Canada is the second largest country in the world, and predictably, this makes it a land of variety and contrast.
The west coast is where the beach meets the mountains with the city of Vancouver snuggled in between. Vancouver was home to the Winter Olympic Games in 2010. British Columbia is a haven for nature enthusiasts, whether they go to Whistler a skiing and snowboarding dream, or for a hike in B.C.s coniferous forests.
On the other side of the Rocky Mountains, Alberta's oil fields stretch out to Saskatchewan and Manitoba's wheat fields as far as the eye can see.
Southern Ontario houses Toronto, Canada's largest and multicultural city, which sits right next to Lake Ontario, the smallest of the Great Lakes. To the North are the Parliament Buildings of Ottawa Canada's Capital, famously known for the Rideau Canal the longest natural ice rink.
Just over the Ottawa River sits Quebec the primarily French-speaking province. Montreal bursts with vibrant culture and have a laugh at its Just For Laughs Festival, and historic Quebec City brings back memories of French Canadian history.
The east coast is home to Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Labrador. Atlantic Canada features spectacular coastline, fresh seafood, and a proud cultural heritage.
Seventy-five percent of Canadians live within 100 miles of the United States border. Up north, the icy, remote Yukon Territories, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut await adventurous travelers.
Provinces, territories, and sites include:
Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island
First nations tribes have lived in the region for thousands of years. Life was based primarily around hunting, fishing, and some agriculture. But the mobile nature of First Nations society made the latter less tenable. As such, native inhabitants traveled the land continually. Early forms of art found in the northern regions, in particular the Yukon, have been dated more than 20,000 years ago.
Around the first millennium, Viking explorers led by Erik the Red and Leif Erickson landed on the east coast, establishing a settlement at historic L'Anse aux Meadows, in the north of what is now Newfoundland. The remains of the Viking settlement were discovered in 1960, and became an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.
By the late 1400s, European explorers began arriving off the east coast. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean was no easy feat, but the new world provided ample rewards. British and French explorers were the first to really colonize the land, and by the 1600s, permanent settlements had been founded, the earliest of which is believed to be Port Royal, in Nova Scotia. The settlement was ideal for trade and furthering exploration along the coast.
In 1535, First Nations residents made use of the word that would become the name of the future country when Jaques Cartier began exploring inland. The name Canada would be used to refer first to a settlement, then a territory, before finally being applied to the fledgling nation as the Province of Canada in the mid 1800s.
Quebec City was founded in 1608, and soon became the capital of the region.
The growth of trade with First Nations residents led to increased migration. As the fur trade boomed and the economy grew, many new settlements began to spring up throughout Canada. Territorial boundaries were constantly shifting, in large part due to the three dominant nationalities: First Nations tribes, British, and French settlers.
As can be expected, racial, social, and political tensions continued to influence the nature of the Canadian frontier, and residents were often at odds.
Before long, war came to shape the land. In the late 1600s, when King William’s War brought the conflict with France to the New World, foreign nationals began fighting for control over the territory. Among the many casualties, the French settlement of Port Royal was largely destroyed. This defeat led to the French surrender of the territory.
The First Nations tribes were dragged into the conflict with the French and Iroquois Wars, in which the Iroquois attempted to gain control over the lucrative fur trade. One of the bloodiest wars in North American history, the war brought new treaties, signed in Montreal, between European and First Nations residents.
Throughout the early years of the 18th century, however, British settlers began to exert dominance, and gain control over the land. The result was renewed conflict, and several years of war. By the mid 1700s, when most of Europe was fighting someone, British and French settlements in North America were devastated as a result of fighting each other and the First Nations Tribes. The war in North America was brought to an end in 1762, with the British defeat of the French at the Battle of Signal Hill. The French ceded most of their territorial rights to the British.
War came to Canada once again in 1812, when American colonies sought independence from British control. While a peace treaty would be signed in 1814 (shortly after the American White House was burnt to the ground), the war would last three years, finally coming to an end in 1815.
In 1840, various colonies across Canada were brought together as the Province of Canada with the Act of Union.
By the mid 1800s, Britain had colonized as far as the west coast, reaching Vancouver Island in 1849.
The prosperity of the new region caught the attention of several other settlements, and the Confederation movement began. In 1867, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick joined to form the Federal Dominion of Canada. The newfound independence from British rule led many new territories to join the confederation, but also sparked much anti-confederation sentiment. Several short-lived rebellions did little to slow the progress. In fact, the last region to join the Confederation was the relatively young territory of Nunavut, formed out of the Northwest Territories in 1999, joining the Confederation that same year.
The remaining years of the 19th century saw provincial boundaries shift, creating new territories to join the confederation. The government was forced to restructure as well, extending influence from coast to coast. The nation elected its first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, knighted by Queen Victoria for his role in the Canadian Confederation.
In 1871, the colony of British Columbia became the Province of British Columbia, now one of the most lucrative and prosperous regions in the nation.
In the late 1800s, the Canadian Pacific Railway was built to provide quick and affordable travel and commerce, connecting both coasts of Canada, and including stops in the United States.
The CP Rail increased prosperity, as well as the colonization of Canada.
National pride became a prominent part of Canadian culture during the First World War, when the nation joined the war effort. Canadian troops were very successful, capturing German bases, and producing many military heroes. Among the most memorable, is the Canadian pilot Billy Bishop. Bishop not only holds the record for air battle victories among all of the British colonies, the decorated officer once faced legendary German pilot Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the infamous Red Baron.
Following the war, Canada suffered tremendously during the Great Depression. In fact, the only nation that suffered more was the neighboring United States. The troubled times would last until the Second World War returned to the country much of its lost pride, and a much needed boost to the economy through military production.
In September 1939, Canada declared war on Germany. The monumental event occurred only one week after Britain engaged in war. The war made Canada a considerable military force, a prestige that has faded in modern Canada’s more peaceful recent history.
Following the Second World War, Canada turned its attention to building a strong nation, establishing social assistance, veteran’s and senior assistance programs. Canada was also one of the first countries to join the newly formed NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), designed to establish a “collective defense” of member nations in 1949.
The modern air defense system NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) brought together Canadian and US military interests in an attempt to watch for, and defend against, any possibility of missile attacks on North America.
Legal independence from the British crown was finally realized in 1982, with the signing of the Canada Act by British Parliament.
The latter half of the 20th century saw French interests turn to separation from Canada. The Quebec Referendum of 1980 was called to decide the issue of whether or not Quebec would remain a part of Canada. Nearly 60% of the province voted to remain, a small but decisive defeat of separatist motivations.
The movement would be revisited in 1995, but this time only 51% would vote to remain a part of Canada.
Despite separatist issues, modern Canada remains a strong and influential nation, actively taking part in the defense of weaker countries, making a name for it as peace keepers. Canada boasts the 8th largest annual revenue by gross domestic product (though it is ranked 11th according to the Canadian dollar’s purchasing power) and maintains one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world.
Canada’s melting pot culture and unspoiled natural landscape attracts countless visitors every year.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Currency: Canadian Dollar - Currently 1 CAD = 0.8131 USD
Languages: English and French
Power: 120 V, 60 Hz
Time Zone: DST -0400 UTC
Climate: The climate in Canada ranges dramatically depending on where in Canada you are. Check the regional info as you can weather ranging from warm summer days to Arctic conditions
In such a multicultural country Canada has a variety of foods but some parts of the country specialize in some food better then others. Vancouver is known for its sushi due to its proximity to the ocean, similar to the east coast and lobster. Up north adventurous travelers have the opportunity to try game meat like caribou or muskrat.
Tim Hortons is a very popular chain across Canada with over 2,800 across the country. It offers coffee, donuts, muffins, sandwiches, and bagels at reasonable prices.
Where to stay depends very much on where you are, most cities have a large range of accommodation for all budgets.