What does your ultimate travel experience look like? Does it feature unforgettable nights under awe-inspiring northern lights, magical days amid towering snow-covered peaks, and taking in one of the world’s premium city destinations? If your answer is yes, you can find it all in Canada’s West.
What makes this vast and varied region so special? Plenty. From vibrant Vancouver to Banff National Park in the Rocky Mountains, and on to untamed wilderness of the Northwest Territories – one of the last great travel frontiers – this is adventure at its most memorable.
Winter is a magical time to go. In one action-packed sweep through Canada’s West, you’ll find yourself ticking off bucket-list items on a daily basis.
Nestled between snow-capped peaks, lush forests and the sparkling Pacific Ocean, it’s no surprise this picturesque city is consistently rated one of the world’s most liveable. Like all the great cities of the world, what visitors love, locals love, too. So when you stroll the urban wonder of 1000-acre Stanley Park, wander lively Granville Island market or dine at foodie hotspot Gastown, you’ll be living that oh-so-liveable Vancouver life just like the locals.
Stay at The Sutton Place Hotel Vancouver against a majestic backdrop of mountains and sea, with the city’s famous shopping, business, arts, and entertainment districts just steps away.
Vancouver’s mild weather lets you sail in the morning, cycle the seawall after lunch, ski or board the local peaks at dusk, then come back down again to dine and dance the night away in one of the city’s hip nightlife districts.
From Vancouver, it’s an easy flight to Calgary, the gateway to the pristine peaks and natural wonder of Banff National Park and the Rocky Mountains. Iconic hotels like Banff town’s stylishly renovated Mount Royal Hotel put you right in the centre of snow resort action.
After you arrive in Banff, step out of the Mount Royal into the main street and that’s Cascade Mountain at the end of Banff Avenue, so close you could almost touch it. Now you’ve got your bearings, take a deep breath of alpine air and prepare for thrills, like a gondola ascent to Sulphur Mountain and breathtaking 360-degree views of sheer snow-clad majesty.
Pull on your snow cleats and head out for a spectacular day hike along the snow-covered boardwalk of Johnston Canyon – even better when the sun dips below the peaks and you can see its amazing frozen waterfall glitter by flashlight. Take a pause to revive with a long, steaming soak in your hotel, then make the most of warm and stylish mountain hospitality in some of the region’s best restaurants – farm-to-plate dining and Alberta beef are amongst the city’s menu highlights.
Read more about Banff: Explore Canada’s Rocky Mountain Playground, Banff National Park
Leaving Banff, follow the stunning Bow River valley north-west to picture-perfect Lake Louise, one of Canada’s most photographed destinations. Check in to the historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, the “diamond on the lake”, surrounded by soaring mountain peaks, the majestic Victoria Glacier and the eponymous emerald lake, frozen over with snowfalls.
A must-do here is ice skating on the lake right outside the resort’s front door. Lace on your rented blades, glide out on the surface and lose yourself in the million-dollar views. Or take a leisurely walk around the lake to enjoy the spectacular views at a slower pace.
Swap your skates for snowshoes and let certified guides take you to a mountaintop as they share stories of the history, landscape and wildlife of this unique and awe-inspiring wilderness.
Read more about Canada’s Northwest Territories: Canada’s Northwest Territories: Awe, Auroras and Frontier Adventure
From the Rockies, head deep into the Northwest Territories wilderness and friendly “little big city” Yellowknife, the world’s northern lights capital. Directly beneath Earth’s arctic aurora-viewing zone and with 200 crystal-clear nights a year, winter is prime time for this mesmerising celestial spectacle.
Aurora Village outside Yellowknife is one of the best northern lights viewing locations. A sprawling wilderness property, it features campfire-heated teepees big enough for sky-watching groups and heated swivel chairs so you can gaze to the heavens in comfort.
When the aurora doesn’t have your undivided attention, there are plenty more unique experiences to tick off, including driving an ice road like TV’s famous “Ice Road Truckers”, snowshoeing on pristine local trails, feeling the rush of dogsledding on a frozen lake and ice fishing while listening to classic local tales – later you’ll feast on your catch of the day.
There’s also plenty to explore in your snowy home base on the edge of mystical Great Slave Lake, North America’s deepest, where crisp winter days make wandering a delight. Yellowknife is a friendly, cosmopolitan and walkable city, with great dining and an emerging craft beer scene. Take in the town’s colourful gold-strike frontier history, check out the log cabins of Old Town, then find a cafe, restaurant or bar that suits your style and settle in for some cosy log-fire relaxation.
Read more about the Aurora Capital: Chasing Stardust: Northern Lights in Canada’s Northwest
Witness the magic of winter in Canada’s West on a 12-day luxury small-group tour (max. 16 travellers). Chase the Northern Lights in Yellowknife, which enjoys at least 200 starlit viewing nights a year. Cosy up next to the woodfire in dedicated tepees in Aurora Village and snuggle up in heated chairs that spin 360 degrees for perfect Northern Lights viewing. Experience Vancouver, the vibrant waterfront city with nature on its doorstep, home to foodies’ paradise Gastown, then travel to wildly beautiful Banff National Park for unforgettable moments including an evening ice walk of Johnston Canyon and a picture-perfect sleigh ride through the Rockies. Spend two nights at the stunning Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, learn to snowshoe and indulge in a fabulous Fairmont afternoon tea. Your tour includes 11 nights of luxury accommodation – including feature stays at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Mount Royal Hotel in Banff – daily breakfast and select dining experiences (including a top-rated foodies’ tour in Gastown), domestic flights between Vancouver and Calgary and Calgary and Yellowknife, private expert local guides, all sightseeing and entrance fees, insider experiences, private airport transfers and transportation throughout, and so much more.
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