Canada encompasses the largest area in the Western Hemisphere, a diverse geography that traverses the subtle Laurentian Mountains of Quebec to the sharp apogees of the Canadian Rockies to the dramatic coastal ranges of British Columbia. Traveling by VIA Rail and the Rocky Mountaineer reveals the nuances of this vast country, beginning with 24 hours in Montréal, one of North America’s most cosmopolitan cities.
When plotting a visit to Montréal, always check the festival schedule. Place des Arts pulsates with jazz, comedy and a variety of other performing arts virtually every weekend of the year. You won’t need a fÃªte to party in this bilingual city, however, there’s plenty of entertainment in neighbourhoods such as Old Montréal, Le Plateau and the up-and-coming Notre-Dame-de-Grace. Take in a performance at Centre Bell, dine at Le Vin Pappilon then hibernate for the night inside the sumptuous HÃ´tel Le St. James.
Set off westbound the next morning, making your first stop at Niagara Falls to witness the world’s largest volume of water cascade over the cataract. Setting out, the farmland of Western Ontario gives way to Manitoba and Saskatchewan’s sublime prairies where sunflowers wrestle with the waving wheat fields for supremacy. The horizon stretches forever until, far in the distance, the shadow of the Canadian Rockies appears.
Climbing into the Rockies towards Jasper, Alberta avails one of the great scenic experiences in this 6-million mile2 country. A stargazer’s paradise, Jasper National Park is the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world. A visit to Jasper will offer the opportunity to experience the constellations of a summer sky by night, mountain bike, hike, raft the Athabasca River and discover caribou, black bears and other wildlife by day.
The Rocky Mountaineer tour leaves the rails between the villages of Jasper and Banff as travellers descend the magnificent 140-mile Icefields Parkway. Les Promenades des Glaciers feature Canada’s most accessible glaciers and teal, glacially fed lakes leading to Lake Louise, situated below the Victoria Glacier to form Canada’s greatest natural portrait. The famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Banff Springs, host all voyageurs.
Departure from Banff unveils Mt. Robson – 12,972 feet and the Canadian Rockies tallest peak. Drink in the breathtaking views when the Rocky Mountaineer slows or pauses and behold gorges, 300-foot tiered waterfalls, a young brown bear or caribou herd. The train provides an exclusive vista of the lower, messy falls; the canyon’s pitch and Thompson River’s natural moat discourage all but the most ambitious hikers.
As you roll past the prairies and national parks and into the forests of British Columbia, soak up as much of the scenery as you can before leaving the train in Vancouver. Whether gazing upon spectacular glaciers or watching a mountain goat make its way up an improbable slope, a simple train ride across Canada can leave a surprisingly large imprint.
Our partnership with Delta means we can connect you to and from a wide range of destinations across the United States and Canada, making it easier for you to book a trip to Montréal.
Have you travelled on the Rocky Mountaineer? Let us know in the comments below.
Written by Crai Bower