Top 10 Travel Destinations in Canada

Canada was named the #1 place to travel to in 2017 by Lonely Planet! Who knew that our friendly neighbors up North would be the #1 travel place of 2017! Well, we are excited nonetheless and we've compiled the top 10 travel destinations in Canada just for YOU. So start your travel bucket list right now, 2017 will come and go before you know it! 

1. Banff National Park

Banff National Park is one of the world's finest unspoiled ecosystems.  Banff is one of the world’s premiere destinations, spanning a region of unparalleled majestic mountain scenery. Every year, millions of visitors make the pilgrimage to Banff to take in its stunning views and arsenal of activities. 

How to get there: From the airport, rent a car and take Trans-Canada 1 west from Calgary straight into the park, through Banff and Lake Louise. A direct bus service from the airport or downtown Calgary is also available to Banff and Lake Louise, as are shuttle services through tour operators.

When to go: Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2017 and, to celebrate, it's offering everyone free admission to its national parks. Open year-round, Banff offers amazing wildlife viewing and sightseeing, plus plentiful shopping and dining options, any time of the year. Summer is popular for hiking, paddling, mountain biking and cycling, photography, and climbing. The best time for viewing seasonal color is fall, when the larch trees—the only coniferous trees to lose their needles in winter—turn yellow.

Weather in the Canadian Rockies can change quickly. A single day can have a mix of sunshine, snow, wind, and rain, so dress in layers. Summers are warm with low humidity. Temperatures average a high of 70ºF (21ºC), and daylight lasts until 11 p.m. Autumn brings cool nights and crisp air. Winters can be frigid. In January, the average daytime high is minus 19ºF (minus 7ºC), but by April it is 49ºF (9ºC). (Nationalgeographic.com)

2. Jasper National Park

Like I said above, Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2017 and, to celebrate, it's offering everyone FREE admission to its national parks - FREE! You definitely have to check out Jasper National Park. You'll meet some furry friends, like grizzly bears, moose, and elk along the way. Its landscape covers an expansive region of rugged backcountry trails and mountainous terrain juxtaposed against fragile protected ecosystems as well as the world-renowned Columbia Icefield. 

How to get there: The town of Jasper is situated at the intersection of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) and Highway 93 N (Icefields Parkway). It is straight west 225 (362 kilometers) miles on Highway. 16 from Edmonton and west from Calgary along Trans-Canada 1, then north on Highway 93 from Lake Louise, 256 miles (412 kilometers) in total. Major national and international carriers service both Edmonton and Calgary’s international airports, with multiple flights arriving daily. Renting a car at the airport is the easiest way to make the trip, but rail travel to the park is also available through VIA Rail and the Rocky Mountaineer. Shuttle services are available through tour operators.

When to go: The park is open year-round, but the weather and scenery are generally spectacular in late summer and early fall. Forest fire season in North America also winds down in the fall, so the air is clearer—especially important for photo enthusiasts.

Wildlife viewing can happen any time of year, but your best bets are early in the morning or late in the evening during the slow seasons (fall and spring), particularly for bears, elk, and sheep. The best time to watch the annual elk rut, when males bugle and compete with each other for females, is August to September along the Athabasca River. Camping is very popular in summer. Most campgrounds are open until Labour Day weekend; some stay open later in the fall. There are winter campgrounds as well. Skiing and snowboarding at Marmot Basin typically runs from November to April. (Nationalgeographic.com)

3. Lake Louise

Lake Louise is what makes Banff National Park the phenomenon it is, an awe-inspiring natural feature that is impossible to describe without resorting to shameless clichés. Standing next to the serene, implausibly turquoise lake, the natural world feels (and is) tantalizingly close, with a surrounding amphitheater of finely chiseled mountains that hoist Victoria Glacier up for all to see. Famous for its teahouses, grizzly bears and hiking trails, it's also well-known for its much-commented-on 'crowds,' plus a strangely congruous (or incongruous – depending on your viewpoint) lump of towering concrete known as Chateau Lake Louise. But, frankly, who cares? You don't come to Lake Louise to dodge other tourists. You come to share in one of the most spectacular sights in the Rockies, one that has captured the imaginations of mountaineers, artists and visitors for more than a century. (Lonelyplanet.com)

When to go & how to get there: See #1

4. Churchill, Canada

No paved roads lead directly into the tiny town of Churchill, Manitoba, on the remote, southwestern shores of Hudson Bay, so you'll have to arrive by train or plane to see the area's most famous seasonal residents—polar bears. From July to November, about a thousand migrate to Churchill, earning it the nickname the "polar bear capital of the world." Here, the planet's largest land carnivores spend the summer and await winter, when the bay freezes and they can perch on the ice and hunt for ringed seals. Summertime also brings thousands of migrating beluga whales to the town's coast—another reason to visit. Check out our Churchill, Canada expedition HERE!

When to go: Climate change has altered the seasons in Churchill and with it, the animal migrations, Goodyear says. For visitors, that means adjusting your travel plans accordingly. The most popular time to see the polar bears is from the middle of October to the end of November. On these trips, custom-built tundra vehicles shepherd visitors (safely) into the path of migrating polar bears. For this time of year, reservations are a must, as many services quickly become fully booked. Churchill's summer season begins in early July and can run into early September, during which beluga whales show up by the thousands in Churchill River estuary during long days of sunshine. Sighting of polar bears walking along the coastline or swimming in the Hudson Bay are also common in the summer.

How to get around: In winter, the best way to see polar bears is by tundra vehicle tours offered by operators like Frontiers North Adventures and Great White Bear Tours. In summer, travelers can snorkel with the beluga whales by arranging the activity through Sea North Tours or Lazy Bear Expeditions. The latter also offers a polar bear viewing experience by boat during the summer months. Whenever you visit, bring waterproof hiking boots. Most anywhere in town is within walking distance and, depending on the season, you're going to encounter dirt, mud, slush, ice, or snow.

5. Wapusk National Park

Photography by: Norbert Rosing, National Geographic

Photography by: Norbert Rosing, National Geographic

Manitoba’s Wapusk National Park is one of the few places in the world where, in late February, visitors can watch tiny, three-month-old bear cubs explore their snowy new world for the first time under the watchful eyes of their mothers. But no roads or trails lead into this massive park made up of rough subarctic forest, tundra, muskeg, and part of North America’s largest expanse of peat bog, which shelters one of the largest known maternity denning areas for polar bears. Wildlife-watching, especially for polar bears, is why people visit.

6. Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia

Photo by: Paul Nicklen, National Geographic

Photo by: Paul Nicklen, National Geographic

This remote expanse is home to many First Nations communities as well as abundant wildlife: coastal gray wolves, grizzly bears, Sitka deer, cougars, mountain goats, orca, salmon, sea lions, sea otters, humpback whales, and its most celebrated resident, the rare, cream-colored Kermode bear, or spirit bear, considered sacred by the T'simshian people. (Spotting a spirit bear takes a lot of patience, even more luck, and the expert tracking skills of a local guide.)

When to go: From late August to the middle of October, thousands of returning salmon draw wildlife to the local rivers, making this the best time to view grizzly bears and the elusive Kermode bear. Trout fishing is in season year-round, and different Pacific salmon species run the rivers from April through October. 

7. Quebec City

Quebec is a tale of two cities: On one side of 400-year-old stone walls, gas lamp-lit cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages preserve the historic feel of Canada's oldest city, established as a French colonial outpost in 1608. On the other side of those walls is a city whose reinvigorated neighborhoods are bursting with sexy nightclubs, funky restaurants, and a laissez-faire French vibe. A beloved French culture means late-night nibbles and lingering sips from well-replenished wine glasses next to architecture as varied as its conquerors. Everything in this city is served with a view: stylish shoppers at a French bistro perch, city lights from a St. Roch-area nightclub, and the mighty St. Lawrence River flowing by.

When to go: July to September, when music festivals, outdoor concerts, and special exhibits are held across the city. October brings fall foliage tours and the annual jazz festival. In January and February, the 17-day Quebec Winter Carnival is billed as one of the world's largest, attracting nearly 650,000 hearty revelers. Events range from wacky ice canoe races across the frozen St. Lawrence to the spectacular International Snow Sculpture Competition.

8. Vancouver

Nestled on British Columbia's coast, Canada’s third largest city is known for its rich cultural offerings and easy access to the sea and mountains—"Just a 20-minute drive takes you to landscapes seemingly untouched by humankind," says local award-winning designer and architect Omer Arbel. Here you can snowboard, kayak, and play beach volleyball all within the same day, then head to a chic restaurant to dine on sustainable seafood dishes paired with a top-notch local bottle of wine. At once charming and edgy, Vancouver is constantly reinventing itself: Granville Island, a one-time industrial wasteland, is a pedestrian-friendly oasis of artisan shops and galleries. In historic Gastown, you’ll find hipster boutiques and bars where there were once dilapidated storefronts. A few blocks away in one of North America’s oldest Chinatowns, old-world customs and flavors mingle with edgy, all-too-21st-century aesthetics.

9. Prince Albert National Park

Photo by: Kevin Hogarth, Canada Parks

Photo by: Kevin Hogarth, Canada Parks

Typical of its era, Prince Albert National Park was created to serve as a recreational playground—its stewardship value would only be recognized much later. The park spans a slender transition zone between the northern boreal forest and the southern aspen parkland. Its rolling hills of spruce, pine, aspen, and birch shelter pockets of fescue and sedge meadows. Year by year, forestry concerns and encroaching civilization have threatened this ecosystem elsewhere, making Prince Albert today a precious preserve.

When to go: The park is at its best between Victoria Day and Labour Day. The extra-long days around the end of June are especially glorious. The aspen and tamarack reach their height of tangerine color around mid- to late September, when you will have the park mostly to yourself. However, many businesses will be closed, so call ahead. Freeze-up and winter arrives quickly and there is usually enough snow for skiing from early December through late March. Recreational options are most limited in April, when the lake ice is unsafe and the roads and trails are muddy. Remember, all of the national parks are FREE in 2017!

10. Yellow Knife and Great Slave Lake

Photography by: Jason Pineau

Photography by: Jason Pineau

Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, is an isolated mining town built on gold and now sustained by diamonds—an outpost of civilization surrounded by a vast, austere landscape of rock and tundra and water—most notably, the enormous Great Slave Lake, on whose shore the city is built. Come for the wilderness and stay for the people, who know how to make their own fun in this raw country.

When to go: Summer in the Northwest Territories is short and sweet. Folk on the Rocks, an outdoor music festival on Long Lake and the biggest event of the season, lands in mid-July. Due to its location, Yellowknife is blessed with spectacular views of the northern lights, best seen near the fall and spring equinoxes. March is when the city celebrates winter with a pair of festivals: the Long John Jamboree is a long-weekend event featuring ice fishing, helicopter rides, crafts, and kids’ activities; the monthlong Snowking Festival is held in a genuine snow castle on frozen Great Slave Lake and includes theater and musical performances, story slams, and film screenings.