The Best of Banff

Think magnificent snow-capped mountains soaring above pristine azure-blue lakes, and dense fir forests that are crowded with wildlife, and you will have some idea of the great beauty that is Banff National Park.

Canada’s oldest, and North America’s second, national park, Banff can thank its popularity to the Canadian Pacific Railway which opened up the area to tourists, before any roads traversed the region.

Of course, one of the best ways to enjoy the majestic beauty of Banff National Park is from on board the Rocky Mountaineer, a train that is built specially to allow perfect viewing. With seats that revolve and huge picture windows in each carriage, and glass-domed roof in Gold Class, the Rocky Mountaineer slows down when travelling through the most scenic areas, to what they call Kodak speed, in order to give passengers optimum opportunity to take as many non-blurred photos as they like.

One of the highlights of a visit to Banff is to experience Lake Louise, which is known as Canada’s `Diamond in the Wilderness’ because it offers a tremendous diversity of recreational and sightseeing opportunities. They are year-round activities at Lake Louise, which includes brilliant skiing on some of North America’s finest downhill runs. If you don’t ski try a horse-drawn sleigh ride along the shore of Lake Louise. Of course, you can always stay in the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, one of the world’s great hotels. Next door to the hotel is a great tobogganing run, so try a bit of tobogganing then head next day for a refreshing drink.

During summer daylight can last until midnight, which is perfect for hiking or canoeing and getting out and enjoying the incredible wilderness around Lake Louise.

The town of Banff was established in 1883 with a view to being the main commercial centre in the park. There are a number of cultural institutions in Banff which gove the visitor a very good insight into the park. One of these, the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. Started by artists, the Museums describes itself as being the gateway for experiencing and enjoying the Canadian Rockies art, culture and history in order to inspire and cultivate knowledge and the exchange of ideas.

Banff is also where you can enjoy the thermal hot springs on Sulphur Mountain. The water is heated geothermally from an estimated depth of three kilometres. The facilities include an artificial tunnel to natural grotto, a replica of the original 1887 bathhouse, the restored 1916 swimming pool and structure, interpretive displays, hiking and snowshoe trails.

If you choose to visit Banff National Park by car or motor home you follow the Trans-Canada Highway, which, in this section, is called the Icefields Parkway which wends its way through the park from Lake Louise to Jasper, Alberta. As with the train, you get magnificent scenic views, and there are plenty of picnic and camping spots which allow you ample opportunity to enjoy Banff National Park to you fullest extent, and to get up close to many of the glaciers and icefields which exist in the park.

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