|When I decided to stop somewhere in the Canadian Rockies Mountains UNESCO World Heritage site and finally see up close the Rockies, I had many choices. I opted for Banff... because it's almost a mythical city for Canadians and it's easy to access it from Calgary (although I was coming from Vancouver). Banff is a year-round touristic spot with its ski in winter and its various outdoor sports in summer, not counting the always astonishing nature all around. |
Banff is a small town of about 8 300
people nested in the Rockies. It has the distinction of being the
highest town in Canada at 4 537 feet altitude. Close by Lake Louise
village is the highest community at 5 300 feet. It's located in the
heart of the Banff National Park (the first established in Canada, in
1885, 3rd in the world), and that limits the development
and savage expansion to preserve the natural setting.
Wherever you look from downtown, you'll
see a high mountain, often with traces of eternal snow on top, even
in late August. The highest touristic season for Banff is July and
August... and I can confirm you it's jammed packed then :-) Banff
offers all you want to see from the Rockies right from downtown
area... just walk a few minutes and you hit trails that lead you to
nature... with lush green trees and magical turquoise river water...
then you look up and see high summits of rocks with traces of snow...
and a perfectly blue sky. In terms of photography and color
separation, that's incredible... as you can see on the picture below, taken just outside downtown.
The city itself is a charming quaint
little town, where the historic aspect and rich wooden constructions
are preserved and enhanced. It's really like a living 3-D postcard
of the Rockies. It's really like a small town in a rural mountain
area... except it almost has just as many tourists than local
residents (in summer, the tourists probably outweigh the locals 3 to
1). There's a downside though... because of its popularity... prices
are extremely high. For lodging and for food, expect to pay 2 to 3
times what you'd pay in a regular city. What helps a little is that
there is no provincial sales tax in Alberta... so you only pay the
federal 5% GST.
Although it's a great spot to be in, if
I had to do it again, I'd probably stay in neighbouring Canmore
located just about 20 km south-east from Banff. Canmore is less
popular and technically just outside the Banff national park, yet
surrounded by the same mountains. You can easily take a regional bus
from Canmore to Banff many times a day... so you can sleep in Canmore
and save a lot... while spending your day in Banff, easily recovering
your transit fee. Canmore is a slightly bigger town (with 12 500
people) offering more services, at much better prices.