A heady mix of vast wilderness, soaring mountains and hip or historical cities, Canada was made for the intrepid. You can’t possibly see the highlights of this huge country in one trip, but at least this list – hand-picked by our Travel Experts – will give you a place to start. Here are 10 things you just have to do in Canada:
Drive the Icefields Parkway
Quite possibly the most magical stretch of tarmac on the planet, the 144-mile Highway 93 – otherwise known as the Icefields Parkway – has such a high concentration of breathtaking natural scenes that it is blissfully overwhelming. Whether you’re driving from Jasper to Banff or the other way round, you’ll find it difficult not to make regular pit stops at the abundant pull-ins and spend more than just one day exploring them. Not to be missed are Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, the Columbia Icefields, Peyto Lake and Bow Lake. Our favourite though is Hector Lake; if you’re lucky you’ll have this secluded spot all to yourself.
How to do it: Visit Jasper and Banff (and the iconic highway in-between) on our Western Canada Peaks & Cliffs Journey.
Feel the thunder of Niagara
You can hear the roar of the Falls before you even reach your hotel. That’s the beauty of Niagara. This crashing behemoth of a cascade likes to make its presence known – and who could blame it? The Canadian ‘Horseshoe’ Falls (the biggest of the three that make up Niagara) sees 2.2 million litres of water crash over its ledge every second, creating a mist that simultaneously soaks and enchants. Naturally tourists flock here, but that doesn’t detract from the sheer might of this flagship Canadian attraction.
How to do it: Our Toronto and Niagara Journey will get you up-close to the Falls on a Hornblower Cruise
Hunt for the aurora in Whitehorse
For a light display like nothing you’ve ever seen before (and may well never see again), head to Whitehorse, in the Yukon. From September to March this is prime Northern Lights territory. Patience and a willingness to move around and sit in the cold are crucial but, hopefully, in doing so you’ll be rewarded with emerald lights swirling and dancing across the inky-black sky above. There aren’t many experiences quite like it.
How to do it: Go aurora hunting on our Winter, Whistler and the Northern Lights tour.
Search for the elusive spirit bear
British Columbia is home to the Great Bear Rainforest. Stretching along the coast for 250 miles, it is not just a verdant, pristine wonderland, but it’s also home to the elusive Kermode (spirit) bear – a sub-species of the black bear, but born with a snow-coloured coat. Seeing one in the wild is a really rare experience, and starting your search here offers the best chance of a sighting.
How to do it: Spend several days at the Spirit Bear Lodge when you book our Vancouver and the Bears holiday.
Dangle off the CN Tower
…or at least go up it. Once the world’s tallest tower, Toronto’s CN Tower soars over the city, its spire dominating the skyline no matter where you are. Visitors who ascend to its 114th floor LookOut Level will be rewarded with views of Canada and beyond, while those who want to feel really at one with the skyline can take the EdgeWalk – a harnessed stroll around the circumference of the observation deck roof; the highest full circle hands-free walk on the planet. Terrifying, but incredible. GULP.
How to do it: Discover Toronto, Niagara, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal when you take our Eastern Canada Highlights holiday.
Ride the Rocky Mountaineer
With a gourmet meal in front of you, your worries behind you, and the might of the Rocky Mountains all around you, cruising through Canada on the Rocky Mountaineer is simply one of the best ways to travel. You’ll get to see landscapes not accessible on foot or in a car, while comparing the different topography – from the dusty, semi-arid Kamloops to the lush humidity of Jasper. Way more than just a restaurant on wheels, this experience promises to be an unforgettable one.
How to do it: Ride the rails from Vancouver to Jasper or Banff on our Rocky Mountaineer itinerary.
Discover the secrets of Ontario
Most think of Ontario and immediately head for Toronto, but in reality there’s plenty to do in this eastern state beyond the city. With 250,000+ lakes to kayak, canoe and stroll around, not to mention moose to find, it pays to get under the skin of the region. Blue Mountain, Algonquin Provincial Park and 19th-century Kingston are particular highlights.
How to do it: Go canoeing in Algonquin and more when you embark on our Forests and Lake of Ontario Journey.
Take on nature’s stairmaster in Vancouver
At 1,231m, North Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain isn’t the tallest peak on the planet – not by a long stretch. But what it does have is a gruelling hike to the summit, which will undoubtedly make you feel like it is the tallest peak on the planet. We’re not trying to put you off, far from it in fact. This arduous climb may be steep and a tough slog at times, but it only makes the reward of reaching its busy top all the more worthwhile. Because, once you’ve completed the task, you can stuff your face with a beer and a burger at the café before watching a lumberjack show, taking a beehive tour, and meeting the mountain’s two resident grizzlies. Take the gondola back to the bottom for unmatched views of the city skyline.
How to do it: Our West Coast Wonders holiday gives you time to tackle the Grouse Grind and cross the nearby Capilano Suspension Bridge.
Go whale watching in Halifax
That moment when a tailfin emerges from the water, fluking just metres from your boat, is something you’ll remember forever. No doubt a hush will fall across the vessel, you’ll hold your breath for a few seconds and you’ll be overcome with emotion when seeing such an incredible creature in the wild. And when you have a chance to spot fin, humpback, minke, blue and northern right whales, the likelihood of you making incredible whale-watching memories is even higher.
Have an Arctic adventure
If it’s an adventure you’re craving – look no further than Arctic Canada. Here you can spot Polar bears, beluga whales and gaze out across the gloriously-blue saltwater of Hudson Bay. Expect freezing temperatures, lots of snow and holiday snaps that no one else is likely to have.
How to do it: Our aptly-named Arctic Adventure itinerary will take you to Winnipeg, Churchill and the Lazy Bear Lodge.