4 Reasons Ecuador Should Be Next On Your Bucket List

galapagos-2451090_1280.jpgGalapagos Islands, Ecuador (Source

I think the hardest thing about traveling is figuring out where to go. We’re blessed with so many incredible travel destinations, yet some places often slip under the radar. For me, Ecuador is one of the most under-appreciated countries in South America – and the whole world. It’s such an exciting and beautiful place to visit, and everyone should add it to their bucket list. 

Not convinced? You will be after seeing these reasons to visit Ecuador:

The Galapagos Islands

Ecuador is home to one of the most incredible places on earth; the Galapagos Islands. Here, you will see some unique wildlife enjoying an untouched natural habitat. There are giant turtles, iguanas, seals, and even sharks. If you travel alone, it’s a joyous place to trek around as you take in all the beauty of your surroundings. For groups, there are Galapagos vacations for families that allow you to see all the amazing animals while being led around by a tour guide. You can’t really compare the Galapagos Islands to anything else because it’s utterly unique. It offers an experience like no other; it’s something you should see at least once before you die. 


View this post on Instagram

 

Banos

Banos is a little town that’s full of wondrous things for tourists to do. It’s not your typical travel destination; you get a real authentic taste of Ecuadorian culture here as it’s not overly commercialized. The beauty of this place is that it provides natural thrills for you to enjoy. There are mountains to climb, flowing waterfalls to jump from, white water rafting, long rope bridges, and even a swing that sends you out over the edge of a mountain. So, if you’re a bit of an adventure traveler that’s looking to get an adrenaline spike on your next holiday, then Banos is the perfect place for you. 

Excellent Food

The food in Ecuador is similar to most other areas of South America. As a result, it’s pretty damn delicious! You’ve got a host of sweet and savory treats to try, and plenty of small street food stalls or restaurants that serve the most authentic stuff. If you like fish, then try the ceviche in Ecuador as it’s really incredible. It’s also well worth trying cornbread as this is kind of a specialty in South America due to the diversity – you can have it with fillings for lunch, breakfast, or dinner. 

Incredible Weather

Finally, the weather in Ecuador is a good enough reason to pack your bags and head out there. The country is unique in that it sits on the equator. As such, you tend to get a pretty consistent climate all year round. It’s permanently hot and sunny, and you can take advantage of this by heading to some of the stunning beaches dotted around the coast. Speaking of which, you have hundreds of miles of coast to enjoy, and plenty of beautiful places to go swimming, sunbathe or have a little snorkel underwater. 

You see, Ecuador throw up lots of intriguing delights that make it a must-visit country. As a bonus, if you live in North America, then you’ll benefit from Ecuador using US dollars as its currency. So, there’s no need to worry about conversion rates when you set off!

Wholesome Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint and Save Money

You are becoming more and more well informed on the current state of the planet Earth and some of the statistics are quite shocking. You are always looking for new ways to reduce

your impact on the environment and improve your day to day sustainability. Instead of using copious amounts of plastic and heading to the grocery store for every little food item you need, you want to start making a change. You are lucky enough to have plenty of outdoor space to try out new ideas and grow your own produce, so here are a couple of ideas to get you started on the journey to reducing your carbon footprint.

Get Creative With Crops

Having plenty of space outdoors to work with might be the first place for you to start when you’re looking to save money. Growing your own crops can not only be healthier, but it will also have huge benefits to the environment. If you want to know how to grow your own crops and get the most out of your home grown produce click here for more information on how to take it one step further. Becoming a local supplier for grain might soon be a possibility if you follow the correct avenues.

Crop

Image

Cut Food Waste

 

Another way you can help cut your carbon footprint is by reducing the amount of food waste you produce on a daily basis. If you live on your own, then you will realise that cooking for one is a tricky task. There are always leftovers and you don’t always know what to do with so much food. Try cooking in batches and freezing dishes for a later date; if you invest in plenty of reusable Tupperware you will always have containers to store your leftovers, so they don’t get thrown straight into the bin.

Go Plastic Free

It is devastating to see the effects that we are having on our beautiful oceans at the moment. Sea creatures are dying due to the overuse of plastic and it is our job to put a stop to it. Stop buying plastic bottled water and invest in a fridge filter jug and a reusable bottle. You can take it out with you everywhere you go and you won’t have to worry about that plastic bottle being thrown into the ocean.

photo-1509216475571-f66430e603f7

Image

Be Smart With Energy

Making your home more energy efficient should be right at the top of your priority list. From solar panels to energy efficient light bulbs try and do everything in your power to reduce your carbon footprint and save a lot of money on your monthly bills.

Right now you are willing to try almost anything to help out our beautiful planet. You want to educate people on more sustainable ways to live; whether you are growing your own grain to sell or teaching people how to go plastic free, you can make a difference. Every little helps when it comes to making the world a better place and these ideas are guaranteed to guide you along the right path.

 

18077295_10155106703144976_6236852229216154460_o

St. George Island

St. George Island State Park

After camping in the beautiful mountains and national forests along the Blue Ridge Park (Blue Ridge Parkway , Great Smoky Mountains National Park) we were in search of some heat and sun. We Looked at the map, in search of our new destination that wouldn’t take us too far off the direction towards New Orleans. We found St. George Island, located off Florida’s gulf coast, perfect! We headed to St. George Island State Park to set up camp, the busiest camping site we had encountered so far on our trip. While it was a little warmer, the sun remained behind the clouds for our trip,but we could still enjoy the beauty of this island, after all, it ranks as one of the top beaches in the US!

IMG_6818

IMG_6796

IMG_6813

IMG_6868IMG_6796IMG_6811IMG_6816IMG_6817IMG_6826IMG_6829IMG_6834IMG_6865IMG_6902IMG_6904IMG_6905IMG_6873

 

Blue Ridge Parkway

Heading South

Over the Christmas/New Year holiday period we decided to drive to New Orleans for New Years Eve. We left New York City, five days before Christmas heading south. The only ‘plans’ and accommodation we had wasn’t until the 30th, so we could enjoy the drive and see where we would end up! Looking at the map of the USA, I also decided that I would love to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the way down. So we headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway.

IMG_6427

Scenic drive

The Blue Ridge Parkway is an absolute dream, the scenery is breathtaking.  It is America’s longest linear park, stretching 469 miles, connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Shenandoah National Park. Located in the States of North Carolina and Virginia. Parts of the Appalachian mountains are also included in the parkway.  The Blue Ridge Parkway is a nature lovers dream, rich in biodiversity. There is so much variance in the fauna, flora, climate and geological features.

 

IMG_6432

Peaks of Otter

Before we left NYC, we had decided that we would rather camp in various National forest or State forest camping grounds, so the trip could remain relatively unplanned and be more cost effective. So the first area that we stayed at, was Peaks of Otter,  now being that this was in the middle of December and we did not do any research, the visitor center and camping area is actually closed at this time of year! It was raining and getting late, and as our car is set up for sleeping in ect we still stayed near the visitors center. The next morning we woke up to a blanket of fog, I felt that the thick fog enhanced the beauty. Peaks of Otter surrounds the Jefferson National Forest, and provides breathtaking views. You can take multiple hiking trails near the visitor center. Due to the fog being so thick, we decided to hike the shortest route, the elk run loop. This hike offers a self guided ecology walk, with displays along the walk describing the forest community, very cool.

IMG_6381

 

IMG_6377

 

IMG_6383

IMG_6385IMG_6384IMG_6393.jpgIMG_6387.jpgIMG_6410IMG_6412

Overlooks

Next stop along the parkway, the Head Foremost Mountain overlook and the Arnold Valley Overlook.

IMG_6420

IMG_6423

IMG_6430

IMG_6434

The fog had still not cleared up by lunch time! I can only imagine how spectacular these views are on a clear spring or summers day.

IMG_6439

IMG_6444

Curtis Creek

For our second night, we camped at Curtis creek, a camping ground nestled in the mountains at the base of the Blue Ridge mountains. This campsite was open (Closes December 31st) and works on a first come, first serve system.  Near the camp ground, there are multiple hiking trails on offer, plus the pretty creek.

IMG_6484IMG_6487IMG_6494

Nantahala National Forest

After hiking during the morning at curtis creek, we drove to Asheville, N.C to spend the day there ( a separate blog post). After Asheville, we continued the journey towards the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This time, camping in the Gorgeous Nantahala National Forest. Nantahala is Cherokee for “land of the noonday sun” a very fitting name for this beautiful forest. The forest is half a million acres of pristine woodlands. A true beauty to explore. Our campsite for the night was located at Lake Santeetlah, a mountain lake surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest. A really pretty and relaxing place to camp.

IMG_6513

IMG_6524

IMG_6588

IMG_6590

IMG_6599IMG_E6594

IMG_6611

 

Next stop – The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Smoky Mountains

One of my major loves of the USA is the National Parks system. As a nature lover, and with a background in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, I am in awe of all of the National Parks that I have had the chance to visit, and the system that protects them. On our drive to the south, I had to make sure that we did not miss the Great Smoky Mountains, the most visited US National Park. I do hold the National Parks pass, however the Smoky Mountains don’t require an entrance fee, one of the few parks that don’t! The Smoky Mountains is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a division of the larger Appalachian chain. These Mountains border between North Carolina and Tennessee and is one of the largest protected areas in eastern US. They are also acknowledged as an UNESCO world heritage site, very impressive. With its beauty and diverse range of plant and animal life, it is no wonder that the Great Smoky Mountains is a popular place to visit and explore.

As we visited during winter, parts of the park was closed, I would love to go back during the spring and/or summer to explore more of this gorgeous place.

IMG_6528(1)IMG_6532(1)

 

 

Version 2IMG_6541(1)IMG_6549IMG_6552(1)IMG_6555(1)IMG_6557(1)IMG_6560(1)IMG_6565(1)IMG_6566(1)Version 2IMG_6616(1)IMG_6617(2)Version 2IMG_6619(1)IMG_6622(2)IMG_6624(2)IMG_6626(1)IMG_6632(1)IMG_6633(1)IMG_6636(1)IMG_6637(1)IMG_6645 (2)IMG_6649 (2)IMG_6652 (2)Version 2IMG_6656(2)IMG_6681(1)Version 2IMG_6695IMG_6700 (2)IMG_6701(2)Version 2IMG_6710(1)IMG_6717

Rocky Mountain National Park

21616280_10155597136604976_3367786643713737581_n21761454_10155597136574976_7352484575666478403_n22007821_10155621081359976_1956248582602944377_n22007970_10155621081469976_6953742483708157272_n22008001_10155621080794976_8290140861620509780_n22008018_10155621080979976_5912125149572102502_n22045641_10155621080704976_1333929641632646179_n22045688_10155621081584976_3493219746091267408_n22045789_10155621083059976_6730454091533533579_n22045822_10155621081909976_1810883342588031010_n22045855_10155621082329976_8970694967498327939_n22045873_10155621080899976_2178343996781786713_n22045927_10155621082009976_6195079026851273394_n22045946_10155621082434976_8885789444566764913_n22046096_10155621081899976_6710953969842333857_n22046171_10155621081674976_2393893439232321407_n22046424_10155621081364976_2560847935553621545_n22046448_10155621082279976_3900301029680633436_n22046642_10155621080779976_7464968259505062145_n22046888_10155621081039976_1848278775961053189_n22046905_10155621081449976_2881297656528791220_n22046950_10155621081984976_4287737271090270153_n22046959_10155621081684976_8295119651082528404_n22050125_10155621081779976_2241786165156724380_n22089006_10155621082439976_1369302597388810650_n22089134_10155621082544976_6042787449391716308_n22089190_10155621080869976_3010693551719162402_n22089204_10155621082634976_7968060732556936169_n22089420_10155621080659976_8508152094647843522_n22089604_10155621082774976_8372543586905375675_n22089737_10155621081189976_2499994760764808101_n22090128_10155621081249976_1497190070055558127_n22096082_10155621081769976_3904035849946151969_o22140928_10155621082349976_8537036492943434523_n

Bryce Canyon National Park

IMG_1951

Bryce Canyon

The natural beauty of Bryce Canyon National park is incredible. The views from above and from within are truly breathtaking. The major attraction is the spectacular crimson colored hoodoos, pillars of rock created by erosion. Bryce Canyon has the largest collection of hoodoos in the world, attracting nearly two million visitors annually. Bryce Canyon is located in southern Utah, in Utah’s canyon country. A four-hour drive from the famous Las Vegas, Nevada and two hours from the beautiful Zion National Park 

IMG_6339

Hoodoos

The main attraction is of course, the gorgeous collection of hoodoos. The best place to view the hoodoos are from the Bryce amphitheater, which has the largest collection of viewpoints.  With four main viewpoints (Bryce point, inspiration point, sunset point and sunrise point) and access to numerous hiking trails, this is the perfect area to start a journey exploring Bryce Canyon.  

IMG_1998

IMG_2001

IMG_6336

IMG_1995

Hiking opportunities

Bryce Canyon has a range of hiking trails from easy to strenuous. As an introduction to Bryce canyon, I would recommend beginning with the Rim trail hike, here you will be hiking the rim of Bryce amphitheater, viewing the gorgeous hoodoos from above, walking between sunrise and sunset point. Rim trail is classified as easy. Please note that the rim trail is not a loop, so the hike can range from 1 to 8 hours, depending on when you turn back around!

A step up from the Rim trail hike, would be the Queens/Navajo combination loop, this is classified as moderate and is also regarded as the most popular hiking trail. Highlights will include viewing Thor’s hammer and the two bridges. If you are looking for more strenuous hikes, I would recommend the Peekaboo loop, here you will hike through the heart of the park, with stunning views of the hoodoos and also viewing the wall of windows. Fairytale loop is another great strenuous hike, providing you with a chance to see the Chinese wall, tower bridge and tall hoodoos. Away from the Bryce amphitheater at the northern end of the park is Mossy cave, an easy hike away from the crowds.

BC hike

Bryce Canyon hiking

Hoodos

Highway 63

A breathtaking scenic drive through the park. Provides a great opportunity to view some of the major overlooks, with 13 viewpoints along this 38 mile round trip. Highlights include the natural bridge,  Rainbow and Yovimpa points. If you only had one day to explore Bryce canyon, I would recommend completing this loop and stopping off at the major viewpoints.

IMG_2164

IMG_1966

IMG_1963

IMG_1960

IMG_1956

IMG_1951

IMG_1960

IMG_1966

IMG_1988

Mossy Cave

If you have more than a day I would recommend a visit to Mossy cave. A hidden gem at the northern end of the park. provides an opportunity to get up close with the hoodoos without descending.  It is an easy hike along a stream side to view this pretty cave. Depending on the time of year you may also see a waterfall or icicles in the cave! A peaceful hike without the crowds.

IMG_2048

IMG_2061

IMG_6342

IMG_6358

IMG_6367

Bryce Canyon is a truly remarkable place. The scenery is stunning and the opportunities for hiking and photography are endless. A true nature lovers playground! Photos don’t do justice, you really need to explore Bryce Canyon in person to surround yourself in this natural beauty. A unique, and breathtaking landscape. One of my favorite national parks that I have visited so far.

BC NP

Convertible

Flower