in your local sunset photos through Twitter or to and they could end up in our gallery.


Andrew Foote

Digital reporter

Andrew Foote has been covering Ottawa-area news for the CBC since February 2013 after graduating from Carleton University. He can be reached at