Banff National Park – Summer Experience

Words and pictures do not fully capture the beauty of Banff National Park. Located right outside Calgary, Banff National Park is Canada’s first National Park and is part of the Rocky Mountains. Everywhere you look is a perfect, picturesque view of nature. The air is fresh with an aromatic scent of pine, spruce, and fir. And during those moments you are engulfed with a sense of peace.

Banff National Park

Banff National Park

It is easy to see why the people here are so kind and happy! Travelers to Banff are able to relax and just enjoy the scenery or get as adventurous as their heart desires. During the summer, the days are long and sunset is between 9 and 10 PM. The most popular cities in the park are Lake Louise and Banff.

Lake Louise

You certainly won’t be disappointed with the choices of trails circling Lake Louise. Whether a novice or a time-tested hiker, the views of this breathtaking lake and mountains will continue to captivate you no matter where you are along the trail.

Lake Louise

A typical hike starts at the Fairmont Hotel and ends at one of the two tea houses at Plain of Six Glaciers or Lake Agnes. If you’re like me and can’t decide which tea house to see, I suggest starting on the Plain of Six Glaciers trail and returning home on the path of Lake Agnes. A little caveat: this is one of the longer trails, around 6 hours – but it’ll be worth it in the end. Plus, you’ll have another reason to eat that delicious homemade teahouse cookie!

Other popular hikes in the area include:

–       Consolation Lakes Trail by Moraine Lake

–       Saddleback Pass Trail

–       Helen Lake Trail.

You can also visit trails by horseback.

Canoes are available to rent on Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. For the thrill-seekers, white water rafting tours are available outside of Lake Louise.

Banff National Park

Banff National Park


The town of Banff, located 30 minutes south of Lake Louise, has a cute downtown with shops, restaurants, and bars. Besides eating delicious food in town (Park Distillery Restaurant & Bar) and listening to some great live music at night at the Fairmont Rundle Lounge, some popular activities recommended are:

–       Banff Gondola at Sulfur Mountain

–       Hiking and Biking Trails

–       River Float Trip / Boat Tour on Lake Minnewanka

–       Johnston Canyon – easy walk/hike, looking at nature within the canyon rather than out.

–       Swimming in the 104 degree hotel pool (while cold outside)

Banff National Park

Travel Tips for Banff National Park:

Direct flights to Calgary leave from New York, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Before you fly into Calgary International Airport, it is best you have your rental car booked ahead of time. The most convenient method is to rent from the rental car companies located at the airport parking garage. From the airport, it is an easy and scenic 1.5 hour drive to Banff National Park.  As you arrive at the park gate, there is a per day park vehicle fee you must pay ahead of time. For example, if you are staying 4 nights then pay for a 4 day pass. Fill up gas before you leave Banff or have rental car reservations to include an empty tank as finding a gas station towards the airport is difficult.) Also, if you are flying out internationally, US customs is BEFORE you get on the flight. Leave plenty of time to go through customs and regular security before you get to your gate.

Banff National Park

What to pack for a trip to Banff National Park:

– Passport

– No foreign transaction fee Credit Card, much easier than dealing with paper currency as credit cards are accepted everywhere.

– Insect repellent (very much needed during hikes in Lake Louise)

– Umbrella (never know when it can rain)

– Bathing suit (hotel pools and any water activities)

– Wind breaker/jacket/sweater – to wear during the hikes, at night, or when it’s milder out. The weather can vary drastically both day-to-day and day-to-night.

– Trail shoes/hiking boots/water shoes (for white water rafting)


As much as Drake loves talking about “Views”, the best views of Canada don’t come from Toronto. Indeed, the views from Banff National Park are second to none.

Thanks to Nirali for her awesome travel tips on Banff National Park!
Thanks to Nirali for her awesome travel tips on Banff National Park!

Galapagos, Ecuador

The birth place of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, the Galapagos archipelago is considered to be one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world. The 20 (13 major and 7 small) islands here boast amazing wildlife, making it a nature lover’s paradise. Interestingly, the Galapagos archipelago was once used as a prison camp. For a long period of time, the ecosystem was not properly cared for, resulting in depletion of natural resources. Today, there is a large effort to maintain the pristine condition of the islands and care for the many species that are native to the Galapagos. Officially part of Ecuador, the Galapagos straddle the equator off South America’s west coast. The islands were formed due to the Galapagos Hotspot and the shifting of earth’s tectonic plates. In fact, the youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, are still being formed through volcanic activity. Each island boasts unique sites, with luscious tropical forests covering some and barren volcanic rock making up others.

Kicker Rock in the Galapagos
Kicker Rock in the Galapagos
Sunset on San Cristobal in the Galapagos
Sunset on San Cristobal in the Galapagos

When to Visit the Galapagos Islands

Average temperatures in the Galapagos range from 69°F-84°F year round. The dry season in the Galapagos (July to December) is best for scuba diving and observing the mating rituals of the Blue Footed Boobies and the Genovesa Owls. In the dry season, daytime temperatures are usually no higher than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The wet season, in the first half of the year (January to June), has rain daily, but is warmer (air temperature is in the low 90s and water temperatures in the high 70s or 80). Keep in mind that temperatures and rainfall fluctuate between the islands due to difference in elevation and wind patterns. Peak tourist seasons in the Galapagos is from June to September and December to January. Always book well in advance as the Galapagos National Park limits the number of tourists visiting at one time.

Sea Lion in the Galapagos
Sea Lion in the Galapagos


Travelers will need a variety of gear for this destination: swimsuit, towel, sunscreen, beach wear, followed by hiking boots, trekking pants, bug spray, and a light jacket. A pair of Teva or Chaco like sandals that can double as a beach as well as hiking shoe would also come in handy. Bring binoculars for bird watching (many exotic species here) and a camera, of course. There are plenty of places to rent snorkels, wet suits, and scuba gear in the Galapagos, so leave that at home. At the time of this post, there is a 20kg limit for checked luggage on the flight to the Galapagos.


There are two airports on the Galapagos Islands. The Seymour Airport on the Baltra Island (Airport Code: GPS) and the San Cristobal Airport (Airport Code: SCY) on San Cristobal Island. Direct flights to the Galapagos from Ecuador are offered from both Quito (Airport code: UIO) or Guayaquil (Airport code: GYE). There are three airlines that fly to the Galapagos Islands which are Tame, Avianca, and LAN. It is often more convenient to fly into San Cristobal and out of Baltra (or vice versa) as travelers typically do not stay on one island the entire time.


In terms of traveling between the islands, travelers can either stay on one island and book day tours from these islands (Puerto Ayora on the island Santa Cruz is a popular hub), or book a cruise. Plan ahead, because the Galapagos National Park require visitors to be accompanied by a licensed guide. If you are hoping to see some of the more remote islands, a small cruise (duration anywhere from 3 to 10 days) is the way to go.


Kicker Rock (on San Cristobal Island) is a snorkeling site where travelers can see sea turtles, sharks, sea lions, octopus, and schools of fish. On the island of Santa Cruz be sure to visit Puerto Ayora, which is home to the Charles Darwin Research Station,  El Chato Tortoise Reserve (giant wild tortoises) and the Galapagos National Park. Tortuga Bay, a short walk from Puerto Ayora, has a great beach and wildlife that includes marine iguanas, birds, and mangroves. On the island of Española, visitors can see the mating rituals of the albatrosses as well as the mating dance of the blue-footed boobies. Santiago, or James Island, is home to a sea lion species (called the fur seal) that is endemic to the Galapagos, as well as sea turtles, and several coastal birds. In the Galapagos, or the Enchanted Islands as they are often called, travelers can see wildlife that is found nowhere else on earth.

Galapagos Ecuador crabGalapagos ecuador sea lions

Thanks to Alissa from Villanova University for sharing her great travel tips on the Galapagos Islands!
Thanks to Alissa from Villanova University for sharing her great travel tips on the Galapagos Islands!