Calgary in Canada is one of the most underrated cities I know of. Although a lot of the city comprises of skyscrapers, the actual beauty lies once you move away from the centre of the city towards one of the most dream-like National Parks you'll ever visit (Banff National Park). Here, the landscapes are as dramatic as those in New Zealand, with rugged wilderness, gorgeous lakes, snow-capped peaks, breathtaking drives and natural wonders that are bound to leave you speechless.
The best time to visit is summer i.e. June - August. Be prepared, however, for sudden changes in the weather. It might be sunny at one moment and rainy in the next, leading to an excessive drop in the temperature. Consider renting a convertible to enjoy the brilliant weather but book in advance as the local Canadian population flocks to the city to make the most of the summer, which hardly lasts a few months.
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Here are 10 things that will convince you to add Calgary on your bucket list this year:
#1 The brilliant natural mirror - Bow Lake
Brilliant reflections of the surrounding mountains in the extremely calm and crystal clear waters of Bow Lake is undoubtedly one of the prettiest sights you'll ever see. The lake is located on the Icefields Parkway, about an hour's drive from Banff town.
#2 The laidback town of Banff
Located within the Banff National Park, the little town is set in the backdrop of tall snow capped mountains and has a bunch of cafes, restaurants, boutique shops, souvenirs and chateaux-style hotels. Step out of the town and you will be in the middle of a protected forest with grizzly bears and elks. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the most beautiful lakes. The little town is laid back, not too crowded and extremely picturesque.
#3 Wildlife roaming the streets
It is such a lovely sight to see such wildlife roaming about freely, chewing on the grass from a house in Banff town. You can actually walk quite close to the undaunted and calm animals, who seem to be used to the people around.
#4 The gorgeously blue Peyto Lake
This uniquely shaped lake is best viewed from the Bow Summit lookout point. Once you have parked your car, you need to hike about 3kms to the viewpoint. The path and the viewpoint are usually very crowded but the view once you get to the top is totally worth it.
#5 Secluded and romantic spots
The best thing about Calgary, especially Banff National Park, was that although it was peak summer, there were ample spots which were secluded. Just go exploring and you'll find some amazing romantic places to just sit back, connect with nature and introspect.
#6 Sailing along the calm waters of Minnewanka
A cruise along the mighty lake provides a postcard-perfect experience. The glacial blue waters of the lake situated between tall mountains prove to have a very calming and fulfilling effect.
#7 Glacier Walking on Columbian Icefields
Ride on a massive, special-purpose build Ice Explorer towards the Athabasca Glacier. Sip on some fresh glacial waters and walk on the ice while your driver/guide explains the history and importance of these glaciers.
Suggested budget hotel stay in Banff: Bumpers Inn
#8 Breathtaking drive from Banff to Jasper
This 3.5-hour drive on the Icefields Parkway is nothing less than breathtaking, from the start until the end. Amidst snow-capped mountains, thousands of pine cones, blue-green lakes and rugged wilderness, this drive is bound to leave you speechless.
#9 Surrounded by snowcapped peaks all year round - Lake Louise & Moraine
In my opinion, these are two of the prettiest lakes that exist in the region. Moraine Lake is smaller in size but much more scenic. You can choose to enjoy kayaking on this extremely gorgeous but calm lake. It is only a 40-minute drive from Banff town and between the two lakes, there is hardly a distance of 15 minutes. Lake Louise is characterised by the beautiful chateaux-style hotel that stands at the edge of the lake.
#10 Glacier Skywalk over the Canadian Rockies
A part of Jasper National Park, the Glacier Skywalk is a glass floor suspended platform that offers stunning alpine and glacial vistas. Look below, if you dare, and you will see the beautiful valley formed by the glacier and gorgeous waterfalls.
Have you been to Calgary? If there is something you would like to add to this list, please feel free to leave a comment below.