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In prehistoric times, much of North America was a lush subtropical habitat embracing a vast inland sea. This is where the dinosaurs roamed 70 million years ago. Fast forward to present-day central and southern Alberta where their bones now rest in ancient riverbeds, framed by the maroon-striped canyons of the mysterious Canadian Badlands. Find yourself a little bit out there. Wander through the cottonwoods along the banks of meandering rivers.
There is nowhere quite like the Drumheller Valley; Dinosaur Capital of Canada! Being here will take you into another world - the world of startling contrasts between the deep past and the exciting present. Rolling fields suddenly give way to steep, dry coulees ridged with the strata of hundreds of years of erosion by time, wind and water.
Day 1 Fly UK to Calgary
Arrive in Calgary, a place buzzing with innovative energy while embracing its rich western heritage. Enjoy a visit to the iconic Calgary Tower (admission included). Another highlight worth visiting is the Heritage Park Historical Village (admission not included) on the city’s south side, a “living museum” representing turn of the century Calgary with costumed interpreters, a steam train and scale-model sternwheeler, an oldfashioned candy store and much more. In the evening, embrace Calgary’s vibrant entertainment and culinary scene.
Day 2 Calgary to Banff (155km/72mi)
Take the short (2-hour) drive from Calgary to Banff on either the Trans- Canada Highway or the more scenic 1A Highway. Once in Banff proceed to your selected hotel to check in and the rest of the day is yours to explore at your own leisure.
Day 3 Banff Exploring
A full day to explore Banff and the surrounding area. In town you’ll find lots of excitement including shopping, cafés, nightlife and museums. Check out the Cave and Basin National Historic Site (not included), Banff Gondola (included) where you will see a panoramic view of the Bow Valley, and then take a dip in the restorative hot mineral pools at the Upper Hot Springs (included).
Day 4 Banff to Drumheller (251km/156mi)
Depart Banff, heading east toward Drumheller. There is nowhere quite like the Drumheller Valley; Dinosaur Capital of Canada! Being here will take you into another world - the world of startling contrasts between the deep past and the exciting present. Rolling fields suddenly give way to steep, dry coulees ridged with the strata of hundreds of years of erosion by time, wind and water. Don’t miss the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology (included) - Canada’s largest dinosaur museum where you can journey through time and come face-to-face with incredible creatures that lived millions of years ago.
Day 5 Drumheller to Dinosaur Provincial Park to Cypress Hills Provincial Park (336km/208 mi)
From Drumheller, travel two hours to Dinosaur Provincial Park, where you will have a chance escape the ordinary and venture into the rugged Canadian Badlands. The Explorer’s Bus Tour (included) provides the opportunity to experience the stunning views of the park’s Natural Preserve from the comfort and safety of the tour bus. You will be getting off the bus at various stops to see the badlands and fossils up close and personal. One stop includes a full body (articulated skeleton) of a Corythosaurus, the “helmet headed lizard”. Continue to Cypress Hills Provincial Park – the hidden gem of Southern Alberta (about 2 hours and 40 minutes), you’ll overnight in Elkwater.
Day 6 Cypress Hills Provincial Park Exploring
At Cypress Hills Provincial Park, you can visit the Interpretive Program Schedule to book an interpretive hike or Dark Sky Planetarium experience to learn how to navigate the bright stars and constellations. Enjoy an array of outdoor adventures for any activity level; head over to the Interpretive Centre in Elkwater, where you can rent a bike, canoe, paddleboard, kayak, pedal boat, and GPS system for geo-caching scavenger hunts. Try dinner at the Camp Cookhouse for a rustic gourmet experience with dishes prepared by one of Canada’s Top Chef’s and made with local ingredients (activities and admissions not included).
Day 7 Cypress Hills Provincial Park to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park to Lethbridge (297 km/185 mi)
Travel west on the Red Coat Trail toward Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park to experience the largest concentration of rock art on the plains. Explore this National Historic Site with an interpreter, lounge by the bubbling Milk River and hike the hoodoo trails. Visit the Interpretive Centre for a behind the scenes guided experience with a local aboriginal guide to explore the Archaeological Preserve. Drive approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes from Writing-On-Stone to Lethbridge where you’ll spend the night.
Day 8 Lethbridge to Waterton Lakes National Park (119 km/74 mi)
On your way out of Lethbridge, you may wish to stop in at Fort Whoop-Up, an old fort and outlaw trading post, allowing visitors to step into life at a frontier outpost on the Great Plains, to discover exhibits about Canada’s first Mounties, whiskey and firearms traders and Blackfoot history and culture (not included). In Waterton, stroll through the town to shop, dine at the restaurants, visit the beach or hike the trails that start from the town site. You may wish to visit the Prince of Wales Hotel – a National Historic Site – for afternoon tea and lots of opportunities to take amazing photographs.
Day 9 Waterton Lakes National Park Exploring
The day is yours to discover the wonders of this beautiful region. You may wish to travel to Montana’s Glacier National Park (the U.S. half of this International Peace Park) via the famous Going to the Sun Road, an astonishing feat of engineering and spectacular scenery as well. A popular activity is the 16-km drive from the Waterton town site to Red Rock Canyon - a colourful canyon of red, green and white banded rock cliffs, green alpine forests and bubbling white waterfalls.
Day 10 Waterton Lakes National Park to Calgary (290 km/180 mi)
Travel north for 1 hour and 10 minutes to experience Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump (included), a UNESCO World Heritage Site that tells the story of the hunting practice of the native people of the North American plains for the past 6000 years. A native guide leads you through the exhibit and out to the cliff jump, sharing the history and lifestyle of the first people. There may even be drumming in the plaza. Continue north for 2 hours to Calgary airport, drop-off your car and check-in for your flight back to the UK.