Before going to Canada, all I knew about the country was Toronto but the truth is that Canada has a lot more to offer than just its metropolitan cities — it is not only rich in culture and history but is home to a variety of foods and natural beauty. Tourists are bound to experience diversity from chic cosmopolitan centers to maritime towns and mountain resorts. Determining the best places to visit may depend on the time you have and interests.
Summer and winters are equally beautiful in Canada, but I would recommend travelling during summers because winters can be unreliable. You never know when a winter storm is going to strike and leave you bound indoors for days, so to make the best of your trip, plan it in summers. To help plan your itinerary, here is a list of some of the best places to visit in Canada.
Most people who visit Canada from Pakistan land in Toronto, the largest and most populous city of Canada highlighting the arts and cultural scene. Niagara Falls is easy to reach from Toronto and it is a fun place to spend a day or two.
Niagara Falls is composed of three waterfalls, the most famous of which is Horseshoe Falls. The combination of flow of water and the height of the falls makes it amazing to witness such force of nature in person. Some of the things to do there are:
• Walking up to the edge of the Falls, separated only by a cast iron railing, and see the water as it disappears over the crest.
• Daredevils can zip line above the Falls at 60km/h.
• Take a ride on Maid of the Mist, which takes you to the base of the Falls. Unless you stay inside the ship’s cabin you’ll be thoroughly drenched by the ferocious spray of water from the Falls.
• At night, there is a light show at the Falls, which can be enjoyed either from the top or from the Niagara SkyWheel for a magical experience — the view is worth the wait time in the queue.
• Stroll around Clifton Hill area and enjoy the various tourist attractions and activities. Walking in the streets is an experience in itself with great photo opportunities. Visit the scariest haunted house, the indoor waterpark or the Dinosaur Adventure Golf.
Montreal is a unique, hip and multicultural city, with a beautiful old historic district dating back to the 1600s and a modern city center with extensive underground shopping. The traffic is crazy and rivals the rush hour traffic in Lahore, even Google Maps doesn’t help much because of the various construction sites making it all kinds of confusing, including the traffic rules native to the province of Québec. Having said that, visiting Montreal for the first time is best done on foot and via local transport. You can hop on a bixi, which is a bicycle from Montreal ride-sharing system. In summers, festivals and celebrations take over the city, terraces are packed, and outdoor activities are happening everywhere. Things to do in Montreal are:
• Head to Parc Jean-Drapeau and find the Alexander Calder statue. From here, you have a view of the river, Old Montreal, Mount Royal, and the entire Montreal skyline in one single frame.
• Visit Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal’s oldest Catholic Church. It is known for its intricately designed interior including stained glass chronicling the history of the city. Weddings and wedding shoots are usually happening around here, which are always fun to see.
• Visit Old Montreal; it is the main tourist hub with its charming cobblestone streets, historic architecture, galleries, restaurants and souvenir shops. The waterfront is gorgeous. Water activities include dinner cruises as well as jet and speed boating on Saint Lawrence River.
• Kids’ fun includes access to life-size replicas of a pirate ship of the 18th century with aerial obstacle courses and climbing activities. A 60-meters high Ferris wheel offers a panoramic view of the city.
• Go to Mount Royal Park by foot or on bike. On the way to the top, stop at the lookout point, Chalet du Mont-Royal, for washroom or snacks breaks. Belvédère Kondiaronk viewpoint offers unobstructed views of the city’s skyline, the Saint Lawrence River, and the Adirondack Mountains in the south.
• Take a stroll along Mount Royal Avenue for a view of the colourful spiral staircases of The Plateau neighborhood, which present an iconic image of Montréal.
• For nature lovers Montreal offers Botanical Gardens, the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, and the Insectarium that is one of the largest of its kind in the world, and the Biodome that is an indoor installation that showcases the four main ecosystems of the Americas.
Québec City is a gorgeous city having a distinctly European feel about it with its old buildings and curving cobbled streets. It is loaded with history dating back to 1600s. The places to see in Québec City are:
• Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is the most photographed hotel in the entire world with its castle like looks, sitting high on the hill.
• Old Québec is the most stunning part of the city. Spend the day walking around the narrow cobblestoned alleyways and explore the beautiful architecture and funky shops. It houses some buildings preserved from 1800s, as they were.
• Montmorency Falls are Canada’s highest waterfalls at about 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls. There’s a suspension bridge over the Falls and zigzag staircases going all the way from the top to the bottom, providing arresting sights around the falls.
• L'Île-d'Orléans is an island located in the Saint Lawrence River, a few minutes away from Québec City’s mainland. It is a farming and agriculture island. Take a drive around and explore the countryside, local farms, markets and friendly people.
The drive to Gaspé from Québec City is one of the most dramatic coastal drives with a crazy amount of fantastic landscape around. Even in summers the temperature is a bit low along the coast, many places are covered in fog even during noon time, which makes the drive hauntingly beautiful. The route along the coast of Saint Lawrence River to Percé is known as Route 132 and it is famous for being one of the most scenic drives in Canada. Complete the loop by continuing south where you will pass along sandy beaches before heading inland and back towards Québec City. Things to do in Gaspé include:
• In Gaspé the famous pierced rock rising out of the sea is called Percé Rock, which is about 375 million years old and predicted to no longer be visible in the next 400 years. Two cruise companies offer cruise experience, which takes you up close to the rock, they give a small presentation of the history of the rock and the many bird species on Bonaventure Island. They also offer drop off at Bonaventure Island for trail walks.
• Bonaventure Island is home to North America’s largest gannet colony, summer nesting home for 200,000 northern gannets that migrate in spring. It is a magnificent sight to watch so many birds up close on the land, in the air and diving in the sea. It looks like a scene right out of a National Geographic documentary.
• On the mainland, Percé Global Geopark offers great hiking opportunities where you can climb on the suspended glass walkway for an incredible view of the Percé Rock.
• Roam around the small picturesque town of Gaspé and get handcrafted souvenirs. Everybody speaks French there with little or no English so don’t forget to take a copy of the most common phrases and questions in French.
• Nova Lumina is a magical experience in Chandler, an hour-and-a-half away from Gaspé. The program starts at night with being handed staffs with stones, making one feel like Gandalf and covers a trail in the forest by the sea, which is basically a light show along the path.
Vancouver is known for its natural beauty, fun atmosphere and great weather year-round. Some popular points to visit are Stanley Park, Gastown, China Town, Grouse Mountain and Granville. Vancouver offers the city life highlights to landscapes seemingly untouched by humankind. Things to do here are:
• Walk around down town with friendly people and fun atmosphere.
• Stanley Park is filled with red cedar and Douglas fir trees and gives a gorgeous view of the city. Take a stroll through the towering red-orange colored trees or rent a bike and take a ride around the trails of Stanley Park all the way over to English Bay, the most popular and stunningly picturesque beach in Vancouver.
• Grouse Mountain can be accessed either through a cable car or by hiking up the mountain. Along with a stunning view of the city, several activities are available on the mountain, like Tackle the Grouse Grind, the bird show and the Lumberjack Show.
• Granville Island is a pedestrian-friendly spot of galleries and artisan shops. The public market has stalls selling fresh produce, baked goods, a food court and handmade products. The waterside location makes it a unique experience.
• Located next door to downtown Vancouver is its most historic neighborhood, Gastown. Here you can see Gassy Jack’s statue and one of the few left in the world, the steam clock, which blows its whistle every hour. Tourists stand on the sidewalks and wait just to see the steam whistle blow.
Banff and Jasper National Parks
There are tons of stunning beautiful places to visit between Banff and Jasper National Parks and the Icefields Parkway in between. The best way to explore this area is a road trip in the summers with a good amount of days allocated to explore the Canadian Rockies. These areas call for great outdoor adventures, lovely walking trails and the mesmerizing sights give epic photographs with electric blue glacial lakes, waterfalls and abundant wildlife.
Here are some of the places you just can't miss when travelling to Banff and Jasper National Parks:
• You can take a hike around Lake Louise with its milky blue waters or rent a canoe and go out into the lake.
• Moraine Lake, a quick drive from Lake Louise, has a bright and reflective teal color. Hike up the trail to the top of the rock pile for a stunning panoramic shot of the lake and mountains.
• Athabasca Glacier is the most famous stop along the Icefields Parkway. Taking a glacier hike out on the Columbia Icefield will give you an experience like none other.
• Maligne Lake is well known for its picture-perfect island, Spirit Island. You can take a cruise on the Lake or explore the Maligne Canyon on foot by taking the trail that is the deepest canyon in the Rockies.
• Johnston Canyon is a popular destination in Banff for a hike with its dramatic canyon walls, pristine waterfalls, and a lush forest walk.
• The Peyto Lake viewpoint gives a stunning look of the beautiful bright blue lake in the Canadian Rockies. This one is right off of the Icefields Parkway.
• Jasper Skytram is the highest and longest aerial tramway in Canada and gives a 360-degree view of the surrounding Jasper National Park. The gondola up Whistlers Peak is located just south of the town and gives a fantastic view of the Rockies.
• Take the gondola to the Upper Terminal of Sulfur Mountain and hike the 1.1 km trail to the summit. It gives a bird’s eye view of Banff National Park.
This is just a small list of some of the places to start exploring Canada. It is a huge country with beautiful and unique sights to offer on all its coasts; the city life thrives with culture, arts, and lively people, and natural beauty exists in abundance. Halal food is available in most of the places; only travelling to remote areas gives fewer options of Halal food.
Bon Voyage! HH
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