Canada is an amazingly beautiful country. Its sheer vastness is hypnotic. You can drive for hours across open prairies without seeing a soul, or immerse yourself in cool city culture. There are few places on earth that are as stunning, welcoming, or amazing. For the first-time visitor, it is hard to know where to begin, so we have compiled a guide to some of the places you must include in your travel itinerary.
1. Banff National Park
Banff National Park is in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. One of the two principle towns, Banff, is extremely popular with tourists, so it can get busy during the summer months, but you will be too busy admiring the glacial lakes, local wildlife, and waterfalls to pay too much attention to anyone else.
Banff is a good place to stop if you want to explore the Banff National Park. Many hiking trails start from Banff, but you can also go mountain biking or skiing in the winter. Lake Louise is more of a hamlet that a town, but it is famous for its beautiful turquoise glacial lakes. Visit Lake Louise to hike in the summer or ski in the winter.
Vancouver in British Colombia is a rich, vibrant city with an ethnically diverse population. More than a few studies have described Vancouver as the best place to live. The city is on the coast but is surrounded by majestic mountains and the scenery is amazing. Once you have stopped taking photos of the city’s many natural charms, explore its rich cultural heritage. There is a thriving arts scene, with theaters and art galleries galore. There is also some great nightlife and foodies will have a ball checking out the local restaurants.
3. Quebec City
French-speaking Quebec City is one of the oldest settlements in this part of the world. The Quebec City skyline is dominated by the wonderfully impressive Chateau Frontenac and Citadelle of Quebec. Most tourists head straight to the picturesque Champlain district, with its cobbled streets, boutiques, bistros and art galleries. Visit Quebec City to learn more about Canada’s colonial heritage. The core of the city dates back to 1608 and there is much to learn.
4. Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is about 80 miles north of Banff. This part of Canada is a vast, unspoiled wilderness full of natural beauty. The terrain was carved out millions of years ago by glaciers. Today, there are glaciers, the Colombia icefield, subalpine forests, clear lakes, and towering mountains. The scenery is just as amazing as any you will see in the Banff National Park, so get ready to go hiking and biking, or have a go at some water sports. Whitewater rafting is very popular in the Jasper National Park. Take the Icefields Parkway and head north into the land of elks, moose, and bison, or set up camp and do a spot of hiking in Maligne Canyon. And if you want a bird’s eye view, take a ride on the Jasper SkyTram.
5. Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is one of the most famous waterfalls in the world. Millions of people visit the natural wonder that is Niagara Falls. With the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world, the Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls combined are seriously impressive. The best way to see Niagara Falls up close and personal is to book a Maid of the Mist boat tour. You’ll get wet, but that’s all part of the fun. You probably won’t want to stay for too long in Niagara Falls, but there are some great Niagara Falls hotels nearby. Niagara Falls is not far from Toronto, so catch the train or book a rental car and stay in the town overnight.
6. The Yukon
Yukon, in the northwest corner of Canada, is as far from civilization as you can get. If you want to experience the “real” Canada, you need to travel into the Yukon. It’s a great destination for winter sports enthusiasts. Have a go at ice climbing, snowboarding, and dog sledding. Or, if these are a bit too energetic, go for a paddle on a glacial lake or try kayaking. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails, but you can also explore on horseback. Just watch out for the grizzly bears!
Other places worth visiting include Ottawa, which makes a great base for exploring the northern provinces, Montreal, with its laid back, cosmopolitan atmosphere, and Toronto, home to the CN Tower and glitzy shopping districts.