Highlights

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Canada's not all sub-zero climes, 'maple syrup with everything' and hockey sticks at dawn. The country is as naturally and culturally diverse as it is wide, with plenty to rival its big, blowhard neighbour down south. Here are just a few reasons to go north. Soak up the Franco-Anglo culture mash of Montreal during the summer when the city comes alive for festival season. There's a continually rolling programme of arts festivals, from comedy and jazz to pimped-up cars and Caribbean carnival.


If a trip up Toronto's CN Tower, the world's fourth tallest building (damn those pesky Dubai and Tokyo hoteliers!), doesn't get the old blood pumping enough, then how about a stroll outside its 116 storey high perimeter? The EdgeWalk opened this August to let urban thrill seekers tick that particular box. Good luck to 'em! For monocle-popping views of mountains, sweeping lakes and pine valleys, plus a more than fair chance of spotting bears, elk or cougars, Jasper National Park is hard to beat. Trips to Athabasca Falls, the Jasper Tramway cable car and on a giant ice buggy to the Columbia Icefield glacier are all mandatory.

Ottawa (add a few extra As if you're Canadian) feels more like a college town than a capital city, but a tour of the Parliament building conveys a rare sense of history. While you're there, make sure you find the world's biggest outdoor skating rink on the Rideau Canal (I somehow missed it myself). Quebec City is like a mini crocante of Europe, with its city walls and narrow lanes. A short drive out of town takes you to North America's only Ice Hotel, designed and built from scratch each year with impressive intricacy. Stop off at Montmorency Falls (actually higher than Niagara and far less mobbed) on the way and try a spot of ice climbing.

The modest town of Churchill, Manitoba, is now a firm fixture on the tourist map, since it offers up the Northern Lights in spring, beluga whales in summer and polar bears in autumn. You can reach it with the world's slowest train ride, alongside First Nations locals boarding with heir canoes and other worldly possessions. Need more adventure? Go rafting on the thundering tidal bores in the Bay of Fundy or marvel at the massive, tree-topped stacks rising from the sea and the surging power of the fearsome Old Sow Whirlpool, the Western Hemisphere's biggest. For a complete change of scenery, mosey on down to Canada's wild west. Dig about in the dust for dinosaurs in the Albertan Badlands and unleash your inner cowboy at the rodeos and chuck wagon races of the Calgary Stampede.

Many visitors come for the slopes and Canada has no shortage of the white stuff for powder hounds. The Rockies has Whistler, with its buzzy off-piste appeal, where many a shot-ski is downed, and Banff with deep snow for thousands of miles, plus a season that stretches halfway through the year until May. The east is less well trodden, but resorts like Le Massif look set to change that, with short lift queues and views over the stunning St Lawrence river valley while you slide.