Wild and beautiful, cosmopolitan and prosperous, Canada is a paradox in more than one way. The second largest country in the world, Canada has only 29 million people who despite the 10 provinces and 2 territories live mostly in two areas -Quebec and Ontario. Cities where they exist are large, busy and multi-ethnic -- you can hear a babble of tongues and see faces from different nationalities. But wander into the forest or the frozen tundra and you may hear no human voices except your own. Quiz fans and trivia lovers will be thrilled to know that Canada is where the game of Trivial Pursuits was devised as also the all-important zipper. Insulin was discovered here, as was the use of cobalt for treating cancer. Environmentalists will already know that Canada is where the powerful Greenpeace group was born. All you folks going ga-ga over the radio, know that a lot of battery-less radio technology was developed first in Canada! Science buffs, did you know that the electron microscope, the snowmobile, chainsaw, snowplough and snowblower were all invented in Canada? So, don't wait too long to visit Canada, the country of many firsts.It is believed that the name Canada has been derived from "kanata” community or village, a Huron-Iroquis word and harks back to the days when the country consisted of trading posts. Visitors will find plenty to be enthralled by in Canada - some of the world's best natural vistas, great, fun-filled cities and warm and friendly people.The second largest country in the world by total area, including land and water bodies, Canada has little over 3 people per sq km, which is one of the lowest densities of population in the world.
In earlier times, the different Indian Nations had their own languages, customs, religions, and social practises. When the European settlers arrived, efforts were made to supplant the native cultures with their own traditions and practises. By resorting to acts that meant loss of land, livelihood and lives of the Natives, they were largely successful in their mission. Today, the Native people are engaged in a cultural revival along with legal battles to correct the wrongs of an earlier age. The two official languages in Canada are English and French. Besides these, a variety of languages are spoken across the country, ranging from Punjabi to Cantonese. The large immigrant population have brought with them their native languages and thus, there is a growing allophone population (people for whom neither French nor English are mother-tongues). The Native Indian nations have their own languages.
Religion in Canada
Canada is primarily a Christian country as most of the early settlers, the French, British Irish and Scottish belonged to this faith. The single largest religious group in Canada are the Catholics. However, this does not mean that other religions do not thrive in this country -the Sikhs of Vancouver are the largest group of Sikhs outside of their original homeland, Punjab in India. The sizeable Chinese and Japanese communities in Canada follow Buddhist traditions.
If you believe that Canada is just like America, there are many Canadians who would beg to differ. Yes, there are similarities, both in terms of history and in the bustling modern cities in both countries, but there are many differences too. Canada is a mosaic of different cultures, be it the Native Indians, the British and French settler, or the hordes of new immigrants - each has retained its own distinctive characteristics and have not submerged themselves into a melting pot as has been done in many parts of America. In Canada, the arts and crafts are flourishing -several award winning writers, musicians, filmmakers, artists and actors have brought acclaim to the country. Short stories seem to be the forte of Canadian writers and there are several good collections
Depending on the season, bring appropriate clothing: light clothes for summer and plenty of layers for winter. Gloves, scarf and hats are a must for winter. Sturdy walking shoes are great for those explorations. An umbrella is a good idea for those rainy days. Bring a swimsuit along - you can swim in the ocean, lake, hotel and motel pools
All visitors need a passport except citizens from the US. For them a form of identity will do; a driving license will usually suffice. Visas are not required from citizens of most western countries. For all other countries please check with the embassy in your country of residence. Visitor visas are normally granted for six months.
The Best time to Visit the country is during Spring, Summer and Autumn, encompassing the months of April to October. Spring (April to May) is a delightful time to visit owing to the blossoming of tulips and daffodils across the country, with the added advantage of warming days and off-peak season tourist rates. Similarly Autumn (September to October) witnesses the fall foliage in Canada, with the temperatures comfortable to still enjoy sightseeing and outdoor activities, yet escaping the tourist rush of summer. Within the range of an ideal time to visit Canada, summer season is regarded as the peak tourist season.The summer months of June to August are characterized by warm days and cool nights, with humidity being more concentrated on the coastal areas. During these months, city tours, sightseeing, outdoor activities, hiking trails and the famous Rocky Mountain tours, are all open and packed with visitors. The cherry on the cake – summer is also Festival time in Canada! Some of the famous festivals one may attend during these months include the Calgary Stampede, Montreal Jazz Festivals, Caribana and more. Winter months occur during the November to March, with the country witnessing colder temperatures, stronger winds and snowfall. However this season too has its own charm, as the weather transforms Canada into a ski resort and winter sport haven.
Where to Stay in Canada
There are plenty of places to stay in Canada – from luxurious top-end hotels that are the last word in comfort, and ritzy resorts, right down to camping sites. Camping is a cheap and attractive option - you can choose from federal, provincial and private campgrounds all with a range of features and fees with the federal being the cheapest. If a night outdoors is not your idea of fun, you can choose to stay in first class hotels, motels, travelers’ hostels, universities, efficiency units, guesthouses, tourist homes, Bed & Breakfasts and farms - pretty exhaustive,
How to Get to Canada
The important airports in Canada are Dorval airport Montreal, Pearson Airport Toronto and Vancouver International Airport. Most major British, American, European and Australian airlines fly into Canada.
How to get to Canada by Rail - Connected with USA
Amtrak runs four services to Canada -New York City to Montreal, New York City to Toronto, Chicago to Toronto, and Seattle to Vancouver.
One can easily travel to Canada by car as the highway system in the USA meets up with its Canadian counterpart at many points. Be warned, however that Friday and Sunday are extremely busy times at these international crossings - be prepared to wait or avoid crossing in to either country on those days. But the roads are good, the landscape awesome and the experience quite wonderful. Bus services connect most major US cities with important destinations in Canada but you might have to change buses en route.
Shopping in Canada
If you are fond of the good things in life - delicious foodstuff, fine wines and whiskies, exquisite handcrafted articles, aesthetic paintings and sculptures, magnificent textiles - Canada is the place to head to. Shop to your hearts' content here - you will definitely be spoiled for choice. The province of British Columbia is great for smoked and fresh salmon, Quebec for maple syrup and maple sugar and Niagara for wines. And yes! Don’t forget to pick up a bottle or two of Canada's great Rye Whiskey. Pick up some great Canadian products from across the country - Hudson's Bay blankets, British Columbian jade products, prints by Canadian artists in Quebec, rugs handmade in Nova Scotia, Native arts and crafts. And of course, there are tons of kitschy mementoes such as miniature plastic beavers and Mounties at tourist spots like the Niagara Falls.
Things to do in Canada
Canada’s natural lie of the land makes it an ideal outdoor enthusiast paradise. The many wooded trails, shimmering lakes and towering mountains provide ample opportunity for hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, fishing, kayaking and skiing – the National parks like Banff and Jasper have wonderful surroundings and the flora and fauna would have any botanist drooling. There are organised tours that one can take or do-it-yourself ones – Canada is most certainly wild and very beautiful. There are several natural wonders like the Niagara Falls, the Bay of Fundy, the Rocky Mountains and the Dinosaur Provincial Park among others. The unspoilt back country of Canada is replete with camping grounds and shelters where on can put up for the night. In winter when the mountains are covered with snow, the skiing season opens and the slopes of the Rockies in Alberta and the hills in Quebec are dotted with skiers and snowboarders. Canada is a heaven for nature lovers and there is some activity for everyone.
Eating Out in Canada
Good food is available in plenty in Canada -- from the bland British food to fiery Indian and Thai curries, you can taste all of the world’s tastiest dishes here. Small bistros are to be found all over the country, and price wise, these fall in the mid range category. On the upper end of the spectrum there are expensive restaurants serving gourmet cuisine and at the lower end the “greasy spoons”, Canada’s equivalent to the American diners. These dish up salads and sandwiches and more often then not you could get a good meal at a really cheap price.
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