Northern lights over snow-capped mountains. Surreal lakes with methane bubbles. Cowboys in Stetsons conquering bulls. Modern cities with parks and museums. Famous dinosaur excavation sites. Six UNESCO World Heritage sites. There are many reasons for visiting Alberta. If you happen to travel to this wonderful Canadian province, check our bucket list of attractions before you go.
Admire the Nature of Banff National Park
A trip to Alberta couldn’t be complete without visiting the oldest national park in Canada. Banff National Park combines high mountains, glacier lakes, abundant wildlife, beautiful landscapes, and rich history. The park offers many exciting activities throughout the year. May through August are peak months. Spring and Autumn are best if you wish to avoid crowds.
Visit the Johnston Canyon with beautiful waterfalls, be amazed by the Vermillion Lakes with breathtaking views and abundant wildlife or climb to Sunshine Meadows to enjoy unique alpine-like scenery and beautiful summer flowers. Moraine Lake offers many hiking opportunities (check the trail conditions – this area is known for grizzly activity!). Peyto Lake attracts both tourists and professional photographers for its surreal turquoise colour. No wonder this beautiful lake belongs among the prettiest lakes in the world.
Before you arrive, plan your visit carefully. The park can get overcrowded during peak season, and hotels sell out fast. Book your lodging well in advance. The best hotels to visit are in and around the city of Banff. We recommend Mount Engadine Lodge, where you can live surrounded by nature and pick your style – from cabins to yurts! Other accommodation options are in Lake Louise. The most famous hotel is Fairmont Château Lake Louise.
Winter Season in the Rockies
Alberta is a perfect place for winter holidays. Banff National Park offers three high-end ski resorts and perfect slopes for skiing. To avoid the crowds, visit the Marmot Basin resort in Jasper Park. Considered to be the second choice after Banff, this resort has varied terrain for both beginner and advanced skiers. If you are not a skier, try hiking in the snow, spotting wildlife, and enjoying the solemnity of snow capped mountains.
Once you get too cold or tired, hide in a local café or discover the history of Alberta in one of the museums. Banff Park Museum National Historic Site offers an insight into the history of this national park. The vast collection of stuffed animals and minerals will keep your kids busy! Those interested in the history of the first nations can visit Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum. Don’t forget to soak in Banff Upper Hot Springs after a long day of skiing and exploring the museums.
Take Pictures of the Famous Lake Louise
The most famous attraction of the Banff National Park requires a separate notion. Emerald green waters of this lake attract millions of visitors every year. In the summer, you can explore one of many hiking trails, go kayaking or canoeing, or even take a dip in the cold water that rarely exceeds 4°C. In the winter, enjoy the Lake Louise Ski Area. The frozen water of the lake provides a perfect opportunity for ice skating or ice fishing. If you come from April through October, visit local farmer's markets. Lake St. Luise Farmers and Artists Market offers the highest quality local goods. The market is open every Saturday and offers a wide selection of fruit and vegetables, freshly baked bread, lemonade, street food, poultry, and even bison meat!
Capture Ice Bubbles of Abraham Lake
The almost out-of-this-world look of this artificial reservoir attracts tourists from all over the world. The lake is filled with floating frozen bubbles that resemble beautiful alien jellyfish. This phenomenon is caused by decaying plants on the lakebed that release methane (Smokers, be careful! This gas is highly flammable and can escape the bubbles of the lake.) What would be an unfortunate condition for man is a beautiful addition to the lake.
You can visit the lake all year round, but if you want to capture the bubbles, come between January and February. Weather can get very windy, so dress accordingly. If you didn’t bring your gear, don’t worry. There are many places to shop in Canada that offer appropriate winter attire to keep you cozy and warm during your Alberta adventures.
Travel through the History of Dinosaurs
Alberta is world famous for its dinosaur fossils– right, that´s where Albertosaurus got its name. Most fossils have been found in Dinosaur Provincial Park. This UNESCO world heritage site offers stunning natural sceneries. More than 50 dinosaur species have been discovered here. If you are lucky, you can find a new one – digging is encouraged throughout the park. When you get tired of searching, visit the local museum. Or head to the next dinosaur station: Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller carries one of the world's largest collections of dinosaurs and fun activities for visitors of all ages. Wear your walking shoes – some of the experiences are outdoors!
Have Fun in Vibrant Cities
Although Alberta is famous for its stunning nature, its cities also have a lot to offer. The capital of Alberta, Edmonton, is a fast-growing city with many attractions. Nicknamed festival city, Edmonton organizes about 50 festivals per year. From arts and contemporary circus to children’s festivals or pride days, you name it – they celebrate it. If you enjoy exploring other cultures, visit the Ukrainian Village: an open-air museum that tells the story of the Ukrainian population that settled in Edmonton. Downtown Edmonton offers impressive architecture - the most striking building is undoubtedly the Art Gallery of Alberta. If you need family fun, visit the West Edmonton Mall, one of the best shopping malls in Alberta. Those who prefer to visit local farmer's markets shouldn’t miss out on the Old Strathcona Farmer's, a year-round indoor market supporting local businesses.
Calgary is a modern cosmopolitan city with a downtown full of cafes and restaurants, many parks and sporting arenas and close proximity to Banff National Park. The top attractions are Calgary Tower, Heritage Park, and Studio Bell. Every year, the city hosts a 10-day festival called Calgary Stampede – a rodeo show that attracts up to a million visitors. When you get hungry for something local, visit Calgary Farmers' Market. The market originally opened in an old hangar and now can be found in two locations. The food hall offers literally anything from Mexican food to Japanese sushi.
Look up to the Skies to See Northern Lights and Plenty of Skies
There is almost no light pollution in the national parks in Alberta. Banff and Jasper National Parks offer great viewing spots for admiring night skies. The best place to observe aurora borealis is Jasper National Park. The park was designated as a Dark Sky Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. In October, astronomers gather for the Jasper Dark Sky Festival. The undoubtedly most romantic place for Aurora spotting is Lake Minnewanka. Northern lights appear over a large body of water – a perfect place for a romantic proposal.