A Vancouver to Banff tour is one of the most spectacular trips in the world!
Whether you’re still thinking about if you should take this trip or if you’ve already decided you’re going to do it. you’ve come to the right place! As a native Canadian, Vancouver resident and avid traveler, I’ve made the trip from Vancouver to Banff several times – it’s hard to resist all of that breath-taking scenery!
Rely on me to help you decide which Vancouver to Banff tour is right for you. When is the best time to go? Which tour company should you use? What stops along the way are best? How many days is optimal? Should you take an organized tour or drive yourself from Vancouver to Banff?
I’m going to answer all those questions and more so that you can relax and enjoy this amazing trip!
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Vancouver to Banff Bus Tours
Many tour companies offer bus tours from Vancouver to Banff. The routes offered vary widely in terms of what is included, the expertise of the guides, the stops along the way and the additional perks offered.
However, you can virtually guarantee that you will see the spectacular scenery of the the Canadian Rockies, Lake Louise, and Banff National Park on all tours.
Banff has some world class hiking trails. Check out Taylor’s great post all about the best hiking in Banff.
How Much Time Do You Need for a Vancouver to Banff Tour?
In my experience, a minimum of 4-days is needed to get a good experience and appreciation for this spectacular trip.
The trip from Vancouver to Banff is almost 900 kilometres and that isn’t including any side-trips you might want to enjoy along the way!
Tours of more than 4-days are even better. If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at British Columbia, the Canadian Rockies, Lake Louise and Jasper National Park, consider a longer tour. You’ll have more time for photography, see some sights that are a little bit off the beaten track, and truly appreciate this great part of the world.
Check out Mike’s comprehensive post for the ultimate guide to visiting Banff in summer for lots of great ideas for when you get to Banff!
Vancouver to Banff Tours – Options
This tour is my favourite! If you only have 4-days to see the spectacular Rocky Mountains and Banff, this is definitely the tour for you! This is a great tour after you’ve spent 4 days in Vancouver.
A lot is packed into this short tour, and the value is pretty good! Three nights accommodation is included along with 3 breakfasts and 1 dinner. Also included is a great winery tasting experience and discounts on optional activities. I think my favourite part of this tour is the campfire with marshmallow roast on day 3 :-).
On the way back to Vancouver you’ll see the Icefields Parkway, one of the most beautiful journeys on the planet – rated as one of the top drives in the world by Conde Nast Traveller. This stretch of road is dotted with more than 100 ancient glaciers, waterfalls, rock spires and emerald lakes. You’ll be amazed and inspired 🙂
You’ll also see Jasper National Park and the Last Spike, and you’ll enjoy some amazing hiking in spectacular canyons and lakes as well as a really fun cowboy ranch experience in Valemount.
This is the best tour for you if you want a more active tour with plenty of optional activities. Don’t forget your travel medical insurance before you go!
This bus tour from Vancouver to Banff also includes en route entertainment, games and prizes. This may not be for everyone but I’ve found the tour guides are generally very entertaining :-). I use Get Your Guide tours whenever I want to see a great new destination. Get Your Guide tours offer easy cancellation, mobile vouchers and last minute availability.
Find out more about this fun tour here.
5-Day Tour from Vancouver to Banff
For a 5-day tour, this is one of the best. If you need to start in and return to Vancouver, this tour is for you! This tour is ideal if you’re taking a cruise out of Vancouver as you’ll return to Vancouver at the end of the tour but still have enough time to enjoy all the sights from Vancouver to Banff.
This tour includes some of the best sights between Vancouver and Banff with stops in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, Revelstoke, Lake Louise, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park and several bonus stops as well. Resort-style accommodation is included in this tour. I particularly love the Sutton Place Hotel in Revelstoke, where you’ll spend the first night.
This tour is really special because not only do you get some quality leisure time to explore on your own, but you also receive the benefit of guided tours at some amazing places along the way, including wildlife tours! You’re sure to see the famous elk strolling around Banff while you’re there. If you’ve always wanted to ride a gondola up a mountain in the Canadian Rockies, this is your chance! If you like non-touristy things to do, this is definitely the tour for you.
If you’d like to spend more time in the Kootenays or return for a visit, check out Tamara’s excellent post all about the great things to do in the Kootenays.
Breakfasts are included in this tour as well as a dinner. Viator is an international tour company with great tours around the world. I’ve used Viator many times when I wanted to be assured of a great quality tour with excellent accommodations.
Find out more about this spectacular tour here.
6-Day Tour Vancouver to Banff
If you really want to immerse yourself and experience the Canadian Rockies fully, this tour is for you!
This tour is particularly well-priced, given that it’s 6 full days. The reviews of this tour are pretty amazing!
This tour begins and ends in Vancouver and offers an excellent itinerary. Meals are not included but can be added for an additional cost. I like the added flexibility that this tour offers. If you’re more budget-conscious you can make choices to keep your expenses on the low side. The hotels included on this tour are reasonable mid-range hotels – clean and comfortable.
This 6-day tour has a really excellent itinerary! You’ll experience wine-tasting in the Okanagan, where some of the best wineries in Canada are located. Banff National Park will amaze you with its Rocky Mountain peaks, turquoise glacier lakes and abundant wildlife. Have you ever seen a big-horn sheep or a full-grown moose sporting a full rack of antlers? These animals and more are commonly seen on this tour!
Did you know that Banff National Park is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Canadian Rocky Mountains?
This tour also includes time at Lake Louise, a hamlet in Banff National Park. It’s also the home of Chateau Lake Louise, a beautiful rail hotel built at the turn of the 20th century by the Canadian National Railway. It was originally conceived as a vacation destination to lure wealthy travelers into taking trains and heading west : -). It’s a sight well worth seeing.
Check out Diana’s post for more information about Banff and other beautiful Canadian landmarks!
On the way back to Vancouver on this great tour you’ll stop in to see the Last Spike at Craigellachie, British Columbia. This is where the ceremonial final spike in the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven on November 1885, marking the end of construction of Canada’s first transcontinental railroad.
Tours4Fun is a budget tour company offering great value tours for all ages that are flexible to suit your needs.
Find out more about this great tour here.
What is the Best Time of Year for a Bus Tour to Banff?
Winter in Canada can be cold! No surprise there 🙂 It goes without saying that it’s best to take your Vancouver to Banff tour when the weather is more favourable and you won’t have to wear a parka.
Although roads and highways in Canada are well-maintained, it can still be snowy and icy in the Canadian Rockies into April and early May. The average temperatures in Banff in May is a low of 1 degree Celsius, with a high of 18 degrees Celsius. It’s warmest in July when temperature rises to a 23 degrees Celsius during the day with a low of 7 degrees Celsius at night. August is a tiny bit cooler and in September temperatures start to get down into single digits again.
Depending on your tolerance and preferences, pick a month where you will feel comfortable. Make sure to bring enough warm clothing no matter what time of year you choose, as night time temperatures are always going to be cool.
In terms of precipitation in Banff, snow is not unusual into May, but is not expected from June through August and usually September as well. You might expect some rainfall in the summer months with June having the most chance of rain. Overall however, the summer months of June-early September are usually quite dry in Banff and in the Canadian Rockies.
Visiting Vancouver during the winter is a great option, with milder temperatures and lots to see and do. If you’re not sure where to stay when you visit Vancouver, check out my comprehensive guide here. Consider taking a roadtrip on the famous Sea to Sky Highway while you’re visiting!
Bus Tour Tips
Comfort on the Bus
Bring a pillow (neck pillow). Many interesting shapes are available and if you have neck or back issues the right one can be invaluable. You might like to use it to lay your head back on, or to put between yourself and the window of the bus.
This is a great option. This neck pillow is inflatable, which can really help keep your luggage to a minimum. The best kind of luggage to use on this trip is undoubtedly a backpack on wheels. If you don’t have one already, here’s a great guide to choosing the right one for you.
Wear comfortable clothing. Clothing that is tight or stiff and with complicated buttons or snaps will be comfortable to wear while you’re bus touring. Choose your shoes wisely, as you may need hiking boots if you’re planning on a hiking excursion in the Rockies or if you have weak ankles and will be walking on uneven pavement.
Consider dressing in layers, as bus temperatures may vary. Although all tour buses will be air conditioned, it may be cooler or warmer than you feel most comfortable in. Don’t forget that you’ll be getting out of the bus reguarly so that you’ll want to have a jacket or sweater in close proximity and easily accessible.
Bus trip Entertaiment
A trip from Vancouver to Banff will be so chock full of amazing scenery that you may not think you’ll need anything additional for entertainment. But, you may still want another diversion during the tour. Bring along your iPad, smart phone or laptop, and download movies, shows or music in advance. Bring along the appropriate chargers too as well as a portable charging device. There may be charging ports on the bus, but this is not guaranteed.
Books, magazines and newspapers are always a welcome diversion.
Don’t forget your camera and binoculars! These are a great option for viewing wildlife. There’s so much wildlife to see on your journey – don’t miss out on your chance to see an elk like this!
Bus Tour Travel snacks
You’ll be stopping for regular meals during each day but if you like to snack in between meals or prefer your own snacks, bring them along. Try some excellent Canadian food while you’re here!
Do you know the best places to eat in Banff? Check out Mayuri’s great post for some great Banff restaurants.
General tips for Bus Tours from Vancouver to Banff
- Be on time – don’t be that person who always returns late from a meal break or a tour
- Bring a bank or ATM card, credit cards and Canadian dollars. You may find yourself in more remote locations that don’t accept credit cards so having a variety of ways to make purchases is handy
- Take advantage of all comfort stops, whether you think you need to or not. Get up and walk around as often as possible.
- Try to pack as lightly as you can. You’ll be carrying your bags each night you stop and the lighter your bag, the happier you’ll be
- Bring a notebook with you to jot down things you see and hear that you’ll want to remember. This is also a great place to make sketches if you’re artistically inclined.
- When you leave the hotel to explore the area, bring a hotel leaflet or card with you. It’s easy to forget where you’re staying when you’re staying somewhere different every night!
- If you’re planning to staff in Banff for a few days, this 3-day itinerary for Banff is great
- If you’re visiting Banff in winter, a spectacular activity is the Johnson Canyon Ice Walk, with gorgeous limestone rocks and plethora of scenic waterfalls.
- A great side trip from Banff is to the Spray Lakes, just and hour south of Banff. Cindy has a great guide to the Spray Lakes region here.
- If you like great hiking, the Plain of Six Glacier’s hike is one of the best in Banff.
Recommended Reading Before or During your Trip from Vancouver to Banff
If you have an interest in the history of Canada and how our massive railroad was built, the best choice is Pierre Burton’s classic story of The Last Spike. In the four years between 1881 and 1885, Canada was forged into one nation by the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Last Spike reconstructs the incredible story of how some 2,000 miles of steel crossed the continent in just five years.
The best travel books are written by the people at The Lonely Planet. They’ve published a great guide to Banff, Jasper and Glacier National Parks.
For some great Canadian fiction, you can’t go wrong with acclaimed Canadian author Margaret Atwood. She wrote The Handmaid’s Tale, on which the Emmy-award winning series is based, as well as Alias Grace.
Luxurious Option for Vancouver to Banff Tour
If you want a truly luxurious experience on your Vancouver to Banff tour, get on-board the famous Rocky Mountaineer!
As advertised, the Rocky Mountaineer is the key to unlocking a hidden world of unparalleled beauty as you carve through otherwise inaccessible terrain in the Canadian Rockies. The Rocky Mountaineer has been awarded the “World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train” at the World Travel Awards seven times, for its Gold Leaf service. It’s even been recognized by National Geographic Magazine as one of the “World’s Best Journey’s” in 2007.
I’ll be writing more about taking the Rocky Mountaineer soon! If you’re keen to find out more, check out all the information you need on the Rocky Mountaineer website.
Are you thinking about taking a journey from Vancouver to Banff? Do you have any questions about this part of the world? Leave your questions and comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!
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