Still Standing

Places in Canada that feel like somewhere else in the world

From the 'Hawaii of the North' to a stark Martian landscape, Canada has it all

From the 'Hawaii of the North' to a stark Martian landscape, Canada has it all

The twin peaks of Mount Asgard look like they're in the Swiss Alps, but they're actually in Nunavut. (Ansgar Walk/Wikimedia Commons/CC-SA 2.5) )

Cuba, France, Caribbean, they're all in Canada. Well, kind of. With the vast diversity of climatic regions across the country, it's no surprise that you'll stumble across a small town that feels like another country. Or another planet.

Here are five towns that give you the sense that you're somewhere else.

The Switzerland of the Arctic, Pangnirtung, N.U.

Mount Thor is actually named after the Norse God, not the better known Marvel character. (Paul Gierszewski/Wikimedia Commons/CC-SA 3.0))

Surrounded by majestic mountain ranges, Pangnirtung has earned the nickname "The Switzerland of the Arctic." It's also known by its more efficient nickname, "Pang." Hikers and climbers come to tackle the peaks in nearby Auyuittuq National Park, home to the flat-topped twin peaks of Mount Asgard and neighbouring Mount Thor, with its 1,250-metre vertical drop, the world's biggest. 

Auyuittuq isn't for amateurs. According to Parks Canada, anyone looking to hike or climb in Auyuittuq should be "prepared to handle any medical, wildlife or weather-related emergency," or else should hire an experienced guide. 

Fun fact: Mount Asgard was also famously featured in the opening scene of the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.

Ontario's Provence, Prince Edward County, Ont.

A lush, rolling landscape filled with lavender fields and award-winning wineries sounds like a description of Provence, France, but it also describes Prince Edward County, Ont. 

Located on the north shore of Lake Ontario, roughly halfway between Toronto and Ottawa, "The County," as it's affectionately known has become a popular vacation spot for people looking to get away from both cities. It's also home to over 40 wineries, as well as an annual Lavender Festival. (Which, sadly, was cancelled for 2020 due to COVID-19.)

Hawaii of the North, Hornby Island, B.C.

Tucked away in the Salish Sea, between Vancouver Island and Washington state, is Hornby Island; an island so beautiful and idyllic that it's been given the nickname "Little Hawaii." If you're coming from the Lower Mainland, it will take you three ferries and the better part of the day to get there. Once you're there, make your way to Tribune Bay; 1 km of white sandy beaches and aquamarine waters, the warmest saltwater swimming areas in the province. It's also a hotspot for skimboarding and kiteboarding.

If you visit the park in the spring you'll be treated to a dazzling display of wildflowers cloaking the hillsides along the beach. In the summer, dark blue salal berries and edible red huckleberries provide colourful contrast to the white sand and unusual rock formations along the shoreline.

Mars in Nunavut, Devon Island, N.U. 

Katja Minitsenka, the Google project leader who helped get Devon Island on Google Street View, tries on a space suit. (Google)

The world's largest uninhabited island, Nunavut's Devon Island, has the most Mars-like environment of anywhere on Earth. Roughly the size of Nova Scotia, the island is a rocky, barren polar desert. While it doesn't have any permanent residents, it is home to a rotating cast of scientists looking to field-test things like space suits and rover modules.

The tropics in Ontario, Southampton, Ont.

Crystal clear blue water. White sand beaches. Fascinating shipwrecks. It sounds like some Caribbean paradise, but it's actually Southampton, on the shores of Lake Huron. Nearby Chantry Island is a migratory bird sanctuary, home to tens of thousands of birds, including cormorants, great blue herons and great egrets.