Explore Canada by Train

Lonely Planet Travel Editor Tom Hall is on a mission to discover 52 of the most awe-inspiring places to visit across the world. This week suggests a visit to one of the world's biggest countries - Canada.


Canada’s size and scale can be boggling, but riding the rails is one of the best ways to get to know the world’s second-largest country.

Trains charge across Canada from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Vancouver in British Columbia linking 450 cities, towns and hamlets along almost 9000 miles of track. In a country as huge as Canada trains can provide relief from hours of driving and especially in the Rockies pass through areas where roads don’t go.

Best scenic train routes in Canada

Top of the list for scenic rides is three-day service between Toronto and Vancouver, called the Canadian. It skirts northern Ontario’s lakes, crosses the central plains and traverses the Rockies before cruising through the British Columbian wilderness to Vancouver.

The train is made for taking in the views, with 1950s style stainless-steel carriages and a domed car designed for sightseeing. If you hopped off the train in Jasper you could catch the Skeena train which takes two days to snake its way to Prince George in the far north of BC – a truly wild journey.

Buying train tickets

Rail passes (in particular the Canrail pass which costs £370 for twelve days travel and is valid for a month) offer good value if you’re aiming to cover a lot of the country. Book early to snag discounted point-to-point fares.

August is when the weather is as warm and sunny as it gets, but trains are busier through summer months.

Planning your trip to Canada

To book seats, access timetables and plan everything from a local jaunt to a cross-country epic see VIA Rail. Train buffs will find much to enjoy at Canada By Rail]2.

© 2009 Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd