|Canada is the world’s second largest
country after Russia. It is simply enormous, measuring almost 4 million
square miles, or nearly 10 million square kilometres in area and has
more lakes and inland waters than any other country.
Some of the lakes are so huge that you can stand on the shore and
imagine you are standing at the edge of an ocean. The provinces are so
vast that it can take over 24 hours to drive from one border to the
next. And all this space is home to around 32 million people, little
more than half the population of the United Kingdom.
Most are concentrated within 160 km of the US border.
Canada is renowned for its stunning scenery, which attracts millions of
visitors every year. Landscapes with
vast plains, towering peaks and great glaciers, bordered by vast oceans
to the west, north and east. A big
country and home to big animals: grizzly bears, moose, polar bears and
humpback whales. A paradise for
||Canada was inhabited by various groups of aboriginal
people for thousands of years before the British and
French began to settle the country in the late 15th century. It is now a
parliamentary democracy and a
constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state.
Canada has two official languages: English and French. Approximately 58%
of people speak English only, 22%
French only, 17% speak both and the remaining 3% speak various
aboriginal languages. Quebec has a strong
French-speaking identity and distinguishes its culture from the English
Canada is one of the world’s wealthiest nations and one of the top ten
trading nations. The major importers of
Canadian goods are the USA, UK and Japan. The country’s natural
resources, such as oil and timber, provide its
inhabitants with an enviable standard of living.
The biggest problem for the visitor to Canada is deciding where to go.
Here are just a few of the options:
In the north is Hudson Bay, where you can see polar bears and beluga
whales, or some of the 300 species of
birds. There are 110,000 lakes in Manitoba, which are perfect for
fishing, hiking, or just photographing. The
city of Winnipeg is steeped in history and was once the centre of the
fur trade. It offers 30 museums and 100
ethnically varied restaurants. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the
Winnipeg Art Gallery add to the cultural
experience of Manitoba’s capital city.
With the Rocky Mountains to the west, Alberta is one of the most
stunningly beautiful provinces in Canada. It offers both prairie
grasslands and lakes and mountains in summer, and skiing at six Rocky
Mountain resorts in winter. Its largest city, Calgary, hosts the annual
“Stampede”, a festival originally based around rodeo, but these days
including a parade, shows, concerts and an industrial exhibition.
Claiming to be ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’, the Stampede is
televised throughout Canada. The state capital, Edmonton, has a smaller
population than Calgary, but is the seat of government for the province.
Situated on the North Saskatchewan River, Edmonton has to have plans in
place to cope with winter snow to keep the city moving safely. A local
law governs when the government will clear snow, and residents must
clear their own portion of sidewalk. Edmonton Valley Zoo is one of the
city’s main attractions (opens every day except Christmas Day). Banff is
worth a visit for its National Park, and Jasper is a delightful small
town further north with its own National Park and skiing centre. Finally
you should not miss the chance to see the Northern Lights while in
Alberta. The Aurora can be visible any night from September to mid-May
from the Dark Sky areas of Wood Buffalo and Jasper National Parks.
Universally known as “BC”, this is the most westerly province in Canada
and it contains the wild and exciting
Pacific Rim National Park. Vancouver was voted the best city in the
world to live in by its residents, and
Victoria on Vancouver Island is charmingly reminiscent of British
Victorian Colonial life. The train called
“the Rocky Mountaineer” runs daily through the Rockies – a spectacular
journey that gives you the chance to
take some beautiful photos from the observation cars. Go whale watching
from Victoria, or visit a winery in the
Okanagan Valley; ski at Whistler, or learn about the “gold rush” in
Barkerville; experience First Nation
history and culture at numerous sites in BC: this province really does
have something for everyone.
There are 14 capital cities in Canada, all of them different and all
worth a visit: the national capital is Ottawa, then
there are 10 provincial capitals, and 3 territorial capital cities.
Other regions and cities of Canada are well worth a visit too: don’t
miss the multi-cultural city of Toronto,
capital of the province of Ontario (the largest province, with the
largest population), or the Niagara Falls in
the same province. Quebec Province’s capital, Quebec City, the only walled city
in North America, offers French culture
and dining, and is a wonderful place to visit if you like history.
Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories
allow you to really experience the vastness of Canada in completely
different landscapes. Montreal is modern
and sophisticated, while Labrador in the far north is one of the last
great wildernesses in the world. Finally,
there is Newfoundland, said to be one of the most charming places to
visit in all of this great nation.
In fact if you spent your whole life exploring this varied and endlessly
fascinating country, you would not run
out of new and exciting places to visit!
Again there is so much choice that it is a matter of personal preference
whether to fly, drive yourself or take
a bus or a train. Or how about renting a motorhome?
Air Canada is the largest carrier and flies to 150 destinations in the
country. Westjet is a low cost airline
based in Calgary and flying to cities throughout Canada. Porter Airlines
flies mainly in eastern Canada, and a
number of small local airlines serve remote destinations.
VIA Rail Canada offer some awesome trips, such as the sleeper trains
called “The Canadian” (Toronto to
Vancouver), “The Ocean” (Montreal to Nova Scotia along the St Lawrence
River), and “Hudson Bay” (Winnipeg to
Bus travel is the cheapest way of getting around and you see a lot, but
be prepared for long journey times! The
leading bus company is Greyhound Canada, operating between Montreal and
Toronto (10 hours) and Toronto and
Vancouver (70 hours) and many other destinations.
Where to Stay
In addition to the worldwide brands, Canada and the US have a number of
hotel chains that European travellers
may not have heard of, but which have hotels all over the country. Best
Value Inn and Lexington by Vantage have
over 1,000 hotels in North America; Omni Hotels and Resorts only have 60
hotels, but they number 21,000 rooms
between them; and La Quinta Inns and suites has 84,600 rooms to let.
Perhaps in this country of the great outdoors, the thing to do is rent a
motorhome (called an “RV” in North
America) and head off into the wilderness. There are numerous companies
offering rented vehicles of all sizes,
such as Canadian Affair, CanaDream and Campertravelcanada. But they are
not cheap and you need to study the
small print to see what is and is not included, and what restrictions
there are. If you can afford it there are
numerous RV sites in all the tourist areas, and they give (or sell) you
firewood for the fire pit and picnic
table so that you can fulfil the Canadian Dream and live the great