Gondola rides up snowy peaks, a Christmas Day sleigh ride, snow-sprinkled destinations like Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. Welcome to Canada’s winter wonderland, says Katrina Lobley.
Antipodeans have a thing for Banff. Stroll around the pretty-as-a-picture resort town in Alberta and you’ll hear Australian and New Zealand accents mingling with others from around the world. Visitors flock not only because of the town’s extreme beauty – it’s surrounded by the soaring peaks of the Canadian Rocky Mountains – but it’s also only a short stroll into country so wild and untamed that there’s every chance of stumbling upon bears, bison, cougars, wolves and elk.
Yes, Banff is where the grandeur of nature and neat-as-a-pin civilisation bump right up against each other – and that’s what makes it so thrilling. Many visitors only see the town in summer but you can also celebrate a white Christmas here. Re-create a scene straight from a yuletide card by taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride over a snowy meadow surrounded by frosted mountains.
For views over snow canopy and icy peaks, the Sulphur Mountain 360-degree rooftop observation deck is hard to beat. It overlooks an astonishing six Rocky Mountain ranges. Sulphur Mountain takes its name from the simmering springs that are found here on its lower peaks. Winter is the perfect time to relax in the steamy environment of Canada’s highest hot springs – nearby Banff Upper Hot Springs.
While you could spend an entire holiday exploring what’s on offer in Banff, or simply curling up in front of a fireplace with a warm drink, it would mean neglecting the other jewels of the Canadian Rockies. A short drive from Banff is Lake Louise – one of Alberta’s most scenic spots with the famed Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise overlooking the iconic lake.
The town of Jasper completes the trio of must-see Canadian Rockies communities. At Christmas time, the low-rise village set against a soaring mountain backdrop sparkles with festive decorations. If you need to work off all the Christmas feasting, strap on a pair of snowshoes and go for a trek through the powder-soft winter landscape.
For an indigenous perspective on Canada, head west from the Rockies to Little Shuswap Lake – home to the 70-room Quaaout Lodge that regularly serves First Nations-inspired fare. Operated by the Little Shuswap Indian Band, the lodge also features Native interpretive areas, including a “kekuli” (winter house), where you can hear First Nations story-telling, and a traditional sweat lodge.
While you’re in Canada, exchange nature for the cosmopolitan vibes of Vancouver. At Christmas time, the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and its surrounds twinkle with hundreds of thousands of lights. Make sure your phone or camera is at the ready for your visit here. Over the festive season, the park is also home to the world’s tallest living Christmas tree, soaring some 46 metres into the air. For the ultimate white Christmas, there really is nowhere quite like Canada. Join us for this most wonderful time of the year on the 11 day Christmas in Canada tour!