From Banff to Baffin Island, from Tofino to Toronto, Canada is a remarkable country. Whether you’re a hard-core adrenaline junkie looking for a backcountry adventure, an explorer heading out on a big road trip, a city-lover hunting for cutting-edge culture and fine cuisine or a combination of all the above, Canada ticks all the boxes.
Stretching 5,500km (3,400 miles) from the Atlantic to the Yukon-Alaska border, the world’s second largest country boasts an astonishing diversity of landscapes: rugged, unspoilt coastline abuts immense forests and emerald lakes containing a startling array of wildlife; vast, seemingly endless prairies become jaw-droppingly beautiful mountain ranges; laid-back, cosmopolitan cities are complemented by remote, quirky outposts.
Canada’s people too are enormously varied, from the indigenous Inuit in the Arctic to First Nations communities, 1960s and 70s British expats, fiercely proud Francophone peoples and a burgeoning Asian population. Their genuine friendliness and warmth is immediately apparent to visitors.
Canadian cities are progressive, vibrant and regularly feature on ‘best places to live’ lists - Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal have all at some point featured on Mercer’s Quality of Life Survey, usually scoring in the top 30. Toronto, a veritable patchwork of diverse neighbourhoods, sits in an enviable location on the shore of Lake Ontario whilst Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, contains a clutch of great museums and the pretty Rideau Canal for ice skating in winter. Montreal’s skyscrapers belie its French heritage, but look closer and you’ll stumble upon historic, cobbled streets and centuries-old customs. A stone’s throw from the Canadian Rockies, booming Calgary oozes oil wealth and flaunts its cowboy traditions; chilled-out Vancouver, meanwhile, seems to have it all: mountains, beaches, an incredible downtown park and terrific food.
Whilst you’re out and about enjoying the cities, don’t forget about the experiences Canada delivers. You can ski steep chutes in British Columbia, kayak secluded bays in Nova Scotia or learn to lasso at an Albertan ranch. You can capture grizzlies on camera in the Yukon, watch open-mouthed as mammoth icebergs drift past the Newfoundland coast or listen in awe to the deafening roar of Niagara Falls. You can tour vineyards, dig for clams or slice through a succulent steak.
Canada is a nation of immigrants and thus truly cosmopolitan – around 20% of the population are foreign-born (rising to 45% in Toronto). While other countries have eschewed immigration, Canada has recognised its importance to economic and social development, and continues to welcome vast numbers of young, skilled and highly educated workers from overseas each year. Indeed, in 2010, over 280,000 new permanent residents came to Canada, the largest number in more than 50 years. And contrary to the waves of migration from Europe in the first half of the 20th century, the majority of recent immigrants come from Asia. Thanks to its cautious fiscal policies, Canada’s economy has remained reasonably buoyant during the global financial crisis, and it remains one of the world’s wealthiest nations and a highly desirable place to work and do business.
With its staggeringly beautiful scenery, multitude of outdoor activities, forward-looking cities and huge swathes of uninhabited wilderness, Canada offers countless opportunities to travellers.