After enduring the relentless summer heat in the southern region, I was excited to embark on a trip to Western Canada via the Rocky Mountaineer. This much-awaited adventure gave me the opportunity to take a break and immerse myself in the awe-inspiring natural wonders of our neighboring country. As the trip was lengthy and intricate, I decided to split it into two parts, detailing my experiences onboard planes, trains, automobiles, and buses.  LOTS of buses!  In order to provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of my journey, I’ve divided it into two separate escapades: the bus rides and the train journey.

We decided to start our trip by arriving in Calgary the day before the journey began. The weather was amazing towards the end of July, so if you ever visit during this time, you should stay in the lovely downtown area and take a walk around the downtown streets. You’ll get to experience the friendly atmosphere, enjoy some amazing street art and visit some local bars.

On an early Sunday morning, we boarded our spacious motorcoach from Calgary to travel slightly northwest to enjoy two days in Banff. Brewster Sightseeing was our guide for the two days.  And the trip did not disappoint.

We opted for additional motorcoach excursions that were not provided by Rocky Mountaineer but were offered through Brewster. Despite some minor setbacks like arriving later than expected and having to reschedule an appointment, the tour of the Canadian landscape was breathtaking. Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Emerald Lake, and the 1179ft waterfall (Canada’s second tallest) are all stunning sights that are a must-see if you visit the area. The beauty of these natural wonders is unparalleled. The weather was perfect for a day of exploration and, as evidenced by the photos, there was no sign of wildfire smoke.

Now, Banff is a breathtaking destination that draws millions of visitors each year. Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is surrounded by stunning natural beauty and offers a wealth of outdoor activities. With its charming town center, Banff is truly a must-visit destination.  Oh, and you must try Earl’s for lunch.  They’re French Fries (with special dipping sauce) were worth a second order.  (And this gluten-free gal ordered two orders.) The other tasty treat you must try is a warm cinnamon delight known as a Beaver Tail.  These Canadian specialties will not let you down.

As our tour continued, it took us to the Columbia Icefield Centre in Jasper, which is a must-see spot for those who want to explore the beauty of glaciers. Located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, the Centre offers visitors the opportunity to witness the stunning landscapes and natural wonders that the region is known for. We enjoyed a delicious lunch that was included in the Rocky Mountaineer package before climbing aboard an ice explorer (which we nicknamed the “monster bus”) to travel halfway up the mountain. Once we disembarked, we spent time walking on the majestic glacier.

We had a wonderful day on Maligne Lake, enjoying a boat cruise and learning about the First Nation ancestors of Canada. Spirit Island was a particularly serene and peaceful spot. Later in the evening, we explored downtown Jasper. The local shops and eateries were plentiful, but we highly recommend a visit to Grandma’s Place for their delicious ice cream.

This portion of the trip did have very long days, but they were certainly worth the travel time to do so.  With the additional excursions offered, and the magnificent weather God sent our way, it would have been difficult to see all we saw in that timeframe without the help of Brewster Sightseeing.  Definitely worth the time.

I feel compelled to share some negative aspects of the first part of my trip, in addition to the positives I have already mentioned. One major downside was the long bus rides which left me with a sore rear end. However, the
most significant negative was the hotel we stayed at in Banff. I strongly advise against staying at the Caribou Lodge and suggest exploring other options offered by the Rocky Mountaineer. The rooms were old and dark, and the bathroom desperately needed renovation. The housekeeping service was also disappointing. Furthermore, there was no air conditioning in the rooms, which was quite uncomfortable.  For those of us ladies of a certain age needing a bit of cooler temps for the nights, this is certainly not your place.   Thankfully, the Rocky Mountaineer has several other hotel options along the route, so choose wisely.

You will want to note that tips are included with some of the excursions and some not, so bring some smaller bills. (And our lovely sisters in the north do not mind at all American currency.)

Our journey wrapped with a two-day train trip on the Rocky Mountaineer. I’ll share more about this leg of my Western Canadian adventure in the second part of my article coming next week.