As the 2nd largest country in the world, Canada's population of a mere 34 million takes back seat as the untamed wilderness takes center stage. Without big city distractions and tourist traps to divert attention from the well abounding understated grace of nature, peaceful surroundings calm the mind for a profound enjoyment of place.
The vast wilderness in USA's northern neighbor not only make for Facebook-worthy photographs, but offer some of the most inspiring nature and outdoors activities in the world. From alpine skiing at Whistler-Blackcomb to polar bear and beluga whale watching in Churchill, Canada reminds travelers of the raw beauty and the sheer enjoyment of nature.
Interesting Facts about Canada
- The setting for the fictional novel Anne of Green Gables is Prince Edward Island, a popular tourist coastal destination in eastern Canada
- Winnie the Pooh was named after a black bear in London Zoo, purchased as a cub during WWI from Winnipeg in Manitoba
- Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb - he purchased the patent in 1875 from Canadian co-inventors Henry Woodward and Mathew Evans for US$5,000.
- Canada boasts the longest coastline in the world, the longest terrestrial border (with the USA), and tops of the list of largest countries with only one land border with another nation.
- Alberta's West Edmonton Mall sprawls over 570,000 sqm and houses the second largest indoor amusement part in the world, as well as the largest indoor waterpark at over 20,000 sqm
40% of Canada's population live in just 5 cities. The metropolises in Canada aren't unlike those in other places in the world, with impressive jagged skylines and city lights that make for an enchanting nightscape. Be it shopping districts, world class museums, upscale eateries, or historical buildings, the cities are as modern as they get, albeit not as dense. Leafy city centers and proximity to nature have earned Canadian cities the reputation of being some of the most livable in the world.
The national capital Ottawa and the most-populated city of Toronto are both located in Ontario, a province bordering the Great Lakes. One of Toronto's most recognizable landmarks is the CN Tower, which visitors can ride an elevator to the top for unbeatable views. The coastal city of Vancouver is surrounded on 3 sides by the Pacific Ocean, with the 4th side nestled against the Coast Mountains.
Montréal, the cultural heart of Québec, is the second largest French speaking city in the world, with its charming historical 'Old moon Montréal' area a riverfront attraction.
Calgary in Alberta, tucked in the foothills of the majestic Canadian Rocky Mountains, acts as a gateway to Banff and Jasper National Parks, 2 of the 7 reserves that are UNESCO-recognized for their exceptional splendors - canyons, caves, waterfalls, and alpine meadows, all under the watchful eye of rugged mountain peaks.
Canada has over 42 national parks and reserves covering all territories in the country, their natural beauty changing with the season.
- Banff National Park in Alberta, nestled in the Rockies, is the most visited in the country, making it quite crowded during the summer.
- Adjacent Jasper National Park is a quieter option, with black bears, moose, elk, and an abundance of other wildlife.
- Glacier National Park in British Columbia is home to one of the country's largest and most stunning cave systems, while Manitoba's Wapusk National Park is famed for their polar bear inhabitants.
- Kluane National Park and Reserve is also protected as a UNESCO heritage site, housing the country's tallest Mount Logan, standing at nearly 6,000 meters.
- Also recognized by the world body for its spectacular terrain and biodiversity is Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland and Labrador. The country's coastal scenery can be taken in from several parklands, including Quebec's Forillion National Park, Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Highlands National Park, and New Brunswick's Fundy National Park.
- Prince Edward Island National Park in the province with the same name is famed for their town and country feel.
Winter in Canada
Canada is home to several popular ski resorts, with Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia perhaps the most famous, having hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics as the principle venue. With sheer vertical drops, marked trails that stretch on and on, the slopes offer world class skiing and snowboarding.
To get away from the crowds, heli-skiing drops slope conquerors off in remote areas, where they can literally carve their own route through virgin snow. Alberta and Québec also offer spectacular snow fun amongst the most stunning scenery.
Families that find themselves in Québec from end-January to mid-February shouldn't miss the Winter Carnival in Québec City, the biggest of its kind in the world with activities for the whole family. Ottawa makes the most of winter every month, turning the frozen Rideau Canal into a skateway with ice skating and sleighing rink.
Across the country, from the Niagara Falls to Vancouver, Winter Light Festivals provide an excuse to brave the sub zero temperature with an array of festivities on offer. The easternmost province of Newfoundland and Labrador is popular with sea kayakers to get up close and personal to enigmatic chunks of ice in 'Iceberg Alley'. Be it spending a idyllic day ice fishing, or spending an afternoon on the slopes snowmobile-racing with a group of friends, while others shiver a 'brr', Canadians say 'brr-ing it on'!
Summer in Canada
As the snow melts, whitewater rafters pull the covers off their boats and head for the mighty rivers, paddling through the raw beauty of the country's backcountry and occasionally shooting through rapids.
The Ottawa River in Ontario and the Kicking Horse River in British Columbia are well known, while more remote launching sites of whitewater adventures can only be reached by floatplane, adding to the excitement.
Fishing - be it by fly, spear, or bow - are popular on the hundreds of thousands of rivers and lakes around the country, with some spots only accessible by helicopter. Canada's national motto of 'A Mari Usque Ad Mare' translates to 'from sea to sea', a fitting saying for the seaside attractions on both the western Pacific and eastern Atlantic coasts.
Nova Scotia boasts some of the best surfing waves, as well as yachting attractions. Keeping with the nature theme, hiking and bird watching trails through rainforests, and coastal cycling paths allow visitors to be close to but not in the waters. Wind surfing and SCUBA diving are offered at seaside resort areas, while the Great Lakes also provide intriguing wreck diving opportunities.
Sky diving and hot air balloon rides during sunset offer a different perspective to take in nature's splendors, as do bungee jumping down glacier-carved gorges for adrenaline junkies. Though skiing is often associated with wintertime, glacier skiing is on offer year-round in various parts of the country so enthusiasts can kill two birds with one stone - indulge in the thrill of racing downhill while soaking up suns for a holiday tan.
Villa Holidays in Canada
Home to open skies, towering snowcapped Rockies, sprawling biodiverse national parks, and massive eerily beautiful glaciers, Canada is a country rich with natural wonders. Staying in an intimate private apartment or villa offers visitors a rejuvenating chance to get back to nature without having to give up any of modern conveniences for a holiday of a lifetime.
Travel & Transport
With coasts that stretch from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, which airport travelers touch down on depends on the point of origin as well as the destination, with the 5 biggest cities mentioned above - Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal - popular entry points. Between cities, a wide network of domestic airports make for easy shuttles, while overnight trains and cars are time consuming but offer the chance to pass through picturesque landscapes. Most major cities have convenient public transport systems, with cycling and walking also popular to commute while taking in the sights.
Canada Top 5 Travel Tips [Bucket List]
1. Turn on the Lights
The phenomenon that is Aurora Borealis dances year-round across the skies of Nunavut, Yukon, and Northwest Territories. The capital of the latter, Yellowknife, is one of the best places in the world to view the mystic northern lights in action, with fall and winter considered the best times. Try a sled dog expedition to catch the celestial number.
2. Killing Me Softly
Orcas have a bad rap due to their 'killer whale' nickname, but they're actually gentle graceful creatures. From about May to October, orca pods can be viewed from various coastal cities. To defy their killer branding, take a whale watching tour on kayaks.
3. The Falls of Two Cities
Forming the border between Ontario and New York are twin cities, both named Niagara Falls and sharing a thundering waterfall with the same name. Boat rides are a popular way to feel the mist, but head to the Skylon Tower to observe Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and the American Falls from 160 meters up.
4. Whistling Slopes
Whistler-Blackcomb hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010 as the principal venue, with challenging slopes and powdery snow. For a little bit something more avant garde and non conventional, try ice sailing.
5. Deeper Underground
Why did American gangsters go Saskatchewan in the 1920's? No, it's not to catch Big Foot, it's where Al Capone's men ran their business during Prohibition. Tunnels of Moose Jaw offers 2 edutainment guided tours with animatronics, but with surprises along the journey, not suitable for the scare-easy.