Those on group flights will fly from London Heathrow to Montreal and transfer to our start hotel in downtown Montreal (approx. 30 minutes). Land only clients should join the group at the start hotel this evening where a welcome meeting will take place.
Montreal, the world's third most populous French-speaking city, is one of the liveliest and prettiest in North America. It has a beautiful intact old-town by the St Lawrence River, juxtaposed against a background of modern skyscrapers rising from downtown. In the middle of the St Lawrence River lies Jean Drapeau Park, the setting for the Montreal Winter Festival that the city hosts each year. We'll spend the morning exploring the festival and for those that want to stay on in the afternoon, it's possible to try activities such as tube-sliding, cross-country skiing, dogsledding, snow-shoeing and skating (additional costs apply for equipment rental). Alternatively, get a flavour of Montreal with some free time to explore the city.
We transfer for around one hour to Parc Omega, a wildlife park just north of the town of Montebello. Stretching for 2,200 acres, the park has a 12km road through the middle which presents a good vantage point to encounter Canadian wildlife. Elk, Red Deer, Whitetail deer, Bison, Moose, Alpine Ibex and Reindeer can be found in the park, amongst numerous birds and other species. A number of animals are habituated to vehicles and therefore a close wildlife encounter is expected. We'll also have some time to take a short walk on one of the trails through the forest. Following our visit, we transfer for around one hour to the wilderness area of Lac Simon and settle into the chalets that will become our home for the next 4 nights.
The huge forest that surrounds Lac Simon is home to between 1,000 - 2,000 inquisitive Whitetail deer, providing the perfect Canadian wilderness for our first winter adventure of snow-shoeing. We'll spend the day exploring a network of trails directly from the doorstep of our chalets, no doubt encountering Whitetail deer on the way. Our route will take us to the frozen Lac Simon where we'll have a go at ice-fishing in the lake and stop for a picnic lunch before donning our snow-shoes and returning to our chalets on a different trail. The cost of snow-shoes is included in the trip and these are available for use for the duration of our stay at Lac Simon.
Today we take a 45 minute transfer to a cross-country skiing resort, the Centre Touristique de la Petite Rouge. After being kitted out with equipment we'll spend the day learning this fun winter sport on a network of forest trails - a great way to stay fit and appreciate the Canadian winter landscape. The guide will provide instruction of the basics to beginners and then we'll head out into the wilderness to enjoy the peace and quiet, the forest scenery and of course the exercise! At the end of the day, we'll visit Le Viceroy Auberge and Spa to relax in a warm outdoor bath and sauna before returning to our chalets for the evening.
Today has been left free for optional activities (additional costs apply). We recommend joining a half day dogsledding or half day snowmobile excursion, or you can try both if your energy reserves are high from all of the fresh Canadian air! Animal lovers be warned, you may want to take a husky home with you after dogsledding! This adrenaline fuelled experience is great fun, with the dogs doing most of the work. Wrap up warm though as it is likely to be very cold. Snowmobiling is a way of life as well as a sport for many living in Northern Canada, being the main means of winter travel between many of the more isolated villages. Instruction and a full safety briefing will be given before we put on our helmets and head out on the trails. Alternatively you can spend a relaxing day enjoying the nature surrounding the chalet, use your snow-shoes to explore the network of forest trails independently or have a go at tube-sliding from the hill! Later today those that want to can head out to have a go at building a traditional Amerindian snow shelter called a quinzee.
We leave Lac Simon behind after breakfast and transfer approximately 2 hours to Ottawa, home of the famous Rideau Canal. When the temperature plumments, this UNESCO World Heritage Site freezes over, creating the longest natural ice-skating rink in the world. The skateway is open in January and February (weather permitting) and stretches for 7km. Once fitted with our ice-skates, which are included, we'll tackle a portion of the canal - a great way to see downtown Ottawa. In the afternoon we visit Ottawa's popular Winterlude Festival, a celebration of winter featuring an impressive ice sculpture competition.
Today we return to Montreal (approx. 2.5 hours), stopping at a 'Sugar Shack' set within a 120 acre forest of Maple trees. We'll learn about the process of 'sugaring off' and understand how maple syrup is made before enjoying a traditional lunch - ideal for those with a sweet-tooth and great for understanding what life was like for Canadian and Québec pioneers. Our journey continues to Montreal airport where the trip ends. Those on group flights will fly back to London Heathrow tonight.