Western Canada, traditionally made up of the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, is known for its breathtaking coast, glorious Rocky Mountains and fields that go on as far as the eye can see. There are so many fantastic things to do in the region from the urban cities of Vancouver and Calgary to the beautiful national and provincial parks in the area.
Here are 10 amazing experiences in western Canada, specifically the coastal regions of British Columbia and mountains of Alberta, if you’re studying abroad or traveling through the area.
Hike the West Coast Trail
In a struggle of mind versus body, the 75 km West Coast Trail in Pacific Rim National Park, is a powerful and rewarding experience. Running along the west coast of Vancouver Island, the hike offers wet jungle-like terrain, expansive beaches and serene remoteness. The hike shouldn't be taken lightly and preparation is key for this multi-day adventure in the wilderness. A trail permit is required before setting off as is proper equipment and food. However all the hard work and physical strain will be worth it when you’re rewarded with breathtaking views that only the most determined have seen in person.
Enjoy High Tea in Victoria, BC
With double decker buses, Victorian homes and red phone booths, Victoria’s similarities to the English capital are immediate apparent. So is the city’s love for High Tea with options all over the city. Treat yourself to the full experience at the Empress Hotel right on Inner Harbour, or head to some of the smaller establishments like The Heather Tea Room in Oak Bay. Regardless where you go, you’ll leave feeling prim and proper and fully satisfied from the delicious bites.
Love to hit the slopes in the winter? Then you need to go skiing in Whistler. Host to the XXI Olympic Winter Games, this world class ski resort is actually made up of two mountains: Whistler and Blackcomb. At the top, connecting the two is the Peak to Peak Gondola which is the world’s highest and longest unsupported cable car span in the world.
With over 200 runs and 8000 acres of skiable areas between the two mountains, there is plenty to explore and experience. After a long day’s on the slopes, relax in Whistler village which is always bustling with good food and nightlife, shopping and luxurious spa options. If skiing isn’t your cup of tea, portions of the mountain is also open in the summer for mountain biking.
Stuff your face full of food from around the world in Vancouver
Love sushi? Korean BBQ? Tacos? Classic French? You can find all this and more in the restaurants of Vancouver. With such a melting pot of cuisines, you won’t go hungry in the city. With the influx of immigrants from all around the world, Vancouver is fortunate to have such a variety. Beyond just cuisines, the city is welcoming of all types of diets whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, paleo or anything else. This is a city that loves food and it will make you love it too.
Sip wine in the Okanagan
Recently named one of the top wine regions in the world by USA Today and 10 Best, you must head into the interior of BC into the Okanagan region for some wine. With so many wineries within a stone’s throw of each other, you’ll be spoiled for choice. From large international winning wineries like Mission Hill to smaller family run establishments like Little Straw, there is a wine and winery for everyone. Delicious wins, coupled with expansive views overlooking Lake Okanagan and you have yourself a fantastic summer getaway.
Drive through the Rocky Mountains
Driving through the Rocky Mountains is an amazing experience. With beautiful landscape throughout the journey, it is one stunning view after the other. You’ll pass through the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site which consists of a number of national and provincial parks. If time permits, be sure to drive the Icefield Parkway to check out the Columbia Icefield and walk on a glacier. As beautiful as the region is, care must be taken when driving through the area so make sure you’re prepared.
Step into history with dinosaurs
Did you know Alberta once was home to many dinosaurs? A 2.5 hour drive from Calgary is Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to some of the most extensive dinosaur bone fields in the world. With a stark, moonlike landscape, unusually shaped rock formations, striped hoodoos and plunging canyons, you will have no trouble imagining dinosaurs roaming the area.
Head north and visit Drumheller, home of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, one of the premier dinosaur institutions in the world. Can’t wait to go? Then sign yourself up for Dino 101 - an online course offered by the University of Alberta which offers an overview of non-bird dinosaurs.
Explore Lake Louise
Glistening bright blue glacial waters, imposing snowcapped mountains, lush green trees. You've entered Banff National Park and are standing on the edge of the beautiful Lake Louise. The Chateau Lake Louise, one of Canada's grand railway hotels, is located on the lake’s eastern shore. With a variety of hikes, horseback riding, canoeing and kayaking options, there is plenty to do. In the winter, the lake freezes over and is the perfect location for skating under the great open sky.
Experience the Calgary Stampede
Known as The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, the Calgary Stampede needs to be experienced to be understood. The Stampede is an annual rodeo, exhibition and fair held every year in July in Calgary. Run by thousands of volunteers, the Stampede attracts over a million visitors a year to its events. Enjoy chuckwagon races, a midway with lots of outrageous fair food, concerts, stage shows and of course the rodeo, one of the world’s largest. Get the full stampede experience and dress the part. You’ll have the best memories of your time abroad.
Soak in some hot springs
Soak in the ultimate relaxation experience by visiting one of the many hot springs throughout British Columbia and Alberta. Harrison Hot Springs, a short drive from Vancouver is a classic choice, or if you’re up north, soak in the great outdoors surrounded by nature at Liard Hot Springs. Through the Canadian Rockies, stop off at Radium, Miette or Banff hot springs. Regardless, a soak in the warm thermal waters is sure to sooth any sore muscles from your travels or rejuvenate you so you’re ready to complete your study abroad term.
British Columbia and Alberta in Western Canada has plenty of offer for those traveling through. Lots of amazing and unique experiences. Regardless of what you do in the region, spending time traveling and living in this region is perfect for the nature lover.