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From the wild and windswept artic wastelands of the North, to the soaring glaciers of the Canadian Rockies, the roaring cataracts of the Niagara Falls, the salt-sprayed cliffs of the Newfoundland coast, the forested backcountry of Prince Edward Island, and the rolling Great Plains and prairies of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada is country adorned with breath-taking natural wonders ad infinitum. People flock here from right across the globe to don their skis and conquer the pistes of Whistler and Banff, strap on the snowshoes and waxed walking boots to trek into the wildernesses of Fundy and the Pacific Rim, or seek out primordial beasts in the ilk of hulking whales and growling grizzly bears between the icy oceans and dense forests of the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
Still, it isn’t all about the great outdoors here. No sir, throbbing cityscapes like Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Edmonton and Quebec City also thunder forth, set to the sound of chanting hockey crowds and awash with quirky cafés, cutting-edge gastronomy, curious art galleries, gravity-defying skyscrapers, exquisite Victorian architecture and plenty, plenty more.
Whether you head to Canada looking to go into the wild or sample the very height of luxury, you can rest assured that there’ll be a suitable accommodation option on offer. In the cities, the ubiquitous five-star resorts have taken hold, from the Marriott at Niagara Falls and the exquisite L'Hermitage in Vancouver, to the Trump International in Toronto and the Auberge Saint-Antoine in Quebec City—oozing that charming French chateaux feel right throughout. Out in the backcountry, the Canadian Rockies are littered with oodles of rustic log cabins straight out of trapper times, complete with open fires and rickety verandas overlooking the snowy tips of the glacial mountains all around. There are also some truly fantastic locations for campsites too; clustered around the forested banks of Lake Ontario; perched high on the white cliffs above the Gulf of St Lawrence; nestled betwixt the craggy precipices of the Yoho National Park.
With Canada’s largest cities forever fighting it out to be crowned the country’s culinary capital, the fine-dining scene here has boomed and boomed in recent decades. Regular mentions on line-ups of the nation’s top eats include establishments like Edulis, Nota Bene and Splendido in Toronto, Vij's and the Blue Water Café in Vancouver—which has worked to redefine the meaning of sea to table cuisine—and Toqué, Joe Beef and Maison Publique in Montreal, while there are also oodles of food trucks and microbreweries now adorning the downtowns in a medley of all-American burgers, frothy homemade pilsners and hipster vegan and vegetarian treats. Given the sheer size of the country, foodies can expect everything from salty seafood platters to organically-grazed meat cuts to make up the menu, not to mention a diverse set of cultural influences that means the kitchens of Britain, France, Italy and South America all bring certain flavours to the mix.
For lovers of the great outdoors there’s arguably no better destination on the planet than Canada. There are wonders like the Banff National Park and Yoho, where chiselled massifs tower over mirror-like lakes, Forillon and Prince Edward Island, where pine forests give way to sandy Atlantic beaches, and the crystal-clear waters of the Georgian Bay Islands on Lake Ontario, all encompassed by webs of meandering hiking trails, biking tracks, ski pistes and viewing platforms aplenty. However, the cities here also pulse with enough energy and action to keep even the most devoted metropolitan mouse at ease: Vancouver boasts a fascinating aquarium, throbbing hockey matches and countless theatres in South Granville; Toronto has that soaring CN Tower, Wonderland theme parks and the colossal Royal Ontario Museum, and Quebec’s got its very own UNESCO-attested historic centre, not to mention old Huron villages and traditional craft markets besides.
There’s no best time to visit Canada—it all depends on what you want to do. In the winter months (November to March) the ski fields become the major attractions, while most all of the cityscapes freeze over and seem to go into half hibernation. In the summer the reverse occurs: pistes give way to hiking trails, alpine meadows blossom, wildlife is aplenty, the food is fresh and the metropolises burst with life once more. The choice is yours entirely.