Peaks and valleys – Thompson Okanagan, B.C.

Home to Canada’s only desert and the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies, the Thompson Okanagan region of south central British Columbia is a unique area that amazes visitors with its diversity. Distinguished by semi-arid desert and vineyards in the south, ranchlands and rolling hills in the central region and spectacular mountain wilderness in the north, Thompson Okanagan offers an abundance of sunshine and year-round activities for everyone.

Home to Canada’s only desert and the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies, the Thompson Okanagan region of south central British Columbia is a unique area that amazes visitors with its diversity.

Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy a wide variety of adventures such as mountain biking, hiking, climbing, fishing, canoeing and wildlife viewing. Sport lovers will be busy with championship golf courses, destination ski resorts, boat cruises and water activities. Families can enjoy farms, camping, beaches, lakeside resorts and a multitude of fun choices for everyone’s particular tastes.

“The Thompson Okanagan is appealing for a variety of reasons,” explains Ellen Walker-Matthews, market experience specialist at the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA). “Our geographical diversity provides a number of different landscapes from desert to lakes and orchards through to the alpine meadows of the Rocky Mountains. Our proximity to larger centres such as Vancouver, Calgary and Seattle make transportation logistics short and simple. The climate provides opportunities for a multitude of outdoor activities almost year round and the region provides a blank canvas for the imagination of any meeting and incentive travel planner.”

Speaking of tastes – vineyards, 135 wineries, casual-to-elegant dining, fruit-laden orchards – the Thompson Okanagan is a sensory experience not to be missed. Conveniently located halfway between Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies, Thompson Okanagan is located 50 minutes flying and four hours driving time from Vancouver and one hour flying and seven hours driving from Calgary.

“Meeting and incentive planners on occasion have been remarkably surprised as to what our region can deliver based on our location,” says Walker-Matthews. “They have been pleasantly surprised as to the ease, comfort and affordability of many of our destinations and activity add-ons. Many are thankful for the climate, as well as the laid-back nature and friendliness of the locals. We’ve had many meeting planners depart a successful event in the region knowing that their client was able to take part in several activities and adventures that they otherwise would have not been able to undertake in their client’s home town.”

Walker-Matthews says the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association can provide valuable insight and leads to customize meeting and incentive travel planner’s needs with their clients. “Our variety of venues, settings and things to do can occasionally make for difficult and uninformed decisions. Our second opinions and suggestions can alleviate these challenges and pave the way for a successful project.”

Along with a variety of meeting and conference space, the region has recently added two new properties of vastly different proportions. The first is Sparkling Hill near Vernon, a European-designed destination wellness resort overlooking Okanagan Lake that features a 40,000-square-foot spa along with 150 rooms perched atop a mountain offering a commanding panoramic view. The other is a unique small venue retreat ideal for meeting and event planners. The Bottega Farm Inn is a marvel of modern, west coast architecture possessing 10 luxurious rooms situated in a peaceful serene pine forest setting near Kelowna.

Another unique feature of the Thompson Okanagan region is the relationship between local farmers and restaurants that has grown exponentially over the last 10 years, according to Walker-Matthews.

“Known as an area steeped in agricultural history, the farm-to-table aspect of our culinary scene has garnered widespread attention. Okanagan wines have contributed immensely to this recognition with winemakers winning awards in competitions around the world. Museums, art galleries and native interpretive centres located around the region provide other opportunities for those wishing a historical or cultural experience. The significance of a clean, appealing and affordable destination in relative close geographical proximity to other parts of Canada and the United States make the Thompson Okanagan a must consideration for planners.”

“The region is closer than you think,” says Walker-Matthews. “We like to think of ourselves as casual sophistication with the ability to provide a destination venue for any group that is interested in experiencing our charm.”

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