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Travel Guide North America Canada Alberta

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Introduction

Bow Lake, Banff NP

Bow Lake, Banff NP

© All Rights Reserved davidarow

Often thought of as Canada's wild west, Alberta is a land of strong urban development as well as striking natural beauty. From badlands and prairies to rocky mountains, along with one of Canada's most densely populated corridors, Alberta is a unique part of the Canadian west.

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Geography

Alberta is part of western Canada, bordering Saskatchewan to the east, British Columbia to the west, the Northwest Territories to the north, with the United States (Montana) sitting directly below the 49th parallel.

In the southwest section of the province, snaking along the border with British Columbia, the Canadian Rocky Mountains are located, giving way to foothills and eventually plains as one heads east. In southeastern Alberta, where the Red Deer river crosses the flat prairie land, deep gorges and land forms such as hoodoos create a striking landscape known as the Badlands

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Regions

  • Alberta Badlands - Located in the southeast of the province, this region features visually striking landscapes. In the valleys and plains shaped by thousands of years of erosion, fossils are very commonly found. Medicine Hat is the largest city.
  • Alberta Rockies - World-renowned beauty and home to Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. Plenty of things to do for the adventurer, city-dweller and everyone in between. More than just busy tourist hubs, the Rockies are so vast it's easy to find a place where you can feel like you're the only one on the planet.
  • Calgary Region - Housing Alberta's largest city of one million or so, Calgary, this region is growing fast with the associated headaches of sprawl and traffic. Here you can experience big-city life while still being less than an hour from complete isolation.
  • Central Alberta - Where wild horses run free, this mostly rural region features rolling hills, prairie, and occasional forest. The most densely populated region of the province apart from Edmonton and Calgary, there are many towns and smaller cities. The region's centre is the city of Red Deer.
  • Eastern Alberta - Mostly forest and farms, this less-populated region features wilderness good for fishing and hunting. There is a large oil industry presence centred around the oil sands at Fort McMurray.
  • Edmonton Capital Region - Alberta's capital city of Edmonton and its suburbs have a population just smaller than Calgary's, but it's still growing quickly. Being a big city, there's lots to do, and the wild Elk Island National Park is renowned for its abundance of hoofed animals.
  • Peace River Valley - Breathtaking nature takes this region as its beauty. It has a ton of forestry and small towns. Grande Prairie is its largest settlement.
  • Southern Alberta - This region might be best known for how windy it is. It has many windfarms, regular farms, and Waterton Lakes National Park, where the Rockies suddenly emerge from the prairie without much transition. The largest city is Lethbridge.

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Cities

The two largest cities in Alberta are Edmonton (The capital) and Calgary (The province's largest city). Both cities have metro-area populations of around 1 million. Calgary and Edmonton are anchors to the provinces "Calgary Edmonton Corridor" and within this 400km strip of land stretching between, and including the two cities lives nearly 75% of Alberta's population[1]. Included within this corridor are some of the provinces smaller cities of Red Deer, Wetaskiwin, Leduc and Airdrie.

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Sights and Activities

Banff National Park

A top Cirque Peak

A top Cirque Peak

© All Rights Reserved camo200sx

Banff National Park is a park in the central west of Alberta, Canada. Banff National Park is Canada's oldest national park, established in 1885 in the Rocky Mountains. The park, located 110-180 kilometres west of Calgary in the province of Alberta, encompasses 6,641 km2 of mountainous terrain, with numerous glaciers and ice fields, dense coniferous forest, and alpine landscapes. The Icefields Parkway extends from Lake Louise, connecting to Jasper National Park in the north. Provincial forests and Yoho National Park are neighbours to the west, while Kootenay National Park is located to the south and Kananaskis Country to the southeast. The main commercial centre of the park is the town of Banff, in the Bow River valley.

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located about two-and-a-half hours drive southeast of Calgary, or about a half-hour drive northeast of Brooks. The park is situated in the valley of the Red Deer River, which is noted for its striking badland topography. The park is well known for being one of the richest dinosaur fossil locales in the world. Forty dinosaur species have been discovered at the park and more than 500 specimens have been removed and exhibited in museums around the globe. The renowned fossil assemblage of nearly 500 species of life, from microscopic fern spores to large carnivorous dinosaurs, justified its becoming a World Heritage Site in 1979.

Jasper National Park

Canoe fishermen on Talbot Lake

Canoe fishermen on Talbot Lake

© All Rights Reserved bobrk607

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada, is one of the natural highlights of a trip through the Rocky Mountains. Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, spanning 10,878 km2. It is located in the province of Alberta, north of Banff National Park and west of the City of Edmonton. The park includes the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls and mountains. Wildlife in the park includes elk, caribou, moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, black bears, coyotes, beavers, Rocky Mountain pikas, hoary marmots, grey wolves, mountain lions, and wolverines. The town of Jasper, located within the parks' boundaries, serves as the main gateway.

Icefields Parkway

Between Lake Louise and Jasper in Alberta, the Icefields Parkway is one of the world's most beautiful routes to travel by car. It winds its 200 kilometres long way on an average hight of about 1,700 metres, travelling along dozens of glaciers, through an impressive part of the Rocky Mountains. Jasper National Park and Banff National Park are two parks in the region not to be missed either!

Rocky Mountaineer

The Rocky Mountaineer is two-day tour through the Canadian part of the Rocky Mountains. The train travels during the day, so you can enjoy the magnificent landscapes in the western part of this country, including canyons, rivers, valleys and glacial lakes. There are several trips possible, including the First Passage to the West route from Vancouver, British Columbia via Kamloops to Banff or Calgary in Alberta. Another one is the Journey through the Clouds route from Vancouver via Kamloops to Jasper, also in Alberta. The Rocky Mountaineer company also offers less popular but also spectacular trips to Whistler and Prince George, north of Vancouver, on the Rainforest to Gold Rush route (travelling via Prince George to Jasper) and Whistler Sea to Sky Climb, the latter being a daytrip from Vancouver.

Rocky Mountains

Stretching more than 4,800 kilometres from northernmost British Columbia, in Canada, to New Mexico, in the United States, the Rocky Mountains are a broad mountain range. In Canada, the Rockies span most of British Columbia and into Alberta, and include some amazing sights and activites. For skiiers, Fernie in British Columbia or Lake Louise and Sunshine Village in Alberta are draws for their powder snow and big verticals. Nature lovers will want to check out national parks like Banff National Park, Jasper National Park or Kootenay National Park.

Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton (13)

Waterton (13)

© All Rights Reserved KarenandMartijn

Waterton Lakes National Park is a national park located in the southwestern corner of Alberta, Canada, and borders Glacier National Park in Montana, United States, together forming the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Waterton was Canada's fourth national park, formed in 1895 and named after Waterton Lake, in turn after the Victorian naturalist and conservationist Charles Waterton. The park contains 505 km2 of rugged mountains and wilderness. Operated by Parks Canada, Waterton is open all year, but the main tourist season is during July and August. The only commercial facilities available within the park are located at the Waterton Park townsite. The park ranges in elevation from 1,290 metres at the townsite to 2,910 metred at Mount Blakiston. It offers many scenic trails, including Crypt Lake trail.

Wood Buffalo National Park

Wood Buffalo National Park is the largest national park in Canada, at 44,807 km2. The park is located in northeastern Alberta and southern Northwest Territories. Larger in area than Switzerland, it is the second-largest national park in the world, and thirteenth-largest protected area in the world. The park was established in 1922 to protect the world's largest herd of free roaming wood bison, currently estimated at more than 5,000. It is one of two known nesting sites of whooping cranes. This area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for the biological diversity of the Peace-Athabasca Delta, one of the world's largest freshwater deltas, as well as the population of wild bison. On June 28, 2013, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada designated Wood Buffalo National Park as Canada's newest and the world's largest dark-sky preserve. Parks Canada claims that the designation will help preserve nighttime ecology for the park’s large populations of bats, night hawks and owls, as well as providing opportunities for visitors to experience the northern lights.

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Events and Festivals

Edmonton, known as Canada's festival city is home to many exciting summer festivals.

Calgary also features many festivals and events

  • Lilac Festival - Hundreds of food and entertainment vendors set up in the streets for an exciting and popular day.
  • carifest - One of Calgary's largest festivals featuring arts and culture of the Caribbean.
  • Calgary Folk Music Festival - Popular music festival including markets and a variety of music and artists.
  • The Calgary Stampede, held in July every summer in Calgary, showcases the rich cowboy heritage of this modern western town. It calls itself the 'Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth'. The main goal is to preserve western heritage and values, and there are a number of argicultural events like rodeos and chuck wagon races. However, there is much more than only horses and western heritage. In the city, many bands play during the week and a half long festival, and there is a lot of partying and drinking. The Calgary Stampede itself though takes place at the Stampede Park, located southeast of downtown Calgary in the Beltline District. It's one Canada's biggest annual events, with well over 1 million visitors each year.

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Weather

Alberta, like much of Canada, has warm summers and bitterly cold winters. Average summer temperatures (June to September) are between 20 °C and 24 °C with rather chilly nights, around 10 °C. Winters last from December to March, with daytime temperatures averaging below zero and nights averaging between -10 °C and -30 °C, though up north temperatures can drop even lower at night. Conditions are often sunny but rain is possible year round, except for the wintermonths when most of the precipitation falls in the form of snow. Still, because temperatures can be very low, snowfall is rather light and most of it falls shortly before and after the coldest months. The Rocky Mountains form a part of Alberta and here summers can be a bit cooler while winters are cold and sometimes see much more heavy snowfall compared with the lower areas or more to the north.

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Getting There

By Plane

There are several airports in Alberta with flights to other Canadian cities as well as international destinations.
The main airport is Calgary International Airport (airport code: YYC) with dozens of flights within Canada and to the US as well as places further away, including Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe. Air Canada connects Calgary to more destinations across Canada, the USA and the rest of the world direct from here. WestJet flies from Calgary to destinations in western Canada. In addition, many US airlines fly to Calgary.

Edmonton International Airport (airport code: YEG) has a significant amount of flights as well. The airport has domestic flights to most locations in Canada, as well as many major American hubs. Some direct flights are also available to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.

By Train

The Canadian operates by ViaRail travels between Vancouver and Toronto, stopping in several cities in Alberta. The Skeena travels from Jasper to Prince Rupert along the Pacific Coast of British Columbia.

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Getting Around

By Train

The Canadian (see above) is the only train service with services between several cities in Alberta.

By Car

Renting a car is the best option to get around Alberta and gives you maximum freedome to explore as many places off the beaten track as possible. Be sure to get a 4x4 vehicle if you are planning on driving on unpaved roads. Some of the options to rent a car include the following companies:

By Bus

Greyhound Canada offers services to most major and also smaller cities and towns. Red Arrow has services between major cities.

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Eat

The greatest variety of food can be found in Edmonton and Calgary. Besides being famous for producting high-quality beef, Alberta does not have a distinct cuisine. However, like much of Canada, the multicultural make-up of the province provides for many excellent restaurants providing food from almost anywhere in the world.

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Drink

The drinking age is 18 - younger than most other provinces in Canada. Alcohol is available from the many private liquor stores and beer/wine stores throughout the province. Unlike other provinces, liquor retail is privatized. Unlike most American states, you cannot buy alcohol directly in grocery stores, although many grocery stores have liquor stores located in unattached buildings nearby.

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Sleep

There are lots of options in the bigger cities and tourist areas, where anything from camping up to 5 star hotels are available. In between is a wide range of smaller hotels, motels and B&B's.

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References

  1. 1 http://geodepot.statcan.ca/Diss/Highlights/Page9/Page9d_e.cfm

Accommodation in Alberta

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Alberta searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Alberta and areas nearby.

Contributors

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Alberta Travel Helpers

This is version 29. Last edited at 7:24 on Mar 7, 16 by Utrecht. 27 articles link to this page.

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