Stretching from the Pacific to the Atlantic and deep into the Arctic, Canada is a land of vast distances and rich natural beauty. Rugged mountain peaks contrast with soft sandy beaches. Bustling, cosmopolitan cities make way for quiet, cozy villages. Historic sites and modern works of art provide dynamic cultural experiences at every turn. As a destination where language, culture, and even history vary significantly from coast to coast, Canada is a hidden gem worth exploring. It’s this fusion of bustling city life, unique outdoor activities, and diverse culture that makes Canada one of our favorite travel destinations.
Beauty of British Columbia
Nestled east of the Pacific Ocean and west of the Canadian Rocky Mountains is British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province. British Columbia is perhaps the country’s most topographically diverse province with breathtaking landscapes providing a plethora of activities and adventure for travelers and residents alike. Summer and fall are ideal seasons for camping in the Rockies, sailing among the temperate west coast islands, fishing from the banks of the Sunshine Coast and touring world-class vineyards.
Combine these outdoor adventures with a visit to Vancouver—known as one of the world’s best and most beautiful cities—and you’ll be tempted to stay. As a thriving metropolis surrounded by unparalleled natural beauty, Vancouver offers stunning scenery mixed with world-class accommodation and extraordinary dining (like one of our favorites: The Fish House (located in Stanley Park)). With its beautiful parks, beaches, gardens, restaurants, museums and art galleries, Vancouver truly offers something for everyone.
For those looking for little (rather, a lot) of luxury fused with the remote tranquility of British Columbia’s endless wilderness, Vancouver Island may be for you. A short ferry or flight from the mainland, the island’s west coast boasts the chance to soak in geothermal springs, hike among thousand-year-old trees and photograph the area’s grey whales, bears and eagles. Two of our favorite properties on the island are the Wickaninnish Inn and Clayoquot Wilderness Resort. Both offer luxury accommodation, fantastic views, and wide array of indoor and outdoor activities.
The Cowboy Province
Resting to the east of British Columbia is Alberta, a province known for its picturesque waterfalls, breathtaking landscapes, cowboy lifestyle, thousands of acres of farmland, vast blue skies and two of our favorite Canadian destinations: Calgary and Banff.
Foodies, come hungry! Calgary’s International Avenue, also known by its slogan “Around the World in 35 Blocks,” is no misnomer. Here, you can sample fare from countries as disparate as Vietnam and Jamaica at close to 200 open-air markets, bakeries and restaurants. If you visit in July, be sure to make time for the Calgary Stampede. This 10-day festival attracts 1 million visitors each year, and lives up to its name as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The event features the world’s largest rodeo and attracts top competitors from across North America.
Roughly 80 miles from Calgary is the Swiss-chalet town of Banff, where outdoor activities flourish. Summer visitors will love exploring the many restaurants, shops and museums on Banff’s bustling main avenue. It is here where the sounds of German, Japanese, French and Spanish languages combine to form a unique soundtrack. Nearby lies the beautiful, emerald colored Lake Louise, a picturesque hiking destination at the heart of Banff National Park.
Europe without the jet lag
Move east across Canada’s vast expanse to the province of Quebec and you’ll find the historical Quebec City, which is the only walled city in North America. Unlike the modern west coast city of Vancouver, Quebec City’s charm lies in its winding cobbled streets lined with 17th- and 18th-century stone houses and churches, charming parks and squares, many monuments, and distinctly European flare. Throughout history, a central theme in Quebec has been its French heritage and nationalism, evident in the city’s stunning architecture. Transport to the 1600s by exploring the oldest church in Québec, Our Lady of Victory, and the cellars of Maison des Vins where you will find more than 1,000 kinds of rare vintage wines. For accommodation you won’t soon forget, we recommend Quebec’s celebrated landmark hotel Château Frontenac. Standing tall above St. Lawrence River, the hotel’s castle-like turrets and steep copper roof give Quebec a majestic image. Built to accommodate colonial governors, the world-renown luxury hotel still hosts guests today and holds the distinction of the most photographed hotel in the world.
Insight you can count on
These days, anyone can book a hotel, hop on a plane, rent a car and make it to their destination. Post arrival, knowing how to make the most of your visit is another task all together. And with so much to see and do in Canada, and the vast distances between some of its most appealing attractions, filling your days with memorable travel experiences may seem like a daunting task. How to avoid this? Take the day to day planning out of the equation. Here’s how:
One of our favorite ways to experience the most of what Canada has to offer from coast to coast is the West-East Trans-Canada Odyssey offered by Insight Vacations. This two week rail, coach and ferry journey combines touring some of Canada’s most spectacular cities (Vancouver, Whistler, Banff, Jasper, Toronto and Niagra Falls) with outdoor experiences that will take your breath away. Guests on the West-East Trans-Canada Odyssey enjoy walking and hiking tours through Canada’s pristine wilderness, leisurely strolls through lush botanical gardens, visits to remote wineries (tasting included!), and up close experiences with natural wonders such as the Athabasca Glacier and Niagara Falls. With hotels, meals, tours and sightseeing included in the cost, you can kiss the travel planning woes goodbye.
For deeper exploration of either coast, we recommend Insight’s Grand Canadian Rockies or Capitals of Eastern Canada tours. In the east, guests spend seven days exploring Canada’s most famous cities during a journey that includes a two night stay in the glorious Quebec City, and overnight stops in vibrant Montreal and the nation’s capital city, Ottawa.
On the west coast, board the famous Rocky Mountaineer train for exploration of some of the most stunning and remote pockets of Canada. The Grand Canadian Rockies journey includes overnight stays in luxury accommodations in Victoria, Banff, and Jasper followed by a two-day scenic trail journey from the Rockies to the Pacific.