Ink Pots trail, Banff
Being a keen hiker and lover of the outdoors, Canada is one place I'd also wanted to explore - the scenery I'd seen in photos online just looked stunning and I knew that I would love it. And, after spending just two weeks on holiday there, I can confirm that I really did love it! We will definitely be back to visit and explore at some point again!
Due to work, we didn't have much time - just two weeks, which in a country so vast, barely allows you to scratch the surface of just one place, let alone several! But we really wanted to see as much as we could so I came up with an itinerary which covered three main cities we wanted to visit and took us East to West from Toronto to Vancouver.
Here’s a quick snapshot of our two week itinerary:
Day 1-5 Toronto
We stayed in an Air bnb just 16 mins east of Yonge Street, which is the main street running through the centre of Downtown Toronto. The area we stayed in was Cabbagetown South and whilst the apartment and street we were in was nice, the area felt a little uncomfortable to walk though in the evening, although we didn't have any problems.
Being so close to the centre was so convenient, and although there’s a metro system, we didn't need to use it, we just walked everywhere - in my opinion that’s the best way to really experience a city.
Whilst we were in Toronto, we took a day trip to Niagara falls, which you can read more about here.
A Hornblower cruise boat in the base of Niagara falls
Wandering through Toronto’s neighbourhoods, you can see that each area has its own ‘identity’. The Distillery district and Kensington Market are both great places to find little boutique shops, crafts and cafes. Downtown is the place to hit the shops and if you want a bit of peace and quiet, take the ferry across to Toronto Islands. Read more about Toronto’s districts here.
We did really enjoy Toronto. I've listed my top things to tick off whilst you're in Toronto in my blog post, here, but there really is so much you can do, depending on the type of thing you enjoy.
In hindsight, we wished that we had one less day in Toronto, in order to give us an extra day in Banff, but that's just because we love being outdoors and we found so much to do in Banff.
The Toronto skyline and CN tower from Toronto Islands
Day 6 - 10 Banff
We flew from Toronto to Calgary, which only took 3 ½ hours and saved us so much time, given that we had a lot of ground to cover in just two weeks!
If we had more time, we would have stayed in Calgary for a couple of days, but unfortunately we didn't, so we picked up a car at the airport and drove the hour and half to Banff.
We arrived in Banff late afternoon / early evening, so just enough time to have a short walk to see Bow falls. I’ve written more about our time in Banff and a round-up of the top spots to visit, in my blog here.
Downtown Banff and Johnston Canyon
I absolutely loved Banff - the town itself is bigger than I had expected and has such a great feel to it. It is absolutely the perfect base to explore Banff National Park and the walks, lakes and scenery in this area are to die for!
No trip to Banff is complete without visiting Moraine Lake and Lake Louise - both are just stunning, and you can walk around the edge of the Lakes or take a canoe. From Lake Louise you can take the popular Lake Agnes Teahouse Trail which is a really pretty walk - I've written a whole post on the trail, here.
I would also recommend visiting Johnston Canyon, but get there early, as it can get really busy - there are three sections to this trail, so this one has something for all abilities - check out the trail in my post, here.
After all the hiking, relax and recharge at Banff Upper Hot Springs, its just bliss!
If you enjoy hiking, then Banff should definitely be on your Canada itinerary.
Despite the fog, Moriane Lake was still beautiful
Day 11 - 15 Vancouver
To drive from Banff to Vancouver would have taken us just over 9 hours, so we split up the trip, arriving late in Salmon Arm for the night and setting off first thing in the morning. If you have more time, I would recommend driving further South to Kelowna and spending a day or two here as a stopover instead. Kelowna is located in the Okanagan Valley, which is home to over 200 wineries. In addition to wine tasting, there’s plenty of other activities in Kelowna. Unfortunately we just didn't have enough time, but if we had an extra week, this would have been our preferred choice as a stopping point between Banff and Vancouver.
Sunset walks along coal harbour in Vancouver
We absolutely fell in love with Vancouver (you can see there’s a theme emerging - we just loved everywhere we went in Canada!). I’ve not been to another city like Vancouver before - where else can you have a bustling urban city, looking over the bay to cloud-covered mountains and hiking trails, a 405 hectare city park and gorgeous beaches? It really does have everything, which is why it’s so popular and also such an expensive place to live. I've pulled together a list of the best things to do whilst your in Vancouver, which you can read here.
Whilst you're in Vancouver, you have to visit Stanley park, just on the outskirts of the city. It has walking and cycling trails, picnic spots and beaches, a perfect spot to spend the day. Just across the bay you can see Grouse Mountain, which you can either catch a cable car or hike to the top for views of the city. (We hiked and I can tell you, it was tough! But really fun - if you like that kinda thing!). Also across the bay in North Vancouver is Capilano suspension bridge. We also took a ferry across to Granville Island on which is a great place to wander through little shops, markets and sample some great street food.
Like most cities, Vancouver is made up of several neighbourhoods or districts, each with it's own distinct feel. Find out more about the different neighbourhoods in my post, here.
Crossing the Capliano suspension bridge and the famous steam clock in Gastown
Canada on the whole was quite an expensive place to visit. The apartments and hotels were on the pricey side, but it was eating out where we noticed the expense more. We’re not big drinkers, but I do like a glass of wine or a beer if we’re eating out and the prices of alcohol were really quite expensive, as was the food in some places. I would say that a large proportion of our spending went on food and drink, and we were really not excessive at all, in fact Tim Hortons became a regular place to stop for low cost brunches!
Standing on the edge of Lake Minnewanka, Banff
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