If you’re in Canada in July, saddle up for the Calgary Stampede — a 10-day party when the entire city is decked out in a Wild West theme — featuring concerts, rodeos, exhibitions and fireworks. At other times of the year, the laidback city of Calgary (www.tourismcalgary.com) retains its Old West touch despite a smattering of office towerblocks.
In summer, hiking and biking the nature trails are tops. In winter, have a go on the bobsled track, which was actually used in the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Edmonton is a friendly capital city with its vibrant Old Strathcona neighbourhood and the world’s largest mall. At 49 hectares, West Edmonton Mall is an incredible collection of shops and even has its own rollercoaster, waterpark and dolphins.
Jasper and Banff national parks
After exploring the cities, take the scenic Yellowhead Highway northbound to Jasper National Park. Hike around its famous green lakes or have a soak in the Miette Hot Springs, which has the hottest mineral waters in the Canadian Rockies.
Jasper is less explored than its famous sister, Banff National Park, with its incredible lakes in shades of milky blue and emerald green, surrounded by huge, jagged mountains topped with glaciers and icefields. Banff is world-famous for offering skiing and climbing with astonishing scenery.
Another great drive is along the Icefields Parkway, with a stop at Columbia Icefield for a walk on the Athabasca Glacier. The road winds around mountain peaks, passing gushing waterfalls and glacial lakes, arriving at Lake Louise, with its postcard-perfect turquoise waters sitting in a valley surrounded by snowy peaks. This truly is a magical spot.
Wildlife is abundant all throughout the Rockies, so keep your eye out for moose, elk, bear, bison, wolves and deer.
Activity-wise, the choices are endless. There’s whitewater rafting in Horseshoe Canyon or on the Kicking Horse River, numerous hiking trails, climbing, kayaking, skiing and boarding.