Trips to Canada

Canada is a country that is quite simply brimming with character, history, wildlife, and unendingly breathtaking scenery. Known the world over for its Mounties, moose and maple syrup, even a short venture into this beautiful country will show you that it has a whole lot more to offer its warmly welcomed guests.

The scale of the country is one that is practically incomprehensible. It is the second largest country on earth and one that the UK could fit into quite comfortably more than 40 times. Our holidays to Canada mainly focus on the Yukon region and the city of Vancouver in British Columbia – regions that display wide variations yet both encapsulate the charm and beauty of this delightful country.

The Yukon, the westernmost and smallest of Canada's three federal territories, is a region of indescribably magnificent scenery and wildlife and is a location perhaps best summed up through its astonishing statistics – 186,000 square miles of land (80% of which is pure untouched wilderness), a population of 34,000 people, 250,000 migratory caribou, 6,000 grizzly bears, 70,000 moose and 10,000 black bears. It is of course also known as the site of the gold rush hysteria of the late 19th Century, when the largest gold deposit of its kind was discovered and prospected.

Vancouver is a thriving, stylish city, sited on a peninsula and with a wealth of trees, parks, and majestic mountains that create the most stunning backdrop. It is a city exuding a welcoming trendiness – you can take a cruise past the downtown region, explore the trendy cafés of Gastown, or seek out the abundance of artwork dotted throughout the city.

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Geography and climate

The landscape of the Yukon is made up of a picturesque array of towering mountain ranges, crystal clear lakes and vast rivers and valleys as well as the largest non-Arctic ice field from which dazzling glaciers flow.

The climate is a sub-Arctic one, characterised by long cold winters and brief warm summers. In the winter the average daily temperature is around -15°C whilst the summer sees averages of around 16°C. The high latitude of Northern Yukon ensures the phenomenon of both the Midnight Sun in the summer and long polar nights in the winter. This is not to the same extreme as places in the Arctic but still leads to very long days in the summer and short days in the winter. The darkness of the winter also makes the Yukon an ideal spot to seek out the Aurora Borealis which, weather and solar activity permitting, can be seen from mid-August until mid-April.

The landscape of Vancouver is both flat and hilly with a scenic vista of snow-topped mountains in the background. The city is also home to one of the largest urban parks in North America, Stanley Park. Weather wise, Vancouver is one of the warmest cities but also one of the wettest. Summer temperatures average around 20°C whilst in the winter, the weather is a reasonably mild 3°C.

Food

As would be expected, food across Canada is hugely varied, multi-cultural and influenced not only by the country's First Nations, British and French ancestry, but also by more recent influences such as Chinese and Japanese.

Indeed, Vancouver is one of the best places in the country to enjoy sushi and Chinese dishes as well as other ethnic fare such as Italian and Greek. There is also a great choice of what is known as West Coast Cuisine which comprises of fresh local ingredients such as salmon, oysters, mussels and prawns.

Similar cuisine, on a much smaller scale can be found in Yukon, as well as some regional specialities. These include dishes made of moose meat which can be cooked in a variety of ways from steaming to roasting and also caribou which can be cooked in everything from burgers to stew. Wild seafood is also commonly served in the territory such as Arctic grayling, trout, Kokanee salmon and Alaskan King Crab.

In both Vancouver and the Yukon you will also find some of the country's most well-known dishes such as poutine (fried potatoes with cheese curds and gravy), butter tarts (butter, sugar, syrup, and egg filled into a flaky pastry) and beaver tails (fried dough pastry in the shape of a beaver tail).

Economy and culture

Historically, the Yukon's major industry has been mining for lead, zinc and silver mined alongside the metal the territory is famous for – gold.

It's memories of this exciting chapter of Yukon's history that draws visitors to this region, with tourism now of huge importance to the local economy. The major appeal for tourists is also, of course, the nearly pristine nature – just a short distance from the main city of Whitehorse you can enjoy summer canoeing, white-water rafting and horse-riding. In the winter, enjoy husky dog sledding, snowmobiling, or flightseeing around the frozen peaks of Kluane National Park: an experience like nothing on earth.

With a heritage steeped in First Nations history and Klondike gold rush hysteria, Yukon's culture is widely influenced by its history.

In the far north of the territory, Dawson City offers opportunities to explore the impact of the gold rush on this part of the world: gold mines, saloon bars, boardwalks and paddle steamer boats can be found in and around the town - located at the confluence of the mighty Klondike and Yukon rivers.

Vancouver, with its location close to Canada's transcontinental highway and rail routes, is one of the country's largest industrial centres with a large and diversified trade port. There is a fast growing technology sector and the city is an important centre for software and video game development. The film industry is also of great economic importance to the city and Vancouver is the largest producer of movies in North America after LA and New York.

The scenic landscape of the city and its location close to the border of America also makes it a major tourist destination, with visitors drawn to the trendy, cosmopolitan culture of the city.

Image credits: Arctic Range Adventures Ltd & Government of Yukon & Cathie Archbould, F Mueller, Joseph Bradley, Tagish Wilderness Lodge

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