Touring the Rockies: British Columbia & Alberta
British Columbia and Alberta; a journey through the Canadian Rockies…
A journey through the heart of the Canadian Rockies is an adventure that appears on most travellers’ bucket list. Most people are considered ‘lucky’ once they’ve seen this unique part of the world, where pristine emerald lakes calmly pose, glistening snow-capped mountains tower and fresh Rockies air is simply sigh-worthy. Apart from the Rocky Mountaineer rail journey, which tends to be slightly higher on the budget requirement but a heavenly journey once aboard, there are plenty of natural attractions in Alberta and British Columbia that draw visitors all year round with ease.
Sometimes travelling around BC and Alberta can be a scenery overload but how can one complain about that? Key sites and attractions you just shouldn’t miss, are in fact, seemingly endless, but here are a few to consider..
Vancouver – famous for sushi, considered an official food of Vancouver! For all palates and budgets! Apart from sushi you might also like to explore Lynn Canyon National Park, which has hiking trails, swimming holes and a suspension bridge. If you enjoy ‘suspense’, you must see the Capilano Suspension Bridge, built in 1889. It’s a 137m long, 70m high treetop bridge offering scenic views of the forest below. Stanley Park is Vancouver’s oldest and largest and most popular park for locals and visitors alike. The park is North America’s third-largest urban park and draws around eight million visitors a year!
Calgary, Jasper and Banff National Park – highlights being the Jasper icefields and Lake Louise in. The Rockies will impress you to no end with majestic mountains, mystical rainforests, quaint towns and mountain villages and overall absolute ‘wow factor’. Each season offers a new experience!
Whistler – consider taking the world record-breaking Peak 2 Peak gondola ride that links the mountain peaks of Whistler to Blackcomb. The ride offers 360-degree views of alpine and volcanic peaks, rainforests, glaciers and the activities of busy hikers and bikers and towns below.
For wine lovers the Thomson Okanagan is a must! Wine sippers and drinkers can roam amongst 120-odd wineries scattered throughout the region and enjoy plenty of delightful dining options as well.
For those brisker starts or ends to Fall days, Harrison Hot Springs in Fraser Valley is worth a visit, just 90 minutes east of Vancouver. Apart from the hot springs, in Fall it’s a popular fishing attraction as millions of salmon return to spawn in Harrison Lake, attracting not only fans of fishing but also plenty of hungry bald eagles and photographers capturing nature at its best.
You might also like to check out Nelson, nestled in the Selkirk Mountains. Nelson has a population under 10k, but has a unique, friendly and adventurous energy and personality that visitors quickly learn to love. The town is busy with artisan shops, cafes and dining options, art galleries and has access to more nature-based activities year-round, in the surrounding Selkirk Mountains than you can know what to do with!
Vancouver Island – there are many ways to enjoy it. Consider hiking the 75km long West Coast Trail for a scenic and remote experience, recommended for experienced hikers. Alternatively, go whale watching, where orca’s, dolphins and grey whales are commonly seen. In Spring, around March, the Pacific Rim Whale Festival celebrates the 20,000-odd grey whales that pass through the region on their 13,000-km journey from the waters of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula to the Bering Sea.
Consider this ten-day itinerary when planning your visit to British Columbia and Alberta.
Day 1: Arrive Calgary – Banff
Roam around Calgary sightseeing, grabbing a bit to eat and then head towards Banff to continue your exploring.
Day 2: Banff, Lake Louise
Visited Sulphur Mountain and enjoy a Gondola ride to the top. Visit Moraine Lake and the world-famous Lake Louise, the jewel of the Rockies. Lake Louise is also home to the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Day 3: Lake Louise, Jasper
Journey towards the Icefields Parkway. Stop at Athabasca Glacier for an Ice Explorer ride, then continue on to Jasper.
Day 4: Jasper
Explore Jasper, including a visit the Miette Hot Springs. Water flows from the mountain at 54°C (129°F) and cooled to a comfortable 40°C (104°F). Among one of Jasper’s top ten attractions, Miette Hot Springs is a perfect destination for a day of sightseeing, wildlife watching, hiking and relaxing.
Day 5: Rocky Mountaineer, Kamloops
If you can afford it, or simply must tick it off the bucket list, board the world-renowned Rocky Mountaineer Train for one of the most scenic journeys in the world. Sites on the way include expansive glaciers of the Alberta Icefields, Pyramid Falls and Mount Robson, which at 3,954 metres (12,972 feet) is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. The Train also passes the Monashee Mountains before following the Thompson River through rolling plateaus before arriving in Kamloops.
Day 6: Rocky Mountaineer to Vancouver
If your eyes can open any wider, and your memory card still has room, then re-board the Rocky Mountaineer and continue the westward journey towards the Pacific Ocean. You will see the thundering waters of Hell’s Gate located in the Fraser Canyon which is a stretch of the Fraser River that descends rapidly through a narrow rock gorge. En-route you’ll also pass the towering peaks of the Coast Mountains and continue through the fertile fields of the Fraser Valley. The journey terminates in Vancouver, which is surrounded by dazzling natural scenery.
Day 7: Vancouver
Spend the day sightseeing around Vancouver. Don’t forget to include the Waterfront, the cobblestone streets of historic Gastown, Chinatown, Yaletown, Granville Island Public Market, and Stanley Park!
Day 8: Vancouver – Whistler
Travel along the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler, set in a spectacular location and considered an adventure playground for skiers, mountain-bike riders, hikers and nature appreciators. Whistler, is a vibrant and bustling place and its pedestrian-only village is alive with pubs, bars, music and shopping. Take a gondola ride up Mount Whistler. Whistler is worthy of more than a day-trip if time allows!
Day 9: Vancouver – Victoria
Back in Whistler, take a ferry across the Georgia Strait from Horseshoe Bay to Vancouver Island. Take a seaplane flight or roam around sightseeing and make sure to visit The Butchart Gardens. If time allows spend some time on Vancouver Island, roaming the coastline, joining marine watching tours and enjoying the surf culture in Tofino.
Day 10: Vancouver – onwards
Enjoy exploring or relaxing in Vancouver, before continuing on your journey or heading home.
Canada’s western provinces of Alberta and British Colombia are must visit destinations for all ages. Why not consider visiting this beautiful part of Canada on your next holiday? Contact Merit Travel for ideas, inspiration and to arrange your next adventure, not too far from home, here in Canada.
January 29, 2019