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Nestled high in the Canadian Rockies along the Trans-Canada Highway lies the picturesque town of Banff, in the southern portion of the southwestern Canadian province of Alberta. Our Banff Canada Travel Guide is your key to this resort town which is located within Banff National Park, surrounded by mountains and boasting a small year-round population of around 8,000 residents, restricted due to concerns about wilderness development. The area teems with visitors, most of who arrive by car; the closest airport is Calgary International Airport (YYC), roughly 145 km from Banff. There is also public transportation available, primarily the environmentally-friendly Roam buses.
Once you’re settled into one of the nice array of Banff Alberta hotels, begin your exploration of Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Canada’s first national park. Note: a national park pass is required to enter the park. Over 6,600 square miles of unspoiled wilderness await you by foot, on bicycle or skis; you can take a trail ride, a carriage ride or a sleigh ride – just do it! Climb a mountain, hike through vast unspoiled wilderness, relax your weary bones in the Upper Hot Springs, paddle a canoe or kayak on the Bow River or on Lake Louise, photograph a rare bird - the outdoor exploration opportunities are seemingly unending! Stop in at one of the park’s visitor centres, one in Banff and one in the village of Lake Louise, to get oriented to the lay of the land and what there is to see and do.
The snow-capped Canadian Rockies offer wonderful opportunities for outdoor recreation year-round, with Ski Norquay, Lake Louise Mountain Resort and the Sunshine Village Ski Resort all boasting excellent skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding; enjoy beautiful mountain scenery by hiking numerous trails during the summer. As a matter of fact, Sunshine Meadows is considered to be one of the best hiking spots in Canada! Its annual Wildlife Week boasts free guided walks and the chance to watch talented Plein Air artists at work creating paintings of the beautiful scenery surrounding them.
You might think that Banff is lacking in culture, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Banff Centre is a 43 acre world-class institution of arts, education and culture, all located within beautiful Banff National Park. Popular annual events at Banff Centre include Banff Summer Arts Festival and Banff Mountain Festival, and visitors enjoy oohing and aahing at the outstanding mountain vistas year-round. Other local cultural experiences include touring Banff Park Museum, a National Historic Site, Whyte Museum’s historic Heritage Homes, and exploring the history of the First Nations peoples at the Buffalo Nations Museum. Be careful – you just might learn something while exploring this beautiful portion of Canada!
Winter festivals include Snow Days, a month-long festival during January and February featuring ice sculpture competitions, photo exhibitions, ski marathons and other sporting events, and WinterStart Festival, marking the beginning of ski season with ski races, concerts, the Santa Claus Parade of Lights and children’s activities. Summer festivals are even more abundant, beginning with the Banff Summer Arts Festival, offering big-time concerts at Banff Centre, along with dance, music and literary experiences. Spring StART offers 3 weeks of cultural productions which immerse you in First Nations heritage, and there’s always the spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks bursting over the mountains and lakes to look forward to as well.
Take a cruise on glacial Lake Minnewanka, meander along Bow Valley Parkway, one of the best scenic routes in the country, see the region from a different point of view on the high-in-the-sky Banff Gondolas, whitewater raft down Horseshoe Canyon or float the Bow River, and hike the Parker Ridge Trail to see it all and stay fit. There are number of first-class spas in Banff, offering serene settings and wonderful opportunities to relax and rejuvenate. Play a round or two at Banff Springs Golf Course, considered one of the most stunning courses in the world, at the Fairmont Banff Springs – this popular resort also hosts the Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival held in May, where you can indulge in fine food and spirits.
Banff is stunningly beautiful, but doesn’t just end there. You will find more to do than you will have time for, that’s for sure. Put Banff on your short-list of vacation destinations today!