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Country Guide: Canada
Country Guide: Canada
Our assessment of what’s really special? Getting back to nature with Canada's magnificent scenery.
Here are our must-see highlights and, later, a few well-chosen targets for those with less time to spend.
Canada's Rocky Mountains leave visitors awestruck by their majestic beauty. In summer hike the alpine meadows, go horse riding on forest trails and kayak the rapids of glacier-fed streams. Or go for the snow — ski in winter resorts such as Whistler then wrap up warm in log cabins before a blazing fire. Don't miss:
Canadian cities have the same easy-going vibe, though each is distinctively different. Spend a couple of days people watching from a pavement café, absorbing the atmosphere and partying with the locals.
Toronto, a vibrant, cosmopolitan city on Lake Ontario, is at the forefront of Canada's cultural scene.
Try historic Québec City or hip Montréal for a French flavour — in cuisine, language and outlook.
Buzzing, sociable Vancouver, on Canada's Pacific coast, is ideally located for exploring both the Rockies or Vancouver Island.
Ottawa, Canada's handsome capital, has a progressive feel and dynamic nightlife.
There's more to see and do in the vast wheat fields of the prairies than many travellers realise:
Shop in West Edmonton Mall, the world's biggest mall.
Scary: Wolves, cougars and rattlesnakes (though elk are far more likely to attack humans).
Really scary: grizzly and black bears hang out in the Rockies, and polar bears patrol the ice around Hudson Bay.
Tasty: Moose, elk and bison roam in Canada's national parks.
Wet: Orca, humpback and minke whales. Sea lions inhabit the coast.
Feathery: Bald eagles, herons and loons (Canada's national bird). And Canada geese, obviously.
The main ski resorts are at Whistler and Lake Louise.
Canada in 2-3 days
Pick a city. Any one will do, but Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver have the most to offer. A few days should be enough to get a feel for the place and see the main sights — even take a side trip such as Niagara Falls from Toronto.
Canada in7-9 days
Head to the Rockies. Base yourself on the Alberta side in Banff or Jasper and explore from there — or travel the Icefields Parkway between them. Starting in British Columbia, head from Vancouver to Mount Robson, the tallest peak, taking in Revelstoke and Kamloops on the way.
Vancouver Island is another option. Enjoy the expansive beaches, verdant rainforest and abundant wildlife, then chill out in the elegant capital of Victoria.
Like islands? Visit Prince Edward Island off Canada's east coast for secluded coves, rugged coastline and sublime seafood. It's particularly beautiful in autumn (fall) when the iconic maple leaves turn shades of scarlet and gold.
You could spend a lifetime exploring the Rocky Mountains and never get bored. Local tour operators offer multi-day hikes, kayaking trips and trail rides to help you get to the heart of this pristine wilderness.
Cross Canada! In a couple of weeks you could drive the Trans-Canada Highway from St John's in Newfoundland all the way to Victoria on Vancouver Island, or ride the railroad on The Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver.
Which hub you choose will depend on your final destination – Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton are gateways to the Rockies, while the cities of the eastern provinces have their own airports.
Canadians travel everywhere by car. If you need to go long distances under your own steam, hire one – a motorhome, commonly known as an RV, is a popular choice.
Greyhound Canada runs a national bus network while Via Rail operates the passenger trains, including The Canadian, an epic railroad journey between Toronto and Vancouver via the Rocky Mountains.
Food in Canada is of the hearty variety – mountainous breakfasts, thick slabs of steak, piled-up platters of seafood, fries by the bucketful and shed loads of salad. They don't skimp on ice cream, either. It's an outdoorsy kind of place so you'll tend to work up an appetite to justify this excess, just don't expect to come home slimmer.
Here are a few suggestions:
The Atlantic provinces are big on seafood. Try steaming clam chowder, deep bowls of mussels, fresh lobster and wild salmon.
Québec's specialty is poutine — fries buried in lashings of gravy and cheese curds.
Sample elk, moose and bison while you're in town — they're low in fat and taste delicious. They're usually served rare to preserve the delicate flavours.
Canada is famed for its berries. Eat them in muffins or pies if it helps.
Maple syrup goes with everything. Even bacon, apparently.
North America is fast food central. Branch out and try Wendy's, A&W or Taco Bell when you're on the run. Tim Hortons does fab doughnuts.
Canada's wine industry is thriving, and there are plenty of locally brewed beers to quench the thirst. Canadians (especially the French ones) also know a thing or two about coffee, so hitting a streetside café is a must.