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British Columbia's motto, Splendor sine occasu ("Splendour without diminishment") says it all. The natural beauty of the Rockie Mountains, the rugged coast along the Pacific Ocean, the history of Victoria or the big city vibe of Vancouver make British Columbia a big draw for travellers.
British Columbia is the western most province in Canada, bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west, Alberta on the east, by the American state of Alaska on its northwest, and to the north by the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, on and on the south by the US states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
British Columbia's coastline stretches for more than 27,000 kilometres, including deep, mountainous fjords and about 6,000 islands, most of which are uninhabited. The Coast Mountains and Canadian Rockies run the length of the province.
More than three quarters of the province is considered mountainous; the Rocky Mountains run its length, flanked by a series of companion ranges. These are the Columbia, Monashee, Cariboo, Selkirk, Purcell, Cassiar, Omineca and Skeena ranges
As well as being the home of British Columbia's capital city, Victoria, the island boasts has one of the world's most diverse ecosystems, consisting of rainforests, marshes, meadows, beaches, mountains, oceans, rivers and lakes all of which provide homes for multitudes of wildlife species. Nestled between Georgia Strait and the mainland are the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. Each island has its own distinctive geography, ranging from pastorial, farmland and orchards, sandy beaches to rocky beaches and rugged cliffs.
British Columbia's large size and diverse geography means the climate can vary greatly from area to area. This creates wide variations in average hours of sunshine, rainfall, snowfall and temperatures, sometimes over very short distances. There is no "one size fits all" when discussing the geography and climate of British Columbia. British Columbia's geography ranges from temperate rain forest to the rugged and vast wilderness in northern areas of the province. From rain forest to lush agricultural areas, orchards, vineyards, grain fields, desert like areas of sand and rock formations with cacti and sagebrush, deep river valleys and tumbling waterfalls, towering mountains, glaciers, vast forests, rolling grasslands, and alpine tundra.
The Rocky Mountaineer is two-day tour through the Canadian part of the Rocky Mountains. The train travels during the day, so you can enjoy the magnificent landscapes in the western part of this country, including canyons, rivers, valleys and glacial lakes. There are several trips possible, including the First Passage to the West route from Vancouver, British Columbia via Kamloops to Banff or Calgary in Alberta. Another one is the Journey through the Clouds route from Vancouver via Kamloops to Jasper, also in Alberta. The Rocky Mountaineer company also offers less popular but also spectacular trips to Whistler and Prince George, north of Vancouver, on the Rainforest to Gold Rush route (travelling via Prince George to Jasper) and Whistler Sea to Sky Climb, the latter being a daytrip from Vancouver.
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British Columbia offers some of the best fishing opportunities in the world for all ages and styles. From the renowned salmon runs of the Fraser River to the superb still water lake fisheries of the British Columbian interior, spectacular Alpine lakes, and the saltwater fishery of the Pacific Coast, the diversity and breathtaking scenery will satisfy the most seasoned angler as well as the first time fisherman/woman.
BC Fishing Resources:
It should be no surprise that British Columbians take advantage of the rocky terrain by building mountain bike trails. Major areas for mountain biking include the north shore of Vancouver, Whistler and Revelstoke. One of the world's best mountain bike trails, the Seven Summits Trail, lies just outside the mountain biking paradise of Rossland.
Everyone knows about Whistler, but British Columbia is full of great ski areas. Big White, outside Kelowna and Sun Peaks, outside Kamloops are two up and coming mountains. The Kootenays region of British Columbia is also full of small ski towns, most notably Rossland - home of Olympic and World Champion skier Nancy Greene - and Fernie
With over 230,000 kilometres of coastline, it should come as no surprise that water sports are a popular activity in British Columbia. From multi-day sea kayak expeditions around the Haida Gwaii to an afternoon paddle around Deep Cove in North Vancouver to a day tour around Ucluelet on Vancouver Island, opportunities to explore the British Columbia coast from the water abound. Small, quiet and manouverable, kayaks are the perfect vehicle for close encounters with the abundant marine wildlife this province has to offer.
Parts of British Columbia have a climate which is more comparable to the UK than to Canada. This is especially true for the southwestern parts where Vancouver is located. Summers here are pleasantly warm, between 20 °C and 23 °C while even winters on average are above zero with occasionally colder nights of around -10 °C. More to the north and especially inland though, winters can be much colder (down to -50 °C has been recorded) and there is often heavy snow in the mountains. The coastline is one of the wetter areas in Canada, with heavy showers year round. Though on the opposite side, some valleys can have very little precipitation througout the year, less than 400 mm in some cases.
Vancouver International Airport (international airport code: YVR) is in Richmond, British Columbia, approximately 15 kilometres from downtown Vancouver. The airport has service from a number of international airlines, and an extensive network of flights to Asia and the Pacific.
The Canadian operates by ViaRail travels between Vancouver and Toronto. The Skeena travels from Jasper, Alberta to Prince Rupert along the Pacific Coast of British Columbia.
The Amtrak Cascades travels between Vancouver and Seattle, Portland and Eugene in the United States.
There are numerous boarder crossing from the United States into British Columbia. If coming from Alberta, there are also several entrances. However, since they all come in through the mountains, during the winter any one of the them (or, on occasion, all of them) can be closed. Check out Drive BC for road reports.
Check Greyhound for details about services throughout Canada.
Most towns of any size are served by an airport. However, flying into smaller towns can be very expensive, as they are normally only serviced by Air Canada - and the lack of competition hurts the prices.
Vancouver, Abbotsford, Kelowna, Kamloops, Prince George, Comox and Victoria are all serviced by WestJet as well. The competition flying into these cities is much greater than those that only Air Canada flies to, so you can get much better prices. Prices and frequency between the two major airlines into these cities is similar, so compare if you want the best price.
Some of the options to rent a car include the following companies:
Highways cover British Columbia, so getting around by car is easy. The major routes are Highway #1 (Trans Canada) and #5 running east to west and highway #97 running north/south. During the winter, the highways can be treacherous, due to heavy snowfall. If it is raining in Vancouver, it is snowing in the mountains, and generally unsafe to travel, unless you have winter driving experience. Check out Drive BC for road reports.
Check Ferries British Columbia for routes, schedules and prices.
The legal drinking age in BC is 19.
Beer, wine and spirits are available from the government liquor stores (BCL). They are also available from private beer and wine stores which are usually associated with pubs or bars. Most BCL stores close at 8PM while most private liquor stores are open until 11PM. You cannot buy alcohol in grocery stores.
BC is home to a number of breweries,including the Columbia Brewery in Creston which brews Kokanee, the Granville Island Brewery in Vancouver and Nelson Brewing Company in Nelson. Most breweries offer tours.
BC is also well-renowned for its wine and the Okanagan Valley is the centre of the wine industry in the province. It's a perfect area to visit during the Autumn grape harvest. There are large number of wineries open for tastings.
Sleeping options in British Columbia range from simple but beautifully located campgrounds and basic hostels to top end 5-star places with personal attention and details, and everything in between of course. For those travelling on a midrange budget, the options are endless as well, and you can choose between simple but decent rooms in chain motels to smallscale bed and breakfasts, which generally offer extremely good value and you can start your day with a great breakfast of course.
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