Guide to Canada: discovering the country where nature is queen

A vast country, rich in breathtaking natural landscapes, historic cities where English and French are spoken. Tradition and modernity. Canada offers so many travel experiences in one. Whether you’re looking for the trails of gold miners and adventurers in the West or discovering the ancient cities in the East and the islands of the Atlantic Ocean, travel in Canada will always surprise you.

Here is your guide to the North American country famous for its vast natural parks and turquoise and emerald lakes. Here is all the travel information.

 

Guide to Canada: the country where nature is king
Canada is the second largest country in the world after Russia and one of the places with the most spectacular natural landscapes. It has an area of almost 10 million km2 and a population of just 36 million. Vast areas are uninhabited or sparsely inhabited, with a population density among the lowest in the world: 3.41 inhabitants per km2.

It is a federal state and its form of government is a parliamentary democracy within a constitutional monarchy, that of the United Kingdom, of which Queen Elizabeth II is head of state. The country is part of the Commonwealth, although it has had full sovereignty and independence since 1982. Canada is officially bilingual: it is spoken in English and French, the languages of the colonizing countries that occupied it since the 16th century. The capital of Canada is Ottawa, although the largest and most important city is Toronto.


The vast territory of Canada is divided into 10 provinces and 3 territories. The 10 provinces are: Alberta, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador. The three territories are: Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and Yukon. The territories receive their powers directly from parliament, the provinces from the constitution.

French Canada: In the provinces of Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick lies the original historical core of French Canada. This is where the first French settlers of Canada arrived, and these areas are strongly influenced by French culture, especially Quebec where the majority of French speakers are concentrated. Here French is the official language, spoken by the vast majority of the inhabitants. While in the other two provinces English prevails, although there are important minorities of French speakers.

Native Canada: the three large territories of Nunavut, Yukon and Northwest Territories are sparsely populated and inhabited by different native communities. Especially Nunavut, the largest territory but also the least populous in Canada, inhabited by a large majority of native Inuit. The provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba were inhabited by Native American Indians, whose origins have been preserved in the name.


British Canada: British influence spread almost everywhere in Canada after Britain conquered the country, taking it from the French at the end of the 17th century. The areas of the country where British presence and influence were immediately strong were the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. With the westward expansion, new territories were conquered, including the current provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. After being taken from the French, Ontario also soon became an English-speaking majority. A cultural predominance that has remained to this day.

Geographically Canada can be divided into four areas: the eastern area with Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and eastern Ontario; a central area with the remaining part of Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan; the western area with Alberta and British Columbia; and the northern area with Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon.


Canada’s major cities are Ottawa (capital), Toronto (the largest city), both in Ontario; Montreal (Quebec), Vancouver (British Columbia), Calgary (Alberta), Edmonton (Alberta), Quebec City (Quebec), Winnipeg (Manitoba) and Hamilton (Ontario).

The province of Ontario is the most populous and borders to the south with the Great Lakes region that it shares with the United States: Lake Ontario, from which it takes its name, Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Canada, on the other hand, does not border Lake Michigan. It shares with the United States the Niagara Falls, formed by the Niagara River that connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.

What to see
The vast territory of Canada lends itself to a long vacation. If you want to visit even a small part of it, take plenty of time. The spaces are enormous and the journeys long.

Starting from the cities, one of the obligatory stops is certainly Toronto. The Canadian metropolis overlooks Lake Ontario and is close to Niagara Falls. The skyline of the city is dominated by the CN Tower, the tower of the 533-meter telecommunications tower, a popular tourist attraction in the city. The observation tower, at the top of the pylon, houses a spectacular viewpoint, over the city, the lake and as far as the American city of Detroit. You’ll also find an outdoor terrace and a Glass Floor, from where you can look down as if suspended in the void, 347 meters high. Toronto is a city of modern buildings and skyscrapers, but also wide green spaces, neighborhoods with buildings dating back to colonial times, there is even a Little Italy.


Ottawa is the capital of Canada and the seat of government buildings, located on the river of the same name. It is an important home to cultural institutions and university research centers. The main cultural venues are the National Gallery of Canada and the National Arts Centre for the performing arts. The city is home to many museums and historical sites, with several period buildings.

Quebec City is the capital of Quebec and sits on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. It is the most European city in Canada and North America, with the obvious French architectural style. The old city center, Vieux Québec, still retains its ancient city walls, a unique feature in North America, and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the main attractions is the Château Frontenac, a castle that looks like something out of a fairy tale and now houses a hotel. Also a must-see monument is the 17th century Notre-Dame de Québec Cathedral.

Montreal is another Quebec city, the largest in the province, located at the confluence of the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers, between Ottawa City and Quebec City. It has a large metropolitan area and its center houses spectacular modern buildings, such as the Casino, one of the largest and most famous in the world. The Montreal Stock Exchange Tower is a skyscraper designed by Italian architects Luigi Moretti and Pierluigi Nervi. In the city center there is also the historical part of the city, the Vieux Montréal with the oldest buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries and the imposing City Hall.


Vancouver is the most important city on the western side of Canada. It overlooks a bay on the Pacific in the Strait of Georgia. It is located north of the US city of Seattle. It is a modern city and very populated, also called the Hollywood of the North for its film production. For quality of life is considered one of the best cities in the world. High mountains rise behind it and its hinterland is rich in lakes.

Canada is above all nature, with its immense wild and uncontaminated territories. Breathtaking views that you will never get enough of. From the eastern to the western coasts, passing through long rivers, great lakes, countless streams, forests as far as the eye can see, vast central plains, high mountains in the west and arctic landscapes in the north. Canada’s natural wonders to see include the Great Lakes area, the St. Lawrence River basin and the great national parks. Among the parks are: Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies, near Calgary, where there is the beautiful glacial Moraine Lake; and Jasper National Park, also in the Rockies, north of Banff.

Other nature areas not to be missed are those of the spectacular Atlantic coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. In the latter province is the beautiful Cape Breton Island located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

What to do
Canada is synonymous with nature and sport. Outdoor activities are almost a must, especially in summer but not only. The beautiful landscapes of Canada are ideal for hiking, trekking, mountain biking, motorcycle tours, camping, visits to forests and rural areas to admire the spectacle of foliage, especially in the forests of maple, whose leaf is a national symbol. Surprisingly, in Canada you can also admire bucolic landscapes of vineyards in its valleys and central plains.

For lovers of long bike rides, the Trans Canada Trail or simply The Great Trail, the longest bike path in the world, which crosses the entire country from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, up to the Arctic Ocean, for 24,000 km, is a must. The trail will be completed in 2017 and is every cyclist’s dream.


Among the winter sports, you ski on the Rocky Mountains, ice skate in all the cities, cross vast expanses of snow by snowmobile, fat-bike and in the northern territories by dog sled.

If you are looking for gold miners, you have to go all the way up to the Yukon, where the American writer Jack London set all his stories and novels about the Great North. To get to those areas where in winter the temperature can drop to -50° it is good to be well organized and accompanied.

Finally, do not miss the cruise along the rugged coasts of Nova Scotia, with a stop in Halifax, a charming Canadian city founded in 1749 and the second largest natural harbor in the world.

 

When to go
You can go to Canada all year round, but if your goal isn’t winter sports, summer remains the best time. In spring and autumn prices are lower and there is less crowding.

Getting there and around
Canada is well connected to Europe by air. Major airlines regularly land in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Some flights may stop in the United States, from which you can also reach Canada by train and bus.

For travel within Canada there are domestic flights, or if you are tempted by the adventure of long-distance travel there are buses. The bus network is the most extensive public transportation system. The rail network, in fact, is limited and the longest line is the one connecting Toronto to Vancouver.


To enter Canada you need your passport, which is valid at least for the duration of your stay. However, it is advisable that the passport is valid for at least six months from the date of entry into the country. A visa is not necessary if the reason for the visit is tourism or business and the stay does not exceed six months. However, an electronic authorization is required, similar to that for entry into the United States with ESTA.

As of March 15, 2016, visa-exempt foreigners, including Italian citizens, travelling to Canada by air will be required to obtain an electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) prior to boarding. The eTA application must be submitted online. You will need a valid passport, a credit card and an e-mail address. The eTA will be electronically linked to the applicant’s passport and will be valid for five years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first. The cost for the eTA is €19.95 per person. Requests can be transmitted from any device connected to the Internet, including cell phones, and the response will usually be received within a few minutes, unless the competent Canadian authorities deem it necessary to carry out further investigations.

For more information on eTA, please visit http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/pdf/eta/italian.pdf.

However, the eTA authorization does not guarantee automatic admission into Canada, which is left to the discretion of the competent customs and border authorities.
Staying in Canada on the basis of the «eTA» does not allow you to
— remain on Canadian territory beyond the permitted period;
— carry out paid activities.

In cases other than short stays of up to six months for tourism or business purposes, you must apply for an entry visa at the Canadian Embassy in Rome.
For information on visas to Canada, please see the following page (in Italian): http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/index.asp

 

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