The best things to do in Canada are probably the things you don’t even know about. Unlike its southern neighbour, it doesn’t shout its brilliance from the rooftops; Canada simply opens its hospitable arms and says come in, explore.

And explore you must, because Canada is a culturally dynamic, continent-sized country with space to burn. Each city, town and province has its own shtick, from the West-Coast cool of Vancouver (British Columbia) to the proudly French-Canadian Québécois of Quebec City and Montreal. But do not forget the little guys; the likes of the life-in-slow-motion Maritime provinces of PEI, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, alongside perhaps the quirkiest province in the English-speaking world, Newfoundland and Labrador. For utter adventure, jump in the car or RV and head north into the Arctic and beyond to the frontier: the North West Territories (NWT), Nunavut and Canada’s Alaska-like Yukon.

To see: cities of great character

Many people’s first taste of Canada is the vibrantly multicultural Vancouver. Make sure you sample its world-class street eats and you’ll be damn happy you went off the tourist trail to explore its emerging neighbourhoods too Vancouver’s backyard is full of possibilities. On Vancouver Island, you can befriend a sea otter – get nose to nose with a mighty orca – and explore the history of BC’s capital, Victoria, all in a weekend.

One province over in Alberta, Calgary is your natural landing point for adventure in the spectacular mountains around Banff. But don’t ignore ‘Cowtown’, especially if you’re there in summer for the wildest festival in Canada, the Calgary Stampede.

Dip into Canada’s stridently French persona in two of North America’s most personality filled cities: Montreal – and Quebec City – Don’t forget to stop by for a drink in Canada’s craziest bar, Bootlegger Quebec – or swing to the beats of one of the world’s pre-eminent jazz festivals in Montreal.

If you’re up for a laugh and some hue-filled architecture, check out our good time guide to Canada’s most eccentric capital St John’s, Newfoundland – Ontario’s big guns have plenty to offer the curious too; wander around the undiscovered nooks of Toronto – or glide along the world’s largest skating rink in Canada’s offbeat capital, Ottawa.

To ski and snowboard: the Rocky Mountain high

The big question when you’re considering skiing and snowboarding in Canada is not if, but where. The choice of snow destinations is overwhelming. Many a snow lovers’ first stop is former Olympic resort of Whistler Blackcomb, a couple of picturesque hours’ drive from Vancouver. The terrain and activities on offer will keep you as busy or as chilled as you want to be.

On the Alberta side of the Rocky Mountains, the postcard town of Banff is a sublime base for wondrous winter adventures, with access some of the best ski resorts in the world from Sunshine Village to the incredible Lake Louise.
In between these two alpine behemoths, in the heart of the Rockies, is an avalanche of other ski resort options dotted around the famed Powder Highway – from Fernie and Kicking Horse to Sun Peaks and Revelstoke, you can’t really go wrong.

To roam and road trip: Canada’s wide open spaces

Canada is replete with pristine wilderness and wide open spaces in spaces, which beg you to go on monumental road trips, rail journeys and cruises.

Perhaps the best place to start is bucket-list fave Rocky Mountaineer. Drink in pine-strewn snow-capped views in comfort through the glass-topped train on the most lusted-after rail journey in all the Americas.

By road, Canada is your oyster; one of the most road-trippable places on earth. Cruise across the prairies, try a southern sojourn on Canada’s Route 66, wind your way around the back roads of the Atlantic provinces, or jump in the RV and head north towards the Arctic Circle.

For cruisers looking for an Alaska-style journey among the icebergs, jump on board the slow boat through the uber remote Northwest Passage. Along the way, seek out the highlights of Canada’s rich First Nations culture – the likes of the strange story of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Alberta’s Badlands is a good a place to start as any.

The best thing about Canada is that each area has its own history and personality. If you don’t believe us, check out the Cape Breton’s strong Celtic heritage.

Wild wilderness and the wildlife

Big country = big wildlife. One of the best places in the world to see the biggest of them all, the polar bear, is at remote Churchill (Manitoba), on the cusp of mighty Hudson Bay.

While you’re there, you may fancy a dogsled ride out into the wilderness too, and at the right time of year you can also snorkel with beluga whales.

Of course, everyone wants to see a bear (from a distance), whether it’s getting close to grizzlies in style at Great Bear Lodge, or searching for the elusive Canadian Spirit Bear.

If its true wilderness you seek, Canada’s northern provinces are your playground. Jump in an RV and head to the Yukon’s wildest town, Dawson City, where you can try a ‘sourtoe cocktail’ (with a real human toe), before heading further north to the spectacular Tombstone National Park.

The highlight of Canada’s natural highlights is found up this way. Time a visit to Yellowknife to perfection and the Northern Lights will treat you to a sky show that will be burned into your psyche forever.

100 Things to do in Canada Before You Die

From frolicking with polar bears, to eating beaver tails, we've created the ultimate list of 100 things you need to do in Canada before you die...
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