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Why Canada should be on everyone’s bucket list

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A stand‑out travel destination, Canada should be high on everyone’s bucket list. It has everything, and you’ll soon find that Canada’s everything really is something. We don’t make that claim lightly, so read on to find out what it is about this country that has visitors flocking back time and again.

Canada is as enormous geographically as it is in personality, beating the USA to the spot of second-largest country in the world by area (behind Russia). We’ve picked out some of its highlights, each sure to tempt and encourage you to take a deeper dive into this fascinating country – your only challenge will be choosing what and where to add to your sightseeing list. Thankfully, our local experts will make planning your trip a breeze, so read on for the inspiration you’ll need to get started.

Lake below mountains in Canada

Why should you go?

That Canada has something for everyone is in no doubt. It offers a fantastic mix of vast, untouched wilderness, mountains and lakes that are home to amazing wildlife, and vibrant cities filled with heritage and architectural gems. You can tailor-make a trip around your love of nature and the great outdoors or your passion for culture, fabulous food and history.

No matter your preferred landscapes and time of year, the list of activities to explore in Canada is seemingly endless. Want to go kayaking on a pristine lake or canoeing down a forest-fringed river? Hiking across the dramatic Rocky Mountains or skiing on some of the best slopes there is? Maybe you’ll want to go crazy, and if so, you could even walk on a glacier or try out whale-watching. You might be surprised to learn that Canada has some beautiful beaches, too, many of them on the shores of expansive freshwater lakes where you’ll be convinced you’re staring out to sea – some Canadians will tell you that one of the world’s best sunsets is from Lake Huron, near Toronto.

Whale tale in the sunset

Take a road trip

Canada’s size, varied topography, cultural delights and surreal natural scenery all combine to make it perfect for a road trip. The roads are good and, in a massive country with just 40 million people (compared to more than 330 million in the US), you may end up seeing more moose than vehicles – but just as you wouldn’t at home, try not to cover too much in one Canadian road trip. Decide whether to keep to the country’s eastern or western provinces; work out what interests you most and take it from there. You should obviously be prepared for some long drives, but in Canada, the journey is as rewarding as the destination.

Road among mountains

Journey east

The area around southern Ontario and Quebec makes a perfect region to zone in on. Things are closer together, making it easier to see more in one trip. For example, from Toronto you can be on the iconic Maid of the Mist boat tour on Niagara Falls in under two hours. From historic Quebec City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a Parisian feel, you can reach Le Mauricie National Park or go whale-watching on the St Lawrence River.

City-lovers can choose between Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and the capital, Ottawa, and with just 550 miles between them, you could even manage to see them all in one trip. Canada is a multicultural melting pot, and this is reflected in its cosmopolitan cities. Expect diversity in everything from art, music and festivals to food and shopping. All four fantastic cities are list-toppers in their own ways for culture, entertainment and gastronomy, so you’re always sure to find what you’re looking for, no matter what interests you most.

Ottawa - Canadian Parliment

A thousand lakes (and more)

We’d understand if you’ve never thought of lakes in themselves as a reason to plan a trip, yet Canada has more of these than any other country in the world (more than 850,000, in fact), and they really have to be seen to be believed. Surrounded by spectacular mountains and forests, they are breathtaking in their scale and beauty. Travel to the water’s edge to enjoy the tranquility and scenery, and partake in activities such as canoeing, kayaking and fishing.

Many of them are renowned for their intense blue color, created by glacial meltwater, rich in salts that reflect the light. Some of the most photographed include Lake Louise and Lake Moraine, both found in the Canadian Rockies; to visit these, you’ll need to plan your itinerary around the western border, instead.

Turquoise lake under mountains

Venture west

Most western Canadian adventures start in Vancouver, a city that always ranks top as one of the best places in the world to live and visit. Get your bearings while exploring hip neighborhoods such as historic Gastown or local favorite, Granville Island.

Vancouver Island is a destination in itself, given it encapsulates just about everything Canada has to offer. The charming city of Victoria is the gateway to soaring mountains and tranquil lakes, sandy beaches, and ancient rainforests. You can go wine-tasting and even surf from off the coast of Tofino.

Aerial view of Vancouver

The Rockies and Icefields Parkway

The north of Vancouver is tailor-made for an epic road trip. Expect spectacular mountain peaks, crystal-clear lakes, ancient glaciers, waterfalls and wonderful views, and wildlife such as bison, elk, moose and bears. The stretch of road known as the Icefields Parkway is rated as one of the top drives in the world, and thousands of photos snapped by fellow share-happy visitors will tell you exactly why.

The journey takes you between the quintessential Canadian towns of Banff and Jasper and through their national parks, which form part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site. For epic views, go canoeing on Lake Louise or take the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain. If such daytime scenery isn’t enough to blow your mind, the region has almost no light pollution and sits under some of the darkest skies on the planet, for incredible stargazing opportunities.

Winter scene in Canada

The food, glorious food

Canada is a nation of foodies, with cuisine from around the world showcasing the country’s diverse influences – from French cuisine to some of the best lobster in the world, via Michelin-starred restaurants and a huge array of street food. All this in spite of the national dish being poutine – thick-cut fries topped with gravy and cheese curds (it tastes better than it sounds – think cheesy chips with a twist). For dessert, why not try a sweet treat from BeaverTails who, as you might have guessed, specialize in uniquely-shaped pastries topped with exciting confections.

With over 260 wineries across the country, you won’t be short of something to wash it all down, either – oenophiles should prepare to be impressed. The area around Okanagan Lake is famous for its wines as well as its beaches – two perfect reasons to visit.

poutine

When to go

Canadian weather is a tale of extremes, with western regions enjoying a temperate climate, while the rest of the country experiences harsher winters. Unless you’re skiing or booking one of our winter escapes, this makes Canada primarily a summer destination for holidaymakers. The best time to visit for warmer climes is from May to September, when you can make the most of outdoor activities, from hiking and laid-back beach outings to simply dining al fresco. In the eastern provinces, you should be prepared for cooler evenings even in July.

In the west, October still brings with it pleasant temperatures; the east is cooler yet also popular at this time of year for its ‘leaf-watching’, when locals gather to enjoy the stunning fall colors for which Ontario is renowned. If a magical winter wonderland does appeal to you, then December through March unveils Canada at its snowy, enchanting best. Wintertime in Canada is not just about the weather; it’s an immersive experience that you should embrace along with the hot chocolate and marshmallows.

Montreal snowy street

Make it happen

We can’t do justice here to one of the most varied countries on the planet, so check out all of our Canadian trips and start planning your dream holiday.

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