Best Summer Trips 2015

Courtesy of National Geographic      – Maryellen Kennedy Duckett

Make this a summer to remember by snowboarding in the Australian Alps, stargazing in a Sedona red rock canyon, or exploring a volcanic Global Geopark in South Korea. Whether you’re craving adventure or relaxation, our editors’ list of ten Best Summer Trips – plus one reader’s choice – offers a world of possibilities.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Pichu

Photograph by Erika Skogg

Make this the summer you take, or plan, that bucket-list trip through the Sacred Valley of the Inca to the ancient city of Machu Picchu. Get inspired closer to home at two Washington, D.C., events: the Peru-focused Smithsonian Folklife Festival (June 24-28 and July 1-5) and the National Museum of the American Indian exhibition “The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire” (June 26, 2015, through June 1, 2018). Then, book a group tour such as National Geographic Expeditions’ Peru: Land of the Inca, or a classic, four-day hiking trek to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail.

To help protect the integrity of the legendary route, only 500 government-issued Inca Trail permits are available per day. But limited access shouldn’t dissuade people from making the trip, says Alistair Butchers of G Adventures, which leads a variety of Sacred Valley tours. “It’s important for travelers to visit … and do so in a sustainable manner, so they can become ambassadors and help spread the word about the importance of sustainable tourism,” he says. “Through awareness and education we can help preserve iconic destinations such as the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu.”

How to Get Around: If permits are sold out during your travel dates—or you’d rather not make the four-day, 27-mile Inca Trail trek—there are several alternate routes through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. G Adventures’ itineraries include a variety of Machu Picchu options ranging from easy day tours from Cusco (via train and bus), to multiday hiking trips along the less-traveled Lares, Salkantay, and Choquequirao routes.

Where to Stay: Peru’s first ecological community-owned and managed campsite opened in February 2015 in the remote Andean village of Cuncani. Located on the Lares route, the project was developed by G Adventures’ nonprofit Planeterra Foundation to help promote sustainable tourism in the Lares Valley. Any tour company can use the site, which includes eco-friendly amenities such as composting toilets and solar showers.

What to Eat: In the Andean region, guinea pig, or cuy (pronounced “kwee”), is a common specialty of the house. At small cuyerías (traditional cuy restaurants) in the Cusco region, order the crispy cuy al palo (guinea pig barbecued whole on a spit with the head, ears, and teeth intact). Or, fill up on the locally grown side dishes such as potatoes and corn on the cob.

What to Buy: Visit the Planeterra-supported Women’s Weaving Co-op in the indigenous Ccaccaccollo community. Here you can learn about traditional Andean weaving and watch the artists hand-spin alpaca fiber into yarn. Over 40 local women belong to the cooperative and sell their intricately woven textiles (including brightly colored blankets, ponchos, and hats) to Sacred Valley travelers.

What to Read Before You Go: Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time chronicles travel writer Mark Adams’s steps and often hilarious missteps along the original expedition route to Machu Picchu. While thoroughly entertaining, the book also serves as a quick primer on Inca history and Peruvian customs.

Practical Tip: Cusco, gateway city to Machu Picchu, sits at more than 11,000 feet above sea level. To avoid altitude sickness, drink lots of water and, if possible, relax (and let your body adjust) for a day or two in town before making a trek to Machu Picchu.

Helpful Links: Peru Tourism

Fun Fact: The Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu is part of the World Heritage site of Qhapaq Ñan, or the Andean Road System. Covering about 18,600 miles from modern-day Colombia in the north to Argentina and Chile in the south, the engineering marvel once linked the Inca capital, Cusco, to the farthest reaches of the empire.

Staff Tip: Don’t leave for Machu Picchu without visiting Cusco’s Mercado Central de San Pedro. The open-air market shows off the country’s incredible biodiversity with a wild assortment of tropical fruits, vegetables, and meats. It’s very impressive, and the chicken soup at the lunch counter helped cure my altitude sickness almost overnight. —Kevin Kunitake, assistant to editor in chief, National Geographic Traveler

Arizona

Photograph by Larry Pollock Photography

Photograph by Larry Pollock Photography

By day, Sedona’s dramatically sculpted red rock backcountry is the main draw for hikers, mountain bikers, rock climbers, and off-road “Jeepers.” But, at night, all eyes are on the skies. Named the world’s eighth International Dark Sky Community in 2014, Sedona (elevation 4,600 feet) is one of the best places in the world to witness celestial wonders such as a blue moon.

“Don’t think for a second that outdoor adventures end when the sun goes down in Sedona,” says Jennifer Wesselhoff of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau. “That azure sky—so pure, perfect, and devastatingly blue all day—turns into a glittering blanket of heavenly bodies at night. Lack of light pollution combined with haze-free, low humidity desert skies make Sedona a paradise for stargazers.”

How to Get Around: Sedona is located in north-central Arizona two hours north of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport via I-17 North. From the airport, rent a car or book a commercial shuttle. In Sedona, rent a Jeep for a half or full day to four-wheel on roads and trails in the surrounding Coconino National Forest.

Where to Stay: Located within Boynton Canyon and surrounded by red rock cliffs, Enchantment Resort is an oasis with minimal light pollution. The 218 guest casitas, junior suites, haciendas, and casas each have a private deck, patio, or balcony. Guest activities include guided stargazing with a telescope (Tuesdays and Saturdays, weather permitting); a two-hour full moon hike and private guided hikes; a summer solstice celebration week (June 14-21) with Native American dances; and new moon and full moon-themed specialty treatments (available only around those moon phases) at the onsite Mii amo Spa.

Even the resort’s restaurants are designed to optimize night views. On any full moon evening, watch the moon rise behind the Kachina Woman red rock formation from View 180, the indoor/outdoor, tapas-style restaurant and lounge.

What to Eat or Drink: Prickly pear cactus, also called “tuna” (the fruit part) and “paddles” (the leaves), is a local staple. Try the cactus fries (de-prickled, breaded, and flash-cooked paddles) with prickly pear dipping sauce at Cowboy Club Grille & Spirits in Sedona’s arts district. Prickly pear sweet fruit nectar is used to make jams, jellies, cocktails, ice cream, and more. Sit under the stars on the Barking Frog Grille outdoor patio, and sip a desert mojito (mixed with prickly pear cactus juice) or a prickly pear margarita.

What to Buy: Shop for Sedona-themed gifts, including handcrafted ceramics, weavings, blown glass, Native American jewelry, Hopi katsina figures, and Navajo sand paintings, at Tlaquepaque (pronounced Tla-keh-PAH-keh) Arts & Crafts Village. Designed in the 1970s to replicate a traditional Mexican village with stone walkways and vine-covered stucco facades, Tlaquepaque is home to over 40 galleries and shops. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. (Closed Christmas and Thanksgiving.)

What to Read Before You Go: The current edition of Terence Dickinson’s classic stargazers’ resource, Night Watch: A Practical Guide to the Universe is updated for use through 2025 and includes helpful night-sky charts and astronomical photography tips.

Helpful Links: Visit Sedona, International Dark-Sky Association, and Arizona Tourism

Fun Fact: It takes more than three and a half hours to drive south from Sedona to Tucson. That’s time well spent if you’re heading to Bloom Night at Tohono Chul. The Tucson park is home to the nation’s largest collection of the night-blooming cereus Peniocereus greggii, known as the “queen of the night.” Most of the flowers bloom on a single night between mid-May and mid-July. Join the park’s Bloom Watch email list to get the date (sometimes with only 12 hours’ notice) of this year’s Bloom Night.

Staff Tip: Enchantment Resort, spectacularly set in Boynton Canyon, has access right from the property to hiking trails that head into the red rocks. Head out early to catch sunrise at Kachina Woman, the sentinel of the canyon, for unparalleled views of the valley and the Coconino National Forest; look for hot-air balloon rides launching in the distance. The area around Kachina is an energy vortex and is said to have uplifting effects. Follow your hike with a frittata and smoothie at the Mii Amo Spa café. Ask your server if the “angel” (or any other defined shadows that they’ve named) has appeared on the canyon wall viewable from the windows of the café. For a totally different experience, drive to Oak Creek Canyon—often described as the smaller cousin of the Grand Canyon and noted for its scenic beauty—for a hike along Oak Creek, a tributary of the Verde River. Overnight in a cozy cabin (with stone walls, fireplaces, and Native American-inspired furnishings) at Briar Patch Inn, a hidden find situated on the lush banks of the creek. —Susan O’Keefe, associate editor, National Geographic Traveler

Konstanz, Germany

Photograph by Sonderegger Christof, Prisma Bildagentur AG/Alamy

Photograph by Sonderegger Christof, Prisma Bildagentur AG/Alamy

Pedal at your own pace through three countries and around Germany’s largest lake on the Lake Constance (or Bodensee) cycle route. Located in the northern foothills of the Alps, the 40-mile-long lake—essentially a bulge in the Rhine River—is “narrow enough to see across,” says Jim Johnson, president of BikeToursDirect. The asphalt Bodensee-Radweg bike path covers nearly the entire 170-mile circumference of the lake, adds Johnson, who has pedaled the route, and whose tour company offers self-guided Lake Constance biking itineraries (April to October). “By the time you make your way around the lake, you’ve visited three countries: Germany, Austria, and Switzerland,” he says. “The shoreline is dotted with magical, medieval cities and towns, the occasional castle, and peaceful rural villages.” If you’re not up for biking the whole route, hop a ferry to cross the lake or connect to the next city, suggests Johnson. “It’s as easy as rolling your bike onboard. Then, watch the shore, villages, forests, castles, and Alps flow by.”

How to Get Around: Konstanz, located in southwestern Germany, is the German gateway city for Lake Constance. The closest international airport is Zurich in Switzerland (an hour by bus and about 80 minutes by train). Bike rentals are available in Konstanz and at shops around the lake. BikeToursDirect itineraries include rental bikes, detailed maps, tour recommendations, ferry information, lodging, breakfast, and daily luggage transfers.

Where to Stay: The luxurious, lakefront RIVA Konstanz integrates an elegant 1909 art nouveau villa (the former Seehotel Siber) into a sleek, modern hotel with floor-to-ceiling windows, a rooftop pool, and a nautilus shell-shaped floating staircase, which spirals up six stories through the center of the hotel. “Biking at the Lake” packages include two nights’ lodging; daily breakfast, bag lunch, and dinner; bicycles; and a 25-minute back massage in the spa.

What to Eat or Drink: Local specialties are a cross-cultural smorgasbord featuring the fresh bounty of the lake and local farms. Try eglifilet, a perch-like delicacy often served fried with almonds; hearty Swabian dishes such as maultaschen, sizable ravioli-like pockets filled with combinations of meat or vegetables; typical Baden cuisine including schäuferle, cured and smoked pork shoulder simmered in wine, bay leaves, and cloves until tender; and Austrian kaiserschmarren, light, shredded pancakes made with a sweet batter, baked in butter, and topped with zwetschkenröster (plum compote).

What to Buy: At Barrique in Konstanz, the homemade peach, pear, and apple liqueurs and other local libations are freshly bottled for each customer. The shop also carries a selection of wines and pastas, chocolates, and cooking oils.

What to Watch Before You Go: The 2008 James Bond thriller Quantum of Solace includes a pivotal chase scene filmed on the shores of Lake Constance in the Bregenz Festival Opera House and above the lake’s surface on the Floating Stage.

Practical Tip: Invest in a couple of pairs of padded mountain bike shorts. Baggier than the tight-fitting road cycling shorts, the mountain bike version offers recreational riders three important benefits: extra cushioning; pockets to store stuff; and a more casual, less Tour de France look.

Helpful Links: Lake Constance Tourism, Lake Constance Cycle Path, SouthWest Germany, and Germany Tourism

Fun Fact: There are international borders around Lake Constance, but not across it. No treaty delineating water rights has been signed by Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. So, for now, the liquid portion of Lake Constance is the only borderless place in Europe.

Staff Tip: Just an hour’s drive south of Friedrichshafen you’ll enter one of the world’s smallest, and richest, sovereign nations: the principality of Liechtenstein. Its size—more compact than Washington, D.C.—makes it is easy to explore. First stop: the cozy capital, Vaduz, home to shops, museums, a Michelin-starred restaurant (Marée, on Mareestrasse), and one of the most photographed royal residences in Europe. Crowning a hilltop overlooking the town, Vaduz Castle is the active home of the Liechtenstein royal family, which has presided over the principality since the 1100s. Though the castle isn’t open to the public, as of March 2015 visitors can check out the royal collections of world-class art and weaponry at Vaduz’s new Liechtenstein Treasure Chamber—then tour a look-alike castle, the hill-topping Gutenberg Castle, only 15 minutes to the south by car. —Jayne Wise, senior editor, National Geographic Traveler

Staff Tip: Get off your bike and literally onto Lake Constance to enjoy a tasty German beer while relaxing on the deck of a ferry—you can catch one in towns along the lake, as we did in Meersburg. Take in views of the snowcapped peaks of Austria and Switzerland on the way to the island of Mainau, which can also be accessed by a causeway minutes from Konstanz. You can easily spend a day on Mainau enjoying one of Europe’s finest gardens, which boasts exotic trees, flowers, and shrubs from all over the world. During the summer months, more than 10,000 roses from more than a thousand varieties blanket the island with color and perfumed smells. My kids and I enjoyed visiting Mainau’s Butterfly House, where butterflies fluttered through the air—one even landing on my shoulder—before grabbing a leisurely lunch at the Schwedenschenke restaurant. Dating to 1937, the restaurant is the oldest on the island. Its open-air setting, surrounded by beautiful flowers, was where we enjoyed a tasty traditional German salad, along with delicious fresh fish from Lake Constance. We finished our day there with an island treasure hunt, the payoff being some delicious German chocolate. —Leigh Borghesani, deputy art director, National Geographic Traveler

Athens, Greece   June 1-August 31

Photograph by Haris Akriviadis, Corbis

Photograph by Haris Akriviadis, Corbis

Experience international theater, opera, classical music, and dance performances in a variety of magnificent modern and ancient spaces. Venues for the 60th Athens and Epidaurus Festival range from the industrial Peiraios 260 (housed in a former Athens furniture factory) to the ancient theater of Epidaurus, built in 340 B.C., buried for nearly 1,500 years, and renowned for its preserved limestone tiers and near perfect acoustics. The festival program includes Greek productions (ancient tragedies and new plays), a Greco-Japanese co-production of Homer’sNekyia, and new interpretations of European classics.

New for 2015: performances designed to spark dialogue about topical Greek issues such as homelessness, job loss, financial insecurity, refugees, and immigrants. During the interactive street performance “In the Middle of the Street” (July 7), audience members can use an MP3 player and earphones to hear the voices and stories of Athens’s newly homeless.

How to Get Around: Most festival venues are in Athens and are accessible via public transportation (bus, trolley bus, Metro, or electric railway). Two venues—the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus and the Little Theatre of Epidaurus—are located in Argolis on the Peloponnese peninsula, about two hours west of Athens by car or bus. Reduced intercity bus fares from Athens are available when purchasing tickets for performances at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus.

Where to Stay: The 15-suite AVA Hotel & Suites is ideally located in historic Plaka, Athens’s oldest quarter. From the hotel, it’s only a ten-minute walk to festival performances at the ancient Herodeon (The Odeon of Herodes Atticus). Shops, restaurants, the Acropolis Museum, Hadrian’s Arch, and the Temple of Zeus are even closer. All suites have kitchenettes and balconies. Splurge on the third-floor Exclusive Suite for the extra space, private veranda, and Acropolis views.

What to Eat or Drink: The Acropolis Museum restaurant in Athens stays open until midnight on Fridays for a gourmet dinner service (reservations required). The menu includes Greek specialties such as San Mihali, a cow’s milk cheese from the island of Syros; Metsovone, a smoked cheese from Metsovo in northwestern Greece; fresh fish; and smoked veal fillet with truffle oil and dried fruits. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide spectacular night views of the Acropolis.

What to Buy: Athens’s bustling Central Market is where locals go to buy fresh produce, fish, and every imaginable part of a cow, chicken, lamb, or rabbit. To steer clear of the sheep’s heads, stick to the perimeter stalls, where vendors peddle spices, nuts, dried fruits, baked goods, coffee, and small household items.

What to Read or Watch Before You Go: Originally published in 1941, Henry Miller’s classic memoir The Colossus of Maroussi recounts his time spent living in pre-World War II Greece and includes pivotal scenes in Athens and Epidaurus.

Helpful Links: Visit Greece and Athens and Epidaurus Festival

Fun Fact: There’s not a bad seat in the house at the Ancient Theatre at Epidaurus, considered the best-preserved ancient Greek theatre. Built into a natural hillside, the semicircular theater has limestone bench seats and offers unobstructed views for up to 14,000 people. The setting and design combine to create exceptional acoustics; a soft whisper uttered in the central performing space, or orchestra, easily can be heard 55 tiers up in the theater’s last row.

England

Photograph by Michael Dunning, Getty Images

Photograph by Michael Dunning, Getty Images

Celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, or “Great Charter,” (June 15) by driving one or more of the six Magna Carta Trails. Located throughout England, the routes are designed to actively engage visitors in the history of the Magna Carta, the document that established the principle that no man, not even the king, is above the law. The landmark charter helped shape modern judicial systems.

Each trail includes key charter towns; historical sites related to the year 1215; and 800th-anniversary events, such as the official commemoration ceremony at Runnymede Meadows (June 15) and the Magna Carta Festival (June 13-14).

Designed for self-guided travel, the trails allow time to soak in the history of places such as the Salisbury Cathedral’s 13th-century Chapter House, which holds one of the best-preserved copies of the Magna Carta.

“The Chapter House is regarded as one of Europe’s most beautiful medieval buildings, and, with a stunning cathedral that boasts Britain’s tallest [spire], this visit is not simply a quick stop on a trail but a unique and breathtaking snapshot of world history,” says Ruth Lancey, director of Great British Trips. Her recommendation: Allow ample time to “quietly contemplate, marvel, and meditate on the sacred, significant, and spiritual wonder of all this building has to offer.”

How to Get Around: Review the Magna Carta Trails to chart a single- or multitrail driving route based on your interests and time. The suggested itineraries are two to four days depending on the route. Rent a car at the airport closest to your desired starting point. Or combine highlights of each trail on Great British Trips’ 11-night Magna Carta Trail Tour and travel by rail, rental car, and the Tube (London Underground).

Where to Stay: Rustic and modern self-catering cottages, and rooms on working farms and in Victorian farmhouses, are available through the farmer-owned Farm Stay consortium. Accommodations are organized by region, making it easy to find options on or near the trails you are driving.

Where to Eat: Embrace your inner knight at the Medieval Banquet London. The four-course feast fit for a king includes red wine and ale, and sides of sword fighting, dancing, and singing. The interactive dinner theater experience is staged within the vaulted cellars of the historic Ivory House in St. Katharine Docks. While not required, diners can become part of the two-hour show by donning period dress. Rental costumes (including lords, ladies, jesters, and wenches) are available nightly on a first-come, first-served basis.

What to Buy: The online Magna Carta Shop features approved Magna Carta Trust 800th-anniversary items, including 480 framed Magna Carta facsimiles created on hand-cut parchment to replicate the appearance of the original.

What to Watch Before You Go: Narrated by British comedian, actor, and author Terry Jones of Monty Python fame, the animated short films What Is Magna Carta? and 800 Years of Magna Carta provide a quick (less than eight minutes) and entertaining overview of the celebrated document’s history and legacy.

Practical Tip: To spend more time walking and less time in traffic or searching for parking, use the convenient park-and-ride sites located just outside the towns and cities along the Magna Carta Trails (and throughout England). Park for free or a nominal fee in the park-and-ride lot, and then, ride a bus or tram (streetcar) to the nearby city or town center.

Helpful Links: Magna Carta 800th and Magna Carta Trails

Fun Fact: The National Trust is encouraging Britons to host afternoon “LiberTeas” on June 14, the day before the Magna Carta’s anniversary. During the nationwide teatime, participants can tune into BBC coverage of the parade of boats—including the royal barge Gloriana.

Alberta, Canada

Photograph by Marc J Chalifoux, epicphotography.ca/Edmonton Street Performers Festival

Photograph by Marc J Chalifoux, epicphotography.ca/Edmonton Street Performers Festival

Edmonton is welcoming the world this summer. The Festival City is hosting a series of international events, including the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 (June 6-July 4) and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival (August 6-9). Multicultural artworks, crafts, performances, and foods representing more than 85 nations will be featured at the Edmonton Heritage Festival (August 1-3).

“I love the summer mainly because of all the festivals—Heritage Days, Taste of Edmonton, Fringe Festival, and the Street Performers Festival are a few of my favorites,” says Chris Szydlowski, owner of River Valley Adventure Co., which offers mountain bike rentals and guided Segway tours of the Edmonton River Valley. “This is going to be an amazing year to be in Edmonton [during the] summer, and to feel the vibe and energy of our city.”

How to Get Around: The Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) Route 747 bus provides express service from Edmonton International Airport to Century Park station. From here, transfer to the LRT (Light Rail Transit) Capital Line to reach downtown hotels and festival sites. For travel throughout the city, use the ETS Trip Planner to chart a route via bus or LRT.

Where to Stay: The 98-room Metterra Hotel on Whyte is located in the historic Old Strathcona neighborhood, home to an eclectic collection of restaurants, bars, and boutiques, and site of the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival (August 13-23). The hotel’s design incorporates natural elements (earth, water, fire, and air) and promotes sustainability. In 2015, Metterra became the largest hotel in Canada to be fully powered by clean, pollution-free electricity. Rates include breakfast and wine tasting (daily except Sundays).

What to Eat or Drink: At local-focused North 53, if an ingredient isn’t made in Canada, it doesn’t make it onto the menu. The offerings change regularly to reflect what’s available fresh. Snacks, desserts, and small and large plates—such as a whole roasted chicken, pork cabbage rolls, or short ribs glazed in beer—are designed to be shared. A separate late-night menu (Fridays and Saturdays, 11 p.m.-2 a.m.) includes deliciously decadent options ranging from fried chicken with sour cream and onion dip to cognac ice cream. Reservations required for tables. Bar seating is first come, first served. Closed Mondays.

What to Buy: The TIX on the Square shop, operated by the Edmonton Arts Council, stocks local Alberta products such as Bro Bricks, handmade soaps for men. Scents range from the nostalgic and bestselling “Barbershop” to more potent blends, including “Beer & Wasabi” and “Rum & Coke.” Saturdays, shop for artisanal gifts and baked goods at Old Strathcona Farmers Market and City Market.

What to Watch Before You Go: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck, includes scenes filmed at historic Fort Edmonton Park and on the park’s working 1919 Baldwin steam train.

Practical Tip: The Edmonton Folk Music Festival sells out quickly. To increase your chances of scoring an entry wristband, register for the festival’s free e-newsletter, and check the online ticket swap board.

Helpful Links: Edmonton Tourism and Travel Alberta

Fun Fact: Year-round, Edmonton is one of Canada’s sunniest cities, with about 2,300 total hours of sunshine annually. The lightest and brightest days typically are in June when the sun rises at 5:30 a.m. and doesn’t set until around 10 p.m.

Singapore    August 7-10

Photograph by Thant Zaw Wai, Alamy

Photograph by Thant Zaw Wai, Alamy

Singapore is hosting its biggest ever National Day celebration this year in honor of the young city-state’s 50th birthday (August 9). The planned four-day Jubilee Weekend is “the perfect time for visitors to witness Singapore’s creative energy and spirit on full display,” says Kershing Goh of the Singapore Tourism Board. Jubilee highlights include nightly fireworks shows over Marina Bay, free or discounted admission to several museums, and a colossal Sing50 Concert (August 7) performed by a nearly all-Singaporean cast. The can’t-miss event is the National Day Parade, which, for the first time, will span the entire Marina Bay area from Gardens by the Bay to the Padang, the green, historic heart of Singapore. Key civic buildings bordering the Padang include City Hall, where founding father Lee Kuan Yew declared Singapore’s independence from Malaysia in 1965, and Parliament House, where Lee’s body lay in state following his death in March 2015.

How to Get Around: Use the efficient Singapore MRT (mass rapid transit) system to travel from the airport to downtown and throughout the city-state. The Changi Airport MRT Station is located on the basement level of terminals 2 and 3, and most tourist attractions are located within walking distance of an MRT station. At the airport MRT station’s TransitLink Ticket Office, buy a Singapore Tourist Pass for unlimited MRT travel for one, two, or three days.

Where to Stay: Built in 1928 as the General Post Office, the Palladian-style Fullerton Hotel Singapore has 400 rooms and a prime Fullerton Heritage Precinct address. The waterfront precinct includes upscale restaurants and shops, plus the ultraluxurious Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore, Fullerton Waterboat House, Clifford Pier, and Customs House. Book a Golden Jubilee SG50 room package (through December 2015) to enjoy special perks such as a daily breakfast buffet, dining credit, and one-way limousine airport transfer.

What to Eat: Singapore’s hawker (street food) centers are impeccably clean food courts serving fast and affordable local and international foods. Two of the most popular are Maxwell Road Hawker Centre near Chinatown and the financial district’s landmark Lau Pa Sat food market built in 1894 and completely renovated in June 2014. Local hawker specialties include Singaporean chili crab (stir-fried crabs in a savory and sweet tomato-chili sauce) and Hainanese chicken rice (typically served as separate small dishes of poached chicken, fragrant rice, chili-lime sauce, ginger puree, and thick soy sauce). Inside tip: Singaporeans use tissue packs to chope (“Singlish” for save or reserve) a table while they scout the hawker stalls for food.

What to Buy: Visit any Ya Kun location to try traditional kaya (the literal translation is “rich” in Malay) toast and buy a jar of kaya jam to bring home. Kaya toast is a ubiquitous Singaporean breakfast staple and quick snack. Sweet and creamy kaya jam is made from coconut milk, sugar, eggs, and aromatic pandan (screw pine) leaves commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking.

What to Read or Watch Before You Go: Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel Crazy Rich Asians is a satiric, over-the-top look at the lives of three jetsetter Chinese-Singaporean families. Dozens of footnotes explain Singaporean words and expressions, including commonly heard Singlish terms.

Cultural Tip: Food is essential to Singaporean culture. Instead of saying, “How are you?” locals commonly use the traditional Singaporean Chinese greeting: “Have you eaten?” The polite reply is, “Yes. Have you?”

Helpful Links: Singapore Tourism, SG50, and The Straits Times

Fun Fact: Singlish is a verbal shorthand blending elements of English and other languages (especially Malay, Hokkien, and Cantonese). In multilingual Singapore, Singlish is widely used in casual conversation. English-based Singlish expressions, such as “can die” (an exclamation of simultaneous despair and horror) and “chicken feed or chicken” (“easy”), can be particularly confusing for English-speaking visitors.

Bermuda

Photograph by Akil J. Simmons

Photograph by Akil J. Simmons

Cup Match is Bermuda’s equivalent of the Super Bowl. The main event (July 29 to August 2) pits the island’s two cricket teams—St. George’s and Somerset—against each other and sparks a multiday, islandwide celebration. Cup Match Summer Splash events include BeachFest on Horseshoe Bay Beach, July 31, and the Non-Mariners Race (a zany spectacle with patchwork “vessels”), August 2. The cricket competition—hosted by St. George’s Cricket Club this year—is part of the island’s two-day national holiday commemorating Bermuda’s colonization and the end of slavery.

“If you want to experience Bermuda like a local—at its most welcoming, its most lively, its most fun—join us for Cup Match,” says Shawn Crockwell, Bermuda Minister of Tourism and Transport. “All over Bermuda, you’ll see locals sporting their favorite team’s color: dark blue and light blue for St. George’s, and dark blue and red for Somerset.” And, if Cup Match is your first foray into the often confusing world of cricket wickets, stumps, bowlers, and bails, relax. “The Bermudians you sit next to in the stands will be happy to help you with the finer points of the game,” Crockwell says.

How to Get Around: The international airport is located in St. George’s parish on Bermuda’s eastern end, while many resorts are clustered on the South Shore. The capital city, Hamilton, is located at the center of the main island and is Bermuda’s retail, restaurant, and tourist hub. Check to see if your hotel offers airport transfers (reservations required). Or, take a taxi or public bus from the airport.

For island-wide travel, use the ubiquitous pink and blue Bermuda Breeze public buses and the public SeaExpress ferries. For shorter trips, rent a motorized scooter or a hybrid electric bike or mountain bike. Due to strict environmental laws, no rental cars are available to tourists.

Where to Stay: All 88 guestrooms and suites have water views at the posh and properly British Rosewood Tucker’s Point. Conveniently located in St. George’s parish (home to the airport and the St. George’s Cricket Club), the luxury hotel is part of the 200-acre Tucker’s Point Club golf community. Guest amenities include a private pink-sand beach, multiple pools, a croquet lawn, and a dive and watersports center offering kayak and boat rentals, snorkel tours, catamaran cruises, and dive excursions.

What to Eat or Drink: At Art Mel’s Spicy Dicy on Water Street in St. George’s, order the deep-fried fish sandwich like a local: on raisin bread, topped with tartar sauce, lettuce, tomato, grilled Bermuda onions, cheese, hot sauce, and coleslaw, and accompanied by a grape soda. The colossal sandwich comes wrapped in aluminum foil and is big enough for two. For quick snacks, stop at the nearest gas station. Most stations carry local-made foods such as pound cake, seasoned cookies, and savory pastry pies with beef, chicken, or vegetable filling.

What to Buy: Upscale retailer A.S. Cooper & Sons Limited has six island locations, each carrying a specific selection of Bermuda-made brands. Check the website to find out which locations offer notable island favorites such as TABS (The Authentic Bermuda Shorts), Horton’s Original Bermuda Black Rum Cakes, and jewelry inspired by the island’s flora and fauna from Bermudian artist Alexandra Mosher.

What to Read Before You Go: The Game of Cricket: All You Need to Know About the Summer Game is a conversational guide covering the sport’s basic history, rules, terms, and traditions.

Cultural Tip: Proper manners, including acknowledging others with the more formal “Good morning” and “Good afternoon,” always are appreciated. But, it’s also helpful to know a bit of Bermy (Bermuda) slang such as “Wopnin?” (What’s happening?) and “greeze” (food or a big meal), as in: “I’m hungry. Where can I get a greeze?”

Helpful Links: Bermuda Tourism and Bermuda Cup Match

Fun Facts: Cup Match is the only time when gambling is legal in Bermuda. The government-sanctioned game Crown and Anchor is a simple board and dice game traditionally played by British sailors. Look for the Crown and Anchor tent at the Cup Match cricket field to watch the raucous action or try your luck.

Staff Tip: On the Sunday immediately after Cup Match, normally proper Bermudians let loose at the annual Non-Mariner’s Race, where residents attempt to propel their barely seaworthy floats, often with satirical themes, across Mangrove Bay, to the raucous shouts of spectators. The first vessel to sink usually wins. —Marilyn Terrell, chief researcher, National Geographic Traveler

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

26 Aug 2013 --- Exhibit in the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia. --- Image by © Jon Hicks/Corbis

26 Aug 2013 — Exhibit in the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia. — Image by © Jon Hicks/Corbis

Look beyond Philadelphia’s “Cradle of Liberty” historic sites to discover a wealth of other world-class venues. One city treasure hiding in plain sight is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the only U.S. stop (June 24 to September 13, 2015) for the “Discovering the Impressionists” exhibition showcasing more than 80 works by Monet, Renoir, Degas, Manet, and others.

There’s also Opera Philadelphia, closing its 40th anniversary season with Charlie Parker’s Yardbird (June 5 to 14). And, across the street from Independence Mall is the state-of-the-art National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH), sole U.S. host of the “Richard Avedon: Family Affairs” photography exhibition from Jerusalem’s Israel Museum (through August 2).

“Old City is an incredibly vibrant neighborhood where visitors can relive the founding of our nation as well as cutting edge art and culture,” says Josh Perelman, NMAJH chief curator and director of exhibition and collections. Perelman suggests learning about the nation’s founding documents at the National Constitution Center and about the history of science at the Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum. He adds, “I also recommend seeing the world-class performances at the Arden [Theatre Company] or Painted Bride [Art Center]; stopping at Carpenters’ Hall, the country’s first museum; and touring the numerous galleries that line Second Street.”

How to Get Around: The 25-block Center City (Philadelphia’s downtown) is easy to navigate thanks to William Penn’s grid street design and the helpful “Walk! Philadelphia” directional signs. Walk, and use taxis or public transportation. The One-Day Independence Pass provides unlimited, single-day travel on all SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) buses, trolleys, subways, and trains for only $12. Another option for short trips is Indego, Philadelphia’s new bike share program.

Where to Stay: Stay on campus at the Inn at Penn, the 243-room, luxury Hilton property at the University of Pennsylvania. The slower pace of Penn’s summer session makes campus life a welcome respite after a busy day of museum hopping. Located in University City across the Schuylkill River from Center City. Best views are from top (sixth) floor corner guestrooms.

What to Eat or Drink: Food trucks are out in full force in summer. Use Food Truck Philly to get a fix of what you’re hungry for or to locate the nearest mobile kitchen. Local favorites to look for include the Dapper Dog (try the Mack, a hot dog topped with mac and cheese) and Pitruco wood-fired pizza, owned and operated by two northwest Philly natives.

What to Buy: Sign up for the guided Taste of Philly Tour (Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m.) to get an insider look at the Reading Terminal Market. Opened in 1982, Reading Terminal is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers market. Shop for homegrown and locally made items, including Lancaster County Amish quilts and breads.

What to Read or Watch Before You Go: Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope, and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Tom Gralish and journalist Michael Vitez includes 52 profiles and 100 photos of “Rocky runners”—people who visit the Philadelphia Art Museum to conquer the museum’s steps a la Rocky Balboa (played by actor Sylvester Stallone) in the 1976 Oscar-winning film Rocky.

Helpful Links: Visit Philadelphia

Fun Fact: The “Richard Avedon: Family Affairs” exhibit at the NMAJH includes The Family, the iconic Rolling Stone magazine collection of 69 black-and-white portraits of 1970s political, media, and corporate power players. Published a couple of weeks before the 1976 U.S. presidential election, The Family is missing one key member: former President Richard Nixon. His secretary, Rose Mary Woods, is pictured instead.

Staff Tip: South Philly’s Italian Market celebrates its Cent’anni, or hundred-year anniversary, in 2015 but strolling along Ninth Street never gets old for me. Inhale deeply inside the Spice Corner or find rare culinary gadgets at Fante’s Kitchen Store to work up an appetite before shopping for the perfect picnic provisions: homemade mozzarella from Claudio’s, salami from Di Bruno Bros., fresh ravioli from Talluto’s, and, of course, cannoli for dessert from Termini Brothers Bakery to get a taste of the neighborhood’s history. —Chistine Blau, researcher, National Geographic Traveler

Victoria, Australia

Photograph by Bill Bachman, Alamy

Photograph by Bill Bachman, Alamy

Escape the heat by hitting the slopes in Victoria’s ski country. The region’s resorts offer a wide array of snow activities including dogsled rides, tobogganing, skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. Use Melbourne as a base for day trips to beginner-friendly Mount Baw Baw, or stay slopeside at major alpine resorts such as Mount Hotham, billed as the “powder capital” of Australia, or Falls Creek, Victoria’s largest alpine resort.

“The Maze area [at Falls Creek] is the perfect place to test your skills,” says Falls Creek marketing executive Victoria Gregory. “Surrounded by gum trees, you’ll discover secret powder stashes and new runs hidden within the trees. This distinctly Australian skiing experience reminds you you’re in the Australian alps, with a view looking onto Mount Bogong, Victoria’s highest peak.”

How to Get Around: Since tire chains are required (in the trunk or on the tires depending on road conditions) during snow season, shuttle buses are a safe, stress-free way to travel from Melbourne to alpine resorts. Purchase tickets online. For Mount Hotham, use Snowball Express. For Falls Creek, choose either FallsBus or Falls Creek Coach Service. For Mount Baw Baw, take a Mountain-Top Experience shuttle directly to the resort (two hours and ten minutes). Or, ride the V/Line train to Moe Station (two hours) and then, take the shuttle (one hour) to the resort.

Where to Stay: Ski or snowboard down to the Falls Creek express lift from the Elk at Falls, a combination budget ski lodge and upscale apartment complex located a five-minute walk from Falls Creek Village restaurants and shops. The two- and four-bedroom apartments have full kitchens and private balconies. In the 34-bed lodge, there’s a communal kitchen and basic rooms accommodating two to eight guests.

What to Eat or Drink: Choose the “Feed Us” dinner option (available for parties of four or more) at Hotham’s upscale White Room. The chef will surprise you with a selection of seasonal plates such as grilled Mooloolaba king prawns, wombok (cabbage) slaw, and smoked lamb croquettes. White Room dishes typically include local ingredients such as Milawa cheese and Harrietville trout, Kiewa milk, and Hopkins River beef.

What to Buy: Browse one of Melbourne’s neighborhood bookstores to pick up a read for the shuttle ride to ski country. Local booksellers include Hill of Content, Paperback Bookshop, and Yarraville’s Sun Bookshop, located in the original concession stand of the art deco Sun Theatre.

What to Watch Before You Go: Winner of six Australian Film Institute Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, My Brilliant Career is the 1979 film adaptation of Miles Franklin’s quintessentially Australian and internationally acclaimed first novel, written in 1901.

Practical Tip: Falls Creek’s free Mountain Orientation Tours are led by local experts and are particularly helpful for first-time visitors. Join a tour (11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays) to learn about the resort’s best ski runs and figure out the fastest route back to your lodging at day’s end.

Helpful Links: Ski Victoria and Visit Melbourne

Fun Fact: Alpine National Park includes 10 of Victoria’s 11 highest mountains.

Jeju Island, South Korea

Photograph by Andrea Canella, Getty Images

Photograph by Andrea Canella, Getty Images

Jeju’s coastal resorts are popular vacation destinations, but the wild areas beyond the beaches are why Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the entire island is designated as the Jeju Global Geopark. The park’s premier site is 6,397-foot Hallasan (South Korea’s highest mountain), a shield volcano with a summit crater lake. Additional geomorphologic features found on Jeju include spectacular volcanic cones and craters, dramatic waterfalls, ever evolving rocky shores, and the Geomunoreum lava tube system, considered the finest cave system of its kind in the world.

Three designated Geo-Trails link many of the main geological sites and connect to six Geo-Park villages. Accompanying brochures (available in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese) include maps and information about local geology, history, culture, and daily life. Walk the self-guided trails or book a custom eco-tour with a local, English-speaking guide such as Jejueco Tours. Owner Victor Ryashencev, who also runs owns a Jeju eco-lodge, personally leads small group treks to waterfalls, folk villages, seaside cliffs, mountain peaks, and less-traveled island locations. One of his favorite geological wonders to share with visitors, he says, is Jusangjeolli with its hexagonal-shaped rocks reminiscent of Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway.

How to Get Around: Jeju International Airport is located on the island’s northern coast in Jeju, the largest and capital city of Jeju province. From here, rent a car or use city and intercity buses to travel around the island. Most major resorts and hotels also are stops on the limousine bus (airport shuttle) route. For day hikes, walk the Jeju Olle Trail, a whole-island coastal trek network made up of 26 hiking paths. Each Olle Trail segment takes between four and eight hours to walk.

Where to Stay: The ten-room Jejueco Suites is a small eco-lodge set amid tangerine fields in southern Jeju. Husband and wife owners Victor Ryashencev and Natasha Nazarenko have implemented several sustainable practices at the lodge, including harvesting rainwater for cleaning and gardening, and heating water and some rooms with solar power. Three-day eco-tour packages include room, breakfast, and excursions with an English-speaking guide.

What to Eat: Traditional Jeju foods include omaegi-tteok, a rice cake made from black glutinous millet and covered with bean powder and red azuki beans. The donut-shaped cake typically is a summer treat (available May to July), and is best eaten fresh and hot at a rice cake shop or at the Dongmun Traditional Market. Restaurants around the market serve other island specialties, such as gogi-guksu (noodle soup with Heukdwaeji, a black pig species found on Jeju), jeonbok dolsot-bap (abalone hot stone pot rice), haemul-jeongol (seafood hot pot), and miyeok-guk (sea urchin seaweed soup).

What to Buy: At the Jeju Folk Arts Complex in Jeju, shop for handcrafted items such as flowing, persimmon-dyed galot clothing (cotton work wear), kat (Korean horsetail hair hat), bamboo charong (rice cake container), and ceramic jageundok (small pot) and danji (small jar).

What to Watch Before You Go: The Diving Women of Jeju: Part 1 (2012), a documentary by the Korea Tourism Organization and National Geographic Channel, provides a rare glimpse into the lives of Jeju’s remaining haenyeo, or sea women, and features scenes filmed at Jeju Global Geopark sites, such as Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak and Hallasan.

Helpful Links: Jeju Global Geopark and Visit Korea

Fun Fact: Wearing only simple weighted belts, wet suits, and masks (no flippers, air tanks, or snorkels), Jeju’s haenyeo can free-dive down 65 feet or more to collect seaweed, conch, abalone, octopus, and other sea creatures. Even more remarkable, most haenyeo working today are age 60 and older, and many have practiced their trade for several decades. Learn about the island’s haenyeo culture and traditions at the Haenyeo Museum.

 

 

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