Review: Canadian Rockies and Alaska
Escorted Tour - Rail
Holiday in Canada, Banff and Jasper National Parks
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This holiday was taken with Great Rail Journeys. It was a 17 day holiday, and covered a wide range of places and experiences. I’m going to split into four areas; Banff/Jasper national parks, the Rocky Moutaineer across the Rockies, Alaskan cruise and Seattle.
Our holiday started with an overnight stay in London. On Saturday 11th May we got a taxi from our hotel to Paddington station, and a train to Heathrow airport. We met up with our tour leader and the rest of the group, of 10 people. We went through the usual slow process of checking in and security before catching the plane to Calgary. We set off at 5-35pm, but because of the 7 hour time difference, landed at 8pm. A coach took us to our hotel in Banff, the Caribou Lodge, where we arrived 2 hours later, feeling very tired.
On Sunday 12th May we had a coach trip round Banff National Park. We stopped at Johnstone Canyon and walked along a river gorge admiring the rushing water, then on to Lake Louise, which was still frozen. Emerald lake next, but it started to rain so we didn’t linger. There was an interesting stop at the Kicking Horse river to see a natural bridge, formed by erosion of softer rock below harder rock. Then a brief stop to look at a rail system that negotiates step gradients by a series of loops. More snow and ice than I had anticipated. We were at the beginning of the tourist season, so lakes were ice more than water, and visitors centres not open. Spectacular vista of mountains, forests and lakes though. There was not much wildlife – good views of Clarks nutcrackers at lake Louise, and a few deer. On some rail journeys, food is included – but not on this one. We ate in the hotel, and it was expensive – and all the tipping on top!
Monday 13th May was a free day in Banff. We had a leisurely start, with breakfast (not included in room price) in the hotel, before catching a bus into the town and browsing round the shops, and the Whyte Museum. We found a post office, so could send postcards back home, and a café that sold latte coffee, a treat after the strong black coffee in the hotel. A bird highlight was a white crowned sparrow, singing in a low tree, so I had time to identify it. We walked back to the hotel and found a supermarket to buy food for a picnic in the room instead of an evening meal.
On Tuesday May 14th, we had a coach trip from Banff to Jasper, along the Icefields Parkway. Once again, spectacular scenery, wherever you looked. We stopped at various places to take photographs of mountains, frozen lakes and waterfalls. We had a longer midway stop to go on the Athabsca glacier, on a kind of bus with huge wheels. We were able to get out and walk around taking photos. It was disappointing that the visitor centre exhibition was not open yet for the tourist season. A wildlife highlight was a grizzly bear on the road verge. The coach stopped so we could take photos through the open door and windows. The driver was appalled to see people, some with children, getting out of cars for a closer look, as if it was a zoo, not wild animal . Wednesday May 15th was a morning trip round Jasper National park. We went to Pyramid lake – no ice, fresh green leaves on the trees and lovely reflections of trees and mountains in the still water. By another lake, there was a nesting bald eagle, and ospreys flying across. The third lake was frozen over, and the gift shop not open, so we did not linger. We were back by early afternoon, and dropped off in town, where we found a bank to get more money, having underestimated the cost of eating. Looked round shops again, buying some souvenirs, then back to hotel – and a picnic meal again.
123 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.