Hear the roar of Niagara Falls and the music of Montreal, saddle-up in Calgary and click on your skis at Lake Louise. From the Rocky Mountains to the wilds of Vancouver Island, Canada is a country of cool cities and breathtaking natural beauty, which serves outdoor adventure and natural wonders with maple syrup and crispy bacon.
Sitting on Lake Ontario’s northern shore, Toronto has a cracking café culture and an enviable arts scene. Visit in summer for the festivals or in winter for the ice hockey. Take a knee-trembling edge walk around the CN Tower, visit the Distillery District galleries or cruise to the tranquil Toronto Islands.
Head south across the lake to the US border and hear the thundering roar of Niagara Falls. Walk behind the water on a guided tour or peer down from a helicopter for a bird’s eye view. Take a wild boat ride through the gorge, then visit a vineyard to sample local ice wines, made from grapes that freeze on the vine. Illuminated at night, frozen in winter and at full flow in early summer, the US boasts Niagara’s tallest sections but Canada enjoys the prettiest panoramas.
Smoked meats, maple syrup and seasoned steak, Montreal is Canada’s most scrumptious city – the bagels are wood-fired and the chips are piled with cheese curd. Set on an island in French-speaking Quebec, the country’s second largest city has a packed cultural calendar, with jazz festivals, comedy nights and theatres galore.
Cycle along the Canal de Lachine and climb to the dome of St Joseph's or meander beneath maple trees and sip beer in the microbreweries. When winter arrives, drive out to the nearby ski resorts or venture beneath the streets to La Ville Souterraine – a spectacular underground city of shopping malls and museums.
A peninsula province hanging off Canada’s east coast, Nova Scotia’s heritage is apparent in its Gaelic dialect and tartan shops. Come to raft along the river bore and count all 160 lighthouses, taste crisp wines and tour the Cabot Trail. The hiking tracks of Cape Breton Island beckon from the northern tip, where you can kayak with whales and scramble over rocky shores.
In the provincial capital of Halifax, maritime warehouses have morphed into trendy seafood bistros and microbreweries. Follow the Harbourwalk and watch fishermen casting into the bay, stroll to the British Citadel and feel fresh breezes blowing across the harbour, then study the city’s Titanic memorabilia, which reveals it role in rescuing the ship’s survivors.
Alberta’s biggest city is booming. With a slick urban centre built on oil wealth, Calgary won’t win any beauty prizes but beneath the mirrored high-rises you’ll find green parks, cool cafes and great museums. Before the oil boom this prairie city was a ‘cowtown,’ a legacy that’s remembered each July in the Calgary Stampede – brace yourself for one of the world’s biggest rodeos, with ten days of bull riding, wagon racing and line dancing.
Drive east out of the city and you’ll enter the prairies, or west and you’ll reach to the magnificent Rocky Mountains. Visit the Rockies in spring or summer to hike and bike near Banff and Lake Louise, come for the autumn film festival or arrive in winter to ski the powder in Canada’s oldest national park and bathe in its thermal pools.
Survey the city from the Vancouver Lookout then stretch your legs on a sandy beach. Ski the mountains in the morning then catch an evening gig in town – one trip to Vancouver and you won’t want to leave. Expect trendy pubs and open-house galleries, live-Shakespeare and late-night electro. Join the locals as they stroll in Stanley Park and skate beside the seawall, or kayak off the beach and follow the forest trails.
Take a boat ride or float plane across the water and discover the English ambience of Vancouver Island. Experience the gardens, museums and pubs of Victoria before joining a whale-watching trip to spot orcas and humpbacks. Wave-seekers wax their boards on the west coast and wilderness fans are most at home in the north, while ambitious hikers tramp through Pacific Rim Park.