Backpacking in Canada on a Gap Year

Countries  »  Canada

Why go?

A Gap Year in Canada

Located in North America, Canada is the second largest country in the world and a prime backpacking destination.  Because of its incredible size, much of the Canadian landscape has been left untouched, creating some of the most beautiful places in the world. A gap year in Canada is an essential entry on any travel bucket list.

The cities

To experience a slice of Europe head to the city of Quebec, once settled as part of New France. French is the common language here, and medieval and gothic influences can be seen in the architecture, although the maple syrup here will remind you that you are in fact across the Atlantic Ocean.

Other big cities in Canada are Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and Niagara Falls to see one amazing waterfall.  The thing to do in these cities is to go shopping, watch an ice hockey game, and try the cuisine of the worldly restaurants.

Niagara Falls in Canada

For film and TV buffs, Vancouver is the place to go. Television and movies shows such as Smallville, Supernatural, Final Destination, and the Twilight Saga, just to name a few, were all filmed here. Take some time out from backpacking around Canada and stop in Vancouver you can go on an On Location Tour to see where scenes were shot, and get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes process.  You might even get to see some filming taking place.

A TV set in Vancouver, Canada

The scenery

The cities should be a small part of your gap year in Canada; the national parks are where this country really shines.  In the Prairies region lies the beautiful Banff National Park in Alberta. In Banff and Jasper National Parks backpackers can go on incredible hiking trails which take you past tall snow capped mountains and crystal blue lakes.

Banff National Park, Canada

To spot arctic wildlife head to the desolate location of Nunavik. This frosty region is not only the place for more striking landscapes, but it also offers the chance to experience the Inuit culture and maybe spot a polar bear, if you’re lucky.  Other wildlife here is the musk-ox, arctic foxes, caribou, seals and beluga whales.

Skiing and snowboarding is another awesome way to pass the winter months backpacking in Canada. Whistler and Banff are two of the most beautiful locations to speed past at 40 mph. You can choose to do Cross Country skiing down the Canadian Rockies, or heli ski in the Banff region. 

Best experiences

Top Experiences in Canada

Canada is one of the world's most popular gap year destinations, and a glance at this list should make it clear why. It's far from comprehensive, but should give you a taste of the incredible scenery, fierce nature, varied cities, and delicious foods that lie ahead of you.

Take the plunge

Niagara Falls in Canada

View the dramatic scene, where 90% of the Niagara River flows over Horseshoe Falls (the remainder flows over the American falls). A must see on any trip to Canada be prepared to enter the splash zone.

Risk being eaten

A polar bear in northern Canada

Visit the Polar Bear capital of the world. If that line alone doesn’t have you racing for the town of Churchill maybe the chance of seeing wild Beluga’s will.

Rock the Rocky Mountains

The amazing Rocky Mountains, Canada

With views like this why would you not want to go? Crystal lakes, jagged ranges and the small chance of bears are an adventurers dream. The breath-taking mountains cover a 180 thousand square kilometres so there is enough to keep even the most intrepid explorer busy.

Watch in awe: the Aurora Borealis

The Aurora Borealis (northern lights) as seen in Canada

Head to the Northwest Territories for a light show like no other; the Northern Lights. September and March are peak times to view the dancing spectral lights; look for areas of low-light pollution, utter darkness is what you want.

Soak away the travel grime

Banff Upper natural hot springs

For a mineral-high soak in ahhhhh temperatures head to the Banff Upper natural hot springs. The pools of relaxation are at 5,200 feet and the views from the 37/40 degree Celsius pools are stunning.

Whistle through mountains

Skiing in Canada

If churning up some powder on skis or a board flips your switch, head up to the Whistler Resorts for some premier slopes. The snow is good year round and the Coast Mountains it’s built in are only 2 hours from Vancouver.

Sweet Maple Goodness

Pancakes and maple syrup, Canada style

It’s Canada so if you don’t make a Maple Syrup factory a major priority you’re definitely missing out. Sugarbush Hill Maple Farm is rated the top tour on Tripadvisor and will see to any sweet-toothed cravings thoroughly.

View the masters

Montreal the Museum of Fina Arts

Set in gorgeous Montreal the Museum of Fina Arts houses over 41,000 works of art. The institution, established in 1860 houses the paintings, sculptures and photographs in four different pavilions.

Venture into the abyss

The Camore cave systems underneath Grotto mountains

Explore underneath Canada in the Camore cave systems underneath Grotto mountains. Hike to the completely natural caves and then take the plunge into the darkness (all with a very qualified gide of course).

Take a trip back in time

Old Quebec or Vieux-Quebec, Canada

Old Quebec or Vieux-Quebec is a UNESCO world-heritage site in the heart of the city of Quebec. The quaint cobbled streets and original 1608 fortifications of Saint-Louis Fort make a lovely and intreging day of explor


Oh, Canada!

Although Canada is best known for its winter activities, there are plenty of other things you can do. Whether it's backpacking from city to city, exploring the wilderness of British Columbia, earning a bit of cash or, yes, skiing up a storm, there are loads of ways to spend your gap year in Canada.

Experience Canada

Complete Canadian Summer

Complete Canadian Summer

Canada Winter Working Holiday

Canada Winter Working Holiday

The Next Adventure

The Next Adventure

National Parks of the Rockies

National Parks of the Rockies

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Advice & Tips on Backpacking in Canada

Canada is a big old place and while it's pretty easy to get around and very safe, there's so much to do that we wouldn't want you to miss out on anything. So, here's our advice section on Canada where you can read about husky sledging in the Arctic, just how ridiculously fun skiing can be and what it's like to move to Canada, if you're considering it for your gap year.

Canada travel articles

Husky Volunteering in the Arctic

Husky Volunteering in the Arctic

Snowboarding in Lake Louise

Snowboarding in Lake Louise

Moving to Canada

Moving to Canada

Getting Around Canada

Getting Around

View all Canada articles