NORTH AMERICA

Canada


Canada is a country of stunning proportions. Bordering three oceans and spanning six time zones, its extensiveness and diversity makes for a fascinating travel destination. Canada proudly boasts stunning landscapes of hulking mountains, lakes, icebergs and glaciers; remote rural areas and festival-packed cities; a history influenced by British, French and nomadic tribal cultures dating back to the Ice Age, and a chance to see big wild animals in a big wild landscape. To get ones' bearings in a country as big as this, it is best to divide the nation into three regions: West, Central and East.

Western Canada

The provinces of British Columbia and Alberta are renowned for their stunningly beautiful countryside. British Columbia is home to Vancouver, a vibrant harbour city famous for its restaurants, galleries and shops. A short boat trip across the harbour leads to Vancouver Island – a popular spot for whale watching and enjoying the provincial capital, Victoria's many cafes, gardens and historical buildings. Visitors seeking a little more action need only drive an hour northwest of Vancouver to the adventure playground of Whistler. The world-class mountain resort offers unlimited activities all year round but is at its best in winter when fresh powder snow and groomed slopes lure skiers and snowboarders from around the globe.

Alberta's biggest drawcard is a mountain range affectionately known as The Rockies. The region offers unparalleled mountain scenery, glaciers, lakes, meadows, and national parks so spectacular it can be overwhelming. This enormous area contains hundreds of natural sites to see, trails to hike and backpack, and culturally fascinating towns. The small town of Jasper is located in the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park. Wild in every sense of the word, it is home to some of North America's healthiest populations of grizzly bears, moose, mountain goats and elk. Jasper National Park is linked to the Banff National park by a stretch of road called the Icefields Parkway. Here visitors can explore a series of ice-age old glaciers and the powerful, picturesque waterfalls at Athabasca. The resort town of Banff is one of Canada's most popular tourist destinations, known for its mountainous surroundings and hot springs. It is a fabulous destination for lovers of outdoor sports including hiking, biking, scrambling and skiing. Sunshine Village, Ski Norquay and Lake Louise Mountain Resort are the three nearby ski resorts located within the national park. Glacier-fed Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are two of Banff National Park's jewels – so intensely blue-green in colour that they hardly look real.

Eastern Canada

Eastern Canada mixes the bustle of New York with French character and historical charm, boasts dramatic coastlines, maritime villages, remote natural beauty, and grand landscapes. Its provinces include (among others) Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick.

Ontario is cottage country, a hideaway locale favoured by Canadians in the same way Parisians favour the south of France. It is an ideal place to rent a cottage of your own, to sample life in the Canadian wilderness and explore parks such as Algonquin Provincial Park with its 2,500 lakes and miles of canoe routes. Ontario is also home to Canada's capital, Ottowa, a somewhat regal city that resembles an old English town; and the province's culturally effervescent capital, Toronto. Multicultural cuisine, fabulous shopping options, film festivals and a thriving arts scene is seeing Toronto's popularity as a stopover destination soar. Don't miss the opportunity to visit the mighty Niagara Falls which is only a short trip from Toronto (or a thrilling helicopter flight away!).

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed city of Québec is the cradle of French culture in North America and the historic heart of the province. Quebec is the only walled town in North America, complete with charming cobbled alleyways and gabled buildings. It is the perfect place to soak in the distinctly European atmosphere and wander museums, galleries, cafes and restaurants.

Canada's Atlantic coast provinces provide travellers with excellent opportunities to observe abundant marine and land wildlife and explore unspoiled wilderness. New Brunswick is full of hidden treasures and popular attractions including green valleys dotted with farms, colourful fishing villages, scenic river valleys, and wilderness parks. Fishing, trekking, cycling and whale watching around Passamaquoddy Bay and Grand Manan keep most visitors to the region entertained, as do the many art galleries, pubs, and summertime festivals.

Summertime (June to September in Southern Canada) brings pleasant weather and a plethora of outdoor activity options. Peak season covers the months of June, July and August so those wishing to avoid the crowds should visit from March to May or September and October (Canada's deciduous forests are especially beautiful in autumn). Summer temperatures in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal average highs in the 20°s Celsius, and night-time lows around 7°C. Canadian winters are long, cold and dark. Maximum daily temperatures average -5°C in the mountains and just 6°C on the coasts. Ski resorts operate during the winter months from November to March and the cities of Québec, Toronto and Winnipeg often host big winter carnivals.

Click here for our suggestions on events and places to go at various times of year

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