If you’re local to Alberta or visiting from abroad, plan your next trip to see the annual Lake Louise Ice Castle. Read on to find out when and how to visit Alberta this winter to see the ice sculptures, plus tips on how to capture the best photos!
Visit the Lake Louise Ice Castle
If you can time your visit to Calgary correctly in the winter, be sure to check out the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival. It has taken place annually for the past 25 years in Alberta usually during the third week of January. This year, it takes place January 19-30, 2022. Although things have been scaled way down in the past three spring seasons because of the pandemic, you can still catch the ice carvings on display. It typically is a 12-day ice carving exhibition where the public can come and observe artists create sculptures out of giant blocks of ice. These are then displayed in front of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. This year, it is free to visit the carvings at any time. The castle does remain after the competition is over.
There’s something so majestic about an ice castle sitting atop a frozen lake, surrounded by mountains. Lake Louise is considered Canada’s most iconic lake. It’s recognizable by the v-shaped mountain valley and the Victoria Glacier peeking through. Most people visit in the summer to capture the turquoise waters but it is just as beautiful in the winter and much less busy. The lake’s ice surface turns into a public skating rink. The surrounding deep snow acts as a noise insulator and allows you to experience the most peaceful tourist destination.
Lake Louise in January
For this January visit, I set off for the mountains from Calgary at 6:30 am on a Wednesday. Luckily, the milder temperatures have made winter driving conditions ideal for the 2-hour drive. My experience when visiting outdoor attractions in Alberta is the earlier you arrive, the better. Sometimes you may even get so lucky to have the place entirely to yourself, as I did this time. Well, not entirely true, as I had the chance to meet up with local Banff photographer Benjamin Hutton. His nighttime landscape photographs of the Canadian Rocky Mountains captured my eye on Instagram and I was determined to be the subject of one of his future photoshoots. It turned out to be sunrise in Lake Louise.
If you really want to take advantage of the morning and evening lighting and aren’t a fan of other people in your photos, then I highly recommend staying right on the lake at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The castle is lit up during the night and offers another beautiful experience. I actually got engaged behind the ice castle at night, 14 years ago! It’s such a special place.
Plan Your Trip to Lake Louise in Winter
- Fly to Calgary International Airport (YYC)
- Rent a car or book a private shuttle
- Make the 2-hour drive on the Trans Canada Highway to Lake Louise
- Stay on the lake at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
- If you love to ski or snowboard, book a day at Lake Louise Ski Resort
Want more Alberta travel ideas?