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When is the best time to visit Canada?

The best time to visit Canada is from May to September. The summer (June to August) sees the warmest temperatures, but if you're looking to go off-peak, May and September will likely be quieter and have mild weather - perfect for exploring the Land of Maple Syrup.

For winter fun in Canada, the best snow is from December to March, although this can vary depending on the year’s predicted snowfall.

What's the weather like in Canada?

As the second-largest country in the world, Canada has no shortage of climate zones. Much of the country's northern region sits within the Arctic Circle, with the climate ranging from arctic to subarctic the further south you travel.

The Atlantic and Pacific-facing coasts both have an oceanic climate, however, the west has slightly warmer conditions and the east is affected by cold ocean currents. Most of Canada's interior is generally continental, except for areas like the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Aside from the arctic areas that only experience two seasons – a long freezing winter and a short summer – the rest of the country has the usual four seasons.

Being so northern, it should be no surprise that the winters can last a little longer in Canada. Winter is typically in full swing by December and ends in March, although some ski resorts may still have favourable ski conditions until the middle of the year. Generally, March has the best snow.

Average winter temperatures are around -5ºC in places like Toronto and much of the country can get frequent snowstorms and frost. Summers can get quite hot in continental areas, reaching 40ºC. The warm months are also usually the rainiest.

If you're not much for skiing, snowboarding, winter hiking or snowshoeing, the warmest region in Canada is the Pacific West Coast, especially Vancouver where the average minimum temperature generally doesn't fall below 0ºC.

When's the best time to see the Northern Lights?

The best time to see the Northern Lights in Canada is during winter (November to March). However, in some areas, such as Alberta, Ontario and the Yukon, the lights may be visible in autumn (September to November).

Many factors affect Northern Lights sightings, but clear, dark nights between 10 pm and 2 am offer the best chance. See the Northern Lights at the Canadian Rockies from November to March on a guided small group trip.

Learn about the best time to visit the Canadian Rockies

Canada by month

January

Best for: dog sledding, snowshoeing, Banff Ice Magic Festival and Whistler Pride

Like other parts of the northern hemisphere, the start of the year is the peak of winter. In places like Ottowa, there's an average of 8 hours of sunlight so days can feel a little short –though the Canadians sure don’t let that get them down. There are many events and activities to enjoy including the Banff Ice Magic Festival and Whistler Pride.

January is primetime for snow days and rosy-cheeked fun. From dog sledding, snowshoeing, and glacier walks to s'mores by the bonfire and searching for the Northern Lights, a winter trip in Canada is definitely worth rugging up for.

February

Best for: Family Day, Winterlude and the Québec and Canmore winter carnivals

In other parts of the world, February is often the end of winter, but they don't call Canada the Great White North for nothing. Snowfall is heavy in February, so it's a great time to strap on those winter boots, put on a jacket (or two) and head outside for some snowy fun.

Just like January, February hosts several fun-for-all-ages events. From the famous Winterlude (home to the world’s largest skate rink) to the winter carnivals in Québec and Canmore, you’ll be spoilt for choice. For winter sports fans, enjoy Family Day weekend on the slopes.

March

Best for: cherry blossoms, maple syrup season and hiking

With whales breaching, cherry blossoms blooming and the sun shining, March kicks off the spring. You'll still find great skiing and quality snow as winter continues until the mid-year in far north and high-altitude areas of the country.

With up to 12 hours of sunlight in most of continental Canada, it's a great time to venture outdoors and see nature returning to life and animals waking up from hibernation. In some lower-lying regions, snowmelt causes impressive cascades of waterfalls.

March is also one of Canada's tapping months, or, as it's better known, maple syrup season. Go on the hunt to find your favourite maple-flavoured meal. How about maple bacon and french toast topped with syrup? Or for braver folk, perhaps traditional beans with maple syrup.

April

Best for: late-season skiing, warming temperatures and wildflowers

Some of the best skiing can be found in April, thanks to the clear and sunny spring skies. As temperatures rise and snow continues to melt, some areas may be a little muddy. The West Coast generally has the best weather for those keen to move into warmer (and likely greener) pastures. And by now, those pastures will likely be sprouting stunning wildflowers.

Because April is a shoulder season, the weather can be a little unpredictable, so it's best to pack warmly even if you're travelling to a snow-free location.

May

Best for: smaller crowds, Ottowa Tulip Festival, St Patrick's Day and exploring national parks

May is a perfect time to visit Canada before the summer crowds arrive. There's likely still snow in higher regions, but most of southern Canada is green by now. Activities like white water rafting, kayaking and canoeing are great from May onwards. You could also hike or bike through the beautiful Rocky Mountains where you may see mama bears and newborn wildlife.

During spring, you might even be lucky to see a floating iceberg or two along the East Coast. See this incredible sight on a Newfoundland adventure at the town of Twillingate, AKA the 'Iceberg Capital of the World'.

Events-wise, be sure to check out the Ottowa Tulip Festival and lively St Patrick's Day festivities.

June

Best for: National Indigenous History Month, Pride celebrations, wildlife spotting and great weather

June is a popular time to visit Canada and there’s no doubt as to why. The warm weather is ideal for wildlife enthusiasts with puffins on the Newfoundland coast, land mammals in the Canadian Rockies and aquatic wildlife in the Canadian Maritimes. Ski resorts turn into hiking havens, sun-lovers can soak it up at the beaches, and surfers can get in on the action on Vancouver Island.  

National Indigenous History Month takes place in June, with 21 June being National Indigenous People’s Day. There are also summer solstice celebrations, Pride and events for Canada’s Multiculturalism Day on 27 June.

It's busy toward the end of the month, so if you'd like fewer crowds, consider travelling at the beginning of the month.

July

Best for: Calgary stampede, Canada Day, hiking and cycling

Summer fun continues in July, Yes, it's one of the busiest months, but it's great for adventures all around the country. Hit the trails in the Rockies, explore the Maritimes or maybe even voyage across the Arctic.

Although July can be a little rainy in places like Québec, there are about 16 hours of sunlight, so a spot of rain won't wash out your summer holiday. Just be sure to book well ahead if possible as it's a popular time of year for travellers and locals alike.

If you're around in July, consider checking out Canada Day festivities and the Calgary Stampede.

August

Best for: Vancouver's Celebration of Light, wildlife viewing and surfing

Canada is definitely a top 10 winter destination, but a summer holiday in Canada is also hard to beat. Like wildlife activity which peaks in August, many people are out and about in the national parks, enjoying the trails, campsites, lakes, valleys, glaciers and more. However, unlike the animals, human travellers can also soak in the odd hot spring or maybe indulge in a spot of tennis.

If you’re not much for seeing sites while working up a sweat, many big-name attractions have cable cars, sky trams and zip lines to help you get around! So, simply stand (or sit) back and take in the views.

September

Best for: the salmon run, Manitoba Ahbee Festival, fewer crowds and mild weather

North America sure puts on a phenomenal display of autumnal leaves during fall. And not only does Canada look like a kaleidoscope of colours from September to November, but you may even get to witness one of nature's most spectacular events: British Colombia's yearly salmon run. Watch hungry bears grab jumping chum, coho and chinook salmon in Goldstream River on Vancouver Island

As a shoulder month, temperatures start to cool down, so if your itinerary includes water sports, maybe try to get in at the start of the month. It's a quieter month than August as the school holidays end in mid-September.

October

Best for: Thanksgiving, autumn colours and moose rutting season

With autumn well underway, the days start getting cooler across Canada and there's an average of 10 hours of daylight. In most major cities, minimum temperatures creep toward zero and snow reappears in places like Calgary and Québec. November is also the wettest month in Vancouver.

There's less foot traffic in the national parks as the weather cools down. However, there are great opportunities for wildlife lovers with the ongoing moose rutting season, blue and humpback whale watching in the east, and even polar bear sightings in the arctic regions.

November

Best for: road trips, hot springs and the start of the northern lights

November will likely be a little nippy, but that means you can enjoy the country in new ways. Admire Canada's show-stopping scenery on scenic drive, a leisurely stroll or from a hot spring. Some of the best autumnal views can be found in the Rockies, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Because November is a transition month between the seasons, it's often best to time an autumn trip for early November. You should also head south as winter arrives earlier in the central and northern regions.

The Northern Lights usually start appearing towards late November. Ski resorts also reopen with the arrival of snow. 

December

Best for: Christmas markets, winter sports and New Year's celebrations

As a part arctic country, Canadians know how to handle the cold. December is a particularly great month for winter travel, with great skiing conditions and plenty of celebrations for Christmas and New Year. There are so many ways to enjoy winter in Canada, you'll be spoilt for choice.

For slightly warmer weather, consider Vancouver and the West Coast. But if you’re ready to layer up, enjoy winter sports like ice skating, ice hockey and ice fishing throughout the rest of the country. Just be mindful of reduced daylight hours; many parts of the country get an average of 7 to 9 hours.

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