North America Travel Guide
Welcome to North America, a captivating region that effortlessly combines the old with the new, the natural with the metropolitan, and the adventurous with the serene. From the Arctic landscapes of Greenland, through the vast wilderness of Canada, down to the pulsating cities of the United States, and the rich cultural heritage of Mexico, North America has something for every type of traveler.
This grand continent beckons with its staggering variety of sights, cultures, landscapes, and experiences. Whether you're a seasoned globetrotter or planning your first adventure, let us guide you through the vibrant diversity that is North America. Let's get started!
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Quick Facts About North America
- Four countries: Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Greenland (which is a part of the Kingdom of Denmark).
- The largest country by land area is Canada, while the United States has the highest population. Greenland is the least populous and Mexico boasts a rich cultural heritage that is a unique blend of Native American and Spanish influences.
- Key geographic facts:
- North America is the third largest continent by land area, housing a diverse range of landscapes from the Arctic tundra of northern Canada and Greenland, the Great Plains in the U.S. and Canada, the vast Rocky and Appalachian Mountain systems, to the tropical rainforests and deserts in Mexico.
- It’s surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Arctic Ocean to the north.
- The continent is home to the Great Lakes, the largest freshwater system in the world, and houses the Mississippi-Missouri River, one of the longest river systems.
- The Rocky Mountains, stretching over 3,000 miles from Canada to Mexico, are one of the most prominent mountain ranges.
- English is predominantly spoken in the United States and Canada, Spanish is the primary language in Mexico, and Greenlandic is the official language in Greenland.
- However, there’s a significant degree of linguistic diversity, with French being widely spoken in Canada (primarily Quebec), and a number of Indigenous languages spoken across the region.
- Christianity is the most widespread religion in North America, with a significant number of Protestants in the U.S and Greenland, and Catholics in Mexico and parts of Canada.
- However, the region is known for its religious diversity, with the presence of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and a range of Indigenous and new religions.
North America, A Region of Many Records
- The Death Valley, in the U.S., is one of the hottest places on Earth. In August 2020, it hit 54.4 degrees Celsius/130 degrees Fahrenheit, which might be the highest temperature reliably recorded on Earth.
- The Great Lakes, located in the United States and Canada, form the largest group of freshwater lakes by total area in the world. Combined, they cover more than 94,000 square miles.
- The Grand Canyon, in the United States, is one of the largest canyons in the world. With a length of about 277 miles, a width up to 18 miles, and a depth of over a mile, it offers some of the most stunning geological landscapes.
- The Mississippi-Missouri River System is the fourth longest river system in the world. Flowing a total of 3,770 miles, it moves water from 31 states to the Gulf of Mexico.
- Greenland, an autonomous territory of Denmark, is the largest island in the world and contains the second largest ice sheet after Antarctica. Over 80% of its surface area is covered by the permanent Greenland Ice Sheet.
- The Arctic Archipelago of Canada is the world’s largest high Arctic land area. Composed of over 36,000 islands, it represents 34% of the Arctic’s total land area.
- Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula houses one of the most significant and well-preserved archaeological sites in the world – the ancient Mayan city of Chichén Itzá. The step-pyramid temple known as El Castillo is recognized as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
- The Appalachian Mountains, on the eastern side of North America, are among the oldest mountains on Earth, over 480 million years old. Their age has resulted in a diverse array of ecosystems, from the alpine tundra to mixed hardwood and coniferous forests.
- Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. houses the world’s largest collection of geysers. The most famous one, Old Faithful, erupts approximately every 90 minutes.
10 Handpicked North America Highlights
10 fantastic places and experiences in North America, in no particular order.
- Explore the breathtaking landscape of the Grand Canyon in the United States. A symbol of the American Southwest, this awe-inspiring geological marvel is a sight to behold. Hike its many trails during the day and camp under the stars for an unforgettable experience.
- Immerse yourself in the cultural melting pot that is New York City. Wander the bustling streets of Manhattan, marvel at the Statue of Liberty, and see a Broadway show. This global metropolis never sleeps and offers endless attractions to match any interest.
- Step back in time at the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá in Mexico. This ancient Mayan city, home to the remarkable El Castillo pyramid, is a powerful testament to the architectural genius of this civilization. Don’t miss the light and sound show in the evening!
- Discover the remote, icy wilderness of Greenland. Hike along fjords, view gigantic icebergs, and experience the unique Inuit culture. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights!
- Embark on an epic road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway in California. From the dramatic cliffs and pristine beaches of Big Sur to the picturesque towns like Monterey and Santa Barbara, it’s an adventure you won’t soon forget.
- Experience the wild beauty of Banff National Park in Canada. Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, it offers stunning vistas of valleys, mountains, and glaciers. Hike the many trails, spot wildlife, and be sure to take a dip in the natural hot springs.
- Navigate the intricate waterways of the Louisiana Bayous. Experience the unique blend of cultures in the heart of America’s deep south. Go on a swamp tour to see alligators, unique bird species, and learn about the area’s rich history and folklore.
- Explore the rugged wilderness of Alaska, USA. From the snowy peaks of Denali to the stunning fjords of Kenai, the state’s untouched beauty is perfect for adventure seekers. And don’t forget the chance to see brown bears, moose, or the spectacular sight of calving glaciers!
- Experience the power of nature at Niagara Falls, straddling the border between the United States and Canada. Witness millions of gallons of water plunge over the edge every minute. Don’t miss the boat ride into the heart of the falls – it’s a thrilling, soaking adventure!
- Visit the colorful colonial city of Guanajuato in Mexico. Get lost in the city’s narrow winding alleyways, discover its vibrant marketplaces, and take in the rich history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When to Go to North America
North America, being a vast continent, experiences different climates and seasons depending on where you are.
For the United States and Canada, the best time to visit largely depends on what you want to do. For general sightseeing, spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) are excellent as temperatures are milder. The summer months (July to August) can be quite hot, especially in the southern states, but it’s also a great time for visiting beaches and national parks. Winters (December to March) can be very cold with heavy snowfall in the northern regions and the mountainous areas, making it an ideal time for winter sports enthusiasts.
Mexico generally experiences warm temperatures year-round. The dry season from November to May is considered the best time to visit when rainfall is at its lowest, especially if you’re planning on exploring the ancient ruins or lounging on the beaches.
Greenland, being an arctic region, has cold temperatures for most of the year. However, the months from June to August offer milder weather and longer daylight hours, making it the best time for exploration.
Bear in mind, popular tourist spots can get crowded during peak seasons. For a balance of good weather and fewer crowds, shoulder seasons (spring and autumn) might be a good option. Always check the specific weather patterns of the place you’re planning to visit for more accurate information.
Traveling to North America
- Follow local laws and customs: Different states and provinces have different laws and cultural norms. Always respect these differences and behave accordingly.
- Be aware of your surroundings: This applies to both urban and wilderness areas. Avoid walking alone late at night in unfamiliar areas and always follow marked trails when hiking.
- Take weather warnings seriously: The weather can be unpredictable, with risks ranging from hurricanes in coastal areas to blizzards in northern regions.
- Health Insurance: Ensure you have adequate health insurance that covers you in the countries you’re visiting. Medical costs, especially in the United States, can be extremely high.
- Road Safety: If you’re driving, make sure you understand the local traffic laws. Always wear a seatbelt and never drink and drive.
- Wildlife: In certain parts of North America, you may encounter wildlife such as bears and cougars. Follow local advice on how to deal with such encounters.
- Keep valuables safe: Don’t flash expensive items and always keep them secure. Use hotel safes when available.
- Emergency Services: In case of an emergency, the number to dial is 911 in most parts of North America.
Getting in and Around
North America has an extensive network of airports, making it easy to fly into major cities across the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Greenland.
Once in, there’s an equally extensive network of interstate highways and state routes for road trips. The Interstate 10, running from Santa Monica, California to Jacksonville, Florida, is a particularly famous route traversing the southern part of the United States.
Trains are also a popular means of transportation, with Amtrak in the United States and VIA Rail in Canada offering scenic routes across the countries.
Public transportation in major cities is generally good, with buses, metros, and trams available.
In Greenland, transportation is unique due to its lack of roads between towns, so travel is mainly by boat, plane, or dogsled.
Accommodation in North America varies greatly depending on the area, from luxury hotels in major cities, and charming bed and breakfasts in small towns, to wilderness lodges in national parks, and even ice hotels in the northern regions.
For budget travelers, hostels are widely available, especially in larger cities, and camping is a popular and affordable option in many natural parks. It’s worth noting that accommodation costs can be high in popular areas or during peak season, so booking in advance is advisable to secure the best deals.