What would you expect from a tour entitled the Best of British Columbia and Alberta? The sort of scenery that forces you to stop and take photographs? A dramatic coastline? Vast national parks? Towering mountains, aptly named the Rockies? Absorbing cities like Victoria, Whistler, Vancouver, Banff, Jasper and Edmonton? Your expectations will be more than met.
You arrive in Victoria and begin enjoying the Best of British Columbia, by exploring its capital city. Discover its harbour, period buildings, quaint teashops, stores and the 50 acre Butchart Gardens. You can even go whale watching for orcas, minkes, grey whales, porpoises and harbour seals.
Stay: Two nights in the Fairmont Empress.
Collect your hire car and cross the Strait of Georgia by ferry to Tsawwassen. The Sea to Sky Highway sweeps you through gorgeous scenery like Shannon Falls and Stawamus Chief Rock, past Vancouver and on to the Blackcomb Mountain and Whistler. In this world class resort you’ll be able to play on four championship golf courses, get wet and wild in five lakes and numerous rivers, ride the Whistler Gondola and take the open chairlift to the 7000 foot Peak Chair for unrivalled views over glaciers, extinct volcanoes and snowy peaks.
Stay: Two nights in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
After Whistler you drop back into Vancouver to immerse yourself in Canada’s third largest city. Wander around bustling avenues like Robson Street, or ultra-chic Granville Island with its cobbled streets, market and artisan studios. You’ll find restaurants, galleries, museums, entertainment facilities and shops galore. And, as a relaxing contrast, you can spend hours in the green tranquillity of 1000-acre Stanley Park.
Stay: Two nights in the Fairmont Waterfront with great views over the water.
Rocky Mountaineer to Kamloops
Even if you’re not a mad train enthusiast you’ll be enthralled by this trip. The Rocky Mountaineer takes you on the First passage west towards Banff. You’ll glide through the pastoral Fraser River Valley, past soaring Coastal Mountains, into the Fraser Canyons. Then your tracks follow the Thompson River through scenic landscapes as far as the historic town of Kamloops.
Today your epic rail journey follows the South Thomson River, taking in Shuswap Lake, and passing Craigellachie, the town where the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed in 1885. Tunnels and snow-sheds usher you along the glistening glaciers of Rogers Pass and onwards to Kicking Horse Pass, the Spirals Tunnels and over the Continental Divide to alight in the heart of Banff National Park.
Banff will prove the perfect base for white water rafting in Bow River Horseshoe Canyon, exploring the park and shale canyons, watching birds of prey and visiting the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. Or taking the Banff Gondola to overlook the Bow Valley and plunge into the mineral-rich Upper Hot Springs.
Stay: Two nights in the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
Take the Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise and the winding Bow River will treat you to some jaw-dropping scenery. It may be a short journey but if you stop to photograph every scene, it will take you a while! That said, Johnson Canyon and the lower and upper waterfalls definitely shouldn’t be missed. And Lake Louise itself is the jewel of the Rockies.
Stay: Two nights in the Fairmont Chateau Lake.
Now it’s time to take the astonishing Icefield Parkway over the spine of the Canadian Rockies. If this sounds magical, wait until you see it. The scenery is awe-inspiring, especially Peyto Lake and the Columbia Icefield, where you can board the Ice Explorer and venture out onto Athabasca Glacier. Jasper is no less impressive with tram rides up Whistler Mountain, Mailgne Lake, dense forests and glacial peaks – plus a visit to entrancing Spirit Island.
Stay: Two nights in the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
Next comes Alberta’s capital; the colourful city of Edmonton with its vibrant art and music scene, its scenic surroundings and its bustling centre. Edmonton can also lay claim to having the largest shopping and entertainment complex in North America. West Edmonton Mall has hundreds of leading stores and independents, as well as a giant water park, a man-made lake, skating rink, two mini-golf courses, 21 cinemas, a casino and a full-on amusement park with 25 rides and attractions.
Stay: One night in Fairmont Hotel Macdonald.