If you’re searching for the promised land, there's a good chance you'll find it somewhere in the endless forests, inlet-punctuated coastline and meat-cleaver mountain ranges of Western Canada.
A Natural Show
Western Canada has historic sites, music venues and wonderful restaurants, but the real ‘show’ in these three provinces isn’t hidden away in some dark, dusty museum; it’s paraded outside in a dramatically expansive landscape of mountains, lakes, plains, forests, rocky bluffs and storm-lashed beaches. You haven’t fully experienced this spectacular corner of the planet until you’ve gone for a swim in a glacier-fed lake, run with delight across an alpine meadow, followed in indigenous footsteps across a remote mountain pass, and watched a bear foraging for wild berries. Get in training!
Epic Adrenaline Rushes
Steely calved West Coasters have been discovering ways to interact with the outdoors for decades, and there are hundreds of operators here that can help you do the same. Whistler morphs from skiing capital to mountain-biking bonanza depending on the season. Banff and its satellite national parks contain an A-to-Z of trails, and Tofino is the original Canadian 'surf city'. Recent years have brought more creative inventions, including scarily long zip lines and numerous via ferrate (fixed-protection climbing routes). Alternatively, you can do what the First Nations have been doing for thousands of years and take to the water in a canoe or kayak.
It's easy to be seduced by the Canadian wilderness, but this region also offers sparkling city action. Alberta puts on a show with Edmonton's arts scene and Calgary's contemporary cowboy vibe, but it's British Columbia that offers the best city-based shenanigans, with two very different approaches. Provincial capital Victoria frames its increasingly cool scene with a backdrop of historic buildings, while Vancouver, Western Canada's largest city, provides a full menu of ethnically diverse neighborhoods that are ripe for exploration. From slick Yaletown to hipster-haven Main St, cool Gastown and the 'gayborhood' of West End, the 'City of Glass' is a place with many personalities.
Responsible for 95% of the region’s history in a trajectory that stretches back over 10,000 years, Western Canada’s indigenous culture – once rudely ignored, but now proudly exhibited – is part of a complex story of creation beliefs, against-the-odds survival and diverse First Nations traditions. Piecing it together will take you from the towering totems of Haida Gwaii to the chronicles of Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology. BC alone has 198 First Nations groups, nearly one-quarter of the Yukon’s population claims indigenous heritage, while Alberta is the heartland of the Blackfoot and Cree. Uncover their legends in art galleries, cultural centers, festivals and hotels, or listen to their mythical stories retold in over 30 indigenous languages.