As the second largest country in the world with 10 individual provinces that are each colossal in size, here’s a snapshot of some of Canada’s greatest places and landmarks:
- Toronto (Ontario): A visit to Toronto is not complete without taking in the impressive panoramic views of the city from the CN Tower. As the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, standing at the great height of 553 metres (1,815 feet), it is possible to see over 160km (100 miles) on a clear day. See if you can spot Niagara Falls from the observation deck, and if you have a head for heights, stand on the reinforced glass floor for a view of 342 metres (1,122 feet) below.
- Niagara Falls (Ontario): Seeing the Falls in person is one thing but experiencing the thundering waterfall from its base, while on-board a Niagara cruise is something else entirely. This incredible site is around 12,000 years old, originally formed by glaciers melting into enormous freshwater lakes, shaping a river and the Falls as we know them today. The surrounding area, Niagara-on-the-Lake, features many quaint shops and galleries that are a joy to browse.
- Ottawa (Ontario): As the capital of Canada, Ottawa is a vibrant, multicultural city that hosts a multitude of glorious celebrations throughout the year. Included in its beauty are the stunning Parliament Buildings, that look almost like a fairy-tale castle, and the Rideau Canal – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, over 200km long that becomes the world’s largest skating rink when it freezes over. Here you might see the famous red-uniformed Royal Canadian Mounted Police, colloquially known as ‘Mounties’.
- Québec: This picturesque, historic city has a distinct European feel to it, with French being its official language. One standout building not to be missed is the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. Situated inside the walls of Old Québec, this hotel has a fascinating history, with past guests including Queen Elizabeth, Charles de Gaulle and Winston Churchill.
- Montreal (Québec): The cobblestone streets and old town buildings emanate Montreal’s charm from long ago. After admiring the striking exterior of the Notre Dame Basilica that was built in the 1800s, the beautifully ornate blue and gold interior are exceptional. Similarly, Saint Joseph's Oratory has both an impressive exterior and interior and is home to one of the world's greatest organs.
- Jasper (Alberta): Jasper is a town located in heart of the biggest National Park in the Canadian Rockies. Within the Park, the scenic Athabasca River and Falls, the Maligne Lake, and the Maligne Canyon are just a few of the awe-inspiring natural areas to visit.
- Whistler (British Columbia): The award-winning Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre teaches about the history, culture and art of the First Nations. The aptly named Yoho National Park (meaning ‘awe and wonder’ in Cree) is stunning by both day and night, and ideal for watching wildlife and dark-sky star-gazing. Be sure to see the mighty Athabasca Glacier - part of the Canadian Rockies’ largest ice fields. Estimated to be 10,000 years old, it spans a mighty 320 km² (125 square miles) and depths of 360 metres (1,180 feet).
- Vancouver (British Columbia): Satisfy your sense of adventure by crossing the spectacular Capilano Suspension Bridge that hangs 70 metres (230 feet) above the Capilano River. Here you will have an incredible view of the magnificent rainforest below. Strong enough to withstand the weight of 96 adult elephants, even the most cautious of visitors can give this activity a go.
As a melting pot of hugely diverse cultures, the food available is just as colourful, with Asian, French, German, Polish, Ukrainian, and Chinese influences being some of many styles of cuisine. Regardless of which part of Canada you are in, there are some old favourites that constitute as specialities. Poutine - a concoction of chips, cheese curds and gravy - is a cheap and cheerful staple that’s readily available. Chicken wings, steak and ribs are usually easy to find on a menu. Unusual Canadian game offerings include bison, boar, venison, elk and caribou, while fine fresh seafood choices include B.C. Pacific Salmon, oysters and Nova Scotia lobster. Venture out to special events like Ottawa’s Winterlude and you’ll likely come across beaver tails for sale – a flat, sweet pastry shaped like a beaver’s tail. Canadian desserts are very sweet and filling, with butter tarts, Nanaimo bars, maple cinnamon rolls, sugar cookies, and all manner of cheesecakes, fruit pies and tarts keeping sugar-seekers happy.
Popular alcoholic beverages include: ‘The Caesar’- tomato juice with clam broth and spices, vodka, tabasco and Worchester sauce; a whisky and honey liqueur named ‘Yukon Jack’; and a ‘caribou’, combining maple syrup with mulled wine, whisky or rum. If you’re offered ‘moose milk’ you can expect the equivalent to an alcoholic milkshake. Ice-cream, rum and kahlua are the key ingredients but butterscotch schnapps, strawberries and Irish liqueur are all possible additions. Icewine is a popular dessert wine, made from grapes that have been frozen on the vine. Labatt Blue, Molsen Canadian and a variety of Pilsner beers are common beverages to relax with. For non-drinkers, much-loved soft drinks include soy milk-based beverages, Kool-Aid (a concentrated fruit-flavoured drink diluted with water), ginger ale, and fruit juices. Much like desserts, most soft drinks taste very sweet.
Canada’s vast size brings with it varying climates, ranging from temperate to subarctic. Landscapes differ considerably, including mountain ranges, flat prairies, wetlands, lowlands, immense forests, and even volcanoes. Consequently, the fauna and flora is equally diverse. Aside from the familiar beavers and moose that are emblazoned on many a souvenir, bobcats, cougars, arctic foxes, wolves, coyotes, polar bears, brown bears, raccoons and badgers also reside here. With five marine ecozones, belugas, narwhals, humpback whales, blue whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals are some of the sea life you might be lucky enough to encounter. Look to the skies for Canadian geese, wood ducks, loons, albatrosses, blue jays, eagles, owls, hummingbirds and kingfishers.