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The ultimate 3 week Canadian itinerary

skyline of Quebec, Canada

Dreaming of your next big adventure and can’t quite decide between mountains or skyscrapers? This ultimate Canada itinerary has got you covered! Over the course of 3 weeks you can visit bustling cities and dramatic landscapes on a Grand Canadian road trip that takes you (almost) coast to coast.

Canada is a huuge country, and it can be tricky to try and figure out where to go and what to see – especially if you’ve only got so much time off work. Thankfully, Contiki’s gone ahead and done all the work for you! So sit back, relax, take in the views and prepare to make lifelong friends with your fellow travellers. 

Day 1: Toronto to Ottawa

Toronto’s the largest city in Canada, which makes it the perfect place to start your Canadian adventure! However, you’ll have to wait to explore this beautiful, bustling city, as we’re heading straight to the Capital of Canada – Ottawa. Home to the Prime Minister of Canada, Ottawa is steeped with Canadian history, culture and delicious food. On the first day of your Canadian road trip you’ll get to wander the city and all it has to offer. 

You can kick things off by checking out the Parliament buildings before strolling down Wellington street to do some shopping, and maybe even enjoy the sunset over Ottawa River with a picnic dinner. While in the city, Byward Market is a must! Named after the founder of Ottawa, the market is now one of the top tourist destinations and the city’s oldest outdoor market. With fresh Canadian treats and local artisan crafts, this is the perfect spot to relax outside in the summer. 

Ottawa in Canada

Image source:Contiki

Day 2: Ottawa to Québec City 

We’re wasting no time on this Canadian road trip – today we’re headed straight on to Québec City

The first stop of the day is at the award winning St. Albert Cheese factory. Not only will you get the chance to go behind the scenes to learn about how they produce their famous cheese, you’ll also get a chance to try a handful of different types for yourself! It’s also a great way to support a small Canadian community so we can perfect being travelers, not tourists! And as you’ll quickly learn during your Canadian road trip, cheese is an important ingredient in a quintessential Canadian dish (more on that later!)

As soon as you step foot into Québec City you’ll feel as though you’re somewhere in Europe. Whether it’s because of the cobblestone streets, the fortified city walls, or the beautiful French language, there’s no question it’s a great place to spend a few days. For dinner tonight, why not try out poutine in the province where it was created? Made of fries, brown gravy and you guessed it, cheese curds, this comfort food is a staple in Canadian culture!

24 Best things to do in Québec City

24 Best things to do in Québec City

Carlen Oliveira
by Carlen Oliveira Apr 17, 2024

Day 3: Québec City 

With a short drive out of the bustling city, you’ll find yourself standing in front of Montmorency Falls, a powerful waterfall that stands at an impressive 83 meters – that’s 30 meters higher than Niagara Falls! Here we’ll get to spend some time wandering the grounds, admiring the power of the falls, and for you adrenaline junkies, how about soaring over the falls on a zipline? 

Before heading back into the city, we’ll make a stop at the Huron-Wendat Traditional Site to learn more about the Indigenous group and their history in the region. From walking through their traditional longhouse, to learning about their matriarchal societies and the proper way to use a dreamcatcher, you’ll leave with a new understanding of Canadian history.  

Back in Québec City, the afternoon is yours to explore. Whether you want to wander the cobblestone streets of a UNESCO World Heritage site, check out one of the city’s many museums or munch on a Beavertail down by the St. Lawrence river, there’s plenty to keep you busy! And of course, we can’t leave the city without checking out the amazing nightlife! Drag show followed by karaoke, anyone? 

Quebec City, Canada

Image source:Contiki

Day 4: Québec City to Montreal 

Goodbye Québec City and hello Montreal! It’s only right that your first introduction to this island city should be with panoramic views atop Mount Royal. Located in the heart of the city and sitting at 233 meters tall, this mountain is a favorite spot for locals and travelers alike.

Once you’ve snapped some pics and explored a few trails, we’re heading to one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world – Mile End. Coffee shops, bakeries, thrift stores, art galleries, bookstores, and street art are scattered all over this area of the city. But aside from its trendy stores, Mile End is well known for something else – bagels. 

With bagels that rival that of New York, the Fairmount and St. Viateur are two of the oldest and most popular spots that attract long lines, even in the dead of winter. Soaked in honey water and cooked in a firewood oven, you have to try a bagel (or two) for yourself. 

But don’t fill up before dinner, because tonight, we’ve got a special treat. Easily one of the most popular stops on our Canada itinerary, deep into the maple forest is Sucrerie de la Montagne – an authentic sugar shack. Here we’ll learn about how pioneers harvested maple syrup before having a delicious family style meal where you’re more than encouraged to pour maple syrup on everything you eat! And if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can give their maple beer or maple whisky a go. 

15 best things to do in Montreal on your next visit

15 best things to do in Montreal on your next visit

Lianne Chin-Fook
by Lianne Chin-Fook Jun 23, 2020

Day 5: Montreal

Today is a full day for you to explore and practice your French! There’s plenty to see and do to keep you busy in this beautiful city. If you’re a fan of Barbie, the Barbie Expo is a great spot to visit. Those of you obsessed with F1 are in luck, you can head to Notre Dame Island to check out the track. 

Looking to get your heart racing? How about hopping in a jet boat and soaring through the Lachine Rapids? For something a little more relaxed, the Grande Roue ferris wheel is a great way to take in the St. Lawrence river without, well, taking in the river. It’s beautiful at any time of day, but a sunset ride is especially breathtaking. 

End the day by wandering along Crescent street – with bars, clubs and restaurants, this is a great place to enjoy some of Montreal’s nightlife. 

Observatory in Montreal, Canada

Image source:Contiki

Day 6: Montreal to Niagara Falls 

Today we retire our French and say goodbye to Montreal – we’re off to visit an honorary wonder of the world… Niagara Falls! 

But before we set our sights on the magic of the falls we’ll stretch our legs in Gananoque. This picturesque town is nestled in the heart of The 1000 Islands, a popular tourist destination where you can explore an archipelago of islands scattered along the St. Lawrenceriver in a helicopter.

Once in Niagara, we’ll have a chance to experience the falls from land, air and water. But this town has more to offer than you think! Clifton Hill is full of arcades, haunted houses, a casino and much much more. And what better way to end the day than with a stunning firework show right over the illuminated water. 

Day 7: Niagara Falls to Toronto

Today’s excitement starts bright and early! We’re loading up in a helicopter to soar high above Niagara Falls before seeing them up close and personal. If you’re a fan of The US Office, you’ll get a chance to have your own Jim and Pam moment (ponchos and all), aboard a boat that takes you right up to the heart of the falls. 

This afternoon the party continues as we head to Canada’s biggest city: Toronto. Whether you want to explore the metropolis or find a quiet green space, there’s countless ways for you to spend an afternoon here. From museums, art galleries, sporting events, live music and more, it’s no wonder Drake loves this city. 

And of course we can’t leave without taking in the nightlife! King Street is a popular place for young adults that’s packed with bars, making it the perfect place to bar hop. 

Niagara Falls, Canada

Image source:Contiki

Day 8: Toronto 

Today is a full free day to see what this city is made of. From heading to the top of the iconic CN Tower, to seeing miniature models of all the places you’ve traveled in the last week, there’s something for everyone in this big metropolis. It can be a bit overwhelming to find the best things to do in Toronto, but don’t worry, your trip manager will have plenty of suggestions for you! 

Tonight’s a bit of an early night, as we prepare to say goodbye to Eastern Canada and swap out bustling cities for jaw-dropping mountains, as this Grand Canadian trip continues. 

Day 9: Toronto to Whistler via Vancouver

Rise and shine! After an early morning flight and a breathtaking drive on the Sea to Sky Highway (one of the most iconic highways in Canada), we’ll be calling Whistler our home for the next few days as we kick off the start of the western part of the Canada itinerary. 

Surrounded by Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, this area is an outdoor paradise all year round. Today you’ll get the chance to bring Mario Kart to life by riding 4-wheelers through the Canadian outback before partying with the locals. 

gondola ride in Whistler, Canada

Image source:Contiki

Day 10: Whistler 

Whether you want to catch up on some sleep or hit the ground running, today is another full day that’s yours to make your own. 

If you’re feeling up for an outdoor adventure, you can start the day off with a classic Canadian experience – canoeing or kayaking on The River of Dreams. If water sports aren’t your thing, how about taking a ride on the longest zipline in North America that has you soaring from one mountain peak to another? Or maybe an evening multimedia light show created by Cirque du Soleil is more your thing! Either way, there’s plenty to keep you busy in this little village. 

Although you can’t hit the slopes here in the summer, come back to ski or snowboard with Contiki during the crisp winter months – that’s when this little village really comes alive! 

Day 11: Whistler to Sun Peaks 

Before leaving Whistler we’ve got one last optional activity – the Peak to Peak Gondola! This stunning ride gives you 360 degree views of the forests, lakes, rivers and mountains we’ve been exploring over the last couple of days. 

As sad as it might be to leave Whistler, we’ve got loads more to see and do! Tonight we’re spending a night in a bit of a hidden gem – Sun Peaks. Known for its sunny weather, European-inspired village, and unique location, it’s the perfect place to get some R&R… or get competitive. Challenge your new travel buddies to a friendly round robin ax throwing competition to earn bragging rights for the rest of the trip! 

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Day 12: Sun Peaks to Jasper via Mount Robson 

Today we make our way into the largest National Park in the Canadian Rockies, all while taking in the views on the scenic Yellowhead highway. And if that didn’t sound good enough, we’re stopping for lunch at Mount Robson – the tallest mountain peak in the Rockies! 

Thrill seekers, you’re in luck. This afternoon you’ll get the chance to go white water rafting in Fraser River’s Class 3 rapids before settling into your home for the next two nights. 

How to explore Jasper National Park on a budget

How to explore Jasper National Park on a budget

Elizabeth Sisco
by Elizabeth Sisco Sep 09, 2020

Day 13: Jasper 

Another day, another beautiful mountain range! The views never fail to impress in the West Coast, and today is no exception. 

We’ll start the day off with a beginner friendly group hike through Maligne Canyon, the deepest canyon in this National Park, before making our way to the iconic Maligne Lake. Known as the largest natural lake in the Rockies, as well as home to Spirit Island, here we’ll get a chance to take a relaxing cruise out to the island to experience its beauty first hand. 

Back in Jasper, we’ll meet with Matricia, a local Indigenous woman with a wealth of knowledge. On her guided plant walk, you’ll learn more about the Indigenous culture as well as the different uses for each plant, and even make your own salve! 

bear in Canada

Image source:Contiki

Day 14: Jasper to Banff

Hopefully you got a good night’s rest, because today is not the day to nap on the coach! The Columbia Icefields Parkway is regarded as one of the top drives in the world, and for good reason! Towering mountain ranges, deep valleys and icefields surround us on the iconic Icefields Parkway drive as we approach the Athabasca Glacier. Here you’ll get a chance to stretch your legs and walk on the glacier – even in the peak of summer! And if you bring a reusable water bottle up with you, you’ll get a chance to drink the freshest water around.

And it doesn’t stop there. As we make our way to Banff National Park, we’ll visit two iconic glacier lakes that have probably popped up on your socials once or twice – Peyto Lake and Lake Louise. 

The day doesn’t stop there – tonight we’ll get the chance to explore the small town of Banff before hitting up a pub… or two.

15 of the best things to do in Banff all year round

15 of the best things to do in Banff all year round

Kelsey Gostelow
by Kelsey Gostelow Nov 05, 2020

Day 15: Banff

Another day, another beautiful helicopter ride! This time you’ll have a chance to soar through snow capped mountains out to a glacier lake that borders two Canadian provinces. 

If you’ve been itching to hike up a mountain, now’s your chance. Mt. Norquay has a Via Ferrata course that’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but the views make the thrilling ascent worth every second! 

Now that we’re officially in cowboy country, it’s only right to saddle up and test our horse riding skills as we enjoy a guided journey along the Bow River. It also doesn’t hurt that a steak dinner will be waiting for us along the way (vegetarian friendly options are available as well)!

After today’s full day you can relax with a fire at your chalets, or hit the town for another night of fun in Banff.

lake in Banff National Park, Canada

Image source:Contiki

Day 16: Banff to Vernon

For one last chance to get up and into the mountains, we’ll ride the Banff gondola to the peak of Sulphur mountain. Up here we’ll have uninterrupted, panoramic views of 6 different mountain ranges, Bow River, and the town we’ve been calling home. 

Our journey to the next destination takes us through not one, not two, but three National Parks! If your camera roll wasn’t already filled with stunning views, it will be after today. 

Day 17: Vernon to Vancouver 

Vancouver here we come! Although it’s our final stop on this Grand Canadian road trip, we’ve still got lots to do and see before saying our teary goodbyes. 

To help orient yourselves in this big city, we’ll kick things off with a driving city tour to point out the best (and hidden) secrets Vancouver has to offer. And no tour is complete without a pit stop at the Totem poles in Stanley Park!

The rest of the day is yours to explore. Wander the cobblestone streets of Gastown, relax on the beach, or get the ultimate leg workout climbing Grouse Mountain – the options are endless. 

Vancouver

Image source:Contiki

Day 18: Vancouver 

For the last day of our Canada itinerary you’ve got more time to check things off your bucket list! Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the most popular attractions in the city – and for good reason. But if heights aren’t your thing, not to worry, FlyOver Canada, a 4D movie experience is a great way to soar high above the city without actually leaving the ground. 

We close off this once in a lifetime trip with a private sunset dinner cruise around the harbor. Think twinkle lights, a dance party and mouth watering food. As we pull into shore and bid the capitan adieu, the farewell party continues along Granville Street as we dance into the early hours of the morning. 

Day 19: End Vancouver

The time has come to say our farewells to our great Canadian adventure, but we’re leaving with new memories and lifelong friends. 

If you’re staying in the city for an extra couple of days, you may want to test your luck and book a whale watching tour to try and spot a humpback whale or two. You could also take the ferry over to Vancouver Island to squeeze in a visit to the province’s capital, Victoria!  

Feeling inspired to go on a Canadian adventure of your own? This itinerary is based on Contiki’s Grand Canadian trip. Check it out for yourself and book your dream vacation ASAP! 

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