Looking for an epic adventure to share with your friends? Dreaming of magnificent landscapes, wildlife encounters, and rich indigenous cultures? Then it is time to head for Canada and Alaska. With vast plains and forests where bears and caribou roam free, soaring mountain peaks and picture-perfect lakes, these are destinations where you can go totally wild.
Explore together: There is a reason that Banff National Park is Canada's top-rated tourist attraction: it is simply spectacular. Pristine mountain lakes reflect the snow-capped peaks, and more than 1500 kilometres of hiking trails wind through the picturesque slopes and valleys. You can also explore this beautiful wilderness on a float trip along the Bow River, cruising Lake Minnewanka, or rising above it all on a helicopter for a spot of flightseeing.
Memorable moment: There is something endlessly alluring about thermal springs. At the enchanting Cave and Basin National Historic Site there are several to admire, including a serene pool inside the cave and another pool outside, vividly coloured by the algae that live there.
Insider Tip: The Royal Canadian Mountain Police, known for its distinctive scarlet serge uniform, is one of the most famous police forces in history. APT guests have the opportunity to meet a real life Mountie and hear true stories from the trail.
Explore together: Known to the people of the Stoney Nakoda First Nations as the Lake of the Little Fishes, Lake Louise is one of Canada's most famous bodies of water. Its beauty has even scored it a World Heritage listing. The lake's most striking feature, that startling emerald colour, comes courtesy of the sediment carried by the meltwater that flows into the lake from ancient icy glaciers. There is just one downside to this lovely lake: even in summer, the water is too chilly for swimming.
Memorable moment: If you love discovering local flavours, head to one of the area's many restaurants, where you will have the opportunity to try a unique local delicacy: bison meat.
Insider Tip: Choosing the right hotel is easy: the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, with its prime lakeside perch, is the obvious choice. Not all rooms are created equal, however; APT guests are guaranteed a Lakeview Room.
Explore together: There are hundreds of different ways to explore this stunning national park, each with its own upsides. If you have a head for heights, try the Jasper Tramway, an unforgettable cable car ride that takes you all the way up to an altitude of 2263 metres above sea level. Prefer to stay grounded? Why not unleash your inner Easy Rider on a tour with a difference, sitting in the sidecar of a Harley Davidson motorbike.
Memorable moment: From here it is an easy drive to the largest ice mass in the Rocky Mountains, the Columbia Icefield. Get an up close experience of the Athabasca Glacier, which stretches back six kilometres, aboard a custom Ice Explorer vehicle.
Insider Tip: Some of the park's most spectacular scenery is located around the old fur trading town of Maligne. Must-visits include the magnificent cascades of the Maligne Canyon and the lovely Maligne Lake.
Explore together: Ready to go wildlife spotting? The Monashee Mountains are bear country and a water safari along the Blue River, its banks lined with lush rainforest, will give you plenty of opportunities to spot both grizzly and black bears. The bears are drawn by the abundance of wild berries; other animals that make their home here include caribou and deer, as well as mighty eagles and osprey. Make sure to have plenty of memory on your camera; this trip is always a photo-snapping frenzy.
Memorable moment: On your way to Blue River, make time for a photo stop at Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Its soaring southern face, which juts upwards 3100 metres, is an astonishing sight.
Insider Tip: This cruise is not just about wildlife; keep an eye out along the way for magnificent waterfalls and snow-capped peaks.
Explore together: Whistler is best-known as a ski resort, but it has more than enough activities to keep you busy no matter what time of year you visit. If you want to go exploring, hop aboard a snowcat in winter or a mountain jeep in summer. Year-round activities include the Peak to Peak Gondola, a glass-bottomed cable car that offers magnificent views.
Memorable moment: Learn more about Canada's First Nations at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre. While the museum, with its beautifully crafted instruments and canoes, clothing and masks, is fascinating, it is the opportunity to interact with tribal elders that is really special.
Insider Tip: For those who don't suffer from a fear of heights, the TreeTrek Tour is an unforgettable way to explore the forest at canopy level, using a mix of bridges, boardwalks and platforms. It is available year-round.
Explore together: Glaciers and icebergs and bears that stand three metres tall: there is nothing ordinary about a cruise in Alaska. The wildest state in the USA has plenty of thrills in store. The beautiful fjord of Tracy Arm is a great place to spot eagles, bears and, in the summer, seal pups, while at Glacier Bay National Park, you may see glaciers calving. An unexpected highlight is the surprisingly beautiful city of Juneau, which can't be reached by road, only by boat or plane.
Memorable moment: The remote town of Sitka was originally settled by the Russians way back in 1799; today, its diverse heritage is part of this settlement's quirky appeal. Where else can you expect to see both a Russian orthodox cathedral and a collection of native totem poles?
Insider Tip: Cruising in Alaska is all about watching the landscape unfold in front of your eyes; being able to do so from the comfort of your stateroom is an essential luxury. APT guests are guaranteed a stateroom with a verandah.
Mountie Pat Kamenka
With their red serge jackets and riding pants, felt hats and boots, and their reputation for always getting their man, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police – better known as the Mounties – are instantly recognizable around the world.
The force played an integral role in the country's early days, based out of frontier forts and helping settle much of the remote Northwestern Territories. These days, the Mounties are Canada's federal police force, and are rarely seen in their famous dress uniforms. But if you are hankering for an old-school Mountie encounter, head to Banff National Park, where retired officers such as Pat Kamenka don the red serge to share stories about the Mounties' traditions and experiences.
Like many Mounties, Pat is a true outdoorsman. After a youth spent trapping and tracking, he worked in western Canada, having a go at everything from tree-felling to wrangling grizzly bears for movies before joining the revered and much-loved Royal Canadian Mountain Police.
This article was produced in association with APT. Discover the inspiring landscapes of Canada and Alaska – from the breathtaking landscapes to rich cultural experiences, everything is taken care of on an unforgettable journey with APT.
For more information visit aptouring.com.au/traveller, call 1300 290 669 or contact your travel agent.