By Bryony Dunn
Marketing Manager at Travel Nation
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A magnificent jumble of mountains, prairies, tundra, forests and lakes, Canada is perhaps the greatest example of the Great Outdoors. From the quaint fishing villages of Nova Scotia to the soaring wilderness of the Rocky Mountains, it’s a country packed with natural wonders from coast to coast.
After Russia, Canada is also the second-largest country in the world, so there’s a whole lot to explore. One holiday to Canada will never be enough.
Perhaps the best way to explore Canada’s vast wilderness is by rail, zipping along lakeshores, between snow-tipped peaks and through dense alpine forests. Several of Canada’s scenic trains have viewing cars with domed over-sized windows that provide fantastic panoramic views.
You can sit back, get cosy and sip a gin and tonic as the staggering landscapes pass you by. No wonder Canada train holidays are a bucket list favourite. It’s a breath-taking way to travel.
For the ultimate cross-country Canada experience, you won’t do better than the Canadian Train. Travelling the whopping 4,666 kilometres between Toronto and Vancouver, it’s an epic journey through prairies, lakes, forests and – of course - the majestic Rocky Mountains. Operated by VIA Rail, Canada’s public passenger train network, it’s also a great way to meet local people and get a glimpse into Canadian culture.
The trip takes a total for four days and four nights, with the train stopping at iconic stations such as Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton. You can make the entire journey in one sitting or hop off and explore several stops along the way. The train runs twice a week all year round, come snow, rain or shine, always travelling through the most beautiful scenery in daylight hours.
Over a mile long itself, the Canadian Train is simply massive, but it’s still best to book in advance. If you book a cabin in Sleeper Plus or Prestige Class, you’ll be treated to freshly prepared Canadian cuisine and pre-departure lounge access. Even better, you can soak up the passing scenery from Canada’s ‘best window’ in the raised panoramic dome car, spotting elk, bears and eagles from your seat.
Great for city-hopping holidays in Eastern Canada, the Corridor Train run by VIA Rail provides convenient links between Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. With plenty of legroom, spacious seats and great onboard meals, it’s a comfortable way to roll several Canadian city-breaks into one brilliant trip.
Wander through the French-influenced streets of Quebec, try a traditional Montreal smoked meat sandwich, take a river cruise in Ottawa and visit the CN Tower in Toronto.
Travelling Business Class on the Corridor Train, rather than Economy, is excellent value for money and the extra perks are worth the additional expense a hundred times over. In Business Class, you’ll have lounge access before departure, a tasty meal served in your seat and plentiful alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. It’s a wonderful way to explore cosmopolitan Canada.
Going further? From Toronto, try taking the AMTRAK Maple Leaf train across the border into the USA and travelling through beautiful upstate New York to the Big Apple. On the way, you’ll pass the beautiful Finger Lakes and go through the Hudson Valley.
Travelling between British Columbia’s most staggering beauty spots, the Rocky Mountaineer is a tourist train with all the trimmings. The world’s leading luxury train service, it’s perfect for a once-in-a-lifetime Canada holiday. Spot bears from the glass-dome coaches, learn about the landscape from your expert on-board hosts and look forward to locally inspired cuisine.
The Rocky Mountaineer offers all kinds of routes and pairs brilliantly with a Vancouver Island road trip. Cross the Continental Divide on your way from Vancouver to Banff, pass through iconic Spiral Tunnels or soak up the alpine views as you journey through the clouds to Jasper National Park. Whichever route you choose, you’ll bound to be left speechless by the towering landscapes.
There are no sleeper cabins aboard the Rocky Mountaineer, so if you’re taking a multi-day journey, you’ll stay in top-notch hotels surrounded by incredible scenery along the way. Every route includes exceptional service, delicious food and endless views. Ideal for anniversaries, landmark trips and honeymoons, it’s a stunner.
If you’re drawn to the fishing villages, forests and cliffs of Canada’s Atlantic coast, hop on the Ocean Train for a journey to really treasure. Over 22 hours, the Ocean Train travels between Montreal and Halifax, following the St. Lawrence River before passing through the Maritime Provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The track often hugs the shoreline, so you’re guaranteed great views along the way.
Travelling in Sleeper Plus Class, your comfortable seat will be converted into a cosy cabin at night, and you’ll be granted access to the glass-domed viewing cars. Not only that, but you’ll receive traditional Canadian cuisine and free drinks throughout the journey. In the summer, there’s also a programme of presentations and entertainment, adding yet another dimension to your trip.
From Halifax, you can explore the best of Nova Scotia, from whale-watching and puffin-spotting in the Bay of Fundy to tasting fresh oysters in Prince Edward Island and learning about First Nations culture in this ancient land. Canada’s Maritime Provinces have an identity all of their own, so if you combine the Ocean Train with a city break or Nova Scotia self-drive, you’re guaranteed a fantastic holiday.
This breath-taking route from Jasper to Prince Rupert (or vice versa) follows the path of the Skeena River through the Rocky Mountains to the North Pacific, passing through some of British Columbia’s most jaw-dropping scenery.
Along the way, you’ll see how the landscape has been shaped by the First Nations peoples, gold-panners, and farmers. It’s worth bringing binoculars for this journey, as you may well spot moose, elk, deer, grizzly bears, wolves, coyotes and eagles from the comfort of your seat.
During the summer months, you can book the Skeena in Touring Class, which means that you’ll travel the whole journey in the Panorama Dome Car, with hot meals and drinks to boot. The trip takes two days, but you’ll hop off at Prince George and spend the night in a hotel, rather than sleeping on board. Running three times a week in each direction, it’s easy to schedule into a bigger Canada adventure.
From Prince Rupert, you can take the ferry over to Vancouver Island for a wilderness experience like no other. Spot grizzly bears hunting for salmon, look for orca whales in the San Juan Islands, explore the wild beaches of Telegraph Cove and relax on peaceful Quadra Island. It’s the Great Outdoors at its very best.
We can build you a brilliant holiday that combines any of these Canada train journeys with car rental, hotels, wilderness experiences and whale-watching. Our friendly consultants have years of expertise in putting together complex multi-destination holidays and round the world flights. To start planning your Canada holiday, you can call us on1273 320 580 or send us a quote request by email.
Bryony is an explorer in every sense of the meaning. In 2013 she took the plunge, quit her marketing job and decided to face down her lifelong panic disorder to begin life as a freelance digital nomad. Journeying all over Asia, for years she earned her keep writing for travel brands. Almost by accident, she ended up in Cali, Colombia where she discovered a remarkable (as yet latent) talent for Salsa dancing. After spending a year in sequins shimmying from dance show to dance show, she returned to the UK, tanned, toned and ready to settle down. Bryony joined Travel Nation as a round the world specialist in 2016 and is now the Marketing Manager, with a little salsa on the side.