From Toronto to Montreal to Vancouver to Calgary, Canada has more than its fair share of well-known tourist destinations. However, there’s one that, despite its incredible popularity, is not yet a household name: Banff.
No, “Banff” is not a comic book sound effect. Rather, it’s a postcard-perfect resort town located in the province of Alberta.
Perhaps the reason it’s not quite as famous as the above-mentioned cities is because Banff is not a buzzing metropolis, but instead, a relaxed, carefree hideaway nestled among the Canadian Rockies. That may also be the biggest part of its lasting appeal: in many ways, it’s the perfect place for vacationers looking to get away from the nonstop chaos of big city life.
So removed from the hustle and bustle is Banff that the town is actually located inside (you read that right: inside) a national park. Established in 1885, Banff National Park is Canada’s first national park, and the town that shares its name is likewise the first municipality incorporated within such a park.
As such, Banff is surrounded on all sides by beautiful and unique natural landscapes, including the wide, winding Bow River and the magnificent Bow Falls. It’s no wonder that Banff is beloved by outdoorsmen of all types, from hikers and ice-climbers to fishermen and rafting enthusiasts.
That this mountainous region has the second-highest elevation of any community in Alberta similarly makes it little surprise that Banff has flourished as a hotspot (or should that be coldspot?) for skiers and snowboarders. No less than three different ski resorts have made their home near the town of Banff: Sunshine Village, Ski Norquay, and Lake Louise Ski Resort.
Probably the most luxurious of Banff’s earthly wonders, though, is its abundance of hot springs. Since being discovered in 1883 by a trio of railroad workers, the area’s many naturally heated, self-renewing pools have drawn countless visitors seeking to immerse themselves in the warm, mineral-rich waters. Today, there are more than a dozen hot spring spas located in Banff, offering everything from panoramic mountain views to yoga and acupuncture to saunas and couples massages.
Of course, any place as old and treasured as Banff is bound to have a wealth of history behind it. That’s why in 1985 the United Nations declared the entire region a World Heritage Site.
Long before Banff became what it is today, the land was settled by many First Nations peoples. The traditions of those peoples are preserved today via the Banff Indian Trading Post, the Buffalo Nations Museum, and the Banff Iiniskim Powwow, an annual celebration of indigenous culture that includes live song and dance performances complete with traditional tribal regaliaIndeed, few Canadian locations offer as much history, culture, comfort, and natural beauty as Banff. It’s the kind of place that turns vacations into love affairs and sends tourists in search of Banff homes for sale, just so they never have to leave. In many ways, it is one of the Great White North’s most popular attractions. In just as many ways, though, it is the country’s best-kept secret. And like any good secret, it only gets better when you can share it with someone you love.