Rich Indigenous history, sun-soaked valleys, sweeping grasslands, interconnected by water
Why visit Thompson Okanagan
The Thompson Okanagan region is truly one-of-a-kind – Rich in Indigenous culture, sun-soaked valleys surrounded by sweeping grasslands, forests and deserts and connected throughout by water. From incredibly diverse and stunning landscapes with Mediterranean climate providing the perfect playground for outdoor exploration and adventure to exceptional culinary experiences, culture and community; there is something for everyone. As a destination and advocate for sustainability, preserving the natural spaces that make this region so special is a top priority for us. The Thompson Okanagan is very proud to be a Biosphere Certified destination – the first in the Americas! We invite visitors to be mindful as they explore the region, take the opportunity to learn more about sustainable tourism practices and share our passion for sustaining all that makes this region so special today and for generations to come.
Read further to explore the possibilities of a green holiday in Thompson Okanagan!
Culture and Local Life
We are so proud to share with the world this beautiful place we call home, however we are all learning the impact of tourism on our environment and social systems can be significant. The Thompson Okanagan region is committed to working consciously to do our best to protect our natural and cultural resources. We ask that our guests travel respectfully and responsibly so this region may be enjoyed by all who live and visit here for years to come.
The Thompson Okanagan region is proud to share this beautiful place we call home with the world, however we are all learning the impact of tourism on our environmental, cultural and social systems can be significant. As a region and destination, we are working consciously to protect our natural and cultural resources, and ask that our guests travel respectfully and responsibly so this region may be enjoyed by all who live and visit here for years to come. The Thompson Okanagan Regional Pledge, “Seven Affirmations for Seven Generations”, was created out of a need to develop guidelines for sustainable tourism in the Thompson Okanagan region. It is based on the Seven Generations Principles rooted in First Nations and Indigenous philosophy, recognizing that the decisions an individual makes today will have an impact for as long as seven generations to come.
Getting from one place to another in Thompson Okanagan’s 71, 600 km² / 27,644 mi² radius can be done by plane or car. By air you can land in one of three main airports in the region, Kelowna International Airport (YLW), Kamloops Airport (YKA) and Penticton Regional Airport (YYF). These airports provide direct access from a number of Canadian cities including Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. In addition, Kelowna also has direct air access from Toronto, Whitehorse and Seattle Washington, USA. Several Airlines service the region including; Air Canada, Westjet, Pacific Coastal, Swoop, Flair, Air North and Central Mountain Air.
Travelling by car the region is at the crossroads of several main highways, including the Trans-Canada Highway 1, Highway 5 (the Coquihalla), Highway 97 and 97 C and Highway 3. By bus or car you will have the opportunity to drive through the region’s rich and diverse landscapes. Route 97 is also one of the longest north-south highways in North America and a popular route by which to travel to Alaska and a great way to get from one end of the region to the other. Route 97 stretches 4,130 km (2,566 mi) through the semi-arid desert, interior rainforest, golden grasslands, mountain ranges and urban centres, making for a scenic journey.
In addition to the standard transportation options that have become commonplace in society including vehicle rentals, taxi companies, and ride sharing, the Thompson Okanagan allows the opportunity to explore the terrain with other forms of transportation. During your green holiday in Thompson Okanagan, you can travel by motorboat or houseboat between certain locations, ride recreational vehicles to explore the backcountry, cycling in the region is very popular, there are some tremendous highways to enjoy motor cycling, and much more.
In an effort to augment the standard modes of travel transportation (i.e. taxi, ride share, car rental, etc), the Thompson Okanagan has a number of sustainable transportation options. Whether that be an electric car for which there are numerous charging stations throughout the region, specifically from Osoyoos to Kelowna, or taking the Ebus. Although the Ebus currently runs on diesel in this region, it does promise to take 53 cars off the road with each trip. This is a great form of worry free transportation from Vancouver, on the coast, to Kamloops. The Thompson Okanagan is a great place for everyone to explore and prides itself on having a good portion of their tourist destinations providing an accessible experience for all.
Nature and Wildlife
The Thompson Okanagan Region was officially certified as the first destination in the Americas to have successfully achieved the Sustainable Tourism Accreditation from Biosphere International and the Responsible Tourism Institute. We have taken our accreditation a step further and have initiated a program to identify and feature responsible tourism providers in the Thompson Okanagan. These businesses have committed to our guidelines and support the region’s growth and sustainability for the future.
Most importantly the Thompson Okanagan has developed a Regional Pledge called the Seven Affirmations for Seven Generations. It was created out of a need to develop guidelines for sustainable tourism in the Thompson Okanagan region and is based on the Seven Generations Principle. The Seven Generations Principle is based on Indigenous philosophy that recognizes that the decisions an individual makes today will have an impact for as long as seven generations to come. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the individual to consider impacts on the environment and the people who inhabit the area when making decisions.
Good places to stay
We recommend these places because they are committed to responsible tourism, checked and certified by independent auditors and ecolabel programs such as Green Tourism.
Travel tips from our editors
Kettle Valley Rail Trail
The Kettle Valley Rail (KVR) Trail is part of the longest rail trail network in British Columbia. During your green holiday in Thompson Okanagan, experiences on the trail can be self-guided or part of an organized tour, with sections ranging from family-friendly day-trips to overnight legs for experienced riders. The KVR was originally built as a rail corridor for the now-abandoned Kettle Valley Railway. As such, the grade along the KVR never rises above 3% at any point, making it accessible to users of all varieties and various modes of transportation. Myra Canyon is a popular section of the KVR as users are able to travel over man-made trestles and through blasted rock tunnels.
Discover Indigenous Culture
The Thompson Okanagan is rich in indigenous culture with three different indigenous nations calling this region home: the Syilx (Okanagan, the NLaka’pamux (Thompson), and the Secwepemc (Shuswap). Fortunately enough, these nations have chosen to establish organizations and businesses in the region to educate residents and visitors about their culture and the lands that they’ve shepherded for generations. Stay and play at Spirit Ridge and Nk’Mip Cellars in Osoyoos while you educate yourself at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre. Or you may choose to head to the Shuswap to find yourself at Quaaout Lodge where there are a number of cultural activities and learnings offered for visitors to immerse themselves in. All that is expected of visitors is respect for these people, their culture and the land.
Ski and Snowboard
When the temperatures drop as fall drifts into winter, the ski hills open up. There are a number of ski resorts in our region including the ‘Big 3’ of Big White, Silver Star, and Sun Peaks. These resorts offer a number of winter recreation activities on top of skiing & snowboarding. In addition, these resorts have bustling ski villages for those looking to relax and explore in between runs. There are also a number of boutique ski hills in the Thompson Okanagan. These boutique resorts, like Baldy Mountain, Manning Park, and Apex Mountain (among others), may have less amenities but offer more space and have equally as great slopes!
Hike & Bike
In this area of British Columbia, you will experience a landscape with rolling hills, lush valleys, narrow lakes with sandy beaches and high mountain peaks calling for outdoor adventures. It’s one of the most diverse regions to ride your bike, from world-class bike parks and deep forest single-track to open and spacy desert tracks.
On foot you can walk through old growth forest over moss-covered floors and follow the trails up to alpine meadows surrounded by jagged mountains and stunning glaciers.
You’ve likely already heard but the wine region in the Thompson Okanagan is very well renowned. Sometimes referred to as ‘Napa North’, there are over 200 wineries in our region. There are a number of wineries in the region that are consistently bringing home international wine awards. With plenty of wine touring options available, including bicycle, and customizable tours, there will be a wine route with your name on it. This is an experience not to miss during your green holiday in Thompson Okanagan.
Explore Provincial Parks
The mountains of British Columbia are what make this region so unique. Our provincial parks are some of the best in the country and offer unrivalled access to boundless nature. Our region boasts the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson, and a place nicknamed, “Canada’s Waterfall Park”, in Wells Gray Provincial Park. There are over 42 named waterfalls. In the Similkameen Valley waits EC Manning Provincial Park, which offers 83,671 hectares of untamed wilderness and plenty of rewarding day hikes.
The Thompson Okanagan Region and the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association is fortunate to have been recognized internationally for the work we have been doing in sustainable tourism management and development. On November 2, 2017, we were officially accredited as the first destination in the Americas to have successfully achieved the Sustainable Tourism Destination Certification from the Responsible Tourism Institute. Designations and Certification include:
Designations and Certification include : Biosphere Certified Gold Destination 2017, 2018 and 2019; Green Destination Global Top 100 2018; Green Step Gold; Destination Marketing Accreditation Program; Winner North America's Responsible Tourism Award - World Travel Awards, 2018, 2019; Winner Worlds' Responsible Tourism Awards 2018, 2019; Winner (WTTC) World Travel and Tourism Destination Award - Tourism for Tomorrow 2018; Laureate- Tourism Category - Place Marketing Awards, Place Marketing Forum 2019; Winner Innovation Award - BC Tourism Awards, TIABC 2019; Excellence in Policy Planning - Planning Institute of BC; Community & Government Projects- SKAL Internal Sustainable Tourism Award; Bronze Multi Year Economic Development for populations under 500,000 IEDC 2018; International Travel and Tourism Awards Finalist 2018; Land Awards Finalist- BC Real Estate Foundation 2018; Finalist Non Governmental Organization UNWTO - 2019; Finalist Sustainable Tourism Award - Canadian Tourism Awards (TIAC) - 2018