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Canada, travel into endless wilderness

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
One of the world's largest countries, Canada has long fascinated explorers from around the world because of its size, its nature, and its extensive coastlines on both the Atlantic and Pacific. A wildlife destination par excellence, Canada also has diverse and dynamic cities.

Before leaving

From the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic coast, Canada is a country of wide green open spaces. It is the second largest country in the world and active holidays are a must here, whether in summer or the winter. Those who travel to Canada can take part in a wide variety of activities, such as husky dog sledding, skiing, snowmobiling, and hiking. Once the snow melts away, summer activities take over, such as cycling, fishing and bathing. Nature lovers will be heaven here in Canada. Between its lakes, mountains, and forests - inhabited by amazing animals such as bears, moose and mountain lions - the traveller is always spoilt for choice. As if that wasn't enough, the whale migration from the Atlantic coast to the warmer climates of the south is an extraordinary sight.

For nature-lovers, Canada is a haven, with scenic landscapes stretching from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Begin at the famous Rocky Mountains, a stone barricade blanketed by snow in winter and flora in summer which stretch the length of the frontier between Alberta and British Columbia. At the heart of the range lies the Columbia Icefield; a lake of glaciers linking the Banff and Jasper national parks. Alberta, Canada's 'Wild West' and erstwhile home of the pioneers, is also the site of the Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, the historical territory of the Blackfoot Native Americans.

The central region is recognised as much for its prairies as for the badlands of its Dinosaur Provincial Park. In the prairie province of Manitoba is the Great Lakes Region and the 1158-square mile forest contained in the Riding Mountain National Park; where bison, bears, firs, castors and lumberjacks share the terrain.

For those who prefer city life, Canada's metropolises are a balance of American and European influences. For instance, the lakeland region of Montreal takes its name from the Mount Royal mountain which dominates the city. The city is bilingual - its European heritage being particularly palpable. With its dynamic centre, the nightlife here is animated provided you're 19-years or above, particularly around the Plateau Mont-Royal. To make the most of Old Montréal's historical offerings, head to the Pointe-à-Caillière Museum of archaeology and history, or explore the city's underground passages.

It's in Toronto, on the banks of Lake Ontario, where the country's American persona dominates. The 1,814-foot CN mast, the highest freestanding tower in the world, is the city's mascot - not to mention the Royal Ontario Museum; the largest natural history museum in Canada.

Vancouver is where metropolis and nature intersect, with the city's Stanley Park being one of largest urban green spaces in the world. If you get a chance to visit the peninsula, you'll be able to watch the magnificent whales migrate towards the south. And, of course, a visit to Canada wouldn't be complete without a trip to Ottawa, the capital of the country and home to the world-famous Niagara Falls.

Our Editorial team's advice

Canada is the second largest country in the world. With its expanses of open space, it's the country's mythic North which attracts the sport-lovers. The winter months see skiing, snowmobiling, climbing and hiking take precedence, giving way to mountain-biking, fishing, kayaking, camping and swimming in summer. But it's dog-sledding which tops the list as the quintessential Canadian sport, with the 1000-mile long Yukon Quest measuring the longest race in the discipline.

There's no 'bad' time to go to Canada, though it's worth noting that certain regions, particularly the in the north, are inaccessible in winter. To avoid the winter freeze, it's best to visit between April and October. Low season is in spring and autumn. In terms of travelling around this vast country, it's probably best to invest in a flight if you plan to cover long distances. Trains are cheaper but notoriously slow. The major bus networks around the country are Greyhound and, in Quebec, the Orléans Express - which offer an effective (and much more budget-friendly) middle way, there being numerous links between the larger cities. All of Canada's larger metropolises offer private car rental services in the city centres or near airports.

If you want to go to Montreal during the summer, pay attention to the dates of the festivals. From an urban perspective, most cities have the metropolitan feel of their American counterparts, but with a European twist - be it the architecture or the people's mannerisms. As for the language, the majority of Canadians are Anglophone, but Canada's official second language, French, is widely used in Quebec and across the country.

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Traditions

Canadian cuisine is a product of the influences brought by all of its varied immigrant communities. The latest culinary trend is fusion food, or Pacific Northwest cuisine, which blends French techniques, local products and exotic Asian influences. You can find lots of great restaurants between Vancouver and Calgary indulging in this modern style of cuisine. The tendency at the moment is to use only local, organic ingredients. For a carnivore who is looking for a good steak, be sure to head to Alberta. Those who prefer fish, however, should look in British Columbia to find the freshest products. Specialities are salmon, halibut and seafood, usually grilled as served as fish and chips. To drink, beer tends to be cheaper. If you want to try something completely different, try the clamato juice - tomato juice mixed with clam juice - or the super sweet ice wine from Niagara, made from the frozen grapes. The Okanagan Valley in the west also enjoys a successful production of wine and ciders based on its many locally grown fruits. Whiskey lovers should try to Crown Royal or the Canadian Club - both rightly enjoy good reputations.

What to see

Rivers , Ontario's rivers, Canada , Canada
Rivers
Hudson Bay , Hudson Bay, Ontario, Canada , Canada
Hudson Bay
Great Lakes , Ontario, the region of the Great Lakes , Canada
Great Lakes
Canada : Explore

Food

For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, take part in a thousand-year-old tradition in the city of Churchill, in the Manitoba region. Each year, from October to November, the polar bears congregate, waiting for the ice to form so that they can return to their habitat, all against the magnificent backdrop of the Aurora Borealis.

Kensington Market is an obligatory stop-off if you're passing through Toronto. Outdoor equipment, clothes and electronic goods are generally quite cheap. Maple syrup and its numerous derivatives are, like spreadable butter, essential to Canada. You'll find them across the country, mainly in Ontario and Quebec. Native American handicrafts are equally appropriate souvenirs: sculptures, moccasins, traditional snowshoes and ritual pipes, jewellery and animal hides. Buy them direct from the reserve; you may learn a thing or two and the money goes straight to the producers! To make sure that a sculpture is the real-deal, all you need to do is ask to see an authenticity label, distributed by the government.