It’s a massive expanse of land where pockets of civilisation give way to gloriously untamed wilderness. From coast to coast, Canada is filled with unique sights that encourage even the most diehard city slickers to venture away from the hip urban jungles and into the pinewood forests.
Cities to visit
Toronto - Canada’s best-known destination. It has the buzzing cosmopolitan vibe of a big metropolis — fancy shopping malls, a glittering skyline, swinging nightlife — combined with the respectable feel of a smaller town.
Ottawa - The nation’s capital is one of the most laid-back and friendliest major cities that you’ll come across, and boasts grand Victorian architecture and the picturesque Rideau Canal.
Vancouver - This bustling seaport in British Columbia is often voted ‘world’s most liveable city’. Its multicultural community contributes to a smorgasbord of food, art and music.
Montreal - Unofficially called ‘second France’, the city is packed with fashion boutiques and chic restaurants but still finds the space to host over 100 festivals each year.
Banff - A popular ski town situated on the edge of the Canadian Rockies, Banff combines the wilderness with luxurious accommodation and health spas.
A short drive from Toronto to the US-Canadian border will take you to Niagara Falls, arguably one of the world’s best-known cascades. It’s actually three falls combined — the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls — and they form the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world (around 2,400 cubic metres of water per second). Once you’ve seen the Falls (take the iconic Maid of the Mist tour), take a moment to explore the sights and activities in the nearby tourist town.
The Canadian Rockies
Located between Alberta and British Columbia, the Canadian Rockies is part one of the world’s most impressive mountain ranges. Huge, snow-capped peaks rise above alpine meadows and deep blue glacial lakes. And while it’s an obvious magnet for hikers, climbers and skiers (and dog-sledders!) there’s still plenty of slower-paced things to do in the Rockies’ various national parks and resorts. Relax in a natural hot spring, play golf on celebrated courses, fish a rocky stream for salmon or paddle a canoe through a craggy canyon
A 100% Canadian adventure
Here’s four unique experiences guaranteed to excite travellers:
- The Great Canadian Bungee - Sitting 61m above a limestone quarry is the ‘highest bungee in the land’. As you plunge toward the lake below, remember that the rebound is higher than the total height of any other bungee in North America!
- Polar bear safari - Who needs lions and giraffes when you can head to Churchill, Manitoba to see our planet’s largest bear in its natural arctic habitat.
- River raft through a ski town - While everyone else in Banff is strapping on a snowboard, you can be plunging through the stunning Bow and Horseshoe Canyons in a blow-up boat.
- Dog sled across the Canadian North - Yell ‘mush!’ and do your best to hang on as a team of powerful Huskies go tearing across the snow.
If you really want to get away from it all, head to the Yukon in Canada’s northwest for your own ‘call of the wild’ moment. It’s an untouched expanse of peaks, wildlife and adventure — and home to Mount Logan, which is a shade under 6,000m high. Outdoor adventurers can kayak lakes and rivers, mountain bike along trails, hit the snowy slopes or try ice climbing and dog sledding.
Ski through Whistler
With two majestic mountains and a vibrant, chalet-style village perched in between, it’s easy to see why Whistler in British Columbia is one of North America’s most popular ski resorts. There’s over 8,000 acres of ski fields and its famous vertical run rises 1,600m. The ski season runs from November to May, during which time the snowfall is consistently deep and powdery.
Foods to eat
- Poutine - A Canadian classic, consisting of hot chips and cheese curds topped with a peppery gravy.
- Clamato juice - A surprisingly refreshing beverage made from tomato juice, spices and clam broth — often finding its way into cocktails such as the famous ‘Caesar’.
- BeaverTails - Don’t worry, they’re not anything taken from a fluffy critter. Just imagine a flattened doughnut, minus the hole.
- Canadian bacon - This cut of bacon comes from the lean pork loin rather than the belly
A visit to Quebec province is a very European experience. From its rolling countryside to its architecture and culture, it gives tourists the distinct impression that they are holidaying in France. Old Quebec is a UNESCO world heritage site and it’s one of North America’s oldest cities. It’s surrounded by a fortified wall, and inside are delightful stone buildings and narrow laneways to explore. The locals speak mainly French as their first language, so it’s a good idea to brush up on some phrases before visiting.
Navigate the West Edmonton Mall
With so many natural wonders and cultural experiences in Canada, it may seem strange to recommend visiting a shopping centre — that is, until you set foot in Alberta’s West Edmonton Mall. It’s hands-down the largest shopping centre in North America. With over 800 stores, an amusement park, sea lions, a themed hotel and even an indoor water park complete with slides and a full-sized wave pool, it really must be seen to be believed.
Indulge in the national pastime
To say that Canadians enjoy ice hockey is like saying that Mount Everest is kind of high. The best way to experience Canada’s sporting obsession is to catch a National Hockey League match — the regular season generally runs from October to April. But if you miss out on tickets, a few cities like Toronto broadcast matches live on huge outdoor screens. The Hockey Hall of Fame, also in Toronto, has some great interactive exhibits where you can go head-to-head with life-sized, animated versions of the game’s greatest players.
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