Canada is all the rage these days. And not just as a running gag for many Americans who have threatened to emigrate since the start of the Trump presidency. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, known for his good looks and magnetic charisma, has managed to become somewhat of an internet sensation, warming the hearts of people from all across the world as a positive example of tolerance, diversity and light-hearted diplomacy.
Clearly this country, the world’s second largest by landmass, is worth a closer look. The First Nations arrived first, followed by the Inuit, the French, and the English, all of whom have shaped Canada’s diversity. We’ve tried our hand at crafting a little overview and some travel tips for this gigantic North American country, with its stunning nature and multicultural society!
The agony of choice?
Assuming you don’t have half a year to spend traveling, you should think carefully about where to put your focus when you start planning your trip to Canada. Depending on the type of vacation you’re looking for, you can room in luxury hotels and mingle in the crowds of lively cities, or hike for weeks through untouched nature and watch the starry sky from a cozy camp chair in the middle of nowhere. In any case, there’s also the possibility of combining city and wilderness vacations: most cities are well-connected by Air Canada via charter flight, and many are quite close to Canada’s seemingly omnipresent natural landscape. A great tip for those with a bit more money and time: the transcontinental railroad, The Canadian, meanders across the entire width of the country, from Toronto in the East to Vancouver in the West, giving travelers a close-up view of Canada’s vast landscape.
Canada’s geography can be summed up in a nutshell like this: In the West, the mountain ranges of the Pacific Cordillera dominate the landscape (including the tallest mountain in Canada, Mount Logan, which reaches an incredible 5959 meters), while the East is marked by the gently rolling Appalachians. In between you’ll find the immeasurably vast Canadian Prairies. The landscape is spotted with green – there are more than 46 national and provincial parks in Canada – while at the same time, the country is covered with lakes of every size. It’s easy to see why Canada is considered a paradise for hikers and fishers alike.
Sledding with dogs, skiing without cougars
The more adventurous among you won’t ever want to leave Canada. Outdoor activities seem to have no end: in the Winter there’s downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, dogsledding and snowshoeing. The province of British Columbia in particular offers ski slopes for everyone from beginners to seasoned professionals. Summertime vacationers can enjoy hiking, camping and rafting – the National Parks are a real paradise for anyone in search of a camping vacation. Most parks have designated camping areas. At the edge of the Rocky Mountains you’ll find the oldest parks in Canada, Jasper National Park and Banff National Park. Both are easy to reach from Vancouver and offer the perfect picture-perfect postcard backdrop, with turquoise lakes and majestic mountains.
If you don’t want to be surprised by cougars while skiing or bears at your campground, it’s strongly recommended that you inform yourself in advance of any four-legged visitors you might encounter both inside and outside the parks.
Yes yes, oui oui – Canada’s cities, modern and cozy
If you’re looking for something livelier, Canada’s cities also have plenty to offer. Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Montréal: each city in Canada has its own individual flair. A small selection:
Toronto, the economic heart of Canada, is a modern, trendy metropolis. This city on Lake Ontario is so culturally diverse that the culinary riches of the entire world can seemingly be tasted here.
The relaxed city of Vancouver on the West Coast is ideally located if you want to combine a city vacation with nature and skiing, as it lies at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and close to Banff National Park. A particular highlight is the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a free-swinging cable bridge 70 meters above the Capilano River, from which you can enjoy magnificent views of, among other sights, the world’s largest collection of totem poles.
Residents of the Canadian capital of Ottawa are fluent in both English and French. The Government District is particularly worth a visit, an area of town where you could easily believe you’d suddenly landed in the middle of London. But worth a note: Parliament Hill draws plenty of tourists, so plan for a multi-hour wait.
The French influence can be felt especially strongly in Montréal, both in language and in architecture. This city in southwestern Quebec has a lively arts, culture and festival scene, but in the winter the city can get very, very cold.
For this reason, Montréal is home to the largest underground city in the world: thanks to a tunnel system with a total length of over 32 kilometers, subway stations, train stations, businesses, movie theatres and performance spaces are all interconnected. Thanks to this system, it’s possible to get around by foot, even in the deepest depths of winter.
- There are both government-run and private campgrounds: the government-run sites tend to be cheaper, but the private are correspondingly richer in amenities.
- You’ll generally need a travel visa for entry into the country, but if you have a European passport you can get by with just a return ticket and a Travel Authorization.
- The minimum age to rent a car is 21 or sometimes even 25 years old, and your driver’s license from your native country is usually sufficient.
- Travel insurance is an absolute must if your regular insurance doesn’t already cover you: a stay in the hospital can cost you 1,000 – 2,000 Canadian Dollars per night!