Canada is full of natural wonders and now the country is home to an astounding 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The latest addition to this famed list came in the shape of Mistaken Point in Newfoundland, noted for its 565-million-year-old sea floor and array of fossils.
Whether you visit the East Coast or the West, the chances are you can find a UNESCO site in your province. Here is our list of the top 10 UNESCO sites in Canada that you should try to see.
1. L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, Newfoundland
Before the “New World” was discovered by Christopher Columbus it was the Vikings of Scandinavia that had crossed the Atlantic, and the proof is still evident today in the shape of 11th century timber-framed turf buildings on the Great Northern Peninsula in Newfoundland.
It is believed to be the first known evidence of European influence in the Americas and was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1978. Now it is a popular attraction for visitors on Canadian holidays in Newfoundland.
2. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta
UNESCO describes Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump as “one of the oldest, most extensive, and best preserved sites that illustrate communal hunting techniques” and this is why the area became a World Heritage Site in 1981.
For more than 6,000 years the indigenous people of southern Alberta used the local landscape to shepherd buffalo off an 11m-high cliff. The importance of buffalo as a food source is proven by buffalo bone deposits that are 10m deep!
3. Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta
Staying in Alberta, Dinosaur Provincial Park is home to the most important fossils created from the “Age of Reptiles”.
Around 35 species of dinosaur fossils can be found in the Albertan Badlands that date back 75 million years. It became a UNESCO site in 1979 because of its geological importance and because it was the site of some of the most important fossil discoveries in the world.
4. SGang Gwaay, British Columbia
Located off the west coast of British Columbia on Haida Gwaii, an archipelago of islands, is SGang Gwaay.
The area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 because of its cultural significance to the Haida people, who were the first settlers on the island. The village has the remains of cedar long houses and carved mortuary and memorial poles on display.
The site commemorates the culture of the Haida people and highlights their relationship with the land and sea.
5. Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, Alberta and British Columbia
One of the most famous UNESCO sites in Canada is the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks that consist of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho. The Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber provincial parks are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The parks became World Heritage Sites back in 1984 to protect the parks’ mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, canyons, lakes and limestone caves.
6. Wood Buffalo National Park, Northwest Territories and Alberta
Also a national park, back in 1983 the Wood Buffalo National Park became a designated UNESCO site.
Located on the plains in the north-central region of the country, the park, as you may have guessed from the name, is home to North America’s largest population of wild bison and is also a popular nesting destination for the beautiful whooping crane. You can find out more about bison and other animals that can be found in Canada here.
As well as the national park being a great place for Canada’s wildlife, it is also home to the world’s largest inland delta at the mouth of the Peace and Athabasca rivers.
7. Rideau Canal, Ottawa, Ontario
The Rideau Canal is a relatively new World Heritage Site after it was given this status in 2007.
The canal is not just the world’s largest skating rink in winter, but is an incredible 19th-century construction covering 202 km of the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers.
Initially built for military purposes when Great Britain and the US fought for control of the area, the Rideau Canal is the best-preserved example of a slack water canal in North America.
8. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
Despite being home to mountains, fjords, plateaus and glacial valleys, which is why so many people book rental cars in Canada and drive to the national park, it is actually not the reason it became a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Instead it is the fact the region provides an extremely rare example of continental drift where deep ocean crust and the rocks of the earth’s mantle lie exposed.
9. Old Town Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
The Old Town Lunenburg is the best surviving example of a British colonial settlement in North America and its roots date back to 1753. It was given the status in 1995.
Its overall appearance and layout remain the same and even some of the city’s wooden houses have been safeguarded, some of which date back as far as the 18th century.
10. Joggins Fossil Cliffs, Nova Scotia
The cliffs became a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 2008. The 689 ha palaeontological site along the coast of Nova Scotia has been referred to as a “coal age Galapagos”.
This nickname refers to the fact the area is home to fossils from the Carboniferous period some 354 to 290 million years ago. The cliffs are the world’s most comprehensive record of terrestrial life from 318 to 303 million years ago.