Discover Western Canada
Comprising two provinces (British Columbia and Alberta) and two territories (Northwest Territories and Yukon Territory), Western Canada stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the prairies and north beyond the Arctic Circle. Some landscapes are well known — the old-growth forests of the west coast, the lakes and peaks of the Canadian Rockies, and the tundra of the far north.
But there are also many surprises — a desert, orchard-filled valleys, strangely formed badlands, and long stretches of sandy beaches. Best of all, most of this land is unspoiled wilderness, with abundant wildlife and the opportunity for unlimited adventure.
For many visitors, Vancouver, western Canada’s largest city, is their first taste of Canada. This vibrant harbor city is a splendid conglomeration of old and new architectural marvels, parks, and gardens. Surprisingly, the region’s two largest cities, Vancouver and Calgary, are not the provincial capitals. In British Columbia, this honor goes to stately Victoria, perched at the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island.
Meanwhile, seemingly a world away from the ocean, are Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta’s two major population centers. Calgary is best known as home to the world-famous Calgary Stampede — a Western wingding of epic proportions — while Edmonton is notable for some of Canada’s finest cultural facilities.
But most of the western Canada you’ll want to see is found away from the cities, in the surrounding vastness. The protected coastal waterways, the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, the intriguing Queen Charlotte Islands, the famously scenic Canadian Rockies, and the remote northern latitudes offer experiences to keep even the most jaded jet-setter in awe.
It is difficult to capture the true majesty of western Canada with simple words and pictures. They can’t re-create the fragrant smells of a flower-filled alpine meadow, the feel of a fresh sea breeze along a coastal trail, the sense of awe as you watch a grazing grizzly bear, or the adrenaline rush of a bucking bull at the Calgary Stampede. They can’t express the thrill of hooking a trophy-size salmon, the solitude of an early-morning mountain hike, or the excitement of white-water rafting. They can’t communicate the tranquility of a rustic lakeside cabin or the flavor of a tender cut of Alberta beef.
The written word, or even the most appealing images, can’t truly convey any of these experiences. You have only one option, and that is to discover the wonders of western Canada firsthand.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition