What makes Saskatchewan unique? – 10 Cool Features 🇨🇦

double rainbows over Lake Diefenbaker, rural Saskatchewan
Lake Diefenbaker – Olivia Kulbida

Heading out to the middle of the prairie, this is Saskatchewan’s time. A Canadian province known for flat open terrain and farming, this place definitely has a lot more specialties than milk and bread. Read a quick profile and then enjoy about 10 cool things that make Saskatchewan a unique place.

SASKATCHEWAN: Quick Profile

Canadian Provinces and Territories map, saskatchewan highlighted in red
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road map of Saskatchewan
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Flag of Saskatchewan
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Cities: Regina is the capital; Saskatoon is the biggest city

Location: the middle of the three Prairie provinces in the interior of central Canada, far from any oceans; it borders the U.S. to the south

Read more: about Canada; about Manitoba

Climate: mostly humid continental (humid hot summers and snowy cold winters) with Subarctic climate in the north and some semi-arid steppe (dry plains) features in the southwest; the weather usually comes in extremes with particularly warm summers and intensely cold winters throughout; weather can be very windy with tornadoes and storms being fairly common, although Saskatchewan gets more sunlight than any other province

Environment: mostly prairies and plains in the south with some highlands; mostly boreal forests and taiga to the north with over 100 thousand lakes, Lake Athabasca is the largest; some tundra in the far north and some large areas of sand dunes

Name: it was once a part of Britain’s North West Territories; named after the Saskatchewan River, from the Cree language meaning “swift flowing river”

1. Because of Grasslands National Park

landscape of Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan
Cypress Hills – Erik Lizee / Eriklizee

What is it?:

Grasslands is a national park in southern Saskatchewan near the U.S. border. It preserves lots of prairies and rolling Great Plains landscapes, as well as the range critters.

Places and features:

Wildlife and hiking; Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, with some highlands and collections of dinosaur fossils

2. Because of Moose Jaw

mac the moose statue in Moose Jaw, Canada
Mac the Moose – Lisa

What is that?:

While not a literal Moose Jaw, this place is a small city in rural Saskatchewan. Despite its size, it has a nicely infused natural landscape and some unique experiences throughout.

Places and features:

Tunnels of Moose Jaw, tunnel tours that explore parts of the city’s underground past such as prohibition and Chinese immigration; Wakamow Valley, urban park; the Western Development Museum, exploring how the West was won; Mac the Moose, a giant moose statue; Temple Gardens Hotel & Spa, a luxurious spa with a big geothermal pool

Discover: Tunnels of Moose Jaw tours; Temple Gardens

3. Because of Regina

prince edward building in Regina, Canada
Prince Edward Building – Grahampurse

What is it?:

Well, Regina (Reh-jai-na) is the capital and one of the main cultural hubs in the whole province. The city hosts several events and festivals along with some beautiful urban scenery. It may not be the most populous city in Saskatchewan, but it doesn’t miss by much

wascana lake and park in the wascana centre, near central city Regina
Wascana Lake – Tintaggon

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Places and features:

Saskatchewan Legislative Building; RCMP Heritage Centre, dedicated to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with festivals and service ceremonies; the Government House; MacKenzie Art Gallery; Royal Saskatchewan Museum; Saskatchewan Science Centre; Wascana Centre, a huge urban lake with an even bigger park surrounding the city center and provincial buildings; Hotel Saskatchewan, offers historic interactions with a step back into the prohibition era; Victoria Park

4. Because of Saskatoon

Bessborough Hotel & South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon
Bessborough Hotel & South Saskatchewan River – Kyla Duhamel

What is it?:

You know! Saskatoon is the biggest city, or most populous I should say, in the province. Similar to Regina, it offers lots of cultural and culinary attractions mixed in with a beautiful natural landscape.

Places and features:

Forestry Farm Park & Zoo; Remai Modern, a cooly-designed modern art gallery; Western Development Museum, the largest of these in Saskatchewan; Ukrainian Museum of Canada, documenting Ukrainian heritage in the nation and one of the biggest ethnic minorities of Canada; South Saskatchewan River, a scenic river that runs through town, it shelters riverside green spaces like Rotary Park and Kiwanis Memorial Park; the Delta Bessborough Hotel

5. Because of the Trans-Canada Highway

yellow flowers cultivating in the qu'appelle valley, southeast Saskatchewan
Qu’Appelle Valley – Kjfmartin

What is it?:

This is basically what it sounds like. Within Saskatchewan, the Trans-Canada Highway takes drivers across pretty sweeping landscapes and through some interesting towns and provincial parks.

Places and features:

Qu’Appelle Valley, a stunning valley area with lakes and places like Echo Valley Provincial Park and Fort Qu’Appelle; Moose Mountain Provincial Park, several other towns and parks along the way

6. Because of its Unique Lakes

jackfish lake pier, Saskatchewan
Jackfish Lake – Kyla Duhamel

What are they?:

Saskatchewan, like much of Canada, is known for its many, many lakes. With so many of them, this province still has some that stand out from the rest.

Places and features:

Little Manitou Lake, a lake with a high salt concentration that allows for floating, it also hosts a resort and spa nearby; Lake Diefenbaker, an artificial lake or reservoir with interesting rock formations, cliffs, and a long shoreline; Jackfish Lake, with nearby Cochin Lighthouse (in the middle of the prairies!)

7. Because of Historic Towns & Forts

tipis in Wanuskewin Heritage Park near Saskatoon
Wanuskewin Heritage Park – Travis Wiens

What are these?:

Historic towns and sites like forts are important places where the past can be preserved. Saskatchewan has a lot of these places that share its extensive history.

Places and features:

Maple Creek, home to a frontier-themed B&B called Ghostown Blues and Fort Walsh, a historic mounted police fort; Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a cultural historic center near Saskatoon documenting over 6,000 years of First Nations heritage; Batoche, a stronghold town during the Métis rebellion, now a museum; Fort Carlton, a Hudson’s Bay fur trade post; the Battlefords, Battleford and North Battleford were important towns for the mounted police during territory days, home to Fort Battleford and, you guessed it, another Western Development Museum

8. Because of Sand Dunes

athabasca sand dunes near lake athabasca, canada
Athabasca Sand Dunes – Snappy Goat

What are those?:

Outsiders might not know that Saskatchewan is home to the largest sand dunes in the world that far north. Some are in the southern region, but the biggest dunes are a drive up.

Places and features:

Great Sand Hills, Canada’s second-largest; Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park, Canada’s largest dunes along the shores of mighty Lake Athabasca

9. Because of its Northern Wilderness

Sunset on the Waskesiu Lake in Prince Albert National Park Saskatchewan, Canada
Waskesiu Lake, Prince Albert National Park – Viktor Birkus

What is that?:

To the north of this province is a vast area of wilderness. This ranges from dense boreal forests to scattered taiga, from the many lakes to tundra and even sand dunes, as we just saw before.

Places and features:

Clearwater River Provincial Park, with waterfalls, rivers, and rapids; Prince Albert National Park, with controversial conservationist Grey Owl’s Beaver Lodge; Reindeer Lake; Lake Athabasca; Hunt Falls, powerful waterfalls up north

10. Because of its Culture

Saskatchewan is a curious one of the Prairie provinces. It’s smack dab in the middle of them, with its plains and open spaces giving it the feel of a giant field or farm. Sure, the plains played a huge role in the settlement of the region from First Nations down to Eastern European farmers, though English and Anglo-Canadian ID is dominant. And it’s notable how important the mounted police culture has been in this place.

The indigenous presence is comparatively big in Saskatchewan’s largest cities. Their cultures are preserved in elaborate galleries, historic sites, and even universities dedicated to them. Beyond that, these cultural centers help to preserve so well the building blocks of the province’s society. They make it clear where the modern place has come from.

Spikes in temperature and the harsh climate have molded its diverse residents into toughness and resistance. Previously a province that suffered hard economical times, Saskatchewan has been turning business around and making things more interesting for all. Whether passing through on the open highway or stopping to slide on some dunes, this grain basket of Canada has a lot of flavor for any taste!

**Thank you all for coming! I hope you enjoyed learning more about Saskatchewan. Tell us what you like about this place, and shout out if you’re from SK. Feel free to look at other posts on Cult-Surf or related posts in the Earth’s Face section. Take care and be awesome! Peace.

What makes Prince Edward Island unique?- 11 Cool Features 🇨🇦

red sandstone cliffs on the shore of Prince Edward Island
Nicolas Raymond

Set the sails and off to the “Prince” of Canada’s provinces! Prince Edward Island is a place known for its red shores and soils, many lighthouses, Green Gables, and for potatoes, ostensibly. Let’s check out 11 of the cool features that make PEI special. But first, a quick profile.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND: Quick Profile

topographical map of Prince Edward Island
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Canadian Provinces and Territories map, Prince Edward Island highlighted and circled in red
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Cities: Charlottetown is the capital and biggest city; Summerside is the second-biggest

provincial Flag of Prince Edward Island
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Location: mostly on the island of Prince Edward with many smaller coastal and barrier islands; within the Gulf of St. Lawrence, part of the Atlantic Ocean; once in the traditional Mi’kmaq lands and then French Acadia, it’s now part of the Maritime and Atlantic provinces of eastern Canada

Read more: New Brunswick; Nova Scotia; about Canada

Climate: has a maritime climate with some continental features; long but mild cold season and mild hot season compared to more inland areas

Environment: north Atlantic forests with coastal beaches, dunes, sandstone cliffs, and marshlands; lots of agriculture and farmland

Name: named after British Prince Edward, the father of Queen Victoria; called ÎleduPrinceÉdouard in French

Alright, so why is Prince Edward Island unique, then? …

1. Because of Green Gables

Avonlea Village, part of the Anne of Green Gables cultural site
Avonlea Village – Carl Campbell

What is that?:

This is the setting of the classic children’s novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. She was also from the area which now has lots of historic points dedicated to the book and its author.

Places and features:

New London, Montgomery’s hometown; Avonlea, the fictional community in the book now set up for people to visit; Anne of Green Gables Museum, and more related sites

2. Because of Prince Edward Island National Park

Prince Edward Island national park, rocky red and green coastline
 PEI National Park – Dave Bezaire

What is it?:

This national park protects a large natural area of the PEI north coast. With an abundance of beaches, pretty shorelines, and boardwalks, it also contains parts of the interior like Green Gables.

marshes, boardwalk and dunes at Greenwich, PEI
Greenwich marsh & dunes – Claudine Lamothe

Places and features:

Dalvay-by-the-Sea, a national historic site and very famous hotel on the north coast; Stanhope Beach; Cape Tryon, a cape with beautiful green and red cliffs and the Cape Tryon Lighthouse; Greenwich Beach, beaches with marsh boardwalks and cool sand dunes

See more: visit Dalvay-by-the-Sea

3. Because of its Confederation History

the confederation bridge at sunset, eastern Canada
Confederation Bridge – Dillon Turpin

What is that?:

Prince Edward Island holds an important spot in Canadian history for hosting the meetings that led to its confederation. Several sites on the island are dedicated to this prideful part of its heritage.

Places and features:

Confederation Landing, a waterfront park in Charlottetown with some historic boating sites and tours like Peakes Wharf; Confederation Centre of the Arts, an arts center in Charlottetown with exhibits and popular plays; the Confederation Trail, a cross-province trail that can be walked, biked, or sled across, it offers the best opportunities to enjoy the island’s rural scenery; Confederation Bridge, the world’s longest bridge over frozen waters, it connects PEI to the mainland at New Brunswick

Read more: about Confederation Trail

4. Because of its Towns

beaches and dunes outside of Cavendish, town in Prince Edward Island
Cavendish – TourismPEI

What are they?:

These are the small towns scattered throughout Prince Edward Island. Most of them have nice boardwalks, beaches, and wharves to explore.

Places and features:

Cavendish, home to several Green Gables sites, a famous ice cream shop, and cliffside shores; Victoria-by-the-Sea, also has a Seaport Museum; North Rustico, among many others

5. Because of its Many Beaches

boardwalk and pink flowery dunes at the coast of Basin Head Provincial Park, Canada
Basin Head Provincial Park – Nicolas Raymond

What are these?:

Remember that PEI province is full of differentiated coastlines. These come in the shapes of rocky and sandy beaches, coastal cliffs, and also wetlands.

Places and features:

Basin Head Provincial Park, home to Singing Sands Beach whose sands “sing” when stepped on; Brackley Beach, with red sands and boardwalks, also the locale of Dunes Studio Gallery, a kind of art gallery with a café and restaurant surrounded by green garden settings; Red Point Provincial Park, fun for families; Cabot Beach

6. Because of Charlottetown

Victoria Row neighborhood and shops in Charlottetown, Canada
Victoria Row – Heather Cowper

What is it?:

Charlottetown, as you know, is the capital and biggest urban area in Prince Edward Island. It’s also a center of culture and commerce with lots of historically significant sites dotted around. The city played a major role in Canadian confederation.

Places and features:

Victoria Park, a beautiful harborside park; Victoria Row, a popular shopping area with eateries and Victorian-era architecture; Prince Edward Battery; the Province House; Saint Dunstan’s Basilica; Beaconsfield Historic House, preserved Victorian home and museum; a series of mouse statues set up around the city

7. Because of the South Shore & Rocky Point

sailboat on the water ahead of Rocky Point, Prince Edward Island
Rocky Point – Martin Cathrae

What are they?:

Well, one is the southern shore of the island, particularly south of Charlottetown. Besides more coasts and beaches, there are a number of towns and historic sites found down here, especially on Rocky Point.

Places and features:

Skmaqn–Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst, a national historic site home to some of the earliest European forts and settlements in PEI, it was also a main port of entry for early settlers; Blockhouse Point Light; Argyle Shore, more pretty red beaches and cliffs; Point Prim, with the historic Point Prim Light Station

Read more: Îles-de-la-Madeleine & Southern Québec

8. Because of Points East

East Point Lighthouse, a unique place in PEI
East Point Lighthouse – Stefan Krasowski

What is it?:

This area is the general eastern coast of the province. It combines a series of towns, parks, scenic shores, and most notably, lighthouses to light them all!

Places and features:

Points East Coastal Drive, the best way to catch the different places; Cape Bear, with a lighthouse and Marconi Museum; Wood Islands; East Point, home to one of the oldest operating lighthouses there; Orwell Corner Historic Village, preserving late 1800s country life

9. Because of its West Side

arch on North Cape cliffs, shores of Prince Edward Island
North Cape – Gregory Roberts

What is this?:

Here, I mean the western part of the island since everything else on this article has been further east. The west also has some of the prettiest coasts and settings, being either the starting or ending point of the Confederation Trail.

Places and features:

North Cape, more amazing scenery and coasts at the northwestern tip of the island, also part of the North Cape Coastal Drive; Cedar Dunes Provincial Park; the Bottle Houses, or Maisons de Bouteilles, a few homes made from recycled glass in a serene setting

10. Because of Summerside

colorful wharf and boat in Summerside, Canada east coast
Summerside Wharf – Stephen Downes

What is it?:

Summerside is the island’s second-biggest city and one of its main cultural centers. It has several unique and intriguing institutions that distinguish it from the rest.

Places and features:

Acadian Museum; College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada, it has exactly what the name suggests; the International Fox Museum & Hall of Fame, also has exactly what the name suggests, dedicated to preserving the history of attempted fox domestication and some noteworthy foxes; Eptek Art & Culture Centre

11. Because of the Culture

Dalvay by the sea hotel and historic house
Dalvay-by-the-Sea – Corey Balazowich

So Prince Edward Island is something else. It’s the smallest province but the most densely populated. From the native Mi’kmaq to Acadians to British settlers, this place has seen its fair share of people coming to tame it. Still, the rugged shores and amazing coastal landscapes prove that the wild can attract more than any civilized town.

And pretty towns with that classic North Atlantic, Victorian style are found throughout, showing how much fishing and boating have fed the people of this province. Let’s not forget that PEI is one of the crop-baskets for Canada, as small as it is, and it played a major role in the confederation of the country.

That’s why so many things reference that fact all over the island. Well, that and Anne of Green Gables, which is also referenced all over the place. Quiet hills and gusty cliffs still allow for haunted woods to scare us and for fantastical gardens to enchant our minds. Prince Edward Island is a magical place — sure, it can be a little cold and cloudy at times. PEI knows what makes it PEI, and preserving that has made them one of a kind.

**What else can you share about Prince Edward Island? Are you from there or have you visited? Tell us what you most like about it! Contact me to collaborate or to send a personal message at tietewaller@gmail.com. Feel free to read more posts on the site or on Earth’s Face. A special thank you to all the photographers for making their amazing work available on creative commons. Thanks for the support and keep being adventurous! Peace out people.

Other reads:

Facts about Prince Edward Island

Cost of visiting Prince Edward Island

Tourism re-opening in Prince Edward Island

Safety and daily life on Prince Edward Island

How come Prince Edward Island is a province?

What makes Northern British Columbia unique? – 8 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Mount Robson and Berg Lake in Northern British Columbia
Mount Robson & Berg LakeZeljko Kozomara
Provincial Flag of British Columbia
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Up to the north side of the Canadian west coast. Well, sort of. Less expensive than the south and a lot less populated, what Northern British Columbia lacks in those areas, it more than makes up for in God-given beauty. I guess it was just born that way.

North BC is known for gold rushes and a frontier past mixed with a Wild West persona where rugged mountains meet the green misty shores. A distinct corner of Cascadia merging the Ring of Fire and the Great Plains. Wooh, we’ve got a good one. Learn a bit about it with a quick profile, then stay tuned to read what makes this part of the province so unique.

northern BRITISH COLUMBIA: Quick Profile

map of Canadian Provinces and Territories, British Columbia highlighted in red
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map of northern British Columbia
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British Columbia takes up the entire west coast of Canada. Strangely though, most of this coast in the north is cut off by Alaska, with which it shares a long U.S. border to the west and northwest. Northern BC is considered generally what’s north of Queen Charlotte Sound or Prince George, which happens to be the biggest town on this side of the province.

There are lots of mountains and highlands up here, especially along the rugged Coastal Mountains that are home to BC’s tallest peaks. The Rockies are also prevalent in the east and middle where they morph into a general northern mountain range. With many fjords and islands near the coast, there’s also the major archipelago called Haida Gwaii.

Most of this coast has oceanic and wet climates whereas the interior is generally continental or subarctic. This includes dense forests, semi-arid plains and woodlands, and tundra. East of the Rockies is a stretch of prairies too. The name for British Columbia comes from the name of the region before confederation, which comes from the Columbia River. Read here for more details on the name and about Southern British Columbia.

Also, read more: about Canada; other provinces and Earth’s Face places

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Well, why is Northern British Columbia so special?

1. Because of the Lower Rockies

a snowy Mt Robson and clear Berg Lake in Mount Robson Provincial Park, Canada
Mt. Robson Provincial ParkJeffrey Pang

What are they?:

This is a section of the vast Rocky Mountains that is in the lower part of north British Columbia. They are filled with gorgeous mountain scenery, lakes, glaciers, and an abundance of waterfalls.

Helmcken Falls and a rainbow at Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
Helmcken Falls, Wells Gray Provincial ParkPaste

What do they have?:

In this general area are some notable provincial parks like Bowron Lake and Wells Gray. That last one has some very beautiful and iconic waterfalls like Helmcken Falls. There’s also the prominent Mount Robson, one of the tallest peaks in the province and the Rockies overall. It also has some nice glaciers and its own set of cascades in the Valley of the Thousand Falls.

2. Because of its Northern Mountains

colors of Mount Edziza volcano in northern British Columbian mountains
Colors of Mt. EdzizaHere fishy

What are they?:

In the north are a set of mountain chains that go from the northern bit of the Rockies and merge into separate ranges. These mountains cover much of the interior of the region with lots of spacious wilderness alongside the customary awe-inspiring scenery.

What do they have?:

For some of those raw wild landscapes of North America, the upper part of the Rockies has got it covered. These span places like Northern Rockies Provincial Park, the Kwadacha Wilderness, Dune Za Keyih Provincial Park, and the serene area around Muncho Lake.

In the inner mountain ranges can be found a distinct set of valleys and wildlands like in the Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness and Mount Edziza, a prominent volcano with colorfully designed soils. There’s also the Stikine River Provincial Park with more tundra landscapes, a winding canyon, and hot springs to go along with them.

3. Because of the Coastal Mountains

Lax Kw'alaams town on the coast of Kitima Range, British Columbian coastal mountains
Lax Kw’alaams, Kitimat RangeAlex

What are they?:

The Coastal Range is a set of very rugged and tall mountains near the coast of British Columbia and along the U.S. border with Alaska. It’s home to the tallest peak fully within BC — Mount Waddington — and the tallest one period shared with Alaska — Mount Fairweather. I’m guessing its weather isn’t so fair, though.

What do they have?:

Besides those two massive climbing walls, these particular mountains have tons of beauty to add to British Columbia. We have Kitlope Heritage Conservancy and the Atlin or Téix’gi Aan Tlein Provincial Park.

Tatshenshini-Alsek way up north has especially pretty valleys and glaciers. On the opposite end is Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park with stunning lake-filled valleys, fjords, and falls.

4. Because of Haida Gwaii

rocky forested coast of Moresby Island in Haida Gwaii, western Canada
Haida Gwaii CPAWS

What is it?:

Haida Gwaii (X̱aaydag̱a Gwaay.yaay in the Haida language) is the name of a group of large islands off the coast of northern British Columbia. With rocky shores and densely forested interiors, these islands are also a major site for trekking and adventure.

a totem pole closeup in Gwaii Haanas National Park in Northern British Columbia
Totem pole at Gwaii HaanasVysotsky

What does it have?:

There are a number of special features on the islands like impressive rock towers on the coasts and wooded trails that lead up to sweeping views of the islands into the highlands. One particular place to view these features is Gwaii Haanas National Park on Moresby Island. Other than amazing natural beauty, the park preserves several indigenous sites with iconic totem poles among other culturally significant structures.

5. Because of the Alaska Highway

What is that?:

“But this isn’t Alaska.” I know. This iconic highway — or a part of it, more accurately — runs through the prairies and lowlands of northeastern BC. The highway also runs through regional centers like Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson.

What does it have?:

Being a sort of crossroads for rail and road traffic, the Alaska Highway cuts across some scenic parts of the province, making it a popular drive in the area. There are also major towns like Dawson Creek, pretty much the starting point to the highway with an art gallery and a cool pioneer village.

On the north side of Peace River Country, Fort Nelson is one of the more isolated towns in BC. There’s also a heritage center, the namesake fort in “Fort” Nelson, and a drive that will take you into the isolated mountains or the Northwest Territories to get really lost. Also, enjoy those pretty Northern Lights.

6. Because of Barkerville

old wooden buildings in the frontier town of Barkerville, Canada
Barkerville Cbone

What is it?:

Barkerville is a unique historic town and park that used to be a booming center during the Cariboo Gold Rush of British Columbia. Not just some ghost town, it has been preserved very well and remains a tourist attraction.

What does it have?:

This place preserves a lot of the early frontier identity of British Columbia through fully restored buildings and active historic interpreters. I love how much Canada loves its history. As far as I can tell, the town is no longer inhabited but functions as a living breathing historic time capsule. The town was also very significant for Chinese Canadian immigrants and forms a key part of the strong Asian-Pacific presence in British Columbia.

7. Because of Great Bear Rainforest

two Spirit bear cubs, one with black coat and other with white coat, in the Great Bear Rainforest
Young Kermode bearsPacific Wild

What is it?:

This is one of the largest protected parts of the Pacific temperate rainforests, an ecoregion that stretches from Alaska all the way down into California. There are lots of dense woodlands and wildlife out there too.

Lizette Falls amidst the forests falling into a lake/fjord in the great bear rainforest of British Columbia
Great Bear RainforestJack Borno

What does it have?:

It’s essentially a protective zone along the coastal ranges. You go there just to enjoy pure natural wilderness. There’s also the anomalous “Spirit bear” or Kermode bears. They are a unique kind of black bear whose offspring are born every so often with white fur. How mystical!

8. Because of the Culture

Okay, so I try to fit in the cultural aspects of all of these places, but in northern British Columbia, it’s nature that dominates. I’m not saying that the railways, gold rushes, logging, and forestry had nothing to contribute. Many of the towns up here are set on preserving what life was like for the many pioneers that sought to make this area home … even if for a short while.

This is where the most open roads, the most rugged mountains, and the whitest black bears can be found under one boreal roof. From the world’s largest temperate rainforests to one of its most expansive prairies, this part of BC shows us that it holds its own as far as natural wonders go.

Definitely more rural than the south and with a bit of that Oregon Trail-Columbia country in the blood, it’s definitely more isolated than many places on the planet. With that, the diverse people and cultures from centuries over have maintained their mark on this remarkable patch of earth called Northern British Columbia.

**Did you enjoy reading about this remarkable place in Canada? Tell us what you like about Northern British Columbia, and shout out if you’re from there! Thanks so much for being a part of this site and this journey we’re on around the world. Feel free to check out other posts here on Cult-Surf and contact me at tietewaller@gmail.com if you want to have a word, or collaborate! Talk soon. Peace.

What makes southern British Columbia unique? (Besides Vancouver)- 9 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

lake at Garibaldi Provincial Park in British Columbia's coastal mountains
Garibaldi Lesly Derksen

Welcome to the south of British Columbia, a province like none of the rest. Distinct habitats and identities come out to make this place as unique as it gets in Canada. The Pacific Northwest meets the Rockies in this western frontier.

Provincial Flag of British Columbia
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At times infamously expensive, other times open and welcoming to immigrants, British Columbia has a whole lot of fames and features that make it unique in the world. And a pretty large concentration of those features happens to be in the south. Learn more about this spectacular province with a quick profile. Then see some of what makes this region so special.

southern BRITISH COLUMBIA: Quick Profile

Again when talking about Canada, the south of any province is where most of the action happens since it’s further from the Arctic. Southern British Columbia is generally considered what lies south of Queen Charlotte Sound on the coast and Prince George or Mount Robson, maybe. It is the location of the provincial capital, Victoria, as well as the biggest urban area of Vancouver.

BC takes up Canada’s whole west Pacific coast and in the south borders the United States. There are many large mountainous regions throughout, especially along the coast and with the Rockies and the Columbia Mountains in the east. The province overall has about 6,000 islands off its shores and around the Inside Passage. Here can be found large fjords and islands like the big Vancouver Island.

There’s also an Interior Plateau which has drier forests and valleys with a major wine-making region. The coast and islands have mostly oceanic climates with wet temperate forests, similar to the rest of Cascadia. Some areas in the interior are humid continental and some drier Mediterranean regions. The mountains generally have a tundra or Alpine climate.

The province is called British Columbia after the old mainland colony of the same name. This was for the basin around the Columbia River, called to distinguish it from the American-owned Columbia that would later become the Oregon Territory. The mainland was named after the Columbia River, named for a boat called the Columbia Rediviva, which comes from an old name for the New World, “Columbia.” Eventually, it all goes back to explorer Christopher Columbus.

Read more: about Canada; Earth’s Face places in Canada & beyond

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Why is southern British Columbia unique? …

1. Because of Okanagan

Vineyards of the central Okanagan Valley, Canada
valleys of OkanaganMack Male

What is it?:

The Okanagan Valley is that nice wine-making region I mentioned earlier. The weather here is among the most pleasant in Canada and the scenery is beautiful to match.

What’s it have?:

Besides those features, Okanagan has a number of valley towns and cities to check out. Kelowna, for instance, has the scenic Knox Mountain Park in the hills, as well as beach parks and waterfronts to enjoy on its beautiful lake. Kamloops has a cool Heritage Railway tracking the backbone of British Columbian history, along with the natural Lac du Bois Grasslands nearby.

The city of Vernon has excellent natural areas on its lakes like Ellison Provincial Park, or in Silver Star Mountain for skiing. There’s also the Davison Orchard’s Country Village which is like a fun frontier town inside Vernon. There are a bunch of other towns that seem popular for visitors … and they’ve all got wineries.

Read more: Okanagan Wine Country Tours

2. Because of its Frontier Parks

Takakkaw Falls and a rainbow in Yoho National Park, southern British Columbia
Takakkaw Falls, YohoFir0002

What are those?:

By this, I’m just talking about the national parks out near the border with Alberta. The Rocky Mountains of British Columbia are very pretty like all the other Rockies and are home to some unique parks. Two that stand out are Yoho National Park and Kootenay National Park.

What do they have?:

Other than amazing montane landscapes and deep blue lakes surrounded by serene forest? Well, Yoho is home to the famed Lake O’Hara which is popular for photographers and nature-goers.

Also here are Takakkaw Falls, Canada’s second-tallest and an amazing sight to see. Over in Kootenay are similar attractions, although there is a majestic glacier there, as well as its very own Grand Canyon to explore. This one has a lot more trees around it though.

3. Because of the Rocky & Columbia Mountains

Sunset by Wapta Falls.jpg
Wapta Falls, Canadian RockiesJakub Fryš

What are they?:

As you might know, the Rockies and the Columbia Mountains are two somewhat connected mountain chains that extend between the U.S. and Canada. They are home to some of the most gorgeous natural settings in all of North America. Snow-capped mountains and glaciers “cascade” down into picturesque lakes surrounded by pine forests and flowery meadows.

giant cedar trees and a forest boardwalk in Mount Revelstoke National Park, British Columbia
Giant Cedars Boardwalk, Mt. RevelstokeNatulive Canada

What do they have?:

To get more specific, there are a number of great parks to visit in the area. The Kakwa Wildland and Glacier National Park are two incredible choices, the former being the home of beautiful Kakwa Falls. In the Columbias is a range called the Selkirk Mountains.

These babies have a similar natural beauty to the Rockies but with some distinct rock compositions. The Purcell Wilderness is a notable park here, and the most incredible one based on what I’ve seen is Mount Revelstoke Provincial Park, a place that sure leaves visitors “reveling.”

4. Because of the Mountains around Squamish & Whistler

dense woodlands of the Joffre Lakes region of southern British Columbia, Canada
Joffre LakesAkshay Chauhan

What is that?:

So Squamish is a small rustic town amidst these towering mountains and wilderness areas. It seems like a cool getaway before going off on sporting adventures or to a cabin. Whistler is a similar mountain village a bit more in the hills. I’m sure it looks magical in the wintertime and with all the Christmas lights. As it happens, these two towns are surrounded by incredible mountain scenery, part of Canada’s Coastal Range.

Sea to Sky Gondola in the summertime outside of Squamish
Sea to Sky Gondola, SquamishJosephine Lin

What do they have?:

Squamish itself has a Sea to Sky Gondola which takes visitors from a sound on the ocean, basically, up high into the mountains. Whistler Blackcomb is set outside the town as a series of ski and snow sport resorts for athletes to take on. Not far is Garibaldi Provincial Park, a famed spot for hikers and explorers to reach (really high) heights and witness some of the calmest and snowiest parts of southern British Columbia.

The lake scenery there is just jaw-dropping too. Another lake haven is Joffre Lakes, similar but with a lot more forest. I’m telling you, just look up some pictures of these places, you won’t believe it. A little further out but in the general region is the Fraser River Canyon whose windy rapids lead to a cool cross-bridge called Hell’s Gate. Sinister.

5. Because of Nelson and Kokanee

people enjoying the beach at Kokanee Creek
Kokanee CreekPicryl

What are they?:

Nelson is a town out in southern BC that is utterly encircled by nature. It’s actually a quite pretty town situated on Lake Kootenay. Kokanee is really the name of a few natural parks around Nelson with amazing landscapes, as we should expect.

What do they have?:

Nelson seems like a cool forest getaway spot mixing in a unique availability of lake and wilderness excursions. Not far is Kokanee Lake with serene natural surroundings. Kokanee is also a glacier park and a creek park with some beaches to enjoy those winding waters.

6. Because of Vancouver Island

view from between trees at a lake and islet in Strathcona Provincial Park, Vancouver Island
Strathcona Provincial ParkLesly Derksen

What is it?:

Oh, only the biggest and most populous North American island in the Pacific Ocean. Vancouver Island was actually its own separate colony at one point until merging with British Columbia as a single province. Because of that, it’s got this separate Britain-y, colonial feel to it but with all the nature inclusive of the rest of BC. It’s even got a warmer climate than most of the country and is home to Victoria.

sunset on a beach near Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
beach near TofinoShlomo Shalev

What does it have?:

One of the best parts of Vancouver Island is the West Coast Trail. This trail rides the coast along with forests, quiet beaches, hidden coves, and even a waterfall or two. A major feature of this is the Pacific Rim (not the movie, sorry), a nature reserve filled with rocky tree-lined shores and some boardwalks that lead into the Pacific Northwest’s dense rainforests.

Popular coastal towns with a similar feel are Tofino and Ucluelet. Nanaimo is another important city with a rustic throwback village for visitors to wander back in time — and get good eats, of course. There is also a petroglyph park and Newcastle Island (Saysutshun) where the native heritage can be explored. Another quaint fishing village with just enough isolation is Ganges, set on Salt Spring Island just off the shore of larger Vancouver.

7. Because of Victoria

view of Parliament Buildings from a lamp around Victoria's inner harbour, British Columbia
Inner Harbour Reid Naaykens

What is it?

Located on the mighty Vancouver Island, Victoria is British Columbia’s coastal capital. The city sits along a pretty harbor and waterfront and is right next to an abundance of outdoor activities.

Craigdarroch Castle at evening, city of Victoria
Craigdarroch CastleMichal Klajban

What does it have?:

The main spot of Victoria is its Inner Harbour. Here are beautifully-built sights like the Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel, as well as the colorful Fisherman’s Wharf and park. There’s also the Royal BC Museum and Bug Zoo for you insect enthusiasts. Yep, one of a kind.

waterfall in Goldstream Provincial Park, south Vancouver Island outside of Victoria
Goldstream Provincial ParkRt44

Chinatown and Johnson Street are interesting neighborhoods to stroll through. Victoria has great urban parks like Beacon Hill and Abkhazi Gardens, and count the spectacular Butchart Gardens on the outskirts.

Nice coastal hangouts are Spiral Beach and Willows Beach, and there are even some full-out castles like Craigdarroch and Hatley. Outside of town are a number of great places to get into nature. To call out a few, you’ve got Gowlland Tod, the coastal East Sooke, and the falls-filled Goldstream Park.

8. Because of the Enchanted Forest & Big White

Big White village and ski resort covered in snow, Canada
Big White VillageFlickr

What are they?:

The Enchanted Forest is a woods area with themed forest adventures. Not far is Big White, another one of Canada’s famous ski resorts.

What do they have?:

Big White has snow activities in one of the most popular resorts in all BC. Within the Enchanted Forest is a setup like a fantasy world with fun adventures for whole families, including a skytrek, salmon run, and tons of fairies. Enjoy that.

9. Because of the Culture

Southern British Columbia is essentially the center of culture and identity for this province. Home to the biggest and most popular cities, resorts, and many an extraordinary wildlife wonderland. The outdoors are such a core part of this place, even if city life gets a little mixed in. This is the core of Canada’s West Coast culture since it’s really the only west coast it has. Traditional trains and logging tell their history amidst the booming new tech and business coming from all over the globe, especially with an Asia-Pacific flare.

The distinct Vancouver Island adds its special twist to the Cascades identity of this province that got its roots set by way of the railways. Trains, frontiers, western towns, and First Nations hold a deep significance here. That’s telling from the many places native traditions and symbols like totem poles are present. The diversity of its original and more contemporary settlers go hand in hand with the wide diversity of its landscapes.

With so much wilderness and unspoiled land, Southern British Columbia still hosts many of the animals that have diminished to rare in other parts of the continent. With wineries and vineyards running through some of Canada’s warmest locations, this is the nation’s setting sun to the far west. And the weather’s just a bit better than the north side.

**Thanks for reading about British Columbia’s southern portions. What’s your favorite part about this region? Are you from BC or have you been there? Share with us what else needs to be on this list! Contact me directly or collaborate at tietewaller@gmail.com. And please feel free to read some more posts here on the site. Take care and get out there! Peace.

Other reads: British Columbia ImmigrationBritish Columbia’s Unique GeographyBritish Columbia living & expensesBritish Columbia Wikipedia

What makes Nova Scotia unique? 8 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

view of the hills and Atlantic ocean from the Cabot Trail heading over the Cape Breton Highlands
Cabot Trail Elyse Turton

Another piece of the Maritimes, Canada’s got its own little Acadian Scotland. Nova Scotia is known for its seaside towns, extreme tides, and forested highlands. But does any of that make the province unique? Well, let’s find out. First, take a quick look at some geography, and we’ll get into what is so special about Nova Scotia. Come on …

NOVA SCOTIA: Quick Geography

Map of Nova Scotia
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Canadian Provinces and Territories, Nova Scotia is highlighted in red
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Canada’s second-smallest province is Nova Scotia, a Latin name meaning “New Scotland,” or Nouvelle-Écosse (Nu-vell-Eh-coss) in French. True to the name, it’s also known as Alba Nuadh in Scottish Gaelic, though that’s one of the lesser spoken languages nowadays.

Nova Scotia is a part of both the Maritimes and Atlantic provinces of eastern Canada. It’s mostly located on the main peninsula, though a big chunk lies on Cape Breton Island which is home to a pretty large inland sea called Bras d’Or Lake (I know, the name is misleading). The capital and largest city of Halifax is on the main peninsula. Otherwise, there are thousands of smaller islands all around, including the famous Sable Island.

Read more: about Canada; what makes New Brunswick unique

It is connected to the rest of Canada in the north and is surrounded by parts of the Atlantic Ocean in all other directions like the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of St. Lawrence. The climate in Nova Scotia is mostly continental with wet weather and uncommonly cold winters for the region. There are lots of seasonal forests and highlands that form an extension of the Northern Appalachian system, especially on Cape Breton.

So, why is Nova Scotia so unique?

1. Because of Pretty Towns like Lunenburg

Peggy's Cove and the lighthouse at sunset
Peggy’s CoveShawn M. Kent

One thing that Nova Scotia is probably known for above all is its pretty colonial towns and villages, with one of the most famous being Lunenburg. This town is particularly colorful with museums and historic buildings, but it’s most famous for its beautiful waterfront.

Other popular coastal towns are Peggy’s Cove and Yarmouth, known for similarly beautiful rustic buildings, their ports, lighthouses, and the works. Amherst was the first designated town in the province and Sydney used to be the capital of Cape Breton’s colony. Either way, the mix of Maritimes coast with forested hills and wooden Victorian homes make these towns all a special sight.

2. Because of Halifax

Halifax is not just Nova Scotia’s main city, but it’s the biggest city in the Maritimes region. This makes it a center for business and culture, most notably at the Harbour and Waterfront. Here there are markets, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, a newly designed Art Gallery in the works, and the famed Pier 21. This place was once Canada’s gateway for European immigrants and is now a museum where folks can check their family records for free.

Read more: New design for the Art Gallery

Halifax Public Gardens entrance gate with purple flowers below, city of Halifax
Public GardensMarkjt

The Harbour is also where people can take a ferry over to Dartmouth to get a great view of Halifax or enjoy another set of waterfront attractions. Within the city are the beautiful Public Gardens and the historic Citadel Hill which houses the city’s old forts and a special panoramic view.

St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica is one of the prettier structures to be viewed in town. Also known for its green spaces, pleasant zones to get fresh air are the Halifax Common and Point Pleasant Park. Long Lake Provincial Park is good to go a bit further in the boonies.

3. Because of Historic Sites like Louisbourg

a traditional canon demonstration by reenactors at the Louisbourg Fortress on Cape Breton Island
Demonstration at LouisbourgDennis Jarvis

The Fortress of Louisbourg is a National Historic Site where reenactments of colonial life are carried out by professionals all over the site. Even though it’s one of the larger forts, there are quite a few places that provide insight into historic life like the Ross Farm Museum and Fort Anne.

Grand-Pré National Historic Site in the Acadian region of Canada's Maritimes
Grand-PréDr Wilson

It and Port-Royal were actually among the first French settlements in Acadia and the Americas, while Fort Anne leads to the splendorous Annapolis Royal Gardens. Another historic site is Grand-Pré, a sort of monument town dedicated to the Acadians that were expelled from there by British rule.

4. Because of the Bay of Fundy & Minas Basin

That’s right! New Brunswick isn’t the only province that can boast the Bay. Nova Scotia also has a number of scenic sites and landscapes due some praise. Around Hall’s Harbour are a famous lobster restaurant, sea caves, and the site of huge tidal changes.

The area is also notable for whale watching. Cape Split has a series of high trails and cliffs that overlook the beautiful water. Going inward to Minas is where the real tide action happens, being home to the most extreme tidal changes in the world. There’s even a place where rafters can ride backward on the tides.

Read more: whale watching tours in Nova Scotia

Cape Blomidon Beach on the Minas Basin, eastern Canada
Blomidon Provincial Park

Blomidon Provincial Park is one of the best places to take in all the wonderful scenery with orange cliffs and long sandy passages being a feature there. Stamped between the Bay and some interior hills is Annapolis Valley, another very pretty region stocked with rolling vineyards and green knolls.

5. Because of Kejimkujik

Kejimkujik is — well, hard to pronounce, but also one of Nova Scotia’s best National Parks. It’s a gorgeous forest area with rivers and hills and even reaches down to some beaches. Besides its natural appeal, the park also has a number of cultural interactions with the native Mi’kmaq people. These can include villages, hunting and food practices, wildlife reserves, and other cultural immersion sites set to inform outside visitors about Nova Scotia’s original settlers.

6. Because of Cape Breton

a rocky beach with a cape and blue skies in the background, in the Cape Breton Highlands region
Cape Breton Island Tango7174

Cape Breton Island has a lot of what makes Nova Scotia unique, and a lot of it has to do with the Cape Breton Highlands. The coastal highlands form another great National Park to explore, particularly around the Cabot Trail.

Among the many trails that Giovanni Caboto blazed in the New World, this area has a number of scenic overlooks and pathways to take in the pure beauty of Canada’s Atlantic coastline. I mentioned the big sea/lake of Bras d’Or which has its own share of nice water and forest settings.

Along the coast is the town of Baddeck, a calm post for tourism, boat outings, golf excursions, and a site dedicated to the maker of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, once a resident there. We already mentioned Louisbourg too, so check it as another special place on Cape Breton.

7. Because of its Random Islands

Sable Island horses grazing on the island in Nova Scotia
Sable IslandHiFlyChick

With a few thousand islands, you have to bet that some of NS’s isles had to be a little strange. Or maybe random is a better descriptor word. There are lots of islands that could potentially make the count, but one that stands out is St. Paul Island.

This place is odd because it’s pretty far offshore from Cape Breton but was seriously settled at one point. There’s a lighthouse, an abandoned radio station, and a couple of abandoned manors. If that weren’t enough, the island is often shrouded in fog to make matters creepier.

A more pleasant yet no-less random island is Sable. This island looks more like a long sandbank and it’s also a ways offshore from the mainland. That didn’t stop the island from being populated by a special breed of horses (Sable Island horses, fittingly so). It’s also apparently a popular island in literature and other media and is well-known for its grassy hills, long sandy beaches, and a history of frequent shipwrecks. I’m sure the horses contribute to the fame, though.

8. Because of the Culture

A big part of Nova Scotia’s cultural identity is spelled right there in the name. Scottish and other Gaelic-nation immigrants had a huge impact on the province’s early British settlement. Still, the earlier French and Acadians also left their mark on NS, from place names to foods and some of the traditions.

Several places look like French Catholicism and colonialism clashed with Victorian design and made some very pretty architectural collages. Plus, this is Canada, so world immigration has contributed to NS’s already diverse population. Anglo-Canadian culture and language have taken over. Still, there are areas where the native language or French are still prevalent. Scottish Gaelic is sort of on the rise in some places and apparently has one of the highest speaker communities outside of Scotland.

Even though its population density is fairly high, the people are pretty spread out and the towns are able to maintain that old North Atlantic fishing village feel. Industrialization mixes with modern tech and arts. The influence of the Mi’kmaq people is still present in heritage festivals, galleries, and some of the renewed designs.

It was also a haven for British Loyalists escaping the American Revolution, and so New England has a foot inside the province. Quiet coastal living, rural country values, and the ocean itself all put a stamp on what it means to be in Nova Scotia. Quietly continuing to surprise people with its subtle beauty, this province holds a unique place in our world.

**Enjoying learning about Earth’s places? Show us some love and follow to get notified every time we post about a new place! Want to collaborate? Contact me at tietewaller@gmail.com, and read more posts like this on Earth’s Face. Take care, you all. Peace.

Why is Quebec special? | Part 2 – 8 (More) 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 move up into some other parts of the south until reaching the 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 more into why Quebec is so special.

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

In Canada’s biggest province, the northern section takes up the biggest part of the land. Northern Quebec starts generally north of the Laurentian Mountains. Here we’ll also look at the Gaspé Peninsula in the south. 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 further south. Down around the Laurentians are some mixed and boreal forests, with the rest of the province northward being taiga and eventually tundra. The biggest city/urban area that lies north of the main populated region of Quebec is Saguenay, in the general Laurentians area 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 Quebec province. 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 Quebec’s biggest city north of the dense St. Lawrence River Valley, 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 still pretty far south compared to the size of Quebec, so the weather is a bit better than in these other northern 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 Canada’s interior 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 Dorsets, an ancient Eskimo culture that once inhabited the area. Very cool!

8. Because of the Culture (+ last thoughts)

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. Near the coasts and islands, it is a place dominated by boating and marine life, forestry and mountaineering in others, and certainly a bunch of vast icy settings.

Historic cultures have risen, fallen, and sustained themselves in the more isolated parts of the country. Much of Quebec is 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 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 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.