Alberta's fame -- and international tourist reputation -- is built on three pillars: mountains, cowboys, and more mountains. All right, that's two, but you get the point. This is an extravagantly gorgeous outdoor wonderland, and the Canadian Rockies are the main attraction. This is not to say all that is worthwhile is to be found at high altitudes. Calgary's growing, urbane charms are drawing more visitors every year, and in Edmonton, the second-largest Fringe Theatre Festival in the world has long been a magnet for international travelers. In the badlands, the strong pull of paleontology, anchored by the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, draws more than half a million visitors every year.

But the mountains still receive top billing, and with good reason. A practiced mix of otherworldly natural beauty and creature comforts -- the Alberta Rockies have within their midst some of the finest resorts, inns, and restaurants to be found anywhere in the world -- there are few places on Earth where enjoying rugged wilderness can be so relaxing.

And if relaxing is not your idea of a good time, then take to the hills for world-class ski resorts, endless hiking trails, fly-fishing, and rock and ice climbing, to name but a few pastimes. Out here, the sky truly is the limit.