Banff © Sesivany
The small resort town of Banff is a holiday destination situated inside the spectacular and unspoilt Banff National Park, Canada's first national park and most popular tourist attraction, about an hour and a half's drive west of Calgary. The surrounding national park offers 2,564 square miles (6,641 sq km) of unparalleled mountain scenery in the heart of the Canadian Rockies including glaciers, ice fields, jagged peaks, crystal clear lakes and raging rivers.
Holiday attractions in the town itself include the Banff Park Museum, on Buffalo Street, which is the oldest natural history museum in western Canada and features a fantastic assortment of wildlife specimens, minerals and other artefacts. Not far away is the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, dedicated to the rich cultural history of the area with four art galleries, a heritage gallery and a research library.
The Cave and Basin National Historic Site, in Cave Avenue, tells the story of the discovery of the hot springs that led to the establishment of Canada's first national reserve in 1885. Visitors on holiday here can also take a gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain to enjoy the spectacular views from the observation deck at the top, or soak in hot mineral waters at the Upper Hot Springs in Mountain Avenue.
Winter is low season in Banff National Park, but skiers and snowboarders who brave the low temperatures are delighted with what they find. The slopes have something for everyone, from steep couloirs to gentle cruising and the snow is some of the coldest, driest and most reliable anywhere in the world, and there's a lot of it, particularly in the Sunshine Village ski area.
The staggering scenery and mountain wildlife, as well as the welcoming Banff locals and excellent value also impress visitors. Lake Louise is the most extensive and popular ski resort in the Banff region - see our separate Lake Louise ski resort guide.