Canada Travel Guide: Everything You Need To Know

canada travel guide

If you're planning a trip to Canada, you're in for an exciting adventure. From towering mountains to vast prairies, city vibes to charming towns, Canada’s diversity is as captivating as it is immense. But, as with any trip, it helps to come prepared. In this comprehensive guide, we'll share everything you need to know for your journey, from the best times to visit to bucket list experiences you won't want to miss.

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People canoeing on Emerald Lake in CanadaUnsplash

Best Time to Visit

Canada's year-round beauty makes it a destination for all seasons, but your best time to visit will depend on what you want to see and do.

Summer (June to August): Summertime is when the Great White North truly comes alive. The weather is generally warm (but remember, Canadian warm might still be chilly for some!). From coast to coast, you'll find festivals, attractions, and outdoor fun in full swing. The Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver and the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto are summer highlights.

Fall (mid-September to late-October): Fall paints Canada in brilliant hues of orange, red, and yellow. The East, especially the provinces of Nova Scotia and Quebec, is particularly popular for leaf-peepers.

Winter (November to March): For those who love winter sports or want to witness Canada's snow-laden beauty, winter is the time to go. Pack warm, though, because the Canadian winter is no joke!

Top Attractions

Canada is chock-full of exciting attractions just waiting to be explored. Here's a look at some of the top must-visit places.

Aerial view of Vancouver, CanadaUnsplash

Vancouver, British Columbia

Known for its sparkling coastline and mountainous backdrop, Vancouver is a haven for nature lovers. Discover Stanley Park’s rainforest, catch breathtaking vistas at Capilano Suspension Bridge, or hit the slopes of nearby Whistler.

The best things to do in Vancouver:

  • Explore Stanley Park: Often the first mention for any Vancouver itinerary, Stanley Park is a magnificent green oasis in the midst of the urban landscape, offering a variety of activities that include walking, biking, and the Stanley Park Seawall. Don't miss the impressive views of the city, ocean, mountains, and majestic Totem Poles that provide a glimpse into the region's indigenous roots.
  • Cross Capilano Suspension Bridge: This iconic Vancouver attraction offers breathtaking views and a thrilling experience as you cross the 137-meter-long bridge suspended high above the Capilano River. The park also includes treetop adventures and nature trails.
  • Visit Granville Island: Once an industrial area, now a bustling artistic hub, Granville Island is home to the Public Market, artisan studios, and the Granville Island Brewing Co. Enjoy the waterfront views and don't forget to try some local and gourmet foods at the market.
  • Discover Kitsilano Beach: Known to locals as 'Kits Beach,' it's the place to enjoy sandy beaches and quality outdoor time. With a fantastic view of the mountains and downtown, it's a perfect place for picnics, volleyball, or just lazing in the sun.
  • Take a day trip to Whistler: A two-hour drive north takes you to Whistler, an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. Famous for spectacular ski trails in winter and extensive mountain bike routes in summer, Whistler offers something for everyone throughout the year.

Moraine Lake, Banff, CanadaUnsplash

Banff, Alberta

Home to the country's first national park, Banff is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Enjoy views from the Sulphur Mountain's Banff Gondola, unwind in the Banff Upper Hot Springs, and hike through pristine wilderness.

The best things to do in Banff:

  • Go canoeing on Lake Louise: Canoeing on the vividly turquoise Lake Louise is a surreal experience. Hiring a canoe allows you to escape the crowds at the shoreline and explore the serene beauty of the lake.
  • Go skiing at Sunshine Village: If you're visiting during winter months, hitting the slopes at Sunshine Village is a must-do. With ample skiing terrain, this is one of Banff's prime recreational spots.
  • Hike in Banff National Park: The park offers numerous trails for all skill levels, and hiking is one of the primary ways to explore the park's rugged mountain scenery, wildlife, and natural beauty.
  • Explore Icefields Parkway: Drive along Icefields Parkway and marvel at the breathtaking view of glaciers, and perhaps stop by Peyto Lake for a photo session. It is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful drives in the world.
  • Visit Moraine Lake: Do not miss the opportunity to gaze across the stunning Moraine Lake. Its turquoise waters and snow-capped peaks make it one of the most photographed locations in Canada.

Toronto skylineUnsplash

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto is Canada's bustling metropolis. Make sure to visit the iconic CN Tower, explore vibrant neighborhoods like Kensington Market and the Distillery District, and take a ferry to the Toronto Islands.

The best things to do in Toronto:

  • Visit the CN Tower: As you step out in Toronto, one of the first things you'll notice is the majestic CN Tower. Imagine standing 342m above the ground on a glass floor or enjoying a meal with your friends at the revolving 360 Restaurant, all whilst taking in the city's stunning views.
  • Explore Ripley's Aquarium of Canada: Ever thought of walking under a vibrant sea of swirling fish without leaving Toronto? Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, at the base of the CN Tower, has North America's longest underwater viewing tunnel.
  • Visit the Royal Ontario Museum: Dive into natural history and world cultures at one of North America's most renowned museums. Explore countless exhibits, including dinosaur bones, Egyptian mummies, and Chinese architecture.
  • Discover St. Lawrence Market: If there's one place in Toronto to tempt your taste buds and satisfy your inner foodie, it's St. Lawrence Market. A bustling hub of culinary delights, it features everything from fresh produce and cheeses to artisan food stalls that will satiate your cravings.
  • Get lost in Kensington Market: Get ready to dive into Toronto's multicultural melting pot, Kensington Market. This bohemian neighborhood is a hotspot for artists, tourists, and food lovers alike, with its unique shops, vintage boutiques, and charming cafés.

Related: The 20 Best Things To Do in Toronto

Quebec City, CanadaUnsplash

Québec City, Québec

As one of North America’s oldest European settlements, Québec City carries a unique old-world charm. Traverse historic sites of Old Québec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and don't miss Château Frontenac, an opulent hotel that dominates the city's skyline.

The best things to do in Québec City:

  • Explore Old Québec: Wander through the historic heart of the city, Old Québec, and experience its charming streets and landmarks. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it features well-preserved architectural treasures and gives visitors a taste of European ambiance in North America.
  • Visit Montmorency Falls: Just a short drive from the city, marvel at the stunning Montmorency Falls, which stands taller than Niagara Falls. An array of activities, including cable car rides, hiking trails, and the thrilling suspension bridge, offer various vantage points to take in the falls' beauty.
  • Discover Place Royale: Dive into the past by visiting the birthplace of French America — Place Royale. This picturesque square is surrounded by historical buildings and is a hub of cultural activity.
  • Walk along the Fortified Walls: Québec is the only walled city north of Mexico, and walking along its fortified walls gives visitors unique city views and a sense of the area's military history. The walls encompass the Old Town and have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Dine in the Petit Champlain district: Known as one of the prettiest neighborhoods in Québec City, the Petit Champlain district is filled with quaint shops and eateries. It's the perfect spot to indulge in local cuisine and shop for artisanal crafts.

Lighthouse in Nova Scotia, CanadaUnsplash

The Maritimes

Comprising New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, the Maritimes are the place to be for fresh seafood, gorgeous lighthouses, and scenic coastal drives.

The best things to do in the Maritimes:

  • Hike the Cabot Trail: Picture yourself driving along one of the most scenic routes in Canada, the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia. This 300-kilometer coastal loop features breathtaking ocean views, picturesque fishing villages, and incredible hiking trails.
  • Discover Peggy's Cove: As you explore Nova Scotia's south shore, must-visit Peggy's Cove is sure to impress. This picturesque fishing village, with its iconic lighthouse, offers stunning photo opportunities and the chance to mingle with friendly locals.
  • Visit Prince Edward Island National Park: This natural gem showcases beautiful beaches, red sandstone cliffs, and scenic coastal trails. Wildlife enthusiasts can look out for foxes, herons, and even the endangered piping plover!
  • Explore the Bay of Fundy: The Bay of Fundy, home to the world’s highest tides, is a nature-lover's paradise. This captivating natural phenomenon includes coastal cliffs, multi-layered rock faces, and fascinating marine life, including rare Right Whales.
  • Visit Halifax: Halifax, a bustling seaside city, embodies the Maritimes' lively spirit. Explore its maritime history at Pier 21 and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Walk along the scenic harbor, enjoy fresh seafood, and immerse yourself in its vibrant music scene.

The Northern Lights in the Yukon, CanadaUnsplash

Hidden Gems

While Canada's popular destinations are breathtaking, there's something special about discovering hidden treasures not known to many. Here are five incredible off-the-beaten-path spots for your itinerary:

The Yukon

Known for its rugged landscapes and Northern Lights, Yukon is a hidden paradise. Explore Kluane National Park, or try dog sledding, ice fishing, and snowmobiling during the winter months.

Fogo Island, Newfoundland

With warm-hearted locals and extraordinary landscapes, Fogo Island is a gem off the northeast coast of Newfoundland. Explore the island's unique 'geopuntia' rock formations or witness the dramatic pack-ice season.

Drumheller, Alberta

If you're fascinated by prehistoric times, you'll love Drumheller, the “Dinosaur Capital of the World”. Here, you'll find the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology and the World's Largest Dinosaur statue.

Haida Gwaii

Off the coast of British Columbia lies the mystical Haida Gwaii, the "Canadian Galapagos." Rich indigenous culture, prolific wildlife, and captivating landscapes make this place undeniably magical.

Charlevoix, Quebec

Nestled along the Saint Lawrence River, Charlevoix is famous for its charming villages, artistic scene, and farm-to-table culinary delights.

People ice skating on Lake Louise, Alberta, CanadaUnsplash

Bucket List Experiences

Can't decide what to do first in Canada? We've listed ten unforgettable experiences for your Canadian bucket list:

  • Explore Stanley Park in Vancouver: Surely you've heard of Central Park, but let's show some love to Stanley Park, Vancouver's own urban oasis. With gorgeous views, picturesque hiking trails, and even a seawall to cycle or rollerblade along, you’ll come to see why it's treasured by locals and tourists alike.
  • Cruise the Thousand Islands: Sprinkled along the St.Lawrence River between Canada and the USA, the Thousand Islands are a sight to behold. A boat tour is the perfect way to soak up the region's stunning natural beauty and its opulent castles and mansions – yes, you read that right!
  • Connect with nature in Haida Gwaii: Known as "the Canadian Galapagos,” Haida Gwaii is a well-kept British Columbian secret, brimming with lush forests, indigenous history, and wildlife – a nature enthusiast's dream spot.
  • Catch a game of ice hockey: You can't claim to have truly experienced Canada until you've been part of an ice hockey game! Whichever city you're in, make sure to catch our passion in action on the rink. Root for the home team!
  • Delve into history at the Museum of History in Ottawa: Striking architecture and an absorbing collection spotlighting Canada's rich history — these are the hallmarks of the Museum of History. Don't miss the stunning Grand Hall with its indigenous totem poles.
  • Feast on poutine: Poutine, the proud flagbearer of Canadian comfort food, is a must-try. Crispy fries, cheese curds, and gravy – what's not to love? It's a culinary indulgence that's worth the extra treadmill time!
  • Explore the Underground City of Montreal: Officially named RESO, this sprawling subterranean network in Montreal is packed with shops, restaurants, and even art. Believe it or not, it's a perfect place to retreat during those chilly Canadian winters.
  • Visit wine country in the Okanagan: Nestled in British Columbia’s heart, the Okanagan Valley is Canada's answer to Napa. Expect scenic vineyards, delectable wines, and warm hospitality.
  • Experience the Calgary Stampede: Dubbed "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth," this 10-day event in Calgary showcases the best of Western Canada with its rodeos, exhibitions, concerts, and parades. Cowboy hats are optional but highly recommended!
  • Hike the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia: Perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, this world-renowned 298 km trail offers majestic ocean vistas, charming fishing villages, and a chance to hear some traditional Gaelic music along the way!
  • See the Northern Lights in Yellowknife: The capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories is one of the best places in the world to see the ethereal shimmer of the Northern Lights.
  • Go ice skating on Lake Louise: If you're in Canada during winter, do like the Canadians do and take advantage of the country's frozen lakes. Lake Louise in Alberta transforms into one of the most scenic skating rinks in the world.
  • Hike the West Coast Trail: This iconic long-distance trail along Vancouver Island's temperate rainforests and rugged coastline is a challenge, but the astounding Pacific views you'll be rewarded with are breathtaking.
  • Take in the beauty of Prince Albert National Park: A vast expanse of natural beauty, this national park in Saskatchewan is a dream for outdoor enthusiasts offering hiking, kayaking, and wildlife viewing. You might even spot elk, wolves, or bears in their natural habitat
  • Go on a wildlife tour in Churchill: Known as the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill, Manitoba offers unforgettable wildlife tours with the opportunity to see polar bears, belugas, and more. 

Moose road sign in CanadaUnsplash

Travel Tips

Whether this is your first trip to Canada or you're a well-versed nomad, here are some tips to streamline your experience.

  • Entry and exit requirements: Visiting Canada usually requires a visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). Check the requirements at the official Canadian government website.
  • Language: English and French are Canada's two official languages. However, English is commonly spoken in most areas.
  • Currency: Canada uses the Canadian Dollar ($). Credit cards are widely accepted, and ATMs are readily available.
  • Getting around: Public transportation is accessible in larger cities, but renting a car is a good option if you plan on visiting more rural areas.
  • Plugs and adapters: The standard voltage in Canada is 120V. Plugs are Type A or B. Make sure to bring an adapter if needed.

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Canada eSIM: Stay Connected With Airalo

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You're all set to plan a trip to Canada! Head to the Airalo store to browse eSIMs for Canada and 200+ countries and regions worldwide.

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