Regions in Canada
Visiting Canada in one trip is a major undertaking. More than 7,200 kilometres separate St. John’s, Newfoundland, from Victoria, British Columbia (about the same distance as between London and Riyadh or Tokyo and Calcutta). Driving from one end of the country to the other can take 7-10 days or more (assuming you don’t stop to see country along the way). A flight from Toronto to Vancouver takes over 4 hours. When talking about specific destinations in Canada, it is best to look at the different regions:
- Atlantic provinces (New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island).
This region is proud of its history, including the founding of Canada as a sovereign nation. Atlantic Canada is known for its unique accents, the origins of Acadian culture, natural beauty (especially in the coastal areas), the historic beauty of Halifax and St. John’s, and a huge fishing and shipping industry. It is also home to the distinctive culture of Newfoundland and Labrador, which was both the first part of what is now Canada to be explored by Europeans and the last to join Confederation.
Quebec is unique in that it is the only province with a French-speaking majority. Originally part of New France, the region is culturally distinct from the rest of Canada and is known for its cultural landscape, such as the Quebec Winter Festival, Montreal’s classical architecture and maple syrup and poutine (two staples of Canadian cuisine). Montreal is also the second largest French-speaking city in the world, although thanks to centuries of British and French influence, it is also a very bilingual city and its residents have developed a strong, self-proclaimed sense of identity.
Canada’s most populous province is geographically vast, allowing for a wide range of activities. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is eclectic, multicultural and vibrant, with 140 unique neighbourhoods. Ottawa is Canada’s charming bilingual capital and has many art galleries and museums showcasing Canada’s past and present. Further south are Niagara Falls and to the north is the untapped natural beauty of Muskoka and beyond. All these things and more make Ontario what foreigners consider quintessentially Canadian.
- Prairies (Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan)
The Canadian Prairies are known for their vastness and wealth of resources. They are a dynamic collection of provinces with some of the most breathtaking natural beauty in the world. The region is rich in geographical diversity, from the rolling hills and canola fields of Manitoba and Saskatchewan to the diverse forests and rather unique rock formations of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. This region is also one of the fastest growing in Canada and is known for its mountain resorts such as Banff and Jasper. The major cities of Calgary, Edmonton, Regina and Winnipeg are modern cities with great rodeos, museums and amazing architecture.
- British Columbia
Vancouver is the heart of British Columbia. It’s known as one of the most liberal and culturally diverse cities in North America, with activities ranging from world-class skiing to nude beaches. Travelling outside Vancouver, you’ll find Victoria, the provincial capital, with a bustling downtown and a magnificent Palace of Parliament; the Okanagan, home to vineyards, graceful mountains and resorts; and retirement communities. Lose yourself in the expanse of mountains, lakes and other natural wonders. The province also has the mildest winters on average in Canada (though often cloudy), especially in the coastal areas, making it popular with Canadians less fond of winter.
- The North (Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon)
The Territories are among the most remote regions in the world and make up most of Canada’s land mass. Although the Territories are best known for their wildlife and unique landscapes, there are also some interesting settlements, including Dawson City, a town that seems almost untouched by the 1898 gold rush, and Iqaluit, Canada’s newest territorial capital, which has interesting architecture adapted to the harsh northern climate.
Cities in Canada
There are many cities in Canada that are all distinctive, tourist-friendly and worth seeing, including
- Ottawa – Canada’s national capital, this city is home to national government monuments like Parliament Hill, many important museums like the National Gallery, cool neighbourhoods like the Byward Market and remarkable old architecture.
- Calgary – A boomtown without a doubt, Calgary is a major Canadian financial city, but for the non-business traveller it offers the world-class Calgary Zoo, Calgary Tower, Calgary Stampede, Glenbow Museum, shopping at Chinook Mall and Atlantic Ave and is just a short distance from Rocky Mountain Recreation.
- Home to the second largest natural harbour in the world, Halifax is rich in history with architecture dating back to the English colonial period. Visit the Citadel fortress, the Canadian Museum of the Atlantic and the active nightlife where everything is within reach.
- Montreal – Once Canada’s largest metropolis, Montreal is the heart of North America’s French-speaking culture (you can still communicate in English) and home to some of the country’s best galleries, museums, theatres and festivals, as well as excellent shopping on streets like Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Denis. Don’t miss Mount Royal either.
- Quebec City – Founded in 1608, the capital of the province of Quebec is known for its picturesque old town, its great winter festival and its magnificent architecture such as the Château Frontenac.
- Toronto – Canada’s largest city and the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is the media, entertainment, business, economic and cultural capital of Canada. Toronto is known for its famous landmarks such as the CN Tower, but it is also home to many museums, theatres, sports venues, shopping and entertainment districts, beaches and recreational parks.
- Vancouver – One of the most densely populated cities in Canada, Vancouver is a city of steel and glass condos and extraordinary natural beauty. It is unique in that it is a city where you can ski and sit on the beach in the same 24 hours. The city also hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and is often ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the world.
- Whitehorse – Central point of the Alaska Highway, gateway to Canada’s far north.
- Winnipeg – This city in the heart of the continent has a rich French-Canadian and First Nations culture, as well as well-preserved historic commercial buildings, renowned arts and culture, and the vibrant neighbourhood of The Forks.
Other destinations in Canada
- Algonquin Park
- Banff National Park
- Cape Breton Island
- Jasper National Park
- Terra Nova National Park
- Waterton Lakes National Park
- Yoho National Park