So you want to know the best places to visit in Canada?
This is the guide for you. Because we’ve come up with the ultimate Canada bucket list!
Canada is our “home and native land” (that phrase comes from the Canadian anthem, in case you didn’t know).
We’re diehard Canadians. We’ve lived in Calgary, then Vancouver and now Victoria in British Columbia. We’ve visited family in Ontario and vacationed across Canada.
Indeed, we’ve spent decades exploring dozens of bucket list places to visit in Canada! Along the way, we’ve sussed out oodles of fun things to do in Canada.
Best places to visit in Canada
It’s no easy task coming up with a list of the most iconic and beautiful places in Canada.
Canada is the second-largest country in the world (bigger than the U.S.).
And if we can boast about our home country, it’s full of natural wonders!
We have 48 spectacular national parks in Canada. And that’s not counting the hundreds of provincial parks.
And we have jaw-dropping mountains, forests, lakes and waterfalls, along with idyllic islands and charming cities.
Guide to Canada: Places to visit
- Quick Canada facts
- Visa and entry requirements
- Best time to go to Canada
- Getting around Canada
Western Canada vs. Eastern Canada
Best places in Manitoba + Saskatchewan
Best places in Ontario and Quebec
Best places in Atlantic Canada
We sought the help of other travel writers and bloggers who’ve visited unique places in Canada that we haven’t yet explored (like Nunavut).
Our list of must-see places in Canada is therefore quite epic – 37!
Of course, you can’t possibly tick off all these bucket list sites in one trip. And you wouldn’t want to.
These are special places in Canada, and many need time to be savored.
Keep scrolling, because you’ll find them below, in no particular order…
Canada travel tips + FAQs
Before launching into the best places to see in Canada, you’ll want to know a few useful facts and tips for planning your Canadian trip.
Fast facts about Canada
Capital: Ottawa, Ontario
Languages: English and French
Currency: The Canadian dollar (made up of 100 cents). $1 USD is equal to about $1.30 CAD. If you’re coming from the USA, your dollar will definitely go further in Canada!
Electricity: 120 volts AC, 60 Hz (same as in the USA)
Population: About 38 million
Size: 3.8 million square miles (Canada is the world’s second biggest country after Russia)
Number of provinces and territories: 10 provinces and three territories
Visa and entry requirements
Our friends who live in the United States don’t need a visa to visit Canada.
If you’re coming from the U.K. or Europe, you need an electronic travel authorization.
Best time to visit Canada
Canada is a year-round destination.
If you love skiing and other winter sports, you should visit in the winter months. Most of Canada sees snow from November to April.
The exception is the west coast of British Columbia (B.C.), which usually only experiences a few days of snow each winter. But B.C.’s west coast is cold and rainy much of the time in winter.
The summer months (June to August) are popular times to visit.
However, Ontario and Quebec can be hot and humid in the peak summer months.
British Columbia experiences milder summer weather, and it isn’t as humid as it is in Ontario and Quebec.
If you’re visiting the mountains and national parks in Alberta (Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper), June to August are great times to go for the best hiking, golfing, canoeing and other outdoor adventures.
September is one of the best times to go to Canada for sightseeing.
There aren’t as many tourists in September (so accommodations are less expensive and easier to snag). But summer’s warmth still lingers.
The leaves also start turning golden as fall approaches, so it’s a particularly beautiful time to visit.
Getting around Canada
In general, the best way to travel around Canada within particular regions is by car.
Rental cars are available at all major airports across Canada.
Many different train trips are also available for exploring Canada.
For example, the Rocky Mountaineer is a private train company offering luxury train journeys in Western Canada. A popular train ride is from Vancouver to Jasper through the Canadian Rockies.
Via Rail offers trans-Canada train trips between Vancouver and Toronto on The Canadian.
We also have ferries connecting different places in Canada.
For example, in British Columbia, BC Ferries links Vancouver with Vancouver Island and other islands like the Gulf Islands. See our post on taking the ferry to Victoria from Vancouver.
Western Canada vs Eastern Canada
If you’re visiting Canada for the first time, you may be tempted to take in all the top Canadian destinations in one trip. Our advice? Don’t.
Canada is bigger than the U.S. – it’s a huge country!
When planning a trip to Canada, focus on either the western part of the country or the east.
We’ve divided up our bucket list into the main visitor regions in Canada. This division should be helpful in deciding what to see in Canada in the province(s) or region you’re visiting.
You’ll note there’s a special emphasis on British Columbia and Alberta.
That’s partly because we’ve lived most of our adult lives in these two provinces – and we know (and love) the West best!
It’s also partly because the Canadian Rockies, which are in Alberta, are typically at the top of every visitor’s list of “must-see Canada” sites – and there are so many fabulous places to visit in the Rocky Mountains.
Lastly, if we were forced to say which is the most beautiful province in Canada, we’d answer “British Columbia” (where we live). No bias, really!
So now you know why there are more best places to visit in Western Canada on our bucket list than Eastern Canadian places!
Okay, let’s drill down…
Best places to visit in British Columbia
The most western province is British Columbia.
It’s a place of coastal rainforests, beaches, misty mountains, warm lakes, vineyards and idyllic islands.
And it’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts – you can swim, sail, ski, golf, kayak, hike, fish, mountain bike, go whale watching and more. (In Vancouver, you could even ski the North Shore Mountains, then go sailing or golfing the same day!)
Simply put, some of the best adventures can be enjoyed in B.C.
Let’s start our British Columbia bucket list with one of the most beautiful Canadian cities – Victoria. It’s the capital of British Columbia. (We count ourselves blessed to call Victoria home!)
And you’re forgiven if you think you’ve stepped back in time to Olde England in the heart of Victoria.
With its century-old Parliament Buildings, horse-and-carriage rides and tea parlors serving proper pinkies-up afternoon tea, Victoria exudes a decidedly British vibe.
But the shops on Government Street selling wild smoked salmon gifts and wool sweaters, hand-knitted by Cowichan First Nation artisans, remind you that you’re in Canada!
If you visit in the summer, beat the heat by hitting some of Victoria’s best beaches and swimming holes. Willows Beach is one of the most popular sandy beaches, and it’s just a 10- to 15-minute drive from downtown.
There are many scenic walks in Victoria.
A crowd-pleaser is the path winding along Victoria’s Inner Harbor, one of the world’s most beautiful waterfronts. You can walk for miles along its pedestrian seaside promenade.
Victoria Harbour Ferries also offers rides on cute little water taxis (called “pickle boats”) to cross the Inner Harbor – perhaps to a brewpub?
The Gorge Waterway tour on a pickle boat is a great sightseeing tour, where you can learn a bit about Victoria’s history too.
One of the most magical places in Canada for a laid-back seaside holiday is Salt Spring Island.
Take the ferry from Victoria (#1) or Vancouver to get there. The island has several charming B&B’s and inns, and the main town of Ganges has some appealing restaurants. (Fresh oysters, anyone?)
Salt Spring is a sanctuary for artists, poets and writers, so you’ll discover many artists’ studios and galleries; you’re welcome to pop into them.
And if you hike up Mount Erskine, you’ll see sweet “fairy doors” carved by locals. If you believe in magic, it’s said that fairies live in wee houses behind them.
Also don’t miss the Salt Spring Saturday Market in the summer months – pick up some island-made goat cheese and other goodies.
You can rent e-bikes to pedal a spectacularly scenic 17-mile (28-km) loop around part of the island.
Who would have thought Canada has a “surfing capital”? Well, that’s Tofino.
Tofino is a seaside boho-chic town on the west coast of Vancouver Island, where locals and visitors alike are surf crazy.
Hiking rainforest trails to mystical beaches in nearby Pacific Rim National Park is also popular.
Then there’s Long Beach, an eerily beautiful 10-mile (16-km) stretch of sandy beach, where the mist rolls in most mornings, shrouding everything in silver-grey gauze.
Tofino was once favored just as a summer destination.
But now the small town also lures visitors from all over the world for winter storm watching. The waves are wicked to watch! Some oceanfront lodges pipe in the sounds of the storms.
When the winter weather is wild, there’s no cozier place to be than Tofino.
With some of the loveliest scenery in Canada, Tofino is one of our happy places, both in winter and summer.
If you drive north up Vancouver Island almost to the end, you reach teeny-tiny Telegraph Cove.
Grizzly bear viewing? Killer whale watching? Telegraph Cove is a popular place to visit in British Columbia for adventure hounds.
A former fishing and cannery village, Telegraph Cove is one of the last remaining boardwalk settlements left on Vancouver Island.
Its colorful wooden buildings have been turned into a quaint eco-tourism resort with cabins, a restaurant, various lodge accommodations and eco-tour offices.
Telegraph Cove is the gateway to Johnstone Strait – home to a large resident pod of killer whales (orcas) and a world-famous site for sea kayaking with these majestic mammals.
Day tours are also offered from Telegraph Cove to view wild grizzly bears at Knight Inlet, Canada’s premier grizzly bear viewing destination.
Think California’s Napa Valley.
Then add a sparkling 60-mile (96-km) lake, perfect for swimming and boating. Throw in awesome bicycle trails through vineyards and over trestle bridges (like the Kettle Valley Rail Trail). Blend with apple and cherry orchards, rocky crags for rock climbing (that’s the Skaha Bluffs) and freshwater river channels for tubing.
Now you have the Okanagan Valley – without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places to visit in Canada!
With some 200 wineries, the wine tasting is phenomenal. Take a road trip along the length of the valley to explore the different wineries.
Vineyard restaurants specialize in farm-to-table dining, and several vineyards have adorable B&B lodgings too. (There are some particularly good winery restaurants in Naramata.)
We’ve spent many recent holidays in the Okanagan, mixing up wine tasting with bicycling, hiking and swimming. Intoxicating, to say the least!
And if you can’t visit the Okanagan personally, you can always order some of their wines from the winery or a good Canadian wine club.
Like Victoria (see #1), Vancouver is also one of the most popular places to visit in Canada. A big reason? Stanley Park.
Right in the city center, Stanley Park is one of the world’s largest urban parks (bigger than Central Park in New York City).
It comprises 1,000 acres of natural coniferous forest – laced with hiking trails, flower gardens and a small lake (Lost Lagoon) with fountains and ducks.
Oh, and let’s not forget its beaches! Second Beach and Third Beach are great for swimming and lazing about in the sun in summer.
Vancouver is home to several lovely gardens and parks (the VanDusen Botanical Garden is another top one). But if you only have time to visit one, make it Stanley Park.
You get gob-smacking views when you bicycle around Stanley Park on its oceanfront Seawall.
Continue beyond Stanley Park and you can pedal for another 13 miles (22 km) on an extension of this bicycle-friendly waterfront path, all the way to Kits Beach.
Where to go in Canada in winter? Do you love schussing down the slopes?
Then Whistler – site of the 2010 Winter Olympics and one of the best ski resorts in North America – will be one of your favorite Canadian places to visit in winter.
Together, the two mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb are renowned for their awesome skiing and snowboarding. They offer 200+ marked runs, 16 alpine bowls, three glaciers and 8,171 acres of snowy terrain.
We actually prefer Whistler in summer though.
We’re addicted to bicycling the 25 miles (40 km) of flat paved bike paths, through the forest, that connects five lovely lakes.
We also love canoeing the River of Golden Dreams. The river’s name is dreamy, and so is the canoeing!
And if you golf, you’ll be in golf heaven teeing off on Whistler’s four award-winning courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Arnold Palmer and Robert Cupp.
When driving up from Vancouver (the easiest way to get to Whistler), be sure to stop at Brandywine Falls for the short 10-minute walk to see the thundering 220-foot (70-meter) falls.
Whistler’s Peak 2 Peak gondola is the world’s highest lift – 1,427 feet (436 meters) above the valley floor. It runs from Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb Mountain – and is the world’s longest unsupported lift span.
Take the ride of your life and get in one of the gondola cars with a glass floor, then glide in the air almost 2 miles (3+ km). Warning: Not for those afraid of heights.
For a lazy summer vacation, Galiano is heaven for hikers, kayakers and nature lovers.
You can bicycle the island’s entire length and back in a day and hike up Bluffs Park to watch orcas (killer whales) feed in Active Pass.
Dozens of beaches are also inviting places to swim and beachcomb.
Go kayaking at night on a bioluminescence paddling tour, where fish swimming through the water leave behind sparkling streaks of light.
If you seek unspoiled wilderness, get thee to Wells Gray Provincial Park.
It’s so raw and wild that the 1.3 million-acre park almost has a Jurassic Park feel (but the cedar, Douglas Fir and hemlock trees are distinctly Canadian).
The park’s unique volcanic plateaus and deep canyons are the result of ancient volcanic eruptions followed by glacial cooling. Naturally, the rugged landscape includes some incredible hiking trails.
It’s common to spot mule deer, and in September, jumping Chinook salmon. And you may see black bears (so be bear-safe).
Known as Canada’s waterfall park, Wells Gray is home to 41 named waterfalls.
Hurtling down 463 feet (141 meters), Helmcken Falls is the most famous. And at Moul Falls, you can walk through to the cave wall behind the falls and feel the power of nature (and the refreshing spray!) from a totally different perspective.
Added bonus: Many of the waterfalls, including Helmcken, can be reached via a short walk or hike.
Do you go gaga over gardens? Then put Butchart Gardens on your list of attractions you must see in Canada.
One of the most beautiful gardens in the world, Butchart welcomes over one million visitors a year. A full-time staff of 50 gardeners makes sure everything looks immaculate.
Smell the roses, delight in the dancing fountain, get lost in the tall hedge maze and find your Zen in the tranquil Japanese maple garden.
In July and August, a blockbuster fireworks show (choreographed to music) is held on Saturday nights.
Go early to get in, because the show – choreographed by Christopher Ross (great-grandson of the garden’s founder, Jennie Butchart) – is very popular.
Calling all hikers! Joffre Lakes is one of the best places to go in Canada for an impossibly scenic hike.
An easy day trip from Whistler (see #7), Joffre Lakes is a trio of take-your-breath-away turquoise lakes, nestled in the mountains.
The total hike is a little more than 6 miles (10 km) roundtrip, with an easy-to-moderate elevation gain of 1,300 feet (400 meters). But you won’t be thinking about how long it takes to get there, because you’ll be too focused on enjoying the forest scenery.
Each of the three lakes is more beautiful than the one before! So there’s a real incentive to keep on hiking to the third lake (Upper Lake).
Parksville is a charming resort destination on the east coast of Vancouver Island.
Its long sandy beaches – with warm shallow swimming – are the star attraction. But you can also see goats grazing on a grass roof building in nearby Coombs, golf, explore the crystalline Horne Lake Caves and soak in a grotto spa.
Families, in particular, love summer vacations in Parksville and nearby Qualicum Beach.
At low tide, the ocean water rolls back almost a mile (1.6 km) at Rathtrevor Beach, exposing a vast sun-baked expanse of sand.
You can go beachcombing and see zillions of tiny crabs, giant snails, sand dollars and other marine critters in the tidal pools. Kids love this.
And when the tide rolls in, the swimming is some of the warmest in Canada.
In the heart of Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, Nimmo Bay is a wonderfully remote bay about 200 miles (320 km) northwest of Vancouver.
The only way to get there is by float plane (or high-speed boat ride) from Vancouver Island.
Ocean kayaking? Bear viewing? Fly fishing? Hiking? Whale watching? Heli-bicycling? This is your wilderness paradise.
The deluxe Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort has a unique wood-fired floating sauna. You have to paddle a SUP board or kayak to reach it.
And the food at the resort is gourmet, with pre-dinner cocktails served outside around a firepit on a floating fire dock.
For a pampered wilderness escape, Nimmo Bay Resort is one of the top places to go in Canada in the summer – the perfect place for a splurge!
Along with Stanley Park (#6), Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is one of the coolest outdoor parks in Vancouver!
The first suspension bridge in the park was built of ropes and cedar planks in 1889.
Rebuilt in 1956, it’s suspended 230 feet (70 meters) above Capilano River. Several other bridges, treehouses and overlooks have been added to the collection since then.
You can easily spend a whole day here – crossing the swinging bridges, wandering among the Douglas fir and red cedar trees, learning about forest sustainability and bridge engineering, taking nature photos and soaking in the gorgeous landscape.
The heart-stopping Cliffwalk is a series of narrow cantilevered walkways, jutting out from the canyon wall, 300 feet (91 meters) high above the river and forest floor.
The experience of walking along it is terrifying and exhilarating – especially when looking down through the glass floor viewpoint.
If you can swing a visit to Haida Gwaii when sightseeing in Canada, you won't regret it.
Haida Gwaii, a Pacific archipelago off the northern BC coast, is the home of the Haida people and home to Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.
“Haida Gwaii” means “Islands of Beauty,” and they are well-named. Ringed with rocky shorelines, the mystical southern islands are often shrouded in mist. In the surrounding waters, giant kelp floats on the surface and sea lions poke their heads above the water.
You can take a multi-day sea kayaking trip, shorter boat trip or seaplane down to the national park to explore these tiny remote wooded islands in the south. Keep your eyes peeled for humpback whales, orcas, bald eagles and black bears!
The national historic site of SG̱ang Gwaay Llanagaay (Ninstints in English) is a former Haida village that’s home to the largest collection of totem poles in their natural setting in the world.
The poles, many truly works of art, are slowly decaying and returning to nature, in accordance with Haida beliefs.
Seeing them in the early morning fog, as they gaze steadily out to sea, guarded by golden spruce and reflected in the still waters, is something you’ll never forget.
Best places to visit in Alberta
Alberta is a province of contrasts.
Two of the best destinations to visit in Canada are here: Jasper National Park (#16) and Banff National Park (#20).
The Icefields Parkway – one of the top drives in the world – connects the two parks.
Replete with majestic mountain ranges, they’re some of the world’s oldest national protected areas.
And then you have the prairie grasslands to the east.
By the way, Edmonton is the capital of Alberta.
As the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies – spanning 4,247 sq. miles (11,000 sq. km) – Jasper is simply one of the best Canadian places to visit.
Less busy than more-famous Banff National Park (#20), Jasper is spectacular.
It’s known for its rugged mountain peaks, rushing rivers, glittering lakes, jaw-dropping canyons and tons of local wildlife, from bighorn sheep to elk.
What to do?
Hike Maligne Canyon and the Old Fort Point Trail for breathtaking views. Paddle a canoe at Maligne Lake. Ride the Jasper SkyTram gondola up 7,400 feet (2,263 meters) to the top of Whistlers Mountain. And go white-water rafting down the Athabasca River.
If you prefer to take it easy, soak in the Miette Hot Springs (natural outdoor mineral pools).
Elk. Elk. And more elk! Wherever you go, you’ll see wild elk.
About 1,300 elk live in Jasper National Park. The large antlers on the bulls are quite the sight!
Elk Island National Park was established as a sanctuary for bison (which were on the brink of extinction). The forested preserve protects elk, deer and moose too, and it’s home to some 200 species of birds.
Drive through the park to see bison roaming freely. They’re the largest land animal in North America.
As well as being a refuge for bison, Elk Island National Park is a Dark Sky Preserve and one of the best places in Canada to see the Aurora Borealis.
If you’re lucky, you can shoot some fabulous Northern Lights photos at night!
As the most photographed lake in Canada, there’s no question Moraine Lake should be on your list of things to see in Canada!
It was even featured on the back of Canada’s $20 bills issued between 1969 and 1979.
The major draw to Moraine Lake is simply its stunning beauty.
This alpine lake in Banff National Park (see #20) is an impossibly turquoise lake, set against a backdrop of the towering Ten Peaks mountains. Oh wait, the lake is blue. No, it’s more an emerald color.
The color is actually hard to pin down, because it changes over the summer and at different times in the day.
Lovely walking trails to lake viewpoints include the Lakeshore Trail and the famous Rockpile Viewpoint trail. Longer hiking trails include the Larch Valley Trail (where the larch trees turn a dazzling gold color in autumn) and Consolation Lakes Trail.
But no worries if you don’t want to hike. You can still take in spectacular views of the lake with a coffee in hand from the nearby café, or even rent a kayak and get out on the water.
Because it’s such a popular destination, snagging a parking space at Moraine Lake can be challenging. For this reason, it’s best to visit early in the morning before the sun rises, or later in the day as the sun is setting.
Alternatively, shuttles to Moraine Lake are available from Banff and Lake Louise.
Moraine lake’s 50 shades of blue are so bewitching that many people say the lake is the most beautiful spot in the Canadian Rockies. And that’s saying a lot!
Dinosaur lovers should definitely visit Drumheller, a town in the heart of the Alberta Badlands (about a 90-minute drive from Calgary) – and one of the most unique places to visit in Canada.
The area surrounding Drumheller is where some of the world’s most extraordinary paleological discoveries have been made over the last century.
You can see most of them in the renowned Royal Tyrell Museum.
Dedicate at least a day to visiting this museum – the exhibits are engrossing. You’ll find sections recreating life in the region in prehistoric times, beautiful fossil galleries and the Dinosaur Hall, which showcases the most impressive skeletons.
After visiting the museum, explore the Badlands. The easiest way to do so is by driving the Dinosaur Trail, a 30-mile (48-km) scenic drive taking in hoodoos, canyons and other remarkable geological features.
The almost complete free-standing skeleton of a formidable T-Rex dinosaur in the museum’s Dinosaur Hall takes you back in time to the ancient world of dinosaurs.
“Black Beauty” – a rare blackened skull of a Tyrannosaurusrex over 4 feet (1.3 meters) long – is another eye-popping exhibit.
If this is your first trip to Canada – and you crave the outdoors – visiting Banff is undoubtedly on your list of Canada must-see places, right?
Located in the Rocky Mountains, Banff National Park is an OMG amazing place, especially for hikers. It boasts some of the best hikes and most beautiful scenery in the world, with hiking routes that explore glaciers, alpine forests, glacial lakes (hello Lake Louise!) and jaw dropping mountains.
All in all, the park encompasses a massive 2,564 square miles (6,641 sq. km.), offering over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of well maintained trails that can be enjoyed by all, from novices to advanced hikers.
Visiting – and hiking in – Banff National Park is simply one of the best things to do in Canada!
So you can't wait to go? Know that the best time of year to hike in Banff is June to August.
One of the most popular hikes, the Johnston Canyon trail near the town of Banff, winds along the edge of a dramatic canyon – sculpted by a rushing river – to two thundering waterfalls. In some places, you tread along a steel catwalk built along the canyon’s side.
Another great hike is the 2.2-mile (3.6-km) switch-back path from Lake Louise to the Lake Agnes Tea House. Despite no running water or electricity, the tea house bakes delicious cakes fresh onsite, with supplies flown in by helicopter or packed up the trail by staff.
If you’re keen on First Nations’ history and culture, one of the most interesting places in Canada to visit is Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump. (Don’t you love the name?)
A UNESCO Site, it’s one of the best-preserved buffalo jumps in the world.
It’s the place where the most suspenseful event for the Blackfoot people occurred each year. They’d carefully herd the buffalo without alerting them. The wind had to be perfect, or the buffalo would sense something was amiss and flee in the wrong direction, wrecking the plan.
Once the Blackfoot hunters succeeded in rounding up the buffalo, they’d start chasing them towards a steep cliff – the buffalo jump. By the time the buffalo in front saw the cliff, they’d be pushed over the precipice from behind by the stampeding herd, falling to their deaths.
This hunt may sound shocking to us today, but buffalo meat was an essential food source for the Blackfoot.
A triumphant hunt meant they’d survive the long harsh Alberta winters. A failed one meant that some tribal members would die from starvation.
Being able to visit the actual place where this momentous event occurred annually for 5,500 years – and learning about everything needed for a successful buffalo hunt – is humbling and reminds us how hard life was just a short while ago.
One of the prettiest lakes in Canada is Emerald Lake – and it should be on everyone’s Canada travel bucket list.
The lake gets its name and radiant green color from light reflecting off white deposits of marl, which is a mixture of clay and calcium carbonate.
Nestled within Yoho National Park, in the Canadian Rockies’ mountain range, Emerald Lake is accessible year-round.
It’s great to stroll around or go for a canoe tour during the summer months. In winter, enjoy the snowy weather with a stay at the lovely Emerald Lake Lodge.
It’s easy to visit Yoho National Park on a day trip from Banff or Lake Louise – it takes about 40 minutes to an hour to reach Yoho.
The rich color of Emerald Lake makes it a poster child for all the Insta-worthy sights the Canadian Rockies are known for!
Yee-haw! Put on a cowboy hat and boots and celebrate the Old West at the rowdy Calgary Stampede.
Known as the “greatest outdoor show on earth,” the event has one of the largest rodeo tournaments in the world. You’ll see cowboys and cowgirls barrel racing, bull riding and trying their best to stay on bucking broncos.
There are also many other fun things to do at the Calgary Stampede, besides watching the rodeo.
Spend some time on the fairgrounds and enjoy the carnival rides, eat delicious hot dogs from food trucks, see if you have what it takes on the mechanical bull, listen to live country music and party into the night.
The Stampede has made Calgary one of the most famous places in Canada. And for good reason!
Being part of an authentic western tradition over 100 years old – and seeing the best cowboys and cowgirls from all over the world compete – is a truly Canadian bucket list experience you don’t want to miss.
The epic Smutwood Peak trail in the Kananaskis area is one of the best day hikes in the Canadian Rockies.
But it’s long (12.5 miles or 20 km), strenuous (3,100-ft or 950-m elevation gain) and not suitable for those who don’t like heights or narrow breezy ridges.
Stick with it, though, and you’re rewarded with phenomenal views and that amazing top-of-the-world feeling at the end.
Along the way you, you hike through photogenic forest, with mountains rising up around you. Once you reach the Birdwood Lakes, the scenery becomes truly stunning, getting better as you climb the final hour to the peak.
The trailhead is about an hour south of the Alberta hiking mecca of Canmore.
Apart from the unbeatable view, you’ll probably only see a handful of other hikers, even on a weekend.
Lethbridge, the third largest city in Alberta, is home to one of the most beautiful Japanese gardens in Canada.
Hugging the shore of Henderson Lake, Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden was created in 1967, Canada’s centennial, to celebrate the contributions of the Japanese to the area. Its name means “Japan-Canada Friendship.”
The serene, gorgeously manicured garden is replete with symbolism, bringing together stone lanterns, wooden bridges, pink blossoming trees and other Japanese elements in a Canadian landscape.
Take a peaceful stroll through the garden. Meditate beside trickling streams. And sign up for a variety of cultural activities, including doing yoga in the garden or participating in the Ochakai (Tea) Ceremony.
Taking part in the traditional time-honored tea ceremony is a lovely way to experience the tranquility of this Japanese garden.
If ever there was a Canadian hike to return to in different seasons, it’s the trail to Chester Lake in Kananaskis Country.
The hike starts out on a wide trail, where you’ll get all the elevation over with in the first 2.2 miles (3.5 km). From there, the forest opens up for some stunning mountain views.
In summer, take your time hiking through the alpine meadow, where you’ll be treated to a show of wild flowers against a backdrop of craggy mountains.
The fall rewards hikers with a smattering of Larch trees, whose leaves turn a brilliant gold color in September.
In winter, Chester Lake is frequented by snowshoers and hikers traversing a winter wonderland of snow-capped mountains and snow-covered firs, cedars and other evergreen trees.
The final reward is, of course, Chester Lake, flanked by mountain scenery on all sides. Reaching it is worth every step.
Chester Lake and the surrounding mountains deliver more than enough “wow.” But walking along the left side of the lake takes you to the Elephant Rocks. These impressive boulders are well worth the side trip!
Best places to visit in Saskatchewan and Manitoba
Drive east from Alberta on the Trans-Canada Highway, and those flat prairies extend as far as the eye can see in Saskatchewan.
It’s very much an outdoor province, and its cities are small and few. Saskatoon is the biggest city, but Regina is its capital.
Continue east, and you come to Manitoba – a province with more prairies in the south and undeveloped wilderness in the north.
The polar bear capital of the world, Churchill (#28 below), is found in the wilds of northern Manitoba.
One of the really cool places to visit in Canada (literally!), Churchill is renowned for its polar bear viewing.
With so many beautiful places in Canada, it's easy to overlook Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan. But if you like rolling prairies, clear blue skies, bison and solitude, this starkly scenic park is for you.
The park is divided into two sections: the West Block and the East Block. The West Block can be accessed via Val Marie While and the East Block via Killdeer.
A highlight of the West Block is visiting the Bison Facility, where you can learn about the 300+ wild bison that roam freely within the park.
In the East Block, drive along the 7-mile (11-km) stretch of Badlands Parkway, with numerous outstanding viewpoints, and soak in the endless prairie and unique Mars-like badlands scenery.
The park is the darkest “Dark Sky Preserve” in Canada – and one of the best things to do in Grasslands National Park is stargazing. With very little light pollution at night, you can admire the Milky Way and star constellations in all their glory.
If you spend enough time in Churchill, Manitoba, there’s a chance you might spot a polar bear lurking outside your window or bump into one in the main street after dark.
Located 1,000 miles (1,600 km) to the north of Winnipeg, Churchill is a remote town on the shores of Hudson Bay.
Normally, the town’s population is around 900. That swells to some 10,000 during polar bear season each autumn. For around four to five weeks, Churchill becomes a bustling tourist town.
That’s when about 1,000 polar bears wake up from their hibernation and migrate almost right through Churchill to Hudson Bay. There, they wait for the water to freeze, so they can walk across the ice to hunt seals.
Viewing wild polar bears in their natural habitat in Churchill is a unique experience. For wildlife lovers, Churchill is hands-down one of the best places in Canada to visit in the fall.
Most of the polar bear spotting occurs around Hudson Bay and on the tundra near the town, either from the safety of large tundra buggies or from a wildlife lodge.
You get to see polar bears really close (like six feet away) and can shoot spectacular photos of them. The bears are used to the tundra buggies and lodges, and walk right up to them.
Best places to visit in Quebec and Ontario
The next province east of Manitoba is Ontario.
Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is found here. So is Toronto, Canada’s largest city.
Another one of the must-visit places in Canada – the world-famous Niagara Falls – also has one foot in Ontario (and the other in New York state, south of the Canada/U.S. border).
And then there’s la belle province – Quebec!
The largest province in Canada, Quebec is mostly French speaking. It’s the home of poutine, Celine Dion and Cirque du Soleil.
Set on an island in the Saint Lawrence River, Montreal is the largest city in Quebec. But Quebec City, one of the oldest European cities in North America, is Quebec’s capital.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Canada, the CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario, is sometimes referred to as “The Needle.”
Dominating Toronto’s skyline, the slender tree-shaped structure – at 1,815.29 feet (553.3 meters) – is far higher than any other building in the city. It’s also the highest structure in Canada.
In fact, the CN Tower held the record for the world’s tallest free-standing structure for 32 years, from the time it was built in 1976 until it was eclipsed by the Burj Khalifa (2,720 feet/830 meters) in the UAE.
The main attraction is the view, of course. The LookOut and SkyPod (1,465 feet/446 meters) both offer astounding 360-degree views of Toronto and Lake Ontario.
And then there’s the EdgeWalk – one of the most thrilling things to do in Toronto. Strapped into a harness 116 stories high above the ground, you walk around an outdoor platform – and can even lean back over the city, looking up at the sky. It’s the highest outdoor thrill walk in the world.
Or, for a more comfortable option, you can indulge in fine dining in the revolving restaurant.
From the SkyPod, you can see up to 100 miles (160 km) on a clear day – all the way to Niagara Falls (see #30 next).
Ask any Canadian about the best places to visit in Canada – and Niagara Falls is always one of the answers.
In fact, it’s one of the top tourist attractions in all of North America, luring 13 million visitors a year. It was even the “Honeymoon Capital of the World” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Over 3,000 tons of water flow over Niagara Falls every second, making this epic natural wonder a sight worth seeing up close!
Arguably the best place to see Niagara Falls is from the Canadian side, in the town of – you guessed it – Niagara Falls. You don’t even need to leave your car as the falls can be seen from the main road on the way to the parking lots, just past the visitor center.
But to really experience the majesty of this landmark, join the tour that takes you behind the curtain of the falls.
On this tour, an elevator whisks you down 125 feet (38 meters) through underground rock to tunnels, which lead you to observation decks behind the crashing falls. You won’t believe the roar of the water thundering down at 40 mph (65 km/h)!
If you think seeing the falls during the day is impressive, try seeing them illuminated in a multitude of colors every night.
The fireworks display on weekend nights in summer is also sensational.
Part of a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Bruce Peninsula National Park is frequently referred to as the most beautiful place in Ontario.
The park boasts tall limestone cliffs, with stupendous views at the cliff edges of the clear waters of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron.
For nature lovers, it’s a dream destination, with many hiking trails passing caves, rock formations and lookout points. As well as hiking, you can also kayak, canoe, scuba dive and much more!
The park is the most popular place to camp within Ontario, with campsites selling out months in advance. So reserve early if you’re interested in camping within the park.
The park is home to the famous Grotto, a natural limestone cave with crystal-clear water for swimming.
Craving European flair without leaving Canada? Then look no further than Old Quebec City!
Old Quebec City (in Quebec province) is the birthplace of French Canada. It’s one of the oldest cities in North America – and the only walled city north of Mexico. This, plus its 400 year-old-history, landed the city a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in 1985.
Historical Old Quebec City is full of charm – from the cobblestone streets and sidewalk cafes down to the enchanting alleyways where you might find a local painter marking up a canvas when inspiration strikes.
Spend your time strolling along the quaint streets of Quartier Petit Champlain and Vieux-Port. Wander into antique shops and art galleries. And check out local souvenirs to take home – perhaps maple syrup for lucky friends and family?
No doubt about it, Quebec City is one of the best cities to visit in Canada for history and culture buffs.
In the heart of Old Quebec City, the world-famous Château Frontenac is said to be the world's most photographed hotel!
Once you see the castle-like hotel with its fairy-tale turrets and towers overlooking the St. Lawrence River, you’ll understand why. You can pop inside and look around too (guided tours are also offered).
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a charming Victorian town, only 20 minutes from Niagara Falls (#30), filled with tree-lined streets and lush boulevard gardens.
It’s one of Canada’s best-kept secrets and a definite “bucket list Canada” place to visit.
Some of its attractions include boutique shopping, art galleries, a world-class theater, scenic views, 5-star restaurants and gorgeous AirBnbs. Perfect for both girls’ getaways and romantic escapes, a visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake can be enjoyed year-round.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is in the heart of Ontario’s wine country.
It’s surrounded by over 25 wineries within a few minutes’ drive, dotted along the Niagara Escarpment, and draws visitors from all over keen to experience its food and wine.
Well, we just have to include Ottawa in our Canada travel guide, right? After all, it’s Canada's capital city and full of historic sites!
Visit Parliament Hill. Admire head-scratching art at the National Gallery of Canada. And take in one of the city’s excellent museums, like the Canadian Museum of Nature or the Canadian War Museum.
In winter, you can skate along the Rideau Canal (connected to the Ottawa River by eight locks), all the way from downtown Ottawa to Dows Lake – making this the world’s largest naturally-frozen skating rink.
Best places to visit in Atlantic Canada
New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island (PEI), Newfoundland and Labrador make up Atlantic Canada, the provinces with coastlines bordering the Atlantic Ocean.
The three Maritime provinces – New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI – are somewhat similar.
But with Irish, French and indigenous roots, the culture of Canada’s easternmost province, Newfoundland and Labrador, is unique.
“Newfies” have a distinct dialect and accent.
They love to dance a jig (their music inspired by sea shanties).
And on Sundays, they traditionally eat a Jiggs dinner (boiled corned beef, cabbage, turnip, potato, carrots and pease pudding).
Dreamers? Luxury lovers? Hideaway seekers? Fogo Island – one of the best places to visit in Newfoundland – is for you.
To experience cool coastal landscapes combined with the warmest hospitality, remote Fogo Island, off the shore of Newfoundland and Labrador in Atlantic Canada, is the ultimate place to go.
It’s a rugged and windswept island, dotted with brightly colored houses and fishing stages (platforms built at the water’s edge for cleaning and salting cod).
In the spring, monolithic icebergs drift by, and in the summer, whales feed along the coastline.
The island is also criss-crossed by over 125 miles (200 km) of scenic hiking trails – you can stop in at local art studios on the way.
There’s also a diverse foodie scene, but don’t miss the fish-and-chips, a Newfoundland specialty.
And wherever you go on Fogo Island, you’ll meet the friendliest people who delight in sharing a beverage (or two!) and a story.
The 29-suite Fogo Island Inn is a deluxe Nordic-style hotel, built on stilts at the edge of the Atlantic – its dramatic architecture matches the dramatic views.
For one of the best vacation spots in Canada, head to Prince Edward Island. It looks like it was plucked right from a story book!
Known for its connection to “Anne of Green Gables,” the island is more than just the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s lovable character, however.
The island is also a place of lighthouses, national parks, perfect potatoes (the iron-rich soil ensures the growth of high quality potatoes), charming fishing villages and fresh lobster galore.
The best way to spend time on Prince Edward Island is by simply relaxing.
When you feel like some outdoor activities, you can bicycle all or part of the mostly flat 270-mile (435-km) Confederation Trail.
Also go clam digging. Walk the floating boardwalk over marshland in Greenwich. And sample seafood in Charlottetown and Summerside.
Be sure you spend at least 3 days on Prince Edward Island to fully experience its delights.
There are 63 lighthouses on PEI, each with its own story.
The Cape Bear Lighthouse had a wireless station which received the first distress call from the sinking Titanic.
And you can sleep in the lighthouse keeper’s quarters at the West Point Lighthouse, which has been turned into a 4-star inn with 13 rooms.
Best places to visit in Yukon and Territories
There are three territories in Canada – Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
They’re scarcely populated, with Inuit people living in the far North toward the Arctic.
But this vast remote place of snow, ice, mountains, forests and islands makes up almost half of Canada’s land mass.
If you consider yourself an off-the-beaten-path traveler, Nunavut is one of the top places to visit in Canada for you.
This Arctic wonderland in the Great White North is one of the least visited regions in Canada, but you’ll discover some of the most incredible experiences here.
Wildlife viewing opportunities are unmatched – you can see polar bears, narwhals, beluga whales and caribou. Snowmobile across the arctic tundra, sea kayak among massive icebergs and watch the northern lights light up the sky.
This is an outdoor lover’s paradise!
Getting to Nunavut is actually pretty simple; you can fly directly into the capital of Iqaluit from Ottawa or Montreal.
Once you arrive, you should stay five days at the very least, though you may never want to leave.
The raw arctic landscape and unique culture of the Inuit people who live in Nunavut will truly transport you to another world!
That’s our list of best places to travel in Canada!
But we’re positive we haven’t captured all the must-see and most beautiful places in Canada.
Maybe you’ve been somewhere you think should be on our great Canadian bucket list?
Our top travel tips and resources
Here are our favorite travel resources:
Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)
Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).
Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out GetYourGuide and Viator.
Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.
Travel insurance: World Nomads travel insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, with coverage for more than 150 activities, as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.
Vaccines and meds: We follow CDC travel guidelines to see what medications and vaccines are needed for trips. You can get vaccines at your pharmacy, travel medical clinic or doctor’s office.
Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)
Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.
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Photo credits: 12, 16 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase
About the authors
Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.
Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!
Mary O. Greenberg
Tuesday 2nd of February 2021
Janice & George, I really enjoyed reading your wonderful Canada bucket list guide. What a thoughtful pandemic project to help us keep those travel dreams spinning!
Janice and George
Tuesday 2nd of February 2021
Thanks for the kind words!
It was fun to put this together :-).