Affordable Travel Guide to Canada

One of the Top Travel Destinations, a Land of Great Contrasts


When our editorial team was selecting the lead photograph to accompany this article, we were stumped. And we live in Canada! A picture of Mountains? We have lots of those. Prairies? Three provinces worth. Oceans? Yes: Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic. Valleys? Okanagan, Annapolis. What about world-class cities? Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver… The list goes on. Wildlife? Yes, in the wilderness and in the best bars in the big cities! We toyed with the idea of a far north shot, something from Nunavut, for example, but too many people in the world think two things of Canada that are completely wrong: 1. we are part of the U.S.A. (they’re our neighbors and friends, but we are not the same); and everyone lives in igloos.

I can hear laughter, but that is a common misconception. Do you know that our Point Pelee parklands in southwestern Ontario, are further south than the top of northern California? It’s true! Canada has several wine regions that produce award-winning vintages: the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, our westernmost province, the Annapolis and Gaspereau Valleys in Nova Scotia on the east coast, the Niagara Peninsula in southern Ontario, and Price Edward County, a small island in Lake Ontario, also in the province of Ontario. You can’t make wine in an igloo. I rest my case.

Given that Canada is the second largest country in the world, it has a relatively small population, less than 35 million, most of whom live within about two hours of the border to the south, shared with the U.S.A., the longest undefended border in the world! We are a Commonwealth Nation, and we still bow to Queen Elizabeth II, our monarch, but we also have a Prime Minister and British-style parliamentary system of government. It depends on what prime minister is in office as to whether or not we bow to him (or her)! While our systems are British, we have a large French population, much of that in the province of Québec, but there are also large French pockets in Manitoba and New Brunswick; the latter is the only officially bi-lingual province in the country.

We are a land of immigrants, and as such our cultural fabric is hugely varied. In the 1950s and 1960s, Europeans and Brits immigrated to Canada and helped build our cities. In the later part of the 20th century, it was Asians of every ilk that joined us and gave us their color (we spell it colour!) and customs, food and culture. It’s a diverse and fascinating land from coast to coast to coast. And it’s an awesome, awe-inspiring place to travel. We’ve got a little of just about everything in our ten provinces and three territories (from white sandy beaches and blue waters to some of the best downhill ski slopes anywhere), plus a secure monetary system, fair government, excellent human rights, a great quality of life, gender and sexual equality, and, oh, yes, sorry, pardon me, but we’re as polite as the world thinks we are (except we don’t live in igloos!).

At Affordable Travel we’ll deliver to you the Canada we know and love. We’re proud of this country and all it has to offer our millions of annual visitors. The tendency is for overseas and American travelers to see the same places: Niagara Falls, Toronto, Vancouver, Québec City. Those are superb spots, but Canada has way more to deliver. We’ll help you learn what we know about the place we call home. As wide and as big as Canada is, there is still a small-town nuance to it; we think you’ll like that balance. Here’s what we will show you about Canada, in alphabetical order by province and territory:

  • Alberta. Situated at the western edge of the prairies, with the Ricky Mountains as its border and protector, Alberta is a proud province, the seat of much of Canada’s lucrative oil and gas reserves, and with two major cities, Calgary and Edmonton (the provincial capital), bit the NHL hockey franchises, that support its vast cultural make-up. Tourists flock to mountain locales like Banff and Jasper to enjoy the air, the wildlife and the sports activities, and to Calgary for the annual rodeo, the Calgary Stampede. Alberta was once a tropical ocean and the result is staggering caches of fossils, even dinosaurs, just outside of Calgary in a spooky spot called Drumheller.
  • British Columbia. The Pacific Coast Province, with one of the largest islands in the country, Vancouver Island. Victoria, the capital of the province is on the island, but the largest city, Vancouver, rests among the coastal mountains of the mainland. B.C. is known for its Rocky Mountains, natural beauty, Pacific Rim flair, and fresh food from the sea and the land. It’s eclectic and exciting, with some of the best skiing in the world at Whistler Blackcomb. Take in the Haida culture, Stanley Park and Butchart Gardens, or visit the Olympics site buildings, now repurposed. Great shopping and countless excellent day trips are yours to be enjoyed.
  • Manitoba. This is where cultures merge: Métis, Indigenous, Anglophone, and northern European. Winnipeg, the capital city, is also one of the most arts-oriented cities in the country. Manitoba is a place of weather extremes, its flatness seemingly pulling the hot sun down in the summer, and it is legendary for its cold winters, and warm people. You’ll enjoy shopping and dining around Portage and Main downtown, and be sure to either stay at or dine (Sunday brunch is fabulous!) at the Fort Garry Hotel, a landmark property built in 1913.
  • New Brunswick. Fully bi-lingual, New Brunswick has three fairly large (by east coast standards) cities, each with its own distinct character. Saint John, in the southwest, not far from the border with Maine, is picturesque, arts-centric and serves as a major port of call for international ships, including cruises. Fredericton, the capital, sits inland on a wide river, and has a stunning historic downtown. Moncton may be best known for its Magnetic Hill theme park and massive outdoors concerts with the likes of Bon Jovi and The Rolling Stones, but it’s situation at the extreme eastern end of the Bay of Fundy, on a narrow inlet, means that visitors get to watch the bizarre tidal bores generated when the tide is shifting from in to out and vice versa.
  • Newfoundland & Labrador. The home of stalwart peoples and extreme weather, Newfoundland (the large island) and Labrador (the mainland, bordering largely on Québec), boast endless options for tourists, but tend to be visited mostly in the summer. Here is where the Vikings landed centuries ago, and where storms have taken their toll, wiping out small towns with one rogue wave. The brightly painted houses that form villages dotting the shoreline are a photographer’s dream. Watch whales, or icebergs, or the filming of Republic of Doyle, a popular private investigator series shot right in St. John’s (not to be confused with Saint John, New Brunswick!), the capital city, known for its hospitality. Your visit to “The Rock” will be memorable, no matter where you see and what you do.
  • Northwest Territories. With two of the largest freshwater lakes in the world (Great Bear Lake and Great Slave Lake), the Northwest Territories is a large swath of land that covers a big chunk of the northern area in Canada. It is an outdoors paradise, with a fairly short summer season, but it’s long on great natural splendor and down-to-earth people, largely a blend of native Canadians and European “imports”. Yellowknife, the capital, is alive with arts and the management of important northern industry such as mining. Nature lovers will revel in the beauty and solitudes of Nahanni National Park, on the Nahanni River, about five hours by car west of Yellowknife. This is unspoiled beauty defined.
  • Nova Scotia. A peninsula (the mainland) and an island (Cape Breton) comprise this beautiful and diverse province. The mainland boasts a temperate climate and is statistically the warmest place in Canada. Cape Breton island supports the oldest Celtic culture in North America, and even has a Celtic College where you can learn how to speak Gaelic. The mainland is home to gorgeous ocean-side capital city, Halifax, where half of the province’s population resides. Roughly the size and length of the U.S.A. state of Florida, Nova Scotia is angled into the Atlantic ocean and fishermen draw up some of the earth’s best lobster, haddock, scallops and sardines from these waters. Fast becoming one of the world-class wine regions, the Annapolis valley offers everything from apples to eagles, and wine tours!
  • Nunavut. This is indeed the land of ice and snow, but it also has polar bears, the incredible Northern Lights, and the midnight sun to celebrate the summer (a brief one here) solstice. With an economy based on oil, mining and hunting, Nunavut is the newest of Canada’s territories, having been confirmed in 1999, and assuming a portion of the eastern end of the Northwest Territories, and most of Canada’s Artic Archipelago, including Baffin Island. The capital, Iqaluit, is home of the legislature for Nunavut, and a distinctly northern community. With less than 32,000 residents, most of those native Inuit (what most people would refer to as “Eskimos”), and a landmass the size of Mexico, Nunavut is truly a wilderness paradise.
  • Ontario. A huge province that is home to more Canadians than any other, and more ethnic diversity, too, Ontario is a mixture of cities, rural breadbaskets and urban cool. Among its various and varied cities, is Ottawa, the national capital, a place of pomp, ceremony and culture very worth a visit. Ontario is bordered by lakes (Huron, Ontario and Erie) and has copious vacation lands, including Wasaga Beach, the longest freshwater beach on the planet. The vast wilderness and unspoiled beauty of northern Ontario is in complete contrast to the south where major cities like Toronto (the provincial capital) shine on the Lake Ontario waterfront. A city of more than 5 million, Toronto has it all! Ontario is also home to the Stratford Festival, the second largest repertory theater festival in the world, and two wine regions, plus amazing Niagara Falls. You’ll never run out of things to do!
  • Prince Edward Island. For a relatively small place, Prince Edward Island is home to several major festivals of theater and music, including the Charlottetown Festival, held in the gorgeous capital city each summer, and the Cavendish Music Festival, each July, with several genres of musical styles. Here is where Canada’s confederation, in 1867, was settled, and the island remains rich in historical interest. Most folks “from away” know “PEI” thanks to the beloved Anne of Green Gables stories of islander Lucy Maude Montgomery. The island is surrounded by beaches and blessed by the warm currents of the Gulf Stream; one entire stretch on the northwest edge is a designated national park.
  • Québec. One of the historic gems of Canada, Québec is the sole designated-French province in Canada. Visitors need not worry; English is used in almost all tourist-oriented places, like wonderful, cultural Montréal, and romantic Québec City. The only Canadian Formula One race of the year takes place on the permanent track on Ile Nôtre Dame, one of the hundreds of islands located in the mighty St. Lawrence River, upon which Montréal was built. The annual Montréal Jazz Festival is one of the world’s most attended, and is set a dozens of cool venues in downtown and Old Montréal, including the quintessential Biddle’s jazz bistro. Québec City is an idyllic spot for lovers, as well as lovers of food, art and history. Take the funicular down to the old part of the city, and to the port lands, and explore boutiques and bistros located in some of the oldest stone buildings in the country. Don’t miss the artists’ alley; pick up an original to take home.
  • Saskatchewan. The sunniest province in Canada, Saskatchewan’s two major cities, Regina (the capital) and Saskatoon, are glittering, modern examples of prairie pride. Thanks to its flatlands and climate, Saskatchewan has served as the film location for many shoots, standing in for a litany of wild west locales. Fields of wheat catch the wind and look like golden oceans, their waves in slow motion. Here in the very central part of the Canadian prairies is a rural and agricultural quietude that you can lose yourself in. You can literally see for miles in Saskatchewan.
  • Yukon. The smallest of Canada’s three northern territories, Yukon borders Alaska to its west, and is similar in its wilderness topography, with the northern end of the Rocky Mountains as its backbone. Yukon is home to Canada’s highest mountain, Mount Logan, situated in wildly majestic Kluane National Park and Reserve. Whitehorse is the capital city with around 23,000 residents, and the only other urban center that has more than 1,000 is Dawson; the remaining roughly 10,000 Yukonians area spread about the vast reaches of the gold- and mineral-rich land. Yukon is bi-lingual, but you’ll also hear several native tongue thanks to a large First Nations population. Its own entrance sign says it all about Yukon: “larger than life”. True.

Canada has given the world a lot. We are generous and always donate to world causes. We entertain with performers like Bryan Adams, Joni Mitchell, Ryan Gosling, Pamela Anderson, Neil Young, Alanis Morrisette, Oscar Peterson, and Justin Beiber, to name just a very few. We send our peacekeeping forces to war-torn locations to help restore normal life. We are widely known for responsible banking and fair governance, and a high quality of life. And we are friendly, by and large. Canada is a great place to visit, no matter what part of this vast land you choose for your precious vacation time; you won’t be disappointed!

By the way, we settled on the photograph of our Royal Canadian Mounted Police because there is a dignity in it, because we loved the spiffy red jackets, and because it represents Canada: an orderly, beautiful place. We welcome you! Bienvenue!

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