Day 1: Join tour in Calgary
Arrive Calgary and check-in to the hotel. Home to the world renowned Calgary Stampede, this most dynamic of cities is a rich fusion of modern architecture and traditional heritage, where the pioneering history of the Canadian west is woven into everyday life. You may have some free time today to explore the city and soak up the friendly ambience of this spectacularly located community. Filled with museums, shops and cafes, the centre of the city is a great place to just wander and take in its majestic setting against the backdrop of those ever present mountains.
Please note that on the 7th July departure, the joining hotel will be the Clarion Airport Hotel Calgary, located just 10 minutes by taxi into the city. Pre-tour accommodation is available either at this hotel, or at the Ramada Downtown Hotel.
Day 2: Visit Calgary, drive to Canmore, explore Kananaskis Country
This morning we will take some time to explore the glittering city of Calgary. The centre of town is a great place to wander around, marvel at the impressive architecture and absorb the friendly atmosphere - all set against a backdrop of the Rockies that rear like a distant tidal wave. These rugged mountains, interspersed with moments of sublime serenity in the form of turquoise lakes and cascading falls, beg for further exploration and before lunch we waste no time and head west up into the hills. Our base for the next three nights is the small town of Canmore situated in the picturesque Bow Valley. Described as the gateway to the Rockies, it is the perfect place from which to make our forays in to the nearby Kananaskis country and Banff National Park. This afternoon we explore Kananaskis country and the valleys of this region on foot.
Day 3: Walks in Banff National Park, optional hot springs
Over the next two days we will explore the splendour of nearby Banff National Park. We will follow well-marked trails to discover beautiful lakes, stunning vistas and perfumed pine forests. We highly recommend taking an optional excursion by aerial tram to the top of Sulphur Mountain - if the weather is clear, the views across the Rockies are simply breathtaking. You may also want to spend time in the town of Banff itself. A bustling and lively place, it is easy to get infused with the energy that surrounds you. Banff is also famous for its hot springs, in fact, it was the discovery of the hot springs in 1883 that lead to the building of the settlement in this location. Relaxing in these geothermal waters is a wonderful way to while away a few hours one afternoon. For the more active among us there are numerous optional trips, such as canoeing on the Bow River, that can be organised locally.
Day 4: Free day to discover Banff National Park including Lake Louise
Today is left free to explore more of Banff National Park including making a visit to the picture postcard Lake Louise and Morraine Lake. Tom Wilson, the first white Canadian to see Lake Louise, when he was led there by a local native in 1882, wrote 'I never, in all my explorations of these five chains of mountains throughout western Canada, saw such a matchless scene…I felt puny in body, but glorified in spirit and soul.' Despite the increasing number of visitors to the lake it is still possible to experience the same feelings of awe that Tom Wilson had the first time he saw it.
Day 5: Drive to Jasper National Park along the Icefields Parkway
We take the drive along one of the world's top scenic highways today. We leave Canmore, travelling along the Icefields Parkway which cuts its way through a mountain wilderness filled with rivers and stunning glacial lakes. Every kilometre of the Parkway is witness to spectacular scenery and we are likely to encounter wildlife along the road itself. We continue northwards and pass alongside the Columbia icefields where we have the chance to stop at the Athabasca Glacier and falls. At Athabasca Glacier there is the option of taking a guided glacier hike or a snowcoach tour onto ancient glacial ice. Jasper, in the shadow of Mount Edith Cavell, lies at the end of today's journey.
Day 6: Search for wildlife in Jasper National Park
We start today with a hike in Maligne Canyon, a limestone chasm formed by the Maligne River carving its path through the rock. We have the rest of the day to explore the various highlights of the area around the townsite of Jasper. Keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife that roam freely here - wapiti, elk, moose and bears. You may want to take the Jasper Tramway to the high alpine terrain of Whistlers Mountain (named for the whistling sounds of the marmots that live there), try one of the many great biking trails in the area, or go rafting (optional).
Please note: Participation in canoeing or kayaking, or rafting requires that you are able to swim 25 metres unaided.
Day 7: Head to Clearwater via Mount Robson and Spahats Falls
This morning we head northwest along highway 16 through Mount Robson Provincial Park. We also see Mount Robson itself, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies (3954m). It is tall enough to create its own weather patterns and if we're lucky we'll be able to view this photogenic monolith from top to bottom. From here we enjoy a hike to the base of Mount Robson up to Kinney Lake before leaving Mount Robson behind and continuing onto Clearwater. This afternoon we head the short distance to Spahats Creek Provincial Park from where we can take an easy walk to the 61m high Spahats Falls. These impressive falls cascade down through layers of pinky-red volcanic rock, and from the observation point we should also have a great view down the Clearwater Valley.
Day 8: Visit the Wells Gray Provincial Park including Helmcken Falls
This morning we head out to the nearby Wells Gray Provincial Park, home to Helmcken Falls at 127m, higher than Niagara Falls. There are unexpectedly spectacular views from all along the park entrance road and great opportunities for wildlife spotting. We are then free for the rest of the day. The park offers an array of outdoor activities, including hiking and canoeing on amazingly clear lakes (all optional). You can hire a canoe here and feel as if you really are paddling off into the wilderness. Please note: Participation in canoeing or kayaking, or rafting requires that you are able to swim 25 metres unaided. The slower pace of life in these parts is infectious so you may also choose to return to our lodge and relax.
Day 9: Journey to Whistler
Today we journey south west to Whistler, pausing en route at various places to soak up the wonderful views. We will travel through the mountains of interior British Colombia, through different environments and climate that change the landscape, stopping at several viewpoints including Joffre Lake, where we can do some short walks. This evening in Whistler we can enjoy a meal in one of the many excellent restaurants and, for those that wish, follow it up with a night out on the town.
Day 10: Free day in Whistler; walk or take a cable car ride
Today we have a free day in Whistler to enjoy the variety of activities on offer here, including a cable car ride up one of the nearby peaks and hiking. There will also be the chance to walk on different trails around Whistler where we can walk on a trail either on the mountain or around its peaceful shores.
Day 11: Ferry to Nanaimo, drive to Pacific Rim National Park
This morning we will follow route 99, more famously known as the Sea to Sky Highway, toward the Pacific coast of Vancouver. We will continue to Horseshoe Bay from where we will catch the early ferry across to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Although the island stretches almost 500km from north to south, it only has a population of 500,000 and with its numerous provincial parks it is easy to escape into the wilderness. En route to Pacific Rim National Park we will stop in McMillan Provincial Park where we will take a short walk to the famous Cathedral Grove, a striking group of huge Douglas Firs. Some of these incredible trees reach up to 70m in height, are 2m thick and are estimated to be up to 1000 years old. We then continue on to the Pacific Rim National Park which will undoubtedly be the highlight of our time on the island. The park stretches intermittently for 130km and the mountains, coastal rainforest, wild beaches and unkempt marine landscapes are as diverse as they are beautiful. We will overnight in Ucluelet near Tofino.
Day 12: Free day for optional whale watching or sea kayaking
Today we are free to choose from a variety of different activities. The two most popular excursions are both out to sea. The more energetic may wish to take to kayaks and explore this wild coastline of hidden coves and rocky inlets. Alternatively, there is the chance to go whale watching from one of the coastal villages in the park. There is also the opportunity to go Black Bear watching today from a zodiac boat, or take an optional walk along one of the park's many trails. Our Explore Leader will be on hand to organise these trips and accompany those wishing to choose one of the optional walks.
Day 13: Drive to Victoria, free time to explore
We head south today, away from the wilderness of the Pacific Rim National Park and towards the much gentler scenery of Victoria. On the way we will make stops to view the totem poles carved by the First Nations of the North West Coast. In 1884 the Federal Government outlawed 'pot latching' and this unique art form nearly died out. Fortunately, in recent times, there has been a revived interest in this proud tradition and the totems that can be found along this stretch of coast are strong reminders of the island's native people. This afternoon we have free to time to explore Victoria. We highly recommend visiting the Royal British Columbia Museum or alternatively sit at one of the pavement cafes watching the world pass by.
Day 14: Ferry to Vancouver, orientation tour
Vancouver, known as the Jewel of North America and easily one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Canada, beckons us today in contrast to the wilderness we've been experiencing over the past days. However, this city's setting on the beaches of the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by Mount Seymour, Cypress and Grouse Mountain will remind you that nature looms nearby. During the afternoon, we provide a brief orientation tour, as well as the opportunity to discover Stanley Park (optional). This evening we recommend a visit to Gastown, an attractive area offering many restaurants and bars.
Day 15: Tour ends Vancouver
The tour ends this morning in Vancouver.
Touring with Explore
Explore have been creating award-winning adventures for over 35 years and are experts when it comes to unique travel experiences.
Their small group adventure holidays have been running since 1981 and today, Explore are one of the most trusted travel companies in the UK with over 600 trips to more than 130 countries. At Explore, they are passionate about travel and have developed a wide range of unique activities and experiences which gives their customers an unforgettable adventure with a team of award-winning Explore leaders .
With Explore, you'll get to see your destination from a whole new perspective that takes you away from the typical well-trodden tourist track. You'll have the chance to meet, dine and stay with local people, rest in authentic accommodation with other like-minded explorers and travel to must-see destinations with a unique Explore twist.
From family trips to holidays for solo travellers; cycling tours to wildlife safaris; trekking on mountains or exploring miles of scenic coastline; self-guided holidays or small group trips; there is something for every kind of traveller with Explore. They will provide their expert knowledge, exciting itineraries and outstanding service as part of their sustainable travel experiences which take you under the skin of the country you're visiting for the adventure of a lifetime.