July 30, 2014

If you’ve been thinking of making that long-dreamed-of trip to the Canadian Rockies, there has never been a better time, thanks to Rocky Mountaineer’s 25th anniversary offer for 2015.  Until 31 August 2014, new qualifying bookings of seven nights or more in GoldLeaf or SilverLeaf Service with travel dates next year will receive up to £1,400 per couple in added value.

In 25 years of operating its famous blue, white and gold trains, Rocky Mountaineer’s routes and packages have become the way to appreciate the scenic wonders of the Canadian Rockies.  Nearly 2 million people have enjoyed some of the world’s most spectacular mountain landscapes through the panoramic windows and appreciated the value of having such friendly and knowledgeable storytellers to add another dimension to the experience.  Add in the pleasure of enjoying superbly cooked regional produce and it’s small wonder that Rocky Mountaineer has become the largest privately owned luxury tourist train company in the world.

One of the reasons for its success has been the range of options, some combining the train with cruises and linking road coaches along the celebrated Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper.  At the Columbia Icefield a stop is made to ride the Ice Explorer – a special bus with huge tyres and big windows – to see at close quarters the 1,000-feet thick glacier.  The link between Banff and Jasper is an unmissable experience in its own right, but it also allows circular journeys taking in three of Rocky Mountaineer’s four rail routes.

The shortest is the Whistler Sea to Sky Climb, a 3½-hour journey between North Vancouver and Whistler which packs in a succession of breathtaking sights: the glorious views of the snow-fringed coastal mountains across Howe Sound; glimpses of seals and bald eagles near Squamish; and the cauldron of white and olive green water churning through Cheakamus Canyon.  These can be enjoyed from your seat or from the Heritage Open Air Observation Car.

From Whistler many continue by the Rainforest to Gold Rush route to Jasper. The journey is full of contrasts, and it’s impossible to choose a highlight.  It could be the beauty of isolated Anderson and Seton lakes, which the train fringes feet from the water’s edge; the stupendous climb through numerous horseshoe curves out of the Fraser River Valley; the endless ranges of forested hills on the upland plateau; or the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson, so vast it has its own microclimate.  The route has an overnight stop in the characterful logging town of Quesnel.

It’s a very different experience from the two classic routes through the more southerly Rockies: First Passage to the West between Vancouver and Banff and Journey through the Clouds linking Vancouver and Jasper.  Between Vancouver and the overnight stop at Kamloops, the two routes share the tracks through the market gardens that reach to the foothills of the Rockies.  As the climb begins, the train picks its way along a ledge above the raging Fraser River past Hell’s Gate and the confluence of the Thompson and Fraser rivers at Lytton – cue dramatic stories about the explorers of the Hudson’s Bay and North West companies and the gold rushes that attracted thousands in search of quick riches.

Paired with the Rainforest to Gold Rush train, either of these southern routes allows a circular tour to make sure you experience the best of the Rockies, with five circle rail packages ranging from 9 to 15 days.  The 12-day Grand Rail Circle combines the rail journeys from Vancouver to Jasper and Banff to Vancouver with the Columbia Icefield and a Summit Helicopter Tour as well as a night in the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel.  The 11-day Golden Circle is similar but omits the helicopter ride, while the 9-day Canadian Rockies Getaway takes in both the southern routes with a motorcoach between Jasper and Banff and a Summit Helicopter Tour.

The 9-day Classic Rail Circle allows time for sightseeing tours of Vancouver before heading north for a night in Whistler and the Rainforest to Gold Rush route to Jasper for a return by Journey through the Clouds.  Another of the packages eligible for the anniversary offer is the 15-day/14-night Coastal Passage Western Explorer with Post-Tour Cruise.  This rail and cruise package begins with five days of spectacular sightseeing between Calgary and Jasper before taking the Rocky Mountaineer to Seattle for embarkation aboard the Holland America MS Westerdam.  Guests are treated to stunning vistas of the coastal mountains on their way to Alaska with a call in British Columbia’s delightful capital, Victoria, before journey’s end in Seattle.

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