Canada is the second-largest country in the world with a vast array of natural wonders, so any attempt to make a list of places in a country known for its sheer beauty will always be a tall order. Everyone will have their own ideas but here are my best and most beautiful places to visit in Canada…
1. Yellowknife/Northwest Territories – for a truly stunning wilderness experience in Canada
When you’re done with walking around the oldest city in North America and ticked the polar bears off your wildlife list, head properly up north in search of the Aurora Borealis, aka the Northern Lights. As a natural phenomenon, you’re never guaranteed to see them, but Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories is a great place to try. Just remember to wrap up warm!
To get one of the greatest glimpses into such a vast, sprawling country, how about going coast to coast, from Atlantic to Pacific? Taking a drive across the Trans-Canada Highway or a ride on the Canadian (a 1950s train journeying from Toronto to Vancouver over the course of 3-4 days), is something that few people experience in a single trip, but any who do so will remember for the rest of their lives.
Also check out our Top 12 Cool And Unusual Hotels In Vancouver
2. The Rockies – one of the most famously scenic and beautiful places to visit in Canada
While the entire Rockies stretch through the USA as well, when it comes to jaw-dropping scenery its northern neighbor comes up trumps, whether it’s for hiking in the summer or skiing in the winter. Comprising 5 National Parks (Banff, Glacier, Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho) this area should be near the top of any bucket list.
The Rocky Mountaineer is the train of choice for many honeymooners, and it’s easy to see why – glass-topped carriages giving superlative views onto glaciers, towering mountain peaks, waterfalls, canyons, and lakes so blue you’ll think your eyes have been Photoshopped.
3. Vancouver Island and the Johnstone Strait – one of the most scenic places to explore in Canada
Surfers love the wild, epic waves here (though with a nickname of “Graveyard of the Pacific” the west coast should be approached with caution), and animal lovers come to spot orcas in the waters of the Johnstone Strait.
If you prefer something more sedate to all that excitement, you can relax with something quintessentially British (well, you are in British Columbia, after all!) – afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel, Victoria.
4. Lake Louise – one of the largest and most scenic ski resorts in Canada
Beautiful Lake Louise is located in the Rockies but deserves a special mention of its own. You’ve seen the photos – with water almost impossibly turquoise (the result of minerals in the rock that flow into the lake after glacial erosion) – now it’s time to see the lake for yourself and get a picture of your own.
This isn’t the place to get away from it all – and certainly won’t be able to get away from thousands of other tourists – but some places are popular for good reason, and deserve to be visited anyway.
5. Churchill, Manitoba – one of the top destinations in Canada and where polar bears roam
To fans of seeing animals in their natural environment, this place is no longer a secret – it’s marketed as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” and it more than lives up to its name (I saw about 40 of them in one day on a recent trip – although you might want to check your traveler’s insurance before you go!).
While it is already the premier destination for seeing these beautiful white bears, not everyone realises that in late summer it also a fantastic place to see Beluga whales. Add to that the opportunity, if you’re lucky, to see the Northern Lights in deep of winter and to see colorful wildflowers in June-August, and it means this tiny town of around 1000 people has something to offer year-round, definitely one of the best places to visit in Canada!
6. On the trail of the Titanic in Nova Scotia – one of the best places to visit and explore in Canada
Despite visiting during a snowy blizzard, I still enjoyed my time in Halifax. Partly because I always wanted to say I’d been to Nova Scotia, but also because there is a wealth of history there. Due to blanket snow, I couldn’t visit the “Titanic Graveyard”, so-called as many of the fateful boat’s passengers are buried here.
Pier 21, known as Canada’s equivalent to the USA’s Ellis Island, was the “Gateway to Canada” for thousands of immigrants from ocean liners from 1928-1971, and is now one of Canada’s most important museums. Halifax also makes a good jumping-off point for drives further afield to Prince Edward Island or Cape Breton.
7. Niagara Falls – the world-famous Canadian beauty spot
Angel Falls may be higher, and Victoria Falls may be wider but Niagara still holds the crown of the world’s most famous waterfall. It provided the backdrop for one of Marilyn Monroe’s better films, has hosted countless weddings and honeymooning couples, and daredevils from across the globe have come to test themselves against the might of mother nature, either by crossing on a tightrope or throwing themselves over the edge in a barrel.
Thankfully there are safer ways to enjoy the falls, namely the Maid of the Mist boat (tip: it’s worth letting people past you so that you’re at the front of the queue if you want to make sure you’re first into one of the wettest spots on the boat). Everyone has their own opinion of which side is better (Canadian vs American) but as you may only visit once I’d suggest seeing it from both!
8. Toronto – the bright and bustling cosmopolitan city and an amazing place to visit in Canada
Even the most committed nature seeker will find themselves in a city at some point, so embrace all that the urban life has to offer in Toronto. My first impression was that it seemed like a smaller, cleaner, tidier version of New York.
The views from the CN Tower (which held the title of world’s tallest freestanding structure for over 30 years) are as incredible as you’d imagine, while the Royal Ontario Museum is the best single summary of Canada’s cultural life and history.
For something really unusual, check out the Cineforum (where local eccentric Reg Hartt will essentially show you short films and animations in his living room, and maybe talk about LSD…), while the historic Distillery District is alive with cafes, art galleries, and idiosyncratic shops. And finally, take a walk up to the Gothic Revival stately home Casa Loma – in equal parts fascinating, quirky, and tragic.
9. The Bay of Fundy – home to the highest tides on earth and the rarest whales in the world
Almost as world-famous as some of the other places on this list, and easily as spectacular, kayakers and canoers come from all over the world to paddle through the jaw-dropping scenery and the planet’s highest tides.
The unique geography of the beautiful area also means that whale watching here is an essential experience – you might see humpback, fin, right whales, or even blue whales.
10. Quebec City – a pretty and city home to a rich French heritage and a charming Old Town
In the French-speaking province of Quebec, while Montreal is a fantastic city for many reasons and little Quebec City may be a victim of its own success in terms of popularity, it’s still a must-visit destination when exploring Canada.
The world’s most photographed hotel is in the center of town, North America’s only Ice Hotel is around 30 minutes away, and around every corner is a glimpse into another quaint side street or romantic cafe, making this 400-year-old city wonderful to explore on foot.
11. Nahanni National Park Reserve – more than seven million acres of beautiful scenery to explore
If you are an avid reader of the blog, you’ll know that we absolutely love a UNESCO world heritage site. If you say to most people ‘Canada’, this is what they think of. Wild turquoise rivers crashing through steep-sided granite valleys. Pine trees dotting grassy plains.
And if you visit in the summer you’ll be presented with an ocean of color and a literal sea of wildflowers. This country is truly wild and beautiful and still remains pretty much untouched. Remember, leave only footprints and take only memories.
12. Lunenburg, Nova Scotia – a very charming and picturesque town to visit in Canada
Lunenburg is a proper enigma. If you plonked someone in the middle of town and asked them where they were, without telling them anything else, you’d get a range of answers. The bright-colored building, of which over 70% are original, have a slight Scandinavian feel to them.
Which is weird as it was originally settled by the British over 400 years ago. Beautiful Lunenburg is one of only two towns that are designated as UNESCO world heritage sites. If you visit, you’ll be able to indulge practically every sense. It is jam-packed with artisanal and often very local fayre.
Restaurants, breweries, and even the odd splash of local rum can be found in abundance. Turn your saturation filter up to max (on the camera not the rum) and make your friends really, really jealous with photos of the pretty colored buildings. Definitely one of the prettiest places to visit in Canada.
13. Cape Spear – Canada’s easternmost point of land and a lovely place to visit
Want to go to Canada? Want to be the first person in an entire continent to see the sunrise? If you answered ‘yes’ to both of these questions then you must pay a visit to stunning Cape Spear. It is the most easterly point in the entire continent of North America.
If you set off swimming from the cape, the next place you’d reach would be The British Isles. Pack a flask of something hot (or maybe cold and sparkly) and head off on a walk. Aside from an amazing (if chilly) sunrise over the Atlantic, you’ll be able to check out the Cape Spear lighthouse. Which sits atop a rocky promontory. It is quite remote but well worth the trip.
14. Lake Magog – one of the most beautiful lakes to visit in Canada
Two words. Rugged, Beauty. And you’re going to want to stay for more than a day to truly take it all in, you won’t want to be in a hurry. You’ll need to be made of strong stuff, especially if you embark on the 4-mile hike up to Sunburst Peak. If you get a chance wander down to the lake itself to cool your feet down.
It is glacially fed and as a result, is crystal clear all year round. Breath in a deep lungful of air that will be about the freshest you will get on the planet and admire sweeping and wild vistas.
15. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, British Columbia – a much-loved tourist attraction in Canada
Do you like heights? Enjoy sweaty palms? Relish dreams of falling? If so then we’ve got what you need. The Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of Vancouver’s most visited attractions.
This 140-meter bridge spans the Capilano river (obviously) and sits over 300 feet above a verdant green valley. Hold your breath and strut across it. Fear or no fear you’ll be glad you did.
The park itself sits within a very scenic and beautiful park, that is complete with snowy peaks and pointing pines. Visit at the right time and you’ll be in for a treat, and it doesn’t even have to be daylight. The park is bedecked with lights on a vast array of trees, bridges, and caverns. Ever seen Avatar? You’ll feel like you are in a James Cameron movie, just don’t turn blue with the cold.
16. Abraham Lake – a unique and wonderful scenic spot in Canada
Want to see what human endeavor and nature look like when they interact. Check out the very pretty Abraham Lake. Why do I say this? Well, you’d be entirely forgiven for thinking that Abraham Lake is a natural phenomenon. (Spoiler, it isn’t). The lake was actually man-made after the Saskatchewan river was dammed in 1972. If you’d visited in the 60’s you’d have probably been stood in a grassy valley. But the human endeavor isn’t actually the best bit about Lake Abraham. There’s something going on under the surface, literally.
The lake is beautiful all year round with milky blue glacial water. Here’s our advice. Visit in winter, bring your camera. Due to deposits of various flora on the bed of the lake, huge methane gas bubbles are released. These are then trapped at various layers under the frozen surface.
You’ll be presented with a cathedral of frozen wonder as these bubbles make miles of frozen subsurface columns. All observed from your own private and entirely unique viewing window. Your best bet to avoid mishaps is to hire a guided tour. Walking on frozen lakes is rather cool, but also a little bit dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing.
17. Glacier National Park – with glacier-carved peaks and valleys located right on the border
Okay this is officially mostly in Montana USA but I’ve included it’s located right on the border of Canada and is an incredible place to visit if you’re exploring either country. Especially if you like hiking. If you do you’ll absolutely love the 700 miles of gorgeous trails.
Visit in the autumn and you’ll be treated to hundreds of square miles of deciduous trees that are ablaze with color, like strips of burnt amber gold. If you are an ‘outdoorsy’ type then it will be utter heaven for you.
Aside from walking there is the option to go kayaking climbing, cycling. You name it. You can keep the accommodation costs cheap, provided you have a tent as the Glacier National Park is the ideal spot to get back to nature.
18. Yoho National Park – easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Canada
Definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Canada. Stand on top of steep-sided gullies and breathe it in. The stunning views here are to die for. Whether you want to just stop for the day and have a picnic or spend a few weeks walking to your heart’s content the Yoho National park has something for you.
Driving through the beautiful park alone is worth it, but ideally, you’ll want to stay and appreciate all it has to offer. This is the land that time forgot, if you take a guided tour, you’ll be able to traverse tracks cutting through scree-sided valleys and see if you can find a fossil or two. It’s literally impossible not to be impressed by the size and scale of it all here. Every direction you turn will take your breath away.
19. Old Montreal – a charming and historic neighborhood to visit in the province of Quebec
Was I in Montreal or Marseilles? Aside from various billboards advertising poutine, I was hard-pressed to tell the difference. Take a walk down these beautiful boulevards and you’ll be presented with a quaint corner café’s, boutiques with pretty windows and impressive columns and churches, which speak strongly of Canada’s colonial past.
You’ll be able to explore the numerous pretty cobbled streets, feel all cultural, and shop ‘til you drop at the same time. Make sure you check out the Basilica of Notre Dame before stopping for a cappuccino and taking the weight off your weary feet, whilst you people watch and try and get your head around it not being actual France.
20. Algonquin Provincial Park – a magnificent natural paradise to explore in Canada with incredible wildlife
Moose! You’ll shout as you drive down highway 60 on your way to the very scenic Algonquin Provincial Park. Apparently, they are attracted to the roadside with the promise of salt leftover on the roads from the winter. From wildlife to wolves, Algonquin is stuffed with natural wonder.
Sit by a sedate glassy lake and feel all wild, or get a bit more active and hire a canoe to really explore all it has to offer. In fact, even if you haven’t done it before you’ll find the opportunity to hire a multi-day paddling tour which includes everything you will need (yes, a guide as well). At night the park is alive with howls, hoots, and maybe even a crystal-clear view of the milky way. Go on, treat yourself, this is a fantastic place to visit in Canada!
21. Campobello Island – one of the best and most wonderful places to visit in Canada
A fun day at the Bay of Fundy? Just what you need. The area actually includes a summer home of a former US president, and if it’s beautiful enough for Frederick D Roosevelt it’s more than beautiful enough for us. Lying off the east coast of Maine the island is actually part of Canada (so make sure you remember to bring your passport).
Once you get there, you’ll be able to explore tiny coves, amble across beaches, and even indulge in a spot of whale watching. The island can be accessed via road, or if you want to test your sea legs there are ferries running in the summer. And the best bit? Entry to everything that you encounter on the attractive island is free!
22. Magdalen Islands – a fantastic scenic place to explore in Canada
It’s a little bit quiet here. But that’s why I liked it. Stunning unspoiled beaches, atmospheric sweeping sea views, and even a bit of history are all rolled into one package.
Maybe it’s not just natural things to see here though. What’s super interesting are the people. Almost every single one of the islands’ 12,500 inhabitants has an interesting history? Do you know why? They are practically all descendants of sailors who washed up on the very beaches you’ll be walking after they were shipwrecked.
The Madelinots have made the area into a true cultural melting pot. Whether you want to try local traditional smoked fish or a big mouthful of local craft beer you’ll find it here.
23. Garibaldi Lake – a beautiful turquoise-colored alpine lake in British Columbia
How does a beautiful sapphire jewel set in a ring of volcanoes sound to you? Amazing? Yep, I thought so too. Garibaldi lake is located in the southwest corner of British Columbia and was formed when a lava flow naturally dammed the valley. In geological terms, it is still a baby at only 9000 years old.
If you want to hike up to and around the picturesque lake, it’s going to take you around 5 hours (depending on how fast you walk), If that sounds a bit much, and you’ve got a few quid there is the option to hire aerial tours where you can take in the iridescent waters and black foreboding peaks whilst being told what you are seeing by an experienced pilot and guide. Cool eh?
24. Whitehorse Region – Canada’s wonderful wilderness city
There’s gold in them hills. No really, there is, and it’s the reason why Whitehorse exists. It’s the capital of the Yukon territories and still holds quite a lot of the wild west charm that people normally only see if they visit a theme park. You are spoiled for choice if you visit, and the city makes the ideal base to shoot out into the countryside.
Head out into the stunning wilderness and discover hot springs, beautiful emerald lakes, and perhaps the occasional nod towards the history of the native people who were displaced by the gold rush. You get the best of both worlds in Whitehorse. You can enjoy the perks of being in a city and, depending on how fast you drive, you can be in the true wilderness in about 15 minutes.
25. McArthur Lake – one of the most stunning lakes in Canada
Now I don’t say this lightly… this is perhaps one of the most beautiful lakes in existence. It’s like walking in a literal dream sequence. If you are a hiker, or even if you are not this is an absolute, hands-down, must-see. You’ll find McArthur lake in the middle of the Yoho National Park.
Try to hold it together as you are presented with snowy windswept peaks and a lake that is so blue, you’d think it was photoshopped if you weren’t seeing it for real. Visit at the right time and you’ll be all alone, perfect!
26. Whistler – one of the best places to go skiing in Canada
Home to one of the largest ski resorts in North America, Whistler is in the group of the top tourist places in Canada for skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing and ski jumping. However, if you are a summer person, you can also explore mountain biking and hiking, as the hot weather is perfect for it.
Whistler receives over two million people per year, with its beautiful scenery and breathtaking panoramic views this city was also a host of the 2010 Winter Olympics. If you are having a long vacation, Vancouver is also a great destination to visit as it’s only under 2 hours from Whistler by car.
Where to stay in Canada
- The Ice Hotel, Quebec – open for only three months of the year
- Chateau le Frontenac, Quebec City
- Clarence Castle – excellent hostel in central Toronto
- Intercontinental Bloor St – 5-star hotel in Toronto
- Polar Bear B&B – Don Gould’s homely little place in Churchill
We also have posts on…
- The most beautiful places to visit in Alaska
- The most beautiful places to visit in the USA
- The most beautiful places to visit in Hawaii
- The most beautiful National Parks in North America
- The most beautiful places to visit in Mexico
- Places to visit in Vermont
Lee mostly spent his formative years as a junior Spielberg wannabe, devouring movies in front of a cinema screen, but then a “year out” after graduating turned into a not-too-shabby six years of working, travelling and volunteering across the globe and thus a change of career beckoned. Attempting to satisfy his curiosity and passion for discovery both at home and abroad, he became a concierge at a top London hotel and a member of the prestigious Les Clefs d’Or, whilst still finding time to visit over 60 countries. Although UK based, through travelling he’s cannily found a way to combine all his passions – seeking out film locations, off-the-beaten track adventures and wildlife encounters with orangutans, whale sharks, gorillas and polar bears all while wearing an eternal smile on his face. He counts New Zealand, Tanzania, Denmark and Borneo among his favourite travel destinations. Follow Lee on Google+