If you want to experience Canada’s spectacular scenery and some of the world’s best natural attractions, then Alberta is a province you need to visit. It’s home to the iconic Canadian Rockies, and its snow-capped mountains and picture-perfect lakes will take your breath away. There’s also wildlife which ranges from bears and wolves to moose and elk. No matter what time of the year you decide to visit Alberta, there is always something to do, as you can visit some of the world’s best ski resorts during the winter months. In the summer, you can go white water rafting or hiking on trails which offer up some spectacular views.
You can visit so many spectacular places in Alberta, but in this article, we focus on some of our favourite locations: Banff & Lake Louise, Jasper and Calgary. Read on to discover what makes these locations the jewels in Alberta’s crown.
Banff & Lake Louise
Due to their proximity to each other, if you are visiting one, you have to visit the other. Banff is one of the most picturesque towns in Canada because snow-capped mountains surround it, and Lake Louise is also home to some dramatic scenery and Canada’s most famous lake.
Banff and Lake Louise are hugely popular destinations to explore at whatever time of the year you decide to visit. Still, one of the best times to visit either of these is during the winter months or shoulder season, as you will not only avoid the summer crowds, you can experience these winter wonderlands in all their glory.
There is so much you can do in Lake Louise and Banff in the winter, and here we take you through some of the most popular activities you can try.
Skiing and snowboarding
This ski area is home to over 7,000 acres of skiable terrain, 362 runs and 29 lifts, but all ski resorts can be enjoyed on just one lift ticket. So it doesn’t matter whether you are a beginner, intermediate, pro skier, or snowboarder, Ski Big 3 has runs to suit all levels.
Cam & Nicole Wears are the travel writers behind the Traveling Canucks, and they highly recommend visiting Banff and Lake Louise to go skiing or snowboarding.
Talking about the Lake Louise ski resort, the couple said: “The mountain landscapes at Lake Louise Ski Resort are some of the most spectacular we’ve witnessed while on a ski mountain. Every turn reveals yet another masterpiece.
“With over 4200 skiable acres of terrain and 145+ runs, Lake Louise Ski Resort is one of the largest ski resorts in North America. When it comes to slope length, Lake Louise is the 3rd longest in Canada at 139 km. It was also recognised as the #1 Ski Resort in Canada at the 2019 World Ski Awards.”
Banff Hot Springs
The perfect way to unwind after a long day skiing or exploring is to head to the mineral waters of the Banff Hot Springs. Your body will feel soothed and your mind relaxed after visiting the hot springs, but that shouldn’t be the only draw as the springs have a lot of history, too, with indigenous peoples using them for centuries.
Other activities in Banff & Lake Louise
You can do many outdoor activities in the winter, and if you don’t want to go skiing or snowboarding, you have the option to do some of these activities.
•Hiking or snowshoeing
•Playing ice hockey
If you’re after a more relaxed holiday, you can spend time exploring Banff town centre and Lake Louise village, which offer a variety of shops and lots of great cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy some fantastic cuisine.
It is also worth making time to go on one of the sightseeing gondolas as you will enjoy some stunning views of the surrounding mountains and could even spot some wildlife if you are lucky. The four gondolas are the Banff Gondola which takes you to the top of Sulphur Mountain; the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola; the Sunshine Gondola; and the Mt Norquay Chairlift.
ALSO READ: Inside Canada’s oldest national park
The town of Jasper is located within Jasper National Park with its snow-capped Canadian Rockies, glacier-fed lakes and wild forests, where adrenaline seekers, stargazers and wildlife lovers come together.
There is so much you can do during a visit to Jasper, and here we guide you through some of the best activities to enjoy during a holiday in this alpine town.
In 2011, Jasper was designated as a Dark Sky Preserve due to its limited light pollution, creating ideal stargazing conditions. For many who visit the town for the first time, the spectacular night sky is one of the biggest surprises.
One of the must-do activities when visiting Jasper is going on a stargazing trip. You can go on stargazing trips with knowledgeable guides who will provide tips and tales about the local ‘Canadian’ constellations, and teach you about the Northern Lights. Take a trip to the Fairmont Jasper Park Planetarium, where they can even take you on a virtual tour of the night sky.
Jasper National Park is home to many wildlife, and the best times to see this wildlife are spring and autumn, as that is when many animals are most active.
Some of the wildlife you can see in the park include bears, caribou, elk, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and wolves, to name just a few. There are lots of tours you can go on to see wildlife in Jasper National Park, and each one is different, with some tours including hikes, whilst others involve a boat cruise to Spirit Island at Maligne Lake.
Hamish, the writer behind the My Travel Fix blog, spoke about his wildlife experience at Jasper National Park: “I visited the Canadian Rockies in June of 2019 and, for me, Jasper National Park was the best place to see wildlife.
“From the famous grizzly bears to black bears, bald eagles, and beavers – Jasper National Park has it all in abundance.”
The Maligne Canyon is a geological wonder that draws both explorers and sightseers as it features dramatic waterfalls and cavernous channels that can be explored via a series of scenic bridges.
It is the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park, with a depth of more than 50 metres, and you can go on hikes or winter ice-walking tours to experience the Maligne Canyon. With it being just a 15-minute drive from the town, it is easy to get to as well.
Other activities in Jasper
Being a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, Jasper offers you so many other activities that you can enjoy. One of the best ways to experience the incredible scenery is to go hiking, as there are lots of amazing trails you can go on, including the trail to the summit of The Bald Hills and the hike along the Edith Cavell Meadows.
Jasper is also a popular spot to go mountain biking, and there are many routes that will take you through some stunning forests and offer great views. The Valley of the Five Lakes and the 3.7km Maligne Canyon Loop are some of the best mountain biking trails.
If you want to get some stunning views over the mountain ranges, you need to go on the Jasper SkyTram. You will be whisked up Whistlers Mountain to an elevation of 2,263 metres, and as well as the views of the surrounding mountains, on a clear day, you might be able to spot Mount Robson in British Columbia!
ALSO READ: 48 hours in Jasper
Calgary is a city of many things, as it is a gateway to the Rockies and is the highlight of Canada’s Wild West. It is a dynamic city with an ever-changing list of attractions, and it has emerged as a must-visit culinary destination with a buzzing arts, music, culture, and festival scene.
It is within easy driving distance of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, and Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, making it an excellent base for any Alberta adventure. Here we go through some of Calgary’s most iconic events and attractions.
It is dubbed the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth for a reason, as every July, Calgary transforms into one big celebration of all things Western.
The Calgary Stampede is a 10-day celebration of Western heritage, where cowboy hats and a sense of fun are mandatory. The celebrations for the festival centre around the Rodeo arena and is where events like bull riding, saddle bronc and barrel racing take place.
Other attractions you can enjoy during the festival include a fairground, agricultural exhibits and plenty of dining and live music.
WinSport Calgary is the Canada Olympic Park that was used as a critical venue for the 1988 Winter Olympics, which took place in the city.
The park is one of the city’s major attractions and is home to the only ski hill in the city. During the winter months, when it snows, you can go skiing, snowboarding and skating, as well as have a go at tubing at the largest tube park in Western Canada.
The park is a major attraction during the summer months, with mountain biking, summer bobsleighing, mini-golf and zip-lines just some of the attractions and activities you can enjoy.
Other activities in Calgary
There is so much to do in Calgary, and we’d recommend exploring some of its diverse neighbourhoods. 17th Ave in Calgary is a must-visit neighbourhood as it is full of award-winning restaurants and bakeries and independent shops where you can pick up anything from luxury items to local clothing styles.
Whilst you are in the city, we’d also recommend going to the top of Calgary Tower for a bird’s eye view of the city and learning about the city’s western heritage at Canada’s largest living history museum, Heritage Park Historical Village.
ALSO READ: The top attractions in Calgary
This guide gives you a flavour of what you can do during a holiday in Alberta and why you should visit the jewels in the province’s crown: Banff & Lake Louise, Jasper and Calgary. If you have been convinced and want to plan your trip, Alberta is the perfect destination for holidays to Canada. We have a variety of Alberta itineraries, such as our Unlimited Adventures Holiday and Western Delights Holiday, which are perfect ways to explore this province. Speak to our travel experts for more information.