Trips through the Canadian Rockies are one of the most popular experiences that I book.
I have visited this beautiful part of the world several times and had the fortune to travel twice on the spectacular Rocky Mountaineer train service.
There is so much to see and plenty of ways to explore the Rockies and what I tailor make will depend on your available time, budget and interests, along with how you like to travel and how many excursions you may enjoy taking along the way.
For a flavour of what to consider, I have pieced together some of my personal highlights.
Your chosen start and endpoints are likely to be either Calgary or Vancouver. The closest airport is Calgary with a flying time from the UK of nine and a half hours. Staying a night or two is an option, especially in July for the annual Stampede, though most visitors prefer to head straight off to the town of Banff, the flagship of the Rockies and Canada’s highest town, just under a couple of hours drive away.
I recommend at least a few nights in Banff where the list of things to do is amazingly diverse.
Banff Avenue is the main street for shops, restaurants, museums and galleries and there are plenty of hotels to pick from. It is a charming base from which to explore.
The town is located within the country’s oldest national park and over a century ago people would come to enjoy the area's natural hot springs. These days you can still take a soak in the warm mineral waters of the Banff Upper Hot Springs whilst taking in the utterly stunning view.
Hiking trails lead out from the town, and the Bow River is ideal for canoeing.
Banff National Park is simply beautiful; ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain on the Banff Gondola to soak up panoramic views of the valley below, or hike one of the glorious alpine trails where you are likely to spot caribou, elk, coyote, wolves, and both black and grizzly bears.
From November to May, the park’s mountainous terrain and dry powder is popular with skiers and snowboarders of all levels.
Less than an hour west, Lake Louise is one of the Canadian Rockies’ most beloved destinations and probably its most photographed.
The captivating alpine lake, renowned for its sparkling blue-green waters, is surrounded by the magnificent Victoria Glacier at one end, the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise at the other and soaring glacier-clad peaks all around.
I was lucky enough to stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, but even if you don't stay here you can still sneak in for a memorable afternoon tea.
Approximately 2.5km long and 90m deep, it offers a surreal boating and paddling experience in the warmer summer months and without doubt one of the world’s most spectacular skating rinks in winter.
The village itself is tranquil and picturesque, with restaurants and a small number of hotels.
Other highlights here include taking the Lake Louise Gondola to an elevation of 2,088m (6,850ft) for some grizzly bear viewing opportunities and visiting nearby Moraine Lake, surrounded by the dramatic Valley of the Ten Peaks.
If jaw-dropping scenery is what you are seeking, then it is unlikely to get much better than the Icefields Parkway, a 230km mountain road running through the heart of Banff and Jasper National Parks, that serves as a connection between Lake Louise and the town of Jasper.
It’s a minimum of three hours driving time, not accounting for stops along the way, punctuated by over 100 ancient glaciers, picturesque waterfalls cascading from dramatic rock spires and beautiful turquoise lakes set in sweeping valleys.
A stop at the unique Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure is essential. Massive Ice Explorers, specially designed for glacial travel, transport you on a remarkable excursion onto the surface of the famous Athabasca Glacier, where you will even be able to get out and experience walking on ice up to 360m (1,180ft) thick.
Next door is the Glacier Skywalk, an experience like no other: a cliff-edge walkway with a glass-floored observation platform suspended 280m (919ft) high, providing an unparalleled view over the glacier-formed Sunwapta Valley.
Whether travelling independently or on a tour, you are likely to head to Jasper afterwards.
Spanning over 11,000 square kilometres, Jasper National Park is known for its vast wilderness, majestic peaks, abundant wildlife and outstanding natural beauty.
The friendly alpine town of Jasper is the main service centre for the park and, like Banff, offers an array of hotels, restaurants and shops but on a smaller scale. Look out for the impressive number of elks roaming the downtown streets, they're hard to miss!
Jasper is the perfect base for exploring the line-up of astonishing natural attractions such as the viridescent, glacier-fed lakes of Maligne, Medicine, Pyramid and Patricia, the soaring peak of Mount Edith Cavell and the untouched wilderness of forests and rivers.
Being one of the largest dark sky preserves on the planet also ensures a sensational stargazing experience.
Take the seven-minute ride up Whistlers Mountain on the Jasper SkyTram, Canada's longest and highest aerial tramway where the view from the top is one of the best in the entire Rockies, surrounded by six mountain ranges with the town of Jasper nestled far below.
Both Banff and Jasper National Parks have a huge range of activities and sights to offer whatever time of the year you choose to visit.
Many clients spend about a week exploring the Rockies then head across to Vancouver by car or train, the latter on services available with VIA Rail or aboard the magnificent Rocky Mountaineer.
The Rocky Mountaineer is one of the world’s most iconic train services, taking guests on an unforgettable trip through the beauty of the Rockies in lavish luxury and comfort.
From a fanfare welcome to chef-prepared meals, you'll be treated to a VIP experience from start to finish, constantly having a drink in hand and a smile on your face.
The welcoming onboard hosts are a major highlight, with fun facts, storytelling and wildlife spotting, and also with the train travelling in daylight only, at least one night will be spent in a hand-picked hotel.
Different routes through the Rockies are offered. Most take the two day trip on the Banff or Jasper route to Vancouver or vice versa, with an overnight hotel stay in Kamloops, and both breakfast and lunch are served on the train.
VIA Rail is Canada's national provider, with routes crisscrossing the entire country. It can also be used to see the Rockies in a more budget-friendly way.
The onboard experience offers comfortable seats and café areas but can vary depending on your route. Some offer reclining sleeper chairs and bunk cabins, others boast Prestige Class, with double cabins and en-suite bathrooms, dining facilities and a glass-domed viewing car.
Vancouver is a young, vibrant and desirable city surrounded by a magnificent backdrop of mountains, a beautiful coastline and lush evergreen forests and parks.
Downtown, nestled in next to the waterfront and the magnificent Stanley Park, features fantastic architecture, plenty of green space and a library built in the style of Rome’s Colosseum.
It is home to theatres, sport, musical venues, great shopping and easy transit access to Vancouver’s iconic Gastown and Granville Island, home to a popular indoor farmer’s market.
A sky ride to the Alpine Station at the peak of Grouse Mountain takes just eight minutes. Dangling above the douglas firs whilst taking in the cityscape and views of the neighbouring peaks, the Pacific Ocean, inlets and bays, and the Gulf Islands is a spectacle.
I would also suggest the short ferry trip to Vancouver Island and the province’s capital, Victoria, and a pleasant drive to iconic Whistler are worthy considerations here.
Alternatively, a five-hour drive or short flight east will land you in the Okanagan, home of British Columbia’s renowned wine country.
Vancouver is also Canada's departure port for an Alaska Cruise, a great add-on adventure and opportunity to voyage to some of the world’s most isolated and picturesque locations, many of which are completely inaccessible by land.
There are several ways to construct your Rockies adventure based upon individual preference and I am always happy to share my personal experiences. I work closely with the brilliant specialists at Prestige Holidays Canada and have tailor-made many dream trips to this beautiful part of the world.