Maligne Lake's Spirit Island, Alberta | Parks Canada
The Most Iconic Canadian Experiences
With such a diverse range of experiences to choose from, it might be hard to decide what to include in your trip to Canada. Should you head east or west? Mountains or coast? Winter, spring, summer, or fall? Here are our picks for the most iconic Canadian experiences across the country.
Parker Ridge Trail in Banff, Alberta | Photo © Ben Morin
1. Answer the Call of the Mountains
If there is something everyone knows about Canada, it’s the majestic mountains. It's with good reason, too – it’s hard not to rave about the light blue alpine lakes, the towering peaks and the plethora of outdoor activities the region offers. From hiking amongst wildflowers in the spring and summer and seeking out golden larches in autumn, to snowshoeing during the quiet magic of winter, the mountains of western Canada beckon year-round.
A giant iceberg visits a tiny coastal community in Newfoundland
2. Wave to Whales on Iceberg Alley
How about spotting icebergs from your hiking trail? Talk about an iconic Canadian experience! Head to the island of Newfoundland where you can hike along Canada's beautifully rugged Avalon Peninsula and watch icebergs of all shapes and sizes float by. If you hike our self guided East Coast Trail in May or early June, you’ll have the best chance of spotting some of these 10,000 year-old giants. And if that wasn't amazing enough, remember that the whales are migrating north in the late spring and early summer too, so you might just get lucky and see both icebergs and whales from your hiking trail. For an even higher chance of spotting these natural wonders, head to the northwest tip of the island, discover an ancient Viking settlement, and keep a lookout from your cozy lighthouse accommodations.
The old train station in Nominingue, Quebec | Photo ©Tourisme Laurentides
3. Taste the Sugary Goodness
Speaking of essentials, it’s hard to think of anything more essential than maple syrup. You can put it on almost anything, and we’d be surprised if you didn’t come across some maple candy, maple ice cream or maple lattes while in Canada. The province of Quebec is where most Canadian maple syrup comes from and as luck would have it, Quebec also produces wild blueberries. Blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, anyone? You can then burn off the calories by biking the Blueberry Bicycle Route circling the picturesque St-Jean lake. Or, if going around in a circle isn't your thing, try cycling the linear Petit Train du Nord instead.
Wild views from the bow on the Yukon River
4. Discover the Great White North
Firstly, we should clarify that much of Northern Canada is not eternally covered in a wintery white blanket. There are plenty of experiences to be had from spring through autumn that are completely snow-free and even downright warm, such as hiking and paddling in Yukon Territory and experiencing the ‘midnight sun’. Of course, you can’t deny the truly iconic Canadian experience of watching the northern lights dance above a frozen lake in the deep dark winter skies of the Northwest Territories, one of the best places in the world to see nature’s spectacular show due to the flat, unobstructed views directly under the auroral oval. While you are tucked away in a remote lodge, try your hand at igloo-building, snowshoeing, skating, skiing, or even fat biking.
Great cycling along the Gulf Shore Parkway on Northern Prince Edward Island | Photo ©Guy Wilkinson
5. Experience a Warm Maritime Welcome
World-wide, Canadians are known as being oh-so-polite. Nowhere is this more true than in the small communities of the Atlantic provinces, and there’s no better way to get to know the locals than on a self-guided, active holiday in the Maritimes. A series of converted ‘rails to trails’ such as PEI’s Confederation Trail and Nova Scotia’s Rum Runner’s Trail make it possible for even the novice cyclist to hop from one picturesque coastal community to another with plenty of time to taste the abundant seafood (fresh lobster, anyone?), take a beach break (or two), and chat with the friendly Maritimers (friendly banter is a regional pastime).
Climbing ladders on the West Coast Trail, British Columbia
6. Get Off-Grid in the Backcountry
Canada has incredibly large expanses of wilderness. It’s easy to go days and even weeks without seeing another soul. Each season, Canadians rush out to the woods to escape the daily grind and get back to nature at lake-side cabins, remote wilderness campsites, backcountry huts, and protected parks and reserves. Strict regulations are often in place to keep numbers down and protect these wild places, but you can still go remote on an organized adventure such as a self-guided hut-to-hut hike, a guided backpacking trip, or on a classic Canadian winter adventure in an off-grid log cabin.
We hope you enjoyed our picks for the most iconic experiences across the country, but really this is only the beginning.