Places to visit in Canada

Oh Canada, home and native land. I’ve got to be honest, that’s the only line I know of the Canadian national anthem and it was stuck in my head throughout my entire trip! I spent 2.5 months traveling through this massive country and it was a pretty epic adventure. I knew Canada was big, but you don’t really realize how big until you try to travel across. Especially being Dutch and being used to driving just a few hours to the nearest country.

I started my trip in Vancouver and explored parts of British Columbia before heading east. From there I visited Alberta and flew to Quebec, skipping the prairies of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Even though I only ended up visiting 3 provinces, I covered huge distances. Although some places couldn’t win my heart (Vancouver, Whistler, Edmonton), others turned out to be very charming. These are the five places I loved most in Canada:

Rocky Mountains

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The Rocky Mountains are definitely the crowning glory of Canada. This massive mountain range is open to visitors through seven National Parks of which Jasper and Banff are the most famous. These are two I visited, although I also drove through Yoho and Kootenay. The Canadian Rockies were my top reason for wanting to visit Canada, and they did not disappoint. It is simply such an immense mountain range and I had never seen anything like it. From the rugged mountains with snow capped peaks to the lush green valleys and bright blue lakes, the Canadian Rockies are breathtaking.

Both Jasper and Banff are popular ski resorts in the winter and hiking destinations in the summer. Especially on the weekends it was crawling with tourists, which slightly ruined the experience for me. The trick is to forego the big attractions and hike out to find the hidden gems instead. I loved Hector Lake (pictured above) and there were maybe 10 people there all day! The Rockies are a hiker paradise with challenging trails and amazing views. Not to mention all the wildlife you can spot here! Although incidents are rare, always be safe, take precautions and respect the wildlife (especially grizzly’s!). Be sure to ask at the visitors centers about good hikes for you, weather conditions and wildlife.

Driving around and camping in the Canadian was the highlight of my 2.5 months in Canada. I cannot recommend it highly enough that you go and see this marvel of nature for yourself.

Victoria

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If you love quaint little towns with colorful buildings and mysterious alleyways (and who doesn’t?) than you’ll love Victoria. Everyone I spoke to kept telling me to visit Vancouver Island and Victoria in particular. And they were right! I immediately loved Victoria. It has a very European feel and a fun yet relaxed atmosphere. The historic city center is really cute and has some very pretty buildings. Victoria is also loaded with boutiques, cozy pubs and hip restaurants. It’s a tad touristic, but still livable. I recommend just strolling around and taking in the sights. Be sure to also check out the harbor, Chinatown and Beacon Hill Park.

Okanagan Valley

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Okanagan Valley is famous in Canada for its delicious fruit and wine. I never even knew there was such a thing as Canadian wine! Turns out, it’s pretty good. The Okanagan river runs through British Columbia and the fertile and relatively sunny hills along the river are perfect for orchards and vineyards. Driving through the Okanagan Valley region was breathtaking. The scenery reminded me a bit of Italy or southern France. The water is clear and blue, the hills are green and the drive offers some spectular views. Be sure to stop at Kelowna where you can enjoy some time on the beach at Okanagan Lake. It’s also a great base for exploring the region and visiting some wineries.

Tadoussac

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Tadoussac is a small village but a big tourist destination for one reason: whales. At Tadoussac the Saint Lawrence River and Saguenay River meet. The mixing of the cold, fresh water and warm, salty water leads to an abundance of krill and plankton, which happens to be the favorite food of whales. This makes Tadoussac one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. You can spot some 13 different species of whales that swim here year round, but generally June to September is peak season. Although you can often see whales from the shore, the best way to see them up close is from the water. There are different types of tours on offer in Tadoussac. Obviously, the high number of tourists and boats are not optimal for the whales. The most environmentally friendly option is a kayaking tour from Mer et Monde. Unfortunately, when I was in Tadoussac in late September it was too cold, so I opted for a zodiac tour instead. These are small motorized boats for up to 12 people. My tour with Tadoussac Autrement was awesome and totally worth the money! I saw several giant whales up close, which was incredible. Apart from the whales, Tadoussac is a really cute town with a great microbrewery, a fun hostel and great hiking.

Tadoussac is a 3-hour drive from Quebec City

Montreal

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So, one big city made my list of best places in Canada for a simple reason: Canada to me is nature first and foremost. Most cities I visited were interchangeable to me with most other modern big cities. They lacked the charm, beauty and soul I know from old European cities. High rises and strip malls are just not my thing I guess. But Montreal I immediately loved. The architecture, the bikes, the vibe: I immediately felt at home. Montreal is multicultural, young, vibrant and just plain fun. If you visit any city in Canada, I think Montreal should be it.

What are your favorite places in Canada? I’d love to read about them in the comments. If you liked this post, please share it on social media.


22 thoughts on “Places to visit in Canada

  1. The Okanagan Valley is my favorite summer ‘staycation’ destination. I’m from Edmonton (sorry you didn’t like it, but I don’t blame you lol) and we usually head there once every summer. You are so right about comparing it to some of the wine regions in Europe. I recently visited the Naramata Bench – one of the best wine areas in the whole region – and it honestly looks like a mini Tuscany!

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  2. Haha. As an Edmontonian, I don’t blame you for not liking it- I don’t either! Although I must say it is lovely to walk through the river valley in the fall when the leaves are changing, but that is about all it has going for it. I’m glad you liked the Rockies. They are such a special place. I personally enjoy visiting them more in the winter than the summer. I love snow shoeing, and it is always so quite out on the trails because most people are skiing, so I get to enjoy some time with just me and nature. If you come back to Canada, I would recommend checking out Ottawa, Toronto, and Niagara Falls in Ontario and spending time in the smaller provinces out east. You could easily spend another two and a half months exploring them!

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  3. Banff and Jasper National Parks are on my travel list. I love to do hiking and camping in National Parks and can’t get enough of these rocky mountain ranges. I would like to stroll around Chinatown and visit the harbor in Victoria.

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  4. Great post on Canada!! I always say that Canada is one of the few countries where everyone will have something theyll absolute love. If you are someone who loves hiking or exploring into the wilderness I would highly suggest the Rocky Mountain, Canada has some of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. I love the fact that you thought so too and mentioned it in the article.

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  5. Canada is such a big and beautiful country that it becomes very difficult from where to start with. I would love to check beautiful nature around Rocky mountains and colorful quaint Victoria. Thanks for sharing a detailed guide on Canada travel.

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  6. Oh well, Glad to know I have been to one of the places on the list. It was Victoria! What a lovely, charming city. The Rocky Mountains is the place, I can get to next if I happen to be in Canada. To be honest, I didn’t know the main points of Interst in Canada… but now I do.

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  7. I would love to visit Canada. I am more into nature so Rocky mountain you mentioned would be perfect. I heard a lot of good things about the national parks in Canada. From the cities I would like to see Montreal.

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  8. Montreal is still on my list! The Rocky mountains will always have my heart. My partner and I had a discussion about if we could only go on holiday to one place for the rest of our lives, where would it be? And we both said the Canadian Rockies!

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