|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
||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 photographers.
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 Elisabeth 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 Canadian culture.
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 provincial capital,
Calgary, hosts the annual “Stampede”. Banff is worth a visit for
its National Park, and Jasper is a delightful small town further
north with its own National Park. Finally you should not miss
the chance to see the Northern Lights while in Alberta.
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
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. Canada’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 Churchill).
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
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 outdoors life.