5 Canadian Destinations to Add to Your Travel Bucket List
Canada may have celebrated its sesquicentennial last year, but there's still no time like the present to visit the Great White North. As the world's second-largest country by total area (3.85 million square miles, eh), there are practically limitless possibilities for travelers looking to embark on adventure in the vast wilderness that makes up a majority of the U.S.'s northern neighbor. What's more, in a country that ranks as the 14th least densely-populated place on earth, there's no need to worry about over-tourism.
Skipping over Canada's more popular and well-known destinations, such as Toronto, Niagara Falls, and Vancouver — because they're just too obvious, don't'cha know — there are still so many more amazing options to choose from when planning a trip up north. In the name of brevity and all things short, sweet, and to the point, let us introduce no further and get right to it.
Here are five Canadian destinations that you may want to add to your travel bucket list:
1. Whistler (British Columbia)
Situated just 78 miles north of Vancouver, Whistler, a resort town nestled in the southern Coast Mountains, is known for its alpine skiing and snowboarding. Home to just shy of 12,000 people, the town annually sees visitors numbering in the millions — about two million, that is — and it's no wonder why. Whistler, which hosted most of the alpine, Nordic, luge, skeleton, and bobsled events during the 2010 Winter Olympics, has consistently been named one of the top ski resorts in North America over the last couple decades.
"Something magical happens when you arrive at the summit of the small valley that contains Whistler," a writeup on BritishColumbia.com says. "A cluster of small lakes is gathered here, reflecting the outlines of the mountains high above, including Alta Lake, the great divide in the Sea to Sky corridor. No other lakes have scenery quite like this to mirror." For more on this winter paradise, check out Travel + Leisure's travel guide.
2. St. John's (Newfoundland and Labrador)
All the way over on the other side of the country you can find St. John's, the capital and largest city of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada's easternmost province. One of the oldest European settlements in North America, St. John's has been described by Lonely Planet as San Francisco-esque, if only in miniature form, and that's largely due to the colorful row houses that line the city's hilly streets.
Boasting many exquisite dining and lodging options, such as The Adelaide Oyster House and the JAG Boutique Hotel, Newfoundland's capital is also a great base of operations for those interested in exploring the eastern shores of the Avalon Peninsula. Cape Spear, Witless Bay, and Ferryland make for easy day trips, according to Lonely Planet, or you could always head north of town and hit up Pouch Cove, a small town dating back to the early 1600's whose motto is "first to see the sun." Fodor's Travel has a handy-dandy guide for all of your St. John's travel needs.
3. Québec City (Québec)
Some 800 miles (or about 1,400 kilometers, because this is Canada) west of St. John's stands another provincial capital worth visiting: Québec City. This historic city tucked alongside the St. Lawrence River is another one of Canada's prime winter destinations. Again, because this is Canada, skiing and snowboarding in the area are obvious draws, but Québec City is also known for the big, two-week-long shebang it hosts every winter: the Carnaval de Québec.
Dating back to 1894, and taking place in its modern form annually since 1955, the carnival is a chance for Québécois (a fancy French word for natives of Québec) to get out and have some fun during those long, frozen months of winter. Sporting ice canoe races, parades aplenty, and Bonhomme's Ice Palace, an iconic monument that serves as the home of the carnival's official mascot, the carnival is a winter lover's dream. For more on wintertime activities in Québec City, check out Urban Guides Canada's winter bucket list. Those of you more partial to warm weather may want to have a look quebecregion.com's summertime guide for the city.
4. Banff (Alberta)
Another of Canada's resort towns, Banff is actually the place that initially inspired me to make this little Canadian travel bucket list. I first heard of this town of just shy of 8,000 permanent residents when a friend of mine traveled there some months ago for a medical conference. "Banff?" I remember thinking, seeing her Snapchat stories, "What the hell is Banff?" Well, friends, I'm here to tell you that Banff is probably one of the most picturesque mountain towns in all of North America.
Wrapped around Tunnel Mountain itself, Banff is also surrounded by the Canadian Rockies, with the peaks of Mt. Rundle and Mt. Cascade crowding most of the town's skyline. Hot springs, hiking, biking, climbing, cross-country skiing, dogsledding, golf, horseback riding, rafting — this place has it all, and then some. The best part is that it's all so easily accessible, too; it's got something for everyone, not just the hardcore nature-lovers among us. If I've got your interest piqued, head over to banfflakelouise.com to get the ball rolling.
5. Whitehorse (Yukon Territory)
Our last stop is yet another capital, this time the Yukon Territory's Whitehorse. The only city existing within the Yukon's 186,000 square miles, Whitehorse is the central travel hub of the territory, which, as a whole, boasts mountains upon mountains, stark glacial valleys, and breathtaking views of the Northern Lights. Arriving either by plane at Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport or via the Alaska Highway, your options are many once stepping into Whitehorse.
"Once here, the options really rack up," travelyukon.com says. "Paddlers take to the historic Yukon River that flows through town. Hikers and mountain bikers access the hundreds of kilometres of trail. Adventurers climb into float planes on Schwatka Lake and fly off to wild, secluded places." In other words, Whitehorse, which was ranked number one for cleanest air in the world by the World Heath Organization in 2011, is an explorer's wet dream. Get to know the area better with The Travel Hack's guide to the Yukon capital.