An ideal first trip to the Great White North; experience the beauty of the Canadian Rockies, British Columbia's High Country and Coastal regions on this driving tour of Western Canada. This itinerary showcases the ‘classic’ Canadian route, beginning in Calgary and journeying across the majestic Rocky Mountains to the stunning Banff and Jasper National Parks, stopping off to spend time at Lake Louise, one of the most recognisable vistas in the world. This tour also includes the once-in-a-lifetime experience of the Rocky Mountaineer scenic train to Vancouver.
At the end of your trip, you will truly have seen the best of Western Canada has to offer.
- Banff & Jasper National Parks
- Lake Louise
- Rocky Mountaineer train
- Victoria, Vancouver Island
Calgary is an attractive and dynamic city situated on the banks of the Bow River and close to Alberta’s majestic Rocky Mountains. Crisscrossing downtown is the ‘Plus 15’ walking system – a series of interconnecting, enclosed sidewalks five metres above ground that link downtown areas, making it a truly pedestrian friendly city. The Calgary Tower, a landmark symbol of the city, is also well worth a visit. The 191 metre tower houses a revolving restaurant, observation gallery and cocktail lounge offering spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and Olympic Park. The Calgary Stampede, held every July, is undoubtedly Calgary’s best known visitor attraction and features a large parade and world class rodeo that is a must on any visit at this time of year.
Surrounded by one of the most beautiful parks in the world, Banff has an excellent system of hiking trails that lead to alpine lakes, along glacial valleys and to spectacular viewpoints where crowds are scarce and human impact minimal. Head up the Sulphur Mountain Gondola for fantastic views of Banff, Bow Valley, Cascade Mountain and Lake Minnewanka. There are many outdoor activities including canoeing, skiing and horse-riding to be enjoyed here. End your day with a long soak in the Hot Springs at Sulphur Mountain. When considering hiking in this region, always visit the Banff Visitor Centre at 224 Banff Avenue where staff can advise you on the condition of the trails and any closures.
Lake Louise is just a short drive from Banff. The village is still quite small, with a shopping mall, a few hotels and a visitor centre. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, situated on the lake's shore, is a tourist attraction in itself and is visited by tourists and locals alike who come to photograph the lake with Mt. Victoria in the background. Rent a canoe from the boathouse and glide through the lake - take care not to fall in as even in August, the water's temperature only reaches about 4C! Moraine Lake, though half the size of Lake Louise is just as spectacular.
For another fantastic view, take the Lake Louise Gondola on the 20 minute journey up the face of Mt. Whitehorn to Whitehorn Lodge where you can see Bow Valley, Lake Louise and the Continental Divide. Also from Lake Louise, you can explore to the west of the Rockies into Glacier Park, Yoho Valley, Takakkaw Falls, Emerald Lake and the amazing Spiral Tunnels, built to keep the trains slow on their descent of the mountains.
Today, heading towards Jasper, you will be on the 300km long Icefields Parkway. This road takes about 4-5 hours to travel but try not to rush as it is one of the most scenic and inspiring mountain roads ever built; there are 13 viewpoints along the trail. Bow Summit is the highest point along the parkway at 2088m and offers great views of Peyto Lake. The most popular attractions along the parkway are the glaciers that spill down from the Columbia Icefield. Stop at the Icefields Centre to take an Ice Explorer ride onto the Athabasca Glacier. There are also other stunning places to visit including, Bow Lake, Sunwapta Falls, Crowfoot Glacier and the Athabasca Falls. This journey is one worth starting early so you can be sure of seeing all that you want to.
Jasper is surrounded by the peaks of Jasper National Park, which allows it to play host to plenty of outdoor pursuits. Take the Jasper Tramway up Whistlers Mountain for great views. Walk the Maligne Canyon trail that crosses the canyon six times and Maligne Lake, the largest glacier fed lake in the Canadian Rockies. Here you can take the popular narrated cruise on a glass bottomed boat to the picturesque Spirit Island. Another great trip is to Miette Hot Springs. This road is one of the best animal spotting routes in the park, so if you haven’t seen any wildlife on your trip so far, this could be the best trip to take!
Rocky Mountaineer train
Today, you will embark on one of the most famous and exclusive rail journeys in the world. The Rocky Mountaineer is so much more than just a train. It's the key to unlocking a hidden world of unparalleled beauty as you carve through otherwise inaccessible terrain in the Canadian Rockies. Travel through scenic valleys, the Coast Mountains range and the Fraser Canyon with its spectacular white water rapids and dramatic landscape. You will follow the route of the Fraser River, home of British Columbia’s largest salmon run, pass by the Albreda Glacier and magnificent Pyramid Falls, and hopefully see wildlife on the way. The highlight of this route is majestic Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Departing Jasper first thing in the morning you will spend two days travelling through stunning scenery, spending the night in Kamloops. You will travel in comfortable glass-domed carriages with gourmet meals, snacks and drinks served along the way.
Downtown Vancouver is an intriguing mixture of steel, concrete, mirrored glass buildings, modern sculptures and old-fashioned fountains. There is so much to see and do in the city. You can rent a bike to ride around the Seawall in Stanley Park or try rollerblading if you are feeling adventurous! Dinner can be taken at the top of Grouse Mountain for a spectacular view of the city lit up at night and you can reach the summit by the Skyride Gondola. Take the ferry across False Creek to the refurbished Granville Island - the place to be on a sunny day. Here you can shop in the Public Market, walk round the marina, browse in the gift shops or sample some of the local food.
A visit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge is well worth it for the spectacular views and stunning forest scenery. Alternatively spend some time at the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge nearby. Take along your bathing suit and you can have a dip in Lynn Creek after a short walk in the forest. There will be plenty of time for shopping on Robson Street in its trendy shops and the Robson Public Market. Visit Chinatown - the second largest Chinese community in North America and home to the beautiful and peaceful Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden. No visit is complete without wandering through Gastown where Vancouver started. The brightly painted buildings date back to 1886 and old gas lamps and trees line the red cobblestone streets. There are many galleries, restaurants and gift shops here and The Boathouse Restaurant is a great place for dinner, while watching the sunset over English Bay and people watching.
71 miles with ferry
The capital city of British Columbia, Victoria boasts many historic buildings and some of the best museums in Western Canada. The area is also home to some of the country's most exhilarating scenery: there's an ocean or mountain vista around every corner, and the city's flower gardens are famous the world over. Whether your taste runs to golfing, hiking, biking and fishing, or you're more the shopping, dining and theatre type, Victoria has you covered.
Established in 1843 as a fort for the Hudson's Bay Company, Victoria's British ancestry is apparent in the double-decker buses, horse-drawn carriages, formal gardens and tearooms. However, there’s more to it than that; driven by the younger generation, the city has sprouted a collection of cool shops, authentic coffee bars and unique restaurants. It also has more cycling routes than any other Canadian city, providing a great way to explore the picturesque location.
71 miles with ferry
Make your way back to Vancouver today for your evening flight home.
- 14 nights' accommodation and room tax.
- International flights from London (please ask if regional airports are required).
- Silverleaf Rocky Mountaineer train (Goldleaf is also available if preferred).
- Ferries between Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
- Fully insured compact car hire (larger vehicles are available).
- A detailed and comprehensive travel pack with driving directions and maps.
Daily Departures from May to September.