Western Canada is a bucket-list destination. This is simply one region in the world where you want to maximise every available minute to enjoy what’s on offer. The scenery, the people, the wildlife, the culture. Everything that surrounds you is part of the magical experience, and every corner you turn confronts you with something new.
We recently jumped on board Travelmarvel’s Enchanting Rockies land tour through Western Canada (which can be extended with a 7-day Alaskan Cruise!). To our delight, we didn’t have to spend weeks beforehand researching the best things to see and do. We didn’t have to worry that we had missed something amazing in our itinerary, or that we hadn’t planned enough time in each location. All we had to do was turn up and enjoy it.
Expert local guides
One of the best things about visiting Canada are its people. It’s hard to imagine a more welcoming bunch ready to show you the country they are so passionate about. From the people who make your coffee to those that welcome you to their hotels, the locals are genuine and warm, and you will love getting to know them.
We found that our tour maximised our connections with the local people. From our incredible local tour director Simone, who was so passionate about sharing her country with us, to each of the local guides we met along the way, everyone made sure our experience didn’t just ‘skim the surface’. Our tour literally put us in the hands of these people, who know the country better than anything, and the rewards were huge.
From our guide Nicole who took us around Banff and showed us parts of the town and surrounding National Park that I don’t think we would have known about without her, to Wes, our wildlife guide in Jasper National Park, who had been guiding there for 43 years and knew the land like the back of his hand… Thanks to these people we had a surprise interaction with a moose, spotted our very first bear, and learned all about these amazing locations than we could have ever hoped to. They also shared stories with us that took us deeper in Canada’s culture – answering any, and all, questions we had and treating us like friends.
Canadian’s aren’t there to simply provide a service – they genuinely want to share their country with you and we sincerely recommend taking them up on it!
Let’s face it. There are more than just a few people in this world that want to experience Canada. There is more than enough room for everyone, being such a big country, however those exclusive experiences such as travelling on the Rocky Mountaineer and visiting The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise can book out many, many months in advance. Piecing together the ultimate trip on the dates that suit, and including all of the highlights, is the definitive jigsaw puzzle – unless you let a tour do it for you.
We knew that every departure of the Rocky Mountaineer was booked out around the time we travelled. We also travelled up the road to Lake Louise and watched cars being turned away. We could all relax with the peace of mind that it had all been taken care of for us, and we were going to be experiencing all the highlights with none of the hassle.
Navigating yourself around
We all know that driving in another country can be a bit of a challenge – especially on the other side of the road! Some people love the freedom (and you all know that road trips are up there with our favourite kind of holiday) however, when the destination is foreign, road rules are different, and you want to see as much as you possibly can, sometimes it’s nice not to take on the extra work and responsibility!
We travelled in an air-conditioned coach where we could simply sit back and look out of the panoramic windows, and enjoy the commentary of our Tour Director Simone along the way. Questions you naturally have as you drive past something of interest could be immediately answered, we never got lost, and never had to drive around looking for a park!
Our tour stopped at the must-see viewpoints along the way without us needing to guess where they were, and we were always taken to the road stops that served the best coffee (a necessity for us!).
The best experiences
Who knew that tucked in a deep valley in a little place called Blue River in British Columbia, one of the most incredible wildlife river safaris existed?
Who knew that in the middle of adventurous Banff, we could meet real-life cowboys and enjoy a cowboy cookout while getting to learn of their history and culture?
And who knew that a heli-skiing lodge would also be open in the summer, welcoming overnight guests to its spectacular alpine location surrounded by the Rocky Mountains?
We were continuously amazed with the experiences that unfolded day after day, that we were sure we wouldn’t have heard about otherwise. Experiences that turned out to be just as priceless as the iconic must-see’s that we had all turned up to tick off.
And learning the history and heritage of Canada along the way – well, I can only say we were all blown away by the tales that were shared. From Canada’s First Nations history, to the influence the Canadian Pacific Railway had on what Canada is today – none of our experiences would have been as meaningful without this information, always shared in a way to entertain us.
This type of itinerary could only be planned by the locals – local experts who know the region and all the things a visitor needs to see and do to have a truly rich experience. Of course, we had flexibility. In almost every location we were given a choice of things we could do to best suit us, and all we simply had to do was make that selection. Or, we could simply enjoy free time and do as we pleased. The choice was ours.
All the little things
Aussies are notoriously hopeless at tipping in North America. We are not used to it, and often forget or are scared we are tipping too much, or too little. We saved ourselves the hassle on tour – where tipping was all taken care of for us!
Other things such as airport transfers, booking the appropriate accommodation in each location, entry tickets and the best places to eat were also looked after – we didn’t even have to think about them.
To rest your mind about these little things, leaving room only to enjoy and appreciate the experience, in our books is priceless.
Have you taken a tour through Canada, or planning to? We would love to hear about your experience in the comments!