A Guide to Canadian Provinces and Territories

Illustration of the Canadian Provinces

TripSavvy / Maddy Price

There are 10 Canadian provinces, with three territories to the north. The provinces are, in alphabetical order: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. The three territories are Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon.

The difference between a province and a territory has to do with their governance. Basically, the territories have delegated powers under the authority of the Parliament of Canada; they are grouped together and ruled by the federal government. The provinces, on the other hand, exercise constitutional powers in their own right. This imbalance of power is gradually being rectified, with local decision-making powers being granted to the territories. 

Each province and territory has its own unique draw for visitors and has tourism organizations to help you plan your trip—as well as plenty of things to do once you're there. All have plenty of outdoor adventure by way of camping, hiking trails, lakes, and other natural phenomena. Yet, many have a unique character and terrain. Information on the 10 provinces in Canada, listed from west to east, followed by the territories will help you prepare for your visit to this beautiful country.​

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British Columbia

Burrard Bridge, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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British Columbia is the country's most western province. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean, B.C., as it is more commonly known, has some of the most temperate locations in the country. With coastal islands and a mountainous interior, B.C.'s diverse geography draws adventure seekers worldwide, including skiers, kayakers, and mountain bikers.

The major cities and towns are Victoria (provincial capital), Vancouver, Whistler, and Kelowna. Vancouver is a vibrant cosmopolitan city, Victoria is a quaint town with horse-drawn carriages and the elegant Fairmont Empress Hotel, and Whistler is home to winter sports.

Outdoor B.C. is well-known for the Okanagan Valley wine region, the remote and beautiful islands of Haida Gwaii, and whale watching in the Inside Passage.

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Alberta

Hiking around Moraine Lake.
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Alberta is one of Canada's three prairie provinces. It shares the Canadian Rocky Mountain range with its western B.C. neighbor and is famous as a ski and hiking destination. Alberta is the primary supply and service hub for Canada's crude oil industry, Athabasca oil sands, and other northern resource industries. 

Alberta is famous for hosting the Calgary Stampede, which showcases the province's distinct cowboy culture, and is also known for the Edmonton Folk Festival, the Edmonton Mall, the Rocky Mountains, and the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site that preserves and interprets over 6,000 years of Plains Buffalo culture.

Alberta's major cities are Edmonton (provincial capital), Calgary, Banff, and Jasper.​ Banff and Jasper are home to two of the most beautiful national parks in North America. 

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Saskatchewan

Beautiful place in Swiftcurrent
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Saskatchewan is the central prairie province, landlocked between the other two, Alberta and Manitoba. Most of Saskatchewan's population lives in the southern half of the region, especially in Saskatoon and Regina. The province's primary industry is agriculture, followed by mining, oil, and natural gas production. 

The major cities are Regina (provincial capital), Saskatoon, and Prince Albert. Saskatchewan is best known for fishing, hunting, and other outdoor adventures. The University of Saskatchewan's historic campus in Saskatoon is recognized as one of the most beautiful in Canada.

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Manitoba

Polar bear walking in strange snowy landscape
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Manitoba is the most easterly prairie province and longitudinal center of Canada. Like Saskatchewan, a majority of the population lives in the southern region. Manitoba's north comprises Canadian Shield rock and arctic tundra and is largely uninhabited. For more than 6,000 years, the province has been home to Aboriginal and Métis people, who continue to exert a tremendous cultural influence.

The major cities are Winnipeg (provincial capital) and Churchill. Manitoba is best known for being the polar bear capital of the world ​and for its two festivals—Le Festival du Voyageur (large winter festival) and Folklorama (food and cultural festival).

Churchill is one of the top three places to observe the aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights.

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Ontario

Boating in Lake Ontario, Toronto, Canada
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Ontario is Canada's most populous province, by a long shot. It is also home to the federal capital of Ottawa and the unofficial financial capital of Toronto. The majority of Ontario residents live in the southern part of the province near Toronto, along with Ottawa, Niagara Falls, and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Ontario is best known for Algonquin Park, the Niagara wine region, Bruce Trail (the oldest and longest continuous public footpath in Canada), and the many beautiful forests and lakes.

Canada's National Tower (CN Tower) defines the Toronto skyline at more than 1,800 feet tall. This engineering marvel is one of the world's top destinations. You can go to the observation deck at the top and dine with a 360-degree view.

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Quebec

Quebec City skyline, Canada
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Quebec is the second most populous Canadian province, known primarily for its French-speaking population, culture, and heritage. It is also the country's largest province by land area. Most residents live along and near the St. Lawrence River, especially in and between Montreal and Quebec City, the two major cities.

Attractions for residents and visitors are ​Old Montreal and the Plains of Abraham (a historic area) and excellent skiing resorts. Old Québec, a UNESCO World Heritage treasure, is reminiscent of towns in Europe with a city wall and cobblestone streets. 

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New Brunswick

East Quoddy Lighthouse with Boat
Melinda Moore / Getty Images

New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces, which form a tiny water-bound cluster on the east coast, just below Quebec and bordering the state of Maine in the U.S. The major cities are Fredericton (provincial capital), Moncton, and St. John. New Brunswick's appeal is due to the Bay of Fundy, Appalachian Range, scenic coastline, and numerous lighthouses.

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Nova Scotia

Boats Moored At Harbor Against Clear Sky
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Although the second smallest province, Nova Scotia is the second-most densely populated in the country. It is one of the three maritime provinces and part of Atlantic Canada.

The major cities are Halifax (provincial capital), Sydney, Wolfville, and Peggy's Cove. People come to Nova Scotia to experience the Cabot Trail and other scenic drives.

Nova Scotia is known for Celtic culture, the Fortress of Louisbourg, a National Historic Site, and the location of a partial reconstruction of an 18th-century French fortress, and seafood like fresh lobster dinners.

Those coming for the natural beauty will appreciate the vast coastline, home to puffins and seals, and the Annapolis Valley wine country, located on the western part of the peninsula.

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Prince Edward Island

Colourful shopping streets, Charlottetown
Peter Unger / Getty Images

The last of the three Maritime provinces, Prince Edward Island, comprises several islands (232 to be exact, including the main island), the largest having the same name.

It is the smallest province in Canada, measured by land size and population. Its principal city is Charlottetown (provincial capital), and P.E.I. (as it is referred to) is best known for the novel Anne of Green Gables, which takes place there and the delicious mussels found in the surrounding waters.

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Newfoundland and Labrador

McCallum
Posnov / Getty Images

The most easterly province in Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador sits on the Atlantic and comprises Newfoundland and mainland Labrador (hence the name).

Over 90 percent of the population lives in Newfoundland and the surrounding islands. Its principal city is St. John's (provincial capital), and the province is best known for the friendliness of the residents, Gros Morne National Park (known for soaring glacial fjords), icebergs, and whale watching.

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Yukon

A small mountain town in winter,aerial shot.
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The smallest of the three territories, Yukon (also known as "the Yukon") is the most westerly territory, bordering Alaska.

People visit the Yukon to see the Northern lights, the historic Klondike Gold Rush locations, Mount Logan (the highest mountain in Canada) in Kluane National Park, the midnight sun (when the sun is visible at midnight), and to try dog sledding.

The capital is Whitehorse, in the southern part of the territory and Yukon's only city. The portion of the Arctic coast has a tundra climate.

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Northwest Territories

Aerial view on the Mackenzie River flowing through its delta toward Arctic Ocean, Northwest Territories - Canada
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Northwest Territories is the most populous of the three and borders the other two territories in—as you would expect—the northwest part of the country.

The capital is Yellowknife, and this territory is best known for the Northern lights, the midnight sun, the Nahanni River, the centerpiece of Nahanni National Park Reserve, and rugged outdoor adventure.

Half the population is indigenous, and The Northwest Territories boasts 11 official languages. Visitors can learn about the First Nations' cultures.

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Nunavut

Melting Sea Ice at Sunset, Hudson Bay, Canada
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Nunavut is the largest and most northern territory of Canada. It is also the newest territory, having been separated from Northwest Territories in 1999.

One of the world's most remote locations, it has the second smallest population in Canada. The capital is Iqaluit and adventurers travel to the area to watch the narwhals, see the polar bears, and explore this remote territory.

The territory is known for its indigenous Inuit artwork, carvings, and traditional handmade clothing. The art is displayed at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum in the capital.