We feature some of the brightest Instagram storytellers in the Passion Passport community through our Instagram Spotlight series. This week, Victor Aerden (@victoraerden) walks us through Canada’s natural beauty.

Ontario

I lived in the middle of the Canadian Rockies last year and met quite a few Ontarians who had succumbed to the pull of the mountains and the promise of adventures out West. A lot of them jokingly referred to their home province as “Onterrible.” Among those Ontarians was my girlfriend, Melanie. So when we decided to spend a few months there with her family, my expectations weren’t all that high.

Fast forward two months, and I was forced to readjust my original ideas. I was surprised to find that there are cliffs and rocky hills that could almost pass for mountains, as well as beautiful lakes, islands, forests, vibrant cities, and so much more. Add that to the most stunning display of fall colors I have seen, and all there is to say is, Ontario surprised me.

Banff National Park, Alberta

About a year and a half ago, I moved from Belgium to Canada. Now, our home is located just outside of the Rockies in Alberta. With Banff just an hour away, it has become one of my favorite places to hike and adventure. So much so that that I even decided to spend seven months working and living in the hamlet of Lake Louise, the highest village in Canada, located in the middle of Banff National Park.

There’s not much I can say about this place that hasn’t already been said. Some of its views and lakes are among the most recognizable in the world, and are adored by many. It’s easy to see why it has such an immense attraction on people, and I am no different. Time and time again, I keep returning for hikes, sunrises, and adventures.

Mount Assiniboine, British Columbia

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is situated on the border of British Columbia and Alberta. The park is all backcountry — there are no roads leading there. The only way in is by hiking or taking a helicopter.

Inside the park lies Nub Peak, from which you can see the classic view of Sunburst Peak with Mount Assiniboine in the background and Lakes Magog, Sunburst, and Cerulean in the foreground. It is my favorite spot in the world.

It’s especially beautiful in fall, when the larches, a type of conifer tree that sheds its needles, turn bright yellow and orange, lighting up valleys that are otherwise filled with green pine. It’s a magical place that keeps me coming back again and again.

Yoho National Park, British Columbia

A fitting name if ever there was one, Yoho is a Cree expression for “awe” or “wonder.” And let me tell you: this place does its name justice. It’s located on the Western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, just over the Alberta border in beautiful British Columbia. Trust me when I say that it is every bit as beautiful.

The first photo you see here was taken on a beautiful winter morning. I found myself sitting on the shore of Emerald Lake in the beautiful silence that comes with fresh snowfall. I was mesmerized by the perfectly still, open patch of water still battling the freeze before finally giving in to winter.

The other photo is just 10 minutes down the road from Emerald Lake, at a place called Natural Bridge where the river has carved a hole through the rock and formed a natural walkway of rock over the river. It’s amazing and interesting during summer months, when the river is running, but, in my opinion, its real beauty comes out in the winter time. When the river freezes, and you can walk into this cave, formed by the bridge, and be greeted with the most beautiful ice formations. It is a true winter wonderland.

Yukon

“Larger than life” is Yukon’s slogan. Situated in Northern Canada, it borders Alaska, and is a truly wild place. It’s home to Canada’s highest mountains and the world’s largest non-polar icefield. It also crosses the Arctic Circle and stretches all the way to the northern end of the continent.

Two of these photos were taken in Tombstone Territorial Park, situated a mere 125 miles (200 kilometers) beneath the Arctic Circle. While inside, you can see how the park’s landscape transitions to tundra. Although my time there was short, it left such a lasting impression on me that I will definitely be back for another adventure.

The other photo was taken in an ice cave at the toe of a glacier on the border of Kluane National Park. I had heard of this ice cave before and had seen pictures of it online, so naturally, I wanted to see it with my own eyes. With some vague directions, I set out. There wasn’t a marked trail, a clear trailhead, or even a distinguishable trail to follow. After looking for the better part of an hour, I almost gave up. The turning point was talking to a few locals,  who gave me a hand-drawn map that guided us to the starting point. I set off with the directions, bushwhacking my way from the highway until the path crossed a river. I then followed the river for more than two hours, wrestling the brush, fearing a bear encounter, and getting sopping wet crossing the raging river. In the end, I finally reached this cave, and boy, was it worth the effort.

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Victor Aerden
Victor grew up in Belgium but inherited his father's dream of moving to Canada. Nearly two years ago, he finally took the leap and hasn't regretted it since. It was there, in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, that Victor first became interested in photography. He wanted to capture and share the awe he felt while experiencing these places. Today, he uses his photography to inspire others to appreciate the beauty that exists all around us.