After the thrill of the Dinosaur Provincial Park we headed out for Banff and Jasper the next day.
Stayed in the Banff Inn Hotel , a little gem in the heart of Banff downtown. All the souvenir shops, restaurants were within walking distance from the hotel. Chilis was right beside the hotel. Rooms were clean and well maintained, breakfast was included but was a little disappointing, not many options. But overall I really liked the place and the surroundings. Made Banff inn our base for 3 days out of which the last day was reserved for Jasper. Loved the Banff downtown.
The drive from Calgary to Banff national park was beautiful and it is considered as one of the most beautiful drives in the world. But the drive from Banff to Jasper through the Columbia Icefield Parkway is absolutely breathtaking. The Canadian rockies look so happy and gay through out the drive from Calgary to Banff. But the more you drive towards Jasper the grandeur of the Rockies become unfathomable. And no photography could do justice to the splendour of the Rockies in the Colombia Icefield Parkway drive. The drive also offers a golden opportunity to witness some awesome wildlife, especially black bears.
Banff is famous for its incredible coloured lakes, the colour blue which is utterly surreal and so divine with the backdrop of the Canadian Rockies, that one can spend hours just staring at them. My favourites:
1. Lake Louise
2. Moraine lake situated in the Ten Peaks Valley
3. Bow lake
4. Lake Minnewankaa
Activities like kayaking, sulphur mountain gondola rides and lake Louise gondola rides
are quite popular. We didn’t do any of them. Shame ?!! Haha!! I really wanted to do the lake Louise gondola ride since that’s the best gondola ride to spot bears but unfortunately it was closed due to technical problems and don’t have any excuse for not taking the sulphur mountain gondola ride, just didn’t take it. Had read mixed reviews that sometimes the mountains peaks are not visible due to cloud cover, that’s why didn’t invest in it.
Driving through the Columbia icefield we reached Jasper on the last day of our stay. Started from Banff inn a little early around 8:00 am and drove to our destination point, the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre in 2 and half hours. Crossed the Bow Glacier and many other wonderful sights en route. Marvelled at the Athabasca Glacier from the discovery centre which was great but what is even more adventurous and amazing is that you can board their ice explorer buses ( Brewster buses – Brewster glacier adventure website ) which takes you right on the glacier. Walking, slipping and trying to maintain my balance on the glacier was hilarious. And filling the fresh chilled glacier water in a bottle and taking a sip from it was so much fun. The bus drivers are certified guides themselves, filled us with interesting information about the glacier and the surrounding areas.
Another attraction here is the glacier skywalk which is an elevated glass walkway from where you can get a panoramic and aerial view of the glacier and the Sunwapta Valley. If you are lucky you can spot a few mountain goats also.
The combo tickets for both the activities cost around $80 per person. There is a documentary short movie, a souvenir shop and a decent cafeteria in the discovery centre. It’s recommended to reach the discovery centre as early as possible, at least before 12:00 pm since it gets really crowded and busy with tourists and then there is a long wait to take the glacier bus tour.