by Ellen Natividad-Gomez
No search of Canada’s Attractions would be complete without the iconic images of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. I remember going through every picture and wondering if these places are as perfect as they look, or if, like many other tourist area photos, these ones have been heavily edited as well. Very much intrigued, I have put Banff in my bucket list when I moved here in Canada.
Four years after, we have set out to explore Banff to its fullest, and get to know Canada’s most popular national park.
Driving from Winnipeg downtown to Calgary takes 13.5 hours non-stop via Highway 1. Since we are not that used to long distance driving, we decided to break the trip and spend the night in Regina. Early morning the next day, we headed to Calgary. On our way to Calgary, we stopped at the Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, as a side trip. It didn’t take long before we realized that the park in itself is a major destination. The badlands unique topography is surely breathtaking. The expanse of countless canyons is a sight to behold.
From the Dinosaur Provincial Park, we continued to Calgary, and although it only takes about 1.5 hrs to get to Banff from Calgary, we decided to stay in the city and explore the downtown. Early morning the next day, we drove to Banff National Park. Park pass can be purchased ahead of time from select shops or online. This is also available at the main entrance of the park. If you are arriving after 8pm, I would suggest buying the pass ahead of time.
Banff National Park is very easy to navigate and complete with signs. We are by no means what would be considered as seasoned travelers, and we were able to go around not just Banff, but other national parks as well with ease. There are also tons of free maps and brochures available in the Visitor Centre and in almost all accommodations.
Banff is for everyone. There is an activity that will appeal to any type of traveler, from those who are looking for an adventure to those who are more like us, who prefer to quietly take in the beauty of everything. 2- 3 full days are more than enough to explore the city centre and visit the famous sites – Tunnel Mountain, Lake Minnewanka, Lake Louise and Lake Moraine. Since we were there for 5 days, we also visited the very charming town of Canmore, and drove further west to Fields, BC to Yoho National Park. Another alternative is to drive one of Canada’s most scenic route from Banff to Jasper, the Columbia Icefields Parkway
The postcards, as perfect as they are, don’t do justice to the incomparable beauty of Banff. It is that kind of place that gives you the feeling that you’re in a special place. The fame and millions of visitors each year are rightfully deserved.
Photos by Ray and Ellen Gomez