Canada is a country filled with incredible destinations and landmarks, not only in the form of stunning lakes and snow-capped mountains, but also iconic buildings for the urbanites out there.
The joys of being a tourist in Canada are frequently overshadowed by the country’s incredible living standards, with places like Toronto and Vancouver considered to be among the best cities in the world to live in. Not to mention, Canada’s freezing temperatures in the winter doesn’t bode particularly well for the country’s image as a tourist destination. But the truth is that Canada’s freezing temperatures are certainly worth withstanding and you’ll realise this when you bear witness to the grandeur of its picturesque countryside, made up of beautiful parks, reflective and icy lakes, as well as some urban landmarks that are a true marvel to behold. Here are a few of the best places that you need to see when you’re in Canada.
If you find yourself in British Columbia, it’s definitely worth it to make the trip to downtown Vancouver and explore this beautiful 400 hectare (4km2) park. Located directly on the shores of Burrard Inlet and English Bay, Stanley Park is littered with towering trees and a plethora of natural wildlife. Driving along the coastal road is a genuine spectacle. Beyond that, the land itself has an incredibly rich history, starting with the indigenous people who first occupied it roughly 3000 years ago.
This natural marvel has crystal blue waters that resemble sapphires, with waters fed by both the Fay Glacier and Larch Creek. Located in Alberta, it falls within the Valley of the Ten Peaks, with beautiful mountains overlooking the mirroring waters, which are surrounded by lush green woods. The most popular activities in this destination are hiking trails and mountaineering routes, with the most popular hike being The Rockpile Trail, which is 300m long and elevates by 24m. It’s definitely a place to go for avid hikers and outdoor lovers.
Banff National Park
Established in 1885, this is the oldest national park in Canada, packed with glaciers, icefields and all kinds of wildlife, with 56 mammal species, including elk, cougars and grizzly bears taking residence in the great mountains and forests. It is a very popular destination where tourists can participate in activities such as skiing, curling, snowshoe, and skijoring. However, Banff often reacheeigos subarctic temperatures, so beware and pack warmly if you ever visit this beautiful part of the Rocky mountains just over 100km west of Calgary.
The Butchart Gardens
You can find the Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, specifically in Brentwood Bay, which is just off of Vancouver Island. The floral gardens are another incredible example of Canada’s sheer beauty. Over 900 species of plants are grown in the summer gardens alone and the gardens themselves were actually influenced by the English Arts and Crafts movement when established in the early 20th Century. The emphasis on floral beauty makes for an assault on the senses and you’ll even get to see a few birds, with the gardens serving as a sanctuary for a variety of species. Perhaps the most prominent form of entertainment in the gardens is its summer concerts, where, among many other bands, one made up of Butchart staff members (called Weeds) is a regular feature on the stage.
If you ever find yourself in Toronto, Ontario, Canada’s most populous city, the first thing that you’ll probably see in the skyline is the iconic CN tower. It is the ninth tallest free-standing structure in the world and remains the tallest free-standing structure on land in the Western Hemisphere, holding the title of tallest in the world for 32 years up until 2007. It stands at 553.3m high and is used for observation purposes. Taking in the view of all of Toronto in one of the three major public observation areas is exhilarating for anyone that appreciates urban architecture. Or if you simply get a rush from standing at great heights, you can go to the EdgeWalk, which is a part of the tower that allows you to walk around the roof of the main pod. Not sold? You should try dining in the tower’s 360 degree restaurant which gives fine-dining a whole new meaning!
Jasper National Park
In Alberta, you can find the Jasper National Park, which is also in the Canadian Rockies, comprising of large wilderness areas, glaciers and, of course, beautiful lakes. Perhaps the most striking part of the destination is the road from the town of Jasper to the park itself, The Icefields Parkway, which surpasses massive subalpine trees and the Columbia icefield. And, once you get there, you can go on hiking adventures, do some skiing and even settle down for some camping – if you can handle the cold, of course!
A beautiful settlement that falls within the Banff National Park that deserves mention is Lake Louise and it’s remarkable turquoise coloured waters that appear to be somewhat surreal… The lake is surrounded by mountain peaks and even has a beautiful chateau located on its shores. To truly experience its beauty though, you have to go canoeing in the summer or ice-skating on the river’s frozen surface in the winter. There are also numerous hiking trails that allow you to take in a full view of the popular destination.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Looking for a cool combination of Canada’s natural beauty, along with the thrill of standing on the edge of the CN tower? Take the trip to Northern Vancouver – specifically the Capilano River. There you will find a 140m suspension bridge that hangs 70m above the water. Visited by 1.2 million people a year, this bridge, built in 1889 and rebuilt in 1956, overlooks a massive forest of alpine trees. And it’s not just natural beauty on display. It has the largest collection of First Nations totem poles, which have been in the area after the local natives were invited to place them in the region in the 1930s. The latest addition to the park, however, is the 300m high Cliffwalk which allows visitors to take in a truly magnificent view over the river and epic trees below.
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
Certainly among the world’s leading hotels, if you find yourself in Quebec, you need to visit this luxury lodging, which overlooks the St. Lawrence River. Having undergone a massive restoration project, this 130-year-old castle-like structure offers a unique blend between modern and contemporary decor that makes you truly feel like royalty. Not to mention, it’s located in “Old Quebec”, which is the oldest part of Quebec City (as the name obviously suggests) and you’ll be able to explore some of the coolest surrounding French-Canadian historical landmarks.
The Northern Lights
We’ve saved the best part for last and, if you’re a travel bucket-list type, this is one of those places in the world that you simply HAVE to see… You can see the Northern Lights in between the autumn/winter months of September and March and they can be seen from places including Whitehorse and Dempster Highway in Yukon; La Ronge in Saskatchewan; Muncho Lake Provincial Park in British Columbia; Fort McMurray in Alberta; Iqaluit in Nunavut; Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories; as well as Battle Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador in Nova Scotia.
If you aren’t aware of what exactly the Northern Lights are, they’re a natural light display in the sky caused by solar winds and a variety of phenomena, which creates the effects of something akin to a laser lighting show… except this isn’t manufactured, it’s mother nature in all her glory. You will probably never be more profoundly mesmerised in your life after experiencing this unbelievable sight and if you are ever in Canada, you should feel guilty if you don’t take the opportunity to go see them.
So there you have it, Canada is a beautiful country by anyone’s standards and these landmarks are all must-see destinations which you will not regret spending your holiday experiencing.