The Canadian Rockies – The Alaskan Cruise

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Image courtesy : Alaska Tours
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Ps. I hope you’ve read our experience through Vancouver here.

Whether you are interested in seeing glaciers and visiting The Glacier Bay National Park or checking out the Alaskan way of life and visiting old gold rush towns, there is an Alaskan cruise that can help you do just what you want. Cruises to Alaska are usually available from May through September each year. According to Alaska.org, there are around 15 cruise lines that offer Alaskan cruises. So one must do some very thorough research before booking their since this is no cheap affair!

How to choose the ideal cruise liner for you?

Step 1 : The first thing to do is decide what the start and ending destinations of your trip are going to be.

Step 2 : Fix your dates and budgets. These experiences usually range between 6 – 10 nights and it’s important to realise the time on your hands and the amount you’re willing to spend (more days also means more money).

Note : Going through the first two steps will eliminate half of your options and make your decision making easier. Usually, other than citizens of North America, most people take a trip though the Canadian Rockies and then head for a relaxing week on the cruise. 

Step 3 : Determine the type of cruise ship atmosphere you prefer, as it can vary between cruise lines. For example, AlaskaCruises.com lists the Alaskan cruises by Norwegian Cruise Lines to have a casual atmosphere, while the Regent Seven Seas have a luxury atmosphere, with Holland America Line Alaskan cruises having a premium feel in between the two.

Note : If you’re confused about which cruise liner to choose or what packages to take, you can check out this really helpful TripAdvisor Article!

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My Story

We had been on the Holland America Cruises, aboard the ‘Nieuw Amsterdam’. It was humongous, like a floating island, with almost 11 floors and over approximately 2100 people. The ship has multiple restaurants, some common and some, where a reservation and a formal attire is necessary. For more info on this cruise click here.

Pro Tip 1. Carry a suit or a blazer and appropriate footwear (especially for tourists) for an evening called ‘The Captain’s Dinner’ and for entry into some exclusive restaurants (I wish someone would’ve told me that).

Pro Tip 2. It is always preferred to take a balcony room. It is pricier, but it gives you a great view of the glaciers in The Glacier Bay National Park or when you’re simply spending time in your room (which isn’t a bad idea when the tides get rough and a lot of activities are put on a pause and in-room dining is unlimited).

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We made the following stops in our journey :

Skagway, Alaska, US

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The Municipality and Borough of Skagway is a first-class borough in Alaska on the Alaska Panhandle. The population in this town is close to 1000 people which doubles in the summer tourist season in order to deal with more than 1,000,000 visitors each year.

The port of Skagway is a popular stop for cruise ships, and the tourist trade is a big part of the business of Skagway. The White Pass and Yukon Route narrow gauge railroad, part of the area’s mining past, is now in operation purely for the tourist trade and runs throughout the summer months.

Fun Fact : This town totally reminds me of a typical town in a Texas as shown in various Hollywood movies of the 70s and 80s.

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The Train Ride

Glacier Bay

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Glacier Bay was pretentious for the way it flaunts its ice. The glaciers practically terminate in your lap. A cruise to Glacier Bay National Park with Holland America Line will show you a UNESCO World Heritage Site that protects a unique ecosystem of plants and animals living in concert with an ever-changing glacial landscape.

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Literally nothing beats this scenery and view. A gods gift, untouched and super pure!
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Room with a view.

When a monumental chunk of ice splits off a glacier and thunders into the sea the impact shoots water hundreds of feet into the air (We could only manage to see small chunks, but it was glorious). You hold your breath as you catch the moment on film. Then you wait for it all to happen again. And it does!

Glacier Bay has more actively calving tidewater glaciers than any other place in the world.

Ps. Within the ship, people park and reserve seats hours before they get to this view. The deck and the viewing area are super crowded and the temperature in is negative and one would have to stand in freezing cold to get a good view. Hence a room with a balcony is a good decision to make. It is more expensive, but definitely money well spent.

Juneau, Alaska, US

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No roads lead to Juneau, which gives the Alaskan capital a misty inscrutability. You need to come by air or water, but when you arrive, the place will delight you with its bounty of water, forests, and mountains. Squeezed between the Gastineau Channel and Coast Mountains, Juneau offers a lot of variety in close proximity. The massive Mendenhall Glacier and the immense Juneau Icefields are at its back door. The vast Tongass National Forest stretches away to the northeast. You can shop downtown or get out and kayak, dogsled, raft, hike, whale watch, flightsee or fish. The adventures are as bountiful as the daylight.

The seaplane ride here is a must do, thanks to the glaciers that surround this place!

Ketchikan, Alaska, US

Ketchikan-103Ketchikan clutches the shores of the Tongass Narrows, with many shops and houses built right out over the water. The stairways are weathered and the vibe is cheerful in the town that calls itself the Salmon Capital of the World. Besides the main attractions — Creek Street, the Tongass Historical Museum, Totem Bight State Park and Saxman Village — try a flightseeing trip to Misty Fjords National Monument. These deepwater fjords were gouged out by retreating glaciers, leaving granite cliffs towering thousands of feet above the sea and countless waterfalls plunging into placid waters.

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Become-Member-Ketchikan
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Something to do in Ketchikan, other than walk around the city is to go on a ZipTrek. This park has about 7 lines, and goes right above the jungle, at an average height of around 70 feet. If you look down, it is very common to spot a bear or even a family of bears, unless the weather reaches an extreme or it starts to rain.


I really really hope y’all liked this entire series of The Canadian Rockies. Stay tuned for more of such experiences. Until next time!

Note : For more updates and photos, please follow us on FacebookInstagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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The Canadian Rockies – Vancouver

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If you haven’t already, please check out our previous pitstop before Vancouver – Whistler here.

Overview:

The Journey :

We left from Whistler and set out for Vancouver. This time we took a stop to visit The Shannon Falls. This fall is quite high. The lower side to the fall is on ground level, and one can hike all the way to the top of the fall, or take a Gondola all the way to the top. We did not have a lot of time on our hands and did not go to the top.

The Shannon Falls

After resuming our journey, we set out on our way to Vancouver via the famous ‘Sea To Sky Highway’. This route has the blue sea on its right, then a small hill where lies the road, and immediately big mountains to the left of the road. So while watching it from a boat or ship, it seems one can start their climb from the sea on to the hills and make their way to the heavens via the mountains. Hence the name.

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A glimpse of the Sea To Sky Highway. Disclaimer : I do not own this photo, this was taken via google to give a better view of the highway.
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Vancouver City

Image taken from tourismvancouver.com

Vancouver has a total population of about 7-8 lakh people and is divided into 5 parts : Downtown, Surry, North Vancouver, Richmond and the West Vancouver. The Western region is meant mainly only for powerful government officials, politicians and VIPs we were told.

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The local transport includes taxis, electrical buses and trains. The electrical bus run with a wire connected above like trams and the routes are divided into zones. Zone 1 has a cost of 2.75 CAD for 2 hours, unlimited transits within that time. Zone 1 and 2 at 4CAD and Zone 1,2 and 3 at 5.5 CAD. And on public holidays and weekends, it’s 2.75CAD flat. The taxis start at 3.20 CAD. One thing to note is that although traveling is cheaper, the wait time is too high. Asking a cab to wait for 5 minutes may cost you more than the ride itself. Ideally it’s recommended you give that cab up and take another one. But if you’re not so lucky, you won’t find another one for sometime. Every cab is a 4 seater by compulsion and the bigger cabs have a wheelchair access too.

One thing about Vancouver is that there are nearly three of every big hotel here. Three Fairmonts, one in downtown, other on the waterfront and the third near the airport. Hyatt, Four Seasons, etc follow a similar trend.

One thing about Vancouver (and this is a very personal opinion) is it seemed very similar to Chicago. If someone were to drop me in the middle of Vancouver and say it’s Chicago I’d believe them until I see some details that suggest otherwise. I can’t really put a finger on why I felt it was similar, but if you feel the same way, do hit me up!

Unlike the other previous places on our trip so far, Vancouver has a lot to offer in terms of shopping. The Robson street has the best brands and shops, of which majority have discounts going on this time of the year (June – July). One can also find cool stores on Burrard Street or any other cross street around Robson. There’s also an outlet mall near the airport which is said to be good, although that’s word of mouth and I avoided going there when I had the chance to just explore the city.

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Fly Over Canada

The round globe on the right is FlyOver Canada. Image taken from flexport.com

FlyOver Canada utilizes state-of-the-art technology to give you the feeling of flight. You will hang suspended, feet dangling, before a 20-meter spherical screen while a film will be played. The film manages to whisk you away on an exhilarating 8-minute journey across Canada, from east to west. Special effects, including wind, mist and scents, combine with the ride’s motion to create an unforgettable experience.

It is important to note there are specific show timings, although they range throughout the day. One can also buy tickets online, in advance. It usually has a queue too. So spare about an hour or so for the experience.

It is located in the downtown area, by the pier. And piers have always been wonderful places to walk, or sit and enjoy some food with wonderful cold winds and a view of the sea. You can also see the cruises getting docked, people and goods entering in and getting out.

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The Butchart Garden

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This is a very famous tourist spot near Victoria, on Vancouver Island. The garden has been designated a National Historic Place of Canada. The park is huge, and has over a million visitors each year. If visiting from Canada, one can take a ferry. Don’t worry about your vehicle, as an additional ticket will allow you to take your vehicle along in the ferry. The ferry is scenic, although time consuming. One can also hire a small sea plane or speedboat from the harbor.

It plays host to hundred and thousands of flowers, plants and birds; of all colors, shapes and sizes. It has various activities inside for kids and food stalls too. One can also spot a small pond with a beautifully dancing fountain. The ideal time to visit is between May and August. However, May and August being extremes. A lot of variety of roses and flowers do not bloom completely until June, and start to wither by August as winter starts setting in.

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Capilano Suspense Bridge

The Suspension Bridge

One of the most famous places to visit in Vancouver is the Capilano. That’s somewhat a garden or a museum or a small natural wildlife park in itself. It has six activities that include a Suspension Bridge over the river, Suspension Bridges connecting trees, Two Small Trails, She Cliffwalk, Story Centre and The Merchandise Shop. One can find a lot of varied vegetation inside, a treat for people who love forests and vegetation. The suspension bridges are fun to walk on and quite unique.

Capilano Suspension Bridge crosses to towering evergreens, cedar-scented rainforest air and Treetops Adventure, 7 suspended footbridges offering views 110 feet above the forest floor. Cliffwalk follows a granite precipice along Capilano River with a labyrinth-like series of narrow cantilevered bridges, stairs and platforms and only 16 anchor points in the cliff supporting the structure!

The Cliffwalk

This heart-stopping cliffside journey takes you through rainforest vegetation on a series of unobtrusive cantilevered and suspended walkways jutting out from the granite cliff face above Capilano River to previously unexplored areas of the park. Not for the faint of heart, it is high and narrow and, in some sections, open grated walkways is all that separates guests from the canyon far below.

Stanley Park

Image courtesy : wikipedia.com
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Stanley Park is a magnificent green oasis in the midst of the urban landscape of Vancouver. It is 405-hectare natural West Coast rainforest and enjoys scenic views of water, mountains, sky, and majestic trees along Stanley Park’s famous Seawall. Discover kilometres of trails, beautiful beaches, local wildlife, great eats, natural, cultural and historical landmarks, along with many other adventures. The park offers a wide range of unforgettable experiences for all ages and interests, including Canada’s largest aquarium.

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The famous Rogers Arena, just off Robson Street, home to the Vancouver Canucks.

Gastown

Designed and engineered in such a way that the steam accumulates and blows sharply every hour, and the whistles last for a whole 10 seconds. Gastown’s most famous landmark is the steam-powered clock on the corner of Cambie and Water Street. It was built in 1977 to cover a steam grate, part of Vancouver’s distributed steam heating system, as a way to harness the steam and to prevent street people from sleeping on the spot in cold weather. One can also find a lot of Gift Shops around this area and the Maple Syrup being a favorite amongst the tourists.

Ps. Stay tuned to find out about our experience on The Alaskan Cruises.

Note : For more updates and photos, please follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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The Canadian Rockies -Kamloops, Whistler

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Note : If haven’t checked out our previous story on Jasper National Park, Click Here.

Kamloops

Kamloops Downtown
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Situated at the junction of the North and South Thompson Rivers in the Thompson Valley, Kamloops is the second largest city in the British Columbia Interior with a growing population of 90,000 people. We did not spend much time here, just took an overnight stay to break our 13 hour road trip to Whistler into 2 parts. However, if you’re spending time here you can check out their tourism page for more.

It was a rainy day when we got here, it was not too cold, however the clouds dropped to almost an average building height (a regular occurrence in this part of the world if you’ve read my previous posts). If one happens to drive on a hill or a mountain during this weather, you’d see the clouds beside you, or probably drive above them, a similar experience to that of an airplane.

The surrounding landscapes are similar as our previous destinations, lush mountains and snowy tress all around, however they looked completely different thanks to the weather, almost liking getting a makeover. It’s not the same, but actually just the same.

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Kamloops downtown from the top of a hill

Kamloops is comparatively a much bigger town compared to our previous destinations, or probably can be called a small city. It has a river going through it, which allows it to have a beautiful waterfront and a small artificial pebble beach. Right opposite the waterfront is a beautiful park. There’s some really nice boutiques to shop from in the downtown area, and a really cool bar right opposite the waterfront where I got to watch some NBA action while chugging a lot of beer.

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The Kamloops Waterfront

After Kamloops, we were off to Whistler. Honestly, Whistler was the most beautiful place for me and I could have done with staying here for an extra night or even two.

Whistler Blackcomb

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Whistler is a town north of Vancouver, British Columbia, that’s home to Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in North America. Whistler Mountain (2,182 meters) and Blackcomb Mountain (2,284 meters), the two peaks that rise above Whistler Village, boast some of the best skiing in North America.

Fun Fact : The Whistler Blackcomb resort’s combined skiable terrain tops 3,307 hectares with more than 200 runs accessed by 37 lifts.

Indeed, there is too much to cover in one day, which is why many visitors plan to spend a week or so on the slopes. Thanks to summer skiing opportunities on Blackcomb’s Horstman Glacier, the Whistler Blackcomb resort also offers the longest ski season of any resort in Canada.

Some hotels provide ski-in access to the two mountains, and multiple restaurants and village eateries are located within ski-boot walking distance of the gondola base (with ski racks set up outside the door and warming fireplaces inside). Snowmobile trips and heli-skiing are also popular winter pastimes at the Whistler Blackcomb resort, and for those traveling with kids, the Coca-Cola Tube Park offers no end of downhill fun.

Besides glacier skiing, in summer, the mountains are busy with hikers, as well as mountain bikers who take to the challenging trails of Whistler Mountain Bike Park. When riding the chairlifts, keep an eye out for bears ambling along the mountain trails in search of berries.

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Overview :

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  • Peak 2 Peak Gondola : Stunning 360-degree views of Whistler Village, mountain peaks, lakes, glaciers and forests. Ride the special glass-bottom gondola for a bird’s-eye view of the forest
  • Shopping : Whistler is a shopper’s paradise, especially for any kind of winter sport equipment or apparel. Spend days browsing the neighbourhoods for fine artwork and fashion, jewellery, the latest outdoor sportswear and equipment, and luxury items – or simply drop in for essential groceries and gifts.
  • Ziplining : Fly through the forest on an exhilarating high wire adventure – no experience required. Glide over spectacular creeks and through majestic old-growth trees on a guided tour. Learn about Whistler’s ecology and wildlife. Feel free as a bird with high quality safety systems and expert supervision.
  • Skiing and snowboarding : Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are a skierֹs dream destination, the ultimate in big mountain experiences. Over 8,100 acres of snow-covered slopes, 16 alpine bowls, 3 glaciers, world-class terrain parks and 200+ marked trails. Enjoy easy access to the base Village with accommodation, shops and an unbeatable après-ski scene located slopeside.
  • Whistler Mountain Bike Park : The ultimate gravity-fed downhill biking experience, drawing mountain bikers from across the world. All levels and abilities catered to with four mountain zones, green trails, technical double blacks, jump trails and more.
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A corner of The Whistler Village
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Whistler Town is divided into two parts :

1. The Upper Village or Upper Whistler :

Whistler has a local population of approximately 10000 people. If you want to live in a proper hotel, head to The Upper Whistler, you’d find The Fairmont, The Four Seasons, etc.

2. The Lower Village or Lower Whistler :

The Lower Whistler is where lies The Whistler Village. A lot of lodges, and some really luxurious ones are to be found in this area. All the sightseeing, shopping and the activities are located in the Whistler Village. It also includes a lot of really good cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs. It basically is the place to be for tourists. There’s Gondola rides to the mountains, ziptreks, bike rides, quad bikes, skiing, snowboarding, cycling on the mountains and terrains, etc.

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Just outside the boundaries of The Whistler Village

Peak 2 Peak Gondola

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The best and a must do activity here is the Gondola ride which further connects to the Peak2Peak Gondola. How it works is you take a gondola ride from ground level to the peak and then you walk to a separate station and take a second Gondola from that peak.

Fun Fact : The Peak2Peak Gondola is 4.4 kms in length, supported by just 4 pillars that are to the very ends. There are no columns or pillars in between whatsoever. The views are absolutely incredible and if you have time, wait for a car that has a transparent glass floor. Those circulate every 30 minutes.

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View from within the Peak2Peak Gondola

At the peak, loop-hiking trails introduce the alpine terrain. There is also a tea hut for warm ups, as the temperatures can be cooler at higher elevations. In winter, skiers and snowboarders make use of the Peak 2 Peak gondola to hop between runs on Blackcomb and Whistler.

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Mountain Biking & Other Sports in Whistler

Check out this video by Berm Peak that talks about why Whistler Bike Park is a big deal!

Mountain biking is certainly the most popular summer sport in Whistler Village, and visitors will see legions of armor-clad bikers heading up the slopes by chairlift to Whistler Mountain Bike Park. But the region offers many other adrenaline-fuelled activities, too. Ziplining is one of the most thrilling, and zipliners do reach highway speeds while flying across forested valleys.

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Whistler Sliding Centre and the Peak2Peak Gondola Station

Another high-speed option is at the Whistler Sliding Centre bobsleigh and skeleton track. Built for the Olympics, the center is also open for self-guided tours. More local thrills are available in the form of bungee jumping above the Cheakamus River, ripping along logging trails on off-road vehicles, and rafting the high waters of the spring freshet.

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Ziplining

Check out this youtube video by Earth Titan

Hiking & Climbing

British Columbia is renowned for its many hiking trails, and Whistler is no different. Trails range from easy nature walks around Lost Lake to elevation-intense mountain climbs. A well-traveled network of hikes radiates from the lookouts atop Whistler Mountain. Gondolas take hikers above the tree line, where the trails are especially lovely during alpine wildflower season.

Read More : Top-Rated Hikes in Whistler

After our time in Whistler, we set out for the beautiful city of Vancouver, where after a brief stay, The Alaskan Cruises awaited us! Stay tuned, to read about our experience in Vancouver.

Note : For more updates and photos, please follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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The Canadian Rockies – Lake Louise and Jasper National Park

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Continuing forward from our last post The Canadian Rockies – Calgary, Banff National Park, we talk about some places in Banff and then move on to Jasper.

Lake Louise

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A Panorama of The Lake Louise

There is only one hotel in this location, The Fairmont. Developed by CPR(Canadian Pacific Railway), it is a property over 100 years old.

A person has two options for their visit to this place :

Option 1 : Stay for a night at The Fairmont and check out the lake in peace and admire it at different time frames and shades of the sky.

Option 2 : Drive to Lake Louise, spend good time here and drive back to Banff Town.

The magnificent Fairmont Hotel on one side while we’re halfway on the trail besides the lake.
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We were welcomed with a hailstorm here, that lasted for quite a while, after which it got super cold and breezy. After freshening up, we left for a walk at the lake. The Fairmont has been kind enough to prepare a trail besides the lake, that one can take to get to the other end of the lake and explore some waterfalls beyond the lake. The trail is about 2.5kms in length one way.

The water in the lake is different shades of blue, thanks to the varied depths and plants beneath, and beyond the lake are some frozen waterfalls, that are really beautiful!

This is one of those places where you can sit on a bench with a good coffee and gaze at the lake and other surroundings for hours. The lake also offers boating services to get the real experience of the lake, but this is a tricky business, especially during a cloudy day. Something about getting wet with no place to run in zero degrees isn’t too exciting for me.

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The clear water of Lake Louise on a calm sunny day.
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The next day, The Fairmont had the most amazing breakfast buffet, one of the biggest spreads I’ve ever seen!

Jasper National Park :

Overview :

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Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre

From Lake Louise, we left for Jasper Town, but only after taking a couple of pitstops in between.

The first pitstop was the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. The route being so beautiful as always, we were blessed to see a snowfall. It was really exciting to see a forest full of lush green pine trees turn white within a matter of minutes, a similar sight, just like spraying your pancakes with powdered sugar.

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The Athabasca Glacier

The weather was in a mixed mood. It was a bright sunny day, yet the temperatures were close to 6-7 degree celsius and there was snowfall at the same time.

The icefields are divided into 2 parts again:

1. The Athabasca Skywalk

2. The Colombian Icefields/The Athabasca Glaciers

One must abandon their vehicle in the parking lot, and head towards the center and board the local bus services provided. First leg, The Skywalk is a small semi circled balcony hanging on the top of a valley with glass flooring for one to see down into the valley.

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The Athabasca Skywalk

Personally, this wasn’t a very rich experience for me for a few reasons. The glass flooring is scratched and worn out and one cannot get a very clear view of the depth of the valley, which really robs you off the thrill. Also, I had already been to a similar skywalk in The Grand Canyon and at the top of the Macau Tower which were newer and hence more thrilling experiences for me.

The Icefields
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The second leg, the Icefields. Again, one must take the local bus service which takes you midway to a checkpoint from where, you board an Ice Explorer. It is an extraordinary vehicle, which has tyres of about Five and half feet height, with tractor tyre like grids. One vehicle costs nearly Rs. 8 crores. Find out more about the vehicle here.

There are 23 Ice Explorers in the world, 22 of which are used for the tourists here and the other one in the Antarctic for research purposes. The vehicle takes you to the ice field, where one can play with the ice and then get back in the same vehicle. It is about a 15 minute cycle. There’s no cell reception, so you’re off the grid completely, also, this place is about 7000 feet above sea level.

 Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls is a waterfall in Jasper National Park on the upper Athabasca River. A powerful, picturesque waterfall, Athabasca Falls is not known so much for its height of 23 metres (75 ft) as it is known for its force due to the large quantity of water falling into the gorge, which can be substantial even on a cold morning in the fall, when river levels tend to be at their lowest.

The Athabasca Falls
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A Panorama of the Athabasca Fall Canyon
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Sunwapta Falls

Sunwapta Falls is a pair of waterfalls of the Sunwapta River located in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. The falls have a drop of about 18.5 metres (61 feet). Sunwapta is a Stoney language word that means “turbulent water”. The falls is most spectacular in the late spring when the spring melt is at its peak.

The Sunwapta Falls

Jasper Town

Jasper is a small beautiful town in itself. It has a population of about 3000-3500 people. The surplus population here simply comprises of tourists or are people on seasonal employment thanks to the surplus of tourists. Snow clad mountains all around, the sunrise and sunsets in these towns are so pretty, one cannot get enough of it.

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A Street From Jasper
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Banff and Jasper are like those small happy and peaceful towns from animated cartoons or movies. They have their own small school, their own markets and are completely self sustained. Most of the locals here know each other, mainly because the town is so small and limited. Although the weather is like all of Canada, upto -40 celsius in January and 25-26 degrees in June.

May to August is the most ideal time for tourists here. Most roads in Canada run through forests or national parks, so its quite normal to see a foxes, cougars, deers, elks, etc.

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Fun Fact : There are some specific types of flowers and other kinds of vegetation that grow specifically besides the roads, which is the food of choice for the bears right before they go into hibernation. So it is quite common to find a bear running along the road while driving.

The Pyramid Lake

We made stops at the Pyrmaid Lake, Patricia Lake and Maligne Canyon. It gets the name from a small island within the lake that is the shape of a pyramid. A small bridge has been made to go on to the island.

The Patricia Lake
The Maligne Canyon
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Patricia Lake is a smaller lake, again with beautiful mountains on each side and water as blue as it can be. The route to The Maligne Canyon is through a small trail. The path goes along a canyon and a couple of small waterfalls. It is a mile to the lower falls and a couple of miles to the upper falls. There are more than 4 entries and exits to this area, so one must remember their path while going back. Take the wrong path and you’d end up in the wrong parking lot, hours from where your car is parked.

There’s some rafting and boating activities in Jasper, although it is operational only during June and July, to avoid the super chilling water. The route from Jasper to Whistler is about 13-14 hours. So we ended up taking a nights stay in Kamloops.

Check out our stay and experience in Kamloops and whistler here!

Note : For more updates, please follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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The Canadian Rockies – Calgary, Banff National Park

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Calgary

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View from the flight between Calgary and Seattle

Note : If you want to read an overview of my journey through The Canadian Rockies, you can check out my previous article here.

My Canadian Journey started from Seattle. and taking a small flight to Calgary. Calgary does not have much to offer.

Simple flat lands and a downtown area. And there’s nothing too impressive about the downtown area, and there’s grasslands but scarce in trees. Getting lunch in Calgary, we set off to our first main location and the start of the rockies, Banff.

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Banff National Park

Overview :

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  • The Banff Town : Walk through the picturesque town of Banff and soak in the hustle bustle of the area. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to grab lunch here.
  • The Bow Falls : The Bow Falls is not too extraordinary, a simple height of 10 – 12 meters. What makes it really beautiful is the vegetation around and the crystal clear blue water. The highlight for us was a beautiful sunny day at around 14 – 15 degrees.
  • Gondola Ride to The Sulphur Mountain Range : The main attraction being The Samsun Peak, the tallest amongst this range. There’s two ways to go on this peak, one can take the Gondola, or trek all the way to the top! It would make for a beautiful 4 – 5 hour trek!
  • Short Boat Ride on Lake Minnewanka : Minnewaka is the largest lake in Banff. Expect incredible mountain scenery, rocky cliffs,  and emerald green waters. If you’re lucky you might spot grizzly bears and bald eagles too!
  • Moraine Lake : Moraine Lake is a glacially fed lake in Banff National Park, 14 kilometres outside the Village of Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada.
  • Lake Louise : The water in the lake is different shades of blue, thanks to the varied depths and plants beneath, and beyond the lake are some frozen waterfalls, that are really beautiful. (Check out in detail in the next post)
  • Emerald Lake : Although a part of Yoho National Park, it is only 73kms from Banff and really beautiful. (Check out in detail in the next post)
  • Johnston Canyon: Situated half an hour away from Banff on Bow Valley Parkway, this is a really nice, albeit crowded, hike through a gorge. It’s an easy trail to the Lower Falls, and if you want moderate exercise, make your way to the Upper Falls. (Check out in detail in the next post)

Author’s Note :

The Banff Town

Banff Town at 7 am

Banff is almost a 2 hour journey from Calgary. This route isn’t the most scenic through the journey, but there are some beautiful landscapes and you’d very soon realize there’s something beautiful coming your way. Banff is a really small town, located in Alberta, within the Banff National Park and has a lot of character and color. It is surrounded by snow clad mountains on all sides, and the weather there is anywhere between 10 to -25 degrees. We were lucky enough to go during a warmer season and it wasn’t too windy and a decent jacket did the trick for us.

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Banff Avenue at 4pm

There is one main avenue, known as The Banff Avenue, all the gift shops, restaurants, other shops, hotels and the local school are all on this avenue only. Going straight on this route takes you to The Fairmont Hotel and The Bow Falls. The population of Banff is anywhere between 2000 – 2500 people and one must obtain the permission of the local body before finding a place for residence here. The whole town runs solely on tourism and hence you can expect good hospitality and warm people. We stayed at The Ptarmigan Inn, one of the many hotels located on the Banff Avenue.

Fun Fact : All the crossroads in Banff are named on the local animals found in the area!

The Bow Falls

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The Bow Falls

The Bow Falls is not too extraordinary, a simple height of 10 – 12 meters. What makes it really beautiful is the vegetation around and the crystal clear blue water (which doesn’t seem as special once you go ahead on this trip). The highlight for us was a beautiful sunny day at around 14 – 15 degrees.

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Sulphur Mountains

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View from the gondola

Going forward from the Bow Falls, is another tourist attraction known as The Sulphur Mountains, and the main attraction being The Samsun Peak, the tallest amongst this range. There’s two ways to go on this peak, one can take the Gondola, or trek all the way to the top! It would make for a beautiful 4 – 5 hour trek! Going up from the Gondola, the view is just breathtakingly magnificent. It isn’t too cold on the top, but its very windy and that makes all the difference. One has to climb a total of 257 Steps to get to the top of the Samsun Peak.

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So on top of the peak is a small hut where an old lady used to live all by herself and there’s an exhibition of all of her tools.

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The Sulphur Mountain Range

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka
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From the mountains, coming back down, we set off towards Lake Minnewanka. It is a huge lake, and a man made glacier lake about 28kms in length and 2kms wide. And the water in summer is around 4 degrees, making it unavailable for water sports. There is small ferry ride on the lake, with the guide telling you about local animals and traditions, and the history behind the great Banff Fire.

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Devil’s Gap at the end of the Minnewanka Lake

Devil’s Gap is a mysterious place. It is also a secretly beautiful place that must be seen to be understood.

Imagine a deep amphitheatre flanked by soaring mountains that trace a dark curving line against the bright blue sky. Green prairie land peers through in the far distance to the east. Picture the bald eagles that are nesting there, the Fairholme wolf pack roaming near the south shore and the occasional bear scaling the slopes of Saddle’s Peak.

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One part of the Devil’s Gap is a glacial path that winds through the far east end of Lake Minnewanka, near Ghost Lakes. The whole area is situated at the lake’s deepest point, 152 metres, and you’d have to travel 30 kilometres deep into the Canadian Rockies backcountry to reach it on foot.

A Still of the beautiful Moraine Lake
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Johnston Canyon

From Banff Town, we set out to our next location which is Lake Louise. It is a beautiful 2 hour drive through the National Highway 1. On the way, we took a pitstop at the Johnston Canyon. By this time, the weather had changed significantly, the clouds came further down, covering half of the mountains and leaving the other half barely visible.

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At the Johnston Canyon, there is a trek to get to the waterfall, divided into two parts :

1. The Upper Falls : This is a 1.5-2 mile upward trek and takes about a couple of hours to get to the top of the fall.

2. The Lower Falls : Less time consuming and easier, and the most ideal for tourists who are short on time.

Due to time constraints, we ended up doing only the lower Falls. It was still a very pretty sight, the fall was about 20-25 meters in height, and one had to enter into a small cave, about 2-3 people at a time, and enjoy the beautiful mist of the fall. I found this really nice video from ‘The Flying Dutchman’ of the Johnston Canyon, click here to see it!

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The route all throughout the journey, is so beautiful and so breathtaking, it just stumps you out. It is said the closer one is to nature, the more in touch he/she is to his/her soul and inner peace. Having experienced that in real, I cannot help but agree with it toally!

It just somehow manages to touch a nerve in your mind that’s usually as intact and out of sight as a bee in a garden of flowers.

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The route along the way!

The mountains, half covered with lush pine trees and the other covered in snow enveloped by a thick group of clouds and add small lakes and streams, with their crystal clear turquoise water to make The Complete Package. I could write a 1000 word essay on it and use the most expensive camera to click pictures, but nothing could do justice to what was experienced by the naked eye.

Fun fact : Alongside roads, you’d also find tracks for the the freight trains and passenger trains for tourists, provided by the Canadian Government for the Canadian Rockies package. These trains range from 4 upto 15 nights covering parts or the whole of the rockies, but are comparatively more expensive than normal road travel.

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Emerald Lake

The Emerald Lake on a bright sunny day in all it’s glory as captured by Audley.

The Emerald Lake in itself is very beautiful. Mountains in the background, the water a beautiful shade greenish blue. The still water makes it look lake it is one big gemstone. During a colder day, it is very common to see a thin sheet of ice covering the water beneath.

Here’s a video to show y’all how it was like a cold rainy day!

The Emerald Lake on a rainy day!
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Find out our experience at Lake Louise and Jasper National Park in our next post!

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The Canadian Rockies – An Overview

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Usually, A trip to Canadian Rockies starts and ends between Banff and Whistler, however the nearest airports to them would be Calgary and Vancouver, and takes about 10-12 days. However, if one is short on time, or wants to explore other parts of Canada, they can cover the whole thing in 7-8 days too. However, to most people, It doesn’t do justice to the expensive flights to go for a period of a week or so. What a normal Tour Operator normally does is start at Calgary, drive you to Banff and across the Red line to Jasper. From Jasper to Whistler is a long 16-18 hour drive, and hence they prefer taking an unnecessary stop at Kamloops. Kamloops doesn’t have much to offer, although I’ll be mentioning things about the city in the following post. So thats basically wasting (not exactly waste because the drives are very scenic, but they get a little old with each day) 2 days in driving.

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map
Picture Courtesy : National Geographic Expeditions

My ideal travel plan would be : Land in Calgary – Drive to Lake Louise and stay at The Fairmont (Which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Sight) – Drive to Jasper and watch the lakes and falls quickly and then drive back to Calgary and fly to Vancouver – Drive and Stay at Whistler for 3-4 days – Fly back to Vancouver. Efficient planning can help you complete it in 8-9 days. (NOTE : This plan is only for those who want to save time, but isn’t something I would personally recommend.)

One of the most memorable things for me for this trip was the roadtrip. The landscapes so majestic, The nature so beautiful and The weather so perfect! This place makes for an amazing roadtrip, where one is looking for peace of mind and gets lost in nature. You will also find a lot of hikes and trails through your journey or camping sites, if you’re looking for some adventure.

Also, One can see grizzly bears and other animals walking/running along the roads. Some flowers and herbs grow only besides the roads, that make a good feast for these bears before they go into hibernation. The most ideal time to go would be between May and July, Although it starts pouring by June and the cold winters start by August all the way upto March. Here’s an overview of our trip there :

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The Start :

Calgary

The most logical place to start a road trip to Banff and Jasper is Calgary. It is well connected domestically and internationally and is only a short 2 hour drive from the fairytale town of Banff. You could choose to spend a night here or head directly towards Banff. I shall be posting a detailed excerpt of all the locations shortly and add quick links for y’all to navigate through it all, so stay tuned.

Banff National Park

Photo by Marlon Martinez on Pexels.com
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Places to Visit :

Jasper National Park

Places to visit :

The Athabasca Skywalk

Kamloops

Situated at the junction of the North and South Thompson Rivers in the Thompson Valley, Kamloops is the second largest city in the BC Interior with a growing population of 90,000 people. It has a peaceful waterfront and a small artificial pebble beach.

We did not spend much time here, just took an overnight pitstop to break our 13 hour road trip to Whistler into 2 parts. However, if you’re spending time here you can check out their tourism page for more.

Whistler

Peak2Peak Gondola Ride from afar

Whistler is a town north of Vancouver, British Columbia, that’s home to Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in North America.

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Things to do :

Vancouver

  • Fly Over Vancouver
  • The Butchart Gardens
  • Capilano Suspense Bridge
  • Gas Town
  • Boating, Fishing and Yacht Charters
  • Nightlife
  • Stanley Park
  • Other things

In my following post, I’ll be mentioning my personal experience all throughout the trip. We also took The Alaskan Cruise after covering The Rockies!

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