Chances are you’ve heard of Shambhala. The 22-year-old West Kootenay event was just awarded “Best Music Festival” in North America by DJ Mag. Every year it boasts huge international acts such as Moby and Kaskade and over 10,000 revellers converge on the private farm located near Salmo, a half-hour drive away from Castlegar. There they enjoy a long-weekend’s worth of entertainment, most of which is showcased on the festival’s six permanent stages.

Attendees come from as far away as Australia and Europe and turn the trip into an extended vacation while others drive from Vancouver, Calgary and Seattle to attend. For those who plan to bookend the festival with a stay in the West Kootenay, we recommend visiting Castlegar before and after Shambhala. There are plenty of great camping spots as we detailed in our article “Best Camping Spots in Castlegar” as well as all other forms of accommodation from hotels to B&Bs. Just imagine having your own cost-effective hotel room with hot showers after your stay at Shambhala?

Here are five other reasons to visit Castlegar before attending Shambhala.

Why Visit Castlegar Before Shambhala

Stock Up At Canadian Tire And Other Stores

Whether you’re looking for a tent, sleeping bag, water jug, umbrella, or floaty toy you’re guaranteed to find it at Canadian Tire and the Castlegar store is the closest one to the festival grounds. There are also a number of other retailers where you can stock up on essential festival needs from grocery stores such as Safeway and No Frills to Marks Work Warehouse and Shoppers Drug Mart.

Enjoy a Great Meal

The only eats served at Shambhala come from food trucks. And there’s no alcohol allowed on site. Therefore, visit Castlegar beforehand to savour some drinks and a delicious meal. Four different restaurants that we particularly enjoy include:

Float or Paddle the Slocan River

There is a short river float on the Shambhala grounds but its usually strewn with people. For a better experience, we recommend floating the Slocan River, which is a short drive from Castlegar. You won’t be disappointed – it’s definitely one of the best in the province. Alternatively you can paddle it with a stand up paddleboard, kayak or canoe. (Rentals can be found at Endless Adventure.)

Visit The Hydroelectric Dams

Ever wonder how the amazing light shows, music amps, food trucks and, well, everything at Shambhala is powered? You can thank the generating stations near Castlegar for that. It’s fascinating to see the hydroelectric dams up close and we recommend taking a short tour to some of the main ones such as Hugh Keenleyside and Brilliant Dam to learn just how water is responsible for Shambhala’s high-octane wattage.


Go On A Hike

For those who have attended Shambhala before, you know it’s fun but can also be a bit dusty, noisy and crowded. Therefore, we recommend you enjoy some fresh air, wide-open spaces and beautiful views on one of the many hiking trails near Castlegar. You can partake in everything from a casual walk by the beach and through Millenium Park to a more vigorous hike that culminates in a beautiful view of the Columbia or Kootenay Rivers and the valley.

Why Visit Castlegar After Shambhala

Immerse Yourselves In Relaxing Waters

After a long-weekend of dancing in the sand and dust, you’ll be ready to enjoy a good soak. You can immerse yourself by enjoying the hot tub, showers and pool at the Recreation Complex or, for something completely different, you can visit Rest Assured Kootenay Floats. There you’ll immerse yourself in a ‘Float Cabin’ filled with 10 inches of super-saturated Epsom salt water that allows you to float effortlessly on the surface. Talk about a great way to relax after the full-on sensory overload experience that is Shambhala!

Go on a Casual Sculpture Walk

Castlegar is the Sculpture Capital of Canada and there is no shortage of artwork to see while strolling the streets downtown. Yes, there is plenty of art at Shambhala to see but you can’t vote on your favourites like you can in Castlegar. Whichever piece gets the most votes is the one that will adorn a corner in Castlegar for years to come. Ballots can be found at the City Hall building.

Visit The Butterfly Garden and Art Gallery

What’s more calming than strolling through a garden filled with butterflies? After the thump and bass of Shambhala, an excellent way to unwind is to visit the Kootenay Gallery of Art, History and Science, which is located on the grounds of the Doukhobor Discovery Museum near the airport. It is a public art gallery that displays rotating art exhibitions. and it also boasts the only Butterfly Gardens in the region. Enjoy the beautiful, winged butterflies, take in some calming artwork and relax.

See A Waterfall

There’s no better way to reconnect with the soothing vibes of nature than by going for a short hike that culminates in a beautiful waterfall. And the good news is there are plenty of them around waterfall. In fact, we’ve listed the best ones near Castlegar in our “6 of the Most Beautiful Waterfalls” article.

Enjoy the Spa

After multiple days of dancing, your body could use a soothing touch. Thankfully there are over half a dozen massage clinics and spas in Castlegar where you can enjoy having your body be pampered and healed. And if you’re with a significant other considering partaking in a session called “Couples Bliss” at the Silver Birch Clinic. It lasts two hours and includes a soak and a 70-minute aromatherapy massage.