From the Atlantic to the Pacific, the Arctic to the Great Lakes, Canada’s vast territory unfurls in a serene and inimitable tapestry of natural splendor. Pristine rivers, endless forests, taiga, tundra, glaciers, and picturesque valleys are just the beginning of what Canada has to offer. Travel the winding mountain roads of Banff and Jasper national parks to access incredible hiking trails and gaze upon powdery-blue lakes and ancient glaciers. Explore the coastal villages and national parks of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Relax in the tranquil towns and forests of the Charlevoix region of Québec. Enjoy the cosmopolitan verve and cuisine of Vancouver and Montréal, the remnants of colonial grandeur in Victoria, and the French-Canadian culture of Québec City. With the strong traditions of First Nations peoples, French heritage, and a growing multicultural identity, Canada’s cities are brimming with museums, vibrant arts scenes, international restaurants, and all offer great access to the outdoors. Travel the wild western coast of Vancouver Island, or hike on the edge of the Arctic in Torngat Mountains National Park.
Hip, modern, and multicultural, Vancouver is the artistic pulse of the Pacific coast. The metropolitan area has nearly 2.5 million people, and is the most linguistically and ethnically diverse city in Canada—the city’s cultural vibrance shines in its sterling culinary scene. Authentic Chinese restaurants and the informal Japanese gastro-pubs called izakayas proliferate and add an intriguing élan to the city’s spread of fresh-caught seafood eateries and bohemian breweries. In addition to its fine foods, Vancouver boasts an eclectic array of galleries, museums, theater, and street art. But the city’s proximity to nature and its prolific offering of outdoor activities is Vancouver’s most appealing attribute—hike through coastal rainforest, kayak amidst islands, or hit the slopes for skiing and snowboarding come wintertime. Right in the city, Stanley Park is a sanctuary of green space, beachfront ocean views, and winding trails; or head north to Grouse Mountain for incredible views of the city and scenic woodland dining.
Perched on the craggy, southeastern coast of Vancouver Island, along the Juan de Fuca and Haro straits, the provincial capital of British Columbia is the more relaxed, regal cousin of Vancouver. VIctoria’s British legacy is on display in the Old Town’s Victorian architecture and the elegant parliament buildings overlooking the city’s Inner Harbor—next-door lies the Fairmont Empress Hotel, another luxury château-style hotel built by the Canadian Pacific Railway at the turn of the 20th century. Victoria has long held onto its colonial past, but there has been a youthful resurgence that has ushered in a wave of innovative cuisine, brew pubs, and charismatic cafés that put the city on Canada’s culinary map. Stroll the oceanside paths of Beacon Hill Park, tour the turreted Victorian mansion, Craigdarroch Castle, and then learn about the natural history and the heritage of the First Nations on the island at the Royal BC Museum. To the north of the city, the exuberant floral shows of Butchart Gardens are well worth the trip.
North of Vancouver, sitting on the edge of Garibaldi Provincial Park, Whistler is an internationally renowned ski-town. Whistler Blackcomb, one of North America’s largest ski resorts, also played host for alpine events in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. The town itself is a compact, pedestrian friendly village nestled into the spectacular Coast Mountains. A premier destination for skiing and snowboarding, Whistler offers an array of other winter activities like snowshoeing, dog sledding, ice climbing, and snowmobiling. A picture-perfect setting of snow covered gabled roofs in the wintertime, Whistler now sees summer crowds just as eager to get into the mountains. The area has an extensive network of mountain biking and hiking trails, and offers incredible opportunities for kayaking, climbing, rafting, and other more leisurely pursuits like golfing and riding gondolas for panoramic views. Whistler is a town that knows how to entertain off the slopes too—cozy hearths in the winter are replaced by sunny restaurant terraces and free outdoor concerts on relaxing summer nights.
Banff National Park
Spread out across the dramatic terrain of the Canadian Rockies to the west of Calgary, Banff was established in 1885, and is the country’s oldest national park. Wild rivers cut their way through colossal mountains that rise to soaring peaks; dense coniferous forest is broken only by craggy cliffs and sheer mountain slopes; and U-shaped valleys carved by ancient glaciers are punctuated by preternaturally blue-green lakes. This searingly beautiful landscape is a natural paradise and a year-round playground for outdoor enthusiasts and for those simply searching for serenity. Whether you come to Banff to hike, kayak, mountain bike, ski in the winter, or just to revel in unspoiled nature, this awe-inspiring setting makes every moment memorable. Hop off the Trans-Canada highway and drive through the park’s scenic roads which offer fantastic views and access to a vast network of hiking trails. The park boasts incredible biodiversity of flora and fauna—if you are lucky, you might see of the Rockies’ most dynamic animals like bear, moose, big-horned sheep, or elk. The town of Banff gets busy on season, but has an abundance of quality outfitters to help you make the most of the national park. Check out some of the park’s limelight attractions like Lake Moraine, Peyto Lake, Lake Louise, or the Upper Springs Hot Pool, but don’t rush through this breathtaking landscape—the length of your stay is the only limit to adventure.
Located in the heart of Banff National Park, Lake Louise is an elegant and tranquil alpine town on the Bow River, surrounded by verdant forest and towering peaks. Its namesake, Lake Louise, is an almost phosphorescent glacial blue-green hue. With Victoria Glacier perched at one end, and a serrated wreath of peaks as its backdrop, the valley is a picture-perfect setting for the regal Chateau Lake Louise. Built at the turn of the 20th century by the Canadian Pacific Railway, the grand hotel is steeped in luxury and jumps out from its natural setting. A popular destination among visitors, Lake Louise retains its aura of serenity and calm with aplomb. Walk around the Lakeshore Trail to the terminus of Victoria Glacier, or for a more solitary trek, explore one of Lake Louise’s many other trails. The town sits next to one of the premier ski resorts of the continent, and offers a slew of winter activities from downhill and cross-country skiing to dog-sledding and sleigh rides.
Sitting 200 miles to the northwest of Banff, the town of Jasper sits at the heart of Canada’s largest national park. Snow-capped mountains, glacial lakes, and serene forests surround Jasper and make this a landscape of mind-blowing beauty. Jasper National Park is the quieter, wilder counterpart of Banff and offers incredible access to rugged backcountry with nonstop roadside attractions along the way. The Icefields Parkway runs from the northern end of Jasper National Park to Lake Louise in the south, and provides a continuously exhilarating collage of towering peaks, cascading rivers, and surreal walls of glacial ice clinging to mountains and flowing down valleys. The untrammeled wilderness of Jasper National Park is home to a higher concentration of wildlife than Banff, which makes your chances of snapping a picture of a moose or bear that much better. Enjoy fantastic views of the Canadian Rockies, and the braided river valley below, from the Jasper SkyTram which climbs to near the top of Whistlers Mountain—hike up to the summit on a clear day for views all the way to the Columbia Icefield. One of the park’s star performers is Maligne Lake, a surreal ribbon of aquamarine water enclosed by a crown of rocky peaks. Enjoy panoramic views while soaking in the luxurious Miette Hot Springs, ski, camp, snowshoe, kayak, hike and much more. Whatever you choose to do to explore this vast wilderness, be sure to look up and enjoy the billions of stars scintillating across the night sky.