Canada is undeniably a stunningly beautiful country, and travelers flock here for this and a number of reasons. If you’re a nature lover, you will surely appreciate this country’s landscapes and the opportunities for exploration they bring. Here you have the choice of everything from mountains, forests and huge national parks, to gorgeous beaches, lakes and even gleaming glaciers.
Canada simply has it all. Landscapes aside, the cities are an adventure in themselves. Each has its own vibe, and most offer a multicultural cornucopia that you won’t forget in a hurry. The people of Canada tend to be very welcoming to visitors, and it’s a safe and relaxing experience for most. It’s pretty easy to find your way from one place to another, but as the country is so vast, you should plan to spend plenty of time here. There’s a lot you won’t want to miss out on!
Getting around Canada
Canada is huge, but there are only two national airlines, so flights could cost you. Most people hire a car, or jump on the inner-city public transport. There is a metro system that charges reasonable fares, and a train line that will cost you more but can get you from city to city easily enough. Those who don’t have much cash to splash may prefer to go by bus; there is Megabus, which has great fares, or you can use one of the other bus companies to get between cities.
Things to do in Canada
As mentioned, Canadian nature calls to even the less outdoorsy types. Here you can spend your days on the water in a kayak or canoe, and thrill seekers might want to brave the white waters in a raft. Skiing and snowboarding aficionados make their way to Canada for the skiing and snowboarding, and hikers do so for the epic hiking trails.
Another option is to hire a car and set out on the winding roads that meander through the country’s beautiful scenery. If you get a chance to visit the Niagara Falls in Ontario, you really should – it is one of the most famous sites in the world for good reason!
When in the cities, you can take advantage of plenty of tours aimed at educating tourists. A lot of the architecture here is photo-worthy, so don’t forget to bring a decent camera along. You can also spend time exploring the museums or huge shopping malls, or just relax in the city parks.
Most cities have a fair few festivals on throughout the year, and they are fun to take part in. It’s a great way to meet locals and other travelers too. Canada loves a music festival, as you can see from this extensive list!
Canadian cities worth a visit
Across the Ottawa River and opposite Quebec, you’ll find Canada’s capital city… and it also has a lot to offer. It is particularly favoured by those who love to get around on foot, drinking in the sights at their own pace. There is much to see and do, from Parliament Hill (home to the Canadian Government) to outstanding museums and art galleries. If art is your thing, stop by the National Gallery of Canada to view the indigenous art exhibitions.
Got a few dollars to spend? Ottawa has great shopping options. Head for Best Western Plus Ottawa Downtown Suites, or browse the antique shops; see what the immensely popular ByWard Market has to offer, or just peruse the many boutiques on the downtown streets.
Head over to the Rideau Canal if you want to immerse yourself in waterside vibes; summer means boats, cruises and sunny riverside walks; winter means ice skating, with the canal becoming the world’s largest (and second longest) skating rink. There are plenty of parks around this area too, when you fancy a rest.
If you head to Toronto you’ll be surrounded by other travelers and expats – it will be so easy to make like-minded friends. Toronto is the number one city for foreigners; they are attracted here by the hip culture, among other reasons. This influx of foreign nationals is the reason for Toronto earning the title of ‘most multicultural city in the world’. In fact, over half the population is made up of foreigners.
Toronto is another cool, arty city, so expect to come across many museums and galleries. While here, visit the CN Tower, an iconic tower with a revolving restaurant; take a walk around the Royal Ontario museum, dine on delicious international foods, take a trip out to Toronto Islands for a beach day (or two) or shop to your heart’s content at the long-standing urban mall, Toronto Eaton Centre.
If you can’t decide between mountains, ocean or city, there is a place in Canada you’re your name on it: Vancouver. Travelers love Vancouver because it is perfectly situated between both kinds of natural wonders, and these are some of Canada’s finest… something that is evidenced by the number of film crews who choose it for shoots. There is a thriving art, theatre and music scene in this city, and as it is the largest city in Western Canada, you’ll find plenty more to keep you entertained.
Aside from the hiking activities in the mountains, you can take trips to the beach quickly and easily; for whale spotting and awesome seafood, visit Vancouver Island for a day, and for a cultural day out, visit the Vancouver Art Gallery, which showcases the works of regional artists. Walk the Capilano Suspension Bridge, ride the Sea to Sky Gondola, or climb the steep Grouse Grind, known as ‘mother nature’s stairmaster’!
Montréal is the largest city in Quebec, and you can find it on an island in the Saint Lawrence River. Montréal’s boroughs are one-time independent cities, and each contains French colonial neighbourhoods with their own unique vibes. Wander around cobblestone streets and drink in the relaxed atmosphere at your leisure.
The triple-peaked hill in central Montréal should be on your to-see list, as should Quebec city, with its North American fortress and pretty old town. Here you’ll find more cobblestone streets and walkways, as well as amazing architecture dating back to the 17th-century. A lot of this has hardly changed, so you’ll feel like you’re traveling back in time. The Canadians of this region are all for café culture, which gives it a cosmopolitan feel. You may not want to leave in a hurry!
Calgary is a cosmopolitan city, once nicknamed ‘Cowtown’ thanks to the Calgary Stampede. If you’re here in July, you’ll get to witness this unbelievable rodeo and festival. For travelers who love a lively atmosphere, Calgary should be on your list. One major plus point for long-term travelers is that Calgary is cheaper than most of the other cities, so you can spend a fair bit of time here without maxing out your budget.
In terms of activities, there’s a lot you can do that will cost you little or nothing. Hike up to the epic mountain peaks for other-wordly photo opportunities, kick back and relax in the city parks, and even spend the night camping in nature. Relax by (or on) the beautiful Bow River, shop at Calgary farmer’s market, go on a Bobsled adventure or tour the amazing Banff National Park.
So there you have it. Canada is waiting, and it has plenty in store for the trip of a lifetime. Enjoy the country where nature is at its most nurturing, and the city escapades at their most cathartic. You can’t fail to love this magnificent part of the world.
Author Bio: Sam Ross runs the blog The Hammock Hombre – a travel blog focused around the digital nomad lifestyle. Over the past 3 years, he’s travelled to every continent, so writes on a broad range of countries, cities and destinations.
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