Canada – Rockies to Vancouver Island : 21 days
Depart London Heathrow on your flight to Calgary. On arrival make your way to the Delta Calgary Airport Hotel for overnight.
Pick up your rental car and drive to Banff (approx 1½ – 2 hours). 3 nights Buffalo Mountain Lodge.
Pick up from the hotel for your 4 hour ‘Best of Banff’ tour. First you will visit breathtaking Bow Falls then journey up Tunnel Mountain Drive for outstanding views of the historic Banff Springs Hotel and the surrounding town site. Next, take a short stroll to the Hoodoos, an incredible sandstone formation which also boasts great view of the Bow Valley. The journey continues to Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in the Canadian Rockies. This scenic drive offers exceptional views and picture stops of many glacial lakes, and hopefully moose, elk, deer and bear. The final stop is at Sulphur Mountain where you will have the opportunity to experience an incredible bird’s eye view of the Bow valley from the Banff Gondola (optional).
Sulphur Mountain Gondola: The Banff Gondola transports visitors to an elevation of 2,281m (7,486 feet) above sea level to the top of Sulphur Mountain in Banff, Canada, offering an unobstructed 360° view of incredible Rocky Mountain scenery. At the summit, three outdoor observation terraces provide stunning views of distant, ancient landscapes. For the adventurous, trails along beautiful mountain ridges reveal panoramic views.
Afternoon at leisure.
Banff National Park was Canada’s first national park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Canadian Rockies. The park is a year-round protected wilderness area offering rugged alpine beauty and first-class amenities. In summer, walk along nature trails, hike into the backcountry or climb peaks made famous by earlier tourist-explorers, or you can golf, camp, tour glaciers, river raft, cycle or fish. Year round pursuits include visiting National Historical Sites, enjoying the Banff Centre for the Arts, touring museums, riding sightseeing gondolas, and bathing at the Banff Upper Hot Springs.
Pick up from your hotel for an easy 12 km hike. Walk the flower filled trails of the Sunshine Meadows as they wind their way past waterfalls and lakes. With a professional interpretative guide you’ll learn about the fascinating world above the tree line. The walk is designed so that you can return to the nature centre area at 2.00pm or continue with the guide and make a full day of it. A shuttle returns from the Sunshine parking lot every hour until 5.00pm.
Drive to Field (approx 2 hours). 2 nights Emerald Lake Lodge.
Emerald Lake Lodge is a luxurious mountain lodge, 20 minutes west of Lake Louise. The Emerald Lake Lodge provides access to many activities both winter – x-country skiing & snowshoeing, downhill skiing, ice skating, sleigh rides, snowmobiling, waterfall ice climbing, tobogganing and ice fishing, as well as summer – hiking, rock climbing and day tours, white water rafting, canoeing, horseback riding, fishing, and mountain biking.
Drive to Jasper along one of the most scenic drives in North America – the Icefields Parkway (approx 3 hours). This is home for Black and Grizzly bears, elk, moose, mountain goats and sheep, so keep your cameras ready! Visit the Columbia Icefield, a series of glaciers 325 square kilometres in area, and take an Ice Explorer Ride (Snocoach).
Facing the Columbia Icefield Visitors Centre lies the Athabasca Glacier – a tongue of ice 6 kms long and one km wide descending almost to road level. You will travel in a specially designed Brewster Snocoach to the middle of the glacier, on a 5 km round trip journey. Your driver/guide will explain how glaciers are formed and point out interesting geological features as you travel in safety and comfort. At the icefall below the glacier headwall, you will have the option of stepping out onto ice formed from snow falling as long as 400 years ago.
3 nights Jasper Park Lodge.
Pick up for your Maligne Valley sightseeing excursion and boat cruise (5 hours).This introduction to Jasper begins with a short tour of the town before heading across the Athabasca River to Maligne Lake. A stop at Maligne Canyon offers staggering views of the river thundering through a series of magnificent waterfalls in a gorge 10,000 years in the making. Farther up the valley, stop to solve the mystery of “disappearing” Medicine Lake. Continue to Maligne Lake, and once there you can enjoy an interpretative boat cruise bound for Spirit Island, another of Canada’s iconic images, or a nice guided walk along the shoreline.
In the afternoon depart from the hotel to Jasper Tramway. Your Tramway Package includes round trip transportation to ‘Jasper’s Peak Attraction’ and your Tramway ticket. This is the longest and highest aerial tramway in the Rockies. The ride up to the top of Whistler’s Mountain is breathtaking. Your Tramway Guide will provide a fully narrated tour during the 7 minute ride up to the top. Once at the upper terminal you can enjoy a meal at the Treeline Restaurant or take part in a complementary interpretative hike with a Mountain Guide. The Tramway shuttle departs from hotels up to 8 times a day.
Drive to Clearwater close to Wells Gray Park (approx 3 hours). Overnight Alpine Meadows Resort.
Drive to Kelowna in the Okanagan (approx 3 hours). The area is home to over 20 wineries within driving range. In summer, enjoy hiking, boating, fishing, and bird watching. Overnight Manteo Resort.
Drive to Harrison Hot Springs (approx 3 hours). Overnight Harrison Hot Springs Resort.
Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa is nestled on the shores of Harrison Lake in the majestic Fraser Valley. Resort facilities focus on the 8,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor natural mineral hot springs with 5 pools along with a full service spa. Local activities include boating, fishing, tennis, golf and eagle watching.
Drive to Tsawwassen and take the ferry to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island.
Drive to Brentwood Bay Lodge and Spa close to Victoria for overnight (approx ½ hour from Swartz Bay).
Drive to Tofino (approx 4 hours). Perhaps visit Duncan (for Totem Poles) and Chemainus (for murals) en route. 3 nights Longbeach Lodge, perched on the edge of Cox Bay between the Pacific Rim National Park and Clayoquot Sound.
This afternoon enjoy a Coastal Bear watch excursion (approx 2 ½ hours). This tour features black bears and explores the fjord inlets of Clayoquot Sound. During the winter, local black bears are in semi-hibernation. Come May, they leave their dens and head for the closest food source – the ocean! While the bears forage in the intertidal zone, you can unobtrusively observe and photograph their behaviour. You will experience the tour aboard an open-air, rescue-style, 24′ rigid-hulled Zodiac suitable for this calm water programme. The vessel’s shallow draft is especially good for manoeuvring in the small sheltered bays while you are watching for bears and learning about this unique environment.
Travel via Nanaimo and BC Ferries to Horseshoe Bay and on to Vancouver. 4 nights Westin Bayshore.
Days 18 – 20
Vancouver enjoys a spectacular setting located on the Pacific Ocean against the backdrop of the Coast Mountains. Highlights to see include the downtown core and historical Gastown with its cobblestone streets and hidden passageways, and Chinatown.
Day at leisure. Return your rental car to the airport in the afternoon and check in for your overnight flight to London.