Alberta is located in western Canada, bounded by the provinces of British Columbia to the west and Saskatchewan to the east. To its east are immense coloured prairies while the towering Rocky Mountains
dominate the southwestern aspect. Alberta is characterised by numerous ranches and livestock farms as well as the two modern cities of Calgary and Edmonton, the capital. Alberta is also home to some of the most beautiful national parks in the country, Jasper and Banff to the west, Waterton Lakes on its southern edge and Wood Buffalo to the north.
Calgary, is located in the south of the province, in an area of foothills and prairies. It’s cattle rearing heritage gave the city the nickname of ‘Cow Town’. In 1988, Calgary became the first Canadian city to host the Winter Olympic Games which has left behind such legacies as the Canada Olympic Park and the Olympic Plaza. Also known as ‘The Stampede City’ after the Calgary Stampede, this annual rodeo, exhibition and festival is held every July and modestly bills itself ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’.
Edmonton, Canada’s fifth largest city is located in the centre of the province and its biggest claim to fame is the West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping mall in North America . A large water park, an amusement park, a gigantic ice rink, hundreds of stores and restaurants await the visitor. If this is the zenith of man’s ingenuity then Mother Nature hits back; in the right conditions Edmonton will offer up the unforgettable experience of viewing the aurora borealis, the Northern Lights.
Alberta wows us with the long and beautiful route from Jasper to Banff, through the heart of the Rockies. The little town of Jasper grew thanks to the arrival of the railway. Marvel at the feat of engineering which brought the railroad through the Rocky Mountains over a century ago. By taking the road leading southwards you will arrive in the Whistlers Mountain area which is best appreciated with a ride on the Jasper Skytram, a spectacular, guided aerial tram ride. The 7-minute flight takes you to touchdown at an elevation of 7,500 feet and from where villages, mountains, valleys, and rivers open up before you. From the road which leaves Jasper to the north, you’ll discover Maligne Canyon, the most spectacular canyon of the Canadian Rockies at 50 metres deep in places but only three metres wide. Serious hikers come from all parts of the world to trek through the canyon and are rewarded with spectacular waterfall views.
Heading south towards Banff you are driving the famous ‘Icefields Parkway.’ Superb landscapes and unforgettable views await as the Parkway runs parallel to the Continental Divide . There are many viewing points along its length of 145 miles and look out for deer, mountain goats and bears crossing the road. The many glaciers are the source for numerous lakes along the route.
One of the most iconic is Peyto Lake in Banff National Park, perhaps the greenest of all the lakes of the Canadian Rockies. About 20 miles south of Jasper are Athabasca Falls. These falls pour into a canyon whose walls have been polished by the force of the water. The Athabasca Glacier at the foot of Mount Columbia is the highest summit in Alberta. Discovered in 1898, it is the most important in the southern Arctic Circle and is in a state constant movement.
Entering Banff National Park one arrives at Lake Louise one of the gems of the Canadian Rockies. The colour of the water is breathtaking; seeming to be almost painted, so deep blue is the water. Nearby Moraine Lake which is featured on the Canadian $20 bill is wilder than its neighbour, with surrounding forests which seem to throw themselves into the water. On the far side is the rock fall originating from the Tower of Babel, a quartzite spire rising 1,500 feet above the lake.
The town of Banff on the southern edge of the park is an alpine settlement literally bubbling from its two hot springs. Besides the many interesting trails Banff is home to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Upper Hot Springs and Sulphur Mountain Gondola ride. A beautiful walk to the Banff Springs Hotel, an historic building and one of the original ‘railway’ hotels of Canada, will allow you to admire Bow Falls.
Waterton Lakes National Park in the southern part of the province continues into the U.S. State of Montana as Glacier National Park. The lack of transition between the plain and the high peaks is astounding and brings to mind the same dramatic contrast seen in the Grand Teton National Park to the south of Yellowstone in Wyoming. One of the characteristics here is the richness of the ecosystem and its wildlife. It is not rare to come across a mountain goat on the steep slopes or to see a mountain lion (puma) or even a bear.
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Where you stay is the heart of your holiday. Location reigns supreme but do you prefer resort facilities or unique and boutique? Historic and old world or modern and shiny?
We aim to present choices across the spectrum but there are many hundreds of places to stay and not room to feature them all. Do speak to your Bon Voyage travel consultant and click the video for our take on this important topic.
We would rate the Bellagio as one of the best hotels we have ever stayed in. Fabulous, glitzy, exciting. We loved having breakfast at the poolside café... one of our best experiences ever. If it hadn't been for you we wouldn't have had the suite or cabana and we loved them. We both agreed that the hotel was the best for us and you had suggested that so well done!Leonore & Mike Rumford