Exploring the Canadian Fall in its full glory

Fall isn’t just an aesthetic, it is a whole vibe in Canada
Fall in Montreal, Quebec
Fall in Montreal, Quebec

Autumn in Canada feels like a warm bear hug which you didn’t know you needed. As the treetops burst with crimson passion, Larch leaves crunched underfoot, we sipped a pumpkin-spiced latte admiring the pale amber sunlight and suddenly it hit us. Fall isn’t just an aesthetic, it is a whole vibe in Canada that innocuously take over and by the time you leave, it becomes a part of your story, akin to a cherished memory tucked inside the labyrinthine of your mind that gets ignited every now and then. After spending five weeks in different cities, here are our top six places to visit in the Canadian Fall:

Niagara, Ontario on the Lake

Any Canadian worth their salt will proudly tell you how their side of the Niagara is better than the falls on the American side. And rightly so. The experience is similar to the Rhine Falls in Switzerland but on a grander scale with multiple double rainbows perennially adorning the falls. No wonder all Americans hop across the Buffalo border to admire Ontario’s bounty.

What sets it apart is that the water ‘mist’ isn’t a mere spray, it’s a downpour that gushes with full force playfully drenching you in icy cold waters. So much so that raincoats are provided for all tourists voyaging close to the mighty Niagara’s on the Maid of the Mist tour.

However, don’t stop there, visit Niagara on the lake — a cosmopolitan 2-km-long picturesque street offering best food from different regions of the world. Budapest bread rolls, gelato ice cream, and poutine are warmly served in wood-carved restaurants owned and run by locals of foreign descent.

Stop for lunch at the nearby St Catherine’s. Dotted with old school houses and countryside farmer’s markets, it transports you to a 1970’s movie with its white picket fence and tidy neighbourhoods replete with the local post office and Church.

The drive to Niagara is strewn with pumpkin patches and 70-odd wineries (famously known as the Niagara wine route) and touring the latter is a must, especially if you’re disappointed by the commercialised and pretentious ones in the city. Noob or sommelier in the making, the aromas, notes and flavours are not only tantalising but hit different due to the fertile soil of the region. Book a helicopter tour followed by a gourmet meal, or simply cruise through acres of manicured vineyards followed by a wine and cheese tasting session.

Getting there: Niagara Falls is a three-hour drive from Mississauga. Go early in the morning to beat the rush.

Northern lights in Yukon and Manitoba

From mid-August to mid-April, witness the cosmic light and dance show in vivid hues of green spanning against clear dark skies in Yukon. Ladies and gentlemen, you’re in nature’s IMAX watching the exclusive raw footage of galaxies, nebulae and solar flares swirling in 5D. Be humbled, for this is the closest you’ll get to touching a star, a rare experience for most on planet Earth. This awe-inspiring phenomenon is as elusive as ethereal. Yes, the lights play hard to get and favour specific spots, so book a guided tour instead of venturing on your own!

Though sporadic and infrequent, you can also spot the Aurora Borealis from Jasper National Park, but spotting the heavenly display over the majestic Rockies’s is a gamble we wouldn’t risk taking. Another place to capture this wonder is in Manitoba. The celestial skyscape gears up for a dramatic show from late September to early November when the tourists have gone home but the bone-chilling winter is yet to come. The best part is the single-digit AQI that facilitates crystal clear views and stunning photographs.

Getting there: Whitehorse International airport in Yukon is well connected. Manitoba is an easy two-hour flight from Winnipeg.

Jasper National Park

Glacier-fed lakes, hikes, mirror lakes and a highway flanked with leaf-peeping fall foliage... Jasper National Park is Alberta’s best secret and is as divine as it is Instragrammable. The best part? Crowds begin to wane during Fall and you will feel you’ve got the mountains pretty much to yourself.

Visit the Columbia icefield — North America’s largest icefield in the Rockies. It is at the base of the six glaciers and depending on your fitness level, you can explore it in multiple ways. Go for a glacier walk on Athabasca glacier, one of the six main ‘toes’ of the icefield. The ice explorer bus is a special attraction that goes up the steep jagged terrain of Athabasca and 80 mins of tailspin later, you’re on a glacier free to drink the purest waters of the world. The shortest walking tour on the Athabasca Glacier is three hours. Sounds exhausting? Book a 20-minute helicopter ride circling alpine lakes nestled in the fall foliage for a drone’s eye view.

Hiking is another way to explore Jasper National Park. The trails are well maintained and easy to follow, marked with their difficulty levels. Once you reach, ride the Jasper Skytram for some breathtaking views of the mountain. Our only regret? Not packing in more days here!

Getting there: Take a flight to either Calgary or Edmonton airport and take a car rental service from there. If right-side driving is an issue, book a bus tour that takes you on daily excursions.

Pro-tip: You’ll come across bears, moose, deer etc during hikes. Steer clear, don’t feed them and certainly don’t try to pet them.

Montreal, Quebec

Shaped by both French and British influences, Montreal is chiselled by a multicultural diaspora that has its own rules and recipe for cest ‘le fun. Jazz, theatre, Ballet, Michelin star restaurants, and burlesque are just some of the interests shared by the locals and self-expression is the Raison D’etre of Montreal peeps, something you’ll see in their Parisian fashion sense, the way they roll their bread or tongues (Quebois French is distinctly different) infusing a creative zeal to everything they touch. There’s always a festival happening or an event in the planning in the cultural capital of Canada. Needless to say, Fall is reason and season enough to celebrate! Thanksgiving and Halloween being the main festivals. Go apple picking during the day but come night time, opt for ‘ghost tours’ that walk you through haunted history and spooky but well-documented paranormal activity in creepy old neighbourhoods. Turn up the Halloween fever a notch but this isn’t for the faint-hearted! Listen to tales of the deceased (read murdered) as you walk through cobblestoned streets at night with nothing but a lantern and give Halloween a new spin! During the day, hit the oyster bars, try the smoked meat and visit the Japan-style cat cafés. Come nightfall, slither into the scintillating cabaret lounges, swanky cocktail bars and indie cinemas for an unforgettable experience.

Pro tip: It pays to learn some basic French. It goes a long way in communicating with the locals.

Whale watching, Victoria Island

Also called Vancouver Island, the capital of British Columbia is cocooned in the Salish Sea and feels like a world unto itself. From the Parliament to the harbour, Canada’s colonial past filters through every sensory experience in this laidback island echoing the sentiment ‘we are where we come from’. British history is interwoven in the very fabric of the town overpowering Canadian sense and sensibilities but don’t write it off just yet. The world-famous Butchart gardens, tea rooms, antique galleries, Hatley’s castle (a number of movies such as X-men and Deadpool have been shot here) will make you swoon and fall for Victoria in no time. Take leisurely strolls on lojo (Lower Johnson Street), sip pumpkin-spiced latte by the harbour and if you can, go in early October for the last of the whale watching season. (Climate change affects whale migration patterns delaying their attraction to the west coast of Canada). Another experience is to have the royal high tea in with champagne and scones in the lobby lounge of the iconic Empress hotel.

Getting there: Pre-book the ferry from Vancouver ideally on a weekday.

Pro tip: Stay overnight — you don’t come here daily, do you?


When we think Banff, we think Lake Lousie. But it is not the only showstopper in the national park. Lake Peyto, fed by a glacier of the same name, is as stunning if not more than Lake Louise. Its turquoise water is a sight to behold when it glistens under the afternoon sun. In the mornings, it is deceptively calm and mirrors the glacier above in pin drop silence. Lots of people do wedding shoots, family portraits and capture this jaw-dropping wonder especially during Fall when the zoo of selfie sticks and vloggers has disappeared. Fun Fact: The title track of Koi Mil Gaya was shot at Peyto lake. Fourteen kms from Lake Lousie lies the ‘20-dollar view’ aka Lake Moraine. The lake is printed on their former 20-dollar bills but ask anyone, it is a million-dollar view to be honest, with a lakeshore hike that will turn anyone into a photographer. And no, those turquoise waters aren’t photoshopped. The glacier water gets mixed with the rock sediments that grind underneath and refract light.

Pro tip: Carry cash for tolls, snacks etc as Wifi signal is poor to non-existent in this region. Don’t try swimming — the water is below 8 degrees Celsius even on a sunny day and hypothermia is real. 

Canadian charm

Shopping: Souvenirs apart, maple syrup, wines from the Niagara region, The Empress gin ( a special concoction made only in Victoria with an Indigo hue), ice wine, Aboriginal art, sports gear and down feather jackets are some of the best buys. Toronto and Vancouver have factory outlets of international brands with jaw-dropping deals.

What to eat: Though Indian food is easily available, don’t miss out on the local peaches and blueberries native to Canada. Steaks, sourdough bread, poutine, smoked salmon, Montreal-style bagel and Tim Hortons coffee are some quintessential Canadian staples you can devour.

Bookings: Be it Airbnb’s, domestic flights or hotels, book everything in advance! It is advisable to pre-book tickets to excursions, activities and even restaurants. Remember, time is money; online reservations will beget not only discounts but help you skip long lines.

Pro tip: Look out for happy hours at lunch in the touristy areas. Bring a reusable water bottle, an extra pair of socks and sturdy shoes. Carry a credit card but also cash in different denominations. Taxis are expensive, Uber instead. A 15 per cent tip is standard and you’re expected to pay it.

Weather: It’s always a tad cold in Canada and the weather changes fast! Your best bet? A windcheater, rainproof jacket and layers! Winter or not, don‘t skip the sunglasses and SPF 50. The Canadian sun is low and harsh especially near lakes.

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