Canada has always been a destination on my travel bucket list. Hence I was very excited to say the least to be given the opportunity to experience one of the most famous train journeys of the world – The Rocky Mountaineer. My expectations were very much exceeded!
My journey started in Dunedin with Air NZ flights via Auckland and Vancouver into Calgary with a same day connection. I was intrigued by how flat Calgary was as we prepared to land. Calgary is an interesting city but a few days there is certainly all you need. I had pre-booked a transfer to my hotel and in no time at all I was checked in and enjoying the grandeur of the historic Calgary Fairmont Palliser Hotel. A tip, Fairmont Properties offer free Wi-Fi to Fairmont President Club members. Just join online at no charge, easy peasy, but huge benefits to Rocky Mountaineer customers staying at Fairmont Properties. I had also pre-booked a 2 hour walking tour which I would recommend, really informative and a great way to catch the sights and history of this city.
Day One of the Rocky Mountaineer Western Explorer from Calgary to Vancouver began as expected ... all coaches, drivers and hotels until we arrived in Jasper to start the train portion were of a very high standard. We were treated to Gold Leaf service on our tour, our luggage was always transferred to our rooms. This is standard for all Gold Leaf passengers. The Western Explorer is one of the most popular itineraries on Rocky Mountaineer, I can see why.
Our first day on board our coach we visited the Calgary Stampede Park before heading off to Banff. Part of this tour includes a 12 minute helicopter flight to experience the Canadian Rocky foothills by air – it was windy so I must be honest it wasn’t something I enjoyed, I was pleased to be back on the ground – but great scenery to start the journey into the Rockies. Then on to beautiful Banff, delightful place enjoyed every minute here, overnighted at the Banff Caribou Lodge.
Day Two - What a day! Travelling into Yoho National Park, with spiral train tunnels, Emerald Lake and Kicking Horse River. Incredible scenery, camera’s out in full force to try to capture the beauty of one of the planet's great scenic routes. To top the day off we arrive at Lake Louise to stay at the fabulous Chateau Lake Louise. My photos say it all really ……
Leaving Chateau Lake Louise and the stunning beauty of this incredible place was not the easiest but onward. The Bow River, Colombia Ice field and Athabasca Falls were on the agenda. Colombia Ice field was another highlight for me, travelling to the ice field on an ice explorer, basically a bus on steroids! Pretty COOL literally. On to Jasper Park Lodge for 2 nights, this was a wonderful experience – Caribou, Canadian Geese all just part of the beautiful park setting with a very large lake backdrop. You can hire bikes and kayaks and there is even a golf course. This was a great place to spend a couple of nights before boarding the train for the two day journey to Vancouver. Great for families and couples. Jasper is a lovely town, very small but with lovely shops and cafes. Well worth 2 nights to visit and enjoy the activities on offer.
The excitement was evident in the lobby of the Jasper Park Lodge as we all awaited the coach to collect us to take us on a short drive to the Jasper Station. Once on board the grandeur of the Gold Leaf carriage was more than I expected, the spacious magnificent seats and the large dome windows blew me away!
Off we went … then the food started, oh my, the guests allocated for the first seating of breakfast meandered down to the dining carriage whilst we were treated to our breakfast starter, the best freshly baked still warm cinnamon scone with coffee, while we waited our turn for 'actual' breakfast . The food was incredible on every level on this journey. However the food could only ever be secondary to the scenery, beyond magnificent. There was always something awesome to see over the course of the journey. An entertaining commentary accompanied the journey. The crew on board and general organisation was fabulous. As we arrived into Kamloops it was dark, a little late, due to freight trains sharing the track holding us up a touch …. all part of the experience. We were tired, full and ready for a good sleep before heading back to the train the following morning. We were picked up at the station taken to our hotel and back the next morning, so all very seamless.
We arrived into Vancouver around 5pm, a chance to see Silver Leaf seats ... interesting! The seats were great and would have no hesitation in spending 2 days on board here either. The main difference is the meals on Silver Leaf are delivered to your seat really like on an aircraft.
On arrival in Vancouver I was already wishing I had more time here. The 24 hours I had before flying back to NZ was jam packed with sightseeing, shopping and an amazing meal at “Black and Blue.” As my flight departed Vancouver I reflected on my 9 day Rocky Mountaineer experience ….Canada – I will be back, you are amazing.