By Joseph McCabe
This is hands down the best trip I have ever been on. I would recommend everyone who gets a placement in Canada or the USA (or anyone else for that matter) to visit the Canadian Rockies that surround the small towns of Banff and Jasper. I did it at the end of my placement, so I did not have to worry about assignments or exams, and it was the best thing I did whilst on exchange in the University of Toronto.
The Canadian Rockies are a breath-taking environment of towering, snow-capped mountains overlooking the most gorgeous blue lakes (or frozen in winter and the start of spring). On Annette Lake you can stand on a warm beach in front of the bluest lake whilst a snowy mountain rises above the tree line on the far bank; Lake Louise’s world-famous view has been many a desktop background and sometimes you can walk on it (we did it in spring); Bow Lake in the winter is a vast expanse of frozen desert. The list of awe-inspiring viewpoints is far too long for me to go into the detail that would do any of them justice here. The only way to understand how each of them makes you feel is to experience them for yourself.
However, a car is essential for this trip. Luckily, Canada’s rental laws mean that you can hire one when you are under 25, you just have to pay a young driver’s fee. This fee can be quite expensive, but it is well worth it for the freedom it brings you in the Rockies – the more people you bring with you the more you can spread it around as it is just for the driver. Staying in hostels here is another money saving idea and can be much more fun than hotels/camping because they tend to be social places where everyone is doing a similar thing to you. On our travels we spent many nights with the people we met in the hostels along the way and it made the trip all the more magical.
Rent a Car!
Stay in Hostels
Lake Louise can be a tourist trap (but worth a look)
Walk to the base of the Athabasca Glacier – don’t just stay in the car park
Rent bear spray
Sulphur Mountain is an incredible hike and viewpoint at the top