For nature lovers and adventure seekers wanting to squeeze in a 2019 international holiday, or book a 2020 trip, Canada in autumn is ideal. Not only will you benefit from the perks of off-season travel, but October to December is also one of the best times to visit Canada. Here’s why:
Sustainable tourism is the buzzword of 2020 and beyond, and travelling off-peak is a conscious choice you can make to visit responsibly. Not only will you get the benefit of fewer crowds and, often, discounted rates and cheaper flights, but you’ll get a more authentic glimpse of the destination.
Autumn in Canada boasts much warmer climate than the winter months. And there’s none of the pesky heat and humidity you’d endure in summer. Autumn is definitely cooler. However, for South Africans used to our Southern Hemisphere winters, be prepared! Snow can start falling in November, and the temperatures, while decidedly cool for the locals, can be icy for South Africans.
Pack accordingly and embrace the possibility of a snowy winter wonderland. It’s a novelty we don’t often get to experience. September is also one of Vancouver’s rainiest seasons, so pack a raincoat and enjoy the crowd-free sightseeing in this famous city.
Thanksgiving may have originated in the US, but it’s very much a thing up north. Interestingly, Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated on the second Monday in October, almost a month earlier than its North American neighbours. Join in the festivities counting your blessings, and warm-up feasting on turkey, sweet potatoes, corn, lashings of gravy, followed by a slice or two of pumpkin pie.
If you want to join in the spooky fun on Halloween, the day of trick-or-treating conveniently falls on 31 October.
Canada has four distinct seasons, each offering a unique and beautiful experience. In South Africa, our seasons are less distinct, so a Northern Hemisphere autumn should be on your bucket list. While you may have heard of New England in the United States, the scenery is more dramatic further north in Canada. Maple trees, aspen and red oaks colour the landscape golden.
Lake Louise, with its unbelievably clear turquoise waters, is a must-do in any season. But in autumn, it is one of the best places to view the fall foliage at its most dramatic. Trees are ablaze in gold, yellows, russet and reds. Oranges and browns contrast even more intensely with the bright turquoise waters and snow-capped mountain peaks.
Ideal road-tripping weather
Autumn, particularly in September and October, is a good time to drive the Canadian countryside. The Icefields Parkway is a 230 km road winding through the Banff and Jasper National Parks and connects Lake Louise with the town of Jasper. It’s not as busy as the summer months when every Canadian family will be loaded into their RVs to explore the parks. Snowfall can start from mid-October and from November onwards. Be warned that the road’s facilities (petrol station, restaurant, etc.) usually close then due to the heavy snowfall.
September is also one of the best times for wildlife sightings. Expect to see deer, bighorn sheep, elk, and, if you’re lucky, perhaps you’ll spot a Grizzly, Black Bear, coyote or wolf.
If you want to ride a glacier (and we think you should), the giant Ice Explorer across the Athabasca Glacier operates up until end October. Climb onboard a six-wheeled, all-terrain vehicle for a drive across the glacier, one of the most accessible in the world.
“If you’re uneasy about driving conditions in Canada (expect snow and icy sections even in October) join a guided holiday,” recommends Teresa Richardson, Managing Director of The Travel Corporation (TTC) in South Africa. “Canada can be expensive for South African travellers, too. A guided holiday includes all the essentials, so you don’t have to fork out dollars for petrol, or attempt to drive on the other side of the road. It is the most hassle-free and cost-effective option.”
Costsaver is one of TTC’s best-selling products in the South African market. “The product gives travellers the most value for their rands, especially in countries such as Canada,” says Richardson.
It is highly recommended that you book early. Think of booking your 2020 trip now to avoid inflation-driven price hikes.
“It is highly unlikely the rate of your Costsaver holiday will go down, but, if it does, you’ll be refunded the difference. You are guaranteed the best price for booking early,” Richardson adds.
The Canadian school year begins in September, so expect shorter lines at many popular attractions, including the iconic Niagara Falls. The surrounding gorge is also covered with trees in all their autumn colours, making for stunning photos.
The Niagara Falls Boat tour still runs up until the end of November.
The festive cities
In Victoria, make a stop at the Butchart Gardens – don’t miss the Japanese Gardens with the autumnal maple trees.
Although much of Vancouver’s trees are evergreen, you can find autumn foliage in the VanDusen Botanical Garden and Stanley Park. The Vancouver International Film Festival hits the shores in September and October.
Restaurants and Canada’s many craft breweries have seasonal menus. In the autumn dishes and drinks are all infused with the heartwarming flavours of autumn, such as pumpkin spice, apples, chai, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Whichever city you’re in, grab a pumpkin-spiced latte (you’ll find pumpkin-spiced everything in Canada) at the nation’s favourite coffee shop, Tim Horton’s. Then, head outdoors to soak up the scenery.
Other fun, not-to-be-missed experiences are the local corn mazes, hayrides, apple picking, farmers markets and more.
While there is a reason to travel in every season, surely no traveller could visit Canada in the autumn and not ‘fall’ head over heels. Best of all, travelling off-peak means those lasting travel memories will come at a much warmer price point.