When in 1883, railway workers stumbled upon a hot spring in what would become Canada’s first national park just four years later, they probably had no idea that their discovery would define this area for generations to come. Subsequently, more hot springs were found, and travelers from both sides of the Atlantic flocked here to take advantage of the healing properties of the mineral-rich waters. Fast forward one hundred and forty years later, and Banff National Park, which encompasses part of the Rocky Mountains, is Canada’s most visited national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks in part to world-famous sights such as its stunning turquoise-hued glacier lakes and the Icefields Parkway that snakes along some of the most remote and gorgeous parts of the region surrounded by waterfalls and glaciers.
But recently, luxury properties in the area are going back to the park’s roots, focusing on guests’ well-being and transforming the destination, once again, into a wellness paradise. And we don’t just mean that people come here for a dip in the hot springs and a hike in nature. Forest bathing, yoga, wellness workshops, art classes, healing spa treatments, horseback riding, and Twilight walks are just some of the offerings that wellness-conscious travelers to Banff can sign up for year-round.
Read on for a breakdown of everything you need to know to plan the perfect retreat to this idyllic corner of the continent.
How to get to Banff National Park?
Banff National Park is located in the scenic Alberta province, about a two-hour drive from Calgary. The city’s international airport services many national and international airlines such as Air Canada, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines that offer direct flights from several major U.S. cities, namely Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver, New York City, and Minneapolis.
If your flight gets to Calgary late, and you’d like to stay overnight and explore the city before heading to Banff, stay at the Fairmont Palliser.
Aside from its ideal location downtown, the luxury property is also home to a sprawling spa and health club, the R&R Wellness Spa, that has a heated indoor swimming pool, a eucalyptus steam room, a hot tub, and a “tranquility lounge.”
On your way from Calgary to Banff, stop at the beautiful Azuridge Hotel. The boutique property sits on 13 picturesque acres in Priddis on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains and offers guests a unique spa experience that focuses on energy healing and the power of crystals and essential oils. The property’s name references the azurite mineral and its striking blue-ish green color reminiscent of the Alberta skies.
Treatments at Flourish–The LIV Well Spa span the gamut from classic relaxation massages and facials to specialized therapies that promote Chakra flow. Before any treatment, your therapist will ask you to choose a crystal and will use its energy to help you reconnect with yourself and balance your mind. You can also enhance any massage with cupping to promote blood flow.
The elegant spa boasts floor-to-ceiling windows and features a living room-like lounge space and a yoga platform, ideal for light stretching after a treatment (and to take in those stunning mountain vistas).
Banff Fairmont Hot Springs
The grandest of all Canadian hotels, Banff Fairmont Hot Springs, was built in 1886 and immediately became one of the top three mountain resorts in North America. Today, as its Châteauesque façade sits against the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains, the resort commands the same attention it did more than 130 years ago. The “Castle in the Rockies,” as it is known, is located in the town of Banff and treats its guests to some of the most luxurious accommodations and amenities in the area, including a golf course, several fine dining restaurants, and the classiest of afternoon tea experiences.
But the Fairmont Banff Springs’s Willow Spa is where many guests spend the most time, and for a very good reason. The newly renovated facility features saunas, steam rooms, a mineral-infused pool with waterfall treatments, and a heated outdoor pool. And if you prefer to soothe your mind in nature, try a guided forest bathing experience inspired by the Japanese practice of Shinrin Yoku. The session, which takes about two hours and focuses on reconnecting with nature, ends with a tea ceremony that includes sipping on hot juniper berries tea. Walks and hikes are also a great way to relax and recharge. Hike up the iconic Tunnel Mountain with a guide or enjoy a wilderness or a twilight walk. For those who prefer something a bit more adrenaline-inducing, a fat biking tour of the area is the perfect way to burn some energy — and stress.
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Towering over the turquoise waters of Lake Louise, the Fairmont Lake Louise is one of the most iconic properties in North America, dating back to 1890. As the only resort on the banks of the famous lake, it offers guests unobstructed views of its breathtaking surroundings and direct access to the water. In the summer, you can rent a canoe and go for a sunrise tour of the lake to enjoy the crisp mountain air and the stillness of the expanse. And in the winter, you can ski, ice-skate, or go snowshoeing directly on the lake.
Brewster Stables, located nearby, offers a variety of horseback rides that will have you explore some of the most scenic spots in the area like Lake Agnes, Plain of Six Glaciers, and Paradise Valley on horseback.
The resort also organizes wellness retreats, including mindfulness seminars, open-air yoga sessions, art classes, and can arrange for chef-prepared nutritious vegetarian or vegan meals.
And with almost a thousand-miles worth of hiking trails at the hotel’s doorstep, it won’t be long before you feel the transformative powers of the Rockies.