Alberta travel guide

Hulking great mountains, sprawling ice fields and emerald lakes are Alberta’s star attractions, but equally thrilling are its dinosaur-strewn Badlands and cowboy heritage.

You’d swear they’ve added a drop of dye to the lakes in the Rocky Mountains. Could they really be such a startling colour? Yes they could, and you need to supercharge your camera battery if you’re going to capture every snap-worthy scene that comes your way.

Whether you’re spotting grizzlies and elk alongside the Icefields Parkway, soaking in Banff’s hot springs, hiking around Maligne Lake or skiing fresh powder at Lake Louise, you’d have to be a Martian not to be bowled over.

This pristine nature sits uneasily next to the controversial oil sands of Alberta’s north, whose modern-day gold rush has fuelled the province’s booming economy. This wealth is evident in cities like Calgary and Edmonton, home to shiny new skyscrapers, flashy restaurants and ever-expanding suburbs.

While much of Alberta beyond the Rockies seems to be an endless vista of prairies topped with a generous sprinkling of lakes, the Badlands pop out like a Christmas cracker surprise. Stripy hills and sandstone hoodoos like giant mushroom stalks conceal many dinosaur bones – in its day this must have been the Cretaceous equivalent of Tokyo or Delhi.

Get your own bones rocking at Edmonton’s summer fiesta, K Days, a 10-day jamboree featuring whirring fairground rides and big-name bands. Or join the cowboy extravaganza that is the Calgary Stampede, when chuckwagon races, bull riding and dazzling stage shows make you yee-haw till you’re hoarse.