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Îles de la Madeleine
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Introducing Îles de la Madeleine

Everything about the Magdalen Islands, a stringy archipelago that resembles a Mandelbrot set on maps, is head-turning. The islands are 105km north of Prince Edward Island, and the six largest are connected by the 200km-long, classically named Rte 199. Between the islands' 350km of beach are iron-rich, red cliffs, molded by wind and sea into anthropomorphic forms and caves just crying out to be explored by kayak. As you circle above the crescent beaches on one of the tiny airplanes that fly here, the Magdalens look like desert islands; in fact, 13,000 lucky blighters live here, and that figure quadruples in the summer.

A great way to meet the islanders is at boîtes à chansons. The archipelago has a vibrant nightlife, and on Cap aux Meules you can normally catch wistful Acadian songs being strummed on summer evenings. During the day, if you're not busy in rock pools or trying to keep your bike upright on a blustery sand spit, other forms of creativity can be enjoyed in the seafood restaurants, économusées and boutiques. The islands are teeming with artists, often encountered looking for inspiration in a pot-en-pot (a local specialty, with mixed fish, seafood and sauce baked in a pie crust) or a Pas Perdus (one of three beers brewed on Cap aux Meules).

The islands fall in the Atlantic Time Zone, one hour ahead of mainland Québec.