The Magdalen Islands (also known as Les Îles de la Madeleine) are a relatively unknown destination in Canada but may well be one of the most breathtaking and surreal landscapes you can visit in the country. The small Quebec archipelago in the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence is so awe-inspiring that National Geographic just added the locale to its 25 Best Trips to Take in 2020. The islands are the only Canadian spot to make the list and it's no wonder why. From the best seafood and friendly locals to ice fields and frozen lagoons; these islands are beyond picture-perfect.
But from late February to early March there is one more reason to visit: A chance to see seal pups. The Magdalen Islands are one of only three Northwest Atlantic harp seal pupping grounds.
Hundreds of thousands of seals migrate to the ice fields every year to give birth.
Seal pups, or "white coats" may be the most adorable creatures on the planet. See photos below for proof. They are fluffy white lumps of fur, both curious and friendly.
Being able to observe these animals in the wild is a once in a lifetime opportunity (unless you're a Madelinots, of course).
There are a couple of ways to get a glimpse of the seals and pups. One is a three-hour helicopter tour that will take you directly to an ice floe where you're free to walk around (supervised) and grab some photos of the animals.
This is the only place in the world you can watch baby seals in their natural habitat.
If you really want to immerse yourself in the experience there are even guided week-long diving tours. Yep, you'll be able to see the pups, and all the other wildlife like walruses and polar bears, both above and below the icy water.
To get to the islands, it's easiest to fly. The four-hour flight from Montreal will cost you about $500.
There is also the option of a week-long cruise that will take you from the Old Port of Montreal, around Gaspésie, and allow you a few days on the Magdalen Islands before dropping you back off in Montreal.
Whichever way you decide to visit the Magdalen Islands, seeing the seal pups has got to be on the top of your list of things to do. This has just been added to my winter bucket-list.
To read the full list of National Geographic's top 25 places to visit in 2020, click here.