You may think of Montreal or Toronto when you think of Canadian wellness tourism, but there's another contender.
The western province of Alberta—and especially the city of Calgary—has a lot to offer. Calgary, you say? Isn’t it mostly known for its petroleum industry and the Calgary Stampede, the annual ten-day event that attracts thousands of modern-day cowboys and cowgirls and includes a rodeo, lots of country music, and Western-themed parades? That’s the one. You might be surprised to know that this thriving Canadian city has a wide variety of health and wellness activities, and is the ideal base for nearby Banff and the Canadian Rockies. Just about every type of traveler will be pleased by the offerings, whether your idea of wellness is hiking in rich green forests, soaking in hot springs, or enjoying energy-infused crystal spa treatments.
Forest Bathing and Mountain Hikes
If you’re looking for scenic mountain views that will inspire you to get outside, you can’t do better than the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. An elegant hotel with world-class amenities, the hotel is surrounded by stunning mountains like Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain, earning it the moniker “Castle in the Rockies.” There are plenty of refreshing ways to pass the time here—you can hike, ski, snowshoe, visit hot springs, get a spa treatment, and take a night-sky tour at this world-famous resort.
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The Private Tunnel Mountain Hike is a moderate two-hour hike to the top of Tunnel Mountain, which rewards you with breathtaking 360-degree panoramic views over Banff. It’s a morning hike where you’ll get your fill of fresh air and gorgeous mountain scenery—a great way to start your day!
Another unique wellness activity offered is Forest Bathing. Based on the Japanese mindfulness practice known as Shinrin Yoku (used as a foundation of preventative health care), Forest Bathing helps a participant be in the moment through a meditative-like practice and connect with nature in a deeper and more profound way in order to alleviate stress and anxiety. First pick a spot in the forest to either sit on a mat or stand, close your eyes, then call attention to the present natural surroundings as you do breathwork under the expert instruction of the guide. Afterward, in a traditional tea ceremony, you can sip on warm tea prepared from fresh juniper berries.
Go Snowshoeing in a Winter Wonderland
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, located in Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is surrounded by incredible scenery: the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Victoria Glacier, and Lake Louise. The beautiful setting offers abundant fresh mountain air and a host of outdoor activities for those looking for a bit of adventure.
On a snowshoe tour (a personal favorite), follow your guide through the snow-covered landscape and learn about how the area’s animals and plants adapt to wintry conditions. Snowshoeing through fresh, fluffy, untouched snow, surrounded by the beauty and stillness of the wilderness is a delightful experience. At the end of the tour, enjoy warm tea and healthy snacks while soaking in the awe-inspiring landscape views of the mountain scenery.
Unwind With Spa Treatments
If you’d rather enjoy wellness in a more bustling setting, The Fairmont Palliser is the perfect location. This historic hotel, which has been around for over a hundred years, is right in the heart of Calgary land that was owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Enjoy wandering, as it is near all of the city’s shops, entertainment venues, restaurants, and attractions such as the Calgary Tower and Heritage Park Historical Village.
If you prefer a bit of pampering, just book a spa treatment at the hotel, such as the Rocky Mountain classic or the B.C. lavender body quench to unwind. The hotel is located close enough to the mountains, so day trips can easily be arranged. Or Fairmont Banff’s spa is also a great option. Be sure to bask in the healing powers of the alpine air and indulgent packages at their newly renovated adult-only Willow Stream Spa. Choose from a deep-tissue massage, therapy pools, an outdoor warm water pool, and a mineral pool that draws natural energy from the mountains.
If you fancy a smaller, more intimate venue located just 20 minutes outside of Calgary in Priddis, Azuridge Resort is where you want to go. It’s a jewel in the middle of the breathtaking mountains; the Indigenous Rundle rock and timber beam construction is perfect in this bucolic setting. A full range of spa packages offers plenty of opportunities to unwind through the healing power of crystals, mindfulness techniques, energy work, personal coaching, and other health and fitness practices such as yoga.
Eat Fresh and Local
What’s wellness without good food? Luckily, there is plenty of healthy and sustainable eating available in Calgary. At the Fairmont Banff, try the Sky Bistro at Banff Gondola–Banff Mountaintop Restaurant. You take a breathtaking 8-minute gondola ride to get to the restaurant on the summit of Sulphur Mountain, where you’ll enjoy food over panoramic views of six Rocky Mountain ranges. Fresh regional ingredients are provided by local farmers and food artisans in Western Canada. Expect dishes like winter herb gnocchi, foraged porridge, and salmon gravlax. The seafood is sourced from the B.C. coast and naturally raised meats come from Canmore and Central Alberta.
Other options at this hotel include afternoon tea at the recently renovated Rundle Bar, where you can partake in a 133-year-old tradition that includes executive chef Robert Ash’s new Royal Tea menu. There is also the Grape Cellar Experience, where you can experience a four-course meal with an impressive selection of wines from the hotel’s private cellar. Finally, there’s the unique 360-degree Dome experience. This outdoor private restaurant is housed inside a heated rustic-themed dome and offers three dining options: brunch, après, and dinner; all meals can be enjoyed while taking in the spectacular views of the Rockies.
The Fairmont Lake Louise has a charming lobby lounge called the Lakeview Lounge, where you can sip a cocktail and admire the picturesque panorama of Lake Louise and Victoria Glacier. In addition to an extensive cocktail and wine selection, there are seasonal options on the menu, such as slow-cooked sockeye salmon and crunchy soft shell crab, and baked bison ravioli. For dinner head to the newly renovated Fairview Bar, where you’ll find dishes such as Brant Lake Wagyu, snow crab black linguini with plenty of options for vegan and vegetarians, and seasonal offerings.
For those who want to dine in Calgary, NUPO is a restaurant in the heart of the city that offers a range of sustainable fish dishes and sushi. You can also try River Café located along Calgary’s Bow River. Its cuisine is focused on ingredients native to the region, such as honey, canola, root vegetables, and red fife wheat. They also use herbs, berries, and edible flowers from their own garden.
While it might be surprising that Calgary offers such a wealth of wellness options, the amenities don’t lie. With an enviable combination of incredible natural beauty, outdoor experiences, and healthy, delicious food, Calgary might just be Canada’s next wellness destination and definitely worth having on your radar.