It’s about time I put together Banff & Jasper Travel Guide. We went to Banff back in September and thing were so busy time just got away from me. I have decided to separate Banff & Jasper tour guides as otherwise this would be a very long read.
Where to stay in Banff? Banff is a small town/village and it really depends what you’re after. If it’s luxury then Fairmont Banff Springs is definitely your go to in the village. It is walking distance to the ‘center’ however its got amazing views of the town and is definitely a little out of the hustle and bustle, so you’re guaranteed quiet nights sleep.
You also have Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, again very luxurious and whats better than waking up to Lake Louise outside your window? Only downside to it, would be the crowds visiting the lake every single day from as early as 6.00am.
There are also numerous hotels in the village itself, where you can just park your car and walk everywhere and get a great nights sleep. Banff is not huge therefore its not noisy as the city. We stayed in Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – it’s about 2 minute drive outside of the city, however its right next to the road leading to Lake Louise therefore it worked perfect for us to go outside and be right on the right road. The resort has little cabins which is what drew me to it. We had a 1 bedroom cabin, with a little stone fireplace it was honestly so adorable. Also, being out of town you have more of a chance to see animals which is what we were hoping for.
If you are not interested in Banff as a village and you want to see Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, I’d suggest staying in Lake Louise. Not many people know that Lake Louise is a tiny village in itself. There are small resorts and cabins and you literally are like walking distance to each of the lakes or no more than a 5 minute drive. What you need to know is that Banff is about 40 minutes drive from Lake Louise. In high season you need to be at each of the lakes at least at 7.30am if you want to get a parking spot and be able to see it – there are parking wardens who will turn you away if there are no spots left so you cant just abandon your car on the side of the road to see it. Therefore if you like your sleep I’d suggest staying in Lake Louise. You will need 2 days there, to get to each of the lakes first thing in the morning. (Warning: There isn’t anything in Lake Louise itself such as bars or restaurants).
2. Local Sights
Things to see in Banff? Well, there’s definitely the Banff Gondola which will give you amazing views of the village and the Rockies. We didn’t go only because, the week before we went to Sea To Sky Gondola in Squamish and this wasn’t our priority to be honest. Cascade of Time Garden is another absolutely beautiful spot at the top of the village. The floral garden, pond and streams are simply beautiful. There’s the usual BANFF Town Sign where people take photos, that’s actually quite hidden and we didn’t know it existed until we left the town which was a bummer. There are number of museums which you can visit and the bear street is also one of the main places to go and see local produce and local artists. Funnily enough we were there during their farmers market and someone was selling Polish Pierogi 🙂
Where to eat in Banff? Sadly, we feel like we have picked the worst places to eat in Banff. We made the mistake of eating in the totally tourist places and the food was just ok (if that) therefore I dont feel like it would be honest to share where we ate. On our last night however, we went to an Indian Restaurant and we struck gold. The restaurant was extremely busy which is always a good sign, we had to wait outside until they got us a table. It was called Masala and it is located on Bear Street. The food was authentic Indian and absolutely delicious and reasonably priced. I’d 100% recommend eating there if you like Indian. For dessert I’d recommend going to Beaver Tails. I never knew what that was until a friend of mine who lives in Calgary told me to check it out and my goodness!! It is a fried dough in a shape of a beavers tail and you can pick your own toppings. It was totally one of those ‘heart attacks on a plate’ but it was so good.
4. Things To Do & See Around Banff
Lake Louise is a must if you are trying to decide between the two if you dont have time for both. You can actually spend all day at Lake Louise as they have numerous trails with various difficulties along with a really cool tea cafe/shop in the mountains with an amazing view. Aside from Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, there are various sights you can go and see as well. One of them being Lake Minnewanka and Two Jacks Lake right next to it. They are smaller lakes, still beautiful and much more recreational. Therefore if you have ‘spare time’ and the weather is nice, I’d definitely make my way over there. Johnston Canyon is another unreal place to go, located half way between Banff and Lake Louise. It’s a canyon with a hidden cave from which you can watch a waterfall. Honestly, I didn’t expect it would be THIS beautiful. When we got there we were told the road leading up to it was closed due to COVID and we had to walk 7 km ONE WAY to get there. Honestly, to this day I have no idea how I managed to convince my husband to do that. We couldn’t feel our legs by the end of the day. We walked over 20 km that day.
Of course we can’t forget about Yoho National Park. It is located approximately 45 minutes from Banff on Icefield Parkway (road between Banff & Jasper through the Rockies). If you are doing a road trip between Banff and heading to Jasper, I’d suggest hitting Yoho on your way there; unless you dont mind going back and forth. There is nothing in Yoho aside from the tiniest town and I am not even sure if they have any accommodation there, because if you blink you will miss it while passing!
My top sights to view in Yoho National Park are:
- Emerald Lake – that is the equivalent of Lake Louise but in Yoho National Park. Similarly to Lake Louise you must be there around 7.00am to secure a parking spot and those are very scarce around there. The loop around Emerald Lake will take you around 1 hour – 1.30 hour. Its not challenging at all and if you’re lucky you may spot a bear. There is a tiny cafe there and an area where you can rent a kayak and go on the lake. They also have Emerald Lake Lodges, which are totally made out of wood and most of them have their own balconies, which i am sure gives them a great view in the morning.
- Natural Bridge – Next to Emerald Lake is Natural Bridge. It’s basically a waterfall so powerful that the current carved out a hole in the ground and created its own “bridge” to pass through to the other side. It’s definitely a sight to see, it will only take you 5 minutes or so as its right next to the road. Definitely a must.
- Takakkaw Falls – Last but not least its the Takakkaw Falls, they are the second highest waterfall in all of Canada and oh my what a sight that is. Walk leading up to it, does not give it away at all and all of a sudden you see this beauty in front of you. Some people climb up along it (rock climbers) and you can get pretty close for those Instagram Worthy Photos.