What makes Montreal unique? – 11 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Well, it doesn’t take much to see how special of a city Montreal is in Canada, let alone the world. A big city, one of the safest big cities, a popular spot for students and travelers looking for a one-of-a-kind corner of North America. Montreal is French but the English presence is apparent. Are you aching to learn some more? Take a journey into the royal city.

So what makes Montreal so unique, then?

Map of Montreal highlighting Montreal Island
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Montréal: Quick Geography

First off, Montreal is Canada’s second-biggest city by population and the biggest in Quebec province. It’s got over 1,704,000 people in the city and over 1,942,000 in the urban area. The city is located on a group of islands, mainly the Île de Montréal (Il-de-Mon-trhey-all) or Montreal Island. The big island sits between the mighty St. Lawrence River and the smaller Prairie River, also standing at the head of the Ottawa River.

Once called Ville-Marie, 16th-century French came to name the city after a three-hill point called Mount Royal or Mont-Réal back in those days. In Ojibwe, the city is known as Mooniyaang after a “first stopping place” in their migration legend. Otherwise, it’s called Tiohtià:ke Tsi in Mohawk meaning “a place where nations and rivers unite and divide.” That fits the city pretty well.

Montreal is divided into 19 boroughs with their own mayors and councils too. Let’s look at some features!

1. Because of the St. Lawrence Riverfront

Jean-Drapeau Park and the Biosphere on the Île Sainte-Hélène
Jean-Drapeau Park, Île Sainte-Hélène – by Guillaume TECHER

Montreal’s main riverfront is home to a couple of core attractions, including a few islands. The Île Sainte-Hélène (Il-Sent-Eh-len) or “Saint Helen’s Island” is right in the middle of the river. It is home to a major theme park called La Ronde, as well as the famous Jean-Drapeau Park with the giant Biosphere globe.

Just next to it is the Île Notre-Dame which has the prettily designed adult playground known as Montreal Casino. There’s also the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a major track used for the Canadian Grand Prix. It’s also great for casual strolls to take in a view of Old Montreal.

Montreal's Old Port at dusk with the clock tower and bridge in the background
Old Port of Montreal – by Walid Amghar

On the main island is the Old Port where old boats still sail like they did back in colonial times. There’s also a promenade with the pretty Montreal Clock Tower looming above the water. Out on a little strip by the port is Habitat 67, a building complex with unique box-shaped sections that looks like a giant Tetris game. That’s different.

2. Because of Old Montreal

Notre-Dame Basilica interior, Old Montreal
Notre-Dame Basilica – by Annie Spratt

Old Montreal is the classic cobblestone and horse carriage image of the city that visitors love. The place is stocked with beautiful old architecture like at City Hall and the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in North America.

There’s also the famous Notre-Dame Basilica with the extremely beautiful interior appreciated by both pro- and non-Catholics around the world. The Château Ramezay is an old hotel establishment and one of several places that offer an experience to go back in time to Quebec’s good olden days. That’s why Old Montreal is a national historic site in Canada.

3. Because of Ville-Marie

a view of Ville-Marie, downtown Montreal with the riverfront
view of Ville-Marie – by Annie Spratt

Ville-Marie is basically the main core of Montreal being one of its boroughs. Besides Old Montreal, there are a number of really nice cultural centers like the Redpath Museum and the Museum of Beaux-Arts.

Besides the many squares and skyscrapers, the queen of them is the 1000 de la Gauchetière which stands at the height of Mount Royal. They would build it taller, but the city doesn’t allow for buildings any higher than those hills. The top has an awesome aerial view of the city and its surroundings, and it holds a big skating rink for those who want a less lofty adventure.

On the sub-ground level, Ville-Marie has an Underground City full of shops and eateries. It’s a popular place to do some shopping and escape the bitter Montreal winters.

4. Because of the Entertainment

the Quartier des Spectacles square at evening with colorful decorations
Quartier des Spectacles – from QuartierdesSpectacles.com

One of the main spots near downtown is this big square called Quartier des Spectacles. It’s a very interestingly designed locale that lights up with parties and festivals all throughout the year. Especially around the Place des Arts, the area is also full of galleries and theaters of all kinds, as well as the Grande Library.

Montreal, in general, is famous for its big festivals, some of them being the biggest or only of their kind in the world! To list a few you have the:

  • International Jazz Festival
  • Nuits d’Afrique (African Nights)
  • Circus Festival
  • International Fireworks Festival
  • Igloofest
  • Canadian Grand Prix
  • Just for Laughs (comedy fest)
  • Les Francos de Montréal (French music festival)

5. Because of the Food & Neighborhoods

Poutine with a thicker beef gravy, plate originated from Quebec
Poutine, a Quebec original – By Jonathunder

Montreal is very famous for its food and drink scene, having some of the most unique cuisines in North America for a number of reasons. World-famous restaurants and good wine or craft bars are found throughout, and you can’t go without the poutine!

Read more: Food & Culture tours

colorful graffiti and street art at a corner around Saint Laurent Boulevard, Montreal
graffiti art around Boulevard St.-Laurent – by Benoit Debaix

Other cool neighborhoods to explore shops and historic architecture are Mile End and Rue Saint-Denis. In this area is the Jean-Talon Market, Montreal’s biggest open-air market to get your eat on. Lastly, Boulevard Saint-Laurent is another quirky hood to explore with tons of weird and cool street art, as well as some shops of its own.

6. Because of Mont-Royal

view from a belvedere on Mount Royal, Montreal
view from Mont-Royal – by Matthias Mullie

The city’s namesake isn’t just some mountain but a massive park space with lots of serene nature. With tons of natural space and activities year-round, Mont-Royal also has a number of monuments, major cemeteries, and belvederes to take in the view of Montreal.

The views alone are enough to make you grateful they don’t build skyscrapers higher than the mountain. One of the main sights to take in the park’s beauty is Saint Joseph’s Observatory.

7. Because of the Islands & Nature Parks

Despite being one of Canada’s biggest cities, Montreal has left plenty of room for nature to stay in play. This shows in places like the lush Bois-de-Liesse Nature Park along the Prairie River, or the Cap-Saint-Jacques Nature Park.

This big park has cool activities like maple shacks to extract syrup, livestock farms to interact with animals, and even some decent beaches for the summertime. Much of the park is undeveloped and remains a quiet wood area.

Other isolated parks located on islands are Île-Bizard and the Îles-de-Boucherville National Park. These places are ideal for exploring the waterways and natural landscapes around the city. Île-Perrot offers similar parks with a few historic structures to add to this quaint setting.

8. Because of Urban Parks

fountain and tranquil pond setting at La Fontaine Park, Montreal
the fountain at La Fontaine Park – By Jeangagnon

Other than Mont-Royal, the city is also stacked with nice urban parks. This includes La-Fontaine Park with its pretty ponds and forest scenery. A similar park with tranquil settings is Agrignon Park on the south side.

Frédéric-Back Park is a former quarry / landfill that’s in the process of becoming one of Montreal’s biggest urban parks. As of now, it’s got a few cool works of art in it, and it’s dotted by a bunch of weird scattered spheres. These things are a part of the biogas cleanup in the park and make for an interesting sight even if they’re not intended to be.

9. Because of the Botanical Gardens & Olympic Park

Montreal Botanical Garden and the Japanese Garden section
Japanese Garden, Botanical Gardens – by Hansel Wong

Montreal’s Botanical Gardens are some of the most awarded and revered gardens in the world. They are actually a group of gardens with international themes, and whether it’s the Japanese, Chinese, or First Nations, you can’t really go wrong. They’re also really nice because the gardens stay remarkably pretty no matter the season of the year.

Read more: Jardin Botanique

Olympic Stadium and Leaning tower at Olympic Park in Montreal
Olympic Stadium – By Tolivero

Next door at the Olympic Park are a few attractions like the Montreal Biodome and the park itself. Over here is the Leaning Tower which allows visitors to get a more “slanted” view of the city from above. There’s also the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, a popular place to learn about astronomy and make crafts or watch movies, among other fun activities.

10. Because of the Suburbs

the Rivière-des-Mille-Îles or thousand islands river in the suburbs of Montreal, Laval
Rivière-des-Mille-Îles – By Pierre Bona

Another cool thing about Montreal is its suburbs which add their own mix of nature and history to the urban area. Mont-Royal (the city) has a few of these places, centered nicely on a main square and the interesting Connaught Park.

Further from the center are places like Pointe-Claire with several nice parks, historic architecture, and art galleries on the St. Lawrence riverfront. Terrebonne has lots of nature and provides venues for skiers and snow sport lovers, as well as the historic Île-des-Moulins (Il-de-Mu-lunn). This area was a hotspot for Quebec’s noble landowners and houses several historic sights like 18th-century mills still standing in place.

Terrebonne-Ecluse des Moulins, church in Terrebonne, Quebec
Terrebonne – By Pierre Bona

Laval is another suburb popular for its nature and beautifully-built University of Laval. There’s also the Rivière-des-Mille-Îles (He-vyehr-deh-Mill-Il) or “Thousand Islands River” where explorers can walk or boat through the forested waterways and many isles.

Read more: What makes Northern & Southern Quebec special?

11. Because of its Culture (+ closing thoughts)

Often the name Montreal speaks for itself. This city stands alone in all the world for its impressive array of cultural sights, festive events, and beautifully preserved buildings. That speaks to a city that hasn’t lost its origins. Often split between French and English influences, Montreal has been able to balance these nicely into its identity.

It’s the second biggest city where French is the majority language, but English can be heard by a large portion of the people too. This even makes it unique within Quebec, since more rural areas are almost entirely French-speaking. A haven for students and art lovers, the cuisine and shopping alone could attract people from all over. And they do.

Strong religious roots have sculpted some of the most beautiful structures in Canada while new traditions create an impressively modern and entirely unique feel to the city. Montreal is diverse, a world leader, a trend-setter, and a genuinely standalone place in this world. Thank you for reading, and I hope this opened the door to your discovery of this spectacular world city!

About Guyana – The Actual English World

I really like this guy’s channel

What can we say about the nation of Guyana? It’s a fairly small country — well, most countries look small next to Brazil. Guyana is known for its preserved nature, unspoiled rainforests, scenic mountains, and wildlife. It’s a somewhat black, somewhat East Indian, really mixed country all around with a diverse and unique face in the world. Ready to learn more about the English-speaking world? Let’s talk about Guyana.

map of Guyana regions
regions of Guyana

Geography: The Basics

Officially known as the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, the first thing to know is that Guyana’s located in South America. The nation is divided into 10 regions which are broken into smaller divisions called neighborhoods. Each neighborhood, represent! The capital city is Georgetown within the Demerara-Mahaica region.

a wooden building in Georgetown, Guyanese capital
Georgetown – by Dinesh Chandrapal

The country has a total area of about 83,000 square miles (215,000 sq km). That makes it a bit bigger than Belarus and a bit smaller than Laos. The country’s population is over 743 thousand, slightly less than Bhutan or about the same as the city of Seattle.

Guyana on the Globe

political map of the Guianas region with Guyana highlighted in light red
all the Guianas – By ArnoldPlaton

So Guyana is actually part of a larger region called the Guianas. These are a group of countries and parts of countries in northern South America along the Atlantic coast, east of the Orinoco River. It shares land borders with Brazil, Suriname, and Venezuela with which it has an ongoing border dispute.

Most of the people and major towns are on the wet coastal plains, Georgetown included. Otherwise, Guyana has mountains inland at the Guiana Highlands. Mount Roraima is the highest peak which it shares on a 3-point border with Venezuela and Brazil.

Kaieteur Falls, large waterfall in Guyana
Kaieteur Falls – By Sorenriise

The region has a bunch of those table-top mountains called tepuis, made popular in the Pixar movie, Up. The Essequibo is the longest river forming some major islands at its mouth. Also in the highlands is Kaieteur Falls, believed to be the biggest single-drop waterfall in the world!

The Climate

Satellite image of Guyana
Guyana from space – By NASA

Pretty easy to describe, Guyana’s climate is mostly tropical in the whole country. Of course, it is cooler in the highlands and wetter in the lowlands. It is fairly moist throughout the year with a rainier and drier season.

savanna landscape in the Guyanese interior
savanna in Guyana – by Joshua Gobin

The coast and rivers have lots of wet plains, swamps, and mangroves, while sandy hills and savanna appear inland. There’s also a large rainforest region part of the greater Amazon forest system. Guyana has one of the largest and best-preserved forest areas in the world for its size.

What’s the History?

Patamona indians on the kaieteur plateau
Patamona people – By H. I. Perkins, Esq.

Like everywhere else in the Americas, Guyana was first inhabited by a number of indigenous peoples, most notably the Arawak and Carib tribes. The first Europeans that really settled there were the Dutch in the late 1500s, and they were able to set up a few distinct colonies there.

Later in the 1700s, the British took control, as you do. They eventually united the Dutch colonies into one and called it British Guiana, since there were other Guianas. Around this time, Venezuela started to dispute a large area of Guyanese territory as its own, claiming the area as Guayana-Esequiba.

And the claim has never really been resolved. Finally, in the 1970s Guyana gained independence from the UK, even though they’ve remained a part of the Commonwealth ever since.

Read more: about Canada and the British Commonwealth

One Weird Story

There’s one strange part of Guyana’s history that needed its own separate section. Just after its independence in the ’70s, the government leased some land to this obscure American religious movement called the Peoples Temple. Over time, the group formed a cult that got real dangerous real fast.

The group went so far as to shoot down a plane, killing a U.S. Congressman in the process after he had just paid them a visit. If that weren’t enough, the next day the group performed a mass suicide or murder drinking some kind of Kool-Aid rip-off with poison in it. It’s a really random and odd story that is now tied to the history of Guyana. Alrighty then.

Okay … & Culture?

Guyanese teens in extravagant costumes celebrating carnival
Guyanese people during Carnival – posted by Rachel Lovable

Even though Guyana is in South America, it is culturally a lot closer to the Caribbean. It’s considered a part of the greater mainland Caribbean region (places like Belize, Panama, south Florida, etc.), and this shows in the music, speech, cuisine, and other lifestyle aspects of the Guyanese people.

Read more: about Belize

In particular, the culture has strong Anglo-Caribbean ties due to British colonization. This shows in English being the official language and its highly diverse population, hailing heritage from India, China, Africa, Portugal, and other parts of Europe. This also shows in its religions, where most the people are Christian, but there’s a large Hindu minority. There’s a smaller minority of Muslims and other beliefs too.

smiling indigenous Guyanese girls in traditional wear
Guyana’s First Nations – by the BBC

The nation of course gets immigration and influences from neighboring countries, especially the other Guianas. Guyana is one of the poorer nations in the region though, and it faces lots of challenges and corruption despite being a country rich in oil. They share a common history of Dutch colonization, heavy slave and indentured labor, and plantation lifestyles that other places like Suriname had. Even though it’s so diverse, Guyana’s people are centered mostly in a small area, allowing the different people groups to mix in well.

In the isolated areas, indigenous culture is more prominent, stemming from the main groups: Wai-wai, Macushi, Patamona, Lokono, Kalina, Wapishana, Pemon, Akawaio, and Warao. Beyond that, several communities were formed by escaped African slaves called Maroons, adding a unique flavor to Guyanese identity.

Even though Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America, most people speak Guyanese Creole as a first language. A common feature in most Caribbean countries, Guyana still technically has its own language. Pretty cool.

Guyanese creole / pronunciation

**What do you think about Guyana? Did you know this stuff, or have you learned something new? I hope you can share more information with us, and I hope this article taught you more about the English-speaking world. Thanks for being a reader! Take care out there.

Why is Northern Quebec special? – 8 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Aanischaaukamikw ᐋ ᑎᐹᑐᑖᒡ ᐋᓂᔅᒑᐅᑲᒥᒄ Cree Cultural Institute in Northern Quebec
Aanischaaukamikw – from Cree Cultural Institute

Last time we looked at a smaller section of Quebec, the much-populated south. Here, we’ll focus on the much bigger yet much less-known north of the province. Crater lakes and Dorset ruins are just part of the wonder located out in these snowy lands. But what can be considered unique about such a massive area? To start, let’s review some quick geography. Then we’ll get into why Northern Quebec is so special.

Canadian Provinces and Territories, red highlight on Quebec province
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Northern Québec: Quick Geography

In Canada’s biggest province, the northern section takes up the biggest part of the land. Northern Quebec starts generally around the Laurentian Mountains and the Gaspé Peninsula in the south, then it’s just up from there. Mostly a part of the Canadian Shield, other major mountain ranges are in the middle and along the northeast border with Labrador, called the Torngat Mountains.

The climate is mostly subarctic with some humid continental in the far south. Down that way are some mixed and boreal forests, with the rest of the province being taiga and eventually tundra further north. The biggest city/urban area is Saguenay, not far from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There’s also the Sea of Labrador, Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, and James Bay, all large extensions of the Atlantic Ocean.

The biggest body of water inland is the Caniapiscau Reservoir, though there is an infinity of lakes. A fun fact, many of the offshore islands from Quebec don’t pertain to the province but are actually part of the Nunavut territory. Many of the little islands not even a mile offshore belong to Nunavut. But one big island does belong to Quebec, and that would be Anticosti.

1. Because of the Île d’Anticosti

Chute Vauréal waterfall on Anticosti Island, Quebec
Anticosti Island – By Thosetimes

Anticosti, also called Notiskuan in Innu or Natigostec in Mi’kmaq, is a big island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It’s Canada’s 20th biggest island which is saying something because several of the world’s largest islands are here. It’s even bigger than one of Canada’s provinces! (the smallest one)

Other than its size, this island is sparsely populated and is filled with natural wilderness to explore. It’s in a continuation zone of the mainland mountains and is full of rugged terrain, dense boreal forests, hidden valleys, and blue shores. Canyons here hide spectacular waterfalls for travelers to witness. This place seems like going there would take you back in time to the days when people used to be really isolated. This air of mystique makes this place a quiet gem in eastern Canada.

2. Because of Forillon & the Gaspé Peninsula

high cliffs and forest at Forillon National Park, special area in Canada
Forillon National Park – By No machine-readable author provided

These two places go hand-in-hand when talking about Northern Quebec. Stretched out into the Atlantic, the Gaspé Peninsula is home to some of the nation’s most beautiful scenery. Pastured and forested hills sing up and down the coastline. The coast, in fact, would be the highlight of this region.

It is lined with high cliffs and flowery bluffs, some hosting observation decks to take in all the wonder. The beaches I’m sure are rocky and the waters cold, but it’s still an amazing place to take in the views. The most iconic section of the peninsula is in Forillon National Park where some of the best cliffside views can be caught. There are also a number of offshore islands with high table-top cliffs that make for an awesome sight.

3. Because of the Côte-Nord

monoliths at Mingan on the Côte-Nord, north coast in Quebec, near Havre-Saint-Pierre
monoliths at Mingan – By Michel Villeneuve

Since we’re on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, I might as well bring up the Côte-Nord (Coht-Noh), or the “North Coast.” This area consists of a long coastline reaching from the St. Lawrence River in the west all the way to Labrador in the east. The magic of this region comes from the little towns dotted all along the shores.

Historic towns share parts of colonial and indigenous life like Blanc Sablon and Port Cartier. In the latter town, there’s also the Parc de la Taiga, a natural park set aside to preserve the forested landscape. Sept-Îles (Seht-Il), or Uashat in Innu, is a town surrounded by historic sites, islands, and nature. In addition to nearby forests, it’s also host to the Tournoi Orange Alouette, a popular volleyball tournament and the biggest recreational event in the whole province!

Rivière-au-Tonnerre (He-vyehr-oh-Ton-nehr) is another town with important sites like Saint-Hippolyte Church, a beautiful white and red Catholic church near the shore. This town is also special for its nature which manifests in beautiful waterfalls and rivers that descend into the ocean, most notably on the Manitou River.

One more area I want to mention is Havre-Saint-Pierre. Besides being an important fishing and boating town, it is shielded by these curious-looking isles and rock formations. They remind me of the buttes found in the Badlands, only out in the water. Mingan is nearby and is home to more of these cool monoliths. The whole area of Côte-Nord is an interesting mix of French, Acadian, Canadian, and First Nations all bundled up into one, and is a unique spot within the country.

4. Because of Saguenay

Chicoutimi area at night with city lights across the river, Saguenay, Quebec
Chicoutimi, Saguenay – by Andre Ouellet

Further downriver is Northern Quebec’s biggest city, Saguenay. It’s actually made up of a couple of cities that were conjoined to make a larger one. With that said, each of the boroughs has its own little vibe and history. The main central borough though is Chicoutimi which is home to lots of historic sites and cool architecture.

A lot of it sits majestically on hills or over the river like the Chicoutimi Pulp Mills. It’s an old mill still open for visiting and one example of the region’s industrial history. Saguenay is pretty far south as far as Northern Quebec is concerned, so the weather is just a little bit better than in other areas.

Saguenay Fjords in northern Quebec
Saguenay Fjord National Park – By Fralambert

A big lake is nearby, as well as the Saguenay Fjords. Sort of a continuation of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, these fjords are lined with daunting cliffs shrouded in forests that tower miles of calm waters below. The area is really great for interacting with the industrial city as much as the serene nature all around.

Read more: Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park and Southern Quebec

5. Because of the Interior

green taiga landscape representing Trans Taiga Road in Quebec
Quebec taiga – by Landon Parenteau

One fascinating attraction in the interior of Quebec is its Trans-Taiga Road. That’s right, road trip time! This highway runs through the heart of the province and up into the distant taigas and tundra. The scenery on this road is ridiculous as drivers can witness a seemingly endless array of lakes and ponds scattered into bits of forest. A lot of the road follows the mighty Caniapiscau Reservoir.

Sometimes there are so many lakes that the road looks like a bridge going over them, and the best views seem to come when the sunlight hits the hills and waters at just the right angle. Northern Lights and starry nights just add to this magical road of the Canadian Subarctic.

You can’t really think of northern Canada without thinking of the First Nations, and Quebec’s interior has a number of Native sites and cultural centers to enjoy. One of these places is the Aanischaaukamikw (sorry, no pronunciation help on this one guys). In English, that’s the Cree Cultural Institute, dedicated to preserving and teaching about the regional Cree people.

Besides the cultural offerings, the building itself is just really beautiful and one of the best examples of modern Native American architecture there is. The center is also really close to Lake Mistassini, a big body of water that looks to be popular among fishers and nature lovers alike.

Read more: Cree Cultural Institute

6. Because of the Torngat Mountains

Kuururjuaq National Park in the Torngat Mountains, Canada
Kuururjuaq National Park – by Parks Canada

The Torngat Mountains are mostly in Labrador, so I’ll dive deeper into them when we reach that point. Still, a nice section of these Northern Cordillera steeples reaches into Quebec. For those who don’t know, the Torngats are some of the most beautiful and scenic mountains in the entire world, hands down. They aren’t that well-known and are isolated too, which means minimal tourists.

Most impressively on the Quebec side is Kuururjuag National Park, a sweeping area of valleys and imposing mountains that could drop a jaw ten times over. It’s also home to Mont D’Iberville, the tallest mountain in eastern Canada. The core vein flowing through this area is the George River. It snakes through the valleys and canyons, offering excellent fishing and wildlife. I think a salmon run happens up this way too, but the landscapes really drive this area home.

7. Because of Nunavik & the far north

Pingualuit crater in northern Quebec
Pingualuit crater – By NASA

Nunavik, spelled ᓄᓇᕕᒃ in Inuktitut, is as far north as you can get in Quebec. Along with wild tundra landscapes to contrast the forested south, parks like Pingualuit offer up adventure and cultural interaction with the local Inuit peoples. There’s also the Pingualuit crater, once formed from an outer space impact that’s now a circular lake.

The intriguing landscape is somewhat reminiscent of the moon, really, just with a lot more water. There’s also the Tursujuq National Park, a rugged area near the Hudson Bay coast. It is stocked with hills, plateaus, and rushing rivers that turn into waterfalls. It reminds me of some of the places in Iceland, actually.

Read more: What makes Iceland unique?

In the far north is Pamiok Island, home to the Imaha historic site. The site is a set of rocky ruins once thought to belong to Viking settlers. The site is now recognized as belonging to the local Dorset culture, an ancient Eskimo culture that once inhabited the area. Very cool!

8. Because of the Culture (+ last thoughts)

Northern Quebec is such a mystery to many. It’s Quebec, so we know about the French influences. It’s an area that was pushed forward by logging and industry, though that was only in a small section. Acadians historically occupied and sought refuge here, adding to the identity of the region. It is a place dominated by boating and marine life in some parts, forestry and mountaineering in another, and vast icy settings in others.

Historic cultures have risen, fallen, and sustained themselves in the more isolated parts of the country. Northern Quebec is mostly unexplored and untouched, and this adds to the beauty of its land, as well as the uniqueness of its people. With rumored Viking impact, First Nations, and especially Inuit influences, this area is the face of an ancient Canada colliding with modern beauty. Those who decide to make this place a home are strong and hardened for survival, yet friendly and welcoming to show outsiders just how awesome their distant part of the world is.

Read more: Earth’s Face

**Thank you all for reading and I hope you enjoyed this corner of the world. If you’re from here, represent! Do you have more to add (or take out) to this post? Please share with us what you like about Northern Quebec. And please do research, check the links, look at photos and videos, and go see these places for yourself! Stay safe and be well.

Contact me or collaborate! tietewaller@gmail.com

Why is Southern Quebec special (Besides Montreal)? – 9 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Mackenzie King Estate in Gatineau Park, Quebec
Mackenzie King Estate, Gatineau – Photo by Christopher Austin

Again, you guys, these provinces are too big. Here we’re going to take a look at Canada’s biggest province by area. Well, just the southern portion since it alone could be a whole province to itself. If you’re wondering why southern Quebec is so special or interesting, here are just a few reasons. Feel free to do further research, look at some pictures or videos, and explore these places for yourself! And if you’re from this place, please feel a whole lot of pride because it is unique, d’accord?

Awesome! Let’s get into it.

a relief map of Quebec province in Canada

Southern QUÉBEC | Quick Geography

In Canada’s biggest province, southern Quebec is pretty small in comparison to the north. Still, it’s a lot more populous and just a bit warmer. This region is located in the southeast of the country, historically part of Central Canada. The capital city, also called Quebec, is located here, as is the province’s biggest city of Montreal. Quebec is predominantly French-speaking, and in the local language it is spelled Québec (pronounced Keh-bek).

The name comes from either Algonquin or Ojibwe and means “where the river narrows.” This refers to an area on the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City. The St. Lawrence, by the way, is the biggest and most important river in the province, being the point of introduction to many colonists and the main reason we have Canada today.

Surrounding the river are the St. Lawrence Lowlands, giving rise to the upper Appalachian Mountains in the south. North of these lowlands are the Laurentian Mountains which basically divide northern and southern Quebec. The region is mostly mixed and temperate forests with more piney forests in the highlands. It borders the U.S. to the south and east and contains a stretch of isles in the Atlantic called the Magdalen Islands.

1. Because of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine

the coast of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine or Magdalen Islands in southern Quebec, Canada
Îles-de-la-Madeleine – by Original uploader was Aarchiba

These islands (Il-de-la-Ma-da-leyn), also called the Magdalen Islands in English, are set out in the Atlantic and are really a unique part of Quebec. This is mostly due to their brightly colored cliffs and beaches which look almost orange against the deep blue ocean. The hills above are green and dotted with regional architecture and lighthouses.

The best part is that not all the beaches and isles look the same, so different parts of the region have their own special style of cliffs, beaches, and caves. There’s a visitors center and ferries to get from place to place. It’s really a beautiful-looking location in the south of this massive province.

2. Because of the Laurentian Mountains

town of Mont-Tremblant at the base of green mountains and waterfront, Quebec province
Mont-Tremblant – By Stéphane Duquesne

The Laurentian Mountains are considered the divide between northern and southern Quebec, yet they bring outdoor travelers all throughout the year. With beautifully scenic reserves and parks like La Mauricie National Park, Mastigouche, Papineau-Labelle, and La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve, it’s easy to see why campers, hunters, and fishers flock out to these places to get a whiff of fresh air.

Sept-Chutes (Seven Falls) Regional Park is another one of these remarkable parks with mountains, canyons, and waterfalls of course. Probably the most famous place in these mountains is Mont-Tremblant. This town is traced by imposing mountains and colorful wooden architecture. It looks like a very magical place and has attractions for visitors throughout the year. The best is probably in winter when the area turns into a winter sports wonderland fit for skiers and snowboarders, amongst many other activities.

3. Because of nature in the East

Parc marin du Saguenay–Saint-Laurent, or Saguenay--Saint Lawrence Marine Park on the St. Lawrence River, southern Quebec
Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine ParkBy Pierre André

Still sort of in the Laurentian area, the east of Southern Quebec is also stocked with natural beauty. This area is more influenced by the sea and it shows in its natural areas more than further inland. Especially mountainous and forested, places like Jacques-Cartier National Park or the Laurentides reserve are awesome sites for witnessing North America’s wildlife.

There you can find anything from owls to bears to moose and bison. To check out Canada’s marine mammals, the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park is perfect for catching sight of whales. They commonly go down to this part of the river to eat, and they make for an awesome sight in the calm waters between the high forested cliffs along the coast.

4. Because of Ville de Québec

the Chateau Frontenac hotel in Quebec City at winter
Le Château Frontenac – By Wilfredor

Otherwise known as Quebec City, this is where it all started. Quebec is pretty famous for being one of the best examples of Europe and particularly France in North America. The best place to see this would be in Old Quebec. You have the Quartier Petit Champlain to walk through and really feel those Quebecois vibes and taste that delicious Quebecois food.

The area is full of iconic plazas, staircases, and historic sites like the Plains of Abraham and the Place Royale. There’s a hill with a citadel and preserved forts to learn about the province’s past. On the St. Lawrence coast is a boardwalk and promenade leading up to the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, a luxurious hotel and probably the most iconic building in the whole city.

a busy Quartier Petit Champlain, commercial center in Old Quebec
Quartier Petit Champlain – By Wilfredor

Further down the river are parks and beaches like La Plage-Jacques-Cartier Park and the botanical gardens. Important and beautifully designed culture centers like the Museum of Civilization and Quebec’s National Museum of Fine Arts are found in the city. Thinking of adventure, there are places like the Arbraska Chauveau area, a treetop adventure park with ziplining and other sylvan activities.

Montmorency Falls in summertime near Quebec City
Montmorency Falls -by Mercedes Schulz

At the edge of Quebec is Montmorency Falls, a rushing waterfall taller than Niagara with observation decks and a bridge that takes visitors over the powerful waters. Speaking of waterfalls, another great one in the area is in the suburban city, Lévis (Leh-vee). Besides having some of the best views of Quebec from the other side of the river, it also is home to Chaudière Falls (Sho-dyehr). Really, the area is a great mix of history, urban life, and nature all wrapped into one.

5. Because of its other towns

views from Mont-Orford area at sunrise, natural place in southern Quebec
Mont-Orford near Sherbrooke – by Romain B

Putting Quebec City and Montreal aside, Southern Quebec also has lots of other great towns that make it special. Trois-Rivières (Trhah-He-vyehr) is one of the larger cities with lots of cool colonial buildings and churches. It’s also home to the Forges-du-Saint-Maurice, the first successful ironworks in all of New France (French Americas) which can still be visited to this day.

Sherbrooke is another large town, home to pretty buildings and its own important museums like the Museum of Fine Arts. There are also good winter sports venues nearby with Mont-Orford being a key visitor site. Hikers can find swimming spots and scenic viewpoints to catch a glimpse of the rolling Appalachians all around.

Similar spots include Coaticook Gorge with its high bridge and Saint-Jérôme. This town has its own museums, churches, and pretty parks to enjoy winter activities too. And finally, there’s Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (Sent-Jon-suh-He-shel-yu). Beyond having all the other cool stuff that Quebec towns are known for, it also is host to a big balloon festival. Beauty is just all around.

6. Because of Gatineau

the Canadian History Museum in Gatineau, Quebec
Canadian History Museum – By Wladyslaw

Gatineau (Ga-te-noh) is a suburban city just across the Ottawa River from, well, Ottawa. Being so close to the capital, it has a reputation as a getaway point of leisure for politicians and civilians alike. Other than famous golf courses and casinos, the uniquely designed Canadian Museum of History is located here.

rushing waterfall surrounded by reddish fall foliage in Gatineau Park, Gatineau
Gatineau Park – by Marc-Olivier Jodoin

Probably the most interesting feature of the city though has to be Gatineau Park. And this isn’t just some park, I mean, it’s practically a woods wilderness on the edge of the city. It’s a massive park with lakes and rivers and has several high lookout points to take in the sweeping beauty. It’s especially pretty during the fall when the red leaves pop like in no other place in Canada.

Read more: Ottawa and Southern Ontario

Another cool feature is the Mackenzie King Estate which once belonged to a prime minister. It’s a set of buildings, bridges, and structures that look sort of like the ruins of an old civilization, yet they are still well-preserved. It’s a really cool place in Quebec with an eery yet enchanted feeling.

7. Because of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré

special religious site in southern Quebec, Basilica of Saint Anne de Beaupre
Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica – By User Jcmurphy

Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré (Sent-Ann-de-Bo-pwey) is a town not far outside Quebec City. It’s especially famous for its Basilica and major convents, being a popular pilgrimage site for people from around the world. The town is conveniently close to awesome natural sites like Mont-Sainte-Anne.

The region is stacked with forested canyons and waterfalls too, like Sainte-Anne Falls and Sept-Chutes Falls (different from the other Seven Falls mentioned before). It’s also really close to the Île d’Orléans (Il-Doh-leh-an), or Orleans Island. It was one of the first places settled by the French in modern Canada and maintains much of its rural, pastoral identity from back then. Another good reason for Quebec’s specialness. Yep.

8. Because you can explore the region

pouring wine into wine glasses near a vineyard, representing the Brome-Missisquoi wine route and southern Quebec's popular wine and vineyards
Fine wine at Brome–Missisquoi – by photo-nic.co.uk nic

Southern Quebec is known for lots of things. Being in a fertile section of Canada between two mountain ranges, wine has become one of its icons. Wineries are laced throughout, but one of the best spoken of is on the Brome–Missisquoi (Bhom-Mis-sis-kwa) wine route. There are a set of vineyards and wineries that’ll take visitors back to Quebec’s French roots, and I mean grape roots.

Read more: Brome–Missisquoi wine

Another fruit Quebec is known for are its apples, and cider tours are also worth a taste. Lastly, the region is home to several Nordic-style spas where visitors can escape the cold (or become one with it). Saunas and thermal pools are just some of what’s offered, along with a white snowy backdrop. And don’t forget to get some famous Quebec maple syrup while you’re at it!

Read more: Cider route

9. Because of the culture (+ closing)

I don’t have to keep beating it on the head, but Southern Quebec is the French capital of Canada. This is where French identity, culture, and heritage have run strongest in North America. It is home to the most French speakers outside of France and some of the best examples of colonial French architecture and culture. Many learn English, but the vast majority have some understanding of French and recognize a French background.

Even within the nation, Quebec has a unique law system, religious traditions, its own recognized celebrities, artists, and literature styles. The Quebecois are considered a “nation” within the nation, and they truly deserve that denomination. The food here has been influenced by this tradition as well as by other immigrants, and the people are just as diverse as one can imagine in Canadian cities.

Home to iconic trends in fashion, cuisine, and preservation of nature as much as its history, this part of Quebec holds a special place in the nation’s heartland. It’s not just the nucleus of French-Canadian identity, but one of the main locations where the country got started. More than being simply French Canada, southern Quebec is Canada.

Read more: other special places in Earth’s Face

**Thanks for reading! Be safe, be blessed, and take care of others. Please come again, and we’ll be chatting soon. Peace!

Why is Toronto Special? – 13 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Yonge Dundas Square Midtown Toronto in winter, special place in Toronto
Yonge-Dundas Square – by Kim Kaye

Toronto is a special city not just for Canada, but for the entire world. But what makes this place so unique? Here are 13 sort of clustered reasons why, even though there are many many more. Still, anytime is a good time to appreciate the Earth’s places. Let’s start with some quick geography. Where on the planet is it?

map showing toronto's location in canada and in ontario
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TORONTO: Quick Geography

As you may know or have read in my post about Southern Ontario, Toronto is not only the capital of Ontario province but is also the biggest (as in most-populous) city in all of Canada. With over 2 million 700 thousand in the city and over 5 million 400 thousand in the urban area, it is one of the biggest cities in North America too. Its land area is about 630 square km (391 sq mi). It’s about 21 km (13 mi) at the max top to bottom and about 43 km (27 mi) across.

Like most of the big cities, it is located in the southern part of Ontario on the northwest edge of Lake Ontario. Originally known as York, Toronto comes from Iroquoian languages meaning “place where trees stand in water” and/or “plenty” or “abundance.” The Iroquoian name was popularized by the name of a passage route in the region. The city has 6 larger districts that got sucked together to form the current city:

  • Old Toronto
  • Etobicoke
  • East York
  • North York
  • York
  • Scarborough

The city has a long coastline with offshore islands that create a protected harbor. Toronto is cut by several rivers and ravines, most notably the Don River, Humber River, and Rouge River. Despite this, the city is generally flat with more hilly terrain as you go inland. Let’s take a little tour.

1. Hoods + Squares – shopping & exploring

the garden car covered in graffiti art on a street in kensington market, Toronto
Garden Car, Kensington Market – By Suwannee.payne

The most popular and most visited part of Toronto is Old Toronto. Coincidently, it is the district that I’ll be focusing the most on, but by no means is it the only important part of town. When traveling to any city, some of the best things one can do is to tour the neighborhoods and buy something to remember the place by.

winter ice rink scene at evening in the nathan phillips square, Toronto
Nathan Phillips Square – By Benson Kua

One of the most popular hoods by far is Kensington Market, an old Jewish area that turned into an overall hip place to visit. There are all sorts of local shops, street art, and diverse food options. It’s famous for being a marketplace and hotspot for the city’s diversity.

Other quirky hoods good for spending that cash are Queen Street West and Yorkville. Chinatown is also very popular, and a great place to find unique items and foods, let alone get immersed into a different culture.

street scene in chinatown toronto
Chinatown – By The Canadian Roadgeek

Toronto is full of other ethnic neighborhoods to explore too. If you like big shopping centers, places like the Toronto Eaton Centre and the Scarborough Civic Centre are right on the mark.

Another big one is Dundas Square, something like Times Square or LA Live in the heart of Old TO. And Nathan Phillips Square is the main square that turns into a big ice rink in the winter. These spots are excellent for feeling the big city vibe.

2. Bricks + Castles – history & art

winter at casa loma castle, Toronto
Casa Loma – By Casa Loma

One really unique place in Toronto is the Casa Loma. This big Gothic Revival-style castle is a really popular place to visit. It’s somewhat of an urban getaway since it’s surrounded by gardens and rests on a hill. The views of the Entertainment District from here are really pretty, and it’s a nice contrast to the main area of the city.

ruin-like structures at Guild Park and Gardens
Guild Park & Gardens – By Jeff Hitchcock

Another neat place is Guild Park and Gardens, a former artists colony set in the woods down in Scarborough. Just off Lake Ontario, there are several relics that were piled together to look like old ruins. It really gives an ancient feel to this New World city.

Speaking of Casa Loma, the bricks used to build it were brought from the Evergreen Brick Works. This is a special site that functioned as a brick factory for about a hundred years. It’s been turned into a park and is now dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability. Now that’s a cool turnaround!

3. Parks + Greens – nature

oaks at high park, toronto
High Park – By Chen Feng (Damn Lee)

Toronto has a ton of parks, and locals are never too far from nature. Probably the most iconic one is High Park, a huge area with lakes, trails, touring trains, and a tranquil atmosphere. The park is especially popular in the spring when tons of cherry blossoms burst into bloom.

fall foliage at the rouge national urban park, Toronto
Rouge National Urban Park – by Jeffrey Eisen

Other notable parks are Riverdale Park East and Trinity Bellwoods Park, the latter being super popular among locals. On the outskirts of town is the Rouge National Urban Park, a massive natural space to just get lost in nature.

creek and waterfall at edwards gardens in toronto's botanical garden
Edwards Gardens – by Toronto Botanical Garden

Nearby is the Toronto Zoo, one of the biggest and best zoos in the Americas. In a similar vein, there are the Edwards Gardens, a beautiful section of the city’s Botanical Gardens to explore and get immersed into TO’s floral side. Urban nature: check.

4. Arts + Museums – culture

royal ontario museum in toronto at night with full yellow moon
Royal Ontario Museum – by Lotus Raphael

So Toronto is stocked with museums and galleries. I mean, just infested with them. The cool thing about several of these is the really flashy, almost futuristic design of the buildings. Two museums in particular that fit this description are the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Not just beautifully designed, these two museums are among the biggest and most renowned in North America (ROM is actually the biggest in Canada).

pink curvy exhibit inside art gallery of ontario, toronto
Art Gallery of Ontario – by Tony Reid

One incredible museum dedicated to Islamic and Persian art is the Aga Khan Museum. The site holds a pretty building with gardens and waterways around it. Probably the most unusual is the Bata Shoe Museum. That’s right, a museum dedicated to shoes! It looks a lot more interesting than it sounds, mounting shoes anywhere from ancient Inuits to more recent basketball players.

horse graffiti art in graffiti alley, special place in Toronto
Graffiti Alley – by Dylan McLeod

One special mention goes to Graffiti Alley, a section of the city with tons of street art. This popular part of town can be observed on your own or with a guided tour, but several parts of the city boast their local artistic talent.

5. Eastside Old Town – marketplaces & architecture

crosswalk in east Old Town, Toronto with view of the Gooderham building and more modern buildings in the background
Gooderham Building – by Lotus Raphael

Old Town is Toronto’s historic core and one of the most popular neighborhoods. Of course, owing to an awesome contrast of old and new architecture like the Royal Bank Plaza and Gooderham Building, there’s more to it than that. The most famous and most traditional market is St. Lawrence Market. It’s a nice place to see the traditional side of TO while getting your grub on.

Christmas market and lighted christmas tree in the distillery district, Toronto
Christmas Market, Distillery District – by Jessica Lam

One extremely important place is the Distillery District, a neighborhood considered the biggest collection of Victorian-era brick buildings in North America. It’s full of shops and eateries amidst the historic buildings. It also happens to be an area for holiday magic. The Christmas Market and Light Festival are held here when the streets are all decorated with lights and Christmas trees. The whole thing just looks like a magical place to be.

We also can’t talk about Canada without mentioning hockey, and guess what? The Hockey Hall of Fame is on this side of town! Check out some Stanley Cups and famous jerseys for all the sports lovers.

6. Ontario Place – history & attractions

Ontario Place and the cinesphere on the harbor
Ontario Place Cinesphere – By Raysonho

A unique part of Toronto on its own is Ontario Place. It’s a big complex that houses all kinds of parks, an amphitheater, exhibits, museums, stadiums, and a marina. One could spend a good part of their day just roaming around this waterfront area.

There are also some important historic sites here like the Princes’ Gates, a majestically arched gateway, or Fort York. This place is a fort that was used by the British back in the early 1800s. It still stands there today to show just how awesome Toronto really is.

7. Pubs + Temples – miscellaneous attractions

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Toronto, special Hindu temple
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Toronto – By Ian Muttoo

I also couldn’t mention Toronto without talking about pubs. The city was very popular for its pubs and breweries, such as the Mill Street Brew Pub. The Madison Avenue Pub, or the “Maddy,” is made out of the joining of manors that morphed into a house now popular to the pub-lic.

half house in Toronto, unique place in Ontario
Half House – by Atlas Obscura

Another weird place that has turned into a kind of landmark is the Half House, an old home whose owners on one side refused to let it be demolished. Now it sits as an old relic practically cut “in half” and surrounded by more modern buildings. It’s a pretty wacky feature of the city.

One last random landmark is the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple. It’s this really big and beautifully designed Hindu temple dedicated to this specific branch of the religion located out on the edges of Etobicoke. It’s really beautiful inside and out, worth a visit no matter what your faith is.

8. Entertainment District – attractions & landmarks

neon streets at dusk in Toronto entertainment district
Entertainment District – by Elza Kurbanova

Like I said earlier, this is probably the most visited and most popular part of Toronto. It’s the site of the famous CN Tower, after all, the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere. Besides going to the top and taking in the wide views, daredevils can go a bit higher and take a walk around the edges of this lofty tower.

Home to other popular places like the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and the Rogers Centre, lots of events are held on this side of town. A great place to find entertainment (as the name promises) there are several popular theaters and event halls.

Shiny buildings in Toronto, Roy Thomson Hall in entertainment district
Roy Thomson Hall – By Benson Kua

These include places like the Four Season Centre and Roy Thomson Hall. Some even come with fancy names like the Royal Alexandra Theatre or Princess of Wales Theatre. An important movie theater is the TIFF Lightbox that hosts all kinds of movie events throughout the year, including the International Film Festival.

9. Festivals + Events

fireworks at night over entertainment district in Toronto
Party in Toronto – by Stephen H

The Toronto International Film Festival is a very special local event, by the way. Others include the Taste of Danforth Greek festival, Canada Day, Pride Week, and the Caribbean Carnival. Yeah, enjoy that sun!

caribana caribbean festival in Toronto
Caribana Festival – By Loozrboy

In the dark though is an all-night festival called Nuit Blanche dedicated to artwork and getting people to Scarborough. Another creepy event is the Ghost Walk that happens around Halloween time. People can dress up in costumes and roam around Old Town decorated like a big haunted house. If you’re into that.

10. Bluffs + Waterfronts – coasts & nature

view of downtown Toronto from a park in the Toronto Islands, Ontario
view from Toronto Islands – by Scott Webb

Since Toronto is on a huge lake, you can bet there’s a ton of waterfront to enjoy. Canada’s not particularly famous for having beaches, but Toronto does have a few decent ones. There’s even a neighborhood called The Beaches with a few to lie on.

Closer to Old Town there’s Cherry Beach and the tiny Sugar Beach. It is small but that adds to its unique getaway feel. The umbrellas splayed out on the sand make it seem like a little tropics of the north.

sunny day at Cherry Beach, small beach in Old Toronto, Canada
Cherry Beach – by Ian Kirkland

As far as actual waterfront, there is the Harbourfront area next to the Entertainment District where one can enjoy the harbor, walk around, catch a boat ride, or even ice skate in the winter. Just ahead of that are the Toronto Islands, a set of isles right off the city’s coast. The most popular is Centre Island with its own calm beaches and urban park. Some of the best views of T Dot’s skyscrapers are from these islands.

cliffs and blue waters at the Scarborough Bluffs in Toronto, Ontario
Scarborough Bluffs – by Meri Vasilevski

Next to the harbor is the Music Garden which hosts live classical performances and was designed based on one of Bach’s compositions. Getting a ways out of the busy center, Scarborough has a somewhat isolated area called the Scarborough Bluffs. These are a series of forested hills and cliffs overlooking the lake. The colors are spectacular in summer and the place even shelters a few nice beaches. Didn’t expect that one from Canada.

11. Mississauga – city

iconic Marilyn Monroe buildings in Mississauga, near Toronto
Marilyn Monroe Buildings – by Aaron Ledesma

Toronto’s got a lot of suburbs, but its biggest one is Mississauga. The international airport getting into TO is here, but there’s more to this city than that. Mississauga is coastal just like its larger anchor, so there are some lakeside parks with great views to explore.

Port Credit on the Credit River, Mississauga near Toronto
Port Credit on the Credit River – By Jjj84206

There’s also the Credit River and port which is like a peaceful nature getaway that takes hikers into the woods. First and foremost is Celebration Square. This place is “celebrated” as one of the best squares anywhere and is home to many events year-round.

It’s close to pretty buildings like city hall and the famed Marilyn Monroe Towers. These babies look like giant curvy blob-morphs from another planet and are some of the most striking things you’ll find in the Toronto area.

12. Suburbs – nature & attractions

roller coaster at Canada's Wonderland theme park, fun in the Toronto area
rides at Canada’s Wonderland, Vaughan – By Jeremy Thompson

Continuing that thought, the city is surrounded by ideal suburbs. Whether it’s Brampton or Oakville or Oshawa, these places really add to the appeal of Toronto overall. Filled with conservation areas like Heart Lake Park and hiking trails, most of the suburbs are a great way to explore the more natural, rural side of the urban area.

Heart Lake Conservation Area, Vaughan near Toronto, Canada
Heart Lake, Brampton – By Mykola Swarnyk

Adding to its conservation parks, Vaughan is also special for being home to Canada’s Wonderland, Canada’s largest and earliest major theme park. And of course, Burlington has the enchanted Royal Botanical Gardens with some mountainous scenery around Mt. Nemo. Visitors can get hyped at a theme park and chill out at a heart-shaped lake afterward. What could be more fun?

centerpiece at Canada's Wonderland theme park, Vaughan, Ontario
Canada’s Wonderland – By Jeremy Thompson

13. Culture (+ Closing)

We all know (by now) that Toronto is the biggest city and probably the most diverse in Canada. This city is famed for having open arms to the world’s people and allowing for so many cultures and nationalities to coexist. The city’s people don’t just reside here but are celebrated by the many festivals, events, and exhibits dedicated to them every year.

It’s a massive metropolis that has often been ahead of the pack with its culture, music, film industry, and economic might. Still, in all its growth, Toronto remembers to protect its natural environment and to promote sustainability in a lasting way. This city, like many places in Canada, doesn’t let the cold get to it. Whether it’s ice skating, snowboarding, or hockey, locals know how to make the most of the cold dark months with a face-full of lights … and some good brew.

**Okay world lovers, that’s it for Toronto! I hope you enjoyed this post and learned something about this incredible city. I also hope I showed you part of why Toronto is a special place. Are you from Toronto or ever visited there? Let us know what you would add (or take away) from this little list. I appreciate your readership, and take care of yourselves. Peace.

Why is Northern Ontario Special? – 9 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Checking in for the second part of this huge province, Ontario is definitely too big for one post. For just one of anything, really. We’ll take a look at the biggest section of ON here to tack onto why it is such a unique place. You can read about Southern Ontario here if you wish. Okay, where exactly could this place be? And what makes Northern Ontario so special? Hmm, so mysterious!

map of Ontario, Canada, highlighted northern region
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map of Canadian Provinces and Territories, highlighted Ontario
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Northern ONTARIO: Quick Geography

As you can see on the map, this chunk of Ontario makes up the vast majority of land in the province, but with only a small portion of its people. In a land area about the size of Vietnam, it sits mostly on the Canadian Shield. In the southern portion are lots of boreal forests with more rugged terrain here and in the interior. Further north and inland are influenced more by tundra landscapes. The climate further north is subarctic while the south is more continental with warm summers.

The western edge stems out into Canada’s Midwest forests while the northeast is a vast wetland called the Hudson Plains. The plains cover the coasts of the huge Hudson Bay and smaller James Bay. Also in the Great Lakes region, Northern Ontario touches the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Another very notable lake is Lake Nipigon. The French River and Algonquin Park are usually considered the areas that separate north from south in this province. Not far from these parts is Sudbury, the region’s biggest city. Otherwise, you can’t miss this place on a map, it’s really huge.

1. Lake Huron & Sudbury – nature & attractions

rocky and wet landscape around Killarney Provincial Park, Northern Ontario
Killarney – by Sergey Pesterev

Since we’re talking about Sudbury, I’ll start with her. The official name is Greater Sudbury, or Grand-Sudbury in French since there are lots of French speakers here. Besides being the most populous city in Northern Ontario, it’s also the biggest city in the whole province by land area. It’s the main urban center and a nice gateway to the vast north.

One standout feature in this city is Science North, a big science complex dedicated to sparking scientific curiosity. There are underground tunnels, exhibits of different sciences, boat tours, and an IMAX theater. There’s even the biggest coin in the world on the grounds. Sudbury’s the biggest urban attraction in the whole north, so it really deserves its dues. This city isn’t far from Lake Huron which has a number of great parks and trails to discover.

the big nickel, giant coin at the Science North center in Greater Sudbury, Ontario
the Big Nickel – By Phil Harvey

Two special parks on the lake are the French River and Killarney provincial parks. This part of Ontario is very rocky with tons of hills. This makes the perfect contrast along the rivers and lakes in these nearby parks. Particularly in Killarney, there’s a rocky overlook called the Crack that’s awesome for getting a view of the park’s best features all in one spot. There are beautiful forests and wild scenery laced up against tons of little islands and waterways. The French River itself forms a type of gorge with bridges to explore. Not far away, there is one island in particular that needs its own section.

2. Manitoulin Island – big island

view from the cup and saucer trail on Manitoulin island, northern Ontario
View from the Cup & Saucer Trail, Manitoulin – By User:Jhapk

Manitoulin is a very special island indeed. It’s actually the biggest freshwater island in the world, so big that it holds over 100 lakes itself. Some of those lakes even have islands. Dang! More than its impressive size, Manitoulin is home to many great forests, falls, inlets, beaches, and little islands too. Several of the towns here have a nice rustic feel with some of the frontier-style buildings still preserved.

Two trails that hikers seemed to be very excited about are the Great Spirit Circle Trail and the Cup & Saucer Trail. The former offers up adventure from an indigenous perspective, providing rich cultural interactions. Cup & Saucer takes hikers up into the rugged hills, even scaling a ladder to get to a high viewpoint. From there the islands and lakes are free to take in.

3. Lake Superior – nature & hiking

shore of Lake Superior at sunrise
Lake Superior shore – by NOAA

Moving on to the next Great Lake, Lake Superior has some impressive nature as well. The biggest of the Great Lakes (if you don’t consider Michigan and Huron as the same body of water), it possesses a few beautiful parks and trails of its own. With all the forests, rugged coasts, waterfalls, and clear blue waters you would expect, Lake Superior Provincial Park has it all. There’s a nice set of trails to explore the coasts and get down into the cliffs.

Sunrise at Lake Superior Provincial Park, campground on the shore
Lake Superior Provincial ParkCC BY 2.0

Another cool park is Pukaskwa National Park, filled with rocky isles and peninsulas. There are even more waterfalls and inlets here. Hikers can even explore gorges with suspension bridges to walk above the rushing waters. The region is also cut by Ontario’s section of the Trans-Canada Highway, so it’s a logical stop for those driving through.

4. Thunder Bay – culture & history

Terry Fox Monument and lookout in Thunder Bay, special person in Canadian history
Terry Fox Monument – By Richard Keeling

It’s no Sudbury, but Thunder Bay is a really important city in the far corners of Lake Superior. In a region once dominated by the fur trade, there are a couple of preserved sites and villages for learning about the past like Fort William Historical Park. Another park that mixes history with the Canadian wild is Centennial Park. It’s a large natural area with a few historic sites dedicated to TB’s logging past.

A skip away from there is the Terry Fox Monument dedicated to this famous Canadian athlete. He is well known throughout the nation for attempting a cross-country marathon in order to bring awareness to cancer. Oh, and he did this with a synthetic leg! I’d say he deserves a monument, and there’s a nice one right in Thunder Bay.

sweeping snowy landscape in Thunder Bay, city in north Ontario
Thunder Bay – by Jaime Dantas

Further down is Loch Lomond, a quaint ski getaway near to the city. Besides its nature and its seriously sweet name, this city is also home to an important Art Gallery. It’s the biggest in all NorOn (don’t know if that exists, but I’m going with it) and is dedicated to showcasing contemporary First Nations art. To get a break from all the boreal forests, there’s the Centennial Conservatory. It shelters lots of tropical plants and beautiful gardens throughout the year, and it’s free to visit. We like free.

5. Around Thunder Bay – nature

Kekabeka Falls, a unique waterfall in Ontario, Canada
Kakabeka Falls – By Carport

Not just a city, Thunder Bay is practically the gateway to the Northwest which is a whole subregion on its own. There are some pretty amazing sights up here. The Sleeping Giant is a park area and rock formation that stretches out over the water. From the sky, it looks like a giant napping on a strip of land. Ouimet Canyon is a forested area centered on a big gorge. There’s yet another suspension bridge here to cut across and get a nice view of the area.

One of the main attractions around Thunder Bay is called Kakabeka Falls. It’s a big waterfall out in the forest, though that doesn’t stop it from being popular. The waters are so strong and it’s so easily accessible that it’s been given the nickname “Niagara of the North.” Really a unique spot in its own right.

6. Remote Nature – exploration & adventure

Canoes on Lake Temagami, popular lake and wilderness area in Northern Ontario
Canoeing on Lake Temagami – By Jordan Wan

If there’s one thing I feel that NorOn is known for, it’s got to be remote wilderness. There are so many huge provincial parks out here it’s ridiculous. You’ve got Quetico in the boundary waters region shared with Minnesota. There’s Wabakimi and Nagagamisis. I’m just tripping off of these names, though. There’s also a bendy lake called Lake Temagami with lots of parks surrounding it.

a caribou or reindeer at a river in the woods, relating to Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, Ontario
Caribou – by Thomas Lefebvre

These places are mostly accessible just by small planes, like seaplanes, or by boat. Visitors to these parks usually fly into some remote part of the forest and spend time camping, canoeing, and trekking all through the wilderness. Another notable park is Woodland Caribou. It’s known for the same stuff as all the other parks but with some ancient pictographs to add. These places are great spots to get away from it all (far, far away) and get immersed in the wild.

7. Hudson Plains – remote towns & nature

a polar bear near Hudson Bay, common sight in northern Ontario
Near Hudson Bay – by Jason Hillier

So moose are pretty common throughout Canada, but polar bears are a different story. That’s why Ontario is home to Polar Bear Provincial Park, its biggest and most isolated park. It’s so isolated that it’s only accessible by air and visitors need special permission to enter. It covers a large section of the wet plains along Hudson Bay and is a much-needed sanctuary for tundra-dwelling creatures, like the polar bear.

Polar Bear Express train in north Ontario, Canada
Polar Bear Express – By Rev40

Speaking of those snowy furballs, there’s a train ride named after them. The Polar Bear Express transports people between the towns of Cochrane and Moosonee and is the only way to get to these two places on the ground. Interestingly enough, Moosonee is too far north to see moose and too far south to see polar bears. Still, I’d ride that train just to feel like I was in a Christmas adventure movie. Despite the lack of big game, Moosonee and Moose Factory Island are still some interesting and remote towns. They offer education about the First Nations and give off a distant feeling of isolation. Way to get away from all that city noise.

8. Agawa – views & trains

Agawa Canyon, beautiful place in northern Ontario
Agawa Canyon – By Carport

The area around Agawa is a canyon and wilderness park just inland from Lake Superior. The really neat thing about the canyon is a scenic railway that winds through it. It seems especially pretty during the fall months. Imagine riding a train over dips and curls across a valley filled with fiery colored trees and a tranquil running river. I’m about ready to drop what I’m doing and go there today.

On the Lake Superior coast, there’s an offshore island called Bathtub that has some beaches and natural pools to “bathe” in. Just leave the soap at home. Other than this beautiful canyon, the Agawa region is also home to some impressive pictographs made by ancient inhabitants in the area. What a cool slice of culture!

9. Culture (and Closing)

Really taking it into the backwoods! Northern Ontario is such a massive area with so much to see. The great thing is that it’s mostly wilderness and woodlands, so it hasn’t been changed much since pre-settlement times. The lakes and rivers are an immediate location of settlement for the people here, contributing to the strong boating, canoeing, and seaplane culture. There’s so much space and nature it could blow your mind way out into the outdoors.

From hiking beautiful shores to enjoying the remote wilderness, this region has been able to preserve lots of its indigenous character. There are a number of galleries and excursions dedicated to First Nations, and several historic sites preserved to show how life was like for fur traders and loggers. The woods are practically in the blood of these hardy folks. Northern Ontario shows how important it is to mesh its different historic identities into one, even if its population doesn’t quite match the south.

**Hey everybody! Did you enjoy learning about Northern Ontario? If there’s anybody out there that wants to add or share more about this place, please feel free to enlighten us! What makes Ontario special for you? Anyway, you’re all special and our whole planet is special, so keep taking care of each other and the Earth. Talk soon!

Why is Southern Ontario Special? 9 Cool Reasons (Besides Toronto) 🇨🇦

You read it right! We’re going to look at just the southern portion of Ontario. Welcome to the land of great lakes! (or beautiful waters) Unlike the previous Earth’s Faces in Iceland, Canada has some remarkably large subdivisions called provinces. Since this province is so big, I decided to break it up between north and south. It’s already one of the most iconic parts of Canada, but what (besides Toronto) makes southern Ontario so special? Let’s take a look … sh-hall we?

map of Ontario highlighting the southern region of the province
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Canadian Provinces and Territories, highlighting Ontario in red
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Southern Ontario: Quick Geography

The southern portion of Ontario is a very interesting part of Canada, being the region with the densest population. Several big urban areas are found here, including Toronto (Canada’s biggest city, Ontario’s provincial capital), and Ottawa, the nation’s capital.

It’s a region surrounded by the United States on three sides and is the southernmost part of the country. Most of the region is a type of lowland naturally covered in mixed-wood forests. Being a part of the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence River valley, part of its borders are traced by Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie.

The province is actually named after Lake Ontario, which in turn probably comes from Wyandot or other Iroquoian languages. It means something like “great lake” or “beautiful water,” fitting since Ontario is home to nearly 250 thousand lakes! Some other major ones are Lake Simcoe and Lake St. Clair. Further to the north, you start to hit the boreal shield. Here, the forests are colder and denser, and the terrain gets more hilly. So, what are some special features?

1. Niagara Falls – quaint cities & waterfalls

a colonial style building in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
Niagara-on-the-Lake – by Josh Appel

Let’s just forget about Toronto (for now). The next thing that might come to mind when you think of southern Ontario should be beautiful Niagara Falls. These are some of the most famous waterfalls in the world, so I don’t need to explain too much. Besides the gushing rapids themselves, the falls sit right along the actual city of Niagara Falls. This is cool because you can be in the urban area, stroll in the park, be up in a hotel, and see the falls right next door.

frozen Niagara Falls in the winter, Southern Ontario
Niagara Falls in winter – by Elvir K

Comparing to Buffalo, New York, for example, the falls are a lot closer to the city. Still, another special thing about Niagara Falls is its proximity to other unique cities. You have easy access to Buffalo, not to mention the city of Niagara Falls, New York. Inside Ontario, there are some quiet colonial towns with a laidback vibe like St. Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake. These cities deserve their own exploration with unique styles and even some of their own waterfalls. There’s also the Whirlpool Aero Car which takes you up above the valley to see the rushing waters from above. Just don’t look down for too long.

2. Thousand Islands – islands & history

The Thousand islands, a unique place in southern ontario, canada
Thousand Islands region – By Teresa Mitchell

The Thousand Islands is another very special part of Ontario. Like Niagara, this region is shared with New York state. It’s basically a series of isles and islets, numbering way more than 1,000, that straddle the mighty St. Lawrence River. There are boat tours and island hopping, views of towering bridges, and majestic castles to explore.

It’s a very cool-looking region that amazed me to learn about. Being from California and all, I had no idea about these kinds of places. If you’re coming from Lake Ontario, the historic city of Kingston sits right at the opening of the river. It seems like a great entry point to learn more about the region and take in the vibes of yet another Canadian city.

3. Ottawa – the capital

parliament hill in ottawa, canada's capital
Parliament Hill – by Shubham Sharan

You know I had to include the capital of Canada! I get the sense that not many people outside of Canada know that Ottawa is the capital. It’s not as talked about in the world media, but it’s a very unique city. Being the capital, you can expect some important government buildings and astonishing architecture; look no further than Parliament Hill, towering over the Ottawa River.

the big spider sculpture at the national gallery of canada, ottawa
National Gallery of Canada – by Pascal Bernardon

One really striking building in these parts is the Library of Parliament which is amazingly beautiful. It reminds me of when I learned about the big library in Washington, DC. I mean, I really am surprised at how pretty libraries are in some parts of the world. Okay, so you have great museums like the National Gallery of Canada with its giant spider sculpture and the Canadian Museum of Nature. Important historic buildings are here like the St. Patrick Basilica and the old Laurier House, once home to the prime ministers.

For those just looking to chill, the city is stacked with urban parks, including those along the Rideau riverside. Rideau, by the way, is that river that freezes over in winter where people can go ice skating through the city. Riding around in the snow past beautiful buildings seems like an awesome experience to me. Ottawa is also interesting for being right on the border with Quebec, the predominantly French-speaking part of Canada. There’s lots of culture and lots of fun to be had out here.

4. Interior Parks – nature

fall foliage in algonquin provincial park, southern ontario
Algonquin Provincial Park – by Dylan McLeod

Ontario has tons of provincial and national parks, and some of the prettiest ones are inland. Algonquin Provincial Park is probably the prime example. Acting as a sort of natural divider between northern and southern Ontario, it’s a heavily forested area cut by scenic lakes, rivers, and isles. It’s especially pretty in the autumn when the leaves change colors.

cliffs and lake at bon echo provincial park, ontario
Bon Echo Provincial Park – by Ariana Kaminski

Another standout park is Bon Echo. It holds similar forested hills and dramatic landscapes to Algonquin but shines alone as far as scenic parks go. Further south you have rocky waterways like the Elora Gorge, great for canoeing or splashing in the water. One more important mention is the Bruce Trail. It’s this historic trail now used mostly by hikers to witness some of the awesome Ontario scenery. It goes from Niagara Falls all the way up to our next unique spot in the Bruce Peninsula.

5. Tobermory & Bruce Peninsula – nature & adventure

green rocky shores and blue water at tobermory in the bruce peninsula, ontario
Tobermory, Bruce Peninsula – by Zen zeee

Again, from California guys, I’m sorry. When I first saw footage of Tobermory, I could not believe this place was in Canada. It is a region right along the edge of the larger Bruce Peninsula within the midsection of Lake Huron. The main striking feature here is the blueness of the water cut into by all kinds of rocks, grottoes, and cliffs.

The land is forested and honestly looks like somewhere out of the Caribbean during the summer. It’s a really pretty mixture of acrylic greens and blues, all set aside the massive lake backdrop. Travelers can explore caves, dive in natural pools, and even witness some funky-shaped rocks like the famous Flowerpot. And it’s not just Tobermory at the tip. The entire peninsula is full of pretty and interesting sites. Natural surprises speak loud out here.

6. The Great Lakes – lake shores

marshes and boardwalk in point pelee national park, southern ontario
Point Pelee National Park – By Tango7174

I know, Tobermory is on Lake Huron. I had to give it its own little section. Still, there is so much to see in the other Great Lakes. Sticking with Lake Huron, there’s an area called the Georgian Bay Islands, a series of islands and forests great for exploring nature. Right on the south of Huron is the city of Sarnia. Besides being another city to explore, there are also some nice beaches there to enjoy (at the right time of year, of course).

sunset on lake ontario with new growth trees coming from the water, sandbanks national park, canada
Sandbanks Provincial Park – By Jasonpettit

Lake Erie has a couple of (literal) points of interest like Long Point and Point Pelee. These places hold sandbanks and boardwalks where you can walk across the marshes and observe wildlife. Pelee National Park is actually the southernmost point in Canada, holding a few islands out in Lake Erie. Lake Ontario obviously has lots of cool towns and cities to stop at. A bonus place I want to mention is Sandbanks Provincial Park, a section of the lake dotted by hills of sand and pretty blue waters, plus some tranquil beaches. And speaking of Lake Ontario …

7. Hamilton – city & nature

albion falls in the city of hamilton, ontario
Albion Falls, Hamilton – by Joe deSousa

Southern Ontario has lots of neat cities, but Hamilton stands out in the crowd. Not just the name of a famous play, it’s also one of the larger cities outside the immediate Toronto area with its own special identity. With the enchanting Royal Botanical Gardens and castles like the Dundurn, you don’t need much to appreciate this place. As if those kinds of features weren’t enough, Hamilton has a number of urban waterfalls to boot. Two prominent ones are Tews Falls and Albion Falls, but the city is loaded with natural spaces and parkland. But it’s not the only city worth a mention.

8. Explore Other Cities – more cities & culture

the ambassador bridge and view of windsor, ontario
Ambassador Bridge & Windsor – by N Bandaru

Given that southern Ontario is the most densely populated part of the country, you have to imagine there are some other cities worth their own shout-outs. This part of Canada is home to several of the nation’s very top universities. Take Toronto, Western, McMaster, and Waterloo, to name a couple. Education: check.

Windsor is a cool city kinda known for being a great place to view downtown Detroit. They also have a flashy yet homegrown art scene like the Chimczuck Museum, Art Gallery of Windsor, and the Sculpture Park. Some of these are on a parkway along the Detroit River, right next to the international Ambassador Bridge. And that’s not to mention the city’s extensive street art.

Stratford is famous for its local festival dedicated to theater. It has been one of the biggest Shakespeare festivals in the world. Fittingly, the town is home to the Shakespeare Gardens. Little Dresden is home to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This place is an important historic site for Canadians and Americans, being a station for former slave, Josiah Henson. After escaping from Maryland, he settled near this town where he wrote about the Underground Railroad and supported abolition. That’s worth celebrating!

Of course, you can’t talk about celebrations without mention of the Oktoberfest in Kitchener-Waterloo. These two cities come together to form one of the biggest Oktoberfests outside of Germany, adding on to their province’s pride.

9. Culture (And Closing)

My my. Southern Ontario is definitely one of the most important parts of Canada. It’s the region where Canada was essentially born and remains at the center of Canadian industry, entertainment, and economy to this day. It’s a place where American and Canadian identities meet since they’re so close together. In the cities, diversity runs wild and influences from around the globe morph together in this one section of the map.

Canada’s history is embedded into this part of Ontario and is, in many ways, the cradle of the nation’s English-Canadian identity. After all, many of the other provinces were populated by people who were leaving Ontario. This region is home to many of the Canadians that the world knows by way of entertainment, and is the political center of the nation as well. Borrowing bits and pieces from all over, southern Ontario is a unique place all by itself.

You can find more posts about the world’s special places in the Earth’s Face section.

**I hope you all enjoyed learning about this special place in Canada. I know some of my readers are from Canada, so please share what you know about southern Ontario. Are you from there? Let me know if there’s anything you would change or add in this post. And, as always, keep that adventurous learning spirit! Peace to you.

Why is the Southern Region special? 7 Cool Reasons – 🇮🇸 Iceland

Going down south … in Iceland, that is. This will be the last Earth’s Face post about Iceland, and what a great note to finish on! This region is truly special within this country and in the world. Want to share what you like about the Southern Region or about Iceland, in general? Share it with us below! I’m all about sharing knowledge and enthusiasm for geography, haha. You can read about Iceland’s other regions in the Geography section. But back to the question:

What makes the Southern Region so special? Well, you’ll just have to read on.

The Southern Region (Suðurland) on a map highlighted in red
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Suðurland: Quick Geography

The trend continues in Iceland. Just like all the other regions, we can tell exactly what part of the country this one is in by its name, Suðurland in Icelandic. Located in the south, it’s actually pretty close to Reykjavík as well, though its capital is at Selfoss. It’s got some interesting geography features too. Even though it’s in the south, several of Iceland’s ice caps and glaciers are actually located here due to altitude.

The nation’s biggest lake, Þórisvatn (Thorisvaten) is here, and the region sits right along a rift valley between the North American and European continental plates. That creates some interesting scenery throughout. Besides that, you also get a group of volcanic islands off the coast called Vestmannaeyjar. Intriguing. Now let’s see those features!

1. Selfoss – town

Since Selfoss is the capital town, that’s naturally where the intro to the region begins. Besides being the biggest town in southern Iceland, it’s also got some interesting cultural features. They have a Bobby Fischer Center dedicated to chess if you’re into that, and there’s a special summer event called Summer in Selfoss. It’s basically this outdoor festival to enjoy the summer which, in the Southern Region, is one of the “hottest” in Iceland.

During the festival, they make elaborate decorations on houses and gardens, and they have a big outdoor gathering/party called a fete. Definitely after the pandemic, you can try to get out there. One of the main features around Selfoss though is its nature. Selfoss is on the Ölfusá River, great for witnessing open space and hilly scenery. Don’t confuse the name with Selfoss, a magnificent waterfall way off in northern Iceland. It’s kind of far but, off topic, really a special sight to see.

A river valley in the Landmannalaugar highlands area, Iceland's Southern Region
Landmannalaugar – by Joshua Sortino

2. Landmannalaugar – mountains

One incredible mountainous region is Landmannalaugar. This place is a vast natural area stocked with lava fields and vividly colored hills. There are reds and yellows and swirling oranges. Add the smoke that constantly seeps out of the rocks and it looks like a winding mountain range on fire. Still relatively safe for exploring, there are huts available for camping out in the heights and even horseback tours.

Canyon in Iceland's Þórsmörk (Thorsmork) region
Þórsmörk – by Robby McCullough

3. Þórsmörk – canyons & waterfalls

Down the road, Þórsmörk (or Thors-moerk, maybe) is a beautiful highlands area, actually named after the god, Thor. That makes enough sense since inside these mountains is a big canyon that looks like Thor smashed his hammer right into the earth! The landscape is beautifully scenic with a snakey river that runs down the bottom of the green cliffsides. Another cool feature here is the Stakkholtsgjá (Stak-holts-gyah) area. It’s a specific part of the canyon that is especially pretty with green cliffs, caves, and more of those spectacular views we’re used to seeing in Iceland.

Special waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, partially covered in ice, Southern Region
Seljalandsfoss – by Robert Bye

In the region around Þórsmörk are some iconic waterfalls. Iceland is known for its many beautiful falls, but the Southern Region may take the cake on that topic. Two particular falls that deserve mention in these parts are Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss, the latter of which flows in a rolling green setting. There is access in a cave behind the falls to watch the water flow down from within. Truly breathtaking, I’m telling you.

Part of Þingvellir (Thingvellir) area, rift valley in Southern Region, Iceland
Þingvellir rift valley – by Harshil Gudka

4. Þingvellir – rift valleys & history

Yet another pretty geological site is Þingvellir (Thing-vel-lir). This is basically a large natural area of rivers, canyons, and thermal sites wrapped all around a continental rift valley. The sight of rivers flowing down into the rift is enough to make you love this place. Tacking onto its natural beauty, it’s also significant to Icelandic history.

The famed Alþingi (Al-thing-y) was one of the first, if not the first, parliament systems in all of Europe. The area of Þingvellir is the place where the parliament used to meet up for hundreds of years before more recently moving to Reykjavík. The history and the scenery together pack a punch to make this place especially unique inside of Iceland.

Misty waters at Gullfoss, powerful waterfall in Southern Region
Gullfoss falls – by Theodor Vasile

5. Gullfoss & Geysir – waterfalls & geysers

We couldn’t talk about the Southern Region without bringing up Gullfoss. These are some of the most powerful and impressive waterfalls in the whole country, ripping over hills and falling into a canyon where they seem to disappear.

Gushing waters at sunrise, the Great Geysir in Iceland
the Great Geysir – by David Köhler

I also have to mention the Great Geysir. This is one of the biggest geysers in the world and is the reason why we call them geysers today, though with a slight spell change. It was reportedly the first geyser to be witnessed by Europeans and probably anyone else. Otherwise, it’s just amazing to watch. Another important geyser is Strokkur, just to give you some options. These are a perfect alternative if you’re in Europe and can’t make it all the way out to Yellowstone.

View of a town and some islands from the red rocks of a volcano, on the islands of Vestmannaeyjar, the Southern Region
Vestmannaeyjar – By Hansueli Krapf (User:Simisa)

6. Vestmannaeyjar – islands & volcanoes

Yet another unique place is the Vestmannaeyjar (Vest-man-nay-yar). These are a group of islands off the coast of the Southern Region known for their consistent volcanic activity. Fear not, these islands are truly breathtaking and offer up some great views of the volcanic hills surrounding their towns and coasts. Small compared to the main island, they still offer up some majestic views juxtaposing the wild sea and rugged land up against each other. They’re not far at all and a close hop from the “mainland.”

7. Culture (Last Thoughts)

Oh, Southern Region. If I were Icelandic, I’d be surely proud of you. Being in the south and with all its valleys and thermal activity, it’s a bit warmer than other parts of the country. That makes it so that people get a little more outdoor time, allowing people to be more active. Vestmannaeyjar is the only offshore island group with any significant population. That makes the lifestyle and culture here unique from the rest of Iceland.

Being reasonably close to the capital, yet still centrally located, this region is a major stopover for travelers and visitors passing through the island. A significant place for the history of Iceland, it’s the site of the first known geysers and one of the first parliaments in Europe. All that aside, Iceland is a waterfall chaser’s dream, and the Southern Region is arguably the best place to see these magnificent forces of nature.

**We did it! Iceland is in the bag. But this isn’t all that makes these regions special. Share what you think is special or just plain cool about Iceland. Know a video or photo that makes these places look awesome? Share a link with us! Keep growing your mind and take care of each other! Peace.

What makes Iceland unique? Part 4 – Eastern Region

Iceland is absolutely a blessed country. There is so much beauty and so much that makes it stand out. This is Part 4 on what makes Iceland unique. You can read the other parts here to learn about Iceland’s other regions. In this post, we’ll look at what makes the Eastern Region special in this Nordic nation. Follow any of the links I’ve shared to learn more, and I always recommend looking up some of these places for yourself. Google Images is pretty inspiring on its own!

Okay then. What’s so special about Iceland’s Eastern Region?

Iceland's Eastern Region or Austurland, in red on the map
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Austurland: Quick Geography

There’s no hiding where this region is located on the map. The Eastern Region is in the east with its capital at Egilsstaðir (Egilsstadir). Its name in Icelandic is Austurland, which means the same as its English name. It’s got a pretty rugged coastline with lots of fjords. Its capital is also the biggest town in the east of Iceland. Like all the other regions, it’s got a mostly mountainous terrain with Alpine and polar climates, though the coast is generally warmer and more populous. Iceland’s highest peak and deepest lake are also in this region. Now that we know where it is …

1. Seyðisfjörður – Arts & Nature

First place that deserves a mention in the Eastern Region is the town of Seyðisfjörður. What is that? I know, it looks impossible to read. It can also be spelled “Seydisfjoerdur” if that helps. This place is pretty unique as far as towns go, considering what’s in and around it. The town itself has a vibrant art scene with lots of artistic style being integrated into it. Some entire streets are brightly painted and lined with colorful wooden buildings. Probably the most iconic of those is the Seyðisfjörður Church at the heart of it all.

Speaking more on the arts, this town has the only two cinemas in east Iceland, good to know in case you’re in the area. The town sits along fjords and has mountainous scenery, including the Skálanes Nature & Heritage Center and the nearby Gufufoss waterfall and puffin nesting grounds. History also runs deep here, where the Vestdalseyri ruins of an old settlement can be found. Apparently, these are the ruins from where they transported the town’s Church.

Seyðisfjörður happens to be the only place in Iceland where ferry transport between the island and continental Europe is possible. Also, don’t forget the nearby Tvísöngur sculptures. They are these radical concrete domes where singers can create musical sensations based on traditional Icelandic music. Very cool.

2. Egilsstaðir – Nature & Hot Springs

Remembering that it’s the capital, Egilsstaðir is also a major hub in the middle of the Eastern Region. Besides having a nifty Heritage Museum, the town is especially special for what surrounds it. Not far are the rocky waterfalls, Hengifoss and Fardagafoss.

Also not far is the Hallormsstaðaskógur (Hallorms-stadas-kogur — trying to help out). This guy is important as a national forest for being the biggest forest standing in Iceland. That’s a big deal because this country used to be covered in forests before it was settled and they were mostly mowed down. It’s a homage to the ancient and natural characteristics of Iceland as a whole. If that wasn’t enough, nearby you can find the Vök Baths. These are a set of natural hot baths built inside of a lake. I know, those people are so privileged!

3. Vatnajökull National Park – Volcanoes & Waterfalls

In the post about Northeastern Region, I told you a little about this huge national park called Vatnajökull. In the Eastern Region side of the park is the great Öræfajökull (Orefa-yoekull), a looming volcano that forms part of the highest peak in the nation. Next door is the amazingly pretty Skaftafell region filled with green hills and towering mountaintops. One of the most famous places here is Svartifoss, a waterfall that drops into a gorge formed out of cool hexagonal-shaped rocks. It’s a phenomenal sight and something really worth a handclap.

4. Jökulsárlón & Höfn – Glacial Lakes & Landscapes

Another popular feature of this region is its glacier lakes. Two notable ones are Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón, the former being the deepest lake in Iceland. They are very popular places for visitors and an amazing stop to watch innumerous icebergs float around in the deep blue waters. These lakes stream off of the mountains and glaciers high up in Skaftafell.

One great place to get a sense of the amazing scenery is this town called Höfn. It’s right there on the coast and offers views of the surrounding mountains, including the almighty volcano. One last mountain to appreciate here is called Vestrahorn. It’s very close driving from Höfn and is well worth a look. It’s a popular place for photographs, telling from its rugged “horn-like” shape and location near the coast. There are lots of interesting viewpoints from which to see the mountain like stony shores, rugged hills, and even some dunes. This whole southern section of the Eastern Region really is just breathtaking.

5. Culture (Last Thoughts)

The Eastern Region is a unique cultural outpost inside of Iceland. On one end, you have some major towns with their own arts-enthusiast identities. Because of its location and ferry service, it has some stronger historic and current connections with Scandinavia. Still rural and full of scenic thermal landscapes like the rest of Iceland, this place has its own twist on Icelandic identity with a strong link between traditional identity and modern expression, knotted together by a proud heritage. Its unique landforms and features also give it its own fearsome identity on the east edge of the nation. That’s it for the Eastern Region. Stay tuned for the article about the South.

**Thank you for coming by and taking the time to read this post! You are an awesome world citizen and I think it’s amazing you’re so interested in all the small corners of our planet. Keep learning and enjoy yourself! Peace.

What makes Iceland unique? Part 3 – Northeastern & Northwestern Regions

If you haven’t noticed yet, Iceland has a lot that makes it a unique country in and of itself. Making our way around the island, this post will dwell a bit on the two northern regions. Being so far up there, these are the two parts of the country that reach closest to the Arctic. Here you can read parts one and two of Iceland. It’s a little colder and more remote so far north. But what is it that makes the Northwestern and Northeastern Regions so unique? Let’s start by getting acquainted with this part of Iceland, shall we?

Location of Northeastern Region (Norðurland eystra) on the map
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Location of Northwestern Region (Norðurland vestra) on the map
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Quick Geography: Norðurland Vestra & Norðurland Eystra

The names of both of these regions describe exactly where they stand on the map, and that goes for both in Icelandic and English. So, we at least know where they are. Common for subarctic countries, they also have some big fjords (though not quite like the Westfjords).

The capital of Northwestern is Sauðárkrókur (Saudarkrokur), and Akureyri for Northeastern. Both of these regions have pretty extensive coastlines and mountains, though there are some full-blown ice sheets down in the south of them. The northernmost points in both the island and the country of Iceland are in the Northeastern Region, where there are a few isles that reach above the Arctic Circle. Now on to the uniqueness!

Fjord and harbor with a scenic mountainous landscape around the town of Akureyri, capital of the Northeastern Region, Iceland
Public Domain

Features & Places

1. The Capitals

Since we already mentioned them, let’s just start with the capital towns. I know the names might be a little confusing, so I’ll just refer to them here as S-Town and A-Town. Both of these northern regions look to be quite rural and country, even for Iceland standards. Still, this gives these towns even more of a cozy feel within the country.

Not only are these towns surrounded by scenic landscapes like sweeping harbors and snowcapped peaks. Especially with A-Town, there are a couple of other places to see like the Into the Arctic center, Iceland’s Motorcycle Museum for those who like motor grease, and a quiet Botanical Garden for those who like to sit in nature.

2. Northwestern: The Countryside

Of course, there is plenty to see outside of the capitals. In the Northwestern Region, Blönduós and Skagafjörður (Skagafjordur) come to mind out of the many idyllic countrysides here. In the area, there are even more scenes of majestic nature and landscapes stooped with watery valleys. A very cool feature of both these regions is that you can find many of those traditional sod-roof Nordic houses covered in grasses. When the ice has melted away, these homes and cabins are a pretty sight to see.

Panoramic view east across Skagafjörður valley, from Vatnsskarð pass, Northwestern Region
Skagafjörður valley – By Debivort

3. Special Lakes

If you like lakes, this is your place! 😀 Well, there are some interesting bodies of water out here. In Northwestern is a big one called Lake Hóp. Something really cool about it is that there are parts that seem to be shallow where groups of people can ride across the water on horseback!

If that doesn’t spark your interest, then check out this other place called Askja. Now, Askja itself is an active volcano or a series of calderas, really. Besides the feeling of being way out in the central highlands of a country that’s already pretty isolated, there are also a couple of big crater lakes, including the very large Lake Askja herself. Big beautiful bodies of water surrounded by snow-powdered hills and steamy calderas has to make a case for Northeastern Region being a special one.

3. Dettifoss & Vatnajökull

Particularly in Northeastern, you can find a few second-placers of Europe. Two of these would be Dettifoss (considered the second-most powerful waterfall) and the Vatnajökull (second largest glacier). With that said, they are definitely in first place inside of Iceland’s watery borders.

By writing this, you can probably picture for yourself the powerful, roaring waters and vast sheets of rugged ice and frozen caves. The glacier itself does stretch across a few different regions, but the larger part of Vatnajökull National Park is in Northeastern which is exactly where Dettifoss Falls are located. Okay, done with that.

Culture

I noticed doing research that these places seemed to be even more rustic and rural than the other regions of Iceland. It looks like there’s a stronger horse and farm life culture out here, and that’s great for giving some separation from the rest of the country. This area was traditionally (and still is) the least contacted for being so far up top. This has allowed the region to preserve certain aspects of rural and traditional Icelandic life that have fallen away in other parts.

There are still lots of amazing places to see and explore, and I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface. Ride a horse on a lake, catch the 2nd-most powerful waterfall in Europe, and reach the Arctic. All can be done in the wonderful Northeastern and Northwestern regions of beautiful Iceland!

**Thanks again for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed learning more about these regions of Iceland with me. I appreciate your thirst for knowledge and interest in other worlds. Please take care of yourselves and have happy travels!