I have sent many clients to Canada during my time with Journeys and was thrilled when I was given the opportunity to spend a week in Western Canada in the famous Rocky Mountains and Vancouver.
After a 9 hour direct flight to the ‘Stampede City’ of Calgary we took a scenic transfer through the foothills of the Rockies to the resort town of Banff where we spent 2 nights at the Fox Hotel and Suites, a new centrally located hotel, designed to capture the natural environment of its surroundings with it’s rundle rock stonework and on site hot pools.
Banff is one of Canada’s most popular destinations known for its mountainous surroundings and hot springs. It is a destination for outdoor sports and features extensive hiking, biking and skiing areas within the area.
Canada has the most National Parks in the world and my first full day was spent exploring the highlights of Banff National Park which included Bow Falls, Lake Minnewanka and Vermillion Lakes before we arrived at Sulphur Mountain where we took the 8 minute ride on the Banff Gondola. Being on the peak of Sulphur Mountain allowed us to get some of the best panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
We also had the opportunity to visit the famous deluxe Chateau style Banff Springs, a famous historical hotel, renowned for its “million dollar view” of theBow Valley.
Heading from Banff we took the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, one of the most beautiful drives in the world stretching 232km through two national parks. This drive is famous for visiting emerald coloured mountain lakes and ancient glaciers. We had also entered “Bear Country”, so all eyes on the bus were peeled looking for the magnificent Grizzly and Brown Bears that are so frequently spotted in the area. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side and we were caught in the first snow fall of the winter in the area so the bears were hiding deep in the forests….. a bonus of the weather though was being able to see the area covered in snow – absolutely spectacular !
My highlight of the Icefields Parkway Drive was visiting Canada’s most famous and most photographed lake ;Lake Louise and getting the opportunity to step onto the majestic Athabasca Glacier. The exciting 55 minute snow coach journey meant we could access a tongue of the Icefields Glaciers and step onto ice over 400 years old.
On arrival in Jasper we spent the night at the Jasper Park Lodge, a beautiful resort with unique cabins in the grounds positioned to view the nearby lake and wildlife. Similar to Banff, Jasper is famous for its summer adventure opportunities, from golf, canoeing, hiking, mountain biking and white water rafting to name a few. Winter activities are also in abundance at the nearby Marmot Basin.
Our next two days were full of anticipation as we were boarding the famous Rocky Mountaineer Train, a world class travel experience, operating different routes through the Canadian Rockies – our journey was taking us from Jasper to Vancouver known as the “Journey through the Clouds”
Heading from Jasper highlights of the first day included the Yellowhead Pass, Mount Robson – the highest peak in the mountains, Moose River and the Fraser River. We were lucky to experience the Goldleaf service, in my opinion an absolute must.
Goldleaf features included luxurious seating in an elevated dome putting us right in the middle of the spectacular scenery, impeccable service and interesting on board commentary and superb food throughout the whole journey. The train stops in Kamloops where all passengers spend one night in a hotel. On arrival at the hotel my luggage (which had travelled separately) was already in my room, another Goldleaf advantage.
The following day our journey continued to the coastal city of Vancouver, the carriages from the “Kicking Horse” service from Calgary joined the train; this was the final train of the season, so overall there were 26 carriages travelling down towards the Pacific Ocean. Scenery along this section of the journey was focused on the Canyons of the Fraser River, more green and lush and less dramatic peaks as we reached our final destination.
Vancouver is a great city and definitely not to be missed. We stayed in the Waterfront area with superb views over the 3 mountains that surround the city. Everywhere within Vancouver is easily reached by foot so we were able to walk to cosmopolitan Robson Street, historical Gastown and the “trendy” Yaletown area without any difficulty.
Whilst in Vancouver we also visited the Aquarium, great if you are travelling with children, Stanley Park which is a lovely area for walking or cycling, The Capilano Suspension Bridge and Cliff Walk – not for the faint hearted!, and a stop on Grouse Mountain which is Vancouver’s most visited attraction.
Having experienced this area of Canada I can understand why so many clients have enjoyed their trips that we have organised for them.
If Western Canada is not on your “wish list” I would recommend you add it to it!! …… If you are thinking of travelling there please give me a call !