Canada is the world’s second largest country by area. It also contains the largest proportion of the world’s freshwater lakes. The vast landscape isn’t just a frozen wasteland. 42% of Canada is forested, making up 8% of the world’s forested area. The vast, vibrant landscape of Canada is filled with spectacular natural delights. Aside from majestic mountains and luscious lakes, Canada also has vibrant and diverse cities.
In Western Canada, the Rockies and cities of Vancouver, Victoria, and Calgary dominate most tourist itineraries. In Central Canada, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City, are some of the most popular destinations. For those that venture into Canada’s Maritime Provinces within the east, the sweetness of Gros Morne park, along with the cities of Halifax and St. John’s, provide their own unique character.
Off the beaten path, but equally impressive is Canada’s frigid North. This is the place where great rivers flow out to the Arctic Ocean, creating some incredible territory for canoeists. This is also the region where majestic polar bears can be seen in the wild. Travelers can explore the remote beauty of places like Nahanni National Park and the towns and cities of Churchill, Whitehorse, and Yellowknife.
Here are the best things to see and do in Canada:
Banff National Park & the Rocky Mountains
The beautiful Banff National Park lies within the heart of the majestic Rocky Mountains within the province of Alberta, and is home to a number of Canada’s most beautiful landscapes. Turquoise-colored lakes, snow-capped peaks, and glaciers are all on display in all their grandeur in this stunning park.
The jewel of the park is Lake Louise, where green waters reflect the encompassing mountains and glaciers, and visitors can stroll easily round the shores. Just a short distance away is Moraine Lake, another impressive alpine lake with a more dramatic surrounding.
The Icefields Parkway, which runs from Lake Louise to Jasper, is an unforgettable drive and another major attraction in Banff. At the south end of the park is the lovely little town of Banff, providing all kinds of options for accommodation, shopping, dining, and nightlife.
Banff is additionally a serious winter sports area and it is the home to Lake Louise resort and Sunshine Village, two of Canada’s premium ski destinations.
CN Tower, Toronto
The CN Tower is the crown jewel of the skyline of Canada’s biggest and most cosmopolitan city, Toronto. Situated on the shores of Lake Ontario, Toronto’s CN Tower is one of the most iconic landmarks of Canada. The tower stands 553 meters high and dominates the Toronto skyline.
At the top, you can find fine dining in the revolving restaurant, and enjoy a meal while looking out over the city and lake. The LookOut and the Glass Floor offer beautiful views of the entire lakefront. But even those who choose not to go up the tower will find themselves stopping to stare at the structure, which is visible from almost everywhere in the city. At night, the tower is lit in several colors.
Old Quebec (Vieux-Quebec)
Old Quebec is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Canada’s most precious historic gems. This part of Quebec is home to the city’s most historic buildings. The Lower Town, along the St. Lawrence River, is the site of the original settlement and home to the outstanding Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, as well as numerous other treasures. Nestled upon 100 meter high cliffs, the Upper Town is the proud home of the Citadel, the Plains of Abraham, Place d’Armes, along with the pretty Parque Historique de l’Artillerie.
Old Quebec is among Canada’s most prominent historical areas and is well developed for tourism. In addition to the historical sites, other highlights include artists displaying their works on Rue du Trésor; interesting museums, such as the marvellous Musée de la Civilisation; and unique shops and restaurants for you to eat some delicious food.
The Niagara Falls are Canada’s most famous natural attraction, bringing in many visitors annually. Situated along the American border, the incredible body of water is just an hour by road from Toronto.These gigantic falls have a drop of 57 metres.The falls can be observed at a very close distance from several viewpoints.
Niagara Falls and therefore the Niagara Gorge have been attracting tourists and daredevils for more than a century. Between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries, there have been numerous attempts to plunge over the falls in various sorts of homemade boats and barrels. Such daredevilry, along with tightrope walkers and other spectacles, has resulted in a long standing carnival type atmosphere in the adjacent towns. Families can also choose to enjoy a walk down Niagara’s outrageous Clifton Hill which leads to the gorge and falls.
Just a two-hour drive from Vancouver is the very famous resort and village of Whistler. It has always been a hub of winter sports, but recently it has also developed into a well-liked summer destination. Summer tourists can enjoy golf and mountain biking as well.
The village gained international attention in 2010 when it became one of the locations for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The area offers world class skiing slopes, hotels, and dining, also as a spread of outside recreational opportunities and delightful mountain scenery.
St. John’s Signal Hill National Historic Site
At the entrance of St. John’s harbor, overlooking the town and sea, is Signal Hill National Historic Site. This was the place where the primary wireless transatlantic signal was received for the first time in 1901. It also played a strategic role during the Seven Years war with France. However, the current fortifications were built during the hostilities of 1812.
The Cabot Tower is one of the most prominent sites of Signal Hill. It was constructed in the year 1897 to mark the four hundredth anniversary of Newfoundland’s discovery. In the tower are exhibitions on the history of Signal Hill along with the history of communications (with a special section on Marconi). From the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and the coast as far as Cape Spear, the most easterly point of North America.
Ottawa’s Parliament Hill
Ottawa’s Parliament Hill stands high above the Ottawa River and is graced by the Neo-Gothic-style Parliament buildings built during the second half of the 19th century. The most prominent feature is the Peace Tower, which divides the House of Commons and the Senate. In front of the Parliament buildings stands the Centennial Flame, lit in 1966 to commemorate the centenary of the Canadian Confederation. The sculpture garden is located behind the buildings.
In the summer, the Changing of the Guard takes place on the front lawn of the homes of Parliament. Below the Parliament Hill, a stunning walk runs alongside the Ottawa River.
Old Montreal, lined with lovely historic buildings, is definitely a place to travel if you like nice shopping and fine dining. While Montreal itself may be a vibrant modern city, Old Montreal, down by the waterfront, is where most tourists come to soak in the atmosphere. Some of the must-see places in Old Montreal include Rue Bonsecours, the landmark Marché Bonsecours within the old government building, the inside of the gorgeous Notre-Dame Basilica, the lively Place Jacques-Cartier, and also the famous 1870s hall .
Although it is less than a two-hour ferry ride from the mainland, Vancouver Island can seem a world away sometimes. Most people head to Victoria, BC’s capital city, for sightseeing and culture, but if you head north into the wild and remote landscapes, the island holds some unexpected and unforgettable experiences. Nature lovers can hit the best hiking trails on Vancouver Island and set themselves up at some beautiful camping locations. Those looking for more comfort can always turn to one of the island’s lodges or resorts.
On the rugged west coast, a magnificent scenery of huge ancient trees, sandy coves, and dramatic rocky shores reveals itself as you drive up to Tofino. Near this tiny but incredibly popular off-the-beaten-path tourist town, in nearby Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, you can find incredible hiking trails, endless beaches, great surfing spots, camping sites, and places where you can simply soak up nature in peace.
Tofino is a year-round tourist destination. Although during the storm season from November to March, many visitors come to appreciate the huge waves rolling ashore;. Some visitors also come to surf, and others come simply to cozy up next to a fire in one of Tofino’s lovely resorts overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Other destinations around the Island include Nanaimo, Parksville, and Qualicum Beach. They are all on the eastern shore, looking out onto the Salish Sea. If you really want to get away from it all, head up to the far north of the island and explore Cape Scott Provincial Park.
Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy, located in Eastern Canada in between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, is world renowned for its amazing tides. The variation between high and low tide is the largest in the world. The difference reaches up to a maximum of 19 meters. While there are some ways to understand this natural wonder, a number of the extremely popular locations and sights along the Bay of Fundy are the cliffs and rock formations at Hopewell Cape, Fundy park , the Fundy Trail Parkway, and Grand Manan Island.
Polar Bears of Churchill, Manitoba
One of Canada’s most original attractions is the polar bear migration. The migration results in these beautiful creatures making their way from land out onto the ice in Hudson Bay, near the town of Churchill in Northern Manitoba.
Each fall, this small community opens its doors to tourists from all over the world. Tours take visitors on tundra buggies with caged windows for close encounters with the polar bears. The prime viewing time occurs in October or November while the bears are expecting the water to freeze before heading out onto the ice to hunt for seals.
Gros Morne National Park
Newfoundland’s Gros Morne park is more remote than most of Canada’s most popular national parks. However, it’s totally worth the effort to get to this beautiful landscape of mountains and fjords. This beautiful park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it features cascading waterfalls, vertical cliffs and interesting rock formations that were formed as a result of millions of years of carving by glacier-fed waters.
Most visitors take a ship tour to soak in the scenery, but there also are hiking trails and opportunities for kayaking. The park receives a smaller number of tourists in winter. However, it is open for skiing, with backcountry ski huts for accommodation.
One of the most anticipated events of Western Canada, this 10 day affair is filled with tourists and locals at the same time. For one week of July, the town of Calgary turns into a real western town, where people that might rather be wearing suits to figure instead don jeans and cowboy boots.
The daily rodeo events of the Stampede Grounds attract participants from all over North America. Free “Stampede Breakfasts” are hosted by numerous establishments all over the town. The breakfasts are held at both indoor and outdoor locations and typically feature pancakes drizzled with maple syrup. Many superstar country and western performers also typically visit the town for this event.
Victoria’s Inner Harbour
Few Canadian cities have done such a splendid job of developing their waterfront area as Victoria with its Inner Harbour. This is an excellent place for strolling, relaxing, shopping, dining, and watching street performers all against the beautiful backdrop of the harbor.
The centerpiece of this area is the historic Empress Hotel, which stands tall as one of the city’s loveliest buildings. Over the years, the Empress has welcomed kings and queens. Todah, it features a standard dinner, which is among the highlights for several visitors coming to Victoria. While the harbor area is popular year-round, it’s particularly lively during the summer months.
Vancouver’s Stanley Park
One of Vancouver’s greatest treasures is the 405-hectare Stanley Park, conveniently located on the other side of the downtown area. Situated on a peninsula, the park is surrounded by the ocean and is the proud home to large red cedar and Douglas fir trees. The seawall, which forms a ring across the park, has an extensive walking, jogging, and biking path with designated lanes for walkers and bikers. From the seawall are some lovely views of the city and mountains. There’s also a beautiful road for a scenic drive through Stanley Park. Within the park are the Vancouver Aquarium, scenic Beaver Lake, and also the Stanley Park Pavilion and garden. Also of interest are numerous totem poles, a number of which were built more than 100 years ago.