There's no one, single way to experience a place such as this. To properly appreciate the rugged beauty of Alaska, and to take in the vastness and diversity of Canada's west coast, to see and feel all that these areas offer, you have to mix up your modes of transport. You have to adapt to the countryside itself.
To properly see the Alaskan coastline, for example, you need to be aboard a ship. Canada's Rocky Mountains, meanwhile, deserve to be seen via the unhurried luxury of a rail journey. Other parts of this area lend themselves best to coach travel, while some deserve the simplicity of exploration on foot.
Alaska and western Canada offer some of the planet's most diverse and beautiful natural environments, and the only way to see them all is to tailor your journey appropriately.
ROCKY MOUNTAINS BY RAIL
Kicking Horse Canyon, Canadian Rockies.
No experience quite captures the majesty of Canada's Rocky Mountains like its most famous train, the Rocky Mountaineer. This is so much more than a rail journey. Yes, you'll make your way by train from Vancouver into the mountains proper, passing otherwise inaccessible high-altitude lakes, rolling through mountain passes, and maybe even catching sight of native wildlife by the side of the track. But the Rocky Mountaineer is also about the experience on board: the luxury of this beautiful train, of the panoramic windows, the great food and the five-star service. It's perfection in and out.
DON'T MISS APT guests travel on the Rocky Mountaineer in GoldLeaf Service, which means experiencing the train's bi-level glass-domed carriages. On the upper level, capture the magnificent views of the Rockies through the full dome windows. Downstairs, meanwhile, a chef prepares a la carte meals that are accompanied by free-flowing drinks.
LAKE LOUISE ON FOOT
Lake Louise is the Canada you've been picturing. It's the perfect scenery: the turquoise lake, shimmering in the sunlight; the rugged, snow-capped peaks far off in the distance; the cedar-covered foothills closer by. Lake Louise is also the home of one of the world's great hotels, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, which is bucket-list accommodation for many travellers. Rooms here are very hard to come by – however, APT guests enjoy a guaranteed Lakeview Room stay.
DON'T MISS There's no better way to experience such a pristine and stunning environment than by getting out in the open air and breathing it in. At Lake Louise, join one of the Chateau's Mountain Heritage Guides – a tradition that has been in place since 1899 – to explore the area on foot while taking the time to learn more about its natural history from an expert.
ALASKA BY SHIP
Glacier Bay, Canada.
There really is no other way to discover the Inside Passage of Alaska than by ship. There's no other way to get into the small inlets and bays; no other way to witness the wild, rugged coastline than to approach it by sea. It takes seven days of cruising to see this area properly, to call into outposts such as Juneau and Skagway and learn about their indigenous culture and heritage, to witness glacial calving in the world heritage-listed Glacier Bay National Park, and to see the fjords and the tiny islands that dot the coastline off British Columbia.
DON'T MISS There's excitement burning in the air as you board your cruise in Vancouver, and the best way to settle in and enjoy that feeling is with one of APT's Signature Experiences: the "Sail Away" dinner on board the ship's Pinnacle Grill. Meet your fellow travellers and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime.
BLUE RIVER BY BOAT
There's a reason, of course, that the area around Blue River is known as "Grizzly Bear Valley". Deep in the east of British Columbia, in a rugged and stunningly beautiful part of the country well known for its bear sightings, Blue River runs through that aforementioned valley, and an encounter with its namesake – or a few other closely related species – is almost guaranteed. For that very reason, if no other, a boat is the best way to navigate a part of Canada you're sure to love.
DON'T MISS The Blue River Wildlife Safaris guides know this area back to front, and a journey into Grizzly Bear Valley with them is an absolute must. The itinerary of this one-hour boating adventure is very much up to the bears: the more you see, the more often you'll be stopping to take photos and gasp at the raw beauty of these famous creatures.
BANFF AND JASPER BY COACH
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
The Canadian province of Alberta boasts two famous mountain towns, Banff and Jasper, which are exceptional not just for the places themselves, but for the road that links them. This part of Highway 93 is known as the "Icefields Parkway", a 230-kilometre stretch of tarmac that meanders its way through some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Canada. The road takes in part of famous Banff National Park, calls past Lake Louise, goes around stunning Bow Lake, passes ice-climbers near the famous Weeping Wall, and then navigates the high-altitude Columbia Icefield, from which the road takes its name. This is the perfect journey to experience by coach, allowing passengers to relax and enjoy the views.
DON'T MISS In Banff, APT guests have the chance to indulge in a classic Canadian experience: meeting a Mountie. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are as iconic in these parts as maple leaves and ice-hockey stars, and a chat with a Mountie about life on the frontline is an experience to treasure.
VICTORIA ON FOOT
The Butchart Gardens.
Fancy a stroll? The town of Victoria, in British Columbia, is the ideal spot to indulge in a walk. This charming town has everything you could want for a few hours of pavement-based adventure, including plenty of boutiques and clothing stores, cafes and restaurants that make the most of the excellent local produce, a fascinating museum, and a lovely park down by the seafront. In Victoria there's also the option to take a horse-drawn carriage ride, or go on a guided tour of the city's heritage district.
DON'T MISS Another of Victoria's undoubted highlights is The Butchart Gardens, a stunning reserve that receives more than a million visitors a year. APT guests have the chance to bypass those crowds, enjoying breakfast at the original Butchart residence before exploring the gardens prior to its opening to the public.
APT Tour Director Lisa May hails from Ontario, Canada. After falling in love with the Canadian Rockies on a trip 17 years ago she took a coach trip through Europe. "That's what gave me the idea of a Tour Director as a career," she says of the decision to change careers after more than 20 years working in Finance and Accounting. "I've been in the tourism industry since 2006 and this is my 9th season with APT." The Rockies is still Lisa's favourite place to visit in Canada, "I feel at peace and one with nature." When she's touring, Lisa loves to watch the reactions of her guests when they visit Niagara Falls. "When we are on the Hornblower Cruise, some tear up, with others I love seeing their huge smile, even after getting wet from the mist at the base of the Canadian or Horseshoe Falls."
This article has been produced in association with APT.
Experience Canada and Alaska through the tailored service and attention that you can only get from APT. By mixing up your modes of transport, you will encounter the diverse and beautiful natural environments of Canada and Alaska. Everything is taken care of in an unforgettable luxury journey with APT. For more information visit aptouring.com.au/traveller, call 1300 290 669 or contact your local travel agent.