So you want to travel around Canada but have no idea where to go? Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City or even Ottawa maybe on your list, but a great starting point to seeing Canada is over on the other side – The West.
From the vibrant and trendy Vancouver with beaches, open park space, bars, amazing shops, and a backdrop of the mountains, to the Canadian Rockies in Alberta providing all the nature, views, and a huge range of outdoor activities to experience.
Last year, I was lucky enough to take a trip to Western Canada and found a tour suitable for young adults, that was cheap, but with a great tour guide who really did know this part of Canada like the back of his hand. The tour started in Vancouver (and ended in Vancouver), providing a round trip of Banff, Icefields Parkway, Jasper, and all the wonderful hidden (and not so hidden) spots in between.
Now, you may not want to do a tour, and instead, you are thinking of hiring a car and doing the sites independently. Well here are my 10 amazing places you really can’t miss out.
Situated in British Colombia, Revelstoke is a cute town situated within the mountains. From beautiful coffee shops to kayaking between the mountains on the peaceful Revelstoke Dam. An independent kayaking company provides the opportunity to kayak on the dam, with not a single soul around. Plus, they provide you with homemade granola bars, which were incredible.
Not much really here, but out from Kelowna. Think paddle boarding on Skaha Lake, with wild birds of prey flying above. The tiny beach, and a family business giving the opportunity to paddleboard on the still lake.
Afterwards head to Kelowna, either from a trip to the beach along the Okanagan Lake, trying the local poutine, or head to a bar for some drinks. Almost a perfect place to stay, if you are driving from Vancouver to Banff and want a stop overnight.
3 Peyto Lake
Now most people’s images of Peyto Lake consist of bright blue aqua water, in my case when I visited in early May 2018 it was still frozen over. However, it was still equally as beautiful. The viewpoint was knee deep in snow, but honestly, it was magical. I will also never forget getting my leg stuck and my trainer falling off in the snow.
Tip: If going when snow is still on the ground, don’t wear expensive trainers, or any type of trainer, as your feet will get very cold and wet.
4 Johnston Canyon
The only aspect that was disappointing was the name, mainly because I wanted my Instagram caption at the time to be ‘Johnson in Johnson Canyon’. Oh well. Johnston Canyon is very touristy, and one of the whole destinations where there are proper restrooms, meaning no drop boxes. The paths keep you on track, but you can venture off. Our tour guide knew a secret cave, and apart from falling on a mixture of ice and mud, and hurting my coccyx bone, it was beautiful. Tones of waterfalls, and all the photo opportunities you could imagine, and normal toilets.
5 Lake Minnewanka / Two Jack Lake
Again, another tourist destination in Banff National Park. Luckily, at the beginning of May when the lakes are still frozen over, the tourists come in limited. Visiting on a beautiful sunny May morning, and our tour group being the only ones there, you really could sense the magic of the lake and the mountains.
6 Mistaya Canyon
If I was ranking where to visit in order (I’m clearly not), then Mistaya Canyon would be at the very top. Truly beautiful, and honestly I could have spent all day sitting on the rocks and taking in the scenery. Rushing water running through the rocks, a mini hike to get an even better view, and wildlife.
7 Colombian Icefields Glacier
The Icefields Parkway is the one road that connects Banff and Jasper National Parks. The Colombian Icefields are popular, and there is a tourist information centre, albeit think coaches and thousands of foreign tourists willing to be the extraordinary price for a view of the icefields that you can get from the road. If you drive across the road, there is a smaller carpark, where you can walk into the glacier. Albeit, it was very cold and windy. However, and maybe I shouldn’t admit this, I still have a rock that I picked up that day as a keepsake. Please, environmentalists, don’t come at me, I know I shouldn’t have taken it, but it was small.
8 Tangle Falls
Also along the Icefields Parkway you have Tangle Falls. If you are driving along you might miss it, in fact, I think I was asleep or looking in the other direction when we reached Tangle Falls. There is a hike that takes you up to the top of Tangle Falls, but that afternoon I was feeling fragile and not capable of climbing after hurting my coccyx bone earlier that day at Johnston Canyon. Instead, I sat on a rock, took some photos and enjoyed listening to the falls doing what nature allowed them to do; flow.
Now, this destination is actually a hostel. On the trip I went on we stayed a night at a wilderness hostel in Anthabasca, just outside of Jasper. No wifi, or running water, and warning signs of bears, which in fact we saw a bear on the road before getting to the hostel, it was almost like camping. Don’t worry you have a bed, and electricity to charge your phone or camera. The day after, we also visited Anthabasca Falls, which was quite surreal. A cloudy and damp morning, which the clouds hiding the tops of the mountain peaks, it was beautiful, although grey.
10 and of course, Vancouver
You really can’t miss a trip to Western Canada without stopping off in Vancouver. In total, I spent around 10 days in Vancouver and loved every single second. From English Bay Beach to Stanley Park, and Granville Island, Vancouver generally has a cool vibe.