Canada is the home of many popular tourist destinations that range from big, bustling cities to wide, open outdoor spaces. America's friendly neighbor to the north is well-known for its gorgeous forests and unforgettable winter scenes, but that isn't all it has to offer. If you would like to explore Canada on a deeper level, and see some things that not everyone has had the good fortune to witness, you will want to put these four hidden gems on your itinerary.

Manitou Lake, Saskatchewan

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Billed as "the lake that refuses to let anyone drown," Manitou Lake in Saskatchewan is one of the saltiest lakes on the planet. It has three times as much salt in it as the ocean, which makes it incredibly dense. This means that anyone can lay on the surface and float with no risk of sinking. It is free to visit and get in the lake, and many swimmers just lie back and float along, reading a book while they relax in the sun. While you're here, you can also check out the Manitou Springs Resort Spa for around $12 - $16 per day.

Cape Churchill, Manitoba

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This one is for the nature lovers. Cape Churchill in northern Manitoba offers a once in a lifetime opportunity for tour groups to visit and observe polar bears in their natural habitat. Photography is encouraged, and some specialty tour groups allow you to follow the bears around during the day in what basically equates to a hotel on wheels. This may be the closest you could ever get to a wild polar bear without being in mortal danger, so it is definitely an expedition that cannot be missed!

Carters Beach, Nova Scotia

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When you think of Nova Scotia, you probably think of snow, ice, and big puffy winter coats. Carters Beach, however, is the complete opposite. You won't have to bundle up at all as you walk barefoot in the soft, white sand and swim in the crystal clear waters of a beach that looks more like it belongs in the Bahamas than in Canada. This beach is technically three crescent-shaped beaches in one, meaning that there is usually plenty of room for visitors to spread out and soak up the sun.

Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut

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As the seventh largest island in Canada, you can't really say that Axel Heiberg Island is "hidden." Nevertheless, it is home to many incredible secrets and awe-inspiring spots, with features ranging from mountains to tundras to freezing salt springs. As amazing as those things sound, there is actually something even more unbelievable to be found here: a fossilized forest. Some of the wood from this forest has been studied and found to be a mind-boggling 45 million years old, although when it was discovered 50 years ago it was still so well-preserved that it still could have been split and burned for firewood or other purposes. Researchers say that the forest was preserved via a process of "rapid burial in very fine sediments which prevented rotting and petrification," making this fossilized forest more like a mummified one.