Banff National Park in the western Canadian province of Alberta is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Natural Heritage Site. The park covers more than 6,000 square kilometres and includes the 4,000-kilometre plus Rocky Mountain range. The park offers magnificent views and is so astounding that visitors can forget the hustle and bustle of urban life.
Encompassing a multitude of attractions, Banff National Park is deservedly a world-class tourist destination. In summer, you can ride mountain trails on horseback or enjoy the wonderful scenery in a mountain cable car, or alternatively, take a leisurely trek along the more than 1,600 kilometres of hiking trails. Canmore lies southeast of Banff has the 60-foot Rats Nest Cave with a temperature of 5°C year round. Professional rock climbing guides will show you how to traverse the rocks and challenge your limits even if you have no rock-climbing experience! In winter, you may ski or try a dip in the Upper Hot Spring when the air temperature is -30°C, where you can make a barrel of fun by creating an 'ice-sculpture' hairstyle!
The town of Banff situated in the heart of the park is the most popular tourist destination among the Rocky Mountains. Lake Louise, the most famous lake in the area northwest of Banff, is a sheer splendour. You can walk right across the frozen lake in winter and feel the ice-cold breeze against your face. Admiring the crystal-clear topaz water that reflects the magnificent mountains on three sides is a wonderful summer indulgence. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise was built on the shore in 1886 in a Victorian style. A sip of beer at the patio against the backdrop of the glacial lake brings about an enthralling encounter between humans and nature.
The majestic landscape of Banff National Park has also been the backdrop contributing to the success of many classic movies. Kananaskis Lake is about an hour's drive to east of Banff and was the location of the movie Brokeback Mountain. Visit the scenic locale to get a taste of the western cowboy lifestyle. Further south is the Fortress Mountain, an awe-inspiring snow mountain site where some scenes of the movie Inception were shot. Classic movie buffs will want to visit Bow Falls where the glamorous Marilyn Monroe filmed River of No Return. You can admire the beautiful sight of the cascading Bow River falls hitting the limestone below from the Banff Springs Hotel.
As a Natural World Heritage Site, the area around Banff is strictly protected by the Canadian law, and the park has many mountains, streams, lakes and forests that let you get close to nature in its most primitive form. The Icefields Parkway connects the park with the main towns around it and is reputedly North America’s most spectacular scenic highway. You can drive and see the pine forests, mountains, ice fields and more close up. There aren't many people, but you might see deer and black bears along the way, along with the freedom that travelling light can bring.
Transport: Fly from Hong Kong to Vancouver then transfer to Calgary. It takes one and half hours to drive from Calgary to Banff.
Currency: Canadian dollar
Climate: The Rocky Mountains have a subarctic climate with summer from May to September with an average temperature of 21°C and a minimum of 7°C. The winter maximum is 0°C and the minimum -13°C. Also pay attention to the wind chill reported in weather forecasts, as that make the temperature feel much colder than it actually is.
Banff National Park website: www.banffnationalpark.com
(By Candy Chan, winner of the third Young Writers' Debut Competition)