If you mention ‘luxury trains in British Colombia’, most people will think of the Rocky Mountaineer. Since its beginnings in 1990 the train has become one of the main attractions of Canada, connecting British Columbia to Alberta, home of the stunning Canadian Rockies. The Rocky Mountaineer introduces you to a majestic landscape that illustrates hundreds of years of vivid history and seems to be constantly shifting from one dramatic vista to the next.
Aboard a luxury train travelling at average speeds of 35 miles per hour through the beautiful landscape of British Colombia and the Rocky Mountains, you can just sit back in your comfortable leather seat and enjoy the stunning mountains, forests, many rivers, lakes and wildlife while being served delicious food and plentiful drinks at your seat by the knowledgeable and friendly hosts who entertain with wonderful stories along the way. From the staggering scale of the rugged Rockies, there is a veritable feast for the eyes around every meandering bend as you retrace a path first traversed by gold rush explorers centuries ago.
I took the Journey Through The Clouds Explorer which travels from Vancouver to Jasper, stopping in Kamloops overnight. All the trains depart from picturesque Vancouver (or the route can be done in reverse), which is a good thing because you simply cannot visit western Canada without visiting this beautiful metropolitan city. As you arrive at the train station you are greeted by smiling staff and the first breathtaking sight of the journey – the train itself. As we were welcomed onto the platform the magnificent Rocky Mountaineer stretched out majestically before us. With luxurious carriages gleaming in the September sunshine, you couldn’t help but be swept up in the excitement and grandeur of the situation.
As the train gets moving and you settle into your lavish carriage you are instantly struck by the beauty of British Columbia unfolding out of the window. Autumn was a very fortuitous time to be travelling, as the leaves of the mighty trees lining the route were changing into a patchwork of vivid colours that stood out against endless bright blue skies. On the second day, when you enter the Rockies, the scenery is magnificent and you will not want to put your phone, camera or tablet away with all the beautiful lakes and rivers you pass along the way just begging to be photographed!
After arriving into Jasper and spending an overnight stay at the lakeside Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, we continued by coach to Lake Louise, stopping at the Colombia Icefields to drive up onto the glacier. Other highlights were the photo stops at glacier-fed lakes Peyto, Bow and Waterfowl, whose turquoise colours seemed unreal. With over 60 extension packages by coach or with car hire there is guaranteed to be a package that includes all the sights you are looking to include in your trip. One particular highlight for most, that I was forced to miss out on due to adverse snowy weather, is a helicopter tour from Banff. I will definitely have to travel on the Rocky Mountaineer again for the tour (and to experience all of the other incredible excursions – there are simply too many to do everything you’d want to in one trip).
With 65 packages based around three routes, there is a perfect itinerary for everyone. The SilverLeaf service includes reclining seats in a single-level glass-dome coach with oversized windows, staying in comfortable accommodation, plus food and drinks. If you are looking to splash out a bit for a special occasion or want a bit more luxury then the GolfLeaf Service is the way to go - enjoy more panoramic views from your plusher reclining seats in the upper level of your bi-level dome coach, even more abundant gourmet food served in the dining area downstairs, more extensive and unlimited drinks available from a larger team of hosts to meet your needs, and of course more luxurious accommodation with premium rooms.
Having spent some of my journey travelling with SilverLeaf service and some with GoldLeaf service I can confidently say that the food and service are divine for both. The gourmet upgrade with GoldLeaf service included a beautifully prepared three-course lunch with unlimited premium drinks, and the food selection with SilverLeaf service also has an indulgent and decadent feel, with delightful cheese and fruit platters being served to nibble on throughout the journey and accompanied with wine. And what could be more Canadian than delicious traditional pancakes and sweet maple syrup for breakfast as the Rockies zip by beyond the window? Every moment aboard Rocky Mountaineer feels authentic and in fitting with the majesty of the scenery.
If you upgrade to GoldLeaf, your accommodation at Lake Louise is the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise - the view at sunrise from your Lakeview Room is worth the upgrade alone. Continuing to the winter resort town of Banff with its cosy mountain lodges and quaint shops, you can explore Sulphur Mountain with the Banff gondola, Castle Mountain and the famous spiral tunnels (as well as a variety of ski areas if you choose to visit in the winter), before taking a helicopter ride towards Calgary, where you will catch your flight home or continue your adventure to another part of Canada.
However you choose to go about your Rocky Mountaineer expedition there will be something that fits your personality perfectly – in all of the ways I’ve travelled throughout my time in the industry I haven’t ever experienced a journey quite like this one. Travelling by train is one of the best ways to explore the beauty of a country at a leisurely pace, and in a comfortable way. If you are considering visiting Western Canada or Alaska, then the Rocky Mountaineer should definitely be part of your itinerary. I would recommend it to everyone!
If you’d like to board a Rocky Mountaineer train yourself, get in touch with one of our Travel Specialists today to tailor-make your luxury train holiday or to build Rocky Mountaineer into your Canada or Alaska itinerary.