Picture a scene where glacier-capped mountain peaks soar above as you twist your way between old-growth pine forests onboard a luxurious train coach.
A glass of champagne in one hand, you push a button to electronically recline your leather heated seat as the gentle rocking of the tracks below relaxes you even further.
Minute after minute passes by as you cross the Canadian Rockies at 50km/h, but time seems to stand still as you find yourself hypnotised by the landscape around you.
The gentle chatter of the other guests stirs you back to the present moment, and a smiling host announces that lunch is now ready.
You take another look at the tips of the mountain ranges rising above you through the glass dome window, and head downstairs to feast on fresh salmon.
This is Rocky Mountaineer – Canada’s epic rail experience.
The story of Canada’s railways is an important part of the nation’s identity and good fortune that was created as the tracks eventually connected east with west.
The most difficult, and visually spectacular, part of the railways is the mountainous section between Vancouver and Banff, and it is here that a family-run company is bringing the country’s history and beauty to the masses.
Rocky Mountaineer was born in 1990 as a luxurious train experience connecting the two popular tourist destinations over a two-day journey.
Carefully curating the best elements of romance that train travel’s reputation is built on, this trip is what travel dreams are made of.
Over the years it has risen in popularity to become the most sought-after experience for many visitors to Canada, and despite the fame, it doesn’t disappoint.
Recently we had the privilege of taking the legendary Rocky Mountaineer on its most iconic journey – First Passage to the West – from Vancouver to Banff.
We went in with high expectations, and Rocky Mountaineer and its hosts managed to surpass them in every way imaginable.
The quality of service was only matched by the high standard of food that was presented to us, and the level of comfort was the best we’ve ever come across during our dozens of times travelling by rail.
And of course there were the mountains, peering at us through the glass dome window that Rocky Mountaineer’s GoldLeaf Service is famous for.
This is our Rocky Mountaineer photo journey.
A pianist greets the guests at Vancouver Station. Coupled with a fresh mug of coffee and some pastries, this was a perfect start to the journey.
A lone bagpiper plays a tune outside the GoldLeaf Service coach before we jump on board.
All aboard Rocky Mountaineer! The hosts welcome the guests onto the train at the beginning of the journey in Vancouver.
The comfortable seats and glass dome window offering panoramic views in GoldLeaf Service is what sets this class above the rest in terms of luxurious train travel. Plush leather, reclining at the push of a button, heated pads, wide chairs and a huge amount of leg room makes the ride so comfortable you may find it hard to get up!
Soon after we set off from Vancouver we headed downstairs to the dining area to enjoy a delicious breakfast. Huge windows of course offer views as you enjoy your meal.
Pancakes, fruit and real maple syrup for breakfast. All diets and allergies are catered for.
As the train leaves Vancouver the scenery drastically changes. From the outer industrial city limits you start to head into farmland before climbing up to the mountains.
In GoldLeaf Service guests are able to stand at the back of the coach to enjoy the outdoor viewing platform. You’ll find many guests hanging out here to soak up the fresh air and ever-changing views.
Hell’s Gate is the narrowest point along the Fraser River, and a real highlight on the first day travelling from Vancouver to Kamloops. The river constricts between the gorge to form a powerful cascade.
The hosts on Rocky Mountaineer are extremely bubbly and attentive. Their quality service means you can kick back and relax while they bring you coffee, snacks and drinks. They also love telling stories and jokes!
The train winds its way around the hills between Vancouver and Kamloops.
There’s no denying that the food on Rocky Mountaineer is one of the main highlights. The menu is carefully crafted by award winning chefs and uses the best local ingredients available to produce a culinary experience unrivalled on the rails. Salmon of course is a much sought-after meal.
Keeping an eye out for wildlife is something every body loves doing when travelling across the Rockies. We were lucky enough to spot big horn sheep, caribou, a female moose and a black bear during our journey.
The terrain changes every few minutes on Rocky Mountaineer, and often there are some unique formations to marvel at, like this one found just outside of Kamloops.
We entered Kamloops at the end of the first day just as the sun was setting over the river. With a couple of people in canoes out enjoying the gorgeous light, it was a perfect conclusion to the day.
After a splendid night in Kamloops we departed the town before the sun came up. The shorter days at the beginning and end of the seasons mean you often have the chance to catch sunrise while on the train.
Admiring the beautiful Kamloops sunrise from inside the GoldLeaf Service coach.
As comfortable as the seats are, we spent quite a lot of time standing in the outdoor viewing platform at the back of the coach, watching the train twist its way around through forests, farmland and mountains.
During the ‘First Passage to the West’ journey the train passes by the historic Last Spike, just outside of Revelstoke, BC. It was here that the final railway spike was driven into the ground, finally connecting the east coast with the west by rail.
The iconic Mount Begbie and its glacier peak out from the clouds as we traverse through Revelstoke in BC, a beautiful town with a huge railway history.
For GoldLeaf Service, the guests are split into two separate groups to better cater during meal times. You can either choose who you’d like to sit with, or do what we did and simply sit with different people each time so you can hear new stories and make new friends with your fellow guests.
Of course no meal is complete without a delicious dessert to cap it off.
As we pass through Golden we encounter the legendary Kicking Horse River, and we are lucky enough to follow its turbulent flow as we climb up into the Rockies. On the second day between Kamloops and Banff you pass by 5 powerful rivers.
Fall was starting to set in as we made our journey across the Rockies in late September, and it was amazing to see the trees starting to change colour beneath a majestic mountain backdrop.
The hosts never failed to make us laugh throughout the journey between Vancouver and Banff. They were always laughing and smiling, and were encouraged to let their real character shine through.
The glass dome window on GoldLeaf Service coaches offers the iconic panoramas that Rocky Mountaineer is famous for. What other train journey in the world can you sit in pure luxury with glorious peaks all around?
The amazing Rocky Mountaineer winds its way through the Canadian Rockies outside of Banff.
Our journey on the First Passage to the West was made possible thanks to our partnership with Rocky Mountaineer. All thoughts, opinions and hours spent sipping on refreshing beverages while gazing out the window at the mountain peaks are, as always, our own.
Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award winning writers and photographers behind this blog, and we have been travelling the world together since 2008. Adventure travel is our passion, and through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook
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