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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.
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
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. Included within this corridor are some of the provinces smaller cities of Red Deer, Wetaskiwin, Leduc and Airdrie.
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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.
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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.
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.
Edmonton, known as Canada's festival city is home to many exciting summer festivals.
Calgary also features many festivals and events
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.
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.
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.
The Canadian (see above) is the only train service with services between several cities in Alberta.
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:
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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I have lived in Alberta for over 30 years. I know urban hotspots, camping and outdoor adventures, and golf.
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