Wild and beautiful, cosmopolitan and prosperous, Canada is a paradox in more than one way. The second-largest country in the world, Canada has only 39 million people, who despite the 10 provinces and 2 territories, live mostly in just two areas - Quebec and Ontario. Cities (where they exist) are large, busy, and multi-ethnic - you will hear a babble of tongues and see faces from all different nationalities. But wander into a forest or the frozen tundra and you may hear no human voice except your own.
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CANADA QUICK FACTS
Currency: Canadian dollar ($, CAD)
Area: 9,984,670 km²
Population: 39,540,419 (2019 est.)
Languages: Official: English and French (more than 70 indigenous languages are recognised at territorial levels)
Religion: Roman Catholic 38.7%, Protestant ~17%, No religious affiliation 23.9%, Other ~10%
Electricity: 120V, 60Hz (Type "A" plug)
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CANADA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 1 January, New Year’s Day*
- 3rd Monday in February, Family Day/Louis Riel Day (Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan)
- 24 May, Victoria Day (Monday on or preceding)
- 1 July, Canada Day**
- 1st Monday in August, Civic or Provincial Holidays
- 1st Monday in September, Labour Day
- 2nd Monday in October, Thanksgiving Day
- 11 November, Remembrance Day (Government offices and banks only)
- 25 December, Christmas
- 26 December, Boxing Day
Also, Good Friday
* New Year’s Day is observed on the Monday following if it falls on a Sunday.
** Canada Day is observed on the Monday following if it falls on a Saturday or Sunday.
BEST TIME TO VISIT CANADA
Canada’s climate varies from temperate in the south to subarctic and arctic in the north. Attempting to distill the climate of Canada into an easy-to-understand statement is virtually impossible, given the vast area and diverse geography within the country. Overall, in most places, winters are harsh compared to much of the world and on par with parts of northern Eurasia. The most populated region, southern Ontario, has a somewhat less severe climate. There are extreme variations across the country even within the same month of the year - the capital of Nunavut (Iqaluit), just south of the Arctic Circle, remains very cold except for the months of July and August, with an average maximum of only 12°C. The coastlines of British Columbia are relatively mild for their latitude, remaining just above freezing for most of the winter, yet they are not far away from some of the largest mountain glaciers found on the continent.
That said, you can visit Canada at any time during the year, as the country has something in store for every season.
Generally, the best time to visit Canada is during Spring, Summer, and Autumn, which encompasses the months of April to October. Spring (April to May) is a delightful time - blossoming tulips and daffodils across the country, with the added advantage of warming days and off-peak season tourist rates. Similarly, during Autumn (September to October) you will be able to witnesses the fall foliage in Canada, with temperatures comfortable enough to still enjoy sightseeing and outdoor activities, yet escaping the tourist rush of summer.
The summer season is generally regarded as the peak tourist season in Canada with the summer months of June to August characterized by warm days and cool nights, with some humidity more concentrated along with the coastal areas. During these summer months, city tours, sightseeing, outdoor activities, hiking trails, and the famous Rocky Mountain tours, are all open and packed with visitors. With the increase in demand, prices of accommodation and flights tend to escalate during this period, thus advance bookings are advised if choosing to travel in these months. Some well-known summer festivals during the summer months include the Calgary Stampede, Montreal Jazz Festivals and Caribana.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN CANADA
The snow sports season in Canada can start as early as November and last until April. There are plenty of great skiing and snowboarding opportunities across the country.
HIKING & CYCLING IN CANADA
The best time for outdoor activities in Canada is from July to September. June can be feasible, although some areas may still be closed depending on snow fall.
BEACH OPTIONS IN CANADA
Although Canada is the country with the longest coastline in the world, their beach season is only 3 months long, from June to August. These are some of the best beaches: Grand Beach Provincial Park Manitoba, Sandbanks Provincial Park Ontario, Parlee Beach Provincial Park New Brunswick, Long Beach BC, Havre-Aubert Beach Quebec and Tribune Bay Provincial Park BC.
SURFING IN CANADA
Tofino is the so-called surf capital of Canada with year round surf, but you'll need a 4-6mm wetsuit, gloves, boots, and hood for the cold water! June to August is the best time for beginners, locals say that September to November is the best time overall and December to March brings huge swell. You can also check out Long Beach BC for beginners and Lawrencetown Beach Provincial Park Nova Scotia for more swell.
KITESURF IN CANADA
You can kite and windsurf at the following destinations in Canada: Squamish, Nitinat Lake, Oliphant, Cherry Beach, Humber and Wasaga Beach. You should get suitable winds from late May to early September, with July and August bringing the best wind.
For more details on kite surfing in Canada expand this section!
CANADA TRAVEL COSTS
Canada offers the ultimate luxury for travellers seeking respite from their frenetic, cramped lives with plenty of untouched, open spaces. But there is a price to be paid for this vastness as transportation is not always convenient and sometimes not available at all. However, with some thought and advance planning, it is possible to get around Canada easily and cheaply.
Air travel can be costly and it is best to shop around for a cheap ticket. Advance booking, not taking direct flights, and not flying during peak hours (7 am to 7 pm) offer savings. The two major airlines, both privately operated are Air Canada and Canadian Airlines International. They are both connected with a slew of regional airlines to cover the whole country.
Though the railway used to be a major player in Canada's past, today domestic passenger rail services have shrunk drastically. Both the historic Canadian Pacific Railway and the Canadian National Railway only run freight trains in recent years. However, Canada still has an extensive and interesting passenger train service - VIA Rail, which covers most of the country but is at its best in the Quebec City - Windsor route. Long-distance train travel is definitely more expensive than bus services, and reservations are required. There are some other train services available too - Amtrak, the US rail system, the renowned privately run train service The Rocky Mountaineer, as well as some regional lines such as the British Columbia Rail, Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway, and Ontario Northland.
Renting a car and driving around is one of the best ways to get around Canada. Roads are good and clearly marked but negotiating city traffic during rush hour can be painful. Use of seat belts is compulsory and there are heavy fines for violating this rule. There are plenty of car-rental agencies across Canada and for the best deal, you should book in advance.
Bus services are generally well-organized, cheaper than trains and cover most parts of the country. Safe and comfortable, they run on time and there are some great deals on bus passes available. Apart from large national networks, most provinces have their own lines.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF CANADA
As you travel through Canada, prepare yourself for a veritable feast for your eyes. Blessed with plenty of natural attractions, Canada has managed, both deliberately and at times, inadvertently to make her cities equally attractive and breath-taking.
However, visiting Canada all in one trip is a massive undertaking. Over 7,200 kilometers (4,475 mi) separate St. John's, Newfoundland from Victoria, British Columbia. To drive from one end of the country could take 7–10 days or more (and that assumes you're not stopping to sightsee on the way). A flight from Toronto to Vancouver takes over 4 hours!
Each province and territory of Canada is unique containing its own special attractions:
British Columbia has much to offer including Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), an ecologist's paradise of pristine wilderness, and Vancouver Island. In the Yukon, you have the majestic Northern Rocky Mountains and the relatively unknown Tombstone Territorial Park.
Alberta is one of the most geographically diverse provinces in all of Canada, with the world-famous Rocky Mountains in the west, the "greatest outdoor show on earth" in Calgary (the Calgary Stampede), West Edmonton Mall in Alberta's capital, the arid badlands near Drumheller, and the wild frontiers of Alberta's northern forests. While the Northwest Territories are relatively unknown, they are the real fisherman's paradise, with thousands of virtually untouched lakes loaded with big game fish, including the mighty sturgeon. Nunavut has some of the most beautiful untouched Arctic lands in the world, tucked away in hard to reach corners like Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island.
Ontario and Quebec include the beaten-path Windsor-Quebec corridor through the country's two largest metropolises of Toronto and Montreal - both containing huge rural expanses and many remote points where there simply is no road at all. As the national capital, Ottawa-Gatineau has an unparalleled array of museums. Quebec City (1608) and Montreal (1640) are famous for their old towns and architecture, with old Quebec City retaining original walled city fortifications of yesteryear.
Atlantic Canada has preserved much of its Acadian heritage. Nova Scotia treasures its maritime legacy with a famous lighthouse perched atop the rocky shoreline of Peggy's Cove, historic shipyards at Lunenburg, and a seaside fortress the size of a small colonial village at Louisbourg.
The coasts of Newfoundland are dotted with tiny fishing villages known as outports and three UNESCO World Heritage sites - Gros Morne National Park, the Anse-aux-Meadows Viking archaeological site on the Great Northern Peninsula, and a Basque whaling camp at Red Bay, Labrador.
Quebec City — The Province of Quebec's capital, founded 1608, well known for its quaint Old City, its grand winter festival and gorgeous architecture like the Château Frontenac.
Montreal — Once Canada's largest metropolis, Montreal is the core of North America's Francophone culture (you can still get by with English) and is home to some of the finest galleries, museums, venues, and festivals in the country along with great shopping on streets like Saint Catherine and Saint-Denis. Don't miss Mount Royal, either.
Ottawa — Canada's national capital, this city is home to national government monuments like Parliament Hill, many major museums like the National Gallery, cool urban neighbourhoods like the ByWard Market, and great old architecture.
Toronto — The largest city in Canada, fourth-largest in North America, Toronto is the media, entertainment, business, economic and cultural capital of Canada. Toronto is well known for famous landmarks like the CN Tower, but also has many great museums, theatres, sports venues, shopping districts, entertainment districts, beaches, and recreational parks.
Niagara Falls - Canada’s major show-stopper is just a short ride from Toronto.
The Icefields Parkway - Spend a few days immersed in the grandeur of the Rockies on the road to Banff, via the Columbia Icefield and Lake Louise.
Banff - The capital of the Canadian Rockies is surrounded by mesmerizing scenery, mountain trails, and soothing hot springs.
Whitehorse — Midpoint of the Alaska Highway, the gateway to the outdoor activities of Canada's far north.
Vancouver — One of the most densely populated cities in Canada, Vancouver is a city of steel and glass condominiums and outstanding natural beauty. It is unique in that it is a city where one can ski and sit on the beach in the same 24 hours. The city was also the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics and is frequently ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the world.
Halifax — Home to the second-largest natural harbour in the world is rich in history with architecture dating back from English colonialism. See fortress Citadel hill, the Canadian museum of the Atlantic, and the active nightlife where everything is a short walk away.
Winnipeg — This city is near the heart of the continent and has a rich French-Canadian and First Nations culture, along with well-preserved blocks of historic commercial buildings, renowned arts and culture, and the vibrancy of the Forks.
Churchill - Take the train to this Hudson Bay outpost to see hordes of beluga whales and – while you can – polar bears up close.
Prince Rupert - This port town is the stepping off point for the Grizzly Bear Sanctuary and whale-watching tours.
Haida Gwaii - Take the ferry across to this magical island archipelago in the Pacific, rich in First Nations culture, flora, and fauna.
Calgary — A boom-town without a doubt, Calgary is a major Canadian financial city, but for non-business travellers, it offers the world-class Calgary Zoo, the Calgary Tower, the Calgary Stampede, Glenbow Museum, shopping at Chinook Mall and Atlantic Ave, and is only a short distance from the recreation of the Rockies.
LGBTQ IN CANADA
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Canada are some of the most advanced in the Americas and in the world. Same-sex sexual activity has been lawful in Canada since June 27, 1969. Same-sex marriage in Canada was progressively introduced in several provinces by court decisions beginning in 2003 before being legally recognised nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act on July 20, 2005.
Canada is considered one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world. The country's largest cities feature their own gay areas and communities, such as Toronto's Church and Wellesley neighbourhood, Montreal's Gay Village commercial district, Vancouver's Davie Village and Ottawa's Bank Street Gay Village. There are Pride events held annually in Toronto and Vancouver, among other cities