From the world's best view of the magnificent aurora borealis to North America's biggest indigenous festival, these unforgettable experiences are Canadian classics.
Discover the Inside Passage
Verdant rainforests, abundant wildlife and a rich indigenous history: a cruise down the Inside Passage is a voyage of discovery. Stretching from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert in northern BC, these pristine waterways offer a maze of glacier-carved fjords, channels, passes, and reaches to explore. The wildlife spotting is superb; depending on when you travel, you might see dolphins, whales, sea lions, wolves, grizzlies or even - if you are very lucky - the rare white spirit bears. Some of your most memorable encounters, however, will take place in the First Nation villages, where a local guide will take you to ancient long houses and memorial poles.
HEAD to the big top
Quebec's Cirque du Soleil is the largest theatrical producer in the world, with around 20 shows performing across the globe at any given time. Although you can experience the company's colourful shows right around the world, catching a show in the big tent where it all began is a Montreal must-do. An inspired blend of acrobatics, colourful costumes and daredevil staging, Cirque du Soleil's shows range from the water-based ballet of O to the steampunk fantasy of Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities, to productions celebrating the music of legends such as Michael Jackson and Elvis. So head to Montreal's waterfront for a night to remember.
Ride the rails in the Rockies
Train buffs aren't the only ones who love the Rocky Mountaineer, a one-of-a-kind railway trip through the awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains. This luxurious long-distance train lets you explore soaring mountains, rushing rivers and dramatic chasms without even putting on your walking shoes. There are a number of itineraries on offer but for sheer jaw-dropping beauty, the First Passage to the West takes some beating. Travelling from Vancouver to the achingly lovely Lake Louise, there are plenty of highlights to admire along the way, including Black Canyon and Kinbasket Lake. It is not just the natural wonders that impress; the spiral tunnels that the train passes through are marvels of engineering.
Meet a homegrown style maven
He may not be a household name, but stylish stars from Beyonce to Madonna not only know who John Fluevog is; they also have him on speed dial. For decades, this Vancouver native has been supplying celebrities with stylish shoes. There is nothing understated about Fluevog's designs: his Cubist Cupcake lace-up ankle boots, for instance, are made of distressed red velvet, lined with gold leather, and finished with a brushed silver roller buckle and an 8cm heel.
Fluevog has outlets right across Canada, but his flagship store is located in Vancouver's historic Gastown district. Located just a block away from where Fluevog opened his very first shop three decades ago, Fluevog's headquarters – which also houses his design studio – sits in an all-glass greenhouse-inspired building that is as eye-catching as his designs.
Take part in an indigenous festival
Held every May in Winnipeg, the Manito Ahbee festival – meaning "where the creator sits" in the indigenous Ojibway language – is one of North America's biggest indigenous celebrations. The five-day event kicks off with the lighting of the sacred fire, followed by the smoking of the sacred pipe and a traditional friendship dance, and unfolds with a string of music, art and other cultural events. Catch performances by indigenous musicians and dancers – the International Powwow, featuring an amazing 800 dancers, is a highlight – and head to the festival marketplace to invest in some authentic craft pieces, such as beadwork, star blankets or ribbon shirts.
Explore a colonial gem
Here is something that few people realise: Canada is home to one of North America's oldest colonial settlements. Quebec City has scored a World Heritage listing for its magnificently-preserved Old Town, a warren of narrow cobblestone streets, mansard-roofed town houses and grand church spires. Picturesquely divided between the clifftop Haute Ville, or Upper Town, and the Basse Ville or Lower Town, Quebec City feels like a tiny slice of Europe transported to North America, right down to the quaint bistros and brasseries perched on every corner. Quebec City residents are also known for their love of a party. Summer is one long festival while in winter, the Winter Carnival keeps the cold at bay.
Enjoy the MOST DAZZLING show on earth
Fireworks have nothing on this. The amazing aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, is one of the planet's most dazzling natural wonders. The result of charged particles from the sun interacting with the outer atmosphere, the aurora is a light show that sets the night sky glowing, rippling and dancing. And the best place to take it all in is the Northwest Territories, an amazing stretch of ice-fringed wilderness covering an area five times the size of the UK. Why here? Thanks to unpolluted skies and low humidity – not to mention a position right beneath the band of maximal auroral activity – the Northwest Territories is the only place where you can view the Northern Lights around 200 nights a year, from late summer through to early spring.
This article has been produced in association with Destination Canada.
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