It may seem like an impossible choice to make when planning your next tour to either the majestic Alps of Europe or the wild Rockies of the Great White North, but narrowing down where to go next doesn’t have to be difficult.
Travel to: Canadian Rockies
While both are mesmerizing locations boasting numerous outdoor activities, breathtaking nature and fantastic accommodations, let’s do a little comparison, shall we?
|Countries||France, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, Slovenia||Canada, US|
|Destination for Families||Kitzbühel||Jasper|
|Budget Destination||Livigno||Grand Targhee|
|Solo Travelers Destination||Meribel||Jasper National Park|
The Alps attract visitors from all over the globe. This extensive mountain range system covers a large portion of Europe and spans almost 1,200 kilometres across France, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia. Known for their lush green meadows, picturesque villages, ski resorts and chalets, this is where winter tourism was born.
What to expect in the Alps
Home to the Matterhorn, Mt. Blanc and other famous natural landmarks, it’s ideal for the traveller who loves the outdoors and a little leisure time too. It’s also worth noting that skiing isn’t just a sport here – it’s an intrinsic part of the culture and way of life in the Alps.
Only here can you can expect a well-rounded Alpine experience with a gorgeous view to match. If you’ve never been, don’t expect too many people to be wearing a lederhosen. Tradition may be an important part of life here, but so is a passion for the sport, high-end hospitality and, of course, the après ski. Don’t worry though. There will be some lederhosen.
I remember when I was a kid, I look at snow globes displayed on stores during the holidays and dreamt of seeing the Swiss Alps one day. Indeed, dreams do come true! At 10,000 feet, Mt. Titlis in Engelberg is Switzerland’s loftiest peak and a snow paradise that is visually stunning. At the top of Mt. Titlis is where I got to witness a dreamlike high panoramic view of the alps where I felt like I was on top of the world!
Think you have a head for heights? 3,000 meters above sea-level and 150 heart-pounding steps awaits you on the Titlis Cliff Walk, the spectacular steel cable suspension bridge high up on the summit with a breathtaking view of the alps. I recommend anyone who wishes to see the Swiss Alps to try this. It was nerve-wracking yet fun experience crossing Europe’s highest suspension bridge! – Kev, The Awesome Kev
From point A to peak B: How to travel through the Alps
- Plane: The adventure begins as soon as you hop off your plane. While the main hub is Zurich for flights, other regions include Geneva and Basel – and once you’ve safely landed, you can either take public transportation or rent a car.
- Train & trams: Known for making watches, you can bet Swiss trains and buses run on time and get you almost anywhere affordable. Public transportation is luxurious and offers you a quiet voyage through stretches of the highest, most legendary region of Europe. Crack open a good book, enjoy a gourmet meal on board or take in the breathtaking view as it whizzes by.
- Car: Another option is to rent a vehicle. Cars are a bit pricier, but you have the freedom to take the road you planned and go at your own pace. Renting is also good if you imagine any spontaneous sing-a-longs happening or want to stop at a few villages on the way. Most chalets and lodges have complimentary parking for guests for no additional charge.
Where to find the best experiences in The Alps
The Alps have been a pitched as a family destination for some time as generation after generation return to the region – but where do you start? Whilst The Alps are famous for their ski and snowboarding hills, hitting the slopes isn’t the only activity you can enjoy out here. Those who don’t want to slalom can go climbing, snowshoeing, or unwind with a trip to the spa. In the warmer months, hiking, cycling and learning about local heritage are on everyone’s to-do list.
I never cease to be amazed by the incredible natural beauty of Swiss landscapes. What I enjoy most is hiking in the summer and snow-shoeing in the winter in the shadow of the most iconic Alpine peaks, such as the Matterhorn and the Eiger. I’d really recommend that first-time visitors give themselves plenty of time to discover the area so that they can truly enjoy the breathtaking panoramas and the snow-capped mountains. Nothing beats spending time in nature, just always make sure you have the right equipment as the weather can change quickly in the Alps. – Catherine, Swiss Bliss
The Aletsch Arena is a perfect choice if you’re travelling with the kids. Comprised of three ski villages (Riederalp, Battmeralp and Fiescheralp) interconnected by ski lifts and trails so you can be close to everything from restaurants to slopes. Your little ones can compete in the village kids races, join ski school, go sledding or you can all hop on the tram to visit Aletsch Glacier.
In Courchevel, slopes are carefully groomed and the area is teeming with family chalets, fun zones and even features a panda bear art installation you can visit.
In Kitzbühel, everyone can check out the Alpine Iglu Village. Bound to keep the family entertained with unique ice sculptures, late-night torch walks and ski safaris that covers 100km in a day, they’ll come back both thrilled and exhausted – and you may win something for Parent-of-the-Year.
Where to find the best experiences in the Alps
Whilst families are attracted to resorts and lodges, singles and backpackers flock to smaller towns and villages to party and keep it social.
Solo travellers can mingle and mountain bike through places like Serre Chevalier or Meribel known for its nightlife scene, this vacation is for those who love lazy lunches, huge outdoor bars and people that take their fêtes very seriously.
Smack dab in the middle of the country, most travellers must pass through Interlaken. Besides frosty soirées, this locale is ideal for the high-intensity adventurer. Dabble in extreme sports like skydiving, bungee jumping and river rafting by day and then après ski after the après ski. And then do one more.
The Swiss Alps are pure beauty. They give you a sense of well being, seeing them tower over the green pastures of the Swiss valleys. To see them in person, hike them, and feel them makes you realize how majestic nature is. You will gain a newfound respect of the mountains once you step foot in the Alps. We traveled through Switzerland in summer and a rare snow storm capped the Alps in glistening white, something the locals tell us only happens once every 10 years. As a family of 4, there are a number of kid friendly hiking trails that allow you to get up close & personal with the Alps. One of our favorite hikes as a family was train spotting on the Albula Pass in Park Ela. You can hike one way and take the UNESCO Heritage Swiss Train through some of the most scenic landscape in Switzerland back to the starting point of your hike.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiasts, skip the cities and head straight to the Alps. There are so many villages and small towns to stay in, you will get a true feel for Swiss culture by staying in one of the many historic villages. We stayed in both the Central Alps & Eastern Alps during summer, which is a great time to visit, you’ll get a reduced rate on lift tickets & accommodations. You can pick a hike, bike, thermal pool, or relax near a watering hole in summer. Switzerland has a fantastic tourist site that can assist you in planning your Swiss getaway. It’s also worth it to visit the local tourism center once you arrive in Switzerland. It has great information about all of the local attractions. If you’re a family considering Switzerland, it is one of the most kid friendly Countries in the World. There are numerous playgrounds in the Alps, kids under 6 are free on ski lifts and they get reduced prices on a number of attractions. – Gosia & Rick, TravelerStateofMind
Where to find the best food experiences in the Alps
It’s not all roast and rösti (although that’s pretty delicious). France also has a tremendous influence on mountain cuisine. Here are some eats that are on everyone’s mind:
- Raclette: A Swiss dish of heated cheese melted and poured over potatoes or meat.
- Tartiflette: Made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions, it’s reminiscent of au gratin.
- Diots: Sausages that can be served cold or hot, served with a side of boiled polenta or potatoes.
- Fondue Savoyarde: A dish of melted cheese served in a communal pot. Skewered meat and bread are dipped in.
- Tarte aux Myrtilles: A fancy name for blueberry pie, which is a popular dessert at inns and farmhouses.
Want to try something unexpected? Head south to the Italian Alps and Dolomites. The Valle d’Aosta, South Tyrol, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Torino are well known for authentic wine and food tours that you can’t find anywhere else.
- Mont Blanc (4,810m)
- 1,200 km
Crossing the Swiss Alps on the Bernina Express was one of the most unforgettable travel experiences I’ve had so far. I think what I liked the most about the Swiss Alps was the fairytale atmosphere: the snow-covered mountains and little towns, frozen lakes and glaciers were just out of this world. My best piece of advice for first-time visitors would be to book your Bernina Express ticket far in advance (they sell out fast!) and allow yourself enough time to admire the breathtaking views and picturesque villages along the way. It is possible to do the whole journey in one day, but I would recommend at least two or three days. – Vanda, The Yogi Wanderer
Rugged and wild, this region spans across western Canada and the US and totals 4,800km (3,000 miles) to be exact. While the Alps has its old-world culture and charm, the Rockies have far less human intervention. What you’ll find is tons of snow, rough terrain and untouched wilderness.
What to expect in the Rockies
If skiing is what you’re in for, the Canadian Rockies are a safe bet with far more snowfall than Europe – and while The Colorado Rockies possess a beauty unto themselves, the pristine, blue lakes and craggy mountains of the Great White North are tough to beat. On the border of Alberta and British Columbia, there is fun to be had on both sides. This is where travellers come for extreme sports and sublime natural splendour.
See Also: Eastern Canada Vs Western Canada
I loved how naturally beautiful the Canadian Rockies were. Being from Australia, I’d never seen a place like Banff or Jasper before, which are literally surrounded by the snow capped Rocky Mountains. I also caught Lake Louise on a good day, when its water was the brightest turquoise colour. It was absolutely incredible. My main piece of advice for people visiting the Canadian Rockies for the first time is to not be afraid to do it solo. I spent five days in the region without a car, which is definitely doable. I also recommend visiting both Banff and Jasper. I think they’re both beautiful for their own reasons. – Hayley, Hayley on Holiday
From point A to peak B: How to travel through the Rockies
- Plane: From Calgary International Airport or Edmonton, you can get to the mountains in a few ways, but a car may be best.
- Car: Getting to the Rockies is easiest by car, so if this is your plan, make sure you’ve practised enough winter driving. Ensure you also bring a GPS and pick out an awesome playlist. Also, snacks. You’ll definitely need them.
- Trains & Buses: The Greyhound that frequent both Jasper and Banff are great if you’re on a budget or simply don’t feel like driving. Trains offer a more sumptuous ride through the VIA Rail on selected days of the week depending on where you are coming from and selected trains offer unique ways of seeing the Rockies. The Rainbow, for example, will take you through the historic Cariboo gold rush region, carved out by early settlers.
Where to find the best experiences in the Rockies
Skiing is a major attraction, but so is snowboarding and whitewater rafting. Explore more of the wild on an Athabasca icewalk, go caving in Canmore or rock climbing if you’d like to test your limits. If you’re with a mixed crowd who may not be keen on anything more extreme than picnicking, Banff National Park, Lake Louise, Lake Minnewanka are a few places that will leave you a little speechless.
You can’t ignore The Fairmont Banff Spring when you head over, a hotel otherwise known as the “Castle in the Rockies”. If you’d like to stay at a lodge instead that’s easier on the pocketbook, there are dozens to choose from. Many feature outdoor golfing, pools and even indoor waterparks. There are plenty of ski hills to fly down too, in case you were wondering.
From here, you and the family can visit Athabasca Glacier in winter or go horseback riding when things warm up. Go on a raft tour with the kids where you can enjoy the sights and sounds of your natural surroundings.
Where to find the best solo experiences in the Rockies
The Canadian Rockies are one of the best places if you’re travelling solo or with a group of friends. It’s always snowing here during peak season, so you’ll never be too concerned when it comes to outdoor sports. Known for off-the-charts parties and extreme adventure, people who come here go hard.
Whether you’re backpacking or on a road trip with friends, you can either stay at a lodge or a hostel to meet more cool folks. Team up and go for a full day of skiing, snowboarding and hiking. At night, prepare yourself for the high-energy at The Dancing Sasquatch, Wild Bill’s Saloon or Eddie’s Burger Bar, where you can drink a Trashcan. You heard us right. It’s famous.
Jasper is a place to go if you’re looking for something a bit more low-key. Sure, you can stay at a lodge or hostel here too, but at Jasper National Park, you can sleep in the great outdoors (weather willing). Sadly, there’s a curfew between 11 pm and 7 am so if you want to bump elbows outside of a tent, stay in the city and sip your suds at The Jasper Brewing Co. or maybe shake a leg at 4Peaks Nightclub and see how your night unfolds.
Where to find the best food experiences in the Rockies
We recommend some regional classics. Here’s what’s famous in the Rockies:
- Alberta Steak: Classic-grilled, it’s the talk of the entire nation. It’ll melt in your mouth, right off the grill.
- Wild Pacific Salmon: Full of rich and intense flavour, best enjoyed fresh.
- Stampede Pancake Breakfast: When this major event comes to town, locals love a big breakfast, covered in warm maple syrup. A side of sausage is a good idea.
- Pierogies, Kielbasa and Cabbage Rolls: We can thank early Polish settlers for these hearty dishes that have continued to be a popular choice in the region.
- Nanaimo Bars: Consists of a wafer crumb-based layer topped by a layer of custard-flavoured butter icing, covered in chocolate.
Fine Canadian dining can be found at Three Ravens Restaurant & Bar, but for a no-fuss-no-muss-meal, head over to The Bear Street Tavern or Coyote’s South Western Grill. If you can’t tell by now, Canadians like their wildlife an awful lot. Don’t forget to try a Beavertail – but we promise it’s not what it sounds like.
- Mount Elbert (4,401m)
- 4,800 km
Feeling inspired to start the adventure? Take a look at the most popular tours travelling the Canadian Rockies or through Europe.