Why Outdoors Lovers and City Dwellers Alike Love Western Canada
Explore The Rockies, Pacific Coast and Everything in Between
Dense forests of towering pine, spruce and fir trees line the roadsides that wind through mountain range after mountain range. The trees blanket the mountainsides, creeping up the metamorphic rocks until the treeline where craggy mountain peaks jut upwards into the wispy clouds.
The ribbon of road eventually emerges from the wilderness, leading to seemingly remote beaches situated near the sprawling urban growth along the coast of the Pacific. This is the landscape of western Canada, and it is waiting to take advantage of your deepest desires for the wild and for the modern.
Whether you’re looking to discover your wild side or bury yourself in the heart of a bustling metropolis — or both — you can’t go wrong with western Canada travel, taking in all the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia have to offer. Here’s what you need to know while planning your trip.
Best Destinations in Western Canada
Some of the best places to visit in Canada are located on the west coast, and for good reason: it’s home to astounding landscapes and lively cities. Here’s where you should be sure to hit up:
- The Rocky Mountains: Canada’s majestic Rocky Mountains take the prize as the most photographed geographical feature in the country. Head to Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper and you will feel like you have stepped right into a postcard. Take a drive along the stunning Icefields Parkway to ogle enormous glaciers or canoe the tranquil blue-green waters of Lake Minnewanka. For an adventurous winter vacation, scale frozen waterfalls in Jasper National Park. For a more luxurious experience, take a ride aboard the Royal Banff Dinner Train. This dinner train experience gives you incredible sights and delectable cuisine and cocktails.
- Whistler: During the winter months, Whistler’s beauty and Banff’s ski culture draws extreme adventurists and hobby-skiers alike. From elite heli-skiing to powder puff peaks, winter thrills are free for the asking here.
- Vancouver: The counter culture is alive and well in Vancouver, western Canada’s biggest city and the country’s version of Amsterdam. Nights come alive in the Gastown and West End districts of the city, with everything from ultra-hip lounges to traditional Irish pubs. The eco-minded will find nirvana in the old growth forests that flank the city’s outer fringes. Want some history thrown in? Take a ride on a steam train out to Vancouver Island.
- The Okanagan Valley: A Shangri-La for wine lovers. Plus the Columbia River Valley’s Radium Hot Springs will appease your travel-weary muscles.
- Victoria: The capital of British Columbia is only a short ferry ride away from Vancouver and exists on a beautiful, unspoiled island of old growth forests and rocky beaches. In its pretty historic downtown, tourists take horse and carriage rides along cobbled streets lined with 19th century shopfronts.
- Calgary: This youthful, energetic cowboy metropolis in Southern Alberta boasts a thriving nightlife, dining and cultural scene. In July it puts on the biggest Wild West party in the world, the enormous rodeo and midway event, The Calgary Stampede.
- Drumheller: Approximately 75 million years ago, this region of Alberta was teeming with dinosaurs. These days, the dry and dusty badlands are famous for their wealth of fossil remains. Visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum, home to one of the biggest displays of dinosaur skeletons in the world.
Best Time of Year to Visit
- For the Best Weather: Visit during June, July or August when the summer sun is shining and it’s warm enough to camp outdoors and swim in the pristine lakes. Take part in the Canada Day celebrations on July 1, as well as many other summer events and festivals.
- For the Best Winter Sports: Visit during January and February for excellent skiing without the Christmas and New Year crowds. Or, if you can’t take the bitter cold, plan your trip for March and April when temperatures are slightly warmer but there is still snow on the ground.
- For the Best Value: September and October can be an ideal time to visit, as there will be fewer crowds and cheaper prices, yet the weather will still be pleasant enough for hiking and visiting attractions. Plus, the autumn leaves are simply gorgeous.
How Much to Budget
Western Canada is not a cheap destination. You will usually pay around $30 to $40 CAD for a bed in a hostel dorm or at least $60 to $70 for a budget hotel or motel. In the larger cities such as Vancouver and Calgary prices will be higher. If you are visiting a popular destination in high season, you will be lucky to get a hotel room for less than $100 per night.
Usually a room in a mid range hotel can be between $100 and $250 CAD in the major cities.
When it comes to food, you’ll save money by cooking for yourself as dining out in Canada can be pricey. You’ll usually find a casual meal at a restaurant for around $15 to $20.
When dining most restaurants for dinner, you can expect to pay anywhere from $12 to $40 CAD for a main dish. For the average dinner for two, with wine, the cost will be roughly $60 to $80. Don’t forget that tipping is standard practice and you will need to add 15 to 20% onto every restaurant bill and around $1 per drink at a bar or pub.
Best Way to Get Around
Although it is possible to travel Canada without a car, having your own wheels will give you the most freedom and will allow you to explore remote and wild places off the beaten track.
However, if you don’t drive you could also take the bus — such as the Greyhound, Coach Canada or the Red Arrow. Western Canada is also covered by the ViaRail train network and there are many train passes that can save you money on frequent travel.
WanderU is a cool website for finding cheap bus and train deals in Canada. BusBud is another one I have used on my travels. If you can keep your dates flexible, you’ll have the best chance of finding cheap deals.