Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY LIZ FLEM­ING

Cel­e­brat­ing Canada’s 150th birth­day? Never for­get that what brought us to­gether to form a coun­try on that fate­ful day in Char­lot­te­town, Prince Ed­ward Is­land, was the prom­ise of a rail­way that would link the West to the Mar­itimes. That rail­way, fi­nally built in the late 1800s, would en­able valu­able freight to be moved, mak­ing our coun­try a vi­able busi­ness propo­si­tion for all provinces.

Soon that freight rail­way be­came even more valu­able as Euro­pean tourists, keen to see the New World, hur­ried to sail to Canada and book their tick­ets. At the time, there were few cars and fewer roads, so the rail­way was the an­swer for all in­land travel. Pas­sen­ger travel soon be­came as im­por­tant as freight, and tour­ing the ex­cit­ing young coun­try of Canada by train be­came ul­tra­fash­ion­able.

Rec­og­niz­ing a growth trend when they saw it, the Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way Com­pany has­tened to build glam­orous high-style ho­tels to ri­val the most el­e­gant Euro­pean châteaux, and lo­cated them con­ve­niently near the train tracks so guests could re­lax at the end of a day of tour­ing. The com­bi­na­tion of el­e­gant ac­com­mo­da­tion, and what must have been in that day an ab­so­lutely mag­i­cal man­ner of travel, gave birth to a thriv­ing Cana­dian rail tourism in­dus­try.

That same rail tourism is still hugely pop­u­lar in Canada, with train jour­neys top­ping the list for so­phis­ti­cated trav­ellers from all over the world, ea­ger to tour parts of the rugged coun­try that are oth­er­wise sim­ply in­ac­ces­si­ble. Many parts of the Far North, for ex­am­ple, can only be ex­plored by train, and sit­ting in a com­fort­able rail­way car is by far the most invit­ing way to cross vast stretches of prairie, see the Rocky Moun­tains and ex­pe­ri­ence the wealth of nat­u­ral beauty that is Canada.


For trav­ellers look­ing for ef­fi­cient and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly trans­porta­tion, VIA Rail is a pop­u­lar choice. With the sup­port of the Gov­ern­ment of Canada, a ma­jor mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram has greatly en­hanced the VIA Rail ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing up­grades to the busi­ness class ser­vice on the Québec City-Wind­sor cor­ri­dor route, which now of­fers re­fur­bished lounges, a more spa­cious on-board en­vi­ron­ment, a greener and more com­fort­able trip, new meals and more per­son­al­ized ser­vice. WiFi ac­ces­si­bil­ity is also in­cluded on the Ocean east­ern overnight long-haul ser­vice be­tween Mon­tréal and Hal­i­fax.

VIA Rail of­fers some of Canada’s best scenic travel ex­pe­ri­ences such as the Cana­dian, a cross-coun­try ser­vice link­ing Toronto and Van­cou­ver that is one of the world’s most leg­endary and pop­u­lar long-haul rail jour­neys. Com­bin­ing breath­tak­ing land­scapes, cosy ac­com­mo­da­tions, at­ten­tive and cour­te­ous ser­vice and out­stand­ing din­ing, this train wel­comes more than 100,000 trav­ellers ev­ery year.

For day trip­pers, the Québec CITYWINDSOR cor­ri­dor is per­fect for ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some of the coun­try’s most vi­brant cities. Ev­ery year, Toronto, Ot­tawa, Mon­tréal and Québec City come alive with iconic fes­ti­vals and events fea­tur­ing top tal­ent from around the world, and VIA Rail Canada makes get­ting there part of the thrill. Plan to “fes­ti­val hop” from city to city to ex­pe­ri­ence some of Canada’s many great events.

If un­spoiled na­ture is your pas­sion, travel by train be­tween Jasper Na­tional Park and the rugged North Pa­cific Coast of Prince Ru­pert, B.C. This two-day jour­ney winds along the Skeena River pro­vid­ing in­cred­i­ble wildlife view­ing of griz­zlies, black bears, moose, bald ea­gles, elk and moun­tain sheep. Ex­plore Prince Ru­pert’s re­mark­able Mu­seum of North­ern BC, which houses the fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory, cul­ture and art of the North­west Coast in a tra­di­tional long­house, and visit the Khutzey­ma­teen Griz­zly Bear Sanc­tu­ary.

Canada’s north is also ac­ces­si­ble with VIA Rail Canada on a two-day trip from Win­nipeg to Churchill, MB that winds

through prairie fields be­fore reach­ing the open ex­panse of the bo­real for­est.

Churchill, the “Po­lar Bear Cap­i­tal of the World,” also pro­vides up-close and per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences with bel­uga whales in sum­mer­time and stun­ning views of the mag­i­cal aurora bo­re­alis in win­ter (www.viarail.ca).


It’s no won­der that the Rocky Moun­taineer tops so many bucket lists. Of­fer­ing once-in-a-life­time views of the ma­jes­tic moun­tains, glit­ter­ing lakes and pris­tine wilder­ness that char­ac­ter­ize west­ern Canada, this iconic train of­fers a spec­tac­u­lar ex­pe­ri­ence. Guests can choose from two lev­els of ser­vice: SILVERLEAF or GOLDLEAF. Both in­clude top qual­ity food and wine, out­stand­ing at­ten­tion to de­tail and fas­ci­nat­ing, in­for­ma­tive on-board com­men­taries. Multi-day ex­cur­sions in­clude such iconic des­ti­na­tions as Van­cou­ver, Vic­to­ria, Whistler, Lake Louise, Jasper, Cal­gary, Banff and Kam­loops. Add op­tional ex­cur­sions such as city tours and he­li­copter rides to your itin­er­ary, and en­joy the overnight ac­com­mo­da­tions in­cluded in Rocky Moun­taineer trips, or com­bine your rail tour with a pre or post Alaskan cruise ex­pe­ri­ence from Van­cou­ver, BC or Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton aboard se­lect Hol­land Amer­ica Line ships (www.rock­y­moun­taineer.com).


If you’ve ever longed to see Canada’s far­thest north­ern lo­ca­tions, such as the Klondike Gold Rush coun­try, you’ll want to book a seat on the long-serv­ing diesel and steam lo­co­mo­tives of the White Pass & Yukon Route Rail­way. Pas­sen­gers aboard this authen­tic vin­tage train, an In­ter­na­tional His­toric Civil En­gi­neer­ing Landmark, make a steep 914 m (3,000 ft.) climb through gorges and glaciers on a nar­row-gauge track. If you are re­ally dy­ing to ex­plore fur­ther, com­plete your ad­ven­tur­ous itin­er­ary by adding a mo­tor coach tour through parts of Alaska, Bri­tish Co­lum­bia or the Yukon (www.wpyr.com).


Fans of the leg­endary Group of Seven artists will want to jour­ney into the re­mote north­ern On­tario wilder­ness that in­spired these tal­ented painters on board the Al­goma Cen­tral Rail­way’s Agawa Canyon Tour Train. Not only does the 367-km (228-mi.) round trip from Sault Ste. Marie wind through the spec­tac­u­lar canyon from late June un­til mid-Oc­to­ber, at­tract­ing wildlife lovers and na­ture en­thu­si­asts alike, but it also makes a stop at Mile 114 to al­low for ex­cit­ing hikes to nearby water­falls and sight­see­ing points. A GPS-trig­gered com­men­tary in five lan­guages makes sure you don’t miss a thing along the way.

While spring and sum­mer tours are cer­tainly beau­ti­ful, au­tumn is the most pop­u­lar time for this train tour. In fact, so many “leaf peep­ers” come look­ing for au­tumn colours that book­ing a full year ahead is rec­om­mended (www.agawa­train.com).


This train-tour ser­vice runs on se­lect days from June through Oc­to­ber. It trav­els be­tween Québec City’s stun­ning Mont­morency Falls and La Mal­baie for 125 km (78 mi.), stop­ping in seven pic­turesque towns and coastal vil­lages as trav­ellers en­joy a gor­geous view of the St. Lawrence River (www.re­seaucharlevoix.com).

There is no other coun­try in the world that can ri­val Canada for stun­ning land­scapes, un­touched wilder­ness views, rugged Rocky Moun­tain peaks and shim­mer­ing north­ern lakes. Could there be a bet­ter way to cel­e­brate this won­der­ful coun­try’s birth­day than by ex­plor­ing her beauty from the com­fort of a train?





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