The Canadian Rockies are one of the top reasons people want a holiday in this part of North America! To the West, the mountains provide a magnificent backdrop to the city of Vancouver and the coast of British Columbia. To the East, the Rockies meet the city of Calgary and the Alberta prairies. No matter where you want to start there are some truly great places to visit...
A great place to begin (or end) any Canadian Rockies adventure is the city of Calgary in the province of Alberta. Often overlooked in favour of Vancouver, Calgary boomed in the 1970’s and hasn’t stopped blossoming since. A tour of Calgary should include a walk down historic Stephen Avenue in the downtown quarter, as well as a trip to the top of the Calgary Tower – on clear days, the mountain views are spectacular! In warmer weather, enjoy a beer on the patio of one of Calgary’s many pubs or take a stroll beside the Bow River.
Summer in Calgary means the Stampede – a huge two week festival of all things Western (BYO Cowboy hat!). Once the cold weather sets in, catch a Calgary Flames ice hockey game or visit the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame at Canada Olympic Park (home of the 1988 Winter Olympics). Finally, travellers should finish up a tour of Calgary with a hot chocolate from a cool café on Kensington Road or 17th Avenue.
Banff and Lake Louise
If you take a 1.5 hour drive from Calgary, you will find yourself in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, at the picturesque mountain town of Banff. A saunter along the main street will bring you face-to-face with some great souvenir shops and cafes. Alternatively, you can also take a dip in the hot springs or enjoy high tea at the Chateau Lake Louise.
Summer in the Banff and Lake Louise area also means amazing hikes (in groups only) and abundant wildlife – be sure to watch out for Moose, Bears, Caribou and Elk! Of course, if you’re visiting in winter, you’ll also find at least four great ski resorts all within an hour’s drive of Banff.
Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Canadian Rockies is the cosmopolitan city of Vancouver. Vancouver is famous for its chilled West Coast feel and despite its rainy reputation, it is one of the most temperate cities in Canada. Sightseeing in Vancouver offers endless possibilities and activities; you can visit Stanley Park, cycle around the Sea Wall and watch the Beluga Whales in the Aquarium, wander down Robson Street or through Gastown or visit the Granville Island Public Markets for a bite to eat. Top off your sightseeing in Vancouver with a trip to the nearby Grouse Mountain and watch the city twinkle, day or night!
More Mountain Adventures!
Why not take the incredibly scenic Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper? Warning - the stunning scenery may distract you from the drive so drive safely! Be sure to visit the Athabasca Glacier along the way.
If you can’t get enough of the mountain air, take a driving tour from Calgary to Vancouver along the Sea to Sky Highway. You’ll pass quaint towns, stunning mountains and glassy blue lakes. Prefer not to drive? You can also organise a helicopter tour, a fly fishing expedition or river rafting adventure in the Rockies or even head to the famous Whistler resort and take a ride on the Peak-to-Peak Gondola!
What about the rest of this beautiful country? Well, here’s a sample of some of Canada’s lesser known destinations that you may want to add to your itinerary…
Cruise by Car to Victoria/Vancouver Island
Once you’ve explored Vancouver, find yourself a car and drive aboard a luxurious ferry for a dazzling one-hour trip to Vancouver Island! It’s home to the provincial capital, Victoria, known for its historic buildings and quirky boutique stores. Ensure you explore the spectacular Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park, where you’ll see 157 hectares of towering Douglas-firs. Follow the road to Tofino, the cold-water surfing capital of the world (think full wetsuits all year round!), which is also the best place to sample some local Dungeness Crabs.
Go Back in Time At Drumheller
Most people visit Alberta to see the Rockies – and with good reason. But an easy 3-hour drive from Calgary will bring you to Drumheller in the valley of the Red Deer River and home to the Dinosaur Provincial Park, a world heritage site and one of the richest locations in the world for dinosaur fossils. The best time to visit is spring, which will allow you to take advantage of the amazing rock formations and the bones that are to be “discovered” here. Visit the Royal Tyrell Museum for a chance to fossick for fossils or learn more about this ancient area – great for a families and kids.
Go Wild in Saskatchewan
Often forgotten by tourists, Saskatchewan is the place to go if you want to see the true Canadian wilderness. Multiple tour operators run rafting, canoeing, kayaking, camping and fishing trips in Saskatchewan and if you choose a water-activity, you can challenge yourself where the Churchill River crosses Northern Saskatchewan at the 55th parallel, or opt for the gentler waterways further south. Learn about Canada’s indigenous culture, witness abundant wildlife and spectacular scenery in this essentially untouched slice of Canada.
Skate into Ottawa
Your holiday to Canada wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the nation’s capital, Ottawa! Learn about Canada’s heritage with a trip to Parliament Hill, where you can see the historic National Parliament and Supreme Court buildings and watch the changing of the guard.
Museums and galleries are abundant in Ottawa. Don’t miss the Canadian Museum of Civilisation, with its amazing Great Hall and the world’s largest collection of totem poles. The Rideau Canal runs through this great city and in warmer months, cruising and canoeing down the river is popular. In winter, strap on your skates and glide down this UNESCO heritage waterway – don’t forget to stop and try a ‘Beaver Tail’ pastry on the way!
Board the train to Quebec City
While Montreal might be the most well-known of Quebec’s towns, a relaxing train ride north will take you to beautiful Quebec City. The historic Vieux Quebec area was founded in 1608 and its fortifications make it the only fortified city in North America.
In particular, ensure you visit the the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-Quebec (erected in 1688, its Québec's oldest church), the Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral and the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Shrine. Finish off your day with a serving of the local delicacy, Poutine (potato fries with gravy and cheese curds) and a stroll along the waterfront in the shadow of the amazing Château Frontenac.
If visiting Canada is on your bucket-list, talk to one of our great agents and get your dream trip planned!