Slow travel allows us to relax and hopefully rejuvenate as we explore the roads less travelled, the cities less visited and the experiences away from the beaten track.
What is slow travel? Simply, it is taking the slower modes of transport be it train, car, bike, horse or even your own two feet. Travelling slowly means we have time to appreciate the environment – the landscape, the people, the language, the food…the place and thus finding a connection between us and our experience.
You could fly quickly from East to West or vice-versa to see Canada, or you could choose an eco-friendly, sustainable, immersive way that connects you to this inspiring country of extreme landscapes, natural wonders and unique experiences – travelling the slow way.
From West to East
Starting in Vancouver, on the Canadian West Coast, travellers can explore the city, described by the New York Times as ‘Manhattan with mountains.’ Vancouver is literally the best of all worlds, it has summer beaches and winter mountains depending on the season you choose to visit. Vancouverites are welcoming and hospitality abounds across the mountainside district, to the cultural suburbs and the colourful downtown streets.
From March to October, whales migrate through the waters of Vancouver so ‘take the slow boat’ and you may see humpback, orcas, gray or minke whales on your trip and the sea birds won't disappoint either as pelicans, puffins and loons also reside in the area.
Canada is not famous as a wine-producing country however, the Okanagan Valley, close to Vancouver, is just one of several grape growing regions across British Columbia. You can find private tastings and tours at many of the vineyards in British Columbia so get ready to sip and savour some fabulous pinot noir, pinot gris and Ortega wines.
Head to the Mountains
Board the Train
From Vancouver, travellers can board the Rocky Mountaineer and take the train through the mountains to Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper. Luxurious days of travel aboard will leave you feeling relaxed and looked after. The train boasts glass dome coaches for panoramic viewing and there are some outdoor viewing areas for those picture-perfect shots from your phone or camera. Dedicated hosts share their expert knowledge of the area and ensure you don’t miss a thing and dining is a first-class affair with locally inspired dishes and produce. Sit back and enjoy the view. The trip to Kamloops takes almost the whole day and you will stay the night, the next day the journey continues to Banff.
Overnight in Kamloops
The north and south Thompson rivers come together in Kamloops so it is no surprise that within easy exploring distance there are over 100 lakes where slow travellers can relish some fishing or take time to paddle, water temperature permitting!
Take it SLOW
Kamloops is a destination for nature but arts and culture too. Downtown the alleys and walkways are home to murals that depict the local culture and history, take a stroll and enjoy the artwork for free. If you are feeling thirsty then a visit to a local brewery, taphouse or cidery will satisfy – the area is known for its microbreweries, craft beers and artisan ciders. Slow travellers are encouraged to watch the world go by with a pint - a flight of beers is the only flight you can take in Canada on the slow travel journey.
Foodies love Kamloops. The Kamloops Farmers Market is a great place to explore local produce and sample artisan delicacies (May to October), wineries and vineyards welcome visitors to taste their wares. The growing food truck scene offers casual dining opportunities, often in wonderful locations, that range from hot dogs and burgers to Italian pizzas or Jamaican specialities. Finally, the restaurants in Uptown and Downtown deliver an array of cuisines that represent the town’s multi-cultural diversity – delicious.
Banff and Lake Louise
Take the early train at 06.25 or have a leisurely lie-in before you drive towards the Rockies and Alberta province. The high mountain passes and the incredible tunnels are an impressive demonstration of the engineering and rich history of rail travel in the rugged terrain. The climb over Rogers Pass, Kicking Horse Canyon and the snow-capped peaks provide unforgettable views of a landscape relatively untouched by man. Banff is a historic mountain town brimming with charm. Slow travellers should take a few days here (at least) to enjoy all the area has to offer.
Take it SLOW
Banff is famous for its Hot Springs that flow out of Sulphur Mountain. In winter it is magical to immerse in the pools and gaze at the snowfall on the peaks – it is also invigorating as you enter and exit the waters! At any time of year, sunrise and sunset is the perfect time to visit and the springs are open late in the evening all year round.
Continue to take things easy by travelling by Gondola through the mountains to the highest peaks in both Banff and nearby Lake Louise. Photo opportunities begin from the moment your feet leave the ground and you need to keep your eyes open you may spot a local Grizzly bear. At the summit in Lake Louise look over the Victora Glacier; in Banff, the gondola rises up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain and the brave walker can stretch their legs along the ridgeline. Other slow ways to travel include dog sledding, horse-back riding and along the lakes canoes and perhaps some ice-skating.
Before you leave Banff and if your visit is between September and May, night-time adventures may reveal the illusive Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights. Alberta has some of the world’s largest dark sky preserves which means no artificial light will obscure your view of this astronomical phenomenon. Want a real adventure then camp out for the night.
Drive on to Calgary
This leg of the journey takes you through Kananaskis Country, named after its river, and the ranching regions of Alberta. Self-drive means you can stop anywhere and enjoy the relaxed lifestyle slow travel encourages. The mountain gradients give way to foothills as you approach Calgary.
After the mountains and lakes, Calgary welcomes you back to a big city. Nicknamed ‘Cowtown’ due to its large beef production and its annual Stampede, (10 days of rodeo and cowboy fun in July) is a cosmopolitan city of museums, parks, historical buildings and modern skyscrapers.
Take it SLOW
Slow travellers should take to two wheels and pedal around the city on its network of bicycle paths. Bike rental is easy and your transport will be delivered to your hotel. Head to Prince’s Island Park and Peace Bridge, the perfect location for people watching.
The Calgary Tower is iconic to the Calgary skyline, rising to 190 metres. The Sky 360 Restaurant and Lounge offers views of the city whilst you dine and revolves, once every 45 minutes – now that is slow travel!
Live music or entertainment is a must in this Canadian City and no-matter what your musical tastes you are sure to find a show that suits. From classical to country and from ballet to Broadway shows the theatres, bars and venues literally accommodate everyone.
If you are feeling inspired, Destinology has travel partners across Canada so if you want to horseback ride through the Rockies, kayak the fjords, camp-out under the night skies or hike the trails with a guide just give us a call.
We can plan and perfect your slow travels.
Other worldwide slow travel destinations are available!