A remarkable journey across the Rockies, combining spectacular mountain scenery with the rugged rainforest found on Vancouver Island. Canada's jagged mountain peaks, magnificent national parks, glaciers and waterways are full of wildlife including bears, moose and whales. Banff National Park - Including the picture postcard Lake Louise, the vistas from this stunning park are hard to beat Icefields Parkway - This famous drive covers the stunning landscapes including the mighty Athabasca Glacier, and moose and elk can be found along the way Pacific Rim National Park - With chances to whale watch or spot bear, this temperate rainforest is an amazing contrast to the Rocky Mountains
Arrive into Vancouver today. Quintessentially Canadian, Vancouver is a modern, cosmopolitan city set amidst some of the most breathtaking scenery on the west coast. Due to the number of evening flights into Vancouver, your Tour Leader plans to do the welcome meeting on the morning on Day 2, and will leave a message in reception with details on timings and everything else that you'll need for the day. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive into Vancouver at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Vancouver International Airport (airport code: YVC), which is a 40 minute drive from the hotel. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, our hotel is centrally located and perfect for explore some of the city's highlights - the enormous rainforest in Stanley Park or the Granville Island public market and surrounding waterfront are both highly recommended.
This morning we will take a brief tour of the city, discovering some of its treasures for ourselves, before we take an afternoon ferry to nearby Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. On arrival there will be some free time to explore at your leisure. Based on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the Hudson Bay Company originally established Victoria as a fur trading post in 1843 and today's old-fashioned tranquility belies its lurid past. During the gold rush years of the 1850s the town was filled with thousands of prospectors, drinking at the 60 or so saloons that filled the Market Square. You may wish to take in the world-famous Butchart Gardens, with over 22 hectares of magnificent floral displays. Strolling through the gardens offers some spectacular views as you walk along meandering paths and expansive lawns to the exquisite Sunken Garden, once a limestone quarry but now boasting a lake overhung with willows and blossom trees. There is also the charming Rose Garden, filled with hundreds of blooms, and the formal Italian garden with a lily pond and a fountain brought in Italy by the Butcharts in 1924.
This morning we have some free time to spend exploring this most charming of cities on foot, visiting its shops, galleries and historic sites, perhaps visiting the Royal BC Museum, regarded as one of the best in Canada and containing a magnificent series of dioramas that re-create the sights and sounds of the region's natural history. Following this we drive out of the city, stopping at the totem poles carved by the First Nations of the North West Coast. In 1884 the Federal Government outlawed 'pot latching' and this unique art form nearly died out. Fortunately, in recent times, there has been a revived interest in this proud tradition and the totems that can be found along this stretch of coast are strong reminders of the island's native people. From here we head into the Pacific Rim National Park, an astonishingly diverse collection of mountains, rainforest, beaches and rocky headlands that presents one of the best areas in the world for whale watching. We will overnight in Ucluelet near Tofino.
Today we are free to choose from a variety of different activities. The two most popular excursions are both out to sea. The more energetic may wish to take to kayaks and explore this wild coastline of hidden coves and rocky inlets. Please note: Participation in canoeing or kayaking, or rafting requires that you are able to swim 25 metres unaided. Alternatively, there is the chance to go whale watching from one of the coastal villages in the park. The Tour Leader will be on hand to organise these tours and to take those not wishing to do either of the above trips on optional walks along one of the park's many trails. Another alternative may be to take a quiet-water excursion on the comfort and safety of a 24' Zodiac vessel with your knowledgeable guide; you will travel along fjord inlets on Vancouver Island to observe the Black bears coming out of the rainforest to feed on crunchy crab, clams and barnacles.
This morning we will drive to the MacMillan Provincial Park, named after Harvey MacMillan, British Columbia's first real timber magnate. At Cathedral Grove we see one of the most accessible stands of giant Douglas firs in British Columbia, where we find an incredible setting of trees that are nearly a thousand years old, some of them reaching up to heights in excess of 70 metres. From here we continue to Nanaimo, once one of the richest cities in Canada, before the decline of its coal mining industry. From here a ferry will take us across the George Strait to Horseshoe Bay and back to the mainland, from where we follow the 'Sea to Sky' Highway to Whistler.
Whistler is an award winning resort town nestling at the base of the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, Whistler is renowned throughout the world as one of the top ski destinations on the planet. It also presents us with a spectacular destination for some summer fun and on arrival we will have some free time to enjoy the town and partake in a number of optional excursions. The town is steeped in the cultural history of the First Nations people, who lived a nomadic lifestyle among the remote landscapes that stretched from northern Vancouver to the Squamish River. It was the arrival of the early trappers and prospectors that gave the town its current name, its rather quirky modern version deriving from the frequent calls of the indigenous hoary marmots that inhabit these mountain regions, their high-pitched warning sounds earning them the name of 'whistle pigs'. This afternoon you will have the opportunity to walk on the many trails in the Whistler area. Surrounded by towering peaks and fed by the icy waters of mountain glaciers, you can choose from a mountain or lake shore trail. This evening we will have an opportunity to experience something of Whistler's renowned nightlife, with a range of bars and restaurants. A note on walking: although this part of Canada is made for the outdoors, this trip isn't specifically a walking holiday. As such the Tour Leader will judge walks based on the entire group's fitness and capabilities, and these will be easy or moderate trails. If you want more challenging hikes and these are available on site, your tour leader will give you the information to do it by yourself. Some trails require a minimum number of hikers per group.
Today we journey north east to Wells Gray. We will travel through the mountains of interior British Colombia through changing landscapes, stopping en route at several viewpoints such as Seton or Savona Lake where we can do some short walks. This afternoon we will head the short distance to Spahats Creek Provincial Park from where we can take an easy walk to the 61m high Spahats Falls. These impressive falls cascade down through layers of pink-red volcanis rock,and from the observation point you will get some great views down Clearwater Valley.
With a free day to enjoy the area, you can choose to do as much or as little as you wish today. Options include canoeing along the North Thompson Valley. Alternatively, you may choose to head to Wells Gray Provincial Park, home to the magnificent Helmkin Falls, the fourth highest falls in Canada, which at 141m are some three times higher than Niagara. The park itself, one of the largest in British Columbia, covers some 5,000sq km of breathtaking wilderness, offering a rich landscape of volcanic plateaus, craggy mountain peaks and shimmering ice fields. Famed for its mountain scenery, during the summer months the park is awash with a vivid blanket of wildflowers that are among the best displays on offer anywhere in the country. Wildlife too is abundant, with bears, caribou, moose, timber wolves and even wolverines finding a rich haven amongst the spectacular diversity of its landscapes. The slower pace of life in these parts is infectious so you may choose to retrun to the lodge and relax.
This morning we head along highway 16, through Mount Robson Provincial Park, passing Mount Robson itself en route. The highest peak in the Canadian Rockies (3954 meters), it is tall enough to create its own weather patterns and, if we're lucky, we'll be able to view this photogenic monolith from top to bottom. Jasper National Park is the largest of Canada's Rocky Mountain Parks, spanning nearly 11,000 square kilometers. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is glacier country, and the friendly mountain hospitality, peaceful low-key atmosphere and the promise of real adventure make any visit unforgettable. Our base for the next two nights is in Jasper National Park just outside Jasper town. This is elk and bear country and often elk are seen wandering down the main street, so if you do see one, keep a healthy distance. To the east of the town lies the Maligne Lake Valley, whilst the western fringes of the township lie in the shadow of the Monashee Mountains.
We will start the day with a short hike (approximately 4km) in Maligne Canyon, discovering stunning views over the powerful water that leaps and pummels its way through the narrow slot. We have the rest of the day ahead of us to explore the various highlights of the area around the town of Jasper. Keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife that roam freely here, wapiti, elk, moose and bear! Take a boat trip on the enormous Lake Maligne, or try white water rafting on the Athabasca River. Alternatively, you may want to take the Jasper Tramway to the high alpine terrain of Whistlers Mountain - named for the whistling sounds of the marmots that live there - or hike a bike and cycle on one of the many trails in the area.
Off again, we will enjoy the core of the celebrated Icefields Parkway, a breathtaking spectacle of lush coniferous forests, immense mountains (from the road you can see 12 of the 25 highest peaks in The Rockies), turquoise lakes, highfalling cascades and humbling glaciers. Stay alert since many animals and birds can also be seen from the road: elks, black bears, eagles and mountain goats to name but a few. We will make a number of stops along the way, taking in the rich majesty of the Athabasca Falls and Columbia Glacier, the most accessible glacier in North America. We'll also pass by Bow Lake, enjoying a short hike to explore the beauty of the unspoilt, silent, backwoods, before continuing onto our base for the next three nights, the small town of Canmore situated in the picturesque Bow Valley. Described as the 'gateway' to the Rockies, it is the perfect place from which to make our forays in to the nearby Kananaskis country and Banff National Park.
Set in the heart of the Canadian Rockies and the site of the country's oldest National Park, Banff is an expansive wilderness of some 6,641 sq km, encompassing a stunning landscape of spectacular mountain vistas, alpine meadows and crystal clear lakes. We will enjoy some hiking in the park today as well as a visit to the world famous Lake Louise, Canada's most photographed area. The blue-green lake and dominating glacier make this view an unforgettable experience. Tom Wilson, the first white Canadian to see Lake Louise, when he was led there by a local native in 1882, wrote 'I never, in all my explorations of these five chains of mountains throughout western Canada, saw such a matchless scene…I felt puny in body, but glorified in spirit and soul'. Despite the increasing number of visitors to the lake it is still possible to experience the same feelings of awe that Tom Wilson had the first time he saw it. We'll also visit the turquoise waters of the glacial fed Lake Moraine, set amidst the stunning grandeur of a valley hemmed in by ten towering mountains. These are landscapes that truly encapsulate the very best that Mother Nature has to offer and after our visits we return to Canmore for the evening.
Today has been left free to enjoy the splendours of this magnificent setting at your own leisure. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, Banff is one of the country's most spectacular wilderness areas. Aside from its majestic landscapes it is home to nearly 60 different species of mammals, including grizzly and black bears, cougars, wolverines, wolves, marmots and moose. It also boasts some 280 species of birds and bald and golden eagles, ospreys, three-toed woodpeckers and white-tailed ptarmigan have all been recorded here. There is an optional today to ascend to the summit of Sulphur Mountain by aerial tram, from where the unrestricted views across the whole range surrounding Banff are visible. This is picture postcard material and there may even be an option to hike back down to the village of Banff below. There are also a number of guided walks available through the area, so the choice is very much yours as to how much, or how little, you want to do today. Banff is also famous for its hot springs, in fact, it was the discovery of the hot springs in 1883 that lead to the building of the settlement in this location. Relaxing in these geothermal waters is a wonderful way to while away a few hours one afternoon.
Lying to the southwest of Banff National Park is an area of unspoilt mountain scenery, rich in flora and fauna. This is Kananaskis Country, over 4,000sq km of spectacular wilderness that boasts several provincial parks and one ecological reserve. We will visit the area today, taking in the sumptuous grandeur of its mountains and valleys, perhaps taking a final opportunity to look out for some of the abundant wildlife that resides among these breathtaking landscapes. This afternoon we then head for our journey's end and the glittering city of Calgary, nestling in the foothills of the towering Rocky Mountains. Home to the world renowned Calgary Stampede, this most dynamic of cities is a rich fusion of modern architecture and traditional heritage, where the pioneering history of the Canadian west is woven into everyday life. We have some free time this afternoon to explore the city and soak up the friendly ambience of this spectacularly located community. Filled with museums, shops and cafes, the centre of the city is a great place to just wander and take in its majestic setting against the backdrop of those ever present mountains. This evening we will have an opportunity to enjoy the city at night, as we reflect on our journey through some of the most magnificent landscapes on earth.
Our trip ends this morning in Calgary. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Calgary at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at the hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Calgary International Airport (airport code: YYC), which is approximately a 20 minute drive away from the hotel.
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