If there’s any travel destination that’s thoroughly neglected here, it’s Canada. Despite being plastered all over this site in substance and spirit (if you caught the Canadian English spelling throughout, kudos!), I’ve yet to write much about my homeland.
To some, it might make a lot of sense.
Spending my whole childhood here in Canada (I didn’t skip across the ocean until my twenties!), I’m often drawn elsewhere when planning my travels. Even so, the ease and proximity of it all, still brings me, from time to time, across this great country. And to put it in the most Canadian way possible: Oh yeah, she’s a beaut, boys! (And gals.)
Want to experience some of the best of Canada? Get started planning your trip with this Canada Travel Guide…
When to visit Canada
In case you didn’t know: Canada’s kinda big. And with that massive size comes the problem in trying to pinpoint exactly when to plan a trip here. Much of the country (at least the parts you’d probably want to visit) features a temperate climate with four distinct seasons.
For most travellers, the best time to visit Canada is in the summer months between July and August. It’s the busiest time of year, but, by far, the best weather-wise as you’ll encounter plenty of hot & sunny days.
Spring and fall are also good times to travel to Canada. Autumn is particularly beautiful in many parts of the country as the fall colours come out in full force. A word of caution: You may want to avoid non-urban destinations in spring as the mosquitoes and blackflies can be quite a nuisance between May and June.
Where to go in Canada: The top destinations & best places to visit
If there’s any one adjective that you could use to describe Canada it’s diverse. Whether in culture or landscapes, the Great White North always has something interesting up its sleeve.
And while there’s a slim chance you’ll encounter the stereotypical flannel-wearing Canadian holding a hockey stick in one hand and a fishing rod in the other, I have no doubt that you’ll watch other stereotypes unfold before you. Yes, we’re polite; yes, we’re hospitable. And, yes, this is a place that might well feel instantly like home.
When people ask me where to start when visiting Canada, Montreal is one of my two first answers. Perhaps it’s my just never-ending fascination with Europe coming through, but I just can’t seem to get enough of Canada’s second biggest city.
After numerous (almost yearly) visits over the past decade, I still find plenty of things to discover as I trot through Montreal. From the old cobblestoned streets & historic architecture of Old Montreal to the hipster-approved restaurants, cafés and music venues of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal and Mile End, Montreal is, perhaps, the most diverse urban experience in the country.
If you’re looking for a city to launch your exploration of Canada, hip & cultured Montreal is it. (You can thank me later.)
Ready to plan your trip to Montreal? Get started with these resources…
- One Day in Montreal: A Complete Itinerary
- Best Things to Do in Montreal: Top Attractions & Places to Visit
- Where to Stay in Montreal: The Best Hotels & Areas
If you’re like many first-time travellers to Canada, your first stop will likely be Toronto. By a fairly large margin, Toronto is Canada’s largest city, and with that status comes a whole plethora of things to keep you occupied on a visit here.
Aside from the cloud-piercing CN Tower, there isn’t one particular attraction that stands out as the definitive Toronto attraction. Toronto offers, quite literally, everything for everyone. It’s truly one of the world’s most diverse cities, covering the entire gamut of global cultures within it.
Toronto is, by far, at its most enjoyable when you just live it. Whether you’re curling up with a book and a craft coffee in a hip downtown café, chowing down on ethnic food on the Danforth, or taking in a show or two in the entertainment district, this infinitely liveable city feels instantly like home when you drop all expectations and let it reveal itself moment by moment.
Ready to plan your trip to Toronto? Get started with these resources…
Along with Montreal, I can’t help but recommend a visit to the incredible city of Vancouver to first-time visitors to Canada. There’s hardly a place on earth more blessed by its geography than Vancouver. Hemmed in by snow-capped mountains, primeval forests, and the waves of mighty Pacific Ocean, Vancouver’s sexy exterior is bound to grasp your attention upon first glance.
Thanks to this prime location and its unique cultural fabric, Vancouver offers travellers a breadth of experiences you simply won’t find elsewhere in Canada. Whether you want to spend your time exploring its diverse historical neighbourhoods, sampling delights in one of the country’s best urban dining scenes, or hiking through mountain-fringed rainforests north of the city, this is one Canadian travel destination you don’t want to miss.
Ready to plan your trip to Vancouver? Get started with these resources…
… more fantastic Canadian destinations to come!
Transportation in Canada
By air: Unless you’re coming from the United States, you’ll likely enter Canada by air. The major international air gateways into Canada include Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL), and Vancouver International Airport (YVR).
By bus: If you’re visiting from the United States, you may be able to cross into Canada by bus. From most major American cities, however, travelling by bus is less comfortable, longer, and less convenient than flying. Some common routes into Canada include:
- Detroit to Toronto (5h35m)
- Boston to Montreal (6h55m)
- Buffalo to Toronto (2h10m)
- Seattle to Vancouver (2h45m)
By air: Due to its immense size and large distances between cities, the best way to get around Canada is by air. In recent years, competition has opened up and prices are gradually becoming more reasonable. Major air carriers operating between major Canadian cities include Air Canada, WestJet, and Porter.
By bus: If you’re sticking around a smaller geographic area on your Canada itinerary (such as the corridor between Toronto and Quebec City), the bus could be a viable option. There are a handful of companies plying between cities on this route (i.e. Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City) including Coach Canada, Greyhound, Orleans Express, and Megabus.
By train: Even after spending countless hours on trains in my childhood, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend it to most travellers as a means for getting around Canada. Although more comfortable than buses, trains are, for the most part, less convenient and significantly more expensive than buses or even planes.
The one exception would be the routes between Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal, which tend to be faster than travelling by road. For hardcore train lovers, the epic 5-day cross-Canada train ride from Halifax to Vancouver could, however, be a major accomplishment for the bucket list.