How To Conquer The Great White North

7 July 2014

The Last Frontier, The Great White North, The Land of the Midnight Sun – just the taglines of North America's upper reaches are enough to kick the imagination into overdrive. For many, Alaska and Canada are the ultimate travel triumphs; pinnacles of adventure where nature eclipses urban sprawl.

Tackling these untamed lands requires a fair amount of time and planning, but will absolutely reward you in spades. In a land where musty taxicabs are replaced by luxury rail-cars and skyscrapers pale in comparison to white-dipped mountain crowns, 'ah' moments greet you at every turn. From fjords to fishing villages and the peaks to the prairies, Canada and Alaska are ripe for adventure. Here are some ideas about how to get there with a little help from the tour gurus at APT.

 Take the hard work out of your Canadian / Alaskan holidays

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East Canada

(Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa)

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 Niagara Falls in Canada's Ontario province

Canada's eastern fringes are effortlessly charismatic, with the Quebecois cities of Quebec and Montreal displaying their French heritage with fierce fierté (pride). All at once cosmopolitan and colonial, Montreal is Canada's second most populous city and brings the best of both worlds together in its many cafe-filled quartiers and world-class musées.

In the provincial capital Quebec City, around 90% of locals are bonafide Francophones. Both cities are incredibly easy on the eyes and, best of all, are just a stone's throw from the USA. You can easily combine your French-Canadian voyage with a trip to New England, exploring Amish Country, swinging by the White House, or staying up late in the City That Never Sleeps.

Sound like your cup of tea? Check out APT's Eastern Canada and USA with New England – a 25 day journey from Montreal that includes three nights in New York City, plus a seven night luxury cruise tracing the New England coast.

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The Rockies

(Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise)

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 Lake Moraine in Banff National Park

The cross-country Rocky Mountains range spans an impressive 4,830 kilometres – to put that into perspective, that's 830 kilometres more than Australia's west to east. The Canadian arm of the Rockies slices the Alberta region and is protected by a handful of National Parks, most famously Banff and Jasper.

The Rockies are a canvas where Mother Nature has let her artistic side shine, dressed with wild rivers, glass-like lakes, golden autumn tones and freshly powdered snowfields. It's prime cabin country in every season, and the perfect playground for adrenaline junkies and leisure seekers alike. Banff is the so-called Capital of the Canadian Rockies, with backcountry for days and crisp, curative alpine air.

In 2015, the iconic Rocky Mountaineer will celebrate its 25th birthday on the rails, so put your party pants on and join the Rockies Odyssey and Alaska Cruise.

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British Columbia

(Victoria, Vancouver, Whistler)

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 Traditional Native American totems in Vancouver

BC (that's British Columbia to the non-Canucks) is the westernmost of Canada's 10 provinces. An eight-time World's Most Liveable City winner, Vancouver contrasts greatly with BC's humble interior towns. The port city of Vancouver is not the provincial capital (that honour goes to Victoria), but is a mainstay on many Canada / Alaska tours.

BC is often likened to California moreso than the rest of Canada, with its sprawling orchards, vineyards and lakeside towns that thrive in the summertime. British Columbia is also arguably the best place to broaden your cultural horizons, with more than 50 First Nations happy to share their heritage.

A wide selection of APT trips such as the Majestic Rockies and Alaska Cruise feature Vancouver somewhere around the halfway mark, bundled in with Kelowna – the heart of the Okanagan Valley wine region – and ski mecca Whistler.

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Yukon

(Whitehorse, Dawson City)

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 See the Northern Lights in the Yukon province

Northern Lights, the Midnight Sun and a gold rush backstory – the Yukon is by no means Canada's arctic boondocks! If you're looking to get off the beaten track in a big way, consider visiting the 'true north' where indigenous tradition is preserved and Alaska is just a road-trip away.

More than three quarters of Yukon's population squeeze into the petite capital of Whitehorse. While you might be imagining sleet-washed streets, Whitehorse is actually a popular summer escape adorned with pioneer-era building and a growing cafe culture. If the neon shimmer of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) are on your wishlist, the months between August and April reveal the most magical skyscapes over Whitehorse.

Get to know a lesser-travelled Canadian territory on the Rugged Alaska, Yukon & Glacier Cruise - From Victoria, where you will spend four days in the Yukon's two main hubs.

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Alaska

(Juneau, Glacier Bay, Anchorage)

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 Alpine reflections in Glacier Bay National Park

Alaska: the Final Frontier, or the start of something incredible? The sparsest of all the United States, Alaska is endless, raw and rugged; a destination that grabs you and never lets you go. Here in a natural wonderland, rivers carve the landscapes more than highways and the sight of a hefty brown bear grabbing a salmon with its jaws is pretty much the norm.

Alaska's name means 'great land of the west', and great is no exaggeration. From the crackle of icebergs on the move to the sight of humpback whales frolicking offshore, Alaska's beauty knows no limit. Towns like Anchorage, Juneau and Skagway all boast their own appeal, but it's Prince William Sound, Glacier Bay National Park and the Kenai Fjords that make Alaska the epitome of exploration.

Be sure to pack your winter woolies and a an appetite for excitement if you're thinking of cruising the Inside Passage aboard the Princess Pacific on APT's Rockies and Alaskan Adventure. 

Ashton Rigg

When I'm not at home in Brisbane, you’ll find me wanderlusting around hipster bars, eclectic boutiques and arty nooks. From bagels in Brooklyn to strudel in Salzburg, I believe the best way to experience a destination is by taking a bite! Tweets & 'grams at @AshtonRigg