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Canada - Parliament Hill


Ottawa - Toronto - Montreal - Vancouver - Qubec City
Area: 9,976,000 sq km (3.9 million sq mi)

Population: 31,280,000

Capital city: Ottawa (pop: 1,010,500)

People: British descent (28%), French descent (23%), Italian descent (3%), aboriginal peoples (2%), plus significant minorities of German, Ukrainian, Dutch, Greek, Polish and Chinese descent

Languages: English, French and 53 native languages

Situated north of the USA, between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Canada is the world's second largest country (Russia takes the guernsey). It extends some 7700km (4775mi) east to west and 4600km (2850mi) north to south. Nearly 90% of Canadians huddle along the 6379km (3955mi) southern border with the USA. Though much of the land is lake and river-filled forest, there are mountains, plains and even a small desert. The Great Plains, or prairies, cover Manitoba, Saskatchewan and parts of Alberta. These former grasslands are now responsible for Canada's abundant wheat crop. Western Canada is known for its Rocky Mountains, while the east has the country's major cities and also its most visited geographic feature, Niagara Falls. The Canadian Shield, an ancient, rocky and glacially sanded region, formed more than 2.5 billion years ago, covers most of the north of the country. The Arctic region, in the far north, is where you'll find frozen tundra merging into islands that are ice-bound for most of the year.


Canada's greatest attribute is its natural environment - it would be simpler to list the activities that aren't available in Canada than those that are. Pursuits on the available list should begin with hiking. In Ontario, Killarney Park has a long-distance trail around the tops of its rounded mountains. Other impressively vertical regions include Gaspésie Park and Mont Tremblant Park in Quebec, Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, and Cape Breton National Park in Nova Scotia. More hardcore multi-day hikes can be had in Pukaskwa National Park on Lake Superior and on the partially completed coast-to-coast Trans Canada marathon trail (can you spare 750 days?). Many parks provide outfitters for canoeing, kayaking and white-water rafting. Some of the best paddling can be found at Nova Scotia's Kejiumkujik National Park.

For beach activities, surf's up on the east coast at Ingonish Beach in Nova Scotia and in the warmer waters of Melmerby and Caribou beaches near New Glasgow. Skiers are spoilt for choice, with good cross-country skiing found all across the land. The main alpine ski centres are in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and around Whistler in British Columbia. There's also rock climbing; Collingwood and Thunder Bay in Ontario, Banff and Jasper in Alberta, and Squamish in BC are all good places to try. Fishing is abundant and popular, even in winter; you'll need a license. Some of the most popular cycling areas are the hilly Gaspé Peninsula in Québec and the Atlantic Provinces, excluding Newfoundland. In Ontario try the Bruce Peninsula and the Thousand Islands Parkway. There's also good cycling in the Rocky Mountains (especially off-road mountain biking) and throughout British Columbia.

The ecotourism movement has a long history in Canada, and unlike most countries, the costs involved are reasonable. One of the best trips is to the Magdalen Islands of Quebec, where baby seals await your cooing adoration. There are also many trips specializing in the culture of Native people.

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