Not surprisingly given its landmass, the climate in Canada varies dramatically. The Arctic Circle's two seasons mean midnight sun through summer and long, cold, winter nights. British Columbia has milder winters and pleasant summers, and snowy Montréal and Québec City can even get hot and humid in summer. Generally, winter temperatures in Canada drop to zero and below, but this is also the season when the cultural and indoor sporting events are in full swing. Toronto enjoys Canada’s warmest summers. While Ottawa also has warm summer days, at night temperatures can drop to single digits, and in February the city is covered in 30cm of snow.
When to fly to Canada
For winter sports enthusiasts, November to March offer the best snow conditions. For those keen to go hiking, mountain biking or exploring the lakes and national parks of British Columbia, the best weather is in late-May to early September.
Flights to Canada are most expensive during the summer.
Unless you are keen on winter sports, it’s best to avoid travelling in November to February. However, this is the best time to find deals. Several airlines offer relatively cheap flights to Canada for January and February.
Getting around Canada
Given the distances, flying is fastest way to travel between cities. CanJet flies to several destinations in Canada, including St John's, Halifax, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Regional airline Air Canada Jazz flies to more than 70 destinations in Canada and the US.
A good way to see the countryside is by train. VIA Rail Canada offers various packages for intrepid travellers. The popular Canrailpass allows 12 days of travel anywhere in Canada during a 30-day period.
Car rental companies are represented at all major airports.
Canada insider information
- Relatively little-known Ottawa, Canada's capital, is a charming cosmopolitan city. In downtown Ottawa, many restored Victorian houses have been turned into restaurants and shops. The historic Parliament buildings are an impressive showcase of Gothic revival architecture. Strolling along the Heritage-listed Rideau Canal, you can watch the boats passing through its eight locks.
- With snow transforming much of Canada into a winter wonderland, many cities celebrate the big freeze. Quebec City hosts a Winter Carnival and the city's famous ice hotel, Montreal holds a High Lights festival and Ottawa puts on the Winterlude carnival.
- Cosmopolitan Vancouver is known for its natural beauty and mild climate. It's a year-round tourist destination, so there's always something to do, from water sports to film, jazz, folk festivals, theatre, opera and ballet. In 2101, Vancouver will host the Winter Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games.
- On Sundays in Vancouver, entire families do the Grouse Grind, climbing about 3km up a trail along the face of 900m-high Grouse Mountain (about 50 minutes if you're fit). You can hike up and take the gondola down.
- Every Sunday in summer, locals and visitors flock to Montreal's Mont Royal Park for the "Sunday Tam-Tams," a lively event where people play Tam-tams (a type of hand drum) in a festive gathering around the monument to Sir George-Etienne Cartier.
- Apart from Niagara Falls, Ontario also boasts the world's tallest structure - Toronto's CN Tower stands at 553 metres. At the top, you can enjoy marvellous views, peer down through the glass floor and dine at the revolving restaurant.
- The Calgary Stampede takes place in July - complete with rodeo, chuckwagon races, concerts and an amusement park. It's the province's most popular tourist attraction. BYO Stetson.