Boasting wildlife galore and the Aurora borealis, Alberta is the glacier-studded jewel in Canada’s crown.
The province is home to some of the world’s most magnificent scenery and provides the perfect playground for active exploration.
Visiting outside of the more popular summer months opens up a world of activities as well as fewer fellow tourists and more affordable prices.
So to help you plan your great Canadian escape, here’s the High50 pick of the top five must-see destinations in majestic Alberta.
Perfect for any outdoor enthusiast, Banff is unsurprisingly one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.
Located in UNESCO World Heritage Site, Banff National Park, the town is rightly proud of its connection with its spectacular surroundings and was intended to be a tourist town from its very creation. The town’s first street was even orientated to offer the most impressive view of nearby Cascade Mountain.
For a 360-degree view of six scenic mountain ranges ride the Banff Gondola or for the more adventurous try the Via Ferrata, a unique accessible climbing experience on Mount Norquay. When the snow falls, get in on the ski action at one of the Park’s three world-class ski resorts. Or you can dog sled, ice walk, snowshoe or take a dip in the mineral-rich restorative waters of the Upper Hot Springs.
A stunning emerald green in summer, later in the year Lake Louise becomes a frozen winter wonderland; a fairytale setting surrounded by dramatic mountains and monolithic glaciers.
Rent a pair of skates and enjoy one of the world’s most scenic outdoor rinks. Delight in a traditional horse-drawn sleigh ride. Or check out the carved ice structures of the Ice Magic Festival held every January.
The luxurious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise dominates the lake’s eastern shore; for a stunning view enjoy afternoon from the Lakeview Lounge.
Or take a trip up the Lake Louise Gondola where Spring brings some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the Canadian Rockies.
Alberta’s provincial capital – “Canada’s Festival City”, is always celebrating. With over 30 festivals a year it’s easy to find a reason!
Set along the curving North Saskatchewan River, this vibrant city is easy to explore; join a food tour and take in some of its culinary delights, hop on a beautifully restored vintage streetcar for a scenic historic tour that crosses over the High Level Bridge, or hire a Segway and join a tour through Edmonton’s River Valley Park.
When winter falls, embrace the snow and go cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Carve some powder on four downhill ski slopes in and around the city. Or discover a winter festival; Ice on Whyte and Ice Castles just to name two!
The largest of the Rocky Mountain parks and the second largest dark sky preserve in the world, Jasper is filled with soaring peaks and ancient glaciers. Visit in October for the annual Dark Sky Festival to celebrate all things celestial.
Ride the longest and highest guided aerial tramway in Canada for sweeping views of six mountain ranges, glacial fed lakes and the Athabasca River far below. Afterwards, head to Maligne Canyon to explore what is considered to be one the most spectacular gorges in the Rockies, especially in winter.
Take an Athabasca Glacier Tour to appreciate the Columbia Icefields and walk on ice up to 360 metres thick. Then visit the glass-floored Glacier Skywalk, suspended 280 metres over the Sunwapta Valley, for stunning aerial views.
Home to world-famous Calgary Stampede, Alberta’s largest city, and more often than not the jumping off point for visiting Alberta, is a chic urban landscape set dramatically between prairies and peaks. A place with world-class cuisine and entertainment, which at the same time embraces its rich western heritage.
Head downtown to iconic landmark, the Calgary Tower, for a bird’s-eye view; brave glass floor if you have the nerve!
For an adrenaline rush head to Canada Olympic Park, home to the 1988 Winter Olympics; ride a bobsleigh, zip-line off the ski jump, take the gravity ride on the Skyline luge, ski and bike.
Or discover Canada’s largest living history museum, Heritage Park, a chance to immerse yourself in the history of Western Canada.
Another option is to head east to Drumheller in the Canadian Badlands. This area is one of the richest fossil beds in the world and the largest dinosaur fields in North America. You can stop off at the Royal Tyrell Museum to learn more about the dinosaurs that roamed here many millennia ago.
Here’s our pick of holidays that take in the majesty of Alberta:
10 Nights Tour from £1,259pp
This ten-day tour takes in all that Alberta has to offer. From the cities of Calgary and Edmonton to Banff and Jasper National Parks – there is something to keep everyone happy. Activities include wildlife spotting, hiking, gastronomy tours, river trips, and amateur paleontology – but can be adapted to take in your preferences of hotels and interests. Click here for more information.
13 Nights Tour from £2,099pp
For those who want even more freedom, this 13-night self-drive tour is full of fossils and cowboys, outdoor pursuits and urban attractions. Starting in the Badlands and ending up in the Rocky Mountains – this is a proper adventure into the wilds of Alberta. Click here for more information.