Whether you’re a hardcore adrenaline junkie, a wildlife enthusiast or a city slicker looking for cutting-edge culture, Canada ticks all the boxes. The world’s second largest country racks up an astonishing diversity of landscapes; vast prairies rise abruptly to glacier-topped mountains; rugged, unspoiled coastlines give way to immense forests and emerald lakes; and Arctic waters lap upon frozen tundra. Incredibly, this wilderness is also home to cosmopolitan cities, quirky towns and remote indigenous settlements.
Canada’s people are as varied as the landscapes; from the Arctic Inuit and the Francophone Quebeckers to the British expatriates and burgeoning Asian community, this is a multicultural land where around 20% of the population are foreign-born.
Canadian cities are progressive, vibrant and regularly feature on lists of “best places to live." Toronto, a veritable patchwork of charming neighbourhoods, has an idyllic beachside location on the shore of Lake Ontario, while Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, contains a clutch of fantastic museums and the pretty Rideau Canal for ice skating in winter. Montreal’s skyscrapers belie its French heritage, but look closer and you can stumble upon historic, cobbled streets and centuries-old customs.
A stone’s throw from the Canadian Rockies, booming Calgary flashes its oil wealth and flaunts its cowboy traditions during the annual boot-stomping Stampede. Chilled-out Vancouver, meanwhile, seems to have it all: mountains, beaches, an incredible downtown park and a cosmopolitan dining scene. And across the Georgia Strait, Vancouver Island is just the tonic if the city life gets too tough. Not that it ever does here.
For something wilder, ski steep chutes in British Columbia, kayak secluded bays with whales in Nova Scotia or learn to lasso at an Albertan ranch. Capture grizzlies on camera in the Yukon, watch mammoth icebergs drift past the Newfoundland coast, or soar over Niagara Falls by helicopter. Tour vineyards, dig for clams or feel giddy gazing at the Northern Lights. In Canada, it seems, the options are endless.
Canada is the second largest country in the world after Russia, covering an area of 9,984,670 sq km (3,855,103 sq miles). It is bordered to the west by the Pacific Ocean and Alaska, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the northeast by Greenland (across the Nares Strait), and to the south by the 'Lower 48' states of the USA. The polar ice cap lies to the north.
Canada stretches 4,634km (2,879 miles) from its northernmost point on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut to its southernmost point on Middle Island, Lake Erie, Ontario. The longest distance east to west is 5,514km (3,426 miles) from Cape Spear, Newfoundland and Labrador to the Yukon-Alaska border. Canada also has the world’s longest coastline at 202,080km (125,566 miles). The country’s highest mountain, with a peak at 5,959m (19,550ft), is Mt Logan in the Yukon Territory.
The landscape is diverse, ranging from the Arctic tundra of the north to the great prairies of the central area. Westward are the Rocky Mountains, and in the southeast are the Great Lakes, the St Lawrence River and Niagara Falls. The country is divided into 10 provinces and three territories.
Canada weather, climate and geography
Best Time To Visit
If you’re planning on skiing or enjoying winter sports, the best time to visit Canada is between December and April, though some resorts open as early as November and extend their seasons as late as June (or even July on Whistler’s glacier). If you want to enjoy the great outdoors without the snow, travel between May and September. Be aware however, that if there’s been heavy snowfall during the winter, some high-altitude hiking trails may be closed well into July. May, June and September are typically cheaper than July and August, but you’ll get the best of the weather in the latter two months.
Summer thunderstorms are common throughout Canada. Occasionally, these may become severe. Tornados also occur throughout Canada, with May to September being prime months. The peak season is June and early July in southern Ontario, Alberta, southeastern Quebec, and a band stretching from southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, through to Thunder Bay. The interior of British Columbia and western New Brunswick are also tornado zones. Earth tremors occur in the western mountains. Forest fires can occur at at any time, regardless of the season, particularly in the grasslands and forests of western Canada.
Hulking great mountains, sprawling ice fields and emerald lakes are Alberta's star attractions, but equally thrilling are its dinosaur-strewn Badlands and cowboy heritage.
You'd swear they've added a drop of dye to the lakes in the Rocky Mountains. Could they really be such a startling colour? Yes they could, and you need to supercharge your camera battery if you're going to capture every snap-worthy scene that comes your way.
Whether you're spotting grizzlies and elk alongside the Icefields Parkway, soaking in Banff's hot springs, hiking around Maligne Lake or skiing fresh powder at Lake Louise, you'd have to be a Martian not to be bowled over.
This pristine nature sits uneasily next to the controversial oil sands of Alberta's north, whose modern-day gold rush has fuelled the province's booming economy. This wealth is evident in cities like Calgary and Edmonton, home to shiny new skyscrapers, flashy restaurants and ever-expanding suburbs.