Is Canada keeping itself a secret? What else could explain why more of the world isn’t flocking there for vacation? This is a country with serious riches: bold cities, distinct cultures—even (arguably) the most impressive stretch of the Rocky Mountains.

If you’re ready to visit the world’s second-largest country by total area (only Russia covers more ground), read on. We break it down for you by mode of travel in our choose-your-adventure overview.

Travel to Canada: Drive

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You can’t help but hear the call of the open road in Canada. With nearly 650,000 miles of byways and highways winding across mountain ranges, vast plains, ocean coasts and more, this country is a memorable road trip waiting to happen.

You can rent a car and explore at your own pace or take an escorted trip and enjoy the sights without being the one behind the wheel. (This is a particularly good way to explore several standout cities, such as Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto, in a single visit.) Either way, you’ll find Canada’s sigh-inducing scenery delivers.

Niagara Falls, for instance, doesn’t merely beckon—it roars. The falls, which straddle the U.S.-Canadian border, are about a two-hour drive from Toronto. Those in the know agree that the most awe-inspiring views await on the Canadian side, which offers a wide panorama of all three cascades that make up Niagara Falls. You can sample views from both sides of the border by walking across the Rainbow Bridge. (Just remember to bring your passport.) And now, a new view is possible—a bird’s-eye look from the zip line that sends riders soaring at speeds of more than 40 mph along the edge of the gorge. But to really feel the falls’ power, hop on one of the seasonal boat tours that take you up-close to the vast curtains of water. Despite the provided ponchos, you will get wet from the spray.

Elsewhere when you travel to Canada, you’ll experience scenic drives that rank among the world’s best. The Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast, is a 185-mile loop that travels through picturesque fishing villages and clings to steep oceanside cliffs—allowing you to drink in the views over the Atlantic. And in western Canada, the Icefields Parkway is one of the world’s grandest mountain routes, running through Banff and Jasper national parks. The views of the Rockies are stunning; along the way, be sure to stop at the Columbia Icefield and powerful Athabasca Falls, where the constant churn of whitewater is rendered all the more impressive by the pristine alpine surroundings.

Travel to Canada: Cruise

Some things are best enjoyed on the water, and one example is surely the fall colors of Canada’s eastern coastline. Imagine relaxing on deck (or on your cabin’s private balcony) as the multihued landscapes unfold.

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A week-long cruise typically starts or ends in New York or Boston, while longer cruises—12 days or more—often use Fort Lauderdale, Florida, or Charleston, South Carolina, as a terminus. Either way, as you wind your way along Canada’s coast, panoramas of reds, golds and yellows sparkle in the sunlight, punctuated by quaint fishing harbors and culture-rich coastal cities.

The ocean portion of the cruise will take you to the three Maritime Provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. This trio serves up some of the nation’s prettiest small towns—along with world-renowned seafood. Try the sweet, tender mussels on Prince Edward Island; its ocean climate and tidal patterns are uniquely favorable to this delectable shellfish.

Your journey then heads inland to sail along the St. Lawrence Seaway, where more fall color awaits. The boreal forest on the river’s north shore is a mix of coniferous trees—firs and pines—and deciduous trees, those that change color. Their warm hues pop against the green canvas of conifers, creating a distinctive mosaic. On the south shore, the forest teems with red maples, yellow birch, white ash and others. The only sights that might steal your attention from nature are the 40 lighthouses that line the waterway in and around Quebec.

The St. Lawrence Seaway cruise also takes you to some of Canada’s most impressive cities. Montreal hums with a global vibe, while Quebec City—founded before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock—charms with its 17th- and 18th-century stone architecture and European feel.

Other cruise options include a tour around the Great Lakes, sailing between Chicago and Toronto, with a day spent in Niagara Falls. Or you can explore Canada’s west coast from Vancouver in the summer. A popular stop is Vancouver Island, with its glorious 55-acre Butchart Gardens, and many journeys wind their way through Canada’s rugged Inside Passage, past pine-covered fjords, peaceful inlets and adorable harbor seals.

Travel to Canada: Rail

Rail travel is a particularly pleasurable way to see vast stretches of natural beauty. Canada’s trains venture where roads can’t, revealing wonders such as breathtaking Pyramid Creek Falls and the multihued rock of Painted Bluffs. Neither of these British Columbia gems is accessible by road, yet they’re easy to see via a rail trip. You’ll pass so close to the falls, in fact, that you’ll feel the cool spray on your face as you stand in your train’s open-air vestibule.

The national train system has routes of varying lengths, including a four-night cross-country trip between Vancouver and Toronto. These longer-distance trains feature dining cars serving up Canadian cuisine on elegant china and sleeper cabins where you can drift off to the rhythm of the wheels as they glide overland. Luxury berths even include a minibar and TV. But why watch a screen when the real action is unfolding just outside your window?

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Another train, the Rocky Mountaineer—one of AAA’s preferred travel partners—operates three scenic routes in western Canada—showing off the best of British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies in Alberta. Glass-domed coaches frame panoramic views, while locally inspired cuisine, such as salmon from British Columbia’s Fraser River, is served up in the dining room or at your seat, depending on what level of service you’ve purchased. Engaging guides in each car point out highlights and historical sites, and their eagle eyes frequently spot bears ambling alongside the tracks or on nearby ridges. (The train slows down, when possible, for such photo ops.)

One distinction of the Rocky Mountaineer is that it rests at night. Passengers disembark in towns such as mountain-chic Banff or quirky Kamloops—so there’s plenty of time to shop, enjoy dinner and sink into bed in a waiting hotel room. Because there’s no travel at night, you don’t miss a single moment of scenic splendor.

Travel to Canada

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