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Canada is one of the largest countries in the world and has a lot to offer tourists. Because of its large size, travel here can sometimes be expensive. One of the best ways to avoid high costs and to really get to know a country and its culture is by backpacking. Below is a look at several itinerary options (depending on the time that will be spent in the country) with tips on where to go, what to see, and how to get there.
4. 2 months - Halifax - Quebec City - Montreal - Toronto - Calgary - Banff - Vancouver
With 2 months in Canada, backpackers have enough time to check out and spend time in a number of places.
Start off this trip by flying into Halifax, Nova Scotia on the Atlantic seaboard. The very first stop here should be to the Historic Properties Wharff. The buildings here date back to the 19th century, and once served as once investors’ headquarters and shipping warehouses. They are now home to a number of shops, galleries, restaurants, and boutiques.
On Day 2, a trip to Memory Lane Heritage Museum in Lake Charlotte is in order. Located about 1 hour outside of downtown Halifax, visitors get a look into the typical coastal, rural lifestyle of the 1940s and even go clam digging on the beach. Once back in Halifax, tourists can practice axe throwing at The Timber Lounge.
Days 3 & 4 should be spent discovering the 100 Wild Islands, an archipelago located off the coast. Visitors can spend their time exploring, hiking, snorkeling, or swimming.
For the final couple of days in Halifax, the best attractions include: Peggy’s Cove (home to the most photographed lighthouse in the world), Citadel National Historic Site, St. Paul’s Church, and the Halifax Public Gardens.
After 1 week in Halifax, renting a car and heading to Quebec City is the next best stop. The drive takes a full day (almost 10 hours) and is full of beautiful scenery. At roughly the halfway mark, Fredericton makes a great place to stop for lunch.
The first few days in Quebec City are a great chance to check out Upper and Lower Town in the oldest part of the city. Some of the best attractions for the 1st day include Place-Royale, the first European colony in Canada, Chateau Frontenac, a historic hotel and the Marché du Vieux Port, a year-round agricultural market. One the 2nd day, visitors should check out: La Citadelle, with a changing of the guard ceremony at 10 a.m. during the summer; Notre Dame Basilica, first built in 1647; and the Quebec Experience, a 3D re-creation of the settler lifestyle.
The last part of the week should be spent checking out what the rest of the city has to offer. These places include Champs de Bataille Park, the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec, Grande-Allee, filled with restaurants and bars, Morrin Centre, home of a 25,000-book Victorian library and a day’s road trip along King’s Road.
Next up, an approximately 3-hour drive to Montreal. Visitors can get to know the city layout from Mont-Royal, home to the Belvedere Observatory, which offer views of downtown and the surrounding mountains. On the 2nd and 3rd day, backpackers should take the time to tour the city, checking out the following sites: Place d’Armes, home to the oldest building in the city, Mile End, a street full of boutiques for unique shopping, and the Place des Arts, which offers ballet, opera, theater, and symphonies.
On the 4th day, a trip outside of the city is a good idea. Tourists can rent a bicycle and head to the P’tit Train du Nord bike path that meanders through the country, passing through several villages, including Val-David, Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, and Ste-Adele.
For the last few days, Space for Life on the east side of Montreal makes for a wonderful visit. This area is home to 4 of the best natural museums in the city: the Montreal Botanical Garden, the Montreal Insectarium, the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, and the Montreal Biodome.
The next place on the itinerary is Toronto, which is about a 6-hour drive from Montreal. After resting up from the trip, some of the must-see attractions in this city include the St. Lawrence Market, located in historic, Old Town; Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum; Casa Loma, a 98-room castle that overlooks the city; and the CN Tower, the 1,815-foot iconic skyline feature.
Visitors can also spend a full day doing any of the following: taking a ferry out to the Toronto Islands, relaxing at the Scandinave Spa, visiting Niagara Falls.
Week 5 should be spent in Calgary, best reached by a 4-hour flight that leaves daily. The 1st day here, visitors can: go ziplining at Canada Olympic Park, check out a 360° view of the city and the Rocky mountains from Calgary Tower, and learn about the history of the area at Glenbow Museum. On the 2nd day, the Heritage Park Historical Village is a great place to spend the afternoon.
Calgary is a great place to use as a jumping off point to nearby sites. The latter part of the week can be spent adventuring out to some of the following places: Cameron Falls near the town of Waterton, the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site where Sundance Kid once worked, and Grotto Canyon in Canmore.
Week 6 & 7
After all the hustle and bustle of visiting the largest cities in Canada, a trip to Banff is in order. Banff is a tourist town located in the Rocky mountains of Banff National Park. It takes about an hour and a half to get here from Calgary and is a great place to relax,explore the town, and check out some amazing scenery for a couple of weeks.
If visiting during the winter, Ski Norquay, Nakiska, and Sunshine Village offer great skiing opportunities. Other activities that don’t rely on the weather include: the hot sulphur springs at Cave and Basin National Historic Site and the Rat’s Nest Cave experience. Additionally, visitors can take the hike up Sulphur Mountain for the views, restaurant, and gift shops. From here, taking the Banff Gondola back down is a popular option. No visit to Banff would be complete without heading to Banff Park Museum Historic Site, which offers exhibitions on the local flora and fauna.
The final leg of this journey ends in Vancouver, a 9-hour and 15-minute drive from Banff. To break up the long drive, Kamloops is a great place to stop for lunch.
In Vancouver, the best attractions include: Chinatown, the second largest Chinatown outside of China in the world; the Parliament Buildings, where visitors can observe a session and take a free guided tour; and the Inner Harbour, full of cafes, fishing boats, and floating homes. At least 1 day (although 2 would be better) should be spent in Cowichan Valley. This area offers a number of wine vineyards, art galleries, and golf courses.
3. 1 month - Vancouver - Banff - Calgary - Toronto - Montreal
For 1 month in Canada, the best backpacking itinerary begins in Vancouver on the west coast of the country.
Visitors fly into Vancouver and follow the “Week 8” guide as listed under the 2 month itinerary.
Following Vancouver, tourists can take a day to drive to Banff, stopping in Kamloops for lunch. Rather than spending 2 weeks in Banff as suggested above, the trip should be reduced to 1 week. With this time frame, visitors can check out the Banff Park Museum Historic Site, Sulphur Mountain and the Banff Gondola, and Cave Basin National Historic Site.
Visitors take the 1.5-hour drive to Calgary and spend 3 days. The best sites to check out during this stay include: Heritage Park Historical Village, Calgary Tower, Canada Olympic Park, and Glenbow Museum. In the middle of the week, tourists can fly into Toronto for another 3-day stay. In Toronto, the most popular sites are Casa Loma, St. Lawrence Market, the CN Tower, and Niagara Falls.
The final week of this trip will be spent in Montreal. A great way to check out the countryside is to take the Toronto-Montreal train, which takes about 5 hours and 20 minutes. Tourists here can follow the “Week 3” guide as listed under the 2 month itinerary.
2. 3 weeks - Vancouver - Toronto - Montreal
Three weeks in Canada gives backpackers 1 week in each of the following cities: Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.
Visitors will first fly into Vancouver and follow the “Week 8” guide, found in the 2 month itinerary. This is followed by a flight to Toronto and the “Week 4” guide. The final week in Canada, visitors will take the train to Montreal and follow the “Week 3” guide.
1. 1 week - Toronto - Montreal
With only 1 week in Canada, the best way to get to know the country is to visit Toronto and Montreal. Tourists can spend 3 days in Toronto visiting Casa Loma, St. Lawrence Market, the CN Tower, and Niagara Falls. Half a day will be spent on the train to Montreal, where visitors can spend 3 days. The best sites to see here include: the Belvedere Observatory on Mont Royal, Place d’Armes, and the Montreal Biodome.