A melting pot of cultures and a vast expanse of natural wonders, Canada surprises virtually every first-time visitor and has many returning time and time again. This naturally blessed and culturally bewitching nation has so much to offer, providing endless opportunities for discovery. This is a country of contrasts – a mix of sleek and sophisticated cities with a wide range of accommodation options, world-renowned restaurants and bars, coupled with vast natural wilderness areas full of outdoor adventures and experiences. The only question is, where will you find the time to see it all?
History & Culture
Canada is a nation proud of its rich heritage and cultural fabric. The influence of the First Nation is particularly strong and positive, thanks largely to a relatively peaceful assimilation process over the years. Canada’s larger museums and cultural centres are good starting points for getting a handle on the nation’s cultural tapestry.
Quebec Province in the East is the cradle of French civilisation in North America, what better place to grab a croissant and a coffee from a local patisserie, and practise your French (it’s the official language of the Province) before exploring the 400 years of history in Quebec City, home to a range of UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites.
Few countries boast a list of natural wonders as long and diverse as Canada. For mountain scenery unparalleled around the world, the World Heritage-listed Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are a collection of seven parks – four national and three provincial – that together cover the full dictionary of mountainous superlatives: jagged peaks, dramatic gorges, conifer-clad slopes, mineral-rich glacial streams and gleaming turquoise lakes. Any tour of the Rockies will almost certainly take you to beautiful Banff, Canada’s first national park and the world’s third, covering more than 6000 kilometres of valleys, forests, meadows, lakes and glaciers.
The great plains and prairies of Canada’s interior give way to The Great Lakes in the Eastern provinces, some of which form part of the border with the United States. These vast lakes include Lake Ontario, which feeds Lake Erie via the iconic Niagara Falls – a natural wonder in its own right.
Canada is the destination for outdoor adventure: from hiking, biking, horse riding, camping and kayaking through to all the winter thrills of ice-climbing, skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing, Canada is the ultimate playground for lovers of the outdoors.
Home to more skiable terrain than any other resort in North America, Whistler-Blackcomb has long been a mecca for snow enthusiasts, but smaller, family run resorts like Silverstar and Big White are great for first timers, or if backcountry heli-skiing is you thing, check out Revelstoke. For a more French Alps vibe, you’ll find great skiing at Tremblant in Quebec.
For water adventures, put yourself in the picture of the iconic image of red canoes on an azure blue lake in Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in Banff National Park. If a hot tub under the stars is more your outdoor adventure, there are some fantastic wilderness lodges dotted all around Canada.
The great outdoors is also a great way to spot some of Canada’s iconic wildlife, from the mighty moose to the grizzly bear, the Orca or the lords of the great white north – the majestic Polar Bear, be sure to have plenty of space on your memory card to capture a wildlife encounter.
Canada hosts a long-list of must-do experiences, so much so you’ll be hard pressed to see them all in one visit. As well as a long list of wildlife encounters, snow sports and mountain summer playgrounds to explore, be sure to catch a game of ice-hockey, Canada’s national sport, or explore the historic narrow streets of Old Quebec, home of the world heritage-listed Chateau Frontenac.
Shop-till-you-drop at the jaw-droppingly huge West Edmonton Mall, see the spectacle and smell cowboy leather of the Calgary Stampede, ride the rails into the clouds on the iconic Rocky Mountaineer, and with a land mass that spreads far beyond the arctic circle, if marvelling at the celestial dance of the Northern Lights is on your bucket list, head north of the wall to the Yukon or the Northwest Territories.
Points of Interest
From March 15, 2016, most travellers entering Canada will need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) or a visitor visa. Find out if you need a Visa or apply for an eTA here: www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp
|Can I have a clean bathrobe for my room.||Can I have a new housecoat for my room.|
|Make sure you have plenty of 1 and 2 dollar coins to buy coffee.||You’ll need your loonies & toonies for a double/double.|
|Don't forget your beanie, it's -15 degrees outside!||Don't forget your took, it's cold out!|
|I'm sorry, what was that you were saying?||What's all that about?|
|Hello/Good morning [Quebec]||Bonjour|
|Good evening [Quebec]||Bonsoir|
|It's all good [Quebec]||C'est tiguidou!|
|I do not speak Quebecois very well [Quebec]||Je ne parle pas bien quebecois|
|Your pants are too short [Quebec]||T'as de l'eau dans la cave|
Best Time to Visit
|Fall Foliage||September and October|
|Ski/Snowboard Season||December to April|
|See a Grizzly Bear at Knights Inlet||April to November (Peak season is October when the salmon return to the river!)|
|Polar Bear viewing in Churchill||April to November|
|See an Ice Hockey Game||Season runs November to April|
|See the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)||January to March & from late August to early September|
The wide open spaces of Canada make it the ideal Road Trip destination, so grab a hire car (available from most airports and some city centre locations), or hire a Harley Davidson from Vancouver or Kamloops, and hit the open road. Rail is also a great way to experience Canada, from the iconic Rocky Mountaineer, to Via Rail, Canada’s vast rail network connects you coast to coast.
For some of the more remote locations, such as the Yukon or Churchill, we’d recommend an escorted tour.
The cuisine in Canada is governed by regional variations (think west-coast salmon and Alberta beef) and there is a restaurant to appeal to almost every taste. Colonial European influences still feature strongly, while the French-speaking province of Quebec has, predictably enough, a delectable variety of authentic French cuisine. Bon appétit!
Try Poutine - this Canadian twist on an old favourite is hot French-fries topped with cheese curds and a ladleful of thick brown gravy.
Canadians love their shopping. To see them at their jaw-dropping best, be sure to visit the West Edmonton Mall, Alberta. With more than 800 stores, 110 eateries, a hotel, water park, roller-coaster, ice-skating rink, mini golf and live daily entertainment, this is retail therapy on a grand scale and a destination in itself.
What to Pack
With such vast differences in climate and season, what to pack really depends on when and where you are going. Be sure to pack a waterproof jacket for Whale Watching, make room for your hiking boots if hitting the National Parks and pack a long lens and a tripod if you are wanting to capture some amazing wildlife shots.
Canada loves its big festivals and events. In winter, the two-week Quebec Winter Carnival is jam-packed with concerts, night parades, snow sculptures, ice-skating displays, slide runs and more. Billed as ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’, the Calgary Stampede, held every July, is one of the biggest celebrations of the cowboy’s way of life.
For more great events – visit the Keep Exploring website – home to the Canadian Tourism Commission