Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Occupying one of the finest positions in Canada - if not North America - the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise sits surrounded by mountains and glaciers and overlooking the ice blue Lake Louise in the UNESCO designated Banff National Park in Alberta.
The hotel has 550 rooms and suites, of which a good number overlook the stunning lake and Victoria Glacier, and all of which are elegant in design and very comfortable.
With so many mouths to feed, the choice of eating options at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is large and uniformly impressive, taking inspiration from Canada's landscapes and multi-cultural make up. Starting with the more informal eateries, the Chateau Deli offers simple snacks, soups, salads and sandwiches that can be packaged as picnics to take on walking trips. Next up, the Glacier Saloon offers pub grub and a wide selection of craft beers. High quality and classic Italian fare is available from Lago Italian Kitchen, where guests can watch meals being produced in the open kitchen, while the Poppy Brasserie serves a wide range of breakfast styles.
The hotel's mountain setting is particularly apt when eating at the Walliser Stube, a cosy Alpine-style restaurant and wine bar specialising in Swiss and Tyrolean dishes (including top class fondues) and for the most refined dining of all, head to the Fairview, the Fairmont's signature restaurant and one of the best contemporary Canadian restaurants in the country, with views to match. For a pre- or post-dinner drink, head to the Lakeview Lounge, with its cocktail menu and fine wine list. The Lounge also serves light lunches and evening tapas.
The risk of over-eating is mitigated by the hotel's location in one of the finest all-season activity resorts in Canada - Lake Louise - which is both top quality ski resort in winter and hiking and biking hub in summer. When guests are done engaging with the dramatic landscapes around the hotel, back at the ranch the spa awaits to pamper weary limbs. There are several treatments rooms where therapists offer a wide range of massages and other face and body treatments, alongside a heated indoor pool, steam room and gym.
Why We Love It
We wouldn't normally recommend a hotel with 550 rooms, but that view...
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is the finest hotel in UNESCO World Heritage Site Jasper National Park in Alberta, and it just got finer thanks for a multi-million dollar renovation.
The lodge sits in 700 acres of woods and parkland on the shores Lac Beauvert, and incorporates the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge golf course - recently voted Canada's best.
As for the accommodation, it consists of understatedly elegant rooms and suites in the main building - many of which have terraces of balconies overlooking the lake - as well as several log cabins (some dating back to the 1920s) reached along paths through the trees. For families, groups of friends and anyone wanting the most high spec cabin accommodation, the Luxury Signature Cabins are the answer, ranging from the eight-bedroomed Milligan Manor to the one-bedroom Athabasca Cottage, ideal for honeymooners.
Newlyweds or otherwise, this being the Canadian Rockies, you're more than likely here to see and interact with the spectacular mountain and lake scenery surrounding the lodge. In winter, the hotel is a perfect launch pad for skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing, while summer is all about hiking and biking, kayaking, riding and, of course, golf.
After all that exertion, you'll want to refuel, and the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge has plenty of places in which to do so. At the casual end of the scale, Fitzhugh's To Go caters for guests keen to get out and explore the great outdoors, creating picnics with gourmet sandwiches and other deli delicacies. For a more substantial (and static) meal, The Moose's Nook is a classic Canadian chophouse, specialising in the finest local produce such as game, organic meats and excellent seafood. The new Orso Trattoria offers 'an authentic taste of Northern Italy, with significantly better views', which the residents of the Italian Dolomites might have something to say about. They shouldn't, however, complain about the high quality of the food.
Next stop on the hotel's whistlestop tour of the world's culinary highlights is Japan and Oka Sushi, an intimate sushi bar serving the highest quality seafood imported from Japan and Vancouver. Over at the golf course, Thompson's Terrace (named after Stanley Thompson, the course architect), offers snacks, light lunches and - in season - barbecues on the lovely terrace. Another terrace with outstanding views can be found at The Emerald Lounge, which by day serves burgers and light lunches and by night doubles as the hotel's main bar, with a fine cocktail menu and local craft ales on tap (try the jasper Brewing Company beer).
Another place to let your hair down is the Fairmont Reflections Spa, designed like a mountain lodge retreat complete with pine and stone décor and roaring fires. There is a wide range of treatments on offer inspired by local elements (think lavender-infused stone massages and maple-butter body wraps), alongside more conventional steam rooms and saunas.
Why We Love It
If anyone needed reminding about the sheer scale of things in Canada, then the fact that the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge has a mere 700 acres of grounds should do the trick.
Buffalo Mountain Lodge
Buffalo Mountain Lodge is a comfortable, high-ceilinged lodge ideally located away from downtown Banff in the beautiful pine forests of Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park, but only a couple of minutes' drive from the restaurants, bars and shops of the town itself.
There are 108 rooms and suites in total, all of which have en suite bathrooms and working fireplaces, and many of which have either a balcony or small terrace.
Away from the rooms, the hotel prides itself on the quality of the onsite restaurants. For relaxed dining Cilantro is a no reservations Italian bistro specialising in pizzas, pastas and other Italian classics, served - in summer - on a terrace with outstanding views of the surrounding mountains.
The Sleeping Buffalo Lounge also has a casual menu where guests can enjoy lighter dishes and drinks beside the fire. The main event, however, is the Sleeping Buffalo Dining Room, where the emphasis is on locally sourced game and foraged or locally grown produce complemented by an award-winning fine wine list.
Other facilities at Buffalo Mountain Lodge include an outdoor hot tub, steam room (ideal for relaxing tired limbs after a day's walking on the many local trails) and a health centre.
In winter a large range of winter sports activities are on offer from the hotel, while in summer, there a bike and hike trails through the beautiful pine forests.
Why We Love It
Being close to - but not in - Banff means you have the best of both worlds.