Canada’s a big place filled with incredible sights—from the cobblestone streets and art galleries of Quebec to the rugged majesty of the Canadian Rockies. When it comes to both cultural and natural wonders, it’s more than you can see in a lifetime. But exploring the country by train gives you a head start to see more in one vacation than you thought possible.
Train travel has a unique combination of rustic charm and luxury, giving passengers a relaxing way to see Canada’s most iconic sights and scenery. Experiencing Canada by train means someone else plans the itinerary, and you can sit back and enjoy the view. Solo travelers, partners, and families can all find options to fit their budgets and time constraints. From weekend trips to journeys across the entire country, there’s something for every kind of traveler.
Here are four popular regions, packages, and destinations for train travel across Canada, plus the don’t-miss sights to see along the way.
Canada’s Eastern seaboard is a combination of old-world European culture, modern attractions, and rugged coastline. The cities of Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec are all world-class cultural destinations, and a trip to the French-speaking province of Quebec gives travelers a European-type experience without leaving North America. All three cities are well-known foodie destinations, and the Old Port in Quebec is rich with history and year-round activities.
Consider a ride on the “Ocean Train,” which has been taking passengers from Montreal to Halifax for 110 years. It’s a great way to see the Canadian Maritimes as you travel through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Check out these tours for more information, prices, and booking.
Best for: The provinces of Quebec and Ontario are an excellent option for couples looking to enjoy the cultural amenities of the big cities.
Don’t miss: Walk around Petit Champlain and exploring the art galleries in Quebec City. Strolling up the hill to the Dufferin Terrace and seeing the immense Chateau Frontenac, one of the world’s most famous hotels towering over the Saint Lawrence River.
The Canadian Rockies are one of the most popular destinations for train tours. For most people, there’s no better way to take in the grandeur of the mountains than from a train. Starting in Vancouver, you can travel to Jasper by train as part of a seven-day journey across the Canadian Rockies, which includes travel by motorcoach as well and features stops in Banff and Lake Louise. Those with less travel time can choose options like this majestic 5-6 hour trip from Jasper to Dunster, Britsh Columbia.
Best for: Visitors who want a wide variety of travel and itinerary options, while cramming as much exploration and adventure into their trip as possible.
Don’t miss: Hiking, boat tours, and wildlife watching.
Glacier/Waterton Lakes National Parks
Glacier National Park (paired with Waterton Lakes National Park on the Canadian side) must be seen to be believed. This trip by Amtrak Vacations combines the Rockies and the majesty of Glacier for an 11-day journey to some of the most breathtaking country in North America. In addition to the spectacular scenery, it features several stops where you can explore along the way. Take a tour of the Icefields Parkway in an Ice Explorer vehicle and spend some time in the beautiful mountain town of Banff.
Best for: Adventurous travelers who want to see rugged country—maybe even grizzly bears—and have the opportunity to take some epic hikes.
Don’t miss: Exploring Lake Louise with a boat tour, and taking a ride up and over Going to the Sun Road is something every visitor to Glacier should experience.
The name says it all. This nine-day trip crosses Canada over the course of 2,500 miles, linking Vancouver, British Columbia, Toronto, and Ontario. Via Rail is owned by the Canadian government, and it is the only option for a train trip across Canada in its entirety. Check out this itinerary for more information.
Best for: This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for vacationers who want the whole deal, from starting and finishing in bustling cities to sightseeing some of the wildest parts of the country.
Don’t miss: Exploring the Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, which is home to endangered plants and animals and has a huge ecological significance for the province. Grabbing food and shopping in the Forks Market in Winnipeg, and taking advantage of the hiking options in Jasper.
Before you go, here are some tips to help you find the right trip for you:
• Keep an eye on prices, which do fluctuate. In general, you can get the best discounts by booking far in advance.
• You can pre-book stopovers on longer trips, but you can’t just jump on and off trains in different stops, so planning your itinerary ahead is key.
• Know what to expect with the different “classes” of train travel. Economy will be less expensive than sleeper options and business class, for example. Passengers can also choose from Prestige Class, Bedrooms, and Roomettes. Choose based on your budget, how long you’ll be traveling for, and what your level of comfort needs are.
• Don’t be intimidated to take a train trip during the winter. There are plenty of options for exploring during all four seasons, and often prices will drop during winter and shoulder seasons.
• See for yourself all that’s available as this map shows different route options across Canada. For more options, Via Rail operates across all of Canada and offers travel and vacation options in conjunction with Amtrak Vacations.
Written by Matcha for Gregory Mountain Products.
Featured image provided by Trevor McKinnon