When is the best time to visit Canada?

The best time to visit Canada is from May to September. The summer months, June, July and August, have 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?

Victoria Harbour, 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 come as no surprise that the winters can last a little longer in Canada. Winter is typically in full swing by December, finishing in March, although some ski resorts can still have favourable ski conditions until the middle of the year. Generally, the best snow comes in March.

Average winter temperatures are around -5ºC in places like Toronto and much of the country can get frequent snowstorms and frost. Summers can get especially hot in the continental areas, reaching up to 40ºC. These warm months are also usually the rainiest time of year. If you're not much for skiing, snowboarding, winter hiking or snowshoeing, the warmest region in Canada is the Pacific west coast, especially around Vancouver where the average minimum temperature generally doesn't fall below 0ºC.

 

 

When is the best time to visit for the Northern Lights?

Green swirls of the northern lights behind snowy pine trees

The best time to see the northern lights in Canada is during winter, from November to March. However in some areas, such as Alberta, Ontario and the Yukon, the lights may be visible in autumn (September to November). There are many factors that affect northern light sightings. It needs to be a clear, dark night, and prepare to be outside from 10 pm to 2 am for the best chance at a sighting. See the northern lights at the Canadian Rockies from November to March on a guided small group tour.

 

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January

The Icefields Parkway, Canada

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 also the middle of winter. In places like Ottowa, there's an average of 8 hours of sunlight, so days can feel a little short. Although the Canadians sure don’t let that get them down. Many incredible winter-themed festivals are held in January, such as the Banff Ice Magic Festival or Whistler PRIDE. Hit the new year running with these joyous festivities as they light up the darker days and fill stomachs with plenty of warm winter delicacies.

January is primetime for white 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 tour in Canada is definitely worth rugging up for.

Destination   

   AVERAGE HIGH   

   AVERAGE LOW   

Vancouver 7°C (45°F) 1°C (34°F)
Toronto -1°C (30°F) -9°C (16°F)
Montreal -4°C (25°F) -13°C (9°F)

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's the Great White North for nothing. Snowfall is alive and well this month, so it's a great time to strap on those winter boots, put on a jacket (or two) and warm up with some outdoor fun. Snowfall varies from year to year and can differ by region but generally, any snow trip in February is sure to be a winter wonderland.

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

March

A hiker moving through wildflowers in Mount Robson Park, Canada

Best for: cherry blossoms, maple syrup season and hiking

With whales breaching, cherry blossoms blooming and sunshine shining, spring sure is on its way. You'll still find great skiing and quality snow as, for northern and high-altitude areas of the country, winter continues until the mid-year. In some lower-lying regions, snow will start to melt in March, causing cascades of waterfalls and the end of hibernation for many local wildlife. With up to 12 hours of sunlight in most of continental Canada, now’s a great time to venture into the great outdoors and watch as the seasons change right before your eyes. 

March is also one of Canada's tapping season months, or, as it's better known, maple syrup season. So it's a great time to go on the hunt to find your favourite maple-flavoured meal. If you're looking for must-tries, consider maple bacon and french toast topped with syrup, or, for braver folk, try traditional beans with maple syrup.

Destination       AVERAGE HIGH       AVERAGE LOW   
Calgary 5°C (41°F) -8°C (18°F)
Halifax 4°C (39°F) -4°C (25°F)
Winnipeg 1°C (33°F) -8°C (18°F)

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. The weather will start to warm up as Canada shakes off and melts down the last of winter, so 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 the region’s stunning wildflowers.

Because it's 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-less location.

May

White water rafting in Canada

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

The start of May is a perfect time to visit Canada before the summer crowds arrive towards June. There's likely to still be snow in the higher regions, but most of southern Canada has lost its snow as the summer months near. Activities like white water rafting, kayaking and canoeing are great from May onwards, as it's not too cold for a dip (or the odd splash). You could also take a hike or bike through the beautiful Rocky Mountains, but be on the lookout for mama bears and other newborn Canadian wildlife.

This month is also home to the Ottowa Tulip Festival and lively St Patrick's Day festivities. During spring, you might even be lucky enough to see a floating iceberg or two peruse down the east coast. See this incredible site on a Newfoundland adventure at the town of Twillingate, also known as the 'Iceberg Capital of the World'.

Destination    AVERAGE HIGH       AVERAGE LOW   
Rocky Mountains    13°C (55°F) 0°C (32°F)
Toronto 17°C (63°F) 9°C (48°F)

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 pretty ideal for those keen on animal spotting, as there are puffins on the Newfoundland coast, land mammals in the Canadian Rockies and aquatic wildlife in the Canadian Maritimes. With the end of the snow, ski resorts will turn into hiking havens. Summer lovers can soak up the sun at the beaches, and even surfers can get in on the action, with Vancouver Island being a hotspot for wave riders.  

This is also the National Indigenous History Month, with the 21st of June being National Indigenous People’s Day. The summer solstice, PRIDE and other celebrations for Canada’s Multiculturalism Day are also held in June. It will start to get busier towards the end of the month, so if you'd like fewer crowds, consider travelling within the first few weeks.

July

Passengers getting on a boat in the Vancouver Harbour

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

Summer fun continues with one of Canada’s busiest months. July is great for adventures all around the country, with ample daylight to hike the Rockies, explore the Maritimes and even voyage the Arctic. Tourists and locals alike venture outdoors to enjoy Canada’s warmest month, so it’s likely things will be booked well in advance. And although it's summer, July can get a little rainy in places like Québec, but with about 16 hours of sunlight every day, a spot of rain won't wash out your Canadian summer holiday.

July is also home to some of Canada’s unique celebrations, including Canada Day and the Calgary Stampede.

Destination       AVERAGE HIGH       AVERAGE LOW   
Vancouver 22°C (72°F) 14°C (57°F)
Québec 25°C (77°F) 16°C (61°F)

August

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

While Canada is definitely a top 10 winter destination, for summer lovers it's hard to beat. Just like the foraging wildlife, 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 will also be soaking in the odd hot spring and maybe indulging in a spot of tennis. But if you’re not much for seeing sites while working up a sweat, many big-name attractions have cable cars, sky trams and even zip lines to help you get around! So, simply stand (or sit) back and take in the views.

September

Cyclists looking out over Edith Lake at Jasper National Park

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 catch one of nature's most spectacular events taking place this time of year. Watch hungry bears grab at jumping salmon during British Colombia's yearly salmon run.

Being the shoulder season to summer, temperatures will start to cool down, so if you’re itinerary includes water sports, maybe try to get in at the start of the month. It'll also be a lot quieter than in August as the school holidays will come to an end by mid-September.

Destination       AVERAGE HIGH       AVERAGE LOW   
Calgary 18°C (64°F) 6°C (43°F)
Toronto 20°C (68°F) 13°C (55°F)

October

Best for: Thanksgiving, autumn colours and moose rutting season

With the transition from summer to winter underway, days will start to get cooler across Canada and there'll be an average of 10 hours of sunlight. Across most major cities, minimum temperatures will start to creep toward zero, with snow appearing again in places like Calgary and Québec. Vancouver will soon hit its yearly high rainfall month in November, so this month can be quite wet, too.

There will be less foot traffic in the national parks as the weather cools down. However, wildlife lovers may get some prime animal spotting this month with the ongoing moose rutting season, blue and humpback whale watching in the east and even polar bear sightings in the arctic regions.

November

Skiiers at Mount Fortress, Canada

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

Okay, so November is likely to be a little nippy, but that just means you can enjoy the sights in new ways. Look out over sprawling valleys while on a scenic drive, a leisurely stroll or even from a perch in a hot spring. Some of the best autumnal views are said to be found in the Rockies, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Because November is the transition month between autumn and winter, it's often best to time an autumn trip for the first few weeks. You should also head south as the central and northern regions are likely more wintery.

The northern lights can also start appearing towards late November, at which time there’s likely to be demand for ski resorts with the arrival of snow. 

Destination       AVERAGE HIGH       AVERAGE LOW   
Vancouver 10°C (50°F) 3°C (38°F)
Montreal 7°C (44°F) -2°C (29°F)

December

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

With a country that's part Arctic, you'll find that Canadians know how to handle the cold. December especially is a great month for winter travel with the great skiing conditions and the upcoming Christmas and New Year's celebrations. So it's usually a popular time to visit. And because it's mid-winter, there will be reduced daylight hours, with an average of 7 to 9 hours of sunlight across major destinations in the country.

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, ice fishing and more throughout the rest of the country. There are so many ways to enjoy winter in Canada. You'll be spoilt for choice.

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