And just how long as it took for the journey to start, that’s how short it took for it to be over. My two weeks in West-Canada have flown by so fast I hardly had time to blink or breathe.
But that’s good news for you guys because now I’m back with a whole lot of experiences and tips to share with you and the world!
Last time, for my Morocco trip, I started off with an overview of my itinerary. And that’s exactly what I intend to do again.
When my friends and I first talked about travelling to Canada more than a year ago, it was immediately obvious that we all wanted to head West. Not that the East and Canada’s most famous cities didn’t interest us, but the fascination with the Canadian Rocky Mountains and nature was just that much bigger. Snow-topped mountains surrounded by lush green fir trees reflecting in those crystal blue lakes: who doesn’t go soft for those?
So that decision was easily made. The route we were going to take was just a tad more difficult. We searched the web for a while to find other people’s itineraries and tips on the must-see things and the places that peeked our interest the most. Early on we decided that we wanted to start in Vancouver and end in Calgary. This way we would be keeping – what we then considered to be – the highlight, being the Rockies, for last. And then bit by bit we added sights along the way ending with the route below.
Usually I pack my days quite full, but this time around I took some gas back and had a little less busy schedule planned. We also added an extra day in the Rocky Mountains to be able to explore that part to the fullest.
We were very fortunate to have found a cheap flight from Brussels to Vancouver and flying back from Calgary instead of having to drive back to Vancouver first. That definitely saved us a day as well.
So we started our roadtrip in Vancouver. A city I had been looking forward to visit very much as everyone seemed so ecstatic about it. Our flight arrived around 3:30pm but with the many hours of travelling that we had just had, we didn’t really do a whole lot anymore that evening.
The next day however was completely dedicated to this coastal seaport city. While you definitely have a lot more to see and do in the area, we were able to see most of Downtown Vancouver in that day.
Our second full day on Canadian ground we headed back to the airport of Vancouver to pick up our rental car for the trip. We drove our pretty, white Chevrolet Cruz immediately on board the ferry to sail to our next destination; Vancouver Island. Early afternoon we arrived in Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. The rest of that day and the day after we explored and very much enjoyed this picturesque place.
And then it was time to leave the big cities behind us. Time for our nature fix! It was an early morning that day as we had quite a drive ahead of us from Victoria to Ucluelet and still wanted to make some stops in between. Along the way, we managed to stretch our legs in Cowichan Bay, have lunch in Coombs and hike a bit in Cathedral Grove. Late afternoon we made it to Ucluelet and went for one more hike to explore the closest part of the Pacific Rim.
Day six of our journey was mostly dedicated to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. We covered most of the hikes and viewpoints in the area before driving to Port Alberni for the night. Port Alberni itself doesn’t really have much to offer, but since we wanted to catch an early ferry back to the mainland the next day, we decided to already drive a bit closer to the ferry terminal and save us some kilometers the next morning.
So a ferry back to Vancouver it was. And then we hit the road again. The beautiful Sea to Sky Highway was on the program, with a stop in Squamish to ride the Sea to Sky Gondola and see the Shannon Falls. That night we stayed in the beautiful town of Whistler, the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The next day we had another long drive ahead of us to reach Clearwater, the gateway to Wells Gray Provincial Park. To get a break from hours of sitting in the car – even though the scenery was beautiful-, we stopped at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. There we hiked to the Upper Joffre Lake and got our first crystal blue lake and mountain views (see first picture). It was absolutely breathtaking!
Day nine was spent in the beautiful Wells Gray Provincial Park. A really beautiful park with a diverse offer of meadows, falls, river views and lakes. There are a few gravel roads through the park, so keep that in mind if you want to add this park to your itinerary. A 4×4 isn’t necessary – we managed just fine – but if you have a compact car, it does get a bit tricky.
And then it was time to drive our final kilometers to the Rocky Mountains. YAY! Through Mount Robson Provincial Park, where we made a stop and hiked to Kinney Lake, we ended up in Jasper, the commercial center of Jasper National Park. The day of our arrival, we relaxed a bit in the alpine town of Jasper, but the two days after were completely dedicated to explore this beautiful part of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
The first of those two days we still had beautiful weather, so we first took the Jasper Skytram up for some scenic views of the area before heading to the Pyramid Lake area to hit some trails. The second day the weather gods sadly turned on us and we had a cloudy – and bit rainy – morning at Maligne Lake. Fortunately by afternoon the clouds had cleared a bit and we could still enjoy some sun in the Maligne Canyon.
And just like that we were already on day thirteen of our trip. One of the days I had been looking forward to the most; the day we would be driving over the extremely scenic Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Lake Louise. But I guess Murphy was joining us on that particular day as we got a very cloudy day with limited view. Absolute bummer. But we made the best of it and luckily ended up spotting at least some mountain peaks between the clouds.
The next day the weather still hadn’t decided to co-operate and more clouds and rain were forecasted. Nonetheless we still got up really early to secure ourselves a parking spot on the Lake Moraine parking lot. You do have to be early to be able to drive there yourself. If not you’re stuck to taking a shuttle bus. For Lake Louise, our afternoon destination, that was already the case.
By the time we were back in our car and on our way to Banff – our final destination for the day – it started raining pretty badly. And it didn’t stop for the rest of that day. At least we had a museum visit planned that afternoon and then just added a tea/coffee and pie break to keep ourselves busy.
The next day we were tired of all that cloudy weather, so we headed to Sunshine Village in Banff National Park in the hopes of finding the sun over there. And it worked! We enjoyed a sun-filled morning in the meadows and on the trails of this ski resort. The afternoon was a bit cloudier, but we weren’t complaining at all. Beggars can’t be choosers!
And then our last full day in Canada had sadly arrived. On that day we went to see the falls at Johnston Canyon before driving our final kilometers to our end destination Calgary. We strolled around the city for a while before retiring to our airport hotel to celebrate what an amazing holiday we had had. Because it truly had been. The weather may not have been perfect the last week, but even then it’s impossible not to fall in love with the beauty of Canada.
And once again, all in a pretty little schedule to finish this post.
Day 1: Flight + Vancouver
Day 2: Vancouver
Day 3: Ferry to Victoria + Victoria
Day 4: Victoria
Day 5: Drive to Ucluelet (Pacific Rim) via Cowichan Bay, Coombs and Cathedral Grove
Day 6: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve + drive to Port Alberni
Day 7: Ferry to Vancouver + drive over Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler via Squamish
Day 8: Drive to Clearwater via Joffre Lakes Provincial Park
Day 9: Wells Gray Provincial Park
Day 10: Drive to Jasper via Mount Robson Provincial Park
Day 11: Jasper National Park: Skytram + Pyramid Lake
Day 12: Jasper National Park: Maligne Lake + Maligne Canyon
Day 13: Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Lake Louise
Day 14: Maligne Lake + Lake Louise + drive to Banff
Day 15: Banff National Park: Sunshine Village
Day 16: Banff National Park: Johnston Canyon + drive to Calgary + Calgary
Day 17: Flight home
I hope this will once again help you to construct or tweak your own itinerary if you plan to go to West-Canada. If you have any more questions or remarks so far; shoot. And if not, sit back and hold on tight, because there is a whole lot more to come on this trip!