Starting in Vancouver, with the Pacific Ocean and the North Shore ski hills as the backdrop, you’ll head east for a two-night stay in Osoyoos in the Okanagan, Canada’s lone desert. Highlights here include a wine-tasting and a visit to the Nk’mip Desert Cultural Centre. Afterward, you’ll continue east for a stay in the charming town of Nelson, in the heart of the Kootenays. You’ll fall in love with this charming lakeside town with its boutique shops and breweries – beer tasting included!
Next, you’ll travel through the Purcell mountain range as you head into Alberta for a 2-night stay in the spectacular Waterton Lakes National Park. Relax in the park and indulge in the spectacular scenery (lake cruise included).
Finally, you’ll visit Calgary with a stop at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump National Historic Site (UNESCO approved) to learn more about the indigenous culture of the area. After 1 night and a city highlights tour of Calgary, you’ll spend two nights in Banff to explore the Rocky Mountains and glacier-fed turquoise lakes.
After Banff you head west, travelling over Rogers Pass for a night in the Okanagan town of Vernon. The next day you’ll visit a local orchard as well as the Othello Tunnels on the Kettle Valley railway before arriving back in Vancouver.
Day 1 - Vancouver to Osoyoos
We start the day by meeting at Canada place. There are several options getting to the pick-up point, which your hotel concierge should be able to provide. If you are coming off a cruise ship, we are just a few hundred meters from the terminal. Your coach will depart promptly at 9:00 am, please arrive by 8:45 am. You will head along the road less traveled, Highway 3, through Manning Park and into the Southern Okanagan Valley. Along the way, you will stop for some little hikes and be greeted by the fascinating landscape and abundance of orchards. Much of British Columbia’s fruit is grown in this region. You will stop at Spotted Lake for a quick photo. This lake is not a high-volume tourist destination, so your photos will not have the crowds that some other lakes in Canada have. You will check into your hotel in Osoyoos, the Holiday Inn & Suites. This lakeside hotel is the perfect location to unwind a little after the drive and allow you to enjoy the unique landscape of Canada’s only desert.
Day 2 - Osoyoos
Today is the day that you will get to explore the Okanagan Valley. After breakfast at your hotel, you will start the day by visiting the Nk’Mip (pronounced in-ka-meep) Desert Cultural Centre to learn more about the fascinating stories of Canada’s only desert and share in the rich living culture of the Okanagan people. Following this, we will enjoy a wine tasting at a local winery before continuing to explorer the area on a little drive. The remainder of the day is at your leisure.
Day 3 - Osoyoos to Nelson
Again, this morning you will enjoy breakfast at the hotel before heading into the Kootenay Region of British Columbia. There will be a stop at Anarchist Mountain Lookout to experience the fantastic farewell views over Osoyoos and the mountain ranges that surround the Valley. There are mountains, valleys, and hot springs awaiting you. You will arrive in Nelson, a charming mountain town, in the early afternoon. For the rest of the afternoon, you will have the chance to explore Nelson and its little shops and boutiques. You will have the evening at leisure to eat in one of the many fabulous restaurants Nelson has to offer.
Day 4 - Nelson to Waterton
This morning we will leave the charming town of Nelson behind us and continue east towards the jewel of Southern Alberta – Waterton Lakes National Park. We will travel through the mountain landscape of the Purcell Mountains before entering the rolling prairies. Waterton Lakes National Park, together with its neighboring Glacier National Park in the state of Montana, US forms the International Peace Park. The idea of this unique coalition of cross-border parks goes back to 1931 with the intent to promote peace and goodwill between nations and to underscore the international nature of wilderness and that it takes us all to protect it.
Day 5 - Waterton
Today is mostly at your leisure. After breakfast grab your passport as we head out on a unique lake cruise. On this roughly 2-hour scenic cruise of Upper Waterton Lake where you will take in the breathtaking scenery with views of majestic towering cliffs and beautiful waterfalls while learning more about the Park and the interconnected ecosystems. While on the cruise, you will cross the International border to Goat Haunt, Montana. It is a spectacular experience and comes highly recommended by visitors and locals alike. The remainder of the day is at your leisure to explore the area or simply relax.
Day 6 - Waterton to Calgary
After breakfast, we will be leaving Waterton Lakes National Park and head north towards Calgary. Our first stop of the day is at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump National Historic Site, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site that preserves and interprets over 6,000 years of Plains Buffalo culture. Through vast landscapes, exhibits, and diverse programming, learn about the cultural significance of this cliff to the Plains People. Once we arrive in Calgary, we will show you the city highlights and finish our tour with a visit to the Calgary Tower before we check into the hotel.
Day 7 - Calgary to Banff
Meet us for a whirlwind adventure from mountains to coast. We will leave Calgary behind us and head straight for the magnificent Rocky Mountains. Before exploring Banff, we will travel to the Icefields Parkway to enjoy some amazing viewpoints and marvel at glacier lakes such as Peyto Lake and Bow Lake, before heading into Banff for a tour of the town and check-in to our hotel for the next 2 nights.
Day 8 - Banff
Today you will spend in and around the Town of Banff. While there are a few scheduled items on the itinerary, you will have most of the afternoon to do your own exploring. You will leave the hotel and head up the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain, where you will take in the magnificent views of the Rockies. There will be time to walk between the peaks and get panoramic views of Banff and the surrounding mountains of the Rockies. This location is an experience that you will not forget. Upon coming down from the Gondola, we will take a scenic drive to Lake Minnewanka & Two Jack Lake Loop and enjoy a tour of Banff townsite, including Bow Falls, HooDoos, Banff Springs Hotel, a site with many tales of ghosts, including the mystery of room 873. Following this, you will have the rest of the day and the evening to yourself. Explore the town a little more, or you can participate in an exciting outdoor activity for a discounted price such as horseback riding, whitewater rafting, canoeing (bow river float), hiking, caving, hot springs, fishing (early booking essential) and much more! You will then have the evening to explore the delights of the cuisine in Banff with many after-dinner bars to visit.
Day 9 - Banff to Vernon
Today’s highlights, on the way from Banff to Vernon, include Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, passing through Rogers Pass and stopping at Craigellachie, the location of the Last Spike – a historic landmark of the Canadian Pacific Railway, where the east and west lines joined. Before we arrive in Vernon and check into our hotel, enjoy a wine tasting at a local Winery. The rest of the day is at your leisure. Go for a stroll through the town of Vernon and explore the town’s history, culture and scenery through the many murals painted on city buildings.
Day 10 - Vernon to Vancouver
On your last morning with us, we will head to Davison Orchards for a quick visit to one of the many orchards that the Okanagan Valley is famous for. Before arriving in Vancouver we will finish our adventure with a stop at Othello Tunnels. These tunnels were cut from the granite cliffs in 1914 by the Canadian Pacific Railway connecting the Kootenays to the Coast. A total of five tunnels were cut out as part of the Kettle Valley Railway grade. The engineering effort it took to build this route was impressive, especially considering the limited infrastructure of the time. You will have the opportunity to walk through the tunnels and cross the cascading Coquihalla River. This area is also rich in film history, with several blockbuster film scenes shot at Othello Tunnels. You will return to Vancouver at approximately 7:00 pm.
Photo Credit: Destination Canada, Destination BC | Andrew Strain, Kari Medig, Dave Heath, Ryan Creary, and Shayd Johnson