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Canada
 
Stretching between two oceans, using two official languages, with two of the world’s great natural phenomena in the Rockies and Niagara, Canada’s sheer variety makes it surprising how it can be overlooked as a travel destination. The second largest country in the world, it has the lowest population density, so you can explore the wonderful mountains, lakes, plains and seacoasts almost unhindered by fellow tourists. You can whale-watch in the Atlantic … and in the Pacific; you can track polar bears in Manitoba … and watch grizzlies across the continent in Vancouver. A spectacular train journey will take you across the great granary of the plains and then through the Rockies. (Stopping off for fantastic skiing in winter or the famed Calgary stampede in summer.) Quebec and Montreal offer transatlantic French, capital Ottawa has a charm of its own, and Toronto is a high-rise dynamic business city. From Toronto it’s just a short drive to Niagara Falls. Smaller, of course, than Victoria or Iguazu, they are perhaps the most accessible natural wonder of the world. Walk alongside or sail right up to the 175ft drop of Horseshoe Falls in the famous ‘Maid of the Mists’.
 
Toronto
 
The largest city in Canada, its economic capital (and of Ontario) and regularly voted one of the ‘most liveable in’ cities in the world, Toronto is located on the shores of Lake Ontario. It grew from a place of porterage to adjacent Lake Huron and has always been a first home to new Canadians – almost half the population was born outside the country, giving weight to its motto of ‘Diversity our Strength’. The outstanding skyline-dominating feature is the CN Tower, at 1,800 ft the highest in the world for 30 years. It has an amazing glass-floored viewing platform (Sky Pod) plus the well-named ’360’ revolving restaurant (excellent food if you can take your eyes off the view). The Victorian ‘Distillery District’ has more old-style architecture while the Harbourside area is a lively shopping and entertainment district – with much also happening on the lake itself.
 
Vancouver
 
On the western coast of Canada, Vancouver looks across the Georgia Strait to Vancouver Island and is bounded on three sides by water. A relatively new city, it really developed in the mid 19th century, following the discovery of gold in Alaska and the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. The port is still an important element as a calling or starting point for Pacific cruise ships, most continuing to the Alaskan coast. The city is backed by mountains offering great winter skiing (it is the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics). The Skyride to Grouse Mountain is an easier way to get astonishing views of the city and ocean, or you can tour the harbour on a paddlewheeler. Venturing further out in a Zodiac inflatable is a near-certain way to whale-watch. Note: the Island is not an off-shore extension of the city. It is among the world’s largest islands with a fascinating variety of natural habitats.
 

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