I was fortunate enough to have the trip of a lifetime to Banff, Lake Louise & Calgary. Words cannot do these wonderful resorts justice.
My trip started with being met at Heathrow Airport by a representative of Air Canada, I was treated to a much-needed early morning coffee before boarding my flight to Calgary. The Air Canada flight was one of the most comfortable flights I have been on, I certainly noticed the difference of being on the Dreamliner Boeing 787!
On arrival to Calgary, I made my way to the transfer shuttles, only a 5-minute walk from the arrival gate. I can highly recommend the shuttle services, much more reasonably priced and it was brilliant not worrying about driving straight after the 9-hour flight. The transfer was about an hour and 40 minutes to Banff and dropped me at the door for my first night’s stop – the Elk & Avenue in Banff. The hotel is in the heart of the town, just steps from Banff Avenue where an array of restaurants, bars and quaint shops can be found.
The next morning, after breakfast, we travelled to the Juniper Hotel, where you can experience the best sunrises in Banff, I felt like I had been transported to Narnia. The day’s activities included a Discovery Tour of Banff, with the best view of the town and the chance of viewing some of the local wildlife, including the very common Elk! After a hearty lunch, we embarked on the first winter activity, an ice walk through Johnston Canyon. I thoroughly enjoyed the 2 hours we had following the trails down to the waterfalls, the falls were not quite frozen, and the water could still be seen flowing behind the layers of ice.
My day finished at the stunning Lake Louise, where upon checking in at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise I discovered I had been upgraded to the Fairmont Gold. This is worth the cost of upgrading, the rooms have the best views across the lake, as well as including complimentary breakfast in the exclusive lounge, an array of teas, coffees and sweet treats.
The following morning, my day’s schedule included snowshoeing at Lake Louise Ski Resort followed by an ice walk to Fairview Lookout just above the Fairmont Chateau. If you fancied dabbling in Skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort, you will find some of the best terrain in Canada with 4,200 acres to choose from, suiting all abilities. Courtesy shuttles run every half hour from the Fairmont to the resort.
My day finished with the most amazing meal at the Walliser Stube, serving Swiss, German and Alpine cuisine, located in the Fairmont Chateau. The most popular dish is the Swiss Fondue, which is meant to be shared but I managed nearly a whole fondue on my own!
My next stop was back in Banff, was a two-night stay at The Moose Hotel & Suites. Another hotel in the heart of Banff close to Banff Avenue. This hotel had a much more casual feel, with a wonderful log fire greeting you in reception. The day’s activities included another snowshoeing excursion, this time through Marble Canyon located in Kootney National Park. This walk felt a lot easier, as I was not at the high altitude of a couple of days before. Following the trail along the Bow River, you are greeted with frozen waterfalls and a pristine white wilderness. After the crisp walk, I was treated to freshly made maple taffy poured straight into the snow to make a sweet frozen dessert – kids and adults alike will appreciate the treat!
Before heading back to the Moose Hotel & Suites, I made a stop at the Banff Upper Hot Springs. This historic spa and bathhouse is a must do. Set against the mountain backdrop, you won’t notice the temperatures are in the minus whilst enjoying the 39 degree pool water.
My final full day in Banff included a trip to the Banff Sunshine Village. Here you will find an array of lifts, including Canada’s first heated chairlift! Slope-side, you can find Banff’s only ski-in ski-out hotel, is a must stay for any ski enthusiast. There is a full restaurant, and casual pub located in the heart of the ski resort, so no need to break from skiing for long. I discovered that my ski legs have not improved, and I happily relaxed by the log fire with the most wonderful hot chocolate and views!
And so it was evening and time to enjoy a fabulous Italian meal at the Fairmont Banff Springs. This iconic hotel did not disappointment. Steeped in history, few hotels can rival the Banff Springs for hospitality and scenery. The hotel was already decorated for Christmas, and alongside the majestic tree, was a replica of the hotel in Gingerbread, taking the hotels pastry chefs over 90 hours to make!
On the drive to Calgary, I made a detour to experience the Banff Gondola. In the height of summer, you can expect to wait for up to 3 hours if you haven’t pre-booked your ticket, but a cold and sunny day in the winter, I had no problem. The epic views from the summit of Banff’s Sulpher Mountain cannot be rivalled. An interpretive centre offers everything from observation to hands-on interaction displays, which make for a fun and family friendly experience. Top tip – in the summer, you can beat the queues by taking an hour hike up to the summit along a maintained trail, ride the gondola back down for half the price!
Before I knew it, I was onto my final day before flying home from Calgary. My day in Calgary included a walking tour of the city, including Studio Bell, Calgary Public Library and Heritage Park. These are just a few of the highlights that Calgary has to offer.
Would I go back? In a heartbeat…