Oh Canada: top 10 holiday highlights
Step into some of the world’s greatest wildernesses, where snow-tipped mountains reflect in blue-green lakes, thick forests play host to bald eagles and bears, and pods of whales cruise through glacier-edged bays.
Whether you combine Canada’s mountain scenery with time in its cosmopolitan cities and maritime communities, or choose to team it with the fishing towns and wildlife reserves of Alaska, you’ll be sure to have an adventure to remember. Yes, there really is nowhere quite like Canada, whichever part of the country you choose to explore. Here’s just a taster of what the ‘Great White North’ has under its Mountie hat…
What is so special about the Canadian Rockies?
A lake so turquoise it almost looks Photoshopped. Soaring Mountains. Bottle-green forest. Does a more classically Canadian scene exist? You’ll stumble across views like this aplenty in the Canadian Rockies – a chain of peaks snaking through Alberta and British Columbia. Head for Banff National Park to admire the glacial lakes of Louise and Moraine; or Jasper National Park to see Athabasca Glacier and stroll through Maligne Canyon. Many of our tours to western Canada include this famed scenery, whether that be by road or rail on the iconic Rocky Mountaineer.
Reasons to drive The Cabot Trail
This 185-mile trail loops around the northern tip of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. The northern section passes through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park – excellent for hiking. The western and eastern portions hug the rugged coastline, providing spectacular views and opportunities for whale watching. We drive a section of the trail on our 15-day 'Maritime Canada' tour.
When is the best time to visit Canada?
The magic of the maples is world renowned – and not just their delicious syrup (which you’ll find in abundance on your trip). The autumn months are one of the most popular times to visit Ontario, where you can see the foliage turn from deep green to glowing orange. Our 'Colours of the Canadian Fall' tour is your best bet for maple peeping, where you’ll visit wide open landscapes and vast woodlands. Lake-dotted Algonquin Provincial Park is a particular highlight.
What wildlife can you see in Canada?
As a destination overflowing with wildlife and natural spectacles, animal lovers really can’t go far wrong in Canada. The country’s Pacific coastal waters teem with life. Around Vancouver Island you’ll be looking for orcas, grey whales, minkes and humpbacks; sail the Inside Passage for sightings of porpoises, seals and sea lions. If grizzlies are on your must-see list, head for the Rockies or add a stay at Knight Inlet Lodge to your itinerary (available as an add-on from Vancouver). For the best of both worlds, our Deluxe Alaskan Voyage and Rocky Mountaineer tour takes in the lot: from bears and bald eagles in the Rockies to whales, seals, otters and more on the glistening Alaskan waters.
Visiting Niagara Falls
At a huge 176 feet tall and 1,060 feet long, Niagara Falls really are a sight to behold. This spectacular collection of waterfalls never stop thundering into the basin below. To really get up close and feel the spray, there’s nothing better than the 20-minute Hornblower boat tour. This exhilarating trip takes you past the base of the American Falls and into the basin of the majestic Canadian Horseshoe Falls. We include it on 'Ontario's Great Lakes and Wilderness Wonders' and 'Colours of the Canadian Fall', plus it's available on a number of other tours as an optional excursion.
What is the Inside Passage?
The fjords of the Inside Passage were hewn by mighty glaciers millions of years ago. They’re best explored by boat – you can soak up the scale and splendour of British Columbia's coastal landscape, passing rainforests, beaches, waterfalls and mountains. See it for yourself on 'Rockies and Alaska Grand Discovery', 'Scenic Spectacular' and 'Deluxe Alaskan Voyage'.
Why is Canada famous for its seafood?
For foodies, a trip to Canada wouldn’t be complete without trying its renowned seafood. The best is caught in the cold, clean waters of the four North Atlantic provinces. Tuck in to snow crab, oysters, salmon, scallops, blue mussels and hard-shelled lobster – perfect after a day’s exploring.
In Vancouver, there’s a great opportunity to try Canadian fish and chips at the public market on Granville Island. Catch the Aquabus or False Creek ferry (an adventure in itself!) then simply let your nose guide you. There’s a fair few more choices than your local chippy back home, with battered Pacific cod, wild salmon and BC halibut all on the menu. Or perhaps go really off-piste and try the seafood chowder, jerk fish poutine or fish tacos.
The history and heritage of Canada
Canada has a fascinating past to uncover. In Alberta, you can find out about the First Nations folklore and aboriginal hunting techniques at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. In New Brunswick, visit Le Pays de la Sagouine – a charming reproduction of an Acadian village. And in Newfoundland, the Viking settlement of L’Anse aux Meadows is the earliest evidence of Europeans in America.
Ride the Rocky Mountaineer
Regularly voted one of the greatest rail journeys in the world, a trip on Rocky Mountaineer reveals landscapes of snow-streaked mountains, glittering lakes and rushing rivers. The train winds its way along historic tracks that first united Canada’s coasts, and only travels during daylight – so you can fully appreciate that epic scenery.
Visiting Canada's cities
Although Canada is big on natural beauty, its cities are well worth spending some time in too. Clustered in the east are vibrant Toronto, with its great restaurant and museum scenes; capital city Ottawa, crowned by a grand Gothic Parliament building; and Montréal and Québec City, both filled with French flair and rambling old city streets.
In the west, you've got Vancouver – one of the world’s most liveable cities. Lapped by the Pacific Ocean on one side and overlooked by mountains on the other, Vancouver is both historically interesting and cutting edge – with the most dramatic setting you could think of.
There's also the picture-perfect provincial capital, Victoria. Its harbour is the bubbling hub of the city. Expect heritage, architecture and colourful gardens by the bucket.
Tempted to explore Canada for yourself? Take a look at our collection of Canadian tours.
Although she loves a lie-in at home, Laura is often up and about before dawn on holiday. She’s watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, Uluru and Angkor Wat, but her favourite was seeing the first light of the New Year sweeping across the yacht-dotted waters of Sydney Harbour.
Laura | About the author
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