The World’s 10 Best Bars, According To The People That Judge Them…

From Gilbert Ott at GodSaveThePoints – and who the trek am I to disagree?!  😉

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A martini is not just a martini. A Manhattan is not just a Manhattan. Mixology is the art of creating the perfect drink- from classic staples to cocktail trends yet to be realized. When it comes to this highly competitive pursuit, a few bars have separated themselves from the pack- offering other worldly service, bespoke liquors and recipes you’ll only find in house. Here are the world’s best cocktail bars- according to people who research and judge that kinda thing. Just don’t confuse them with the world’s best rooftop bars

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  1. The American Bar– London, UK
  2. The Dandelyan – London, UK
  3. The NoMad Bar– New York, USA
  4. The Connaught Bar– London, UK
  5. The Dead Rabbit– New York, USA
  6. The Clumsies– Athens, Greece
  7. Manhattan Bar– Singapore 
  8. Attaboy– New York, USA
  9. Bar Termini– London, UK
  10. Speak Low– Shanghai, China

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Ok let’s pause for a moment. Of all the bars in the world- the best five of them are only found in London or New York? Amazing! Cocktail culture in both cities is as historic as it is progressive, and while it’s shocking not to see any other cities in the top 5, it’s pretty impressive from both world class destinations. If your travel plans do not include London, New York, Athens, Shanghai or Singapore- fear not. The rest of the World’s To 50 Bars List includes other great cities and bars like Tokyo, Paris, Mexico City Miami, Oslo, Melbourne, Buenos Aires and more. You’ll just have to drink your way around the world. Is alcohol tourism a thing..?

HT: Worlds50BestBars

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Travel Anywhere in the World (From Start to Finish) for $1,000

This is a great post from Nomadic Matt.  I looked at some of the comments made by other trekkers and I’ve got to say I was disappointed by a couple: they moaned that the $1,000 spend is predicated on collecting points or air miles – ie travel hacking – but as Matt rightly points out, you will be earning these rewards every time you book, and if you’re canny you can get some amazing deals.  So don’t whinge about Matt’s starting premise – just get out there and enjoy travelling!        –  Ned

Ned Bond, trekker


traveling the world on a tight budget

Wouldn’t it be great to travel anywhere in the world for $1,000 or less? And I don’t mean just the cost of getting there. I mean your entire vacation from the time you step out your door to the time you get back. How great would it be to take a one- or two-week trip anywhere for that?

Decades upon decades of marketing by expensive hotels, cruises, and resorts has left us with the cultural notion that travel is expensive. Despite all the blogs, apps, websites, and Instagram accounts out there, too many people still don’t believe that travel can be cheap.

I get that. We’ve been conditioned by big brands and companies for ages to believe this repeated message, and it takes a while to shed that belief.

But we’re currently in a golden age of travel, thanks to cheap flights, travel hacking, and the sharing economy. We are seeing a revolution in travel that is allowing people to bypass the traditional travel gatekeepers of old — the ones who kept prices high — and travel frugally without sacrificing comfort.

It’s no longer a stark choice between cheap backpacker hostels and fancy resorts.

In fact, it’s actually really easy to travel well on a budget these days.

Today, I want to introduce the concept of the $1K trip. A thousand dollars can get you far — no matter where you want to go.

While there are many ways to travel cheaply, thanks to traveling hacking or extreme budgeting, this concept is about something more middle-of-the-road. It’s not about going away with no money or traveling on $10 or $20 a day. It’s for those of us in the middle, who have day-to-day jobs and want to travel more but always feel like we lack the resources to do so.

A thousand dollars is a lot of money, but it’s not an impossible amount of money for most of us. It’s saving $2.74 per day for a year. Most of us can save $2.74 a day.

So how do you begin?

First, flip the script. I know I’ve said this before, but if you wake up today and tell yourself, “I can’t travel because of X,” you’ll never look for ways to start traveling. You will only see roadblocks: bills, flight costs, car payments, other obligations, or whatever your “But…” is. I’m not trying to be patronizing — and I definitely recognize not everyone has the means or desire to travel — but you have to ask yourself in earnest, “How do I make travel a reality?”

You need to wake up tomorrow and say, “Yes, I can travel, too — and I am going to make it happen!”

Once you start believing it’s possible, you start looking for ways to make it possible. I’m not talking about that BS from The Secret, where you manifest a winning lottery ticket. I’m talking about thinking of the practical steps you can take from day one that will bring you closer to your travel goals.

Look at your day-to-day spending and the spending choices you make.

How much would you save if you bought a Brita filter instead of a daily bottle of water? Or gave up Starbucks, cooked more of your own food, and drank less alcohol? What if you gave up cable? Downgraded your phone plan? Walked to work? Sold your unneeded stuff on eBay?

Even if it takes you a year to save, it’s better to start today than tomorrow.

I always look at expenses and go, “I can have these new jeans or another fancy dinner — or I could have another week on the road.” I have friends who complain about not being able to travel then go buy $300 sunglasses. Not everyone can save a ton of money or even has the means to travel all the time, but with enough time and dedication, the majority of us can get somewhere. When I worked with Dianne during our case study program, she was a big casual spender but prioritizing travel in her mind helped her dramatically increase her savings.

Second, it’s important to remember that traveling on a limited budget requires planning.

For example, a few years ago I took a trip to London for $700. I knew I had ten days, didn’t care where I slept, and was content with drinking only a little, taking public transportation, and sticking to the free attractions. I only cared about eating and having fun with friends. Everything else was secondary. Knowing myself allowed me to make the most of my limited funds — and figure out how much I needed in the first place. I could plan the exact amount I needed to save because I had a rough idea of how much I would spend.

Break your trip down into small manageable goals. Don’t think about the 1,000 steps it takes to get to where you want to go. Think about the step right in front of you. What is ONE thing you can do today to get closer to your trip? What about the ONE thing you can do tomorrow?

Once a trip is broken down into smaller steps it becomes a lot more doable.

I want to use two example trips — a week in French Polynesia and two weeks in Australia — to illustrate the concept of the $1K vacation. (I’m picking expensive places so no one thinks I’m trying to cop out by using cheap destinations!) The same techniques I used to go to London for $700 are the same ones that apply to the trips below.

Example 1: French Polynesia

How to travel anywhere
OK, French Polynesia here we come! Well, French Polynesia is an expensive destination that has many rich residents and caters to higher-end tourists, and as such, even if you want to be basic and live like a local, you’ll find that prices for everything are at a premium.

But where there is a will, there is a way.

Flights
The cornerstone of budget travel is collecting points and miles, i.e., travel hacking. Reducing the cost of a flight to zero is the best way to reduce the cost of your trip. And, for any expensive destination, you will definitely need to travel hack. With flights running $1,600-1,950, French Polynesia under $1K is impossible without using miles to cover your expenses.

(Note: I won’t go into much detail in this post on how to get airline miles for your flight because that’s a whole other long post, which can be found here or here or here. I talk a lot about travel hacking on this website, and while the idea of collecting miles can be intimidating, it’s quite easy to do in relatively few months — even if you don’t fly a lot! For the purpose of this article, I’m going to assume you have or know how to get miles.)

To get to French Polynesia from the US, you can fly one of two airlines: Air France or Air Tahiti Nui (both have direct flights).

You can book Air France flights on any one of the below carriers. Here’s how many miles you’ll need:
award chart for tahiti flights

If you want to fly Air Tahiti Nui, you’d need this many miles:
award chart for tahiti flights

The only downside to using miles: award availability isn’t abundant on these flights. The above numbers are for “saver” awards (award tickets that need fewer miles) but sometimes only regular award tickets with higher mileage requirements are available, so you’ll need to keep that in mind.

Accommodation
Hotel award redemptions are often expensive in French Polynesia because the resorts are so luxurious. Therefore, I’d suggest lowering your overall accommodation costs by mixing up your stay with hotels, Airbnbs, or B&Bs. After all, you’re not going to French Polynesia without at least spending a night or two at a fancy resort, so we have to include at least a few nights there! Here are the typical award prices (you earn these points the same way you do as airline miles):

award chart for tahiti flights
(Note: Air Tahiti Nui offers a free ferry shuttle from the airport for anyone who isn’t staying at a fancy resort. Most guesthouses offer free transfers from where the shuttle drops you off.)

After a couple of nights redeeming hotel points for a fancy bungalow (if you have tons of hotel points, then by all means, keep staying for free!), I would switch to an Airbnb. Airbnb private rooms cost 4,000-6,000 XPF ($40-60 USD) per night, while an entire apartment (most come with pool access) will only cost you 6,000-9,900 XPF ($60-100 USD) per night. The only thing is, the Airbnbs are pretty much all located in and around the capital, so you’re not going to get too many luxurious beachfront places.

How this would apply elsewhere: Use a mix of points, hostels, Airbnbs, Couchsurfing, or even house sitting to lower your costs. More information can be found here.

Food
Food isn’t cheap in French Polynesia since most has to be expensively imported and those who visit tend to have money to burn. If you eat at the resorts and hotels, you’ll pay at least 2,500 XPF ($25) or more for a meal. At an upscale restaurant, expect to pay around 4,500 XPF ($45). A meal in a casual restaurant will cost around 2,200 XPF ($22 USD). A fast-food meal is about 1,000 XPF ($10) while a beer is around 600 XPF ($6 USD). However, by eating from the local snack bars on the road, you’ll only pay around 1,000 XPF ($10 USD) per day for food. If you plan on buying your own groceries, expect to spend at least 8,000-10,000 XPF ($80-100 USD) per week on food.

I’d avoid drinking, stick to as many local snack bars as possible, make picnic lunches, and eat out only at dinner to keep costs down.

How this would apply elsewhere: Drink less, eat local food, grocery shop, skip fancy restaurants, and avoid eating in touristy areas. More information can be found here.

Activities
Not surprisingly, activities in French Polynesia are not cheap either. Diving and other single-day water activities start at 11,000 XPF ($110 USD), with a two-tank dive costing 14,900-18,900 XPF ($150-190 USD). Surfing lessons, which generally last a few hours, cost around 13,000 XPF ($130 USD). Bike rentals are available almost anywhere and will cost 1,500-2,000 XPF ($15-20 USD) for a day. Whale-watching tours will cost around 11,500 XPF ($112 USD). I’d focus on one or two activities while here.

Sample Budget for French Polynesia
How to travel to tahiti budget

You could save more points, drink less, and even add more money to your food budget. Point is: French Polynesia suddenly became a lot more affordable! It’s pretty easy to go to French Polynesia for $1K. Using a mix of travel hacking, local restaurants, Airbnb, and doing only a few activities, you can visit here without sacrificing comfort.

Example 2: Australia

How to travel anywhere
Australia is often a place where budgets go to die — but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can still get you pretty far if you know a few tips and tricks. With your flight out of the way (see below), you would have $71 USD (88 AUD) per day ($1,000 divided by 14 days). You have to be a little bit more frugal than in French Polynesia but it’s doable.

Flights
First, I would use points for the flight the way I would for French Polynesia. That takes care of your flight, and even though award flights are not abundant, you can still find some availability. Here is a list of airlines — and the miles needed — to fly directly to Australia:

award chart for tahiti flights

In reality, saver award tickets for direct flights to Australia are hard to come by. They aren’t there often. You might be better off going indirectly. There are a lot of ways to get to Australia if you look at having a connection than going direct. I connected through Abu Dhabi, while a friend connected through Hong Kong, and another through Japan. I even had a friend fly via Chile once to save on miles.

Accommodation
Accommodation in Australia is pricey: even hostel dorms can be as high as 30-40 AUD ($24-32 USD) per night. Luckily, once you get out of the big cities, prices drop, and there are a lot of Couchsurfing hosts in the country. If that’s not your jam and you don’t want dorms, you can find rooms on Airbnb for 44-75 AUD ($35-60 USD) per day.

To keep your accommodation costs down, I would use a mix of hostels, Couchsurfing, and Airbnb. If you’re traveling in a group, Airbnb will allow you to really lower your per person costs the most. You can find entire apartments for as low as 164 AUD ($132 USD), and if you can squeeze 3-4 people into that, your per person price is only 41 AUD ($33 USD)! If you’re alone or a couple, then I would try to Couchsurf as much as possible (plus you get a kitchen too!)

How this would apply elsewhere: Use a mix of points, hostels, Airbnbs, Couchsurfing, or even house-sitting to lower your costs. More information can be found here.

Food
Food isn’t cheap in Australia, and keeping this cost down is going to be the hardest part of your trip. However, if you lower your food (and drink) expenses, you can stay under $1K. Most decent restaurant entrees cost at least 20 AUD ($16 USD). Grab-and-go places cost around 8-10 AUD ($6.50-8 USD) for sandwiches. Fast food is around 15 AUD ($12 USD) for a meal (burger, fries, soda). The best value foods are the Asian and Indian restaurants, where you can get a really filling meal for under 10 AUD ($8 USD).

The best way to reduce your costs is to cook as many meals as possible. If you do so, expect to pay 100 AUD ($80 USD) per week for groceries (pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foodstuffs). Moreover, with drinks running 8-15 AUD ($6.50-12 USD) each, I’d avoid drinking out if possible. Buy beer at the store.

How this would apply elsewhere: Drink less, eat local food, grocery shop, skip fancy restaurants, and avoid eating in touristy areas. More information can be found here.

Transportation
Traveling around the country is tough given the long distances. The easiest way to get around the country in such a short period of time is to fly. There are often some last-minute flight deals on Tiger Airlines and Virgin. But even regular fares are pretty good. For example, Brisbane to Cairns is only 107 AUD ($86 USD) and Melbourne to Sydney is only 67 AUD ($54 USD).

Compare that to bus fares via Greyhound:

  • Brisbane – Cairns: 320-374 AUD ($258-300 USD)
  • Melbourne – Sydney: 120 AUD ($96 USD)
  • Sydney – Cairns Unlimited Pass (i.e., the whole eastern coast, 44 stops): 429 AUD ($345 USD)

If you had more time and could stop often along the way, the unlimited pass would be better — but you don’t have that time, so cramming that $429 USD into two weeks doesn’t make sense.

I’d also consider ride-sharing via websites like Gumtree or Jayride, or hostel message boards. Lots of people rent vans and are always looking for people to split the cost of gas. You can also drive yourself. Camper van rentals start at 60 AUD ($48 USD) per day and can also double as places to sleep (thus saving more money). If you are traveling with friends, it’s smart to buy a used car or camper van (or rent a new one from one of the many rental companies) and split the cost of gas.

I’d probably take a few flights and then a few ride-shares. If I were in a group or liked driving, I’d rent a van to lower the cost per person. That way you save time on the long distances and still enjoy the country from the ground too! As much as I love driving across Australia, it’s better suited when you can break up the journey when you have more time.

Activities
Activities will really ruin your budget in Australia. For example, a one-day trip to the Great Barrier Reef can cost 230 AUD ($185 USD), while a two-night sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands can cost upwards of 540 AUD ($435 USD). A three-day trip to Uluru from Alice Springs is around 480 AUD ($386 USD). Luckily, there’s a bunch of free walking tours and activities in cities, but if you’re looking for that once-in-a-lifetime adventure, you’re going to pay for it!

To lower costs, I’d do a lot of solo hiking and trips, free walking tours, and one or two big-ticket items.

Sample Budget for Australia
How to travel to australia budget

Again, this is a sample budget and it takes a little more effort to watch the pennies in Australia, but it’s doable to travel there and not spend a lot of money. There are incredible free activities, cheap groceries, and ways to get around on a budget. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I am saying it’s not impossible.

***

When you travel like you live, you can visit anywhere. Taking an entire vacation for less than $1,000 is completely doable. Stop thinking about travel as this big, expensive thing and start thinking about it more practical terms. Think about the steps to make your trip happen. A thousand dollars isn’t nothing – and it may take a long time to save that amount – but it’s not the multiple thousands the media makes travel out to be!

“I don’t have the money to go” is a limiting belief.

When you start looking for ways to say yes, when you start breaking travel down step-by-step and look for ways to save, the world is truly your oyster.

Matt’s Addendum: After some feedback, I want to clarify something: Yes, this requires points and miles that have to be earned prior to your trip. However, since those can be earned without spending extra money, I don’t view that as an added cost since it doesn’t require to spend more money than you would to get them. Additionally, I picked two expensive destinations that require points and miles but if you were to go closer to home or to a cheaper place, the need for points would be far less. I recently saw a $450 R/T flight from the US to Thailand. At $50 a day, you could still go for 12 days, use no points, and not break the $1k barrier.

 

 

Destination Inspiration: Ten of the World’s Most Legendary, Gorgeous Beaches…

So reckons the extremely well-trekked Gilbert Ott, editor of Godsavethepoints – and I must say I’m finding it hard to disagree with him!


City breaks are cool, cultural holidays are fun, but it’s hard to beat an nice cold refreshing drink on a gorgeous sandy beach with the shades on. If you’ve been spinning the globe looking for the perfect place to spend your hard earned holiday cash, it’s tough to pass up these beaches, which are arguably ten of the most stunning you’ll find anywhere in the world…

Horseshoe Beach, Bermuda

Believe it or not, there really is an island where the sand is pink: it’s called Bermuda. This particular stretch of beach features a hidden cove where you find tourist free, untouched beauty.

Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia

If the beach is crowded, just hit the amazing sand bar a few feet out. Shallow water, rolling hills, white sand and all the glory of an Australian holiday. Sold.

Honopu Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Pink sand, girly. White sand, standard. Black sand? Very cool! Honopu beach, amongst many of Hawaii’s best beaches, features volcanic black sand, creating one of the most unique experiences in the world against crystal blue water….

Pansy Island, Mozambique

Want to escape the world? Well this is about as “secluded” as you can get, requiring a plane and then a boat to bring you to these remote islands, only a few of which are inhabited…

Honopu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

If black sand is a bit extreme for your taste, perhaps one of these remote, hike-worthy beaches protected by massive rock formations. It’s worth the “trek”…

Temea Beach, Moorea, French Polynesia

You know life is tough when you’re choosing between Moorea and Bora Bora. If you opt to go the Moorea route, you’ll definitely want to hit Temea Beach, featuring water with color so pristine it makes pools envious. There’s plenty of soft sand and rugged terrain as well…

El Nido Beach, Palawan, Philippines

A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, probably worthy of enticing you to buy a $1000 plane ticket. El Nido beach is one of the most secluded, gorgeous beach areas, with lush greenery juxtaposing the surreal blue ocean and white sand. Simply paradise.

Long Beach, Koh Phi Phi Island, Thailand

Thailand’s beaches are so sought after the country is having to crack down on tourism. The Phi Phi Islands offer one of the most “Instagram” worthy settings. You’ll just want to arrive early to avoid the boats of people trying to get in on the amazing action. Unless you enjoy people…

Whitehaven Beach, Queensland, Australia

If there’s one thing to learn from this post, Queensland is worthy of a bucket list spot. With two beaches on the list (for obvious reasons shown above) you’ll find all the sand, snorkelling and surfing fun you could ever dream of.

Until then, keep dreaming…

“Where To Go When”: Lonely Planet reveals the best places to visit every month of the year

This handy book provides expert advice, activity ideas and inspiring photos on the best places to holiday every month.  Experts present trip ideas for everyone, whether you’re a fan of adventure, culture, history, nature, sightseeing and wildlife; and the 12-month calendar of suggestions helps travellers to avoid the crowds and get the most out of their chosen destination.

Lonely Planet’s Where to go When, the ultimate trip planner for every month of  the year, is a beautifully illustrated book that is both practical and inspiring. For every month of the year it presents 30 recommendations of destinations that are at their best during each month, whether due to their climate, or value, or simply because there’s a lot going on.

The suggestions feature every flavour of travel experience, from culture-rich city breaks and tropical beach holidays to adventurous road trips and wildlife-watching expeditions. Every corner of the planet is covered so you’ll find out when the best time to see mountain gorillas is or to go shopping in Paris.

The book is organised by month. At the start of each chapter a flowchart guides you through the options so readers can filter the recommendations according to their interests. Whether you’re into beaches, trying the local specialities or backpacking off the beaten path, there will suggestions for you. Diagrams also depict the climate, value for money and family friendliness of each suggestion in the month.

Read on for some of the monthly highlights.  (Photos courtesy of Mail Online)

January

What a way to start the year: Visit Dove Lake, which was formed by glaciation in Tasmania. Behind it sits Cradle Mountain

What a way to start the year: Visit Dove Lake, which was formed by glaciation in Tasmania. Behind it sits Cradle Mountain

The destinations that Lonely Planet recommends travellers head to in January include Uganda, Florida, Lanzarote, Switzerland, Sydney, Slovenia, Kerala in India, Grenada, Honshu in Japan, Guatemala and the Arctic Peninsula.

This month is also the time for nature fans to visit the southern Serengeti in Tanzania to watch thousands of grazing wildebeest or to explore the empty beaches and nature trails in full bloom in Australia’s Tasmania.

Other highlights this month include the Hay literary festival in Colombia, cruising through Myanmar under a balmy sun and taking in Vienna’s glamorous winter balls.

February

Follow in Santa's sleigh trails: A visit to Finnish lapland in February is the perfect time to see the spectacular aurora borealis

Follow in Santa’s sleigh trails: A visit to Finnish lapland in February is the perfect time to see the spectacular aurora borealis

For February, Ibiza, the Gambia, Michoacan in Mexico, the Indian Ocean, Cambodia, Singapore, Haiti, Venice and Quebec are among the top picks.

Lonely Planet also encourages travellers to embrace the chill in Iceland, Lapland and Andorra this month as conditions are ideal for hiking, skiing and to see the Northern Lights.

The weather, meanwhile, is glorious in Honduras, which offers affordable diving. And it’s carnival season in Rio de Janeiro – and the bodegas of Mendoza, Argentina, are open with enticing wine tours and tastings.

March

First splash of spring: Unwind in Tobago at the dreamy Pigeon Point Beach where even the palm trees are laid back

First splash of spring: Unwind in Tobago at the dreamy Pigeon Point Beach where even the palm trees are laid back

Sicily, Cyprus, South Africa, Tyrol in Austria, the Maldives, Chile, Costa Rica, Banff in Canada, Savannah in the US, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Trinidad and Tobago are among the most desirable destinations for March travellers.

Other picks include watching grey whales migrating off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, spotting Shere Khan big cats in Madhya Pradesh, India, or encountering Sichuan pandas in China during this month.

Creative event South by South West (SXSW), meanwhile, will add a crackling energy to Austin, US, in March and Iguazu Falls straddling Brazil and Argentina will be even more jaw-dropping than usual as the waterfall is in full flow at this time of year.

April

A spicy spring escape: Sun, sand and sea await discovery at Thailand's tropical beaches overlooking the Andaman Sea

A spicy spring escape: Sun, sand and sea await discovery at Thailand’s tropical beaches overlooking the Andaman Sea

For April escapes, the travel experts suggest Panama, the Phillippines, Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand, the Alps, the Lake District, Belize, Melbourne, Brussels, Nepal, St Lucia and Andalusia in Spain.

Cultured travellers can explore Jordan’s ancient attractions while camping in the desert at this mild time of year. It’s also an inspiring time to see the colourful flowers of sakura (cherry blossom) season in Japan.

Spring is also ideal for driving along California’s breath-taking, traffic-free coastal roads and to feel the heat on a thrilling beach break in Thailand during the nation’s new year celebrations, Lonely Planet says.

May

A nature lover's paradise, Montenegro has rivers, seas and slopes, ripe for exploration in mild May

A nature lover’s paradise, Montenegro has rivers, seas and slopes, ripe for exploration in mild May

May is an idyllic month for shoulder season travel with the Lonely Planet experts selecting Bermuda, Samoa, Morocco, Peru, Cornwall, North Island in New Zealand, Loire Valley in France, Israel, Prague, Cuba, Southern Namibia and the Amalfi coast in Italy as top picks.

The guide book has other picks for this month, too. A nature lover’s paradise, Montenegro has rivers, seas and slopes, ripe for exploration in mild May, while it’s also a good time to take advantage of the deserted beaches in Spain’s Galicia region before the other tourists arrive.

Other highlights of the month include hiking Ihlara Valley in Cappadocia, Turkey, sailing the fjords on the west coast of Norway and hitting the roads of northern Queensland for a picturesque tour.

June

Shutterbugs can make the most of the long summer days in Orkney, Scotland, and spend the summer solstice on the island

Shutterbugs can make the most of the long summer days in Orkney, Scotland, and spend the summer solstice on the island

Trip suggestions for June include Greenland, Jamaica, Iran, Sardinia, Cape Cod, Lisbon, Yosemite National Park, Bora Bora, the Canadian Rockies, South Luangwa National Park in Zambia and Rwanda.

And this month’s family friendly options include riding horses at Montana’s ranches, snorkelling at Ningaloo Reef in Australia and watching the turtles hatch in Borneo.

Shutterbugs, meanwhile, can make the most of the long summer days in Orkney and spend the summer solstice among the Scottish island’s historic attractions, while cultured holidaymakers can take in the Opera Festival in Verona this month.

July

Brazil's Pantanal wetland experiences its dry season during this month making it an ideal time to see an array of colourful animals, from toucans and macaws to elusive jaguars

Brazil’s Pantanal wetland experiences its dry season during this month making it an ideal time to see an array of colourful animals, from toucans and macaws to elusive jaguars

Ever fancied visiting Mongolia, the Baltic, Alaska, Japan, Zanzibar, the Himalayas, the Azores, Antigua or the Black Forest in Germany? Then July is the month to pencil it in.

And Brazil’s Pantanal wetland experiences its dry season during this month, making it an ideal time to see an array of colourful animals, from toucans and macaws to elusive jaguars.

It’s also a delightful month to explore the mountains of the Dolomites and during Australia’s winter you can take a cosy, wine-filled trip to Hunter Valley, travel the wild Atlantic way in Ireland or head for the beaches of the Ionian islands.

August

August is a gorgeous time to discover Umbria in Italy's rolling landscapes, medieval walled towns and rural retreats

August is a gorgeous time to discover Umbria in Italy’s rolling landscapes, medieval walled towns and rural retreats

Mid-summer options recommended by the Lonely Planet experts include Iceland, Zambia, Malawi, Sofia in Bulgaria, Ko Samui in Thailand, Berlin, Nova Scotia in Canada, Sweden, Ecuador, Champagne in France, Turkey and Papua New Guinea.

August is also a gorgeous time to discover the rolling landscapes, medieval walled towns and rural retreats of Umbria in Italy. Buenos Aires, meanwhile, is hosting its arts festival and the Cook Islands are looking their dreamy best this month.

And adventurous families should head to Pembrokeshire in Wales for surfing, cycling and mountaineering or go on a road trip around the Kimberly in Australia.

September

You can avoid the crowds by travelling in shoulder season where you'll find deserted beaches in a sun-drenched Corsica

You can avoid the crowds by travelling in shoulder season where you’ll find deserted beaches in a sun-drenched Corsica

The Silk Road in central Asia, Costa Brava, Tibet, Georgia, South Korea, the Cotswolds, South Africa, Provence, Arizona, Vermont and Sumatra and Java in Indonesia are all best enjoyed in September.

There are other great options, too. You’ll find deserted beaches in a sun-drenched Corsica and can take a moment to appreciate the autumn foliage brightening up Beijing and the Great Wall of China. There’s also often an Indian Summer to make the most of in hazy San Francisco.

And it’s a thrilling month to go rafting in New Zealand, hiking in Mont Blanc, on safari in northern Kenya, or cruising around the Moselle Valley in Germany.

October

With Vietnam experiencing monsoon seasons in both the winter and the summer, October has the perfect conditions for a stunning escape to highlights such as Halong Bay (pictured)

With Vietnam experiencing monsoon seasons in both the winter and the summer, October has the perfect conditions for a stunning escape to highlights such as Halong Bay (pictured)

Top picks for October travel itineraries include Fiji, the Seychelles, Slovakia, Lyon, Bolivia, Costa Verde in Brazil, New Mexico, the Scottish Highlands, New York and Taiwan.

And with Vietnam experiencing monsoon seasons in both the winter and the summer, October has the perfect conditions for a stunning escape to highlights such as Halong Bay.

There’s more.

During this month ‘clear mountain views’ can be enjoyed on visits to Darjeeling in India and Bhutan and Lonely Planet also recommends Oman as it is blessed with ‘mellow weather’ and ‘a taste of old Arabia’.

November

Sun-seekers should make a break for Barbados (pictured), Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands in the tail end of the year before the crowds arrive

Sun-seekers should make a break for Barbados (pictured), Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands in the tail end of the year before the crowds arrive

Nicaragua, the Cayman Islands, the Simien mountains in Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Tokyo and Honshu, South Africa, Oregon, Nepal, Dunedin in New Zealand, Ruka in Finland and Hong Kong are attractive vacation destinations for November.

Sun-seekers, meanwhile, should make a break for Barbados, Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands in the tail end of the year before the other beach bums arrive.

And November is a temperate time to explore Rajasthan and the Golden Triangle and it’s cool enough to climb the Mayan ruins at Ruta May in Guatemala. Abu Dhabi might also be an option if you’re into Formula One or want to explore the new crop of museums opening there, which include the Louvre and the Guggenheim.

December

If you want to start the new year on a natural high head for Southern Patagonia, Chile, at the ends of the Earth where the vast landscapes are a hiking paradise

If you want to start the new year on a natural high head for Southern Patagonia, Chile, at the ends of the Earth where the vast landscapes are a hiking paradise

Why not spend Christmas overseas? Lonely Planet recommends St Vincent and the Grenadines, Australia’s Sapphire coast, the Andaman Islands, Laos, Senegal, San Sebastian, Micronesia and Tenerife in December.

And this month need not be dreary as there are winter wonderlands to discover in Arctic Sweden, Jasper in Canada, Breckenridge in the US or on the Glacier Express in Switzerland.

Fans of winter markets will be enthralled with Tallin in Estonia’s offerings, and Scotland and New Orleans are top destinations for a lively New Years’ Eve. Or if you want to start the new year on a natural high head for Morocco’s stunning Sahara desert or Southern Patagonia, Chile, at the ends of the Earth. These vast landscapes are a hiking paradise.

Book details:

ISBN: 9781786571939 Language: English
Authors: Sarah Baxter, Paul Bloomfeild
320 pages, 320 pp colour | Dimensions: 230mm x 270mm
Next edition due: Dec 2020

Ten Gorgeous (And Underrated) BUCKET LIST Destinations That Simply Don’t Look REAL…

Another great feature from Gilbert Ott and the GodSaveThePoints team.  It’s a great site with plenty of awesome travel tips and loads of great ways to save money for the serious traveller, but here’s something a bit different with some excellent “extraterrestrial” venues for the die-hard Star Wars fan like me* …malaysia-long-hair

* spot the wookiee anyone?!


Space travel is so “in” right now, but before you don your space suit in search of interstellar beauty, you’re gunna want to knock these unbelievable destinations (which don’t look real) off your bucket list. Here are ten exotic places down here on earth that will blow your mind…

Lake Natron, Tanzania

You’re not insane, this naturally hot spring in Africa is so “hot” it turned the water red.

Vatnajökull, Iceland

How about a city sized cave, made of pure glacier blue ice to spice up your winter travel?

Bromo Volcano, Java, Indonesia

Mars takes years to reach. In less than a days flight you can see terrain just like it in Java…

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone, Wyoming USA

Yep, those colors are totally real. Why? You can thank the pigmented Archaea.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand

Ultimate adventure? A boat ride in luminescent cave with light from tiny micro creatures…

Hang Son Doong Caves, Vietnam

In what looks like the set of a Star Wars film, these Vietnamese caves literally look unreal.

Lencois Maranhenses Park, Brazil

If you think you’re seeing an endless sea of unique sand bars and water, you’re not wrong.

Namib Naukluft Park, Namibia

Why travel to Mars and risk getting stuck like Matt Damon when you could just go here?

Wulinyuang Vista, China

Though I wouldn’t try building an airport here, the views are breathtaking…

Farafra White Desert, Egypt

Sure, we’ve seen desert, but white desert, with crazy rock wonders?

 

 

7 Remote Islands That REALLY Want You To Move There

Whether it’s the changing seasons, the impending election, or just itchy feet and a need to see the world, there are many reasons to harbour a dream of up and moving far away. If you have ever imagined giving island life a shot, you might be pleased to hear that Huffpost has found several isles out there where you might just make that dream a reality.

Faced with rapidly declining populations, islands around the world from the South Pacific to North Atlantic are actively recruiting people to come and settle. You could teach in Hawaii, work in New Zealand’s dairy industry, help out at a Canadian store or simply live out your Wicker Man fantasies in Scotland.

Below, discover seven islands that would love to have you (visa, of course, permitting).

island-wallpaper-odd

 


PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Inishturk, Ireland The prospect of a certain narcissistic businessman entering the White house has doubtless informed more than a few Americans’ searches for new homes. A warm Irish welcome awaits those who accept the island of Inishturk’s offer of refuge to Americans who are considering leaving the country if Donald Trump is elected president. The island, which is about nine miles off the coast of County Mayo, has seen its population plummet to just 58 people. An enticing video, cannily named Make Inishturk Great Again, introduces viewers to the charms of the island.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Inishturk, Ireland (continued) “I’ve heard there are quite a few people in America looking to move to Ireland and other countries if Donald Trump becomes president,” the island’s development officer, Mary Heanue, told Irish Central. “I’d like them to know that we’d love to see them consider moving over here. Although winters can be hard and it’s the kind of life that wouldn’t necessarily suit everyone, they’d find it very peaceful here and they’d soon find out there’s nowhere as nice in the world on a summer’s day than here.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Easdale, Scotland Just slightly more populated (it’s home to 70 people), the Scottish island of Easdale made its own video last year to try to encourage people to relocate. Named A Wild Community, the eight-minute film eschews politics in favor of focusing on the island’s gems: its stunning scenery, warm people, and, perhaps most charmingly, its stone-skimming championships.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Easdale, Scotland (continued) Off the west coast of Scotland, Easdale is the smallest permanently inhabited island of the Inner Hebrides. Having seen its community decline since the collapse of its slate-mining industry in the late 19th century, the island is appealing for young people looking to make a new start. Some, such as Edinburgh transplant Keren Cafferty, who spoke to The Guardian, see Easdale’s future as a self-sustaining island that offers an alternative, anti-consumerist model of life. It also has a little star quality: Florence + The Machine shot the video for “Queen Of Peace” there in 2015.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Cape Breton, Canada In August of this year, a general store on a small Canadian island became inundated with thousands of applications after its owners offered two acres of land and a job to anyone willing to move there. The Farmer’s Daughter Country Market in the village of Whycocomagh on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia launched an appeal for staff, saying it could not offer “big money,” but it did have “lots of land.”

Successful applicants willing to make the move would be provided with two acres on which to live, theirs to keep if they stay working at the store for more than five years. “We are an established business in the heart of Cape Breton, rich in jobs, land, and potential, but no people,” the Facebook advertisement read.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Cape Breton, Canada (continued) This is not the first time Cape Breton has taken an innovative approach to try to encourage new arrivals. Earlier this year, it launched a PR campaign encouraging Americans fearful of the possibility of a Trump presidency to move to the island.

PHOTO: VIA @CJG_1.

Tanera Mór, Scotland If you have a spare £1,950,000 ($2,490,000) you could have an entire Scottish island to yourself. That’s the hugely discounted price being asked for Tanera Mór, one of Scotland’s 17 Summer Isles, located off the northwest coast and thought to have been the inspiration behind cult movie The Wicker Man. Tanera Mór was the last inhabited island on the archipelago, but the final residents (and owners) moved to the mainland in 2013 and cut the island’s selling price by more than half a million pounds.

PHOTO: VIA @CJG_1.

Tanera Mór, Scotland (continued) With still no takers, the owners are now offering the option of dividing the 1.25-square-mile island into three lots, with the smallest going for just £430,000. Besides the movie connection, Tanera Mór is also famed as the only Scottish island to operate a year-round private postal service. The Summer Isles Post Office issues two stamps for mail leaving the island — a Tanera Mòr stamp for it to leave the isle to the mainland, and a Royal Mail one for the rest of journey. The island’s real estate listing also highlights its “coastline of approximately seven miles encompassing numerous cliffs, coves, and beaches; innumerable perfect picnic spots interspersed with fresh water lochans; and wonderful waters in which to swim, sail and fish.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Pitcairn, South Pacific You might be surprised to hear that the tiny South Pacific island — with its beaches, palm trees, and year-round sun — is having trouble attracting people to live there. But with a dwindling population of less than 50, Pitcairn is so keen to attract new residents, it will give you your own plot of land if you move there.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Pitcairn, South Pacific (continued) You would have to be fairly self-sufficient, however, as there are no jobs on offer, and you would also need to prove you possess some skills that would benefit the island. Pitcairn’s sole shop is open three times a week, and food from the nearest neighboring country, New Zealand — 3,000 miles away — has to be ordered three months in advance. Internet is available, though, and island representative Jacqui Christian says: “It is a special place, and it is beautiful seeing the stars without light pollution. There are the bluest waters you have ever seen.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

South Island, New Zealand More money burning a hole in your pocket? Head for New Zealand’s South Island, where $165,000 will get you a plot of land in the pretty town of Kaitangata. Life is good in Kaitangata, population 800, where youth unemployment totals two.

“Not two percent — just two unemployed young people,” Clutha district Mayor Bryan Cadogan told The Guardian this summer. Nevertheless, there are jobs that the town needs to fill, specifically in the admittedly unglamorous industries of dairy processing and freezing works.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

South Island, New Zealand (continued) If you think you’d be a good fit for one of the 1,000 vacant jobs (and can swing a New Zealand work visa) you can take advantage of a recruitment scheme that involves offering house and land packages for just NZ $230,000 ($165,000).The man organizing the effort is a dairy farmer named Evan Dick, who says: “This is an old-fashioned community, we don’t lock our houses, we let kids run free,” he said. “We have jobs, we have houses, but we don’t have people. We want to make this town vibrant again, we are waiting with open arms.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Hawaiian Islands, USA Rather stay closer to home and avoid work-visa hassle? Keep an eye on Hawaii, which has been facing a teacher shortage for years and so regularly launches recruitment drives to attract qualified teachers from the mainland. Earlier this year, the state’s appeal for teachers was picked up and spread widely across the web, with some suggesting Hawaii would “pay you $60,000 to work in paradise.” That’s not quite the reality, however, and the Hawaii State Department of Education was not too pleased at being bombarded with applications from people who were unqualified to teach.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Hawaiian Islands, USA(continued) Donalyn Dela Cruz, Hawaii State Department of Education spokesperson, told NBC News: “Following a recent drive in April, false reporting and inaccurate blogging on social media led to a major influx of applications from people who just want to move to Hawaii. Many of these inquiries came from individuals who are not interested in teaching, but who just want to move to Hawaii under the false impression that the Department will pay for people to move here to live and work.”

Lesson: Check the fine print. It’s not always an easy ride to paradise.

 

 

The quirkiest holiday houses to rent around the world – revealed

Thanks to Mail Online Travel for these amazing rental ideas.

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Renting a holiday home and getting away from your own base every now and then is something we all look forward to – so why settle for the mundane?

It is perfectly feasible, for example, to make for the Scottish Highlands and snooze in a converted bus with its own little touches of luxury, including a hot tub, for only £150 a night. 

Or, head further afield and dig deep into your pockets for a £971-a-night five-bedroom rental in Orlando, Florida, which boasts themed kids’ rooms that include an indoor treehouse, a bed in a boat and a mini space station. 

Alternatively, on New Zealand’s South Island, you can venture into the wilderness and stay with a partner in a ‘pod’ made entirely from glass, offering views of the stars like no other.

You can also hunker down in a Croatian lighthouse looking out across the Istrian Peninsula, a hobbit-like dome in Bali, or a 1600s house in Derbyshire with a nautical themed playhouse on the lawn.

Here are ten wacky abodes from around the world that you can temporarily call home, all available on TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals.

The Bus Stop, East Lothian, Scotland

Make for the Scottish Highlands and snooze in this surprisingly spacious converted bus with its own little touches of luxury 

Make for the Scottish Highlands and snooze in this surprisingly spacious converted bus with its own little touches of luxury

You’d be forgiven for thinking a bus would only come in useful for getting you to and from your holiday accommodation – but that’s not the case with this creative property in eastern Scotland.

With a wood-burning stove, barbeque and hot tub, The Bus Stop offers a little more luxury than your average morning commute.

This hand-crafted accommodation has glass ceilings and is set on a working farm with panoramic views of the Lammermuir Hills.

Two bedrooms (sleeps four) from £150 per night (three-night minimum stay).

PurePod Cabin, South Island, New Zealand 

On New Zealand's South Island, you can venture into the wilderness and stay with a partner in this entirely glass 'pod'

On New Zealand’s South Island, you can venture into the wilderness and stay with a partner in this entirely glass ‘pod’

Can nature and comfort coexist?

They can with this state-of-the-art living capsule on New Zealand’s South Island. A biofuel fire is combined with glass roofing, flooring and walls to give you the ultimate view of the wilderness.

The only downside: no curtains means it’s not ideal for long lie-ins.

One bedroom (sleeps two), from £311 per night.

Theme Home, Orlando, Florida 

You’d have to dig deep into your pockets to rent this £971-a-night five-bedroom house in Orlando, Florida, which boasts themed kid’s rooms including the one

A treehouse and nautical and astronautical-themed bedrooms make this property a kid’s dream.

Located in a resort only six miles from Disney World, this pad sleeps 18 people and has a pool with an adjoined hot tub.

Other quirks include a pool table designed to look like a New York taxi, and a private movie room decorated with plastic trees and grass.

Five bedrooms (sleeps 18), from £971 per night (three-night minimum stay).

Lighthouse Villa, Pula, Croatia 

This quaint Croatian lighthouse looks out across the Istrian Peninsula, runs on solar power and collects rainwater in a tank

This quaint Croatian lighthouse looks out across the Istrian Peninsula, runs on solar power and collects rainwater in a tank

It boasts a roomy interior capable of sleeping up to eight people        Although secluded, the lighthouse can be reached by a small rural road

With views across the Istrian Peninsula plus a lighthouse, this unusual home runs on solar power and collects rainwater in a tank.

Steeped in history, the first light here was ignited on August 8, 1883, and was operational until the 1970s.

While blissfully secluded, this three-bedroom hideout is easily reached by car via a small country road.

Three bedrooms (sleeps eight), from £160 per night (seven-night minimum stay).

WisDome Villa, Lombok, Indonesia

The striking domed villas of this mini-village on the Indonesian island of Lombok have bedrooms with round-shaped beds

The striking domed villas of this mini-village on the Indonesian island of Lombok have bedrooms with round-shaped beds

The striking domed villas of this mini-village on the Indonesian island of Lombok offer peace, tranquillity and beautiful sea views.

Each bedroom dome is built on two floors and has king-sized round-shaped beds.

Boat transfers to Bali are available, while the world-famous Gili islands lie just five minutes away.

Two bedrooms (sleeps six), from £336 per night (four-night minimum stay)

Treehouse, Watamu, Kenya 

This spiralling Kenyan property provides a 360-degree panorama that includes both the native forest and the Indian Ocean

The living area has a colourful stained-glass wall and the property is topped with a thatched roof.

Conveniently, both self-catering and full-board options are available.

Three bedrooms (sleeps six), from £314 per night (two-night minimum stay).

Hag Hill Hall, Chesterfield, Derbyshire 

This lavish home in Chesterfield dates back to the 1600s, has two big living areas, a dining hall, and can sleep up to 18 people

This lavish home in Chesterfield dates back to the 1600s, has two big living areas, a dining hall, and can sleep up to 18 people

Hag Hill Hall also features a children¿s play boat sitting in the garden       

With two hot tubs and a large indoor swimming pool as well as a wealth of antiques, this lavish home in Chesterfield dates back to the 1600s.

The vast abode, set on an expansive green lawn, has two big living areas, a dining hall, and can sleep up to 18 people.

Also featuring a children’s play boat in the garden, Hag Hill Hall is the ultimate playcation.

Eight bedrooms (sleeps 18), from £685 per night (three-night minimum stay).

Villa Torno, Lake Como, Italy 

This Lake Como villa blends historical and modern themes, and looks over one of the most famous landscapes in the world

This Lake Como villa blends historical and modern themes, and looks over one of the most famous landscapes in the world

        Epic views from every room in the house

With a host of Hollywood stars residing on its shores, Lake Como has always attracted those with highly refined tastes.

This villa is a masterpiece of design, blending historical and modern themes to create a home as stunning as its location.

Highlights include a large wooden sauna and epic views from every room in the house.

Four bedrooms (sleeps eight), from £882 per night (three-night minimum stay).

Mykonian Passion, Mykonos, Greece 

Colourful accents at the Mykonian Passion villa light up its white stone exterior, which is fronted by a 20m-long infinity pool

Colourful accents at the Mykonian Passion villa light up its white stone exterior, which is fronted by a 20m-long infinity pool

Winding steps and cave-like passageways give it a hobbit-like charm       

Thanks both to the sand and rocks that surround the 20m long infinity pool sitting in front, and to the elegant interior design features, Mykonian Passion is a home truly in tune with its surroundings.

Colourful accents light up the otherwise white stone exterior, while winding steps and cave-like passageways give it a special charm.

Surrounding the property are gardens, olive trees and cacti plants scattered among the rocks, from which guests can enjoy splendid views across the Aegean sea.

Four bedrooms (sleeps eight), from £797 per night (five-night minimum stay).

15 Places that Look Like they’re on Another Planet

We can’t help but fantasize about galaxies far, far away. Luckily, Earth is full of surreal and otherworldly places that are just a plane ride away—no warp speed required. Thanks to CN Traveler for some awesome shots.


Bromo Volcano: East Java, Indonesia

Mount Bromo is perhaps the most well-known volcano in East Java’s Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, thanks to its accessibility and epic sunrise views.

Lake Natron: Monduli, Tanzania

This salt lake sure is beautiful to look at, but its hellish 120-degree temperatures and dangerously low pH levels make it a less-than-ideal vacation spot. There is one major upside: The surplus of scarlet-hued algae attracts millions of flamingos, making the area one of the species’ major breeding grounds.

Glowworm Caves: Waitomo, New Zealand

Leave it to New Zealand to make even worms look beautiful. The Waitomo Caves hold thousands of bioluminescent larvae that leave long strings of mucus (sounds gross, looks dazzling) and glow like a subterranean Milky Way.

Namib Naukluft Park: Namibia

Red sand dunes and skeletal trees make Namibia the closest thing we have to Mars on Earth. (Getty)

Wulingyuan Scenic Area: Zhangjiajie, China

Scenic might be an understatement: This 100-square-mile attraction contains thousands of sandstone pillars that are nature’s version of skyscrapers—some even stretch taller than the Empire State Building’s midpoint. It’s no wonder this site was a major inspiration for the world of Pandora in Avatar.

Hang Son Doong: Vietnam

Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong, the largest cave in the world, could hold an entire city block of Manhattan—including 40-story skyscrapers. It has its own lush vegetation where sunlight filters in from sinkholes above, and clouds even form near the ceiling when moisture condenses there. In other words, it’s practically its own little world lurking under the earth’s surface. (Alamy)

Jökulsárlón: Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland

The glacial lake of Jökulsárlón and its frozen beach are considered a natural wonder of Iceland, with black volcanic sands providing a stark backdrop for the chunks of ice that wash ashore.

Socotra, Yemen

With UFO-like dragon’s blood trees as its most notable feature, the island of Socotra looks like it was transported to Earth from a distant planet. (Getty)

Grand Prismatic Spring: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

As its name suggests, the largest hot spring in the United States is essentially a rainbow ring of vibrant colors.

Dos Ojos: Tulum, Mexico

This cavernous cenote with double entry points—hence the moniker “Two Eyes”—is so incredible it was featured in the IMAX flick Journey Into Amazing Caves and an episode of Discovery Channel’s Planet Earth. It’s perfect for snorkelers, experienced scuba divers, and daredevils willing to surface in the system’s bat cave.

Dallol, Ethiopia

A kind of geological wonderland of salt formations, acidic hot springs, and gas geysers, this visually stunning hydrothermal field vies for the title of world’s hottest spot with average summer highs reportedly hitting up to 114F°.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii

The 13,800-foot climb from Hilo’s beaches to the moonscape at the summit of Mauna Kea isn’t for the faint of heart. It is one of the longest sustained climbs on Earth, but it’s worth it to view the world as a land above the clouds.

Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley): Chile

Have you ever dreamed of exploring the moon? A trip to Valle de la Luna in Chile’s Atacama Desert is a much shorter flight. Years of erosion have left behind jagged peaks, dry riverbeds, and a landscape startlingly similar to that of our favorite celestial body’s.

Lencois Maranhenses National Park: Brazil

The geography of Brazil’s Lencois Maranhenses National Park is like nothing else on Earth. The rainy season (around early June) fills every trough with water and the world becomes an M. C. Escher print: It is either a drowned desert or a sandy lake, depending on how the mind’s eye frames what it is seeing.

White Desert: Farafra, Egypt

The landscape of the White Desert can be deceiving: What first appears to be a cool, snowy landscape is actually a mind-bendingly hot region of western Egypt. The desert is known for its wind-shaped chalk rock formations, which often resemble giant mushroom clouds frozen in time.

 

 

Top 21 Under-the-Radar Destinations

From Canada’s Yukon wilderness to the mountaintops of India, these unconventional holiday destinations found by BBC Travel will lead you off the beaten path and on to an adventure all your own.


Fermanagh Lakelands, Northern Ireland (Credit: Gareth Mccormack/Getty)

Fermanagh Lakelands, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s answer to the Lake District is blissfully unhurried, although the G8 summit being held here this June may bring it fame. Fermanagh is about one-fifth water, and most of that belongs to fickle Lough Erne – a lake in two parts. Upper Lough Erne is a watery maze of more than 150 islands, often difficult to recognise as a lake between its reedy bays and meandering backwaters. Lower Lough Erne however is a more traditional open body of water.

Many of its islands have a sacred legacy – on Devenish Island there are the remains of an Augustinian monastery, including a superb 12th-century round tower, and on White Island, six enigmatic Celtic stone figures greet visitors. The stately homes of Castle Coole and Florence Court are later additions to the area’s historic mix. Fermanagh’s waterways are choice spots for trout- and salmon-fishing, or for exploring by motorboat and canoe. Be sure to take in the view from the top of the Cliffs of Magho – a limestone escarpment running along the south of Lower Lough Erne. (Gareth Mccormack/Getty)

Yukon, Canada (Credit: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty)

Yukon, Canada

The Yukon is where Canadians go when the rest of the country feels a little too crowded. Hugging the border with Alaska, this area of wilderness that is twice the size of the UK has fewer residents than Liechtenstein – once you’ve discounted the caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, lynx and bald eagles. Interest in this region surged during the Klondike gold rush of 1896, but it soon reverted to normal, leaving just a few reminders of Canada’s version of the Wild West, such as the old prospectors’ town of Dawson City, and Jack London’s novels Call of the Wild and White Fang . In the south of the territory is the Kluane National Park – its icefields, which spill over into Alaska, are the largest outside the polar regions. Road trips across the Yukon make for an adventure, whether you take the historic and well-paved Alaska Highway, or the more rough-and-ready Robert Campbell Highway or Dempster Highway. Off road, canoe and kayak trips open up the Yukon River to exploration. (Alexander Hassenstein/Getty)

Inchcolm Island, Firth of Forth, Scotland (Credit: Scott Campbell/Getty)

Inchcolm Island, Firth of Forth, Scotland

With its ruined abbey spread across a verdant sliver of land, Inchcolm looks every bit the remote Scottish island, though it’s easier to reach than most – located in the middle of the Firth of Forth, it’s a mere half-hour boat ride from Edinburgh. The trip’s well worth making, as Inchcolm, often dubbed the ‘Iona of the East’, possesses the best-preserved monastic complex in Scotland. Founded in 1123 by Augustine monks and dramatically sited over a sandy bay, it offers an intriguing glimpse of hermetic life – and from its tower, rather more complete views over the Firth. The site has served as a hauntingly realistic venue for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s performance of Macbeth. Beyond the abbey, the island merits a wander – it’s riddled with tunnels, lookouts and bunkers from its time as a garrison in both WWI and WWII. Nowadays its only permanent inhabitants are animals – look out for puffins and grey seals basking on rocks. (Scott Campbell/Getty)

Kiso Valley, Japan (Credit: Judy Bellah/Getty)

Kiso Valley, Japan

Two hundred years ago, the thickly wooded Kiso Valley was one of the main routes through central Japan. It’s more out of the way these days, with the happy result that it preserves a number of old post stations along the Nakasendo – the mountain road, celebrated in the work of woodblock print artists, that ran from Edo (modern Tokyo) to Kyoto. The most attractive of the stations is Tsumago, where modern development has been restricted and dark-wood, lattice-fronted houses line the car-free main street. An hour or two is enough to browse the tasteful souvenir shops, sit down in a traditional restaurant or visit the former rest stop for retainers of travelling samurai lords, with its moss garden. It’s worth extending your stay however to take the five-mile hike along the route of the Nakasendo, past farmland, forest and waterfalls, which connects Tsumago to the village of Magome – another time capsule. (Judy Bellah/Getty)

Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park, California (Credit: Mark Rakston/Getty)

Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park, California

What is it about California and trees? Not content with having the world’s tallest (coast redwoods) and oldest (bristlecone pines), the state is also home to the largest tree by volume – the giant sequoia, which grows only to its full size in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Many of these behemoths are found in the Yosemite National Park, but for more quality time with the trees, it’s best to head south to Sequoia National Park, which gets a quarter of Yosemite’s visitor numbers. Quieter still is King’s Canyon National Park, adjacent to and run jointly with Sequoia. Besides the giant sequoias – including the daddy of them all, the General Sherman Tree – the parks feature a cleft deeper than the Grand Canyon (King’s Canyon itself), mountain trails and stalactite-draped caves. At the eastern edge of Sequoia is 4,421m-high Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the US outside Alaska. (Mark Rakston/Getty)

Providence, Rhode Island, USA (Credit: Kenneth C Zirkel/Getty)

Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the US – more like an English county in its expanse. Its capital, Providence, has many of the attractions of Boston, an hour’s drive away, but in a city a quarter of its size. Ivy League member Brown University and the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) give the city a strong student influence, dignified campus buildings and the impressive RISD Museum of Art. Providence has the only downtown area in the US that is listed in its entirety on the National Register of Historic Places and, up on College Hill, east of the Providence River, are leafy streets lined with 18th-century wood-framed houses. More colourful districts include Federal Hill, with its Italian restaurants and food shops, and Fox Point, home to a Portuguese community and increasing numbers of coffee shops and small galleries. Try to time your visit for one of the 10 or so weekends a year, between May and October, when 100 flaming braziers light up the city’s waterways during WaterFire. (Kenneth C Zirkel/Getty)

Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey (Credit: Chris Hondros/Getty)

Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey

A world away from cosmopolitan Istanbul or Turkey’s laid-back coastal resorts, little-visited Southeastern Anatolia deserves equal fame. Once the northern frontier of Mesopotamia (the ‘cradle of civilization’), the region encompasses an astonishing array of sites, reaching far back into human history. The recently excavated stone circles of Göbekli Tepe, for example, are thought to comprise the world’s oldest temple. Comparatively youthful at just a few millennia old are S ̧anlıurfa (‘the Prophet’s City’) – an ancient spiritual centre of mosques, shady courtyards and a labyrinthine bazaar – and the beehive houses of Harran. Equally captivating are Mardin, where golden stone houses look over sunbaked plains, and the colossal ancient statues that crowd a remote mountaintop at Nemrut Dag ̆ı. Several of these places are stops on the recently inaugurated Turkish section of Abraham’s Path, a 100-mile trail through sites linked to the prophet’s life, sleeping in homestays along the way. (Chris Hondros/Getty)

Arunachal Pradesh, India (Credit: AFP/Getty)

Arunachal Pradesh, India

Arunachal Pradesh, the ‘land of the dawn-lit mountains’, is surely high on any list of candidates for the mythical realm of Shangri-La. Sitting at a confluence of countries – India, Bhutan, Tibet and Burma – it has historically been inaccessible from any, an unknown place so remote that few of its thunderous Himalayan peaks have been named, let alone climbed. Now, however, easing travel restrictions and improved infrastructure ensure that this extraordinary place is ripe for exploring. Here, nature reserves teem with a diversity of wildlife unmatched in India, forests host delicately tattooed tribal peoples, and mountain valleys are dotted with majestic Buddhist monasteries, such as 400-year-old Tawang Gompa, one of the world’s largest. Be sure to visit the Mechuka Valley, a hitherto unexplored Buddhist realm amongst the towering, snow-draped mountains of the region’s remote west. Making the trip on the newly opened road is one of the most exciting adventures in India. (AFP/Getty)

Northwestern Tasmania, Australia (Credit: Universal Images Group/Getty)

Northwestern Tasmania, Australia

Long known for its apples, Australia’s island state of Tasmania is fast emerging as the country’s best destination for food, full stop. Its unspoilt countryside and pristine waters provide a bounty of lovingly-harvested local produce, much of it then served up within the state’s country-leading crop of restaurants. Tazzie’s northwest offers a choice of delicacies that’s hard to beat, from seafood and cider to chocolate, cheese and cool-climate wines. Amidst the rolling green hills of Deloraine you’ll find farms purveying cherries, raspberries and even organic salmon, while at laid-back King Island you can feast on bries, cheddars and pungent blue cheeses, plus crayfish and oysters from the surrounding ocean. Elsewhere, sample over 50 varieties of honey, including Tasmania’s creamy Leatherwood variety, at Chudleigh Honey Farm, or head to the vineyards and distilleries around scenic Barrington Lake for a glass of dry Pinot Noir or cider to wash it all down. (Universal Images Group/Getty)

Kosrae, Micronesia (Credit: Yvette Cardozo/Getty)

Kosrae, Micronesia

First of all, allow plenty of time to reach this island, whose nearest international connections are Honolulu and Guam. Kosrae (pronounced ‘ko-shrye’) is the easternmost of the 607 islands dotted across a million square miles of ocean that make up the Federated States of Micronesia. This isolation has at least one big bonus – the island is fringed with coral reefs that count as some of the most remarkable and undisturbed in the Pacific Ocean, sheltering groupers, lionfish and a host of other marine life. In summer, the visibility in the water can be an amazing 60 metres, enough to see the submerged remains of an American flying boat and a Japanese freighter sunk during WWII. The rainforest-covered interior and delightful beaches are also highlights of the island. The nearby islet of Lelu has jungle-covered ruins that look like a smaller version of the mysterious ‘lost city’ of Nan Madol, on the main Micronesian island of Pohnpei. (Yvette Cardozo/Getty)

Ávila, Spain (Credit: Javier Soriano/Getty)

Ávila, Spain

Pity the army that tried to take Ávila. Set on the cool, high plains of Castilla y León in central Spain, this historic bastion is a sight to behold. Thick, hulking walls loom 12 metres high in a crenellated ring around the city, interrupted only by a series of monumental embellishments: eight gates, dozens of towers and turrets in their thousands. Built in the 12th Century on top of the remains of earlier Roman and Muslim battlements, they rank among the best-preserved medieval walls in the world, and despite their age, can, in part, be walked along. Climb up for views over the snow-dusted mountains around Ávila, or the rooftops, spires and quiet medieval streets of this beautiful, deeply religious ‘city of saints and stones’. For the best view of the walls themselves, make for the plains around the city at night: you’ll see them snake like a golden ribbon through the undulating dark. (Javier Soriano/Getty)

Sylt, Germany (Credit: Patrik Stollarz/Getty)

Sylt, Germany

Sylt is no secret to German tourists, many of whom have been flocking here for years. It’s not hard to see why – this large anchor-shaped island in the North Sea combines wild romance with a distinctly civilised drinking and dining scene. Away from the glamorous excesses of its most popular corners, this is a place of quiet beauty, where red-thatched houses sit in flower-thick gardens and candy-striped lighthouses keep sentinel over green meadows and vast, shifting dunes. Head to the western coast for mile upon mile of secluded fine-sand beaches and dramatic surf, or wander east to the serene Wadden Sea, where gentle waters recede to reveal a natural haven of tidal mudflats. In the evening, tuck into local specialities at one of Sylt’s scores of eateries – from beach bistros to Michelin-starred restaurants, there’s no shortage of fine food. (Patrik Stollarz/Getty)

Meknès, Morocco (Credit: Abdelhak Senna/Getty)

Meknès, Morocco

While visitors pour into Marrakesh, Fez and Rabat, Meknès, the fourth and most modest of Morocco’s imperial cities is rather unfairly overlooked. With its maze of narrow streets, busy medina and wealth of grand buildings, it’s undoubtedly cut from the same beguiling cloth. Set amidst fertile plains below the Middle Atlas Mountains, Unesco-listed Meknès’s monuments include numerous palaces, 25 miles of historic walls, dozens of mosques (its nickname is ‘city of a hundred minarets’) and the vast, ornately-tiled Bab el-Mansour gate; located opposite Meknès’s lively medina, it’s the grandest in Morocco. Most of these date back to Meknès’s 17th and 18th Century glory days as the sultanate’s base. Nearby is a rather more ancient attraction: Volubilis, site of the largest Roman ruins in the country. With its partially restored buildings and beautiful, on-site mosaics, it’s unmissable. (Abdelhak Senna/Getty)

If you’re anywhere near the wonderful port of Tangiers, I can heartily recommend the stunning Grand Hotel Villa de France and gorgeous El Minzah – I’ve stayed at both. These historic properties are part of the Le Royal Hotels & Resorts group owned by Iraqi-born British businessman and philanthropist Sir Nadhmi Auchi.  – Ned

Byblos, Lebanon (Credit: Flickr/Getty)

Byblos, Lebanon

Though Byblos looks, at first glance, like simply a picturesque fishing harbour, beyond its shimmering waters you’ll also find a real historical heavyweight. This serene settlement north of Beirut has been around for a long time (some claim it’s the oldest continuously inhabited town in the world), during which it has featured in the Bible, been conquered by Crusaders and given the world the modern alphabet (courtesy of the sea-trading Phoenicians of the first millennium BC). Today, its many ages are well-represented in its patchwork of ruins, which include ancient temples and tombs and Neolithic houses. Three sites in particular steal the show: the reconstructed Roman amphitheatre, set on a cliff overlooking the sea; the imposing 12th-century Crusader castle, with its commanding views; and the beautifully restored medieval souq, where you can buy everything from antiques to fossils. That’s another few millennia ticked off, then. (Flickr/Getty)

Ned’s tip: for five star plus luxury and the best water park in the Med, treat yourself to Le Royal Hotels & Resorts – Beirut

Toruń, Poland (Credit: Janusz Leszczynski Photography/Getty)

Toruń, Poland

While WWII spelt devastation for many of Poland’s finest historic towns, Toruń – a walled medieval port on the Vistula river – miraculously escaped entirely intact. Today it continues, puzzlingly, to be overlooked, meaning that visitors have its wealth of glorious Gothic architecture largely to themselves. From towering churches to ornately decorated houses, the impressive red-brick buildings of its Unesco-listed old town form one of the best-preserved collections in northern Europe. Standouts include a light-filled cathedral that glitters with beautiful stained-glass windows, the medieval ruins of its castle and walls, and the 14th-century town hall – head up to its tower to enjoy sweeping views over the city. Directly below, the old town’s grand market square is a fine place to watch the world go by – grab a café table and sample Toruń’s signature snack of pierniki (gingerbread), famous country-wide. (Janusz Leszczynski Photography/Getty)

Jambiani Beach, Tanzania (Credit: Bruno Morandi/Getty)

Jambiani Beach, Tanzania

Even among Zanzibar’s embarrassment of powder-sand riches, Jambiani beach is a clear standout. Located on the island’s east coast, which is protected by offshore reefs, the beach is a long, palm-fringed sweep of fine coral sand sloping ever-so-gradually into a startlingly turquoise sea. This mesmerising landscape, one of the quietest places on the east coast, is also a good introduction to the age-old rhythms of rural Zanzibari life. Spread before the fishing village of Jambiani, a somnolent, sun-baked collection of coral and thatched houses, it’s animated by the daily routines of inhabitants. During the day, women gather seaweed and lay it in the sun to dry, ngalawa (outrigger canoes) bob in the shallows just offshore, and, at sunset, fishermen in dhows sail towards the reefs, the silhouettes of their triangular sails serrating the sky. Hitch a ride with one for unbeatable vistas of both beach and sea shimmering in the setting sun. (Bruno Morandi/Getty)

Arras, France (Credit: Philippe Huguen/Getty)

Arras, France

If the town of Arras in northeastern France rings any bells, it’s most likely to be for its position near the thick of frontline action in WWI. However, with its vertiginous belfry and colourful arcaded squares, the town exuberantly defies the expectations of its sombre history. Its two ancient market squares, the Grand Place and nearby Petite Place, are surrounded by a confectionery of Flemish-Spanish houses, pastel-hued, gaily decorated creations erected in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Together, their 350 or so columns form an arcade that’s unique in France. Petite Place is also the site of another focal point – the ornate city hall, whose Unesco-listed belfry shoots up 75m above Arras’s streets and offers heady views. Beneath the square is another site worth a visit: the historic souterrains (tunnels) that became British command posts, hospitals and barracks in WWI and which, each spring, blossom into a uniquely life-affirming garden. (Philippe Huguen/Getty)

Sãotomé and Príncipe (Credit: Tiago Petinga/Getty)

Sãotomé and Príncipe

São Toméans like to live life ‘leve leve’ (slowly and calmly) in this one-time Portuguese colony that was formed from two islands in the Atlantic, 150 miles from the African mainland and a six-hour flight from Lisbon. São Tomé Island is as tropical as can be – the equator passes through an islet off its south coast, and the volcanically formed interior shelters virgin rainforest and a huge variety of plant and bird species. Its smaller neighbour Príncipe is even more untouched. The islands produce some of the best cocoa and coffee in the world, and at lunchtime nothing can beat grilled fresh fish. Outside the modest capital, with its Portuguese-era buildings painted in ice-cream shades, there are beaches, hiking trails through the rugged landscape, and plantations. (Tiago Petinga/Getty)

Richmond, North Yorkshire, England (Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Richmond, North Yorkshire, England

There are more than 50 places called Richmond around the world, from a London borough to the state capital of Virginia, but the original can be found just outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park, in a prime spot on the River Swale. Since the days of the Normans, Richmond Castle has sat on a rocky outcrop above the river – one of the oldest stone fortresses in the country. The true heart of the town however is the straightforwardly named Market Place. Based on a charter from Elizabeth I, an outdoor market takes place here every Saturday (a farmers’ market on the third Saturday of the month) with a permanent indoor market off to one side. Cobbled streets fan out from the sloping, half-moon- shaped square, lined with handsome Georgian buildings and stone cottages, with glimpses of the dales beyond. (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Ikaria, Greece (Credit: Chris Christo/Getty)

Ikaria, Greece

If you’re after somewhere to eat, drink and unwind, look no further than Ikaria, a place so restorative that living to 100 years here is no big deal. No-one’s quite sure what accounts for residents’ exceptional longevity, but the sheer serenity of the place must have something to do with it (the hot springs probably help, too). A hilly isle in the northeast Aegean mostly bypassed by tourism, it’s strewn with crumbling ruins, secluded bays and tiny villages where residents gather to tell stories, play backgammon and drink. Vineyard-rich Ikaria’s a particularly fine place for this last pursuit, being the mythical birthplace of both Dionysus, god of wine, and of his favourite tipple. Enjoy its signature red over a plate of local produce in the cascading village of Karavostamo or in the easy-going port of Agios Kirykos. Summer is the best time to experience the joie de vivre of Greek island culture, when panigyria (all-night festivals) ring in saints’ days with feasting, drinking and dancing galore.(Chris Christo/Getty)

Trieste, Italy (Credit: AFP/Getty)

Trieste, Italy

If you had to choose one city to serve as the capital of Europe, Trieste might be the fairest choice. A piece of Italy largely surrounded by Slovenian territory, and which was once imperial Austria’s cosmopolitan main port, it lies at the crossroads of the continent’s Latin, Slavic and Germanic cultures. This is reflected in the city’s food habits, where panini and fritto misto (fried seafood) might be followed by beef brisket and horseradish. Triestini love their coffee just as much as Romans and Viennese do, and many of the cafés evoke more gilded times. The huge, pristine central square is an elegant triumph of Austro-Hungarian town planning, now ironically named the Square of Italian Unity. Beyond it is the Borgo Teresiano, a graceful 18th-century district that straddles Trieste’s very own Grand Canal, a mosaic-laden Serbian Orthodox church and a richly decorated neoclassical synagogue. The city also has literary note as the place where James Joyce lived for 10 years before the outbreak of WWI. (AFP/Getty)

Travel light without the smell?!

This is absolutely the BEST travel hack I’ve seen in ages.

It’s an idea come up with by three lifelong Canadian buddies who love to travel but hate to lug a huge bag around – a perennial bugbear for most of us serial trekkers.

The vast majority of our luggage capacity is taken up with clothes; so wouldn’t it be great to reduce a month’s worth of tees, pants and socks to just two or three items?  Sounds impossible doesn’t it?  Well not with Unbound Apparel.

Thanks to these clever dudes, you can go for weeks – yes weeks – wearing the same clothes WITHOUT THE NEED TO WASH THEM!!  Seriously – you just need one tee, a couple of pairs of pants and the same of socks.

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HOW??  Because they’re made of high-quality Merino wool.  If you didn’t know, it’s wool from sheep that originated in Spain and are now bred all over the world, particularly in the southern hemisphere.  Merino wool is special because it is ultra thin and light, yet ultra warm, anti-bacterial and anti-wrinkle – making it the perfect fabric for travellers.

Until now, Merino has been traditionally used for high-performance active wear.  That means flashy colours, intricate patterns and very athletic fits and functionality.  It also means it’s expensive and hard to find.

But the team has solved these issues by redesigning simple, efficient styles for the modern savvy trekker.

The collection, designed by the Toronto-based company, currently comprises a T-shirt in a choice of two colours and two neck lines, men’s briefs and socks.

Photo: Unbound Apparel

The guys announce:

“We now work with ethical manufacturers in 3 countries, source eco-friendly materials and have established an independent fulfillment operation that ships to countries all over the world.

Unbound is a new venture that solves a problem we’ve had with our own travels. We’ve been working late nights and weekends on refining what we feel is the perfect travel clothing. We’ve been testing our prototypes for months (and all over the world) and it’s changed our lives.”

Here is an example of what one of their prototype shirts has gone through without a single wash:

  • Worn 46 days in a row without exception
  • In that 46 days worn in the gym around 6 or 7 times through heavy cardio (testing the product was the motivation for the gym more so than sheer discipline, they joke)
  • Worn twice in the sauna (they meant it when they said they took this to the limits)
  • Worn to bed some nights and stayed on the body right through the day
  • Taken to Shanghai, Bangkok and Koh Tao, Thailand and worn daily in sweltering 40 degree weather.  (see the Indiegogo video below)

The products have proved such a hit with fellow travellers that the company exceeded its $30,000 crowdfunding goal by over 500% before launch date!!

 

 

 

 

 

Thrills and skills: 13 off-the-wall activities for adrenaline junkies

You’ve thrown yourself off a platform suspended 200m in the air with what amounts to a giant elastic band around your ankles; you’ve paddled down swirling rapids and maybe even jumped out of a helicopter to ski some of the world’s best powder – so what’s next?

You can always trust adrenaline junkies to keep pushing boundaries and testing the limits of the human heart rate (and maybe even the strength of your bowels) – so the guys at Lonely Planet have rounded up 13 brilliant and bizarre adventure activities to inspire your next blood-pumping escapade.

Go on, take the leap…


Guy Airboarding Pacific Ocean, Mountains in Backgr

Do you dare try this extreme water sport? © Justin Lewis / Getty Images

Flyboarding

The latest craze in water sports, flyboarding was brought into being by Frenchman Franky Zapata in 2012. It involves strapping your feet into a kind of skateboard jetski hybrid that fires out powerful jets of water, propelling you up into the air. There is also a jetpack version for sci-fi fans and adrenaline junkies alike. Popular destinations for flyboarding include Australia, Dubai and the USA.

‘It is strange to think that as I propel myself 40ft to 50ft up on two jets of water, I feel more in control in that moment than any other time. It’s an incredible experience.’ – Ben Merrell, pro hydroflight athlete

Oribi Gorge swing 2, Wild5Adventures_1

Take the leap – just don’t drop your selfie stick © Wild5Adventures

Gorge swings

Bungee jumping’s crazier cousin, gorge swinging will make you feel like Tarzan on some serious steroids. You can get your swing on over some awesome landscapes, from the Zambezi river (thezambeziswing.com) to South Africa’s Oribi Gorge (wild5adventures.co.za). Amid such stunning scenery you’ll soon forget about the imminent 160ft free fall… right?

PANTHER BEACH, CA - 2003: *** EXCLUSIVE *** Unicyclist Kris Holm at a sea stack in 2003 on Panther Beach, California. Instead of treating unicycling as part of a circus act, Vancouver resident Kris Holm has made the one-wheeled bike a totally different extreme sport. For twenty-three years his mono-wheeled adventures have taken him to the Great Wall of China and the wilds of California, but now 36-year old Kris is gearing up for his latest challenge; taking on two wheeled bikes in a competitive race. Participating in the BC Bike Race from Vancouver to Whistler in Canada, Kris will compete for seven days against the best the bicycle world has to offer. Averaging 18 miles a day as a solo rider, Kris will take on 500 other mountain bike enthusiasts in the hardcore race which bills itself as the "Ultimate Single-track Experience." (Photo by Nathan Hoover / Barcroft USA / Getty Images)

You can muni almost anywhere – if you can master the art of staying upright © Barcroft / Getty Images

Mountain unicycling

Take the usual equation of bike plus mountain, minus one wheel and you’ve got muni: mountain unicycling. From the rugged peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the lush landscapes of the Alps, anywhere you can mountain bike, you can muni – but it’s best to give this one a good deal of practice before hitting the harder runs. The International Unicycling Federation (unicycling.org) has lots of useful info for both newbies and pros.

‘Because there’s just something about a unicycle that makes people smile, I’ve never found a better way to connect with local people when I can’t speak their language.’ – Kris Holm (krisholm.com), the world’s leading mountain unicyclist

Inside the Volcano, photo credit Vilhelm Gunnarsson_1

Iceland’s Thrihnukagigur is your gateway to another world © Vilhelm Gunnarsson

Go inside a volcano

The Thrihnukagigur volcano in Iceland may be dormant but this journey to the centre of the earth is still pretty thrilling. After a 3km hike to the crater, to get to the ‘good bit’ you’ll still have to descend 120m into the opening via an open cable lift. Inside the Volcano (insidethevolcano.com) offer exclusive tours that’ll take you beneath the earth’s crust where you can admire the kaleidoscopic colours and unique rock formations of the volcano’s crater.

The Namib Desert, the oldest in the world, is reputed to house some of the largest sand dunes on this planet. Come conquer these constantly shifting and powerfully towering beauties by zooming down the sheer slip faces on a traditional Swakopmund sandboard or carve up the dune with style and skill on a snowboard adapted for sand.

The rush of surfing dunes is worth all the sand in strange places © Thomas Dressler / Getty Images

Sandboarding

Surfers and snowboarders – and all you other thrill seekers – ditch the waves and runs and head to the desert for an alternative boarding experience. Namibia’s Namib Desert offers the ultimate adventure playground, boasting some of the highest dunes in the world. Be sure to soak up the views of your epic surrounds at the summit, because once you’re whooshing down the dunes at speeds of up to 80mph, you may be a wee bit distracted.

‘Definitely worth all the sand in strange places, although unless you’re quite good you don’t get much speed standing up – you just fall down!’ – Lauren McInerney, Finance Manager at Lonely Planet

A first-time zip line rider is about to hit a curve on The Rattlesnake, which dips and twists and turns like a roller coaster, at Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida. (Marjie Lambert/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)

The Rattlesnake’s twists and turns are thrilling © Marjie Lambert / Miami Herald / Getty Images

Zip line roller coasters

Whizz along tracks that weave through rainforest and jungle scenery, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a gentle ride. You’ll be whipped around twists, slaloms and 360° loops, all whilst dangling at a dizzying height of up to 60m. The aptly named Treetop Crazy Rider (treetops.com.au) in Australia and the Rattlesnake (foreverflorida.com) in Florida, USA, beckon the brave with over 1600m of track between them.

Luke Hopkins entering Canyon Doors while stand up paddleboarding the lower Gauley River near Fayetteville, West Virginia.

You need more than a strong core to brave rapids on a SUP board © Trevor Clark / Getty Images

Whitewater SUP

If you’ve managed to successfully stand up paddleboard (SUP), well done! But why not take it a step further and test your skills pelting down some whitewater rapids? There’s also whitewater tubing and creeking (whitewater rafting in a kayak) for those who prefer to sit or recline whilst being jostled by river rapids. Yet to take off as a global phenomenon, whitewater SUP is still largely the domain of rivers in the USA.

‘It’s challenging; you’re standing up, your centre of gravity is raised, you’re having to use all your muscles and you also have to read the water. It’s about finding stillness in the chaos.’ – Nikki Gregg (nikkigregg.com), whitewater paddler and fitness guru

Man jumps into Devil's Pool at Victoria Falls. It looks like she will be swept over the waterfall but a thick lip of rock keeps people safe. Victoria Falls is nearly a mile wide and 360 feet deep and from the air, looks like the earth has been ripped in two. Zambia, Africa.

Could you muster up the courage to take a dip in the Devil’s Pool? © Yvette Cardozo / Getty Images

Swim the Devil’s Pool

As the name suggests, this ultimate infinity pool – situated on the edge of Victoria Falls – is anything but a relaxing dip. The trend is to launch yourself into the pool and let the current whisk you off to the edge of the falls where the lip of rock will catch you. The Devil’s Pool is only safe to swim in the dry season (mid-August to mid-January) and it’s recommended to go with a certified tour company. Tongabezi (tongabezi.com) offer five tours per day which include a tour of the pool’s access point, Livingstone Island, as well as a daring dip.

Auckland SkyWalk 2, photo credit skywalk.co.nz_1

Some travellers will do anything to get the best city views © skywalk.co.nz

High-altitude urban experiences

Adventure activities are often thought to be the remit of the great outdoors, but thrill seekers can get all their kicks without venturing to the sticks. Many cities offer high-altitude, adrenaline-pumping tours, from abseiling off famous buildings to walking around the outer edges of iconic skyscrapers attached to a safety wire.

New Zealand’s Auckland Sky Tower (skywalk.co.nz) and Toronto’s CN Tower (edgewalkcntower.ca) both offer tours around their heady heights. Alternatively, try abseiling 100m down Rotterdam’s Euromast (euromast.nl).

‘I cried real tears on the CN Tower EdgeWalk. But honestly, it was life changing and there’s not really much I’m scared of anymore.’ – Lauren Finney, US Magazine Editor at Lonely Planet

MALAGA, SPAIN - APRIL 01: Tourists walk along the 'El Caminito del Rey' (King's Little Path) footpath on April 1, 2015 in Malaga, Spain. 'El Caminito del Rey', which was built in 1905 and winds through the Gaitanes Gorge, reopened last weekend after a safer footpath was installed above the original. The path, known as the most dangerous footpath in the world, was closed after two fatal accidents in 1999 and 2000. The restoration started in 2011 and reportedly cost 5.5 million euros. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

The Caminito del Rey has had a much-needed facelift © David Ramos / Getty Images

Cliff walking

Dubbed the world’s deadliest hike, the Huashan mountain trail in China is not for the faint hearted. Tethered to a safety line on the rock face, hikers make their way across wooden planks and sheer cliff edge to reach one of the world’s most remote tea houses, over 2000m high. There are plenty of other (slightly) less pant-wetting paths around the world, like the Caminito del Rey in Spain, which underwent a hefty restoration in 2015.

Rickshaw Run, photo credit Mila Kiratzova_1

Head into the unknown on a two-week adventure across India © Mila Kiratzova

Rickshaw run

Think the Gumball rally, but on glorified go-karts. The Rickshaw Run is an epic pan-Indian adventure spanning 3500km. All you need is to get your hands on a rickshaw and book two weeks off work and you’re good to go… kind of. The Adventurists (theadventurists.com) can help with all the know-how you need to hit the road, including visa requirements, budgeting and tips for pimping your rickshaw.

‘The Rickshaw Run is a real old-school adventure. It’s two weeks of boredom-obliterating mayhem.’ – Mr Matt, Event Manager at The Adventurists

Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia, Australasia

Australia’s Lady Elliot Island is one of the best spots to try blowhole diving © Len Zell / Lonely Planet

Blowhole diving

Blowholes are naturally occurring sea caves that also have an opening at the surface of the ocean. Freedivers and scuba divers are drawn to these unusual geological formations not just for the epic ride – the current combined with the structure of the caves creates a surge that propels you through the cavern – but also for the unique wildlife that inhabits these environments. The best blowholes to dive can be found at Lady Elliot Island, Australia and The Corridor in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

*** EXCLUSIVE *** COLORADO, USA - JUNE 4: Brian, the photographer snaps an elaborate storm cloud formation on June 4, 2015 in Colorado, USA. FEARLESS photographer has dedicated his life to chasing storms after a tornado almost killed him on the way to his high school prom in 1993. Kansas native Brian Barnes, 39, was raised in the beating heart of North America's 'Tornado Alley' - and was also struck by lightning as a teenager. Taken by tour guide Brian in Colorado, these incredible pictures show giant supercell storms - one of the most powerful weather formations found over land. Also known as rotating thunderstorms, supercells can produce winds over 100mph and can uproot trees and obliterate buildings. Brian, who runs an extreme weather tour company, captured these images in June 2015, and was intimately acquainted with ferocious storms from a young age. PHOTOGRAPH BY Brian Barnes / Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com (Photo credit should read Brian Barnes / Barcroft Media / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Are you wild enough to want to witness the perfect storm? © Barcroft Media / Getty Images

Storm chasing

Most people would run from a swirling vortex of doom, but not you. You head right into the middle of the action. Specialist tours can take groups safely into storm zones to see some immense weather such as tornadoes and supercell thunderstorms. Extreme weather-watchers flock to Tornado Alley in the American midwest for some of the most epic skyscapes.

‘The thrill of seeing large supercell structures, hundreds of bolts of lightning and possible tornadoes out in the open fields… there is nothing else like that feeling in the world!’ – Roger Hill, Silver LIning Tornado and Storm Chasing Tours (silverliningtours.com)

 

 

 

The best FREE tourist attractions around the world

It’s an old adage – the best things in life are free, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to some of the world’s most intriguing travel sights.

While most of the obvious tourist landmarks – the Statue of Liberty, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Taj Mahal – charge entry fees, many of the lesser-known hidden gems around the corner don’t.

Did you know, for example, that you can visit an uninhabited island in the Bahamas where you can swim with wild pigs, and not be charged a penny?

Or take free yoga classes in Dubai, and sample the best tea in China at a cost of… zero?

Lonely Planet has released a veritable travel bible of spots around the world where you can have great experiences on a shoestring, titled The Best Things in Life are Free. MailOnline Travel rounds up 15 of the most intriguing suggestions… 

The Bahamas: Pig Island

On a small uninhabited island in the Exuma region of the Bahamas, wild pigs paddle freely around, and they don't charge you for joining them - although edible gifts are welcome

On a small uninhabited island in the Exuma region of the Bahamas, wild pigs paddle freely around, and they don’t charge you for joining them – although edible gifts are welcome

This is the only place in the Caribbean where you can splash around with celebrities and not have to pay a dime, because these stars have no idea they’re famous. An overnight Instagram sensation, the pigs of this island in Exuma live in the wild and love a spot of swimming.

According to legend they were left there by sailors who had plans to return for a pork roast, but never did, leaving the pigs to turn feral.

Thailand: The Bangkokian Museum

This quaint folk museum in Bangkok consists of two old homes with rooms full of perfectly preserved personal belongings that date back a century

This quaint folk museum in Bangkok consists of two old homes with rooms full of perfectly preserved personal belongings that date back a century

The tiny Bangkokian is a hidden jewel in a city where most of its treasures are proudly on display.

This quaint folk museum consists of two old homes with rooms full of perfectly preserved personal belongings that date back a century.

It looks as if the owners stepped through the front door to pick up some noodles in 1935 and never came back.

China: The Măliándào Tea Market

Măliándào, where virtually all the tea in China can be seen, sniffed and sampled for free

Măliándào, where virtually all the tea in China can be seen, sniffed and sampled for free

If you’re someone who knows your pu-erh from your oolong, then you’ll get a kick from a trip to Măliándào, where virtually all the tea in China can be seen, sniffed and sampled.

It’s mainly aimed at wholesalers, but most vendors will give you a complimentary taste, and then you can sip plenty more brews in teashops.

You can get your hands on tea sets here as well, at potentially bargain prices.

Berlin: Badeschiff Swimming Barge

Badeschiff, an urban beach club built around a barge-turned-swimming pool in the Spree River

Badeschiff, an urban beach club built around a barge-turned-swimming pool in the Spree River

Summers in Berlin wouldn’t be the same without the Badeschiff, an urban beach club built around a river barge-turned-swimming pool and moored in the Spree River. 

Splash around in the daytime and stay to sip sunset cocktails with a great view of the fairy-tale-like bridge, Oberbaumbrücke. In winter, Badeschiff is all covered up and turned into a toasty sauna-cum-bar.

Singapore: Gardens by the Bay

Time your visit to the Gardens by the Bay for 7.45pm or 8.45pm to see the Supertrees twinkle and glow for the spectacular Garden Rhapsody light-and-sound show.

Time your visit to the Gardens by the Bay for 7.45pm or 8.45pm to see the Supertrees twinkle and glow for the spectacular Garden Rhapsody light-and-sound show.

This eco-fantasy land of space age bio-domes, hi-tech trees and whimsical sculptures really has to be seen to be believed.

Although the indoor conservatories and Supertree-top skyway are chargeable, arguably the coolest thing to see here is free: time your visit for 7.45pm or 8.45pm to see the Supertrees twinkle and glow for the spectacular Garden Rhapsody light-and-sound show.

Dubai: Free yoga

The voluntary Friends of Yoga organisation runs free yoga classes every day at 13 locations around the UAE

The voluntary Friends of Yoga organisation runs free yoga classes every day at 13 locations around the UAE

The augmented reality of life in Dubai’s air-conditioned cityscape may just leave you in need of some mental readjustment.

If so, consider stretching out to the voluntary Friends of Yoga organisation, which runs free yoga classes every day at 5.30am and 7.30pm at 13 locations around the UAE, including Deira Creek, Bur Dubai Creek, Zabeel Park, JLT Park and Internet City.

Dublin: The National Museum of Ireland

The National Museum of Ireland is home for four million objects of archaeology, decorative arts and natural history

The National Museum of Ireland is home for four million objects of archaeology, decorative arts and natural history

This mighty museum explores Ireland’s heritage via four million objects spread across four sites, three of which are in Dublin.

Archaeology is where you’ll explore prehistoric and Viking-era Ireland, Decorative Arts & History houses ancient weaponry, furniture, and silver, and Natural History has an Irish elk skeleton.

London: The More London Free Festival

This annual series of free events at the South Bank of the River Thames comprises of everything from live music and fringe theatre to movie showings and kid's entertainment

This annual series of free events at the South Bank of the River Thames comprises of everything from live music and fringe theatre to movie showings and kid’s entertainment

This annual series of free events hijacks the South Bank of the River Thames for four months of summer action.

It comprises everything from live music and fringe theatre performances to children’s entertainment and screenings of flicks in the Scoop – a 1000-seat concrete amphitheatre near Tower Bridge.

The big screen on site broadcasts major sporting events such as Wimbledon and the Tour de France.

Marrakesh: Djemaa el-Fna square

The Djemaa el-Fna square, where you'll find street theatre, snake charming and music, all in a plaza that used to be the site of public executions

The Djemaa el-Fna square, where you’ll find street theatre, snake charming and music, all in a plaza that used to be the site of public executions

Think of it as live-action channel-surfing: everywhere you look in the Djemaa el-Fna – Marrakesh’s main square and open-air theatre – you’ll discover drama already in progress.

Think street theatre, snake charming, and music, all in a plaza that used to be the site of public executions around AD 1050 – hence its name, which means ‘assembly of the dead’.

Sydney: The Sydney Harbour National Park

Most attractions at this 392-hectare national park that overlooks the Sydney Harbour will cost you nothing

Most attractions at this 392-hectare national park that overlooks the Sydney Harbour will cost you nothing

This 392-hectare park protects sections of Sydney’s foreshore and several islands within the harbour.

Most attractions are free, including the Bradleys Head amphitheatre, a popular lookout and a great picnic spot, and  the Grotto Point Aboriginal engraving site, where you can see old rock art.

New York: The Brooklyn Flea Market

At the Brooklyn Flea Market, you’ll find everything from records and 1930s posters to vintage clothing and antique collectables - and wandering round is free

At the Brooklyn Flea Market, you’ll find everything from records and 1930s posters to vintage clothing and antique collectables – and wandering round is free

When the weekend arrives, head to Brooklyn to experience one of the best markets in the whole city. More than 100 vendors ply their wares here, with plenty of treasures to ogle from the past and the present.

You’ll find everything from records to 1930s posters, vintage clothing, jewellery, homewares, artwork, antique collectables and craft items. Wandering round is free.

Check the website for locations, which change seasonally. Visit brooklynflea.com.

Paris: Château de Versailles’ Gardens

These spectacular gardens are divine, not as packed as the château itself,  and free for half the year

These spectacular gardens are divine, not as packed as the château itself, and free for half the year

While the château at Versailles is truly extraordinary, the crush of people inside can be hard to bear.

But the landscaped gardens – meticulously manicured, dotted with elegant statuary and exuberant fountains, and criss-crossed with paths (bikes can be rented) – are divine and free for half the year between November and March. Pack a picnic and distance those madding crowds.

Rio de Janeiro: Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach, where you can frolic in the waves, go surfing, take long walks or simply sit back and engage in the discreet art of people-watching

Ipanema Beach, where you can frolic in the waves, go surfing, take long walks or simply sit back and engage in the discreet art of people-watching

One of the best places to spend a sun-drenched day in Rio is out on Ipanema Beach. You can frolic in the waves, go surfing, take long walks or simply sit back and engage in the discreet art of people-watching.

You also needn’t leave the sands when hunger strikes, but you will need to open your wallet.

Barracas (beach stalls) sell everything from super cheap sandwiches to caipirinhas, and wandering vendors bring by cold drinks and snacks.

Tokyo: Yoyogi Park

On sunny weekends, all sorts gather to Tokyo's Yoyogi Park for picnics, Frisbee, drumming, dancing and free festivals

On sunny weekends, all sorts gather to Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park for picnics, Frisbee, drumming, dancing and free festivals

Of all Tokyo’s parks, this is arguably the most lively. The landscaping is haphazard, wild along the fringes, and there are no ‘keep off the grass’ signs here.

On sunny weekends, all sorts gather for picnics, Frisbee, drumming and dancing.

The plaza across the street hosts free festivals on weekends during summer, including many hosted by the city’s ethnic communities.

You can read more at http://www.lonelyplanet.com/

The world’s most unusual places to stay

An underwater hotel room, a suite on the side of the cliff and a tree house with the best view of the sea: MailOnline Travel reveals some gorgeously quirky places to lay your hat for a night or two.


For many holidaymakers, there is nothing more important than a room with a spectacular view.

It could be a plush suite in a skyscraper hotel, a treehouse in the middle of nowhere or even a room beneath the surface of the sea. 

In an age where tourists are on the hunt for snaps that are worthy of Instagram or Facebook, the more unique it is, the better.

These jaw-dropping destinations have been named the most unusual places to stay by London-based travel agency Exsus.

They include Africa’s first underwater hotel room – 13ft below the surface of the Indian Ocean, north of Zanzibar – where guests can admire marine life from the comfort of their bed.

And for adrenaline junkies, only the Natura Vive Skylodge Adventure Suite will do. Guests must climb a 400ft cliff face to reach the suite, which is on the side of one of Peru’s highest peaks.

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The best for sleeping with the fishes: Manta Resort on Pemba Island

Africa’s first underwater hotel room is 13ft below the surface of the Indian Ocean, north of Zanzibar

Africa’s first underwater hotel room is 13ft below the surface of the Indian Ocean, north of Zanzibar

Visit http://www.themantaresort.com/information/pemba-island/

The best for daredevils: Natura Vive’s Skylodge Adventure Suite

To climb into Natura Vive's Skylodge Adventure Suite in Peru, daredevil guests must scale a 400ft cliff face

To climb into Natura Vive’s Skylodge Adventure Suite in Peru, daredevil guests must scale a 400ft cliff face

Check out http://naturavive.com/web/

The best for getting back to nature: Phinda Forest Lodge

Guests can spot the big five, dolphins and turtles at this lodge at the Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa

Guests can spot the big five, dolphins and turtles at this lodge at the Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa

Visit www.phindagamereserve.com/

The best for sleeping in a cave: Gamirasu Cave Hotel

Located near Urgup, Turkey, some of the 35-room hotel's doors and windows are more than 500 years old

Located near Urgup, Turkey, some of the 35-room hotel’s doors and windows are more than 500 years old

Take a look at this Trip Advisor winner: http://www.gamirasu.com/https://static.tacdn.com/img2/tc/rdTopLaurel_LL_TM.jpg

The best for watching the Northern Lights: Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel

Less than an hour from Reykjavík, guests can watch the natural phenomenon from a heated outdoor pool

Less than an hour from Reykjavík, guests can watch the natural phenomenon from a heated outdoor pool

Check out this multi-award-winning hotel’s site: http://ioniceland.is/

The best for adventure seekers: Fogo Island Inn

This contemporary hotel is located on rocky terrain on Fogo Island off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada

This contemporary hotel is located on rocky terrain on Fogo Island off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada

For lots of information on this highly unusual destination visit www.fogoislandinn.ca/

The best for waking up on a boat: Belmond Road to Mandalay

Belmond's Road to Mandalay takes up to 82 passengers on a luxurious river cruise in Myanmar

Belmond’s Road to Mandalay takes up to 82 passengers on a luxurious river cruise in Myanmar

Check out http://www.belmond.com/road-to-mandalay-myanmar/

The best for sleeping in a tree: Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses

These houses are 30ft above ground with views of dramatic mountains and the Pacific coast in New Zealand

These houses are 30ft above ground with views of dramatic mountains and the Pacific coast in New Zealand

For more info on this unique accommodation visit http://www.hapukulodge.com/kaikoura/tree-houses

The best for an alternative caravan: Uyuni Vintage Airstreams

This deluxe caravan on Bolivia's Uyuni Salt Flats comes with a private chef and guide to show you around

This deluxe caravan on Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flats comes with a private chef and guide to show you around

To find out more about these über-cool Airstreams check out http://www.exsus.com/destinations/south-america/bolivia/uyuni-salt-flats/uyuni-vintage-airstreams

 

And for even more exciting and unusual trips visit the team at Exsus.

 

 

 

 

5 Places You Should Visit Before They Vanish

Our world is a vast and beautiful one, full of awe-inspiring landscapes. But Mother Nature is a cruel mistress and the powerful forces of erosion, rising seas, and the inevitable effects of tourism will render many of the current wonders of the world nearly unrecognizable in the next century. Here are five incredible locales around the world that you should visit immediately before they are lost to the passage of time and the savagery of climate change.

Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park, and Lake Sherburne. Montana. USA. Numerous glaciers are visible in this image.

Ed Reschke

Venice, Italy

Beautiful view of famous Grand Canal in Venice, ItalyiSailorr/Getty

This iconic city, hovering over a lagoon, is sinking rapidly. The canals that make up the streets of Venice rise 2 mm every year, submerging relics of history and ravaging architecture. Experts warn that without intervention, this city on stilts will disappear back into the Atlantic at an even faster rate, consumed by the rising sea levels of melting polar ice caps. Come get your fill of the beautiful cathedrals and gracious gondolas of Venice before the sea reclaims it.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Back side of the ruins of Machu Picchu and the mountain of Huayna Picchu. HDR image.Getty Images/Vetta

These Incan ruins have drawn adventurous tourists into the mountains of South America to marvel at an outstanding piece of archaeology for centuries. The forces of natural erosion have been accelerated by tourism and this landmark faces severe impact from increasing foot traffic. The Peruvian government recently proposed a cable car that would have cut out much of the intense hike up to the ruins, making the site instantly accessible to millions. Concerns about the impact of this project have caused officials to suspend the effort, but the future of Machu Picchu remains uncertain. Climb the steps to this ancient site to marvel at a miracle of ancient ingenuity before it’s ruined.

Madagascar, Africa

Sunrise over Avenue of the baobabs, MadagascarGetty Images/iStockphoto

Massive deforestation has left the unique animal population of this island nation vulnerable to extinction. Huddled off the coast of Africa, Madagascar has lush expanses of rain forest that are home to thousands of unique animal species as well as some of the oldest trees in the world, the ancient Baobabs. Experience and explore the joys of this outdoor paradise before the forests and their raucous inhabitants fade from existence.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Scenic view of Glacier National Park.Jordan Siemens/Getty

Perhaps you’ve heard that the ice caps are melting? Nowhere is that more apparent in the United States than in Glacier National Park. Estimates indicate that the glaciers that are part of the majestic beauty of this national landmark will disappear entirely in the next two decades. Go pitch a tent and soak up the view before the intense sunshine of our carbon footprint destroys it for good.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is the worlds largest reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching forGetty Images/Vetta

Hidden from view beneath the waves, The Great Barrier Reef has been rapidly dying off. Nearly fifty percent of this once massive sprawl of coral is gone, ravaged by pollution and disease. Strap on your scuba gear and visit soon, but practice eco-tourism to keep the reef from continued degradation.

 

 

Thanks to Kaz Weida for Parachute. Kaz is a parenting and food blogger who has been hunting down the best Salt Lake City has to offer for the last decade. She speaks fluent sarcasm and has a penchant for all things vintage. You can find her blogging at asweetlittlelife.com.

 

The 50 Most Beautiful Places in the World

Where are your top trek destinations?

Pinpointing every breathtaking place on the planet could take a lifetime, but the guys in the know at CN Traveler think that these 50 otherworldly landscapes and awe-inspiring natural wonders need to move to the very top of your travel bucket list.  (All images from Getty unless otherwise indicated)


Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia, an area in Turkey where entire cities have been carved into rock, is pretty incredible on its own. But whenever hot-air balloons pepper the sky, its beauty level simply skyrockets.

Salar de Uyuni: Daniel Campos, Bolivia

The reflective surface of the world’s largest salt mine is like something from the imagination of Salvador Dali—although we’re happy it actually exists in real life.

Mù Cang Chải: Vietnam

Mù Cang Chải manages to be one of the most breathtaking spots in Vietnam, with terraced rice fields and mountainous landscapes.

Benagil Sea Cave: Algarve, Portugal

The southern coast of Portugal is lined with exquisite beaches and caves, including the famous Benagil Sea Cave (skylight included).

Snæfellsjökull: Iceland

Iceland’s Snæfellsjökull glacier, complete with ice caves and craters, has appeared in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and the film Batman Begins.

Palawan Island: The Philippines

With its limestone cliffs and pristine lagoons, it’s easy to see why Palawan was voted the best island in the world by our readers.

Venice, Italy

Of all the amazing cities in Italy, there is something truly enchanting about the sunlit canals of Venice.

Ashikaga Flower Park: Ashikaga, Japan

Ashikaga’s wisteria trees bloom brilliantly for a few weeks every spring, turning the park into a vision of pastel pinks and purples.

Brecon Beacons National Park: Wales

Brecon Beacons offers access to rolling hills, Medieval castles, and romantic waterfalls. Plus it’s arguably the best place to stargaze in the UK.

Namib Desert: Namibia

Red sand dunes and skeletal trees make Namibia the closest thing we have to Mars on Earth. The Namib Desert was also the filming location for Mad Max: Fury Road.

Milford Sound: New Zealand

New Zealand is no stranger to breathtaking landscapes. Case in point: Milford Sound, a mountainous fjord where you can live out all of your Lord of the Rings fantasies.

Kolukkumalai Tea Estate: Munnar, India

Situated more than 8,000 feet above sea level, Kolukkumalai is the highest tea estate in the world—and easily the most beautiful.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: Abu Dhabi, UAE

Although the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has only been around for less than a decade, its regal architecture has already made it the crown jewel of Abu Dhabi—and one of the largest mosques in the world.

Bryce Canyon: Bryce, Utah

Bryce Canyon’s layered red and orange rock pillars, known as hoodoos, make it a can’t-miss destination for campers and shutterbugs alike.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

You might know them better as the Cliffs of Insanity from The Princess Bride, but this seaside wonder is actually located just south of Galway. Inconceivable!

Pyramids of Giza: El Giza, Egypt

Giza’s three great pyramids are mysterious marvels of architecture. We may never know whether or not they were built by mutants.

Okavango Delta: Botswana

The lush Okavango Delta is like a real-world Eden, where cheetahs, zebras, buffalo, and rhinos roam freely.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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A striking natural setting makes Rio de Janeiro one of the most beautiful cities in the world, all overlooked by the equally stunning Christ the Redeemer statue.

Arashiyama: Kyoto, Japan

The serene beauty of the bamboo forest in the Arashiyama district is a wonderful site to behold. No wonder it’s one of Pinterest’s most beloved places.

Grand Prismatic Spring: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

As its name suggests, the largest hot spring in the United States is essentially a rainbow ring of vibrant colors.

Serengeti National Park: Tanzania

Tanzania’s portion of the Serengeti is the ideal location for an African adventure.

Grand Canyon National Park: Arizona, USA

There’s a reason why more than 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon every year: It’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world, but a lot easier to access than Mount Everest or the Great Barrier Reef.

The Arctic Circle

Whether you’re spotting the Northern Lights in Sweden or glaciers off the coast of Greenland, the Arctic Circle is a new kind of hidden paradise.

Great Wall of China: Beijing, China

It’s over 12,000 miles long, thousands of years old, and can be seen from space—no wonder the Great Wall nabbed a spot on this list.

Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley): Alaska

Despite controversies over name changes and a shrinking elevation, Denali’s beauty is worth braving the extreme low temperatures.

Isle of Skye: Scotland

With fairy pools and bright green hills, the magical Isle of Skye is the stuff dreams are made of (regardless of whether you’ve binge-watched Outlander yet).

Bromo Volcano: East Java, Indonesia

Mount Bromo is perhaps the most well-known volcano in East Java’s Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, thanks to its accessibility and epic sunrise views.

Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Alamy

While it may not be the first place you’d pick for a vacation abroad, Samarkand is a standout with intricately tiled buildings and colorfully dressed locals. It also has a rich history as a Silk Road stopping point.

Galápagos Islands: Ecuador

This volcanic archipelago off the coast of Ecuador is world-renowned for its idyllic snorkeling spots and diverse array of wildlife (including the always delightful blue-footed boobies, pictured).

Petra, Jordan

The ancient city of Petra may be renowned for the buildings carved directly into the sides of cliffs, but its real claim to fame is being the (fictional) home of the Holy Grail.

Ned’s tip: For the best of the best in Jordan, pamper yourself at the 5 star Hotel Le Royal – Amman.

Keukenhof Park, Holland: The Netherlands

Holland is known around the world for its rainbow-hued fields of tulips, especially those located in and around Keukenhof. Millions of bulbs are planted in the park each year—visit in mid-April to see the flowers during their peak season.

Machu Picchu: Peru

Machu Picchu’s panoramic views and intricate (and a tad mysterious) stone walls more than validate the site’s worldwide fame.

The Great Barrier Reef: Queensland, Australia

Although the largest living thing on Earth can be seen from space, the best vantage point belongs to the avid snorkelers and scuba divers who visit each year.

Moravian Fields: Czech Republic

It’s more believable to think the Moravian Fields are the product of an oil painter’s genius brushstrokes, but these pastel-colored hills are very much a reality.

Socotra, Yemen

Socotra kind of looks like it was transported to Earth from a distant planet. The UFO-like dragon’s blood trees are the island’s most notable feature.

Bagan (formerly Pagan): Myanmar

Bagan’s ancient city skyline is like nothing else in the world, with ochre stupas and temples rising above the surrounding forests.

Lavender fields: Provence, France

The seemingly endless stretches of lavender fields make Provence one of the prettiest (and best-smelling) places in France.

Oia: Santorini, Greece

Alamy

Santorini is officially one of the best islands in the world—and one of the most picturesque. The small village of Oia is particularly captivating, with its whitewashed buildings and bright blue roofs.

Slope Point: South Island, New Zealand

Alamy

The next time you want to complain about the wind messing up your hair, just consider the trees of Slope Point, which have been permanently twisted and windblown by intense Antarctic gusts.

Lake Louise: Alberta, Canada

As is the case with most glacial lakes, Lake Louise is surrounded by rugged mountains and filled with clear, vibrant water.

Valle de Cocora: Quindío, Colombia

In case you were wondering where to find the world’s tallest palm trees (palma de cera), you needn’t look further. The lithe trees are even more incredible set against the backdrop of misty green hills and sharp mountains.

Pamukkale: Denizli, Turkey

Alamy

The stacked pools in Pamukkale are usually surrounded by snow and frozen waterfalls, but the blue waters are hot and open to bathers. You’ll never be satisfied with your hotel’s infinity pool again.

Torres del Paine National Park: Patagonia, Chile

Torres del Paine is like a microcosm of all the things that make Patagonia such a spectacular place: sky-high mountains, blue icebergs, and mythical lakes.

Wulingyuan Scenic Area: Zhangjiajie, China

Scenic might be an understatement in this case. This 100-square-mile attraction contains thousands of sandstone pillars that are nature’s version of skyscrapers—some even stretch taller than the Empire State Building’s midpoint.

Angkor Wat: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Some popular tourist attractions are worth braving the potential crowds for, and Angkor Wat is at the top of that list. No matter how many Asian temples you’ve seen, this one will always be the grandest and most breathtaking.

Redwood National Park: California

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Standing in the middle of California’s Redwood National Park is a humbling experience to be sure, especially when you look straight up at the 2,000-year-old, 300-feet-tall natural giants.

Na’Pali Coast: Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai boasts one of the world’s most insanely beautiful coastlines, which makes you work a bit to soak up its wonders—Na’Pali can only be seen from a helicopter, catamaran, or rather grueling hike.

Halong Bay: Vietnam

Alamy

Halong Bay, located in northeast Vietnam, is beloved for its blue waters and spread of limestone islands, all occupied by tropical trees and wildlife.

Painted Cliffs: Maria Island, Tasmania

Alamy

Tasmania’s Maria Island is a motherlode of fascinating geology, including the swirling, Triassic-era limestone of the Painted Cliffs.

Jodhpur (“Blue City”): Rajasthan, India

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Jodhpur is an ancient city with plenty to offer modern travellers, like bustling bazaars, incense-scented air, and delightfully Smurf-like buildings as far as you can see.

 

 

The Best Hikes in the World

Conde Nast Traveler have rounded up 13 of the best hiking trails around the world perfect for your next adventure. Time to lace up your boots and hit the trail…

(All the beautiful images are from Getty.)


West Coast Trail

The 47-mile West Coast Trail was created in 1906 to save shipwreck survivors along the rocky west coast of Vancouver Island. Now, the trail, open for hiking May 1 through September 30, is so popular it even has its own reservation system.

Kalalau Trail

The Kalalau Trail is the only way to access this rugged section of Kauai‘s coastline. Those who make the 11-mile hike are rewarded with access to the secluded Kalalau Beach.

Tour du Mont Blanc

The Tour du Mont Blanc covers more than 100 miles and passes through three countries: Switzerland, Italy, and France. (The circuit is also home to the ultra-marathon event, Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, where the winner usually finishes in about 20 hours.)

Sentiero Azzuro

Everyone knows Cinque Terre for its stunning views and quaint seaside villages, but it’s also home to the Sentiero Azzuro (or literally “Blue Trail”) that connects the villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare.

Appalachian Trail

The 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia all the way to Maine, crossing through 14 states. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee (pictured here) is home to 71 miles of trail.

Mount Kilimanjaro

Even though it’s more than 19,000-feet tall, Mount Kilimanjaro is billed as the “world’s tallest walkable mountain,” and with good reason—the peak requires no technical mountaineering skills to summit.

Torres del Paine

Chile’s Torres del Paine might be one of the world’s most popular trekking destinations, but it still earns a spot on our list for its icy glaciers, snow-covered mountains, crystalline lakes, and beautiful valleys. The ultra-ambitious can hike the Full Circuit—crossing the entire park—in nine days.

Bibbulmun Track

The Bibbulmun Track stretches for more than 600 miles along Western Australia‘s coast. The track, known for its mellow terrain, is particularly beautiful during autumn.

The Narrows

The Narrows trail follows the Virgin River for 16 miles through southwestern Utah’s breathtaking Zion Canyon. You’ll get wet, sure, but we think you’ll agree—it’s worth it.

El Choro Inca Trail

While Machu Picchu Inca Trail gets most of the glory in South America, savvy travelers have started seeking out less-touristed routes. The four-day El Choro trek traverses a 15,000-foot pass.

Santa Cruz Trek

The 30-mile Santa Cruz trek is one of the most popular routes in the Peruvian Andes. Beginning in the charming Peruvian town of Huaraz, the trek crosses the 15,580-foot Punta Union Pass.

Tongariro Northern Circuit

The Tongariro Northern Circuit encircles Mount Ngauruhoe, New Zealand’s most active volcano. In addition to craters and lava pits, hikers can also take in the scenic Emerald Lakes.

Israel National Trail

The Israel National Trail winds its way 600 miles across Israel, from the Lebanese border all the way to the Red Sea in the south, passing through ancient Roman ruins (pictured) and Judean Mountains in the process.

 

10 Places Telling Tourists to Stay Home

Tourism can provide an incredible economic boost, sure, but some locales say it can also be harmful to the environment and negatively impact local populations. With such considerations in mind, several destinations around the world have proposed—or put into place—measures restricting the annual number of visitors.  Thanks to CN Traveler for this info.


Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

Getty

A picturesque group of five villages along the Ligurian Sea, Cinque Terre is one of Italy’s most popular sites. Italian officials, however, have recently announced their plans to cap the number of people who are allowed to visit, citing environmental concerns. Though 2.5 million travelers visited Cinque Terre in 2015, the number will be restricted to 1.5 million per year going forward.

Barcelona

Barcelona Gaudi

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Barcelona mayor Ada Colau made headlines in June 2015 when she discussed implementing an entry cap on the Spanish city. In order to keep Barcelona from reaching its “saturation limit,” Colau’s administration is developing plans to balance the tourism sector’s interests with those of local residents; potentially putting a city-wide freeze on the development of new hotels and creating a preventative policy before things “get out of hand.”

Bhutan

Himalayas Bhutan

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High on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan prides itself on “low volume, high-value” tourism. All foreign visitors—except those holding Indian, Maldivian, or Bangladeshi passports—must get a visa and book their holiday through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator. Visitors must also pay, in advance, the “minimum daily package” (either $200 or $250 a day, depending on the month) set by the Royal Government of Bhutan, via money transfer to the Tourism Council of Bhutan. This fee covers your accommodation, all meals, guides, internal transport, and a sustainable tourism royalty that goes toward free education, health care, and poverty alleviation. Only 133,480 international and regional tourists visited Bhutan in 2014.

Iceland

Iceland's beauty

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Roughly 970,000 people visited Iceland in 2014—three times the country’s population, and a 24 percent increase over 2013. The trend continues: As of May 2015, the number of visitors had increased 76 percent over the same period in 2014. Currently, the Icelandic Tourist Board and the Icelandic Tourism Research Centre are researching how “full” a site can get before detracting from the experience. “We have to realize that we can’t just build up natural sites endlessly,” Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir, director general of the Icelandic Tourist Board, said in 2014. “We can’t just endlessly receive more and more people at any particular tourist site and live under the assumption that we are offering the type of experience that people have paid for.”

Galápagos Islands

Galapagos Islands

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Some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, these 19 islands—which inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution—host approximately 9,000 species on land and in their surrounding waters. By 2007, residents and tourists had put such a burden on the ecosystems that the United Nations listed the destination as an endangered heritage site. Today, 97 percent of the land area is designated as part of the national park, and tourism is carefully monitored so that there is no further impact on the islands’ health or wildlife. Tourists can only travel to specific visitor sites, and must adhere to these 14 rules, including accompaniment by a licensed Galápagos National Park Guide. The U.N. removed the Galápagos from its “in danger” list in 2010.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

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Although visitors were once allowed to wander this 15th-century site freely, new measures encouraged by UNESCO are intended to clamp down on the number of tourists visiting one of Peru’s premier destinations. As part of a $43.7-million reconceptualization expected to be completed by 2019, all foreign visitors will have to hire a guide, follow one of three designated routes through the complex, and be subjected to time limits in order to prevent bottlenecking. In 2014, some 1.2 million tourists visited the 12-acre Incan citadel, surpassing the daily limit of 2,500 agreed to by Peru and UNESCO. The ancient site was added to UNESCO’s “endangered” list in January 2016.

Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island

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Located 370 miles off mainland Australia, this seven-square-mile island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982 for its rare flora, fauna, and marine life. In surrounding waters, there are more than 400 species of fish and 90 species of coral. Also considered one of the cleanest places on Earth, approximately 75 percent of the island’s original vegetation remains undisturbed. With just 350 full-time residents and a limit of 400 visitors on the island at any given time, there are ample spaces to call your own.

Antarctica

Antarctica

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By 2009, a surge in visits led to a ratification of the Antarctic Treaty. Among other things, signatories agreed to barring cruise ships with more than 500 passengers from landing sites; restricting landings to one vessel at a time (per site); and limiting passengers on shore to 100 at a time. Today, visitors to the pristine environment must travel through operators and organizers who have been approved by their appropriate national authorities, and can expect that their time—whether on shore or simply sailing by—will be strictly monitored.

The Seychelles

Seychelles

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An archipelago of 115 islands off the East African coast, the Seychelles have become massively popular for both “regular” tourists and royalty—yes, this is where William and Kate spent their honeymoon. Though tourism is the Seychelles’ biggest industry, its minister of tourism and culture, Alain St. Ange, said in April 2015 that work is underway to curb the number of annual visitors in order to protect its future. “We don’t want to demean the value of the Seychelles. We’re reaching 250,000 people, six times the number of people who live there.”

Mount Everest

Mount Everest

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With mounting calls to reduce the number of teams and climbers attempting to summit the world’s highest peak, the Nepalese government had taken steps in the right direction before the 2015 climbing season was officially shuttered following the Nepal earthquake. Among the measures were an increased fee for foreign climbers from $10,000 to $11,000, and the establishment of a liaison office at base camp to verify experience, health, and climbing conditions. Next up? An emphasis on forming smaller climbing teams so that “traffic jams” up the routes can be avoided.

 

 

Forget Lonely Planet’s Greatest Wonders, these are the top 10 places to AVOID

A great little blog post here from The Mail on Sunday’s wonderfully cynical Travel Editor, Frank Barrett.


Lonely Planet has published its list of the world’s Greatest Wonders: this is my guide to ten of the world’s places not to bother with – a much more useful service in my opinion.

1. Empire State Building, New York (pictured): When it comes to tall buildings, my clearest advice is to stay away from them. They’re expensive, overcrowded and likely to bring on a nosebleed. The view from the ESB is OK but doesn’t justify the hassle and expense of seeing it. If you want a skyscraper view of Manhattan head up the Rockefeller Center.

DT53NA

2. Eiffel Tower, Paris: If you really want to go up the Eiffel Tower, then walk up. At least as far as you are allowed. Unless you enjoy standing in queues at a high altitude, don’t even contemplate the final stage to the summit which involves endless waiting and tiny lifts. And if the weather is bad all you will see is mist.

3. The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen: This is Denmark’s major tourist attraction? I’ve seen bigger (and much more interesting) poodles.

4. Hollywood sign, Los Angeles: It’s a sign. It’s in Hollywood. And..?

5. Lands End, Cornwall: The end of the land. You have to pay to see this?

6. Great Wall of China, China: I’ve got a great wall in my garden but I’m not making a big fuss about it.

D8CBRF

7. Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney (pictured): Sydney has two big must-sees: its Opera House and its Bridge. I don’t know whether people from Sydney have been anywhere else in the world but lots of other cities have bridges. Newcastle upon Tyne has five of them.

8. Mona Lisa, Paris: Save three hours of your life and a wodge of cash: don’t bother fighting through the Louvre crowds to see what is effectively an average portrait of an unknown woman. Over-rated doesn’t begin to describe it.

9. Manneken Pis, Brussels: A statue of a small boy doing … what? Are you serious?

10. Bateau Mouche, Paris: Keep well away from tall buildings, caves … and boat excursions. Boat trips (like cave visits) have no clearly discernible time limit – they may take 20 minutes (doubtful) they may last five hours. And there’s nothing – absolutely nothing – you can do to escape…

 

 

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn’t Know Existed

More gorgeousness from at Thrillist Travel.

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Anyone who’s watched more than two episodes of The Twilight Zone — or read the angry comments when we named the most beautiful place in every state — knows that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Undaunted, we proceeded to tell you about all the beautiful places you didn’t know existed in California and New York and even in Nevada, because believe it or not, there actually is beauty there outside of a strip club.

But enough about America, there’s a whole big world out there; and it’s full of stunning scenery that you’ve probably never laid eyes on — until now. Here are 20 of the most spectacular places on the planet.

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Abraham Lake

Alberta, Canada
Ever wonder what happens when freezing water traps methane bubbles created by bacteria feeding off dead matter on the sea bottom? Welcome to Abraham Lake. Here, those bubbles of methane (undetectable in your standard, non-frozen lake) create pockets that resemble millions of orbs trapped in the ice. Just don’t light up while you’re snowmobiling; if the ice cracks and those bubbles burst, methane is highly flammable.

Abraham Lake

LaiQuocAnh/Shutterstock

Cueva de los Cristales

Chihuahua, Mexico
Don’t feel bad for not knowing about this “Cave of Crystals” — until 2000, nobody had heard of it. That year, two brothers mining for silver drilled here and accidentally uncovered an epic cavern filled with translucent, 30ft crystals, some of which are nearly half-a-million years old. If you can stomach a 20-minute van ride through a mine shaft, you’ll be greeted by triple-digit temperatures and 90% humidity thanks to the magma field that flows a mile under your feet.

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Flickr/Julierohloff

Dean’s Blue Hole

Long Island, Bahamas
There are some spectacular beaches in the Caribbean. And some other-world crazy cenotes in Mexico. Dean’s Blue Hole combines the two — albeit underwater — and is the largest blue hole in world. Although honestly, the white sand beach and limestone walls that surround the hole could make this list as well, they’re equally as stunning. That said, descend past the initial 60ft bottleneck and Dean’s Blue Hole opens into one of the largest underwater cenotes in the world, complete with turquoise water, seahorses, and tropical fish (it’s a hotspot for tarpon and snapper). Clear visibility and no current make it a place as scenic below the surface as above.

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Crystal Mill

Marble, CO
OK, OK, so we couldn’t resist throwing at least one US spot on the list. About an hour outside of Aspen, and an eight-hour hike from the nearest road, there’s a ghost town at the base of the Rocky Mountains. And the lone remnant of that ghost town is this old mill. If you visit in the fall, the combination of golden leaves, blue sky, and white snowcapped peaks might be the most unexpectedly beautiful vista in the American West.

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Laura grier

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Iguazu Falls

Misiones Province, Argentina
Iguazu Falls aren’t that obscure, but they’re probably just another one on your mental list of big waterfalls to visit some day, up there with Niagara and Victoria. Which sells them WAY short. This isn’t so much a waterfall but a venerable city of waterfalls — 250 of them stretching nearly two miles — that dumps 53,000 cubic feet of water PER SECOND. Throw in the fact that they’re located in a gorgeous South American rainforest, and you’ve pretty much got one of the most impressive feats of nature on the planet.

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Aleksei Sarkisov/Shutterstock

Lençóis Maranhenses

Maranhao, Brazil
The name literally means “bedsheets of Maranhao,” the state in Northeastern Brazil where these coastal dunes sway over 600 square miles of shoreline. The dunes are formed when the Parnaíba and Preguiças Rivers bring sand from the country’s interior to the ocean, and then the ocean currents — aided by northeasterly winds that blow inland — send that sand back to the shore. Though the area might look like a desert, temporary lagoons spring up in between the dunes during rainy season and often double as exceptional fishing holes.

Cavernas de Marmol (Marble Cathedral)

Lake General Carrera, Chile
What happens when you take a Patagonian peninsula made completely of marble and surround it with a massive glacial lake? Weird, swirling marble caves that change color, that’s what! These only-accessible-by-boat caves near the Chile-Argentina border reflect the color of the water that flows through them, shining turquoise in the spring and deep blue in the summer. The reflections also change the appearance of the patterns in the marble; meaning, if you visit the caves at different times of year you’ll have a completely different experience. Then again, after the 1,000-mile drive from Santiago and lengthy boat ride, once might be enough.

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The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Forest of Knives (Tsingy Forest)

Madagascar
The name might sound like the setting for Halloween 12: Michael Does Madagascar but the surreal beauty of this limestone forest is anything but horror-inducing. Quite the opposite. Here, slabs of rock stab upward 200ft in the air, mixing with trees to create a literal forest made of leaves and jagged peaks. Climbing here is the main attraction but be warned, it can be dangerous: slip and you could find yourself with a Ginsu-like gash.

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Seven-Coloured Earth of Chamarel

Chamarel, Mauritius
One of the problems with rainbows, other than the fact that there’s never a pot of gold at the end of them, is that as soon as you try to Instagram one… POOF!… it’s gone. If only rainbows were made out of sand that could withstand thousands of years of rain and erosion. Well, guess what rainbow lovers, meet the Seven-Coloured Earth of Chamarel! These rainbow dunes in Mauritius are formed by sand of seven distinct colors — red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple, and yellow. Even cooler: pick the sand up, put it in a bottle, mix it up — eventually it’ll resettle into the same seven distinct layers. Every time.

Seven-Coloured Earth of Chamarel, Mauritius

Andrea Murphy

Deadvlei

Hardap, Namibia
It’s hard to believe when standing under an oppressive sun in the middle of 1,300ft-tall sand dunes that this valley was once a lush forest fed by the Tsauchab River. That, of course, was 900 years ago. Since then, the area has become so parched that the remaining trees didn’t even have enough water to decompose, and now sit as charred relics. Add rusted sand and a deep-blue sky, and this is one of the most colorfully desolate places on the planet.

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The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Deception Island

Antarctica
Hiking to the top of an active volcano is cool, but you know what’s really badass? Sailing into one. Tough to do in most places, but not Antarctica; this active volcano (which last erupted in 1992) in the South Shetland Islands has a horseshoe-shaped caldera, and ships can sail right up to its smoldering beaches. As you cruise around the volcanic bay, you’ll see both snow and ash covering the lava formations amidst the steam.

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Yongyut Kumsri/Shutterstock

Lemaire Channel

Antarctica
This seven-mile-long, mile-wide channel between the mountains on Booth Island and the Antarctic peninsula was originally nicknamed the “Kodak Channel” because it was so photogenic. Although today, it would probably be “Instagram Channel.” Either way, you want to catch it when the entrance isn’t blocked by ice and the boat can make the trip inside.

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The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Red Seabeach

Pinjin, China
Even if you don’t hit this wetland in September, when the seepweeds mature from green to bright red, the 16-mile marsh is still one of the most beautiful spots in China to glimpse birds and wildlife. But if you are there in September, you’re in for a treat. The red fields attract flocks of over 200 species of birds as they migrate from Asia to Australia, and you can nod approvingly at them all from wooden bridges built over the water.

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

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Sea of Stars

Vaadhoo Island, Maldives
There are more than a few bioluminescent bays in the world, where a species of phytoplankton known as dinoflagellates glow/illuminate the water when an influx of oxygen disturbs their cell membrane. This one on Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives stands out, however, because the bright-blue light appears to be reflecting the stars over this island.

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PawelG Photo/Shutterstock

El Nido

Philippines
El Nido is classically known as the gateway to the Philippines’ Bacuit Archipelago and, according to (urban?) legend, was Alex Garland’s inspiration when he wrote The Beach. Although, yes, Leo’s adventure was set in Thailand, the limestone cliffs, bright-green foliage, and turquoise waters here apparently make it hard to distinguish between the two. Also, just so you know: a trip to El Nido requires a seven-hour bus ride.

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The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Lord Howe Island

Australia
There’s a reason you haven’t heard of this island 375 miles off New South Wales: there’s no cellphone coverage. Which means as beautiful as it is, nobody can go all selfie-stick/Instagram crazy while they’re there; they’re forced instead to do something novel like appreciate the wildlife. Wildlife that, because of the island’s perpetual isolation, includes birds, insects, and plant species that don’t exist anywhere else in the world.

The island also sits near Earth’s most southerly coral reef, making for world-class diving and snorkeling. Which is even better considering you don’t have to share — only 400 visitors are allowed on the island at any given time.

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Homebush Bay

Sydney, Australia
An otherwise unremarkable residential bay in Sydney makes this list not for its water, but for the ship that sits near the coastline. Built during World War I, the SS Ayrfield ran supplies to American troops in the Pacific during World War II before an oil company bought it in the 1950s and stationed it in the middle of this bay. Then nature took over. Now, it’s a man-made island filled with trees and wildlife, and one of the most decrepitly beautiful sights in the world. A work of art almost unto itself.

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The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Chapel of Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe

Le Puy-en-Velay, France
Talk about wonders of the world; even with today’s technology, imagine how hard it would be to build ANYTHING on top of a small pointy rock? Now imagine building a stone cathedral in 962, without cranes, hydraulics, or anything other than actual people hauling stones up 268 stairs. Sounds fun, right? But the result is this beauty, built atop a basalt needle with a sweeping view of the city below.

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

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Crystal Cave at Skaftafell

Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland
Blue ice is more than just the GOOD ice pack the nurse gives you when you sprain your ankle. It’s a brilliant, aqua-colored geologic formation that results when air bubbles are compressed out of ice over time. And it is in abundance in this cave at Vatnajokull National Park. Don’t let the 22ft shoreline entryway fool you; the cave tapers down to as few as 4ft, and will crack and pop when you walk inside. That doesn’t mean it’s about to collapse, though; it’s just the sound of glacial movement against the volcanic island.

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Picos de Europas

Spain
While the Alps and the Pyrenees get all the attention, this tiny range near the northern coast of Spain is equally as beautiful. The range only stretches about 26 miles (and its highest peak, Macizo Central or Macizo de los Urrieles, is barely 8,000ft tall), but when it comes to skiing and snowshoeing away from the masses, it’s a tough location to beat. And thanks in part to an abundance of wildflowers and Spanish brown bears, it’s one of the prettiest places in Europe to spot exotic wildlife in the summer.

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The Worst Things Nobody Tells You About the Countries They Visit

People come back from vacation and kind of sugarcoat everything. Even on a trip where they spent the entire time trying not to freeze to death, they’ll typically return and say something like, “You know, aside from the desolate frozen wasteland and 14 straight days of blizzards, Siberia was BEAUTIFUL!” And then they go on to tell you about how welcoming everyone was, and how you really should learn to appreciate borscht.

But nobody really sees the world through such rose-colored glasses, and when granted the anonymity of the internet, we probably all have some terrible things to say about countries we’ve visited. Which is why it’s fun to read what Redditors chose to omit about certain countries in order to keep their travel tales positive. Let’s just say there were a lot of accusations of racism, but those aside, here are some of the highlights.

Nobody in China can drive

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  1. Zaralith

    Getting hit by a car in China is different than other countries because the person at fault has to pay for the victims medical bills and care for the rest of their life as relates to the accident, while if the person dies it is a flat fine to the family. This causes people in China to put their car in reverse and run the person over again to make sure they died because it is a lot harder to prove that it murder for that in China (I thought I hit a pothole, etc.)

    Edit: u/statistical_mechanic, u/EleventyMillions, and u/cliff99 have pointed out to me that this has been shown as unlikely and misinterpreted via Snopes.

Venice stinks, like literally

  1. MrFunsocks1

    The romance of Venice is almost completely ruined by the odor. The canals are filthy, and smell, and it isn’t helped by everyone in Italy being a smoker and leaving butts everywhere.

Morocco needs more toilet paper!

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  1. gnirpss

    If you go to Morocco, carry tissues with you at all times. There is a shocking lack of toilet paper in Moroccan bathrooms.

Australia is ridden with… flies?

  1. chippeh

    oh god I had forgotten.

    They get in your mouth, nose, eyes.

    Blergh

    Gadorow

    I’ve grown convinced that in the center of our country lurks the demon prince Beelzebub, Lord of Flies.

Peru is full of stray dogs

The Worst Things Nobody Tells You About the Countries They Visit

Flickr/Hllewellyn

  1. honeynut-queerios

    There’s a lot of stray dogs in Peru. I’ve heard that stray dogs are kind of the norm in Latin American countries, and most of the ones I encountered didn’t want anything to do with anyone passing by. However, there was one stray that I passed frequently while walking to a project I was working at and he was extremely aggressive, to the point that I started carrying rocks in my bag in case he chased me. He would follow me for blocks, remaining hidden in a yard until I passed by. He’d bare his teeth and growl, he also slobbered a lot. I didn’t think it was rabies, but I’m also not 100% convinced it’s not rabies.

New Zealand may as well be Albuquerque: so much meth

  1. DNZ_not_DMZ

    As a European who moved to NZ:

    NZ has a huge problem with meth.

    Burglaries and rapes are much more common here, so is domestic violence.

    I love it here, but it’s not quite the quaint LotR wonderland it’s often made out to be.

    PM_a_llama

    A massive problem with meth! I can’t even score weed but everyone is offering me P. Ridiculous. Watch the movie Once Were Warriors for an insight on some things OP is referring to.

Italy is COVERED in graffiti

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turnipforwhales

  1. Went to Milan a few months ago. Huge factories, graffiti everywhere, lots of homeless people, shanty towns, boarded up houses, saw a guy attempt to pick-pocket someone. And there were huge designer stores all over the city too. There seemed to be an enormous class difference. Only posted the cathedral on facebook…

The Swiss are kinda rude

  1. wjescott

    Switzerland was absolutely stunning…if there weren’t any people around.

    The Swiss people I met were, to a person, very rude. In the old adage, “If you meet one asshole in a day, he’s an asshole. If everyone you meet is an asshole, you’re the asshole”, I went and pored over everything I did/said to see if I’d been in the slightest bit rude, mean, snotty, superior, anything…I’m an American, and this was the 80’s…we were all trying to be nice to everyone, after all, Russia was almost at the breaking point, we were in the United Colors of Benetton…I seriously, seriously wasn’t trying to be a dick in any way, yet was treated with dickishness at every turn.

    All in all, I visited 9 countries when I was there, and I can’t say the slightest bad thing about any of them, except Switzerland. French people? Amazing, polite, sweet…Parisians were a bit New York-style-superior (or the other way around) but are still great folks. Germans were gracious, polite, funny. Italians…oof…I didn’t want to leave! Spain and Portugal were the same way. Greece was stunning and the folks treated you like you were family.

    Switzerland…not so much.

    Amidatelion

    Swiss people are very insular and, ah, superior-minded. The fact that you were an American probably compounded a very cold reaction almost everyone gets. I’m half-german and though I speak fluent German, they treated me pretty poorly until my grasp of the dialect improved. And the damn superiority never went away, except for some close co-workers.

Brazil is filthy…

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  1. mredofcourse

    I’m in Rio de Janeiro right now. There’s no way this place could be ready for the Olympics in 6 years let alone 6 months. It’s a very filthy place. There are all kinds of sewage, pollution, litter, crime, traffic and corruption issues.

    Climbing to the top of Sugar Loaf was fun, and beautiful, minus the fact that there was human poop on the trails and routes that you had to climb around. Also the view was marred by being able to see a huge garbage island floating out of the harbor towards the beaches.

    It’s a shame because there’s so much potential here, but it requires more than just cleaning up. It needs major infrastructure changes as well as changes in behavior of the people.

    A lot of people are going to end up getting sick at the Olympics.

    That said, we’re still having an amazing time. The Copacabana Palace is a really nice place, the music has been wonderful, the people are friendly, hang gliding was a blast, the views are spectacular, Christ the Redeemer is inspiring, and everything is inexpensive.

… and Uruguay isn’t much better. Haven. For. Litterbugs.

  1. soldiersquared

    Uruguay. The kinder, gentler bi-curious cousin of Argentina and Brazil is secretly the littering capital of South America.

    Everybody just throws their trash on the sidewalk and nobody picks up their waste from their dogs that I’m still convinced the government issues because everybody has one. The gas they use is unlike our “unleaded” we use in the States so the air smells completely fucking toxic. Unreal.

Floridians are a bunch of cheaters

https://assets3.thrillist.com/v1/image/1681284/size/tl-horizontal_main/the-worst-things-nobody-tells-you-about-the-countries-they-visit

Flickr/Elzey

carlosdanger11

  1. Sitting in a Florida cracker barrel while on vaca right now. I can’t believe how many young people (like in their 20’s) have handicap stickers. I watched at least 4 groups of them while waiting for a table and none of them had any noticeable issues. There’s actually a Ferrari parked in one now.

American border officers are a-holes

  1. GodardWaffleCakes

    Border officers in the US tend to be unnecesarily rude, it doesn’t matter if you are entering by land or plane, you can feel they don’t want you there. I have gone to the US many times and every single time it is the same. It really is a bummer for it to be your first experience entering the country, as the rest of the trip tends to be great.

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A Heartfelt Post for Valentine’s Day! <3

Hey there all you romantics: I spotted this piece in the Mail Online Travel – just perfect for Feb 14th.
Check it out… ❤ ❤ ❤

Ned


It appears that love is not just in the air, but also hidden in natural wonders all over the planet. 

From peaceful atolls, vibrant islands and rocky cliffs there are heart-shapes surprises to be discovered among the landscape. 

Sir Richard Branson is even a fan of the phenomenon, forking out for a heart-shaped island resort in Australia.

Romantics may wish to spend a day exploring Croatia’s perfectly shaped paradise, Galesnjak, which received international fame after it was captured by a Google Earth satellite in 2009. 

Travellers can also visit Tupai, a tiny atoll located just north of Bora Bora. There are flights available for tours and couples can even tie the knot on the stunning island.

Here are some of the most spectacular natural wonders – that are sure to capture your heart.

Heart of the ocean: If you are lucky enough to get a helicopter ride over Australia's Great Barrier Reef you should look out for Heart Reef, in Hardy Reef, which is a stunning composition of coral that has naturally formed into the shape of a heart 

Heart of the ocean: If you are lucky enough to get a helicopter ride over Australia’s Great Barrier Reef you should look out for Heart Reef, in Hardy Reef, which is a stunning composition of coral that has naturally formed into the shape of a heart

Sir Richard Branson owns the tranquil Makepeace Island off Australia's Sunshine Coast. The secluded sanctuary offers 20 explorers the chance to stay in luxury villas with access to a lagoon pool and island bar

Sir Richard Branson owns the tranquil Makepeace Island off Australia’s Sunshine Coast. The secluded sanctuary offers 20 explorers the chance to stay in luxury villas with access to a lagoon pool and island bar

At sunset the silhouette of this heart-shaped hole in the rocky cliffs of Calanques de Piana on Corsica Island, France, is breathtaking

At sunset the silhouette of this heart-shaped hole in the rocky cliffs of Calanques de Piana on Corsica Island, France, is breathtaking

Contrasting against the lush green mountain, this bright turquoise heart-shaped lake is located near Ala-Kul Lake, Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan

Contrasting against the lush green mountain, this bright turquoise heart-shaped lake is located near Ala-Kul Lake, Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan

This large formation of vegetation in New Caledonia is called the Coeur or Heart of Voh. It was made famous in a photograph taken in 1990 and published a few years later on the book cover Earth from Heaven, by French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand

This large formation of vegetation in New Caledonia is called the Coeur or Heart of Voh. It was made famous in a photograph taken in 1990 and published a few years later on the book cover Earth from Heaven, by French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Heart Island in Galesnjak, Croatia, first gained worldwide recognition in 2009 when Google Earth captured its unique shape with this satellite image. Galesnjak is uninhabited and does not have any tourist facilities, but visitors can travel by boat for a day with their loved one

Heart Island in Galesnjak, Croatia, first gained worldwide recognition in 2009 when Google Earth captured its unique shape with this satellite image. Galesnjak is uninhabited and does not have any tourist facilities, but visitors can travel by boat for a day with their loved one

Travellers can also visit Tupai, a tiny atoll located just north of Bora Bora, with flights available to tour or tie the knot on the stunning island 

Travellers can also visit Tupai, a tiny atoll located just north of Bora Bora, with flights available to tour or tie the knot on the stunning island

In Germany there is a heart-shaped island in Kleine Muritz Lake, perfect for lovers wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the world

In Germany there is a heart-shaped island in Kleine Muritz Lake, perfect for lovers wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the world

At the foot of Dunsinane Hill in Perthshire, Scotland, surrounded by fields, is a cute heart-shaped pond

At the foot of Dunsinane Hill in Perthshire, Scotland, surrounded by fields, is a cute heart-shaped pond

Those travelling by boat may not be able to fully appreciate this small heart-shaped island in Germany located where the Ruhr River joins the Kemnade reservoir, as it is best viewed from above

Those travelling by boat may not be able to fully appreciate this small heart-shaped island in Germany located where the Ruhr River joins the Kemnade reservoir, as it is best viewed from above

Have the ultimate romantic retreat on Tavarua Island in Fiji. The 29-acre island is surrounded by a stunning coral reef

Have the ultimate romantic retreat on Tavarua Island in Fiji. The 29-acre island is surrounded by a stunning coral reef

Located in the Bavarian Alps, this beautiful heart-shaped islands sits on Germany’s Lake Walchensee

Located in the Bavarian Alps, this beautiful heart-shaped islands sits on Germany’s Lake Walchensee

Those flying above the British Columbia landscape in Canada can catch a glimpse of this unusually carved lake

Those flying above the British Columbia landscape in Canada can catch a glimpse of this unusually carved lake

In 2013 it was rumoured that Angelina Jolie bought the heart-shaped Petra Island near New York as a 50th birthday gift for partner Brad Pitt but this was later disputed 

In 2013 it was rumoured that Angelina Jolie bought the heart-shaped Petra Island near New York as a 50th birthday gift for partner Brad Pitt but this was later disputed

 

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    This scenic property in Pas-de-Calais, Louches, France, comes with its own heart-shaped lake - ideal for romantic strolls

    This scenic property in Pas-de-Calais, Louches, France, comes with its own heart-shaped lake – ideal for romantic strolls

    Those who venture up Austrian Alps should look out for a glimpse of this heart-shaped glacier lake during the trip

    Those who venture up Austrian Alps should look out for a glimpse of this heart-shaped glacier lake during the trip

    Water in this reservoir in Goldried, High Tauern National Park, Austria, is collected in the shape of a heart

    Water in this reservoir in Goldried, High Tauern National Park, Austria, is collected in the shape of a heart

    Lake Pupuke is a heart-shaped freshwater lake occupying a volcanic crater between the suburbs of Takapuna and Milford on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand 

    Lake Pupuke is a heart-shaped freshwater lake occupying a volcanic crater between the suburbs of Takapuna and Milford on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand

     

 

The countries that don’t exist

This is another brilliant piece from my NFW (New Favourite Website) – BBC Future.


There really is a secret world of hidden independent nations, with their own populations, governments – and football leagues. In fact, you’ve almost certainly visited one without realising.

https://i1.wp.com/ichef.bbci.co.uk/wwfeatures/1600_640/images/live/p0/37/36/p03736sx.jpg

(Credit: Malou Sinding/ Flickr)

When I first see Nick Middleton, he is surrounded by globes and atlases showing the most exotic places on the planet. We are in the basement of Stanfords, London’s largest travel bookshop, visited by such intrepid explorers as Florence Nightingale, Ernest Shackleton and Ranulph Fiennes.

Middleton, however, is here to talk about countries missing from the vast majority of books and maps for sale here. He calls them the “countries that don’t exist”, but although their names may seem fantastical – Atlantium, Christiania, and Elgaland-Vargaland – they are all real places, occupied by fervidly patriotic citizens. In fact, you have almost certainly, unknowingly, visited one.

The globe, it turns out, is full of small (and not so small) regions that have all the trappings of a real country – a fixed population, a government, a flag, and a currency. Some can even issue you a biometric passport. Yet for various reasons they are not allowed representatives in the United Nations, and are ignored on most world maps.

Middleton, a geographer at the University of Oxford, has now charted these hidden lands in his new book, An Atlas of Countries that Don’t Exist (Macmillan, 2015). Flicking through its pages, it feels like you have entered a parallel world with a vibrant, forgotten history and a rich culture. This parallel world even has its own international football league.

(Credit: Raymond Brooke / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Christiania is a country within a city (Credit: Raymond Brooke / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Middleton’s quest began, appropriately enough, with Narnia. He was reading CS Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe with his six-year-old daughter, and the main character Lucy had just passed through the mothballs and fur coats into a magical land. Something about the whimsy appealed to Middleton. As a geographer, he realised that you don’t have to use magic to visit a country that “doesn’t exist” in the eyes of most other states. Even so, he didn’t expect them to be quite so widespread. “Once I started looking into them, I was amazed by how many there are,” he says. “I could have filled the book several times over.”

The problem, he says, is that we don’t have a watertight definition of what a country is. “Which as a geographer, is kind of shocking,” he says. Some cite a treaty signed in 1933, during the International Conference of American States in Montevideo, Uruguay. The “Montevideo Convention” declares that to become a country, a region needs the following features: a defined territory, a permanent population, a government, and “the capacity to enter into relations with other states”.

Yet many countries that meet these criteria aren‘t members of the United Nations (commonly accepted as the final seal of a country’s statehood). Consider Taiwan – which held a seat in the General Assembly until 1971, until mainland China entered and took over its position. Even the United Kingdom is a somewhat strange case, Middleton says. Within our law, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are considered individual states. We have our own sports teams and compete against each other – but we only have one shared seat in the UN. “So is England a country? By this criterion, no,” says Middleton. (Such questions came to a head with Scotland’s recent referendum.)

In the end, England and Scotland didn’t make it into the pages of his Atlas. For his shortlist, Middleton focused on the countries that meet the Montevideo convention, with a fixed territory, population, and government, but which have no representation in the General Assembly. (Although many of them are instead members of the “Unrepresented United Nations – an alternative body to champion their rights.)

(Credit: Adam Proctor)

(Credit: Adam Proctor)

A handful of the names will be familiar to anyone who has read a newspaper: territories such as Taiwan, Tibet, Greenland, and Northern Cyprus. The others are less famous, but they are by no means less serious; Middleton discusses many examples of indigenous populations hoping to reassert their sovereignty. One of the most troubling histories, he says, concerns the Republic of Lakotah (with a population of 100,000). Bang in the centre of the United States of America (just east of the Rocky Mountains), the republic is an attempt to reclaim the sacred Black Hills for the Lakota Sioux tribe.

Their plight began in the 18th Century, and by 1868 they had finally signed a deal with the US government that promised the right to live on the Black Hills. Unfortunately, they hadn’t accounted for a gold rush – and the government soon forgot about its deal as prospectors swarmed over the sacred land. The Lakota would have to wait more than a century for an apology, when, in 1998, a judge at the Supreme Court concluded that “a more ripe and rank case of dishonest dealings may never be found in our history”. The Court decided to compensate the Lakota Sioux (in nearly $600m) but they have refused to take the cash. “They say if we take the money, it’ll be like saying the crime was alright,” says Middleton.  Instead, in 2007 a delegation marched to Washington to declare their formal withdrawal from the US, and they continue to mount a legal battle for their independence.

(Credit: Adam Proctor)

(Credit: Adam Proctor)

Similar battles are being fought across every continent. There’s Barotseland, an African kingdom with a population of 3.5 million that has mounted a case to leave Zambia, and Ogoniland, which is attempting to disengage from Nigeria; both declared independence in 2012. In Australia, meanwhile, the Republic of Murrawarri was founded in 2013, after the indigenous tribe wrote a letter to Queen Elizabeth II asking her to prove her legitimacy to govern their land. The Murrawarri gave her 30 days to reply – and with nothing but a deafening silence, they formally reasserted their claim to rule their ancient homeland.

Not all the countries featured in Middleton’s book have such deep historical roots – often, they are established by rather eccentric individuals hoping to set up a new, fairer state. Middleton points to Hutt River, in Australia, a small “principality” set up by a family of farmers hoping to escape the government’s strict grain quotas; they soon developed their own royal titles, currency and postal service. “They have a thriving stamp business,” says Middleton (although initially, letters had to be flown through Canada). After decades of struggle, the government gave up the fight and the family no longer have to pay Australian taxes.

(Credit: Adam Proctor)

(Credit: Adam Proctor)

In Europe, you can find Forvik, a tiny Shetland Isle founded by an Englishman (from Kent) to promote transparent governance, Sealand, off the British coast, and Christiania, an enclave in the heart of Copenhagen. The latter country was formed by a group of squatters occupying a former army barracks in 1971. On 26 September that year, they declared it independent, with its own “direct democracy”, in which each of the inhabitants (now numbering 850) could vote on any important matter. So far, the Danish government has turned something of a blind eye to the activities; smoking cannabis, for instance, is legal in Christiania, but outlawed in the rest of the Denmark (though the Christianians themselves have decided to ban harder drugs).

Despite these more eccentric examples, Middleton wouldn’t consider trying to set up a country himself. “Having trawled through so many serious stories of yearning and oppression, I don’t think it’s appropriate to take it too light heartedly,” he says. “For so many people it’s a matter of life or death.” Despite their efforts, he suspects that only a very few will eventually gain wider recognition. “If I had to plump for any, it would be Greenland,” he says – the autonomous region of Denmark that already has self-rule, often considered the first step to formal recognition.

(Credit: Adam Proctor)

(Credit: Adam Proctor)

But given our difficulties even defining what a country is, perhaps we need to rethink the concept of the nation-state altogether? He points to Antarctica, a continent shared peacefully among the international community, as a sign that we don’t necessarily have to slice up land as if it were a giant pizza.

Perhaps this is just the start. The last pages of Middleton’s Atlas contain two radical examples that question everything we think we mean by the word ‘country’.

Consider Atlantium. Its capital, Concordia, for instance, is based in a remote rural province of Australia – it is occupied by more kangaroos than people. But that’s just its administrative quarters – Atlantium is “non-territorial”, meaning that anyone, anywhere, can become a citizen. As its website proclaims: “In an age where people increasingly are unified by common interests and purposes across – rather than within – traditional national boundaries, Atlantium offers an alternative to the discriminatory historic practice of assigning nationality to individuals on the basis of accidents of birth or circumstance.”

Then there’s Elgaland-Vargaland, which was thought up by two Swedish artists – and is meant to consist of all the areas of “No Man’s Land” across the world, including the land marking the borders between other nations and any bits of the sea outside another country’s territorial waters; any time you have travelled abroad, you have passed through Elgaland-Vargaland. In fact, of all the countries Middleton has looked at, this is the closest to his starting point, Narnia – since the artists claim that any time you enter a dream, or let your mind wander, you have also crossed a border and temporarily taken a trip into Elgaland-Vargaland.

Atlantium and Elgaland-Vargaland may be a little too fanciful for most people to take very seriously – Middleton admires them more as an attempt to provoke wider debate on international relations. “They all raise the possibility that countries as we know them are not the only legitimate basis for ordering the planet,” he wrote in his book.

One thing’s certain – the world is in constant flux. “No one my age thought that the Soviet Union would fall to bits – there can be big unexpected changes,” he says. New countries are always being born, while old ones vanish. In the deep future, every territory we know could eventually become a country that doesn’t exist.

 

 

Could just two people repopulate Earth?

This is a fascinating article from the BBC future website – not strictly travel-related (although it does mention journeying into outer space!) but certainly got me thinking.  Must pick my genetic partner carefully…!

Ned


The last man on Earth is a common trope in fiction – but what if it actually happened? How many people would it take to save our species?

Earth repopulation

Credit: Getty Images

The alien predators arrived by boat. Within two years, everyone was dead. Almost.

The tiny islet of Ball’s Pyramid lies 600km east of Australia in the South Pacific, rising out of the sea like a shard of glass. And there they were – halfway up its sheer cliff edge, sheltering under a spindly bush – the last of the species. Two escaped and just nine years later there were 9,000, the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Adam and Eve.

No, this isn’t a bizarre take on the story of creation. The lucky couple were tree lobsters Dryococelus australis, stick insects the size of a human hand. They were thought to be extinct soon after black rats invaded their native Lord Howe Island in 1918, but were found clinging on in Ball’s Pyramid 83 years later. The species owes its miraculous recovery to a team of scientists who scaled 500ft of vertical rock to reach their hiding place in 2003. The lobsters were named “Adam” and “Eve” and sent to start a breeding programme at Melbourne Zoo.

Lord Howe Island near Australia – where species have been driven to the brink thanks to ‘alien’ invaders (Credit: Getty Images)

Bouncing back after insect Armageddon is one thing. Female tree lobsters lay 10 eggs every 10 days and are capable of parthenogenesis; they don’t need a man to reproduce. Repopulating the earth with humans is quite another matter. Could we do it? And how long would it take?

The answer is more than a whimsical discussion for the pub. From Nasa’s research on the magic number of pioneers needed for our move to another planet, to decisions about the conservation of endangered species, it’s a matter of increasing international importance and urgency.

So let’s fast-forward 100 years. Humanity’s endeavours have gone horribly wrong and a robot uprising has wiped us off the face of the Earth – a fate predicted by Stephen Hawking in 2014. Just two people made it. There’s no way around it: the first generation would all be brothers and sisters.

Sigmund Freud believed incest was the only universal human taboo alongside murdering your parents. It’s not just gross, it’s downright dangerous. A study of children born in Czechoslovakia between 1933 and 1970 found that nearly 40% of those whose parents were first-degree relatives were severely handicapped, of which 14% eventually died.

Recessive risks

To understand why inbreeding can be so deadly, we need to get to grips with some genetics. We all have two copies of every gene, one from each parent. But some gene variants don’t show up unless you have two exactly the same. Most inherited diseases are caused by these “recessive” variants, which sneak through the evolutionary radar because they are harmless on their own. In fact, the average person has between one and two lethal recessive mutations in their genome.

When a couple are related, it doesn’t take long for the mask to slip. Take achromatopsia, a rare recessive disorder which causes total colour blindness. It affects 1 in 33,000 Americans and is carried by one in 100. If one of our post-apocalyptic survivors had the variant, there’s a one in four chance of their child having a copy. So far, so good. After just one generation of incest, the risk skyrockets – with a one in four chance of their child having two copies. That’s a 1 in 16 chance that the original couple’s first grandchild would have the disease.

This was the fate of the inhabitants of Pingelap, an isolated atoll in the western Pacific. The entire population is descended from just 20 survivors of a typhoon which swept the island in the 18th Century, including a carrier of achromatopsia. With such a small gene pool, today a 10th of the island’s population is totally colour blind.

Rebuilding populations of New Zealand’s threatened kakapo have struggled, partly because of the limited gene pool (Credit: Getty Images)

Even with these hideous risks in mind, if the survivors had enough children the chances are at least some of them would be healthy. But what happens when inbreeding continues for hundreds of years? It turns out you don’t have to be stuck on an island to find out, because there’s one community that just can’t get enough of their close relatives: European royalty. And with nine generations of strategic marriages between cousins, uncles, and nieces in 200 years, the Spanish Habsburgs are a natural experiment in how it all adds up.

Charles II was the family’s most famous victim. Born with a litany of physical and mental disabilities, the king didn’t learn to walk until he was eight years old. As an adult his infertility spelled the extinction of an entire dynasty.

In 2009 a team of Spanish scientists revealed why. Charles’ ancestry was so entangled, his “inbreeding coefficient” – a figure reflecting the proportion of inherited genes that would be identical from both parents – was higher than if he had been born to siblings.

It’s the same measure used by ecologists to assess the genetic risks faced by endangered species. “With a small population size everyone is going to be related sooner or later, and as relatedness increases inbreeding effects become more important,” explains Dr Bruce Robertson from Otago University. He studies New Zealand’s giant, flightless parrots, called the kakapo, of which there are only 125 left on the planet.

Of particular concern are the effects of inbreeding on sperm quality, which has increased the proportion of eggs that will never hatch from 10% to around 40%. It’s an example of inbreeding depression, Robertson says, caused by the exposure of recessive genetic defects in a population. Despite plenty of food and protection from predators, the kakapo might not make it.

Immune mix

Endangered species also run the gauntlet of longer-term risks. Although they may already be well adapted to their environment, genetic diversity allows species to evolve their way around future challenges. Nowhere is this more important than immunity. “It’s something that most species seem keen to promote diversity in, even humans. We pick mates with a very different immune composition so our offspring have a diverse array of immune locks,” says Dr Philip Stephens from Durham University. Back in our evolutionary past, it’s thought that pairing with Neanderthals may have given our immune systems a genetic boost.

Even if our species makes it, it could be unrecognisable. When small pockets of individuals remain isolated for too long they become susceptible to the founder effect, in which the loss of genetic diversity amplifies the population’s genetic quirks. Not only would the new humans look and sound different – they could be an entirely different species.

The European royal families of the 19th Century were living proof of the perils of inbreeding (Credit: Science Photo Library)

So how much variety do you need? It’s a debate that goes right back to the 80s, says Stephens, when an Australian scientist proposed a universal rule of thumb. “Basically you need 50 breeding individuals to avoid inbreeding depression and 500 in order to adapt,” he says. It’s a rule still used today – though it’s been upped to 500-5,000 to account for random losses when genes are passed from one generation to the next – to inform the IUCN Red List, which catalogues the world’s most threatened species.

Increasingly, the concept is leading those in the field to question the policies of large conservation charities, which prioritise the most endangered species. “It’s conservation framed in the context of triage – you sift casualties and ask is there a chance of saving them. It can be used to say well, can we forget about species?”

But before you write off our couple, as one scientist pointed out, we’re living proof of the concept’s inherent flaws. According to anatomical and archaeological evidence, our ancestors wouldn’t have made our own population targets, with 1,000 individuals in existence for nearly a million years. Then between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, we hit another rough patch as our ancestors migrated out of Africa. As you would expect, we’ve been left with astonishingly low genetic diversity. A 2012 study of the genetic differences between neighbouring groups of chimpanzees found more diversity in a single group than among all seven billion humans alive today.

Looking to our ancestors may be our best bet. Anthropologist John Moore’s estimate, which was published by Nasa in 2002, was modelled on small migrating groups of early humans – around 160 people. He recommends starting with young, childless couples and screening for the presence of potentially dangerous recessive genes. Alas, Moore was contemplating long-term space travel, not repopulating the planet. His number only allows for 200 years of isolation before the pioneers head back to Earth.

We could go from a handful to billions in a few short centuries – if we put our minds to it (Credit: Getty Images)

So what of the last man and woman? It’s impossible to say with any certainty, though Stephens is tentatively optimistic. “The evidence for the short-term effects of low genetic diversity is very strong, but all these things are probabilistic. There are stories of incredible journeys back from the brink – anything is possible.”

As long as the apocalypse doesn’t destroy the foundations of modern civilisation, humanity could bounce back surprisingly fast. At the turn of the 20th Century, the Hutterite community of North America – which is, incidentally, highly inbred – achieved the highest levels of population growth ever recorded, doubling every 17 years. It’s a tough ask, but if each woman had eight children, we’d be back to seven billion people and our current population crisis in just 556 years.

 

Lonely Planet’s Top 10 to Visit in 2016

Botswana ranks Number 1 in LP’s 2016 list; it’s somewhere I have trekked several times and I must admit it never disappoints.  I particularly love the stunning Duba Plains, the Tsodilo Hills – Botswana’s first World Heritage site – and the mysterious disappearing Lake Ngami.  Stable and prosperous, Botswana has blossomed since independence from Britain in 1966. It is Africa’s longest continuous democracy and one of the world’s biggest diamond producers. Currency is the Pula.

Brian Jackman wrote a great piece in the Telegraph a couple of years back if you want to learn more on the Okavango Delta here.

Ned


1. Botswana

Democratic, progressive, enlightened – but above all, invigoratingly wild. The story of Botswana’s journey from poverty to become one of Africa’s most stable, thriving societies is inspirational; the country celebrates 50 years of independence in 2016 and there’s a lot for it to shout about, not least the way it has balanced economic growth with protecting its natural riches. Prepare for a severe case of slack-jawed-with-awe syndrome when you visit.

In 2016 Botswana will celebrate its 50th year of independence. So what, you may say. What’s there to shout about? Well, quite a lot really. Not least the longest continuous multi-party democracy on the continent, a progressive social outlook (Botswana was one of the first countries to offer free antiretroviral drugs to its citizens in 2002), minimal corruption, a healthy and enlightened tourism industry and a fast-growing economy since independence. The country’s journey from abject poverty in 1966 to become one of Africa’s most stable and thriving societies is hugely inspiring and, no doubt, deserves a proverbial pat on the back.

But that’s not all. Botswana is a unique destination: an unusual combination of desert and delta that draws an immense concentration of wildlife. It is wild, pristine and expansive. Seventeen percent of the country is dedicated to national parks, many of them spreading into the vast Transfrontier parks of Kavango-Zambezi and Kgalagadi. This dedication to conserving some of the world’s last remaining wildernesses was finally recognised in 2014 when the jewel in Botswana’s conservation crown, the Okavango Delta, became Unesco’s 1000th World Heritage Site. Despite this embarrassment of accolades, Botswana remains off the radar for most people. The impression is: it’s too difficult to get to, it doesn’t cater for families. But we’re here to tell you that’s all nonsense. Go now! Go by plane, car or mokoro (canoe). Go in the green season or the dry season – it’s all great. Go to Vumbura Plains Camp or Jao Camp with tons of cash for the trip of a lifetime or go on a budget to community projects like Tsabong Camel Park and Moremi Gorge. Go as a honeymooning couple to gaze over the dreamy Zibandianja Lagoon in Linyanti or as an adventure junkie to ride horseback through Mashatu Game Reserve. Go as a wildlife enthusiast and track elephants in the mini-Serengeti of Savuti or meerkats on the Makgadikgadi Pans. Go alone to take your guiding qualifications at Okavango Guiding School or with the kids to experience Ker & Downey’s award-winning family safari (Safari Awards 2015). Whatever you do and whenever you go, you won’t regret it. Trust us on this one.

Life-changing experience

Botswana is so full of life-changing experiences it would be easier to list the things that aren’t remarkable. Here is a real wilderness that puts you in touch with palpable primitive thrills and fears, whether it’s being poled by an African gondolier in a mokoro past pods of sunbathing hippos in the Okavango Delta; or feeling the spirit of the first men in the thousand-year-old rock art in the Tsodilo Hills; or in the eerie beauty of Kubu Island’s ancient baobabs backlit by incandescent constellations in a vast night sky.

Current craze

So called ‘car park pimping’. Thanks to a 30% tax on alcohol and new licensing hours enforcing club closures at 2am, Gaborone’s club scene has moved outdoors and hijacked suburban car parks. Here the party continues around makeshift DJ decks with experienced clubbers equipped with personal cool boxes and camping chairs.

Trending topics

Direct flights. For years the government has been clamouring for direct international flights, and the relocation of De Beers’ sales office from London to Gaborone (handling about US$6.5-billion worth of rough diamond sales annually) in 2013 has undoubtedly added new pressure. Gaborone’s airport and runway have recently been upgraded and similar upgrades are planned for Maun and Kasane. With all the action people are hoping the long-awaited day may come within the next 6 to 12 months.  – Paula Hardy

2. Japan

Japan. It might be number two in this year’s rankings, but it’s always number one for travellers in search of an otherworldly experience. Nowhere else on earth exemplifies that dog-eared ‘modern yet ancient’ cliche like the land of the rising sun. Tokyo’s successful bid to host the Olympics in 2020 has raised the temperature of a feverish city amid a blur of new development, but beyond the suburbs Japan remains as elegant and enticing as its graceful wooden temples.

Even if you’ve never been to Japan, you probably already know that it ranks number one in the world for that quintessential not-in-Kansas-anymore travel experience. Its cities are expertly crafted odes to futurism where the trains whirr by in the blink of an eye and the towers of metal and glass are bathed in neon light. The countryside, too, feels otherworldly, with all-continents-in-one landscapes that blend alpine peaks with shimmering shores. And everywhere in between are prim wooden temples – the constant reminder that a well of deep-seated traditions hides just beneath the country’s enticing veneer of perfection.

Although Japan didn’t secure the Olympic bid for 2016, it was resoundingly successful with its application for Tokyo in 2020. And Olympic fever is already apparent in the capital as the city executes an elaborate feat of urban planning that will create a brand new shopping district, an entirely new Olympic village, and – most interestingly – move the much-venerated Tsukiji fish market (which sees over US$20 million in seafood sales each day) to a sparkling new facility that is set to swing open its doors at the end of this year. As everyone’s radioactive paranoia is finally put to rest by honouring five years since the fateful 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and with the government’s continued efforts to devalue the Japanese yen, there’s no better time to experience the country that pays such vivid tribute to manic modernity and hallowed history.

Life-changing experience

One of the world’s most famous pilgrimage routes after the Camino de Santiago is Japan’s Kumano Kodo near Osaka. For over a millennium devotees of every ilk – be it farmer or emperor – would walk betwixt hidden Oji shrines and forests of haunting trees to reach the three grand worshipping complexes of Kumano. There are a handful of different paths that extend like spokes around the Kii peninsula, but the goal is united in the act of spiritual penance performed by hikers as they rigorously trek. The preferred route – and also the oldest – is Nakahechi, which starts in the west and travels 30km to the shrines. Unesco officially recognised the network of trails in 2004, and over the last 12 years the walk has seen a steady increase in foreign tourists.

Current craze

Animal cafes. Yes, cat cafes are so 2009, and have proliferated across the globe, but in Japan – the genesis country – animal cafes have reached new heights: hobnob with goats, sip tea with a turtle, pose for selfies with owls, and do whisky shots while watching penguins.

Random facts

  • There are over 5.5 million vending machines in Japan selling everything from umbrellas and cigarettes to canned bread and hot noodles.
  • Japan’s birth rate has plummeted so significantly that adult nappies (diapers) outsell babies’ nappies, which are also sold in vending machines.
  • It is estimated that more paper is used for manga comics than for toilet paper in Japan. (Surprise: both are sold in vending machines as well.)

Most bizarre sight

Cafes where you can tickle owls? Vending machines that sell canned bread? Dentists that help patients accentuate their snaggle-teeth? Take your pick!  – Brandon Presser

3. USA

The ‘best idea’ America ever had turns 100 next year – the National Park Service, which oversees the country’s 59 national parks and hundreds of historic landmarks, celebrates a centenary of safeguarding Yosemite, Yellowstone, Badlands, Zion, and the rest. So lace up your hiking boots and set foot in the miraculously well-managed 340,000 sq km network of surreal and spectacular landscapes it defends, from earth-rending canyons to alligator-infested swamplands to belching geysers. It’s a national triumph.

Yellowstone, the Badlands, Zion, Shenandoah… Even their names evoke lands of Tolkienesque make-believe. Places where trolls and dragons roam, and magic happens. Step beyond the gates of America’s national parks, and you’ll soon be thinking old JRR should have broadened the scope of his imagination. Geysers spurt hundreds of feet high, massive canyons split the horizon in two, herds of bison graze in stunning valleys, and giant tree trunks, as ancient as Rome’s Colosseum, disappear into the sky. These are some of the most spectacular and surreal landscapes on the planet, and the fact that they are looking much the same as they did at the birth of this land-grabbing, highway-loving nation, is frankly a miracle. In 2016, the National Park Service (NPS), the government body which protects and maintains America’s 59 national parks and hundreds of historic landmarks, is turning 100 years old, and like any great host, this old-timer has been busting a gut to ensure the parks are at their best for the centenary.

It was historian Wallace Stegner who called the national parks ‘the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.’ These are the country’s national treasures; as hallowed and revered as India’s golden temples or the castles and cathedrals of Europe. Since its inception the NPS – most recognisable in the wide-brimmed figure of the park ranger – has been busy clearing litter, fighting fires, protecting wildlife, and providing information on everything from the habitat of the American black bear to the geology of Utah’s sandstone arches.

This centenary is an occasion that will be marked not by cake and balloons, but by the fruition of billions of dollars of investment and ambitious initiatives that will prepare the NPS for a second century. These range from the physical: clearing trails, improving accessibility, and installing the latest technology, to the inspirational: hosting ‘discovery’ events, involving thousands of young people in volunteer programs, and promoting enjoyment of the parks to urban communities.

It’s serious work. Serious work that has the most wondrous end: discovery of the national parks themselves. Yosemite’s mighty granite cliffs and fairy-tale waterfalls, Zion’s claustrophobic slot canyons, the steamy swamps of the Everglades, howling wolves, soaring condors, glittering glaciers… There are 340,000 sq km (84.4 million acres) to choose from. As you lace up the hiking boots, just remember to give your thanks to those hard-working folk at the NPS.

Life-changing experience

The world’s third-largest nation is a road-tripping paradise. As you take to highways travelled by Thelma and Louise and Bonnie and Clyde, watch the landscape morph from prairie to desert to breathtaking ocean road. On the way, goofy roadside attractions, small-town diners and curious locals are the added spice for the great American road trip.

Trending topics

The election. In 2016, America’s first African-American president will step down. As nationwide protests change the way Americans think about politics, this election year promises raging debate, as well as the usual flag flying and amusing (or just plain rude) bumper stickers. Will history be made again with the inauguration of America’s first female president?  – Dora Whitaker

4. Palau

Handballed between various foreign powers for centuries, Pacific pipsqueak Palau is charting its own path through the uncertain waters of national independence. While the US still plays Big Daddy, Palau is its own master. In 2014 President Remengesau was named a ‘Champion of the Earth’ by the United Nations for strengthening the economic and environmental independence of Palau and creating a 100% marine sanctuary of its oceans. His message: ‘The environment is our economy. The economy is our environment.’

Collected behind a 110km barrier reef, more than 200 largely unspoilt limestone and volcanic islands – a mere eight are inhabited – are blanketed in tropical and mangrove forest and surrounded by waters teeming with marine life. Fairly constant temperatures and rainfall mean any time of the year is good to visit, although it becomes more typhoon-prone in the back half of the calendar.

Palau has as much to fear from rising sea levels and environmental degradation as any other Pacific nation, but it’s tackling those fears head-on, and is leading conservation efforts in the region. Such progressive thinking makes these islands a haven for diving and snorkelling (among the best in the world) as well as kayaking, sailing and wildlife watching. The secret is out in East Asia already, which means Palau is looking to limit the number of tourists it can host at a time.

Life-changing experience

Cutely dubbed an ‘underwater Serengeti’, Palau’s waters are stunningly diverse and it’s unquestionably one of the most magical underwater destinations in the world. Divers and snorkellers enjoy hundreds of species of fish and coral, sharks, dolphins, dugongs and turtles, all attracted by the confluence of nutritive currents that meets in this corner of the Pacific vastness.

If you prefer to stay above sea level, take an ocean kayak through the uninhabited archipelago of the Rock Islands. Almost alien in its beauty, it’s made up of 445 limestone formations swaddled with verdant green and fringed by reefs. Nearly 400 species of coral, the world’s highest concentration of marine lakes, the remains of now-vanished human habitation and the continuing discovery of new and endemic species led Unesco to list this as a World Heritage Site.

Current craze

In 1944, the Japanese and Americans fought for three desperate months for control of the island of Peleliu’s important airfield. The tragic result was over 10,000 Japanese and 2,000 American casualties, and an island paradise littered with wreckage. Today, many of the rusted tanks, planes, small arms and (highly dangerous) unexploded ordnance that attest to the ferocity of the struggle remain. Tourists, carefully shepherded by expert guides, are increasingly being drawn to this fascinating site, where you can even enter the cave networks left by the Japanese defenders, and find everyday artefacts left behind. This isn’t as ghoulish as it may sound: many of the visitors are here to pay respect to fallen relatives, and moves are afoot to preserve the site for its outstanding historical significance.

Trending topics

A 400% year-on-year increase in visitors from China in February 2015 put some noses out of joint in Palau and resulted in a reduction in flights scheduled from China. Palau’s pristine environment makes it a popular destination for the Chinese, Korean and Japanese jet set, but locals have complained about a lack of environmental awareness threatening their precious assets.

Most bizarre sight

Jellyfish Lake is an otherworldly lagoon on the uninhabited limestone Rock Island of Eil Malk. Millions of an endemic sub-species of golden jellyfish drift across the marine lake in an east-west migratory pattern that’s repeated every day. Such is the sensitivity of the lake that visitors must obtain a permit, but snorkelling with these harmless, highly photogenic jellyfish is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  –  Tasmin Waby

5. Latvia

Latvia is shining for its silver anniversary. Celebrating 25 years of freedom from its Soviet fetters, little Latvia is poised to take centre stage after more than two decades of playing catch-up with many of its European brethren. And the title of ‘most improved’ is rightfully deserved for casting aside the dismal shadow of Communism and resuscitating centuries-old traditions that have long made this Baltic treasure shine.

Hundreds of crumbling castles and manor houses – from medieval to Rococo – hide in the nation’s dense forests of pine, and today many of these estates have been lavishly transformed into inns and museums. In fact an entire week could be spent in the countryside connecting the stars of this constellation.

Food, too, has come a long way from sweaty pork and potatoes. A fleet of (new) New Nordic chefs are catapulting local flavours to such artisanal heights that they would truly give Copenhagen a run for its money if Michelin were paying them more attention.

And as the country’s rural population continues to dwindle, Riga, the capital, further bolsters its importance throughout both the country and the region, especially after receiving a generous infusion of EU funds during its reign as European Capital of Culture in 2014. Much of the money was earmarked for infrastructure improvements and major renovations to important civic structures like the former KGB headquarters (now a fascinating museum), and the clutch of coveted Art Nouveau façades, of which the city has over 700 – one of the largest collections in the world.

Life-changing experience

Cast modesty aside and indulge in Latvia’s most Latvian tradition, the pirts – a hot birch sauna. A traditional pirts is run by a sauna master who cares for her naked attendees while performing choreographed branch beatings that draw on ancient pagan traditions. Herbs and wildflowers swish in the air to raise the humidity in the chamber for a series of sweltering 15-minute sessions before you exit the sauna to jump in a nearby body of water (lake, pond or sea). Nibbles and tipples, like smoked fish and beer, are intermixed for good measure, in what is largely the best way to swap the latest gossip with locals.

Random facts

  • It’s believed that the Christmas tree originated in Latvia. In 1510 a fraternity of drunken bachelors hauled a pine tree into Riga’s town square, covered it in flowers and set it on fire. A commemorative plaque marks the spot where the burning tree once stood.
  • A Latvian named Arvĩds Blũmentãls was the inspiration for Crocodile Dundee. Originally from a town in western Latvia called Dundaga, he moved to Australia after the WWII, where he hunted reptiles and dug for opals.
  • Technically the Latvian language has no word for ‘mountain’; the same word is used for ‘hill’ and ‘mountain’. No wonder, since Latvia’s highest point, Gaiziņkalns, is only 312m high.

Most bizarre sight

Gauja National Park may be known as a pine-studded preserve filled with medieval ruins, but it also holds some of the most eccentric relics from the Soviet era. Don’t miss the 1200m cement bobsled track built near Sigulda as the training course for the Soviet Olympic team, and check out the top-secret nuclear fallout shelter buried under a convalescence home in Lĩgatne. The bunker was of high strategic importance during the Cold War and the rooms covered in untouched switchboards and Soviet propaganda will undoubtedly perk the antenna of any Bond enthusiast.  – Brandon Presser

6. Australia

Unless you’re from New Zealand or Papua New Guinea, Australia can seem a long way from anywhere. Getting here usually involves folding yourself into a plane for 24 hours. But with 2016 shaping up as a definitive year for several of Australia’s key wilderness areas, it’ll be 24 hours well spent. In fact, with the weak Australian dollar, anything you spend here this year will be value for money. Petrol prices are heading south too: perfect timing for your great Australian road trip.

Environmentally, battle lines are being drawn near the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, where a string of proposed mining ports will require the dredging and dumping of millions of tonnes of seafloor. In Tasmania, the peace accord between pro- and anti-logging forces has been torn up by the new state government, keen to unlock old-growth forest for export. Now is the time to experience these astounding wilderness areas before compromises are made.

More positively, increasing numbers of Aboriginal land rights claims are being recognised here, including recent claims over Queensland’s Fraser Island and a huge tract of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. Indigenous tourism is booming, with new Aboriginal tour companies such as Ngurrangga Tours in Karratha and Bungoolee Tours in the Kimberley offering authentic cultural experiences. Contemporary Aboriginal art remains an Australian cultural high-water mark, as evidenced by the fab new Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts & Culture Centre in Katherine.

Life-changing experience

Australia does a roaring trade in Unesco World Heritage wilderness areas: the 2300km-long Great Barrier Reef; the blood-red rocks of Uluru and Kata Tjuta; the 15,800 sq km Tasmanian Wilderness Area; the seething jungle of Kakadu National Park… Given the cross-continental distances involved, you mightn’t see them all – but what they have in common is a humbling sense of awe at first sight.

Current craze

Food vans and small bars. Battling innumerable fast food joints in Australian cities, the current clog of takeaway food vans – serving everything from burgers to barramundi curry – is constantly expanding. Afterwards, sip a craft beer at the latest alleyway speakeasy around the corner.

Trending topics

Real estate is the national addiction. Australians love talking about it, building it, buying it, looking at it on TV and (most of all) making money selling it. When the GFC jumped up and bit everybody in 2008, world real estate prices tumbled – but not in Australia. A glorious mining boom was in full swing: Australians just kept on buying pricey houses, driving the market skywards. Now – having reached a tipping point where the median house price is more than five times the median annual household income – Australian house prices are among the least affordable on the planet Will the bubble burst?

Random facts

  • Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world (behind Russia, Canada, the USA, China and Brazil).
  • When the British landed in 1788, Australia comprised more than 500 different Aboriginal nations, with distinct languages and territories.
  • Since the inception of the Man Booker Prize for literature in 1969, four Australians have won: Peter Carey (twice), Thomas Keneally, DBC Pierre and Richard Flanagan.
  • Since Europeans arrived in Australia, 27 native mammal, 23 bird and 78 frog species are believed to have become extinct.

Most bizarre sight

Emerging from the haze in the far-flung Oodnadatta Track in the central Australian desert is the Mutonia Sculpture Park – a kooky roadside installation featuring several large aeroplanes welded together with their tails buried in the ground to form ‘Planehenge’.  – Charles Rawlings-Way

7. Poland

If any country in Europe can boast superpowers, it’s Poland. The nation defied a recession that brought the rest of Europe to its knees, and visitor numbers continue to climb. Sceptics said Poland’s luck would wane after the country co-hosted the Euro 2012 football championship. Instead, Wrocław is poised for stardom as a European Capital of Culture, makeovers are adding lustre to lesser-known cities, and wildlife tourism is on the rise. Clearly 2016 is the year to put the icing on the cake – or perhaps, the swirl of śmietana in the beetroot soup.

Wrocław, the historical capital of Silesia, already had plenty of reasons to preen. Its Old Town Hall, with gothic turrets firing off a custard-coloured exterior, is one of Poland’s most beautiful buildings. And among beer gardens and soaring bell towers, Wrocław harbours a show-stopping 114m-long painting, the Panorama Racławicka. Highlights of the city’s stint as one of 2016’s European Capitals of Culture will be an artist-in-residence programme to promote artists across borders and world music days that combine influences across 50 different countries.

Kraków too will sparkle this year for World Youth Day, when the Pope touches down to kick off a calendar of celebrations and activism. In a country nearly 90% Roman Catholic, the turnout in picturesque Kraków is sure to be record-breaking.

And while budget airlines have long spidered their way across Poland, access is even easier with British Airways flying London to Kraków, Wizz Air opening routes to Szczecin and Katowice, and Finnair launching one to Gdańsk. Any lingering condescension about how well this post-Soviet country is muddling along will vanish as quickly as a shot of tangy wiśniówka (cherry vodka).

Life-changing experience

Plummet 135m into the Wieliczka Salt Mine for an unforgettable underground adventure. In this yawning Unesco-listed grotto, carvings grace walls and chandeliers drip from ceilings – all of them made out of salt. Other subterranean sights offer a glimpse into some of Poland’s most colourful myths. Beneath Kraków’s Wawel Hill lies the rumoured lair of a slain dragon, while in the chalk tunnels of Chełm you’ll learn of a legendary white bear, now the city’s emblem.

Hundreds of bison lumber through Białowieża Forest – though we’d wager the first one you spot will grace the label on a bottle of Poland’s legendary bisongrass vodka, Żubrówka. Unesco-listed Bialowieża is the last remaining expanse of the vast forest that once spread across the European plain. The 141,885-hectare forest (which extends into neighbouring Belarus) is home to around 900 bison, more than half of which are in the Polish reserve. The forest is also prowled by elk, wolves and lynx.

Weekenders looking beyond well-loved Warsaw and Kraków are now spoilt for choice. Increasing visitor numbers mean that Łódź, with its 19th-century mansions and cafe-strewn Piotrkowska Street, is abuzz with redevelopment. Meanwhile Szczecin continues to add polish to its Old Town and is now luring golfers to nearby Binowo Park.

Trending topics

Poland’s heavy-metal scene elicits headbanging or howls of dismay, depending on whom you ask. Some of Poland’s heaviest artists have risen to global acclaim, in particular Behemoth, who loudly protest Poland’s religious majority in between bouts of imperious black metal. To some, they are champions of a new, more secular Poland; to many, they’re the terror of the nation. Wherever you fall in the debate, you’ll never associate Poland with folk dancing again.

Most bizarre sight

Wrocław’s gnomes commemorate the1980s thanks to Orange Alternative movement, an anti-Communist group known for its absurdist style of protest – including graffiti and gnome-hat demonstrations. Today more than 300 gnome statues wave from street corners and twirl their beards beneath window panes. Gnomes with canes and wheelchairs have been added to the elfin army, to draw attention to the challenges faced by people in Wrocław with disabilities.  – Anita Isalska

8. Uruguay

Squished between South America’s two titans, Brazil and Argentina, this small country packs a big punch. What it lacks in size, Uruguay makes up for in peacefulness, hospitality and personality. While its two boisterous neighbours lurch from one crisis to the next, Uruguay stands out as a haven of political stability, good governance and prosperity – it’s not dubbed ‘the Switzerland of America’ for nothing. Uruguayans may seem shy and low-key, but they pride themselves on having constructed one of the continent’s most progressive societies – without civil conflict.

After two centuries living in the shadow of its neighbours, Uruguay is now eager to promote its identity and assets as more than just a side trip from nearby Buenos Aires. In 2016, it’s expected that the number of foreign visitors will reach the 3 million mark. But what is it that these holidaymakers come for?

Take Montevideo, which must be the safest capital in South America. When it comes to quality of life, Montevideo is unrivalled on the continent. It’s small enough to get around, but big enough to have some great architecture and a superb restaurant scene. The beach-lined seafront is easily navigated by bike, as is the Old Town, with its array of grand 19th-century neoclassical buildings.

An hour’s drive away lies gaucho (cowboy) country. Here, undulating pampas are dotted with working estancias (cattle ranches), many of which serve as guesthouses. For great nightlife and sexy beaches, head to Punta del Este, a modern resort city on the Atlantic coast full of beautiful people. But if you’re weary of high-rise buildings and cocktail bars, venture further east to Cabo Polonio and Punta del Diablo. These fabulously remote fishing-surfing villages peppered with colourful wooden cabins are seeing an influx of visitors, drawn by the bohemian vibes, empty beaches, shifting sand dunes, seal colonies and superb waves. Need some cultural sustenance? The gorgeous town of Colonia del Sacramento delivers the perfect blend of authenticity and tourism development. A Unesco World Heritage site, this ancient Portuguese stronghold, with its cobblestoned alleyways, postcolonial ruins, art galleries and elegant B&Bs, has enough to keep visitors happy for days.

Life-changing experience

Uruguayans are the masters of the asado barbecue (but don’t tell the Argentines and Brazilians!). One of the best and most atmospheric places to sample Uruguayan beef is the Mercado del Puerto in Montevideo. This 19th-century wrought-iron market hall shelters a gaggle of steakhouses. Pull up a stool at any of the parrillas (steakhouses) and watch the weighty slabs of meat being cooked over hot coals on a grill, then sink your teeth into a tasty morcilla (blood sausage) – memorable! Saturday lunchtime, when the market is crammed with locals, is the best time to visit.

Random facts

  • Uruguayans consume even more maté (a strong green tea) than Argentines and Paraguayans – which is saying a lot.
  • The 29th of each month is Gnocchi Day, when most restaurants serve gnocchi. This tradition dates back to tough economic times when these potato dumplings were the only thing people could afford to cook at the end of the month.
  • Marijuana is produced and sold legally. Home growers are allowed to keep up to six cannabis plants per household.

Most bizarre sight

In Punta del Este, you can’t miss La Mano de Punta del Este (The Hand). This quirky iron and cement sculpture by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal was created for an art contest in 1982 and has been a ‘Punta’ fixture ever since. It’s unsurprisingly selfie-friendly – thousands of visitors pose in front of its large digits, with the beach in the background.  – Jean-Bernard Carillet

9. Greenland

Our world is ever warmer, ever more crowded, and ever more plugged-in. So there’s something wildly refreshing about a place that’s about 80% ice covered, boasts the world’s lowest population density, and has cellular coverage so poor that many rely on satellite phones. Come to see the midnight sun on the glaciers, sail among breaching whales, ride across the tundra on a dogsled, watch the Northern Lights dance across the ice sheet.

In March 2016 Greenland (technically a territory of Denmark rather than an independent country, although one with a great deal of autonomy) will host the Arctic Winter Games, the largest event of its kind ever. Competitions range from snowshoeing to native games like pole-pushing (think reverse tug-of-war with a tree trunk). There will also be a cultural festival with song, dance and food. If you’re going to visit Greenland, this is the time to go. Luckily for you, it is easier than ever to access. It’s a quick four-hour flight from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland’s main airport. And now there are also seasonal and yearly flights from Reykjavík in Iceland to Nuuk, Ilulissat, Kangerlussuaq, Kulusuk and Narsarsuaq.

Life-changing experience

Witness icebergs the size of the Empire State Building calving in the Ilulissat Icefjord, home to the northern hemisphere’s most productive glacier. The town of Ilulissat, next to the glacier, is known as ‘the iceberg capital of the world’, and offers a huge number of iceberg-watching adventures. Kayak through the fjord’s navy blue waters, soar above the glacier in a fixed-wing plane, or hike along the icy cliffs with a pair of crampons strapped to your shoes.

From September to April, Greenland becomes one of the world’s prime places to see the aurora borealis, nature’s own laser light show. Though you can see the eerie green sine waves from anywhere in the country, for a true once-in-a-lifetime experience join a dogsledding expedition to the interior, where you can pitch a tent on the ice sheet and watch the sky in delicious solitude.

Current craze

Eating local. Yeah, yeah, so calling yourself a locavore is trendy everywhere from Peoria to Little Whinging these days. But Greenland is an Arctic island with little agriculture and no ground transportation. So cooking and eating local here is hardcore. A new generation of young chefs, some of whom have trained abroad in Denmark or elsewhere, are taking on the challenge and making meals with the delicious, albeit limited, local ingredients. Think juniper-poached musk-ox fillets, razorbill with crowberries, kelp salad studded with reindeer bacon, bellflower gelée atop local honey ice cream.

Trending topics

Though Greenland sits atop substantial uranium deposits, the mining of radioactive materials was illegal for a quarter century. Then, in 2013, uranium mining was approved by the government in a close and hotly debated vote. Now the country must decide whether to move forward. Some decry the environmental hazards and potential destruction of Greenland’s way of life, while others say the mining of uranium and other substances is the key to Greenland’s financial woes

Random facts

  • The iceberg that took down the Titanic most likely came from Ilulissat Icefjord in western Greenland, where it began as a snowflake 15,000 years earlier.
  • Greenland’s first brewery invented ‘ice beer’ – beer brewed with water from melted icebergs.
  • There are no roads between towns and settlements in Greenland. Locals and visitors must travel by plane, boat, snowmobile or sled.  – Emily Matchar

10. Fiji

After an uncertain decade following the coup of Commodore ‘Frank’ Bainimarama in 2006, and the constitutional crisis of 2009, Fiji has reverted to its peaceful and pleasure-loving self. In late 2014, Bainimarama finally made good on the promise to hold democratic elections, winning the prime ministership and restoring something of constitutional normality (albeit to a situation he had played an important part in creating).

The 2016 upgrade of the Nadi International Airport should increase capacity and make the transition to paradise a little smoother. Fiji’s international carrier, Fiji Airways, thinks your Fiji experience should begin as soon as you get on board a flight. Those smiles from the cabin crew are just the beginning.

Always blessed by natural beauty and the kind of climate that makes clothes seem a tiresome necessity, today there is a palpable and unprecedented vitality and confidence to Fiji. Whether your bent is idling in a resort, putting your body on the line sampling the latest extreme sport, or the more classic island delights of diving, sailing and angling, 2016 will be the year to soak up all Fiji has to offer.

Life-changing experience

It’s hard to visit Fiji without being serenaded by warm and welcoming singers brandishing guitars or ukuleles. There will be singing at the airport, at your hotel, and even on local buses. But for a real peek into this very traditional culture’s everyday life, get to a village church on a Sunday. Dress modestly (ask locals for advice on what’s appropriate) and have your spirits raised by the voices of a community singing traditional songs in harmony.

Floating in the turquoise waters of the Mamanuca islands is a two-storey pizzeria and bars servicing surfers, divers, sailors and holidaymakers. Swim up and order your wood-fired margherita, lounge on a day bed listening to the surround-sound music, and then ‘cannonball’ back into the spectacular ocean below. Kids are catered for (though did we mention it is completely surrounded by sea?) and prices for the day are all-inclusive. Cloud 9 is a 40-minute speedboat ride from Viti Levu, or a short hop from Musket Cove Island Resort.

Nothing will bring out your inner Attenborough like diving Fiji’s Somosomo Strait off the island of Taveuni. Crowned the ‘soft coral capital of the world’, Rainbow Reef is famous for its marine life, and the luminescent Great White Wall, a vertical drop-off reached by a tubular swim-through, is covered in soft white coral that looks like glimmering snow. The islands of Vanua Levu and Taveuni also boast bird watching and forest hiking for the nature-loving land lubber.

Current craze

Just when you thought the human talent for frivolous invention had exhausted all potential for new ‘sports’, along comes flyboarding. Essentially a jet-propelled, hand-controlled hoverboard, the flyboard allows you to skim above the waves, shoot high into the air, plunge into the swell, then do it all again! Try it at Bounty Island.

Trending topics

Music from the African New World has taken root on the Fijian islands. What started in imitation of the original US and Jamaican styles has evolved into distinctive local variants: artists such as E.3 & Cracker (hip hop), 1stribe (reggae) and Kula Kei Uluivuya or KKU (pop) still pay homage to their musical roots, but reflect the experiences of Polynesians today.

Most bizarre sight

Vilavilairevo (fire walking) was originally performed only by the Sawau tribe of Beqa, an island off Viti Levu’s southern coast, but now you’ll probably catch a performance anywhere in Fiji. Traditionally, strict taboos dictated the men’s behaviour leading up to the ceremony and it was believed adherence to these protected them from burns.  – Tasmin Waby

 

 

Best Autumn Trip Ideas from Nat Geographic

Want to snorkel in a Bahamian blue hole, ring in the Ethiopian New Year, or taste maple leaf tempura in Japan? Whether you’re ready for an island, wilderness, or urban getaway, our editors’ list of ten Best Fall Trips – plus one reader’s choice – is sure to inspire your next autumn adventure.

—Maryellen Kennedy Duckett


Celebrate The Sound of Music‘s 50th Anniversary

Picture of Salzburg, Austria

Photograph by Jan Wlodarczyk/Alamy

Salzburg, Austria

Throughout 2015, fans of the 1965 classic movie The Sound of Music have been flocking to Salzburg to mark the world-famous film’s 50th anniversary. Join the party by attending Sound of Music-themed events, including the Sound of Music Gala 2015 (October 17) at the historic Felsenreitschule and the Sound of Music musical at the Salzburg Landestheater. (Check the website for performance dates.) Round out the celebration by visiting actual Sound of Music filming locations, including Nonnberg Abbey, founded in 714, and Mozart Bridge, named for native son Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Best bet: Pedal around the city and see key sites featured in the movie on Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour Sound of Music route.

How to Get Around: From Salzburg Airport, take a taxi or public bus for the 15-minute ride to the city center and main train station. In the city, travel on foot and by bike, public bus, and subway. Buy a Salzburg Card for 24-, 48-, or 72-hour use of public transportation and admission to popular city attractions, plus various discounts.

Where to Stay: Although no Sound of Music filming took place inside the Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron, the palatial rococo estate, built in 1736 as the family home of the prince archbishop of Salzburg, was featured in the movie. Set designers used the palace’s Venetian Room as the model for the much larger ballroom in the von Trapp villa, and long shots of the estate’s former lakeside gazebo appear in the film. There are 12 suites in the historic palace and 55 rooms in the adjacent Meierhof building, renovated in 2014. Three of the Superior Doubles are billed as “Sound of Music” rooms due to the light, bright interiors and the lake and mountain views.

What to Eat and Drink: Opened around 1542 as a brewery and completely renovated in 2014, the iconic Sternbräu is one of Austria’s largest restaurant complexes. Austrian dishes such as fiakergulasch (meat and sausage goulash) and Salzburger nockerl (an egg soufflé dessert) are served in the multiple dining rooms, bars, and beer gardens. Buy tickets in advance for the Sternbräu’s Sound of Salzburg dinner show (through October 15), which includes musical selections from The Sound of Music, Mozart, and traditional Salzburg operettas.

What to Buy: Salzburg is the hub of Austria’s tracht (national dress) production. Get fitted for a dirndl, lederhosen, loden jacket, or other traditional costume at H. Moser. The family-owned custom tailor shop has been manufacturing trachten since 1928 and created the cast costumes for the Sound of Music musical at the Salzburg Landestheater.

Practical Tip: To easily access maps, travel guides, and other helpful information as you bike around the city, download Salzburg mobile apps to your smartphone or tablet.

What to Watch Before You Go: The five-disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition Sound of Music (20th Century Fox, 2015) includes the feature film remastered in HD, plus lots of bonus features, including a virtual map of the Salzburg filming locations and the new, hour-long documentary The Sound of a City: Julie Andrews Returns to Salzburg.

Helpful Link: Official Salzburg Travel Guide

Fun Fact: Actual filming of the Sound of Music “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” singing scenes took place inside a gazebo constructed on a Hollywood set. But that didn’t stop movie fans from trespassing on the grounds of Schloss Leopoldskron to see the glass gazebo used for exterior shots. Due to the heavy tourist traffic, the gazebo was disassembled, moved, and reconstructed in its present location in the gardens at Schloss Hellbrunn.

Staff Tip: Salzburg’s historic c​o​r​e​ is a ​hive​ of museums, shops, cafés—and ​visitor​s, especially in summer. Head just beyond the old city walls, however, and you come upon parks, lakes, and local​ly popular​​​ ​attractions. A standout: the Gössl Gwandhau​s​, or “​Gössl ​​cloth hall​.​” ​A​ showcase ​for the Salzburg-based Gössl clothing brand’s famously well-crafted dirndls, lederhosen, and boiled wool jackets, ​it has blended “as much tradition as possible and as much innovation as necessary” ​since the 1940s, in the words of founder Leopold Gössl​. ​Housed in a centuries-old country palace surrounded by gardens and meadows, the Gewandhaus ​includes a small museum chronicling the evolution of dirndl and lederhosen fashion. Take a tour, then drink in the surrounding scenery over a glass of award-winning Austrian wine and servings of fresh asparagus, ​knödel​ dumplings, and Wiener schnitzel at the elegant terrace restaurant—a setting that​ ​one ​can ​imagine inspir​ing​​​ ​​a composition by ​Salzburg-born ​composer ​Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart​. —Jayne Wise, senior editor, National Geographic Traveler

Take a Nocturnal Wilderness Walk

Picture of kangaroo on Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Photograph by Auscape/UIG

Kangaroo Island, Australia

Only a 30-minute flight from Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, called KI by locals, is one of Australia’s most authentic and untouched places. Over half of the 1,705-square-mile island (about three times the size of Oahu) is covered in native, old-growth vegetation. Many of the resident creatures, including kangaroos, koalas, and possums, are nocturnal, so after dark is the best time to experience KI’s wild side. Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary offers guided wildlife walks every night except Christmas. The 90-minute tours begin at sunset and include brief overviews of the island and the sanctuary, a former sheep farm that has been restored to close to its natural setting. “We are revegetating the land and providing a home to the many species that live naturally here, including tammar wallaby, western gray kangaroo, brushtail possum, southern boobook owl, echidna, Cape Barren goose, and many species of birds,” says sanctuary manager Kelly Bartlett. Added bonus: On clear-sky evening walks, guides provide a telescope to view the Southern Cross and other constellations.

How to Get Around: Driving is the most convenient way to travel around the vast island, which is 96 miles long and up to 34 miles wide. From Adelaide, drive about an hour and a half southwest to Cape Jervis to board the Kangaroo Island SeaLink for the 45-minute ferry ride to Penneshaw. Or take the 35-minute flight from Adelaide to Kingscote. Rent a car at the ferry terminal or the airport.

Where to Stay: Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary has six beachside cabins on-site (four two-bedroom and two one-bedroom). All have kitchens and ocean views. Or indulge in the luxurious Southern Ocean Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge, located minutes from the sanctuary. The secluded and sleek eco-resort is perched above the limestone cliffs at Hanson Bay. All 21 suites have floor-to-ceiling ocean views and an outdoor terrace.

What to Eat or Drink: The Oyster Farm Shop in American River processes and packages the harvest from the island’s largest commercial oyster farm. The bulk of the harvest is shipped off-island, but the farm does run a weekday lunch shack across the street from its processing sheds. Try freshly shucked or smoked oysters (harvested from the bay across the road), plus other local sustainable seafood (such as crayfish, abalone, whiting, and marron). Open Monday to Friday only, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

What to Buy: Kangaroo Island is home to the world’s only known colony of Ligurian bees. The Italian bees were introduced to the island in 1884 and have been protected by law since 1885. Visit the Island Beehive in Kingscote to tour the honey factory, purchase jars of organic honey and beeswax candles, and try locally made honeycomb ice cream or a Ligurian latte (made with bee pollen and sugar gum honey).

Cultural Tip: When driving, acknowledge passing motorists with the local “Kangaroo Island wave.” The greeting is subtle—a quick flick up of the index finger on whatever hand is holding the steering wheel—which is helpful, since you’ll need both hands on the wheel to navigate some of KI’s dirt roads.

What to Read Before You Go: KI native Tony Boyle’s sweeping family drama Kangaroo Island (Story Power Books LLC, 2013) offers an insider’s look, albeit fictionalized, at the real-world challenges and rewards of island life.

Helpful Links: Tourism Kangaroo Island, Visit Australia, and the South Australia Tourism Commission

Fun Fact: Kangaroo Island is named for its indigenous kangaroo, a smaller, darker version of its closest mainland relative, the western gray kangaroo. Found in the wild only on KI, the diminutive Kangaroo Island kangaroo typically stands three- to four-and-a-half-feet tall, while the tallest western grays can top out at seven feet.

Local Tip: Jon and Sarah Lark’s Kangaroo Island Spirits at Cygnet River is a must-visit. They serve an affogato with a generous amount of their honey and walnut liqueur (made from freshly roasted walnuts and Kangaroo Island’s famous Ligurian honey). Some say it tastes like a liquid hot cross bun! And try the limoncello and zenzerino—lip smacking! In the mood to eat? The Rockpool Cafe at Stokes Bay on the island’s north coast is only open during summer (and if the fishing is good you might find the Gone Fishing sign on the door), but the cones of fish, chips, and seafood are consistently satisfying. There is plenty of seating both inside and out, but the best bet is to take your meal to the glorious white sandy beach. Make sure you don’t just stop at the car park but follow the To Beach sign, walking through the Picnic at Hanging Rock-style rock formations. You have to watch your head and your chips, but the beach at the other end is breathtaking. —James Baillie, owner, Southern Ocean Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge

Formula One and Day of the Dead

Photograph of a racecar at the Hermanos Rodriguez racetrack, Mexico City

Photograph by Guillermo Arias

Mexico City, Mexico

October 31-November 2

Fast and furious Formula One (F1) motorcar racing returns to Mexico City for the first time since 1992 with the Mexican Grand Prix on November 1, the Day of the Dead. F1’s open-cockpit, single-seater-style racing isn’t as well known in the U.S., yet has a bigger global audience than NASCAR and the IndyCar series combined.

On November 1, watch the top-flight field maneuver around Mexico City’s Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez F1 circuit at speeds topping 200 miles an hour. Before or after the racing (October 31 to November 2), experience authentic Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) traditions in San Andrés Mixquic, a village located in the far southeastern reaches of Mexico City. The celebration includes Day of the Dead altar competitions and displays, as well as a bustling marketplace stocked with foods, crafts, and festival items such as sugar skulls and pan de muertos (bread of the dead). The highlight is the November 2 candlelight procession through town to the cemetery. Locals carrying a cardboard coffin lead the way, followed by families who will spend the night keeping vigil at their loved ones’ newly decorated graves.

How to Get Around: Take a taxi de sitio (registered, radio-dispatched taxi) or a turismo (an unmarked “tourist” taxi arranged through your hotel) from the airport to the center city. In the city, the extensive metro system is the safest, most convenient, and affordable (about $.30 per ride) mode of transportation.

Where to Stay: Attention to detail is the mantra at Las Alcobas, a luxurious boutique property in the city’s elegant Polanco neighborhood. The 35 rooms and suites are styled with handcrafted rugs, original artwork by Mexican artists, and leather-paneled walls. The in-room minibar is stocked with complimentary locally sourced snacks. The two-bedroom suites and three penthouse suites have wraparound terraces.

What to Eat or Drink: At Biko in the Polanco district, chefs Bruno Oteiza, Mikel Alonso, and Gerard Bellver fuse traditional Basque cooking from northern Spain with local Mexican ingredients. The resulting Basque-Mexican cuisine (what the chefs call cocina gachupa) is featured on two menus: traditional and modern. Choose the tasting menu for the full Biko experience, an avant-garde mix of small plates such as foie gras cotton candy, Mexican pork jowl and tomato, and fried apple with olive and pepper ice cream.

What to Buy: Tienda MAP (Museo de Arte Popular stores) sell artisanal and fair-trade Mexican handicrafts. Featured artists include Urbano Fernández Chávez of Oaxaca, who raises silkworms and, with his family, spins and weaves the silk into one-of-a-kind rebozos (shawls).

What to Watch Before You Go: 1 is an adrenaline-charged documentary detailing the glamour and danger of Formula One Grand Prix racing during the sport’s late 1960s golden age.

Helpful Links: Mexico Tourism Board and Formula 1: Mexico City

Fun Fact: Mexico’s Grand Prix venue, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, located east of Mexico City, is named for national racing legends and brothers Ricardo and Pedro Rodríguez. The brothers’ prowess in Formula One racing helped build the sport’s fervent local fan base. Tragically, Ricardo and Pedro died a decade apart (1962 and 1971, respectively) in racing accidents.

Staff Tips: Mexico City quickly became one of my favorite cities—I was surprised at how hard I fell for it. For a visitor, there is so much culture and history, beautiful green space, and cool neighborhoods. There are two local restaurants that I really love. One is Contra Mar, the best people-watching spot in town for lunch, with fabulous seafood. It’s hard to pick between a sidewalk table in the sun and the lively tables inside. For dinner, I dream of Rosetta, which serves perfect Italian dishes in a restored mansion in Roma. Try to sit in the beautiful indoor garden area downstairs. —Annie Fitzsimmons, @anniefitz, National Geographic Urban Insider

I let the artwork of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera guide my week in Mexico City last year: His epic mural in the National Palace introduces hundreds of years of history, while her half-used paint tubes still wait in front of a mirror for another fierce self-portrait in their house, La Casa Azul (Blue House) in Coyoacan, once a separate suburb known for attracting intellectuals and exiles like Leon Trotsky in the 1920s. Leave time for Xochimilco’s Museo Dolores Olmedo in the old hacienda of Diego’s patron, where Mexican hairless dogs roam the grounds, then float in colorful gondola-like boats called trajineras down World Heritage canals for a glimpse of the area’s pre-Hispanic past, which inspired their artwork. —Christine Blau, @Chris_Blau, researcher, National Geographic Traveler

Inaugural World Indigenous Games

Picture of a bow and arrow competition during the indigenous games in Cuiaba, Brazil

Photograph by Felipe Dana, AP

Palmas, Brazil

October 23-November 1

While controversy swirls around preparations for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the city of Palmas in central Brazil has been quietly gearing up to host a smaller (and arguably much cooler) event—the first World Indigenous Games. The games have taken place in Brazil for more than a decade, but this is the first time indigenous athletes from any country are welcome to participate.

Nearly 25 countries are expected to send teams to showcase traditional indigenous games such as the lance (javelin) throw, the log race, and tug-of-war; “Western” soccer; and demonstration events including xikunahity (a soccer-like game played with the head only).

Beyond the games, see the spectacular dunes, waterfalls, and canyons of Jalapão, and visit 200-mile-long Bananal Island, one of the world’s largest river islands and home of the indigenous Karajá and Javaé peoples.

How to Get Around: Palmas is a relatively new, planned city, founded in 1989 as the capital of Brazil’s newest state, Tocantins. The airport is located 18 miles south of the city center. You can take a taxi or public bus from the airport to the city center. However, if you want to explore the surrounding area, renting a car at the airport is the best option.

Where to Stay: In Brazil, a pousada (Portuguese for inn) can be anything from a basic bed-and-breakfast to a luxury eco-lodge. In general, pousadas offer a more authentic, local experience than hotels, and typically include breakfast. Two convenient Palmas options are Pousada dos Girassois and Pousada das Artes, a pousada-style hotel.

What to Eat or Drink: Local dishes to look for in Tocantins include arroz de pequi (rice made with the pulp of pequi, a green-yellow fruit the size of a small orange); biscoito de polvilho (a biscuit made with tapioca flour); and peixe na telha (fish cooked in a clay baking plate). In addition to pequi, indigenous fruits to try include cupuaçu (a melon-size superfruit in the cacao family), açai, and cajá (a sweet, mini-mango-like superfruit packed with vitamin C).

What to Buy: Female artisans in the Tocantins village of Mumbuca are known for their “golden grass” handicrafts. Golden grass (Syngonanthus sp. or capim dourado in Portuguese) is the stem of a small white flower native to the Jalapão region east of Palmas. Dried and braided stems are woven into handbags, necklaces, earrings, mandalas, pots, ornamental folk art, and other items.

What to Watch Before You Go: The short World Indigenous Games promotional video produced by Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism with English subtitles provides background on the event and includes brief interviews with the games’ founders, Inter Tribal Council (ITC) members and brothers Carlos and Marcos Terena.

Helpful Links: World Indigenous GamesVisit Palmas, and Visit Brazil

Fun Fact: The Bororo, or Boe, are among the 24 Brazilian indigenous groups participating in the games. Known for their prowess in tug-of-war, the Bororo have several distinct rituals, including wearing macaw feather headdresses and adorning their faces with drawings made of clay, coal dust, sap, and red-orange urucum (a coloring agent made from the seeds of an annatto tree).

See the World’s Largest Concentration of Blue Holes

Picture of a woman swimming in a blue hole on the island of Andros, Bahamas

Photograph by William Gray

Andros, Bahamas

Andros is only 30 miles (a 15-minute flight) west of Nassau, yet for now this pristine island paradise remains a bit of a Bahamas secret. The “island” consists of a 104-mile-long archipelago of small islets and mangrove-covered cays. Home to the second largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and the Caribbean’s largest unexplored wilderness, Andros is best known for its silvery bonefish and the world’s largest known concentration of blue holes (submerged caves). A large number of the underwater caves can be found in Blue Holes National Park, one of five national parks on Andros. “The first experience of a blue hole is spiritual, and then you come to appreciate [that] they are natural wonders of the world,” says Peter Douglas, executive director of ANCAT (Andros Conservancy and Trust), a local nonprofit conservation organization. “Imagine walking onto a big circular ocean of water in the middle of the forest … [Blue holes] are portals back to an alien world under the ocean.”

How to Get Around: Fly into Andros International Airport in Andros Town (also known as Fresh Creek), the commercial hub of North Andros. There is no public transportation, so car rentals, taxis, and boats are the only options. Queen’s Highway runs along the east coast of the three major islands. This eastern area is home to most of Andros’s lodging, fishing, and tourist services, including blue hole trips, boating, bonefishing, and Andros Barrier Reef snorkeling tours.

Where to Stay: Small Hope Bay Lodge in Fresh Creek has 21 rustic, beachfront cabins hand-built from local coral rock and pine. Opened in 1960, the comfortable, family-run lodge is all-inclusive (meals, drinks, and activities) and designed for total relaxation. The lack of in-room television or Internet access leaves more time to bike, kayak, windsurf, or nap in a hammock. Another Fresh Creek option is Sunset Point Houseboat. Moored in the tidal waters, the private houseboat has three bedrooms and a wraparound deck. Rent kayaks and snorkel gear on-site to explore inland blue holes, including Helios, which only is accessible by boat via Fresh Creek.

What to Eat and Drink: On Mangrove Cay, the middle of Andros’s three major islands, stop at fishing guide Shine Greene’s waterfront Conch Shack for fresh conch ceviche and a cold bottle of Kalik, self-described “beer of the Bahamas.” In Davis Creek, just north of Andros Town on North Andros, sip tropical drinks on the oceanfront dock at Brigadiers Restaurant.

What to Buy: Tour the Androsia batik factory in Fresh Creek to see 100 percent cotton fabric hand-printed with nature-inspired designs (such as shells, fish, and flowers) and hand-dyed in vibrant colors (including magenta, green mango, fire coral, and deep aqua). Buy the Bahamian batik fabric by the yard or as clothing, pillows, drawstring backpacks, tablecloths, and more at the factory outlet store. Take a factory tour, or sign up in advance for a batik lesson.

What to Watch Before You Go: This webisode from the National Geographic Channel’s Diving the Labyrinth series offers a quick overview of Bahamian blue holes and an inside look at an Andros underwater cave.

Practical Tip: Pack insect repellent, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants to help ward off Andros’s big-three biting bugs: mosquitoes, sand flies, and “doctor” flies (greenhead horseflies). To dive the deeper blue holes, advanced scuba certification is required.

Helpful Links: The Islands of the Bahamas, Andros Conservancy and Trust, and National Geographic Explorers Blue Holes Project

Fun Fact: Blue holes can extend hundreds or thousands of feet down in a labyrinth of passages. There are several different kinds of these underwater caves, collectively known as blue holes due to the deep-blue hue often produced when the sky reflects on their surface water. Some blue holes may appear muddy or dark on the surface, yet the water below is typically very clear.

Foliage, Festivals, and Food

Picture of a float, or "danjiri," during the Danjiri Festival in Kishiwada, Osaka, Japan

Photograph by Kazuhiro Nogi, flickr

Osaka, Japan

Autumn combines three of Osakans’ favorite things: food (the city is known as Japan’s food capital); colorful ginkgo and maple leaves; and dozens of festivals and special events, including the Osaka Marathon (October 25). The must-see fall festival is Danjiri Matsuri (“float-pulling”), a 300-year-old competition pitting neighborhoods across Japan. September 13-14, watch as teams of 500 to 1,000 men use ropes to pull and steer intricately carved, wooden danjiri (traditional floats) through the narrow streets. Each float is topped with dancers, musicians, and a Daiku-gata (director), who shouts out instructions to keep the careening, four-ton float and the crew from toppling on tight turns.

“Osaka could be seen as slightly chaotic and disorienting at first,” says Aria Aoyama, international public relations manager for the Osaka Convention and Tourism Bureau, “but, in my eyes, it is a living treasure box; [it] just takes a bit of digging beneath its surface. And it is in fall that you get the best of everything, so you can’t go wrong.”

How to Get Around: Fly directly into Osaka’s Kansai International Airport or ride the bullet train west from Tokyo (2 hours and 30 minutes) to Shin-Osaka Station. Trains connect both locations to the city center. Travel in and around the city by subway, waterbus, and the Japan Rail (JR) Osaka Loop Line. Buy a two-day Osaka Amazing Pass for unlimited transportation and one-time admission to nearly 30 attractions on two consecutive days.

Where to Stay: Hotel Minoo, located at the entrance to forested Meiji’no Mori Mino Park, has a rooftop onsen (hot spring) Sky Bath, plus an indoor swimming pool and bowling alley. From the hotel, follow the park’s main hiking trail along the Minoo River to see brilliant fall foliage, Ryuanji Temple, and Mino Waterfall. The park entrance is less than 30 minutes from Osaka by train.

What to Eat or Drink: Osakans’ historical obsession with food goes into overdrive during fall harvest season. Sample the region’s fresh bounty (vegetables, beef, and seafood) at a kappo (a Japanese mash-up of “cook” and “cut”) restaurant. Osaka is the birthplace of kappo, a casual and conversational culinary style where patrons sit at the counter and watch the chefs prepare their meals. Several kappos are located on Hozenji Yokocho, an alley lined with Washoku (Japanese cuisine) restaurants.

What to Buy: Osaka lays claim to being the first city in Japan to import and make Amechan (candy). One of the first confectioneries, Toyoshita, has been producing its signature vegetable- and fruit-flavored sweets since 1872. Each candy is shaped like its fruit or vegetable flavor, including melon, carrot, radish, and pumpkin. Watch the production process and buy freshly made candies and throat lozenges at the Toyoshita factory located near the JR Bishoen Station.

Practical Tip: “Amechan taberu?” (“Do you want a candy?”) is a common, friendly greeting in Osaka. If a local offers you a piece of candy, accept it with a smile.

What to Read Before You Go: Download the Osaka Government Tourism Bureau’s free English-language official Osaka guidebook and city and area maps (including a railway route map).

Helpful Links: Osaka Convention and Tourism Bureau and Japan National Tourism Organization

Fun Fact: Fall is the prime season to try the traditional Meiji’no Mori Mino treat: Momiji (maple leaf tempura). Vendors stationed along the park’s main hiking trail deep-fry bright red and orange maple leaves in sweetened tempura batter to create the portable and crunchy snack.

Visit the Newest U.S. World Heritage Site

Picture of San Antonio Missions in San Antonio, Texas

Photograph by Richard Nowitz, National Geographic Image Collection/Alamy

San Antonio, Texas

Built in the 18th century by Spanish Franciscan priests, the five San Antonio Missions—Concepción, Espada, San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo), San José, and San Juan—were designated on July 5 as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The missions, which represent the largest collection of Spanish colonial architecture in the U.S., are the newest addition to the World Heritage List in the United States and the first in Texas. “[The missions] are very much a part of what continues to shape the community and personality of San Antonio,” says Susan Snow, an archaeologist for San Antonio Missions National Historical Park who has been coordinating community efforts to secure World Heritage status since 2007. “To bike down the Mission Reach of the River Walk in the cooling weather and see the distinct architecture from afar or attend a mariachi mass in the heart of one of its churches really pulls you into the soul of locals honoring their heritage.”

How to Get Around: Walking and biking are the best ways to visit the missions, which were built in two- to three-mile increments (north to south) along the San Antonio River. The Mission Reach section of the famous San Antonio River Walk includes an eight-mile hiking and biking trail that runs from just south of downtown to Mission Espada. Designated portals connect the trail to the four southernmost missions: Concepción, San José, San Juan, and Espada. Parking and bike-share stations are available at each portal. The Alamo is located north of the other missions, along the downtown section of the River Walk. By car, follow the Mission Trails route (look for the green shepherd’s crook light poles) connecting all five missions.

Where to Stay: Hotel Emma is the latest edition to Pearl, a culinary-focused urban village centered in and around the historic 1881 Pearl Brewery complex. Scheduled to open October 1, the 146-room luxury hotel is conveniently located next to the River Walk in Midtown. Common areas and some guest rooms (including the top-floor suites with private terraces) include original brewery design elements such as industrial equipment reengineered as light fixtures, cast-iron spiral staircases, and turn-of-the-century exposed brick walls.

What to Eat or Drink: Chef Jeff Balfour’s new Southerleigh (opened April 2015) celebrates San Antonio and Texas Gulf Coast tastes and traditions. The fine-dining brewpub is named for the predominantly southerly winds on the Texas coast and is housed in the historic Pearl Brewery, marking the first time since 2001 that beer is produced on-site. Mains (such as pan-seared grilled snapper, seafood boils, and smothered Parker Creek Ranch fried chicken with red-eye gravy) are served family style. Best deal: The Cellarman’s Lunch Pail offers an entrée and side for $12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Closed Sundays.

What to Buy: Brick Marketplace at Blue Star Arts Complex hosts funky and fun Sunday (12 to 5 p.m.) and first Friday (7 p.m.) markets. Dance, eat, and browse the eclectic selection of items, including vintage vinyl records, clothing, and sand art terrariums.

Practical Tip: Plan to visit Mission San José and Mission Concepción in time for one of the day’s free guided tours. The other missions may offer tours if staff is available. Check at the information center when you arrive.

What to Watch Before You Go: This 50-minute video (Bennett-Watt Media, 2014) provides an overview of how Spanish frontier missions helped to shape Texas and the American West.

Helpful Links: San Antonio MissionsSan Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Travel Texas

Fun Fact: The Alamo complex is a Texas state historic site, but the other mission churches are active Catholic parishes. Except for during weddings and special events, visitors dressed in proper church attire are welcome to respectfully attend weekend Mass. (Check the Archdiocese of San Antonio website for times and information.) Most Sundays, Mission Concepción—the oldest unrestored stone church in the U.S.—and Mission San José offer a bilingual (Spanish and English) Mass accompanied by mariachi music.

Staff Tip: Stay at a hotel near the River Walk (I liked the Marriott San Antonio Riverwalk), take the Rio San Antonio cruise to get acclimated to the area, then explore it on foot in the evening when it’s cooler. Looking for a spot to dine with less of a touristy vibe? Try the Alamo Street Eats. The gathering of three to four food trucks opens at 5 p.m. daily and includes menu items like the Attaboy Burger (ridiculously good) and the Winner Winner Chicken Dinner (fried chicken and waffles that are the perfect mix of salty and sweet). A live DJ spinning hits from the ’80s and ’90s is bound to get you grooving in your chair. The recent addition of the San Antonio Missions to the list of Unesco World Heritage sites also makes it a reason to explore. Mission Concepción is probably the best preserved and has a few shady spots for catching your breath, along with information boards to help you understand the history. —Heather Greenwood Davis, @GreenwoodDavis, National Geographic Traveler contributor

Learn About Whaling History “In the Heart of the Sea”

Picture of Whaling Museum in Nantucket, Massachusetts

Photograph by Claudia Uripos, eStock Photo

Nantucket, Massachusetts

The upcoming Warner Bros. film In the Heart of the Sea (scheduled release in December 2015) chronicles the 1819 tragedy of the whaleship Essex. Survivor stories from the Nantucket-based ship, which was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale in the South Pacific, inspired Herman Melville’s epic tale Moby-Dick. Discover the true story and learn about the island’s whaling tradition at the Nantucket Whaling Museum’s major new exhibition “Stove by a Whale: 20 Men, 3 Boats, 96 Days.” The exhibit (open through November 2016) includes props and period costumes from the film, plus interactive experiences. “The sound of the water echoes in the hall to help people think about what it might sound like to be out at sea for that long,” says Lindsay Scouras, manager of communications at the Nantucket Historical Association. “There’s also a replica whaleboat you can step in. A screen in front projects quotes from some of the survivors’ accounts, and the surrounding walls look like water. The whole experience helps you understand what it might have been like to be out in the ocean with nothing in sight … how quiet and lonely that must have been.”

How to Get Around: Nantucket is about an hour south of Hyannis via the Hy-Line or Steamship Authority high-speed ferry. The Whaling Museum is downtown, within easy walking distance of both ferry-landing docks. To travel beyond downtown, rent a bike, ride TheWAVE public shuttle bus (through October 12), or use taxis.

Where to Stay: The 11-room Anchor Inn, built in 1806 by Captain Archaelus Hammond of the whaleship Cyrus, is run by owner-innkeepers Charles and Ann Balas. The couple purchased the downtown inn (and the two whaleboat oars and harpoons inside) as their home more than 30 years ago. Rooms are named for various whaling ships. Guests can view “their” ship’s actual log at the Nantucket Historical Association’s Research Library and Whitney Gallery. Best bet: Ask Charles to share his recipe for the muffins (flavors include blueberry, cranberry, and apricot) served daily in the inn’s private side garden.

What to Eat or Drink: Fog Island Cafe is an unpretentious and affordable (for Nantucket) breakfast and lunch spot close to the ferry terminals and the Whaling Museum. Breakfast (try the Bacodo, a bacon, avocado, and cheese omelet) or lunch (including a Nantucket Fishcake sandwich with side) will run you $20 or less. Opens 7 a.m. daily and closes at 2 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

What to Buy: The Nantucket Historical Association Museum Shop stocks a number of whaling and whale-related items, including the documentary Nantucket: A Film By Ric Burns (Nantucket Historical Association, 2011) and a reproduction “whale tooth” scrimshaw made from hand-inked and engraved ivory polymer.

Practical Tip: The 90-minute “In the Heart of the Sea” walking tour leaves from the Whaling Museum lobby daily at 2:15 p.m. Tours are limited to 20 people, and tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis ($10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students). To avoid being disappointed, purchase tour tickets when the museum opens at 10 a.m.

What to Read Before You Go: The upcoming Warner Bros. movie is based on In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (Penguin, 2000), written by Nantucket resident Nathaniel Philbrick and winner of the 2000 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

Helpful Links: Nantucket Historical Association, Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce, Nantucket Visitor Services, and Nantucket Chronicle

Fun Fact: One of the few known artifacts to survive the Essex disaster is a piece of twine wound by crewmember Benjamin Lawrence. While lost at sea for 96 days, Lawrence added little pieces of hair and fibers to the twine. The artifact is displayed in an ivory frame at the Whaling Museum.

Staff Tip: Hop on the free shuttle from the visitors center downtown for a ride to Cisco Brewers, where you can take a tour of the island brewery and sample small-batch craft beers, including Whale’s Tale Pale Ale and Grey Lady Ale. The owners of the brewery also run the Nantucket Vineyard and Triple Eight Distillery, if wine or spirits are more to your liking. The family-friendly brewery provides a convivial outdoor scene with picnic tables, live music, and food trucks selling lobster rolls and tacos. Closer to town, time your walk to Jetties Beach for sunset. Once there, pull up a chair and dig your toes in the sand at Jetties Beach Bar & Restaurant, a festive, open-air spot with acoustic guitar music, seafood, and frozen drinks. Then focus your gaze on the water and watch the fiery sun slip into the horizon and turn the sky into a kaleidoscope of colors. —Susan O’Keefe, @sokeefetrav, associate editor, National Geographic Traveler

New Year’s Day 2008 Celebrations

Picture of Ethiopians waving the Ethiopian flag as they celebrate the arrival of their new year in Addis Ababa

Photograph by ROBERTO SCHMIDT

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

September 11

In Ethiopia, this September 11 is Enkutatash (“gift of jewels”), otherwise known as New Year’s Day 2008. The East African nation follows its own calendar, known as the Ge’ez, which is based on the ancient Coptic calendar. A different interpretation of when the birth of Jesus was announced accounts for the more-than-seven-year gap between the Ge’ez and the Gregorian calendar. And since Enkutatash traditionally coincides with the end of the rainy season on the Horn of Africa, as well as the Feast of John the Baptist, there are three reasons to celebrate on New Year’s Eve.

The party is particularly spirited in and around the capital city, Addis Ababa, where residents light bundles of sticks called chibo to make neighborhood bonfires. “Ethiopian holidays are the best—Everything is centered around food, family, and friends,” says Xavier Curtis, co-founder with Eliza Richman of AddisEats. “Every holiday is celebrated with meat, either raw or cooked, at home or at a butcher house. Since the New Year’s celebrations do not have as much of a religious aspect to it, this is one of the best times of year to get out and enjoy the festivities with everyone else. They won’t be at church or at home; they’ll be out eating and drinking.”

How to Get Around: Arrange airport transfers, local transportation (taxi or car service), and guided tours or private tour guides through your hotel. Hiring a taxi driver for a full day (about $75) is the most convenient option. For an insider’s view of the city, book the AddisEats full-day tour (9 a.m. to about 7 p.m.). Itineraries are customized and can include traveling by public transportation and visiting markets and restaurants catering to locals.

Where to Stay: Sleek, modern hotels are springing up across Addis Ababa as part of the city’s ongoing construction boom. The vintage Hilton Addis Ababa isn’t shiny or new, yet it does offer three essentials: a convenient location near the airport, city center, Ethnological Museum, and Ethiopia’s National Museum, which houses extraordinary paleontological artifacts such as the famous bones of human ancestor “Lucy”; secure and well-manicured grounds, including an outdoor pool; and reasonable rates (upgrade to an executive floor for expansive city or mountain views).

What to Eat or Drink: Sample a wide variety of local Ethiopian food, such as spongy injera (an unleavened pancake) made with teff flour, a grain native to Ethiopia, on an AddisEats food tour. The traditional New Year’s dish to try is doro wat (chicken stew). And while the national brew—fresh-roasted Ethiopian green-bean coffee—is prepared and served quickly at small jeubeuna bunna (coffee stands) and coffeehouses, make time for at least one Ethiopian coffee ceremony. The elaborate ritual can take two to three hours, and involves roasting, grinding, brewing, and drinking (three cups of progressively weaker) coffee.

What to Buy: Coffee beans, scarves, and other textiles made from hand-spun and handwoven cotton, and tightly coiled grass baskets and mats are among the locally produced items available in Addis Ababa markets. The biggest, the Merkato (New Market), is one of Africa’s largest open-air marketplaces: a mini-city jam-packed with vendors, shoppers, and a dizzying blend of odors, sights, and sounds. For safety’s sake, go with a local guide.

Cultural Tip: Traditionally, Ethiopians will not eat before inviting others gathered with them to join in. Honor the tradition by inviting your guides and drivers to eat with you by saying, “Enibla—Let us eat.”

What to Read Before You Go: The “gift of jewels” celebration commemorates the jewels the Queen of Sheba received upon returning home (thought by many scholars to be the Kingdom of Axum in Ethiopia) after visiting King Solomon in Jerusalem. Tosca Lee’s novel The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen combines myth, biblical references, and detailed research to tell Sheba’s tale.

Helpful Links: AddisEats Food Tours & Culinary Adventures and National Geographic Ethiopia Guide

Fun Fact: Gursha is the Ethiopian tradition of feeding another person by hand. Family members, friends, and even strangers commonly place small handfuls into each other’s mouths as an act of kindness. If someone makes a gesture to feed you, graciously accept the food as you would a welcoming hug or other friendly greeting.

Staff Tip: Addis is a city in perpetual motion, everyone walking, driving, and socializing late into the night. Their fuel? The drink said to have been born in Ethiopia: coffee. Cultivated in the highlands for centuries (and still growing wild in some regions), coffee plays a central part in daily life here, most notably in coffee ceremonies visitors can experience at hotels, guesthouses, some restaurants, and local markets. Join one, and you’ll watch a woman in traditional dress roast the coffee beans in a brazier, then grind them by hand with a mortar and pestle. She’ll deposit the grounds in a high-necked ceramic pot called a jebena to boil. When the coffee is ready, the hostess will pour it into tiny ceramic cups for consumption alongside snacks such as roasted barley, peanuts, and popcorn—a full-bodied taste of ancient Ethiopia. —Jayne Wise, senior editor, National Geographic Traveler

Dijon International Gastronomy Fair

Picture of Burgundy, France

Photograph by Andrew Bain/Lonely Planet Images

Dijon, France

October 30-November 11

First held in 1921, the Dijon International Gastronomy Fair is Burgundy’s biggest event and one of the six largest fairs in France. The combination trade fair and culinary festival attracts some 200,000 professional and amateur chefs, restaurateurs, and foodies from around the world. See cooking demonstrations, attend workshops, and sample wines and foods from French and international vendors, including this year’s featured country, Chile. The schedule also includes multiple top chef competitions, including the National Grand Prize of Gastronomy in pastry and chocolate (November 2), and, for the first time, honors for the best lemon meringue pie in France (November 7). Also new for 2015: Preview the future Cité International de la Gastronomie scheduled to open in 2018 on the grounds of Dijon’s former General Hospital. The culinary hub will become the fourth such complex in France (the others are in Lyon, Rungis, and Tours). Plans call for multiple exposition rooms and restaurants, a wine pavilion, a hotel and residential housing units, a multiplex cinema, and more.

How to Get Around: Dijon is only an hour and 40 minutes from Paris by train. The closest airport is Dole-Jura Airport, located about 30 miles southeast of Dijon. If arriving at the airport, take a taxi or bus to the Dole Ville Train Station to connect to the Dijon-bound train. In Dijon, walk and use the efficient public bus system.

Where to Stay: The atmospheric Hotel Philippe le Bon has 41 rooms spread over three period residences, the oldest built in the 15th century. Request a room facing the interior Gothic courtyard for the quiet. Or, if climbing winding stairs isn’t an issue, book a junior suite in the oldest building for the timbered ceilings and historic charm.

What to Eat or Drink: The region’s signature aperitif is Kir, named for Félix Kir, the popular mayor of Dijon who died in 1968. A classic Kir is made with crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) and Aligoté, Burgundy’s second white wine after Chardonnay. Variations include substituting de mûre (blackberry) or de pêche (peach) for the crème de cassis. The most popular twist on the original is the Kir Royale, made with ice-cold sparkling crémant de Bourgogne or champagne instead of Aligoté, and served in a champagne flute.

What to Buy: The original Maille Moutarde boutique, opened in 1845, isn’t the most affordable place to buy Dijon’s famous mustard (local supermarkets have the best prices). It’s worth the trip, however, for the samples and the selection: dozens of different mustards, including apricot and curry spices, fig and coriander, and gingerbread and chestnut honey. Purchase Maille on tap (it’s expertly hand-drawn into earthenware jugs); mustard gift boxes and accessories; plus vinegars, oils and dressings, and other Maille items. Packing and shipping available. Closed Sundays.

What to Read Before You Go: Renowned food writer M. F. K. Fisher’s evocative memoir Long Ago in France: The Years in Dijon captures the Burgundian passion for food and wine, and for sharing both.

Helpful Links: Dijon Tourism and Burgundy Tourism

Fun Fact: Dijon’s good-luck charm and symbol is La Chouette, the small owl carved into a pillar on the left side of Église Notre-Dame (Church of Notre Dame). To help visitors navigate their way between 22 of the city’s historic sites, the Tourist Office created the Parcours de la Chouette (Owl’s Trail). The route is marked by little owls embedded in the pavement. Pick up a trail map at the Tourist Office or download the app, and be sure to rub the original Notre Dame owl (trail stop no. 9) for good luck.

Staff Tip: Dijon has long been famous, of course, for its mustard. Stop by La Moutarderie Fallot for a tour through the mustard-making process, then sample all the different flavors at the mustard bar: tarragon, basil, walnut, Provençal, gingerbread, and, my favorite, black currant. —Barbara Noe, senior editor, National Geographic Travel Books

Reader’s Choice: Follow the Three Castle Route

Picture of Turaida Castle in Sigulda, Latvia

Photograph by Gatis Pāvils, Flickr

Sigulda, Latvia

Drive, bike, or walk the Three Castle Route to visit medieval castles and ruins, ride the only cable car in the Baltics, and see caves and sandstone cliffs in Gauja National Park. The 19-mile route passes the castles and other historic sites in Sigulda, Krimulda, and Turaida and offers an excellent introduction to Latvian geology and history, says Laura Konstante, director of the Sigulda Tourism Information Centre. “In the Sigulda Medieval Castle, it is possible to try medieval weapons, and in Krimulda Manor, local winemaker Jānis Mikāns will offer you a taste of local fruit-and-berry wines,” she adds. Best bet: Visit in early to mid-October for a bird’s-eye view of the Gauja River Valley fall foliage from the Sigulda Aerial Cableway.

How to Get Around: Sigulda is 40 miles northeast of Riga, Latvia’s capital and largest city. The trip by train, bus, or car takes about an hour. If you’re driving the Three Castle Route, rent a car at Riga International Airport. If you want to bike or walk the route, take the Riga-Valga train from Riga to Sigulda or the bus from Riga’s International Bus Station, and rent a bike in town.

Where to Stay: Built in 1889 to accommodate passengers on the newly opened Riga-Petersburg railway, the 43-room Hotel Sigulda is a historic and convenient option located near the train station and Sigulda Medieval Castle. A new wing, added in 2001 and connected to the original hotel by a glass breezeway, includes a recreation center with a small indoor pool, sauna, and steam bath. For a bit more charm, request a room in the historic stone building.

What to Eat and Drink: Dishes to try include fresh, local mushrooms; sour cabbage soup; and traditional rye bread. Sigulda also is known for its mineral water and locally brewed beers, such as Valmiermuiža. Have lunch or dinner at the thatched-roof Aparjods restaurant. After your meal, get dessert (assorted pastries and cakes, including tiramisu, cheesecake, and grapefruit torte) and coffee at the tiny Mr. Biskvīts café located opposite the railway station.

What to Buy: Sigulda’s signature souvenir and city symbol is a wooden walking stick. Making the curved-handle sticks became a local cottage industry in the early 20th century, when walking the area’s mountain trails became a popular summer tourist activity. Full-size and miniature wooden sticks adorned with decorative patterns are available for sale around town. After purchasing your souvenir, snap a requisite selfie standing among the larger-than-life replica canes in Walking Stick Park.

What to Read Before You Go: The surrealist novel Flesh-Coloured Dominoes (Arcadia Books, English translation, 2014) by acclaimed Latvian writer Zigmunds Skujins alternates between 18th-century life in the Baltics and the Russian and German occupations during World War II.

Practical Tip: The euro is the official currency, and credit cards are widely accepted in cities. Carry cash when visiting smaller villages and towns.

Helpful Links: Sigulda Tourism, Gauja National Park, and Latvia Tourism

Fun Fact: The Rose of Turaida is a local legend based on the death of Maiji Greif, who was murdered in Gutman’s cave in 1620 and buried at the church hill cemetery in Turaida. According to the tale, Maiji, the so-called Rose of Turaida, was romantically involved with Viktor Heil, the Sigulda Castle gardener. Their love story ended tragically yet continues to inspire Latvian brides and grooms to lay flowers at Maiji’s memorial in Turaida as part of their wedding ceremonies.

Staff Tips: If you love art nouveau, take a walk in the historic center of Riga, the capital of Latvia, which has the finest collection of art nouveau buildings in the world and is recognized on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Pick up a map from the Riga Art Nouveau Centre and check out the Art Nouveau Museum. —Marilyn Terrell, @Marilyn_Res, chief researcher, National Geographic Traveler

Riga is my favorite Baltic city for its art nouveau architecture, considered the best in Europe. The Latvian Occupation Museum provides a fascinating presentation of the nation’s history, including a reconstructed gulag. I enjoyed touring the Central Market, where locals shop for practically everything in a sprawling former zeppelin hangar, then sampling a little of each Latvian dish at the cafeteria-style Lido restaurant. —Christine Blau, @Chris_Blau, researcher, National Geographic Traveler

Some of the best—OK, the best—hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted was at Emīla Gustava Šokolāde in Riga, Latvia. Across from the majestic National Opera House, the chocolate shop/café serves intensely thick, rich hot chocolate in tiny cups, with a small glass of water on the side. Dark-wood paneling and marble counter tops evoke the belle époque. —Amy Alipio, @amytravels, features editor, National Geographic Traveler

 

 

Nat Geo’s Best Trips 2016

So here are National Geographic Magazine’s top travel picks for 2016 – enjoy!

                                                                                Ned


Côte d’Or, Burgundy, France

https://i1.wp.com/images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/923/cache/bow-burgundy-france-landscape_92364_600x450.jpg

Photograph by Günter Gräfenhain, SIME

 

World’s Best Hikes: Thrilling Trails

I love a good trek, me!  Here’s a fab feature courtesy of National Geographic (probably my fave travel resource).
Thanks to the excellent Doug Schitzspahn.

Ned


Some hikes are peaceful rambles in the woods, and those are just fine for quiet contemplation. But the hikes that really open your eyes are the thrill rides. The following 20 walks take in perilous heights, erupting volcanoes, treacherous steps, and other hair-raising moments. They range from what are essentially low-level rock climbs to strolls on narrow ridges – and they are all guaranteed to up your heart rate. — Doug Schnitzspahn

Besseggen Ridge

DCNDT5 Two walkers look out over Lakes Gjende and Bessvatnet from the descent of the Besseggen Ridge Jotunheimen National Park Norway

Photograph by Steve Taylor, ARPS/Alamy

Jotunheimen National Park, Norway

Best for: Anyone who wants a thrill (and big views of Norway’s most famous national park) without a truly dangerous hike

Distance: 14 miles one-way

This may be the most popular hike in Norway, calling to everyone from starry-eyed college-age backpackers to pudgy middle-age trekkers, but that’s not to say it doesn’t dish out some true excitement. It also serves up one of the most stunning views on the planet as it ascends and crosses the thin, rocky ridge between Jotunheimen National Park’s big, milky green glacial-fed Gjende lake and high alpine Bessvatnet lake. “Jotunheimen” means “home of the giants” in Norwegian, and it’s easy to imagine the great fierce Jotun of Norse mythology wrestling with Thor in this wild, glacial-scoured landscape—though the 30,000 people who hike it each year may keep the giants in hiding.

If you walk in the most popular direction, beginning at the charming Memurubu hut, the hike opens with a relaxing ferry boat cruise up Gjende before it starts to head up 1,200 feet onto the rocky ridge with steep drop-offs to either side, but the only true danger is stopping too often to snap photos. It tops out at 5,719 feet, racking up an impressive 3,500 verts along the way. The hike ends at the same place you caught the ferry, the Norwegian Mountain Touring Association’s Gjendesheim Turisthytte, a 170-guest mountain lodge. There are ways to extend the trip, too: if you start at Gjendesheim and hike over the ridge to Memurubu, you can stay at the hut overnight and take the ferry back (or hike back over the ridge or along the lake).

Thrill Factor: It’s a demanding eight-hour hike, so though it doesn’t require technical skills, hikers do need to be in shape and be comfortable in the wild.

Take It Easy: There’s a path along Gjende that doesn’t require climbing the ridge. Take the ferry to Memurubu and then amble 6.2 miles back to Gjendesheim.

El Caminito del Rey (The King’s Pathway)

09/10/11 A group make their way round the most dangerous path in the world. The world’s most dangerous path, 100 metres up a vertical rock face, has now become child’s play after trip organisers ask that visitors to the crumbling path, need only to be ‘at least twelve years old’ and ‘to have a good head for heights’. Since a video, showing a walker filming himself crossing the path without using safety equipment went viral on YouTube, a number of unofficial tours have been set up to cater for hundreds of adrenalin junkies wanting to risk their lives crossing the dilapidated 110 year-old path in southern Spain before it is refurbished. El Caminito Del Rey, also known as the King's Pathway, was originally built in 1905 for workers to travel between two hydroelectric power plants but was closed-off in 2000 after two walkers fell to their deaths. The path snakes its way precariously along cliff edges high up in El Chorro Gorge, thirty miles from Malaga. Much of the one-metre-wide walkway is crumbing away with gaping holes, no handrails and sections that have completely fallen down. A makeshift wire has now been attached to the rock face. Walkers and climbers can clip themselves to the wire to stay safe - but some still prefer not to use any safety aids. Work is now due to start on an 8.3 million euros project to make the pathway safe again and attract more tourists to the area. It will take three years to re-construct and will see the pathway completely rebuilt with hand rails, protective barriers, lighting and a visitors centre. One climber on the route last week said: “It’s a shame they’re going to fix the path – it will sanitise it too much and take the thrill out of it. It’s free for us to go on right now but I’m sure they’ll make us pay to use it in the future.” A commentator on sierra-nevada-news.com added: “I think the money could be put to better use elsewhere. On the positive side it will allow the general public access to the

Photograph by Rod Kirkpatrick, F Stop Press

El Chorro, SpainBest for: True daredevils; GoPro addicts

Distance: 2 miles

No list of thrill-ride hikes would be complete without including Spain’s King’s Pathway. The century-old, three-foot wide, decrepit stone walkway that’s barely attached to a sheer cliff 300 feet over the Guadalhorce River has gained fame from a countless number of videos that have gone viral—it is the perfect gasp-and-groan video for helmet-cam footage. It’s also truly risky: Left in bad shape after decades of neglect, the walkway has big gaps that force hikers to step over the void. It’s nausea-inducing enough to travel where the walkway is intact or the few spots where the original handrail still exists. In the worst sections, the pathway is completely gone, requiring low-level rock climbing moves to get back to (semi) solid ground. “Better” spots offer rails of rebar jutting out from the cliff as footholds. There is a safety wire running along the path that can be clipped into to prevent a fall, making it a via ferrata, but the trip is still terrifying.

The catwalk was not always so horrifying. It was originally built in 1905 as a means for hydroelectric workers to travel between Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls. It received its name in 1921, when Spain’s King Alfonso XIII made the walk to open the new Conde del Guadalhorce dam. Ten years later the king ended up fleeing the country and abdicating after the end of the bloody Spanish Civil War. His walkway, likewise, fell out of favor until now.

Thrill Factor: This path is so dangerous that it has been officially closed since 2000 after four people fell to their deaths on it. But since so many adventure-seekers have been drawn to it anyway and guides even take tourists along it, the Spanish government has sunk over $11 million into rebuilding El Camino del Rey to be safer and constructing a visitor center. It is scheduled to open in 2015. The upside of that work is that the renovated path will be far safer; the downside, it will not be nearly as scary.

Take It Easy: You can still take in the breathtaking views of El Chorro Gorge, without 300 feet of nothing under your feet, if you hike the 4.3-mile track to the top of the upper gorge.

Leukerbad Via Ferrata

Leukerbad Via Ferrata

Photograph by Olivier Maire

Leukerbad, Switzerland

Best for: Hikers who have tried a via ferrata before, bring the right equipment (and possibly a guide), and want to summit a peak on a via ferrata

Distance: 3,280 feet of elevation gain

Italy’s Dolomites are the spiritual home of via ferrata, or iron roads, systems of vertiginous metal ladders, cables, and sometimes rock-climbing terrain that hikers can ascend while clipped into a safety wire. Many of these trails on cliff faces were originally created for use by Italian military forces during World War I. While many of the best via ferrata in Europe are still in the Dolomites, Switzerland’s Leukerbad Via Ferrata is impressive. The route scales the massive face of the 9,648-foot Daubenhorn, lording over the sleepy resort town of Leukerbad, and is the longest via ferrata in Switzerland. It has all the feel of a technical aid climb, though hikers without climbing experience can pull it off.

The climb consists of a 1.28-mile hike along cliffs to the start of the via ferrata. Then things go vertical on what is known as the “small” via ferrata—two hours of ascending along the wires and exposed rock climaxing in a sheer, three-ladder climb up 250 vertical feet. Here the route takes a breather at the Obere Gemsfreiheit Point at 6,562 feet. (This is also a turnaround point for hikers who have had enough or just want a shorter route.) The “big” via ferrata continues for just over three hours to the summit from here, with exposed rock scrambling, climbing on metal rungs, and ascending full ladders. The whole trip takes eight hours, but feels like a lifetime suspended above the green meadows and rooftops of the toy town in the valley far below.

Thrill Factor: Big exposure, but it’s perfectly safe if you know what you are doing. Don’t even think about this hike if you have a fear of heights. It would be smart to start on a shorter, easier via ferrata first. Leukerbad is rated ED, or Extrêmement Difficile, on the French via ferrata rating system and K5-K6 in the German system (K1 is easiest; K5 signifies very difficult).

Take It Easy: If hanging off ladders while clipped to a thin metal wire is not your thing, simply make the 8.2-mile hike up to alpine Gemmi Pass, where the via ferrata begins, and over into Bernese Oberland using cable cars to get to and from your starting and ending points.

Devil’s Path

Photograph by John P. O'Grady

Photograph by John P. O’Grady

Catskill Forest Preserve, New York

Best for: Hikers looking for an East Coast challenge that bags several peaks in one tough day trip and requires strong nerves and legs

Distance: 23.6 miles

This hike is a true roller coaster, heading straight up and straight down seven summits and racking up a ridiculous 18,000 feet of elevation gain (with lots of loss in between). The Devil’s Path takes the straightest line possible, which means instead of switchbacks hikers need to navigate loose rock, vertical scrambles, and sheer drops. Often, roots serve as emergency handholds or hikers need to wedge themselves up small chimneys. All that scrambling and vertical adds up to give the trail a reputation as the toughest hike on the East Coast. It very well may be, if you try to tackle it all in one day (there are options to backpack or break it down into smaller east and west sections, or just hike the peaks individually).

There is salvation here, too. Six of the path’s seven summits count for the Catskill 3500 Club (membership requires you to climb the 35 peaks over 3,500 feet in the range). The views once you do reach the summits will make you forget you are just three hours from downtown Manhattan as dreamy expanses of deciduous green roll off to the horizon. The native Lenape named this place Onteora, or “The Land in the Sky.” Sure, these peaks may not be the stark rock outcrops of the Rockies, but they don’t give up their summits easily.

Thrill Factor: You may hear a lot of hype about the dangers of Devil’s Path, but it basically amounts to a very challenging hike that can be extremely precarious if the rock is wet, or worse, icy. Be careful—you won’t need your rock climbing shoes, but sticky approach shoes will help.

Take It Easy: The nearby Overlook Mountain hike is a 9.3-mile round-trip that heads to the summit of Overlook Mountain, where there’s a fire tower and panoramic views, without the gnarliness of Devil’s Path.

Stromboli

Photograph by Raffaele Celentano, Redux

Photograph by Raffaele Celentano, Redux

Aeolian Islands, Italy

Best for: Watching lava burst out of a volcano

Distance: 1,312 vertical feet

Thrust up from the ocean bottom to rise above the Tyrrhenian Sea, the seven volcanic Aeolian Islands have been compared to the Pleiades in the sky and were the mythological home of Aeolus, god of the winds. This reputation is well earned, since rough winds and waves can often ground the hydrofoils that jet between the islands and back to the Sicilian mainland.

The crown jewel of this magical archipelago is Stromboli, a small (7.8-square-mile), cone-shaped, active volcano that spews fire and magma all day long. And while the volcano is certainly dangerous, it’s also regular and predictable enough that hikers can scramble to the 3,034-foot summit and peer into the spewing, molten workings of Vulcan in three active craters. The stunning lava bomb eruptions at the top are believed to have been going off every 20 minutes or so continuously for the past 2,000 years, with occasional lava flows and major eruptions (the last scoured the sides in 2007, and a big blast in 2003 closed the peak for two years).

Hiking to the craters at night is a life-list achievement. Depending on the state of the volcano you can stand within about 500 feet of the crater and enjoy nature’s best fireworks display. There is of course a very small chance that a major eruption could occur (although the volcano has been so consistent for millennia that the term “strombolian eruption” defines this type of activity) but you must hike the peak with a local guide, who tracks the status of the volcano. The hike itself, which heads quickly up through fragrant wild herbs and scrub oak, was rerouted and improved in 2004 with benches along the way and handrails near cliffs.

Thrill Factor: There aren’t many other places on the planet where you can witness the workings of an erupting volcano this close in relative safety.

Take It Easy: If you don’t want to stand on the lip of an erupting volcano, you can take one of the evening boat tours that take in the show from a safe distance out on the water.

Aonach Eagach Ridge

Glencoe - Scotland

Photograph by Wiliam Blake

Glen Coe, Scotland

Best for: Ridge walkers who want a huge dose of exposure without roping up

Distance: 5.75 miles

There are perilous ridge walks … and then there’s the knife-edge of Aonach Eagach. Running like a dragon’s backbone along the A82 highway just north of Glen Coe, the Aonach Eagach ridge rules over all the rugged, sketchy precipices of this heart of the Scottish Highlands. The hike, which climbs 3,600 feet, is only truly frightening for about two miles, during which it drops to the abyss on either side and clambers over two munros (the term for Scottish peaks over 3,000 feet), 3,127-foot Meall Dearg and 3,173-foot Sgorr nam Fiannaidh.

In between, the wild walk shimmies up chimneys, crawls down ledges, plummets up and over vertical towers, and navigates several other “dodgy” spots, as the locals describe them. No rope required, but don’t make a mistake. At some point, perhaps when you are off the dodgy sections, you may even notice the wide views of Glen Coe’s high munros all around, including the tallest peak in the British Isles, 4,409-foot Ben Nevis. When you reach the bottom near Glencoe village, make like the locals and head to the pub or to taste local single malts, which will help both quell any lingering nerves and add to your bravado as you recount your tale of conquering Aonach Eagach to anyone who will listen.

Thrill Factor: The hike should be attempted only by people who are comfortable scrambling on exposed terrain. It’s not hard, but you don’t want to make a mistake. Some people do rope up to do it—though that can make the traverse painfully slow and requires technical climbing knowledge. In winter, the difficulty level goes up to a Scottish Winter Grade II climb, and ice axe and crampons (and most likely a rope) are mandatory.

Take It Easy: You have to love the spirit of a hike that’s so scary that something called the Devil’s Staircase is the easier option. But, indeed this six-mile hike ascends to big vistas of Glen Coe—without the heart-stopping exposure.

Huntington Ravine

Huntingdon Ravine

Photograph by Alamy

Mount Washington, New Hampshire

Best for: Peakbaggers; people who want to take the difficult way to the top of New England’s most fabled peak

Distance: 2.1 miles one-way (8.2-mile round-trip loop to the summit)

Presiding over the White Mountains, New Hampshire’s Mount Washington is one popular peak, but very few of those who hike it have the guts to head up the Huntington Ravine Trail. It’s short, but near vertical, shooting up more than 2,000 vertical feet in just two miles, rambling above treeline into a boulder field, and then beginning to scale a series of sheer granite ledges and lichen-covered blocks, leaving travelers exposed to the mountain’s notoriously unforgiving elements. That said, it’s the most thrilling way to the top and offers up a little quiet between the gasps. There are even more difficult ways to ascend here, too, with technical rock climbs tracing up Huntington’s steeper faces and one of New Hampshire’s classic ice climbs forming here, in Pinnacle Gully, in the winter.

The summit itself is impressive (at 6,288 feet, it’s the highest point in New England), but a tad anti-climactic since there’s a parking lot and hordes of selfie-snapping folks who simply drove up instead of clinging to rock faces. Embrace it, and order a warm bowl of chili in the visitor center. Then enjoy the view out over the vast swath of the Presidential Range and much of the state below you. Like all climbs, the descent is the true tricky part (in 2013, a hiker slipped off the trail and fell 200 feet, requiring a life flight out), so it makes sense to turn it into a loop and head down the Tuckerman Ravine/Lion Head route.

Thrill Factor: Huntington is rated Class 3, just below needing to rope up, but you will need to use your hands. It should be attempted only by hikers comfortable with scrambling and exposure. Though hikers have taken catastrophic falls here, the real danger on Mount Washington is the weather, which is always rapidly changing. The summit has clocked up some of the highest wind speeds in recorded history (including 231 miles an hour in 1934) and the majority of the more than 135 fatalities here have been due to hypothermia.

Take It Easy: The standard 4.1-mile Tuckerman Ravine/Lion Head hike up Mount Washington may not induce the same type of nausea as Huntington, but it is still a serious trip up 4,250 feet into exposed alpine with all the dangers of thunderstorms and unpredictable weather.

Kokoda Trail

A hiker climbs through a clearing of tall kunai grass along the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, on June 29, 2010. The Kokoda Track, a 60-mile path across the Owen Stanley mountain range, is where ill-equipped Australians fought against a much larger Japanese force in World War II. (Alex Hutchinson/The New York Times) -- PHOTO MOVED IN ADVANCE AND NOT FOR USE - ONLINE OR IN PRINT - BEFORE OCT. 24, 2010.

Photograph by Alex Hutchinson, The New York Times/Redux

Owen Stanley Range, Papua New Guinea

Best for: Jungle explorers and World War II history buffs

Distance: 60 miles one-way

While it may not have the harrowing exposure or molten lava of some of the other trails on this list, the Kokoda Trail (also known as the Kokoda Track) is no trek for the fainthearted. Plunging relentlessly up and back down and crossing wild rivers as it winds into the center of the Papua New Guinea jungle, the hike takes anywhere from three to 12 days to complete (though it has been run in 16 hours and 25 minutes). All those ups and downs total to more than 20,000 feet of elevation gain, with a high point of 7,185 feet on Mount Bellamy. It’s extremely isolated and prey to the sadistic whims of tropical weather, rife with disease-carrying mosquitoes, and local Koiari people have, at times, spontaneously closed the trail in protest of not benefitting from the fees charged to hike it. But all that risk is worth the experience of gutting it out along a historic path and finding solitude in the rampant wilds of the jungle. Furthermore, the government is pumping millions of dollars into improving the trail, and there are huts and indigenous towns that are quite welcoming along the way.

Don’t worry about going it alone: Despite its arduousness, the trail has become increasingly popular. Fifteen years ago, you would not have seen many other trekkers on the path, but in recent years up to 3,000 hikers attempt it every year. Most of them are Australian, coming here as a rite of passage and remembrance for the World War II battle fought along the track in 1942 when Japanese forces attempted to capture the island’s capital of Port Moresby to begin an invasion of Australia—outmanned Allied forces, the bulk of them Australians, fought them off as they retreated down the track and managed to maintain control of PNG. Many of the hikers who visit the trail have family who fought here.

Thrill Factor: The trail is a major commitment and exposes you to the risks of jungle travel and disease. It’s also not advised to attempt it without a guided tour due to the numerous risks and the fact that it passes through local tribal lands.

Take It Easy: The opposite of the rigorous Kokoda Trail can be found on Loloata Island, outside Port Moresby, where you can hike the jungle in between snorkeling and diving (you can even check out a wrecked WWII bomber).

Dry Fork Coyote Gulch

Photograph by Tomas Kaspar, Alamy

Photograph by Tomas Kaspar, Alamy

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Best for: Slot canyon exploration and play for everyone from daring canyoneers to kids

Distance: About 3.5 miles round-trip

Welcome to nature’s amusement park. A short hike down into the sandstone canyon walls of Dry Fork—located off the Hole-in-the-Rock road where Mormon pioneers first found a route through this severe, distant corner of the Colorado Plateau—is all it takes to reach some of the most intriguing and easiest to enjoy slot canyons in Utah. Dry Gulch is a wonder in itself. Its rock walls formed from ancient sand dunes long buried and turned to stone before tectonic uplift sent them back above ground to be carved out by eons of flash flood erosion and wind scouring. But it’s the side slots just a short way upstream that make this place such a draw for visitors to the Grand Staircase-Escalante, and they are where the real fun begins.

The first of these side slots is called Peek-a-Boo because it consists of a series of big round windows and arches in the Navajo sandstone, with potholes, often filled deep with water, lurking in the floor below. It requires a bit of a scramble up carved stone steps to reach and some care to navigate, but it’s basically a fun romp. The next slot up Dry Gulch, Spooky, is the real standout. It’s a perfect, narrow crack that’s consistently 30 feet deep and no wider than 18 inches across for over a half a mile. It’s so tight some adults may not fit (and in many spots it pinches down to less than ten inches across, so they will definitely have to suck in their bellies and turn sideways)—but children will find it easier to move up the wafer-thin slot faster than their parents. The last and least visited slot, Brimstone, is dark and gloomy, even deeper than Spooky, and narrowing so much at points that hikers need to make their way far up above the sandy floor.

Thrill Factor: It’s an ideal natural playground for anyone except extremely claustrophobic and larger-than-average people. Brimstone is the only truly dangerous one of the slots—local legend has it that one hiker got wedged in and stuck for days. But as long as you are careful and cognizant of the dangers of hiking in the desert (carry more water than you think you need), Spooky is safe enough for children (though they may need help up some small obstacles). Always be concerned about flash floods in slot canyons (and remember the water comes from storms upstream of the slot).

Take It Easy: If tight squeezes are not your thing, you can simply hike down the beautiful (and wide) Dry Fork Coyote Gulch canyon slot just downstream of the playground.

Black Hole of White Canyon

Photograph by Cameron L. Martindell, Offyonder

Photograph by Cameron L. Martindell, Offyonder

Hanksville, Utah

Best for: Swimmers

Distance: 5 miles

The Black Hole is the flume of our thrill-ride hikes—a slot canyon that must be swum. It’s deep and dark and filled with cold water year-round, requiring a wetsuit even when temperatures are broiling far above. After a short hike, you plunge into the muddy stream and swim down (many spots are wadeable depending on the season) for two miles, peering up at the sheer sandstone walls towering hundreds of feet above. You can also check out the markers of the raw power of the Colorado Plateau’s flash floods in the canyon: Look up and you will see dead trees wedged in the slot as far as 50 feet above you, where torrential water once carried them. At times that debris has blocked the canyon, sometimes requiring ropes and a lot of forethought to navigate precariously piled logjams.

Those floods are an ever present danger in this peaceful spot—in the 1990s a teenage girl was swept to her death down here. But keep an eye on the weather, and you can simply bob downstream, relax, and enjoy the craftsmanship of the rushing water that carved out this enchanted canyon. Some canyoneers even bring a little inflatable ducky children’s pool toy along to use as a kickboard heading downstream.

Thrill Factor: You must be able and willing to swim and wear a wetsuit even in the summer (a short-sleeve one will work when it’s full summer). There are no real technical obstacles to navigate in the canyon, but it’s not a bad idea to have at least a small rope in case you don’t feel comfortable downclimbing. Also, floods can change things—in 2003, they created new technical obstacles that have since shifted away. Once you are in, you are fully committed—there’s no escape route—so analyze weather reports before you attempt it and be aware that storms far upstream cause flash floods.

Take It Easy: If you want your first taste of Utah slot canyons, try the nine-mile loop up and down Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyons in the San Rafael Swell, not too far from White Canyon. They offer up the real slot experience with no technical obstacles or swims.

Granite Peak

Photograph by Jed Conklin Photography

Photograph by Jed Conklin Photography

Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Montana

Best for: Peakbaggers who have technical skills; hikers who are comfortable with exposure

Distance: 21–25 miles round-trip

Of all the highest state summits in the Lower 48, Montana’s 12,807-foot Granite Peak is perhaps the most isolated and difficult to stand atop (it’s estimated that only 20 percent of summit attempts here are successful, mostly because of weather). It was actually the last of the U.S. highpoints to be climbed in 1923 (a decade after the first ascent of Denali). Is it the hardest scramble ever or a technical rock climb? That all depends on who you ask, and the indeterminate easiest route to the top on the south face has been rated everything from a Class 3 scramble to a 5.7 rock climb. The best advice is that you may not need a rope but you had better bring one. You will definitely experience dizzying exposure heading up to the summit—the incisor of a peak pierces up through the big, rolling plateaus of the Beartooths and the valley floor is over 1,500 feet underfoot when you are navigating the chimneys, chockstones, and balance moves required for the last 200 feet to the top. There’s also a snowbridge that may or may not require an ice ax depending on conditions. Taken all together, the experience pushes the boundaries of a hike.

It’s not an easy place to reach, either. Climbing Granite requires a long hike, at least 5,000 feet of elevation gain, an overnight stay to time the weather right, and you pitch your tent on an exposed, rocky expanse named the Froze-to-Death Plateau. But when everything goes just right, there’s no joy like having figured out Granite’s many puzzles and standing at the apex of the aptly named Treasure State. There’s no sign of civilization on the summit—the vast wilderness of the Beartooths and Absarokas rolls off in all directions and Yellowstone National Park lies on the horizon. Now, it’s time to make your way down (we suggest you rappel).

Thrill Factor: There is serious exposure on this hike and you should both have the ability to climb technical rock and bring the gear (that said, a nine-year-old with both has summited). The weather can change quickly and there is little protection from lightning storms on the plateau or on the committing route to the top. A climber was killed here in 1994 ascending a more difficult route on the north face when hikers at the top inadvertently trundled a rock down on him and his partner.

Take It Easy: The summit of 11,765-foot Froze-to-Death Mountain may not be as impressive as Granite (it’s just the highest pile of rocks on the undulating Froze-to-Death Plateau), but it’s a nice brass ring if you decide not to commit to climb the more difficult peak. It also offers up a fantastic view of Granite in all its glory.

Búri Cave

Photograph by Michel Detay

Photograph by Michel Detay

Thorlákshöfn, Iceland

Best for: Hikers who like a tight squeeze and experiencing the underworld

Distance: 1.3 miles round-trip, plus hike to cave

Welcome to our “Tunnel of Love” hike. While there are hundreds of thrilling, frightening, and wondrous lava caves in the lava fields of this active volcanic island, Búri is one of the most eerily beautiful, as well as one of the latest to be discovered. It was only first explored in 2005 and was soon heralded as one of Iceland’s most remarkable lava caves. But it’s not for everyone. To reach it requires a short hike across the Leitahraun lava fields, the remnants of lava that flowed and cooled from the Leiti volcano all the way to the sea in some spots. Lava tubes formed here about 5,000 years ago when parts of that magma cooled faster than others, forming the cave walls, while the hot lava flowed through, forming the long, smooth caves themselves. Leitahraun is a Swiss cheese of these tubes, including the 4,462-foot-long Raufarholshellir tube and cathedral-like Arnarker cave.

Named after the first of the Aesir gods who is said to have been born when a primordial giant’s cow licked the salty ice that existed before the Earth, Búri is covered in ice for its first section, making it feel like the mythical cow’s salt lick, and filled with odd, dripping sculptures that shimmer phantasmagorically in the light of headlamps. After the ice, it runs through a long, 30-foot-high, 30-foot-wide tube of lava rock that feels like an abandoned subway tunnel, before ending a 55-foot-high lava pit at the end. Emerging again into the sunlight feels like being reborn.

Thrill Factor: Don’t go if you are afraid of the dark or claustrophobic. The tunnel is not necessarily dangerous but anyone exploring it should have caving experience, a light (and a backup light), and a helmet. It’s best to go on a guided trip, many of which pick up clients directly at their hotels in Reykjavik.

Take It Easy: The big, formation-filled Arnarker Lava Cave is also located in the Leitahraun lava fields and holds some natural ice sculptures near the end of winter, but it is simply accessed by a ladder, making it easier to explore.

Crypt Lake Trail

Photograph by Loraine Tai

Photograph by Loraine Tai

Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

Best for: Hikers who want an adrenaline rush and love waterfalls

Distance: 10.8 miles round trip

Don’t let the macabre name scare you off—though you may very well get a chill up your spine as you cling and crawl to this isolated spot high in the Canadian Rockies. This one, relatively short hike packs in an expedition’s worth of adventure: a ferry ride, scrambling, epic waterfalls, exposure, a tunnel, and a pristine alpine lake as the payoff. You will also be hiking in a no-man’s-land of sorts, or perhaps an every-person’s land: Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park, on the southern border of Alberta, and the United States’ Glacier National Park, on Montana’s northern frontier, make up the larger, 1,720-square-mile Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, created by proponents on both sides of the border in 1932. The two governments work to manage the resources of both parks together (since the biotic community could care less about political divisions) and the Peace Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

A pleasant, 15-minute boat ride across Waterton Lake is required to reach the trailhead, which gives it a unique, isolated feel. However, the true cut-off-from-the-world highlight of the hike, which gains 2,300 vertical feet over 5.4 miles, is a 100-foot, hands-and-knees crawl the trail takes through a natural tunnel. Along the way, you will also have to balance along a narrow ledge (the park has affixed a cable handrail if you need it) and scurry up a metal ladder via ferrata style. When you do have time to look around, take in the beauty of the park’s waterfalls, long elegant cascades tumbling down the sedimentary rock walls of the sheer peaks. The hike passes by four of them, the highlight of which is Crypt Falls, dropping close to 600 feet straight down from the hanging valley that holds the lake.

Thrill Factor: Most hikers can do the trail without a problem, despite the exposure. The worst sections are protected with a steel cable handhold. It is committing and exposed, though, so don’t try it if you suffer from vertigo and be aware of changing weather.

Take It Easy: If you want a steep Waterton hike with none of the thrills and chills of Crypt, try the 6.5-mile round-trip jaunt to the stunning alpine cirque and turquoise waters of Wall Lake.

Pacaya

Photograph by Raoul Manten, Getty Images

Photograph by Raoul Manten, Getty Images

Pacaya Volcano National Park, Antigua, Guatemala

Best for: Hikers who want to feel the heat of an active volcano

Distance: 3.2 miles round-trip

Looming in the skyline just 20 miles from the metropolis of Guatemala City, 8,373-foot Pacaya is one consistently moody volcano (it’s technically a complex volcano, a caldera with multiple vents within its summit crater circumference). It has been active for at least the last 23,000 years, consistently brooding with steam, spitting out lava in pyrotechnic strombolian eruptions (see Stromboli), and occasionally bursting out in more major events. The most recent of these big blasts have sent lava rivers rolling down the sides of the mountain in 2006 and covered the capital city in ash in 2010. And in early 2014 Pacaya started to get ornery again—exploding in ash and gas plumes and belching lava bombs and rocks while new craters flowed with lava.

So how about hiking up to get up close and personal with this beast? It’s not as dangerous as you might think, though of course your safety is not guaranteed when tempting the moods of a volcano. Several tour operators run trips up into the caldera, and some even let you camp out overnight, where you can perhaps watch fiery strombolian eruptions from your tent window and roast marshmallows over fumaroles or hot lava. It’s a quick and easy hike, but steep and at elevation so you may breathe heavy on the way up. You’ll certainly exhale once you get there and see rivers of molten magma at your feet.

Thrill Factor: The trail up is not necessarily scary, but you are playing around on an active volcano that last had a major eruption in 2013 and had a small paroxysm, or sudden eruption, in January 2014, so be aware of current volcanic monitoring (you can check on updates here) and be very careful inside the crater, especially around the hot spots and fumaroles. The payoff is you get to look at the workings inside an active crater, and it is one impressive show.

Take It Easy: You won’t have to worry about the fiery moods of Ma Nature, but you will appreciate the mandatory police escort (to protect from robberies) to the top of Cerro de la Cruz, the hill of the cross that overlooks the city of Antigua.

Huayna Picchu

Photograph by Guillaume Flandre, National Geographic Your Shot

Photograph by Guillaume Flandre, National Geographic Your Shot

Machu Picchu, Peru

Best for: Hikers who want a bit more action in their archaeological experience

Distance: 1,181 vertical feet

The hike to Machu Picchu, the Inca ruins high in Peru’s Andes that were abandoned 500 years ago, has been written up and lauded in countless best hike and travel features. And the destination is, no-surprise, filled with tourists seeking enlightenment on high. For good reason: The UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most significant archaeological and still sacred sites on the planet. It’s also perched in a spectacular spot on what feels like the backbone of the world. The great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda wrote of it: “In you, like two parallel lines, / the cradle of the lightning-bolt and man / rocked together in a thorny wind.” Who wouldn’t want to go?

Despite its lofty reputation, the actual Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu is not all that thrilling, depending on how you decide to do it, and many hop on board a guided tour provided by anyone from REI to local operations (many more arrive via train). You may wheeze from the elevation and steep climbs and have to navigate thousands of stone steps, but it’s not that scary. Huayna Picchu is. The 8,924-foot, iconic pyramid peak juts up over 1,000 feet above Machu Picchu and requires a sketchy scramble that includes exposed ledges, stepping rocks sticking out of the cliff with only the abyss below, cable handholds, and slippery stone staircases. But it is worth it for the view out above the ruins and the surrounding Andes. The ruins at the top are thought to be those of Machu Picchu’s high priest, who would greet the sun from this very spot.

Thrill Factor: Huayna Picchu, also spelled Wayna Picchu, is steep with serious or deadly consequences if you fall in the wrong spot. Luckily, only 400 people are allowed to climb it each day, cutting down on the congestion a bit. That also means that quite a few people do successfully climb it, so it’s more fun than real danger.

Take It Easy: Avoiding Huayna Picchu and simply taking one of the various routes to Machu Picchu is enough adventure for most. Try the lesser known Ancascocha Trail (which we featured here).

Mount Huashan

Photograph by Vivian Lee

Photograph by Vivian Lee

Huashan National Park, China

Best for: Pilgrims and daredevils

Distance: 7.5 miles from the gate to the top of South Peak

The path along rickety planks hanging out over the void on China’s Mount Huashan have become a viral video sensation, showing up on “Craziest Hikes” lists everywhere. But that moniker is a bit of a misconception. The perilous, die-if-you-fall hike that looks like it was built by Spanky and the Little Rascals is just one small path on the massive Huashan, which is the westernmost of China’s Five Great Mountains (each of which is named for the cardinal directions and a center peak), ancient imperial pilgrimage sites sacred to Taoists and still drawing spiritual travelers and tourists to the temples perched on them. Huashan is not a single summit but a complex of five major peaks, the highest of which is the 7,087-foot South Peak. The Chang Kong Zhan Dao (or Sky Plank Road) is the boldest way access to the South Peak (which itself consists of three subpeaks). It’s a loony, fun ride of ladders, foot-wide wooden boards, cables, and steps hacked into the cliff—all hanging in the sky. You can rent via ferrata-type gear to protect yourself as you navigate it.

Ascending Huashan is a walk into the spiritual history of the mountain and China itself. For millennia—before the cable cars and hordes of tourists who swarm here now along many different paths—the way up Huashan was supposed to be difficult, testing the pilgrim who wished to find the way (or the Tao). Each of the granitic peaks can be accessed by a different hike (and two of them by cable car) or by a new loop trail at the top. Now, just because the Chang Kong Zhan Dao is not necessary to get to the top of all the summits doesn’t mean that the other ways up are cozy. The hikes often require ridiculously steep stairs (some of which have been chained off) and holding on to chain railings, on which you may notice hundred of locks attached. These are charms left by couples and families as wishes for love and good luck.

Thrill Factor: The Chang Kong Zhan Dao is truly dangerous, even with safety gear. The rest of the mountain is accessed by thousands of tourists (a record 47,000 visited the site in one day in 2013) in varying states of fitness, so you should be able to reach the top even if you don’t want to scare yourself. As of 2014, the Chinese government has also opened a new trail on the top of the peak to make it easier to visit all the peaks and just implemented an $8.3 million-command center so it can monitor the trails through video cameras and keep them from becoming over-congested.

Take It Easy: Many visitors hike to the top of the East Peak in the dark to catch the sunrise. It’s not easy but nowhere near as crazy as the Chang Kong Zhan Dao. And of course, the easiest way to the top is to ride the cable car to the North Peak (Yuntai Feng or Cloud Terrace Peak) or, as of 2013, West Peak (Lian Hua Feng or Lotus Peak), from which you can access trails to explore the others, if you wish.

Lion’s Head

Photograph by Heiko Meyer, laif/Redux

Photograph by Heiko Meyer, laif/Redux

Table Mountain National Park, South Africa

Best for: A thrill with a view close to a major city

Distance: 2.5 miles round-trip

Cape Town may be the most beautiful city on the planet—it’s tucked at the foot of the sheer cliffs of Table Mountain, blessed with a Mediterranean climate and world-class surfing, and perched on the austral tip of Africa. One of the best ways to enjoy the place is to hike from the streets of town to the summit of Lion’s Head, a prominent sandstone bluff that soars straight up out of the city. Though it’s a separate tower from the main mass of the larger Table Mountain, Lion’s Head was once connected to it; erosion has left the 2,195-foot block standing separate as a prominent sentinel over the city.

Lion’s Head is for the most part a scenic, if a bit strenuous (it climbs 2,000 vertical feet in just over a mile), hike … until the end. To reach the summit block, a series of chains, metal rungs, and ladders scales the vertical rock that makes up the prominent, bare top. It’s not difficult—but you would not want to fall. Beyond the adrenaline rush, take some leisurely time to enjoy the place, too. The lush vegetation here is Fynbos, the Afrikaans word for the endemic flora, scrub bush, and wildflowers you will only find here (rooibos tea comes from some of these plants). And on the best days, a soft sea breeze gives you some relief from the huffing and puffing of the hike. It’s a local tradition to climb Lion’s Head during a full moon, when the thrill-and-chill factor goes up and, at the top, the pale light reflects off the waves of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Table Bay on the other with the lights of Cape Town spread out under your feet.

Thrill Factor: Plenty of people do this hike every day, but that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. Only attempt the rungs and chains to the top of Lion’s Head if you are comfortable with exposure and your skills—the only protection is hanging on to the metal. Hikers have died here. The chains were upgraded in 2012, however, making for a safer, but still risky, method of ascent.

Take It Easy: There is actually an easier, alternate path around the chains to the top of Lion’s Head—less of a thrill, but much safer (especially if you are on a full moon hike).

Kakum Canopy Walk

Photograph by Matt Griggs, Alamy

Photograph by Matt Griggs, Alamy

Kakum National Park, Ghana

Best for: Observing one of the most biodiverse rain forests on the planet from the heights of the canopy

Distance: 1,150 feet

Created by locals concerned about preserving the virgin beauty of Ghana’s dense biodiverse rain forest, Kakum National Park has been drawing more and more tourists from abroad ever since it was created in 1992. And those visitors come to catch a glimpse of some of the place’s rare wildlife. African forest elephants tramp through the underbrush. Civets and leopards hunt in the dark of night. Bongos and little duikers browse between the trees. The treetops of Kakum are home to colobus and endangered Roloway monkeys. And 200 species of birds and 550 species of butterflies flit through the high branches. The best way to check out this paradise? Take a hike in the sky.

Built in 1995 and the only hanging bridge of its type in Africa, the park’s canopy walk links seven giant trees through a series of floating nets and walkways dangling a hundred feet off the forest floor. The suspended path is just wide enough to walk with two feet. In the middle, you may feel like a denizen of the high canopy, lightly shaking side to side in the midst of the branches with the predators on the ground far below. You are not guaranteed to see wildlife on the walk (though if you are lucky and quiet you will), so if you want to get a guaranteed glimpse of the native fauna up close, head to the Monkey Forest Resort, a nearby private sanctuary. For the protection of the forest, canopy walkers need to be accompanied by a park guide—a good thing since these locals can teach much about the flora and fauna in their backyard, as well as what it takes to save them.

Thrill Factor: Unless you are afraid of heights, this is a fun way to immerse yourself in the rain forest.

Take It Easy: If hanging high above the forest floor is not your thing, you can also take a walk at ground level, starting at the visitor center. As with the canopy walk, hikers must be accompanied by a guide.

Low’s Peak Via Ferrata

Photograph by Christian Kober, Corbis

Photograph by Christian Kober, Corbis

Kinabalu National Park, Malaysia

Best for: The shortest way to the top of Malaysia’s highest peak

Distance: 1,198 vertical feet

Jutting out of the surrounding Borneo rain forest, 13,435-foot Mount Kinabalu (or Low’s Peak) is not just the highest point in Malaysia, it also ranks number 20 on the list of mountains with the most prominence—it rises to that height straight from sea level, a similar prominence to higher peaks including Mount Rainier and K2. The granitic uplift is also a rare treat, providing an alpine environment close to the Equator, and the alpine meadows on the high peak support one of the highest concentrations of endemic plant life on the planet, including the world’s highest concentration of wild orchids.

The hike up this monster is grueling no matter how you try it, but the most fun way to the top is on what the park bills as the highest via ferrata in the world. The route is a true fun ride—it heads straight up sheer cliffs, crosses swaying suspension bridges, and requires nerve to climb hand over hand on metal rungs in the rock face with nothing but open air all around.

Thrill Factor: Though it dishes out a ton of gripping moments with high exposure, this is not a particularly difficult or inherently dangerous via ferrata. It is rated AD, Assez Difficile or fairly difficult, on the French via ferrata rating system and 3 on the Fletcher/Smith system. Mountain Torq, the company that runs tours on the via ferrata, guides the trip and requires participants to be age 17 or over. The elevation gain from sea level can be rough, too. Most hikers take two days to scale the peak.

Take It Easy: You do not have to take the via ferrata to summit Mount Kinabalu. Both the Timpohon (5 miles round-trip) and Mesilau (7.6 miles round-trip) trails will take you on tours to the lodge at Laban Rata and 10,735 feet. From here, the intrepid can hike the standard Summit Trail, a difficult 3.6-mile, 2,625-vertical-foot round trip that does require navigating steep ledges and staircases. There is also an easier version of the via ferrata, called the Walk the Torq, rated PD, Peu Difficile or “just a bit” difficult, on the French system, that also runs to the summit. All hikes and via ferrata ascents require a guide.

Chadar Trek

Photograph by Thomas Boehm, age fotostock/Alamy

Photograph by Thomas Boehm, age fotostock/Alamy

Zanskar River Valley, India

Best for: Those who want to trek the Himalaya in winter

Distance: 45.4 miles round-trip

When winter takes hold of the distant Ladakh, or “Land of High Passes,” region of India in the Himalaya, there’s only one way to travel from the high, lonesome villages of the Zanskar Valley to the region’s capital city of Leh—walking down a deep, dark gorge on the frozen ice of the Zanskar River itself. That’s the gist of this extreme trek (“chadar” means “the frozen white blanket” in the local dialect), for which tour companies offer trips of nine days to three weeks to travel upriver to the Buddhist monastery of Karsha deep in the valley, and back. In most places, that chadar is solid, though a frozen river is a moody thing so at others it shifts or even breaks open into frigid, fast water, requiring arduous bypasses on snow and slippery rock. Temperatures average below freezing and can drop as low as minus 30º F at night. Along the way, trekkers sleep in caves, just as the local porters who have carried down trading goods (historically butter, which needed to be moved in the cold) and supplies for centuries do. It’s a committing trip—there’s nowhere to go up above the gorge, since paths and roads are shut down by the winter.

Despite the real danger and bone-chilling temperatures—the trek itself starts in a village called Chilling—this hike into a headwaters of the mighty Indus River offers up some huge rewards. There’s the ever shifting beauty of the chadar underfoot itself, as well as the visceral silence of these deep Himalayan gorges in winter. There’s frozen waterfalls. There’s the hardy villages of Zanskar and the chance to walk alongside their people, who have been making this trip for generations (and maybe a pang of guilt, as they walk past in traditional apparel and you struggle in the latest high-tech fabrics). Put that all together and navigating the ice is worth the risk.

Thrill Factor: Plain and simple, the Chadar Trek is a winter expedition in the Himalaya. The river ice can shift and break and present other hazards, but the biggest danger is the cold itself. That said, the winter is a time when few visit the world’s highest mountains and there’s something elementally basic about spending days trekking up an ever changing frozen river with no other way in or out.

Take It Easy: You don’t have to trek the Ladakh region and the Zanskar Valley in winter. A three-week trek across ten mountain passes and open, high country from the monastery at Lamayuru to the village of Darcha in warmer seasons has its own challenges but doesn’t present the frozen dangers of the chadar.

 

 

The irresistible rise of the ‘poshtel’

A ‘poshtel’ –  otherwise known as an upscale or luxury hostel – combines the style and comfort of a boutique hotel with the price and sensibilities of a hostel. And the trend is coming your way.

An ever-increasing number of budget-conscious but discerning travellers expect something radically better than a bedbug-infested bunk in a dingy dorm full of snoring backpackers; they want good value yet sophisticated and unique places to stay – and, in response, some hostels are upping their game.

‘A poshtel is a high-end version of a hostel, with a sense of fun, energy and passion,’ says Josh Wyatt, the Chief Strategic Officer of Generator Hostels, one of the companies fast redefining the sector.

Poshtels often occupy intriguing buildings, place an emphasis on design, and offer spacious, clean rooms, freebies and perks, cool bars, top-notch restaurants and, perhaps, even a rooftop lounge or pool – and all at an affordable price.

Here’s Lonely Planet‘s pick of six of the best around the globe.

Generator Paris, France

The interior design of Generator Paris is inspired by the 'cinematic' feel of a stroll through the city. Image courtesy of Generator Hostels.

The interior design of Generator Paris is inspired by the ‘cinematic’ feel of a stroll through the city. Image courtesy of Generator Hostels.

With nine design-led hostels already and two more planned for 2016, Generator Hostels is taking the hospitality world by storm.

At Generator Paris, which opened in February, creative director Anwar Mekhayech’s pared-back interiors are inspired by the ‘cinematic experience’ of strolling through the city; think concrete walls, vintage objects from local flea markets and chic furnishings by Tolix, Jielde and Tom Dixon.

There are dorms and spacious double rooms, some with their own terraces and private bathrooms. The vibrant Café Fabien serves French dishes, burgers, salads and sandwiches as well as regional wines and Paris-inspired cocktails such as Le Macaron.

There’s even an underground disco resembling a Metro station and a rooftop terrace overlooking Montmartre and Sacré-Coeur. Other bonuses are the complimentary wi-fi and in-the-know staff who can arrange anything from a street-art walk to a table at a top-secret restaurant.

More information: generatorhostels.com

Freehand Miami, US

The Art Deco exterior of the Freehand Miami. Image by Adrian Gaut / Freehand Miami

The Art Deco exterior of the Freehand Miami. Image by Adrian Gaut / Freehand Miami

This chic hideaway, set in a 1930s Art Deco building, is no ordinary hostel. It has stylish interiors by design duo Roman and Williams, an outdoor swimming pool, bocce ball courts, ping-pong tables and a lush tropical courtyard. The décor is minimalist, with unique pieces created by local artists. The 81 private and shared bedrooms have desks, seating areas and reading lights.

Other perks include free wi-fi and breakfast, a 24-hour reception and concierge, and organic Dr. Bronner products in the bathrooms. What’s more, the hip cocktail bar, Broken Shaker, was named one of the World’s 50 Best Bars in 2014; and 27, the on-site restaurant, which opened in late 2014, serves Miami-inspired dishes using fresh ingredients straight from the garden.

More informationthefreehand.com

Shophouse The Social Hostel, Singapore

Working Title, the on-site cafe at Shophouse, serves up some gourmet breakfasts. Image courtesy of Shophouse The Social Hostel.

Sharing an old-school hostel’s sole, soup-splattered microwave is a distant memory in the gleaming kitchen of Melbourne’s Space Hotel. Image courtesy of The Space Hotel.

This Arab Street hotspot rebuffs the description ‘posh’, claiming to be a warm and personal ‘indie boutique hostel’.

The 16-, 12-, eight- and six-bed dorms are air-conditioned, with extras such as personal lights, power points and hangers as well as complimentary breakfast and wi-fi. The bathrooms are shared, but hot water, shampoo, soap and hairdryers are provided. Each room has a different theme: those on the second floor have a rustic ‘loft’ feel, with red-brick walls and exposed light bulbs. The ladies-only third floor, named No Man’s Land, is a pink-hued haven. One of the rooms, named Arab Street in homage to its location, has stained-glass lights and a cushioned chill-out area.

Shophouse also has a rooftop lounge, where you can soak in the views and Working Title, a vintage café that is decorated with handmade and upcycled furniture and serves burgers, pizzas, coffee and craft beers.

More informationshophousehostel.com

Space Hotel, Melbourne, Australia

Sharing an old-school hostel's sole, soup-splattered microwave is a distant memory in the gleaming kitchen of Melbourne's Space Hotel. Image courtesy of The Space Hotel.

Sharing an old-school hostel’s sole, soup-splattered microwave is a distant memory in the gleaming kitchen of Melbourne’s Space Hotel. Image courtesy of The Space Hotel.

For two consecutive years, Tourism Victoria has named this upscale hostel the ‘Best Victorian Backpacker Accommodation’ – with good reason.

The contemporary, spacious rooms range from eight-bed dorms to en-suites with balconies, all with reading lamps and extra-long Posturepedic mattresses. The private rooms also have iPod docking stations, HD televisions and some have spa baths.

Space is home to an in-house theatre, a gym, a ‘Master Chef-style’ guest kitchen and the popular bar and restaurant, Blue Moon. You may not get complimentary breakfast or wi-fi here, but the magnificent rooftop – which has a barbecue, a spa and a jacuzzi boasting 270-degree views of the city – easily makes up for it.

More informationspacehotel.com.au

Once in Cape Town, South Africa

Once in Cape Town's Yours Truly cafe will delight the lazy foodie. Image courtesy of Once in Cape Town.

Once in Cape Town’s Yours Truly cafe will delight the lazy foodie. Image courtesy of Once in Cape Town.

Here, you can enjoy serious comfort (clean rooms, free wi-fi and parking, a 24-hour reception and travel desk) in a fun environment. Local artists designed the ‘travel-grunge’ interiors, which feature vintage suitcases, old record players and a 1955 Chevrolet pick-up parked outside.

The en-suite four-bed dorms and private rooms have custom-made beds, locking boxes, charging stations and reading lights. Most of the bathrooms have a water-saving shower over the bath as well as an eco-friendly grey-water system.

And this is certainly one for lazy foodies – the options are plentiful: Yours Truly serves coffee, fruit, croissants and muesli for breakfast, and later, sandwiches, pizza and craft beer; Hudsons specialises in gourmet burgers; and Mitico dishes up pizza followed by Italian sorbet, washed down with Limoncello. There’s also a rooftop bar called Up Yours, where you can sip punchy cocktails out of jam jars.

More informationonceincapetown.co.za

Clink78, London, UK

The former courthouse at Clink78 makes an intriguing backdrop for a visit to London. Image courtesy of Clink78

The former courthouse at Clink78 makes an intriguing backdrop for a visit to London. Image courtesy of Clink78

This backpackers’ hub is tucked away in an elegant 200-year-old courthouse in King’s Cross. It doesn’t like to call itself a poshtel, but it’s certainly no ordinary hostel, with innovative facilities and playful décor.

British designer Shaun Clarkson’s bold interiors reflect London’s most eclectic corners. The rooms range from atmospheric converted prison cells to 16-bed dorms containing pod beds, each with its own privacy panel, reading light and locker.

Many of the private rooms have en-suite bathrooms with power showers and complimentary towels, and there’s free wi-fi and breakfast for all. The TravelSHOP is on hand to help or you can download the ClinkSocial app for more insider city tips.

Although there’s no restaurant, buzzing basement dive ClashBAR serves scrummy cocktails and there’s a Stay & Play policy, where musicians don’t have to pay if they perform. The brand plans to expand to five more European cities by 2020; the first, ClinkNOORD, opens in Amsterdam this June. Watch this space.

More informationclinkhostels.com

 

Expensive experiences, cheaper alternatives

The world’s most iconic travel experiences don’t usually come cheap – but sometimes there are real alternatives. Here is an some ideas for the budget-conscious, and expert advice on whether it’s actually worth paying the price for some of these bucket-list classics.

1. Orient Express vs InterRail pass, Europe

The plush Venice Simplon Orient-Express exudes an irresistible romance – it’s all that wood panelling and polished brass. But it’s not cheap: the classic six-day Paris-Istanbul train jaunt costs GB£11,000 per person. An InterRail Pass to cover the same stretch costs from GB£161 (five days travel in ten); upgrade to a First Class version for £386 for a glimmer of glamour.

Worth the saving? Undoubtedly. But if you win the lottery…

2. Harbour Bridge Climb vs Pylon Lookout, Sydney, Australia

The Old Coathanger offers the best views of Sydney harbour – for all budgets. The more hair-raising choice sees you suited up and strapped to the outer rim of the arch to climb to its 134m zenith. The alternative is to climb the 200 steps of the bridge’s South East Pylon for 87m-high budget views.

Worth the saving? Only want a panorama? Pick the pylon (A$11); the Bridge Climb (A$198-298) provides an adrenalin-boosting (but wallet-wilting) outlook.

3. Galápagos Islands vs Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

Isla de la Plata is known as the ‘Poor Man’s Galápagos’. It’s certainly easier and cheaper to access – just 27km off the Ecuadorian mainland, while the Galápagos is 1000km. Species here include whales, sea lions and birds, including boobies, frigatebirds and waved albatross; Galápagos faves such as giant tortoise and penguins are absent.

Worth the saving? A Plata day-trip (around US$35) is fine, but is no match. An eight-night Galápagos cruise costs from US$1500 plus flights – but find the cash if you can.

4. Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, vs Mt Kenya, Kenya

Africa’s highest mountain, 5895m Kilimanjaro, steals the thunder of runner-up Mount Kenya (5199m). Both are challenging volcano climbs, with rainforest, strange plants and shrinking glaciers. Kenya has more wildlife and fewer people; it’s also cheaper, due to lower fees and the shorter duration needed for a climb (from four days). Kili’s main trails are chocker, and fees soon mount – factor on at least six days of US$70-a-day Conservation Fee, US$50-a-day camp fee, guides, food…but it remains the ultimate challenge.

Worth the saving? Yes: Kenya’s a satisfying ascent – it just lacks the bragging rights.

5. Nile cruiser vs felucca, Egypt

The Nile is busy with boats, from floating five-star hotels that can cost US$200 a night, to traditional lateen-sailed feluccas (more like US$12). Modern ships move faster and offer amenities from air-con to bars and spas – in short, comfort. Feluccas have a deck, no cabins and no bathrooms, and must amble with the wind, but offer a more authentic feel.

Worth the saving? Yes, if you’re not precious about loos.

Ned’s Tip: if you have got the budget, spend some time at Le Royal Sharm el Sheikh Holiday Resort – just fab-u-lous!

6. Gorilla tracking vs chimp trekking, Uganda

Tracking mountain gorillas in Bwindi is a bucket list stuff, but comes at a price: US$500 for a sweaty slog and an hour in the great apes’ presence. To encounter chimps costs from US$30 at Toro-Semliki, although better sightings are in Kibale; here, fees are US$150 for a three-hour hike or US$220 for a Habituation Experience – where you spend all day watching the chimps forage, feed and breed.

Worth the saving? Few are disappointed by gorilla trekking, but do consider alternatives: there’s much more to Uganda.

7. Sabi Sand Game Reserve vs Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger is the most egalitarian safari spot. Entry costs R204 (US$23) a day, you can drive your own 2WD on its excellent roads and pitch a tent in its well-equipped campsites (R200 a night). You can also see Africa’s Big Five while you’re at it. Adjacent private game reserves, such as Sabi Sand, have the same wildlife, but also intimate, luxurious lodges, expert guides, activities such as night drives and bigger prices – think R3000 per person per night.

Worth the saving? Yes. Game viewing in Kruger is great – but remember that a good guide can transform a safari.

8. Glacier walk vs heli-hike, Fox & Franz Joseph, New Zealand

There are many ways to meet South Island’s mighty glaciers. You can hike up green valleys to the terminal faces of Fox or Franz Joseph (around NZ$50), or spend a bit more to strap on crampons and walk on the lower glacier (NZ$115). However, the most impressive ice-caves and crevasses are higher up; it costs NZ$400 to reach them by helicopter and hike across this shifting world of white.

Worth the saving? No, splurge – for the chopper ride and more extraordinary ice.

9. Sambadrome vs blocos, Rio Carnival, Brazil

The world’s biggest street party can command a hefty price-tag. To watch the main Samba Parade you need a ticket for the Sambadrome. Options range from grandstand space to luxury boxes; for all but the cheapest you’ll pay upwards of US$125. To counter increasing commercialisation, blocos – neighbourhood parties – have risen in popularity; to join in, buy a T-shirt (around US$10) and shake your bootie with the locals.

Worth the saving? Ideally, do both. Book early for best-value Sambadrome seats.

10. Yacht cruise vs Bateau Bus, Monaco

The pricey principality is the ultimate place to loll on a yacht with a cocktail and a celeb. But mooring alone can cost €1200 a day. A teensy taste of the high-life requires just €2 (and some imagination) – buy a ticket for the Bateau Bus ferry across the highfalutin’ harbour.

Worth the saving? Yes, for the views back to the world you can’t afford…

12 Once-in-a-Lifetime Camping Sites

A dozen spectacular sites perfect for outdoor exploration. Thanks to Travel & Leisure for the inspiration and Getty Images for the stunning photos – Ned

Lake District

Hot, humid summer days are finally behind us, and crisp, mild autumn weather has breezed in to take its place. There’s no better time than now to dig out your tent, lace-up your hiking boots, and get a little wild.

Whether you’re a fearless adventurer seeking a scenic climb or a novice outdoorsman eager to convene with nature, these 12 camping destinations—from the sanctified shores of Japan to the obsidian paths winding across Hawaii and Iceland—will change your life.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Camping, Bowman Lake, Glacier NP, MT

More than 700 miles of trails wind through Montana’s crystalline lakes, jagged mountain peaks, and ancient glaciers. Go now, before they vanish altogether.  Novice campers should pitch a tent on the water’s edge in the RV-free Kinta Lake Campground, while backcountry campers should seek wild alpine meadows.

Canyonlands, Bryce, and Zion, Utah

camping

This grand slam region has no shortage of diverse and dazzling landscapes. Lesser-known Canyonlands is punctuated by enormous sandstone spires, and offers both campsites as well as camping-at-large options for travelers who prefer to rest in the privacy of their own…canyon.

Haleakala National Park, Hawaii

camping

For the most staggering views of the 750,000-year-old volcano Haleakala, camp at Holua or Paliku, and arrive at the crater’s edge just before sunrise. While winding through the black-sand switchbacks, look out for the ahinahina: an alien-like silversword that grows between 7,000 and 10,000 feet. Hike the moderate, four mile Pipiwai Trail through the rainforest (bamboo and banyans) to the base of the 400-foot-tall Waimoku Falls.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

camping

The Teton Range is one of America’s best-loved destinations for hiking and camping. Temperatures begin to drop in November—negative 63 °F is the record low—so plan your trip soon. Camp alongside the Snake River, which carves its way through Jackson Hole valley.

Laugavegur, Iceland

camping

Before snow descends upon the kaleidoscopic rhyolite mountains, book a hut or a tent in the camp city (wild camping is not permitted here), Landmannalaugur. Pros advise hiking from north to south, which takes you across lava fields, wildflower-speckled meadows, steaming geothermal vents, and finally, to the twin glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and Mydralsjökull.  Along the way, you’ll be dazzled by the mountains streaked with turquoise, orange, and cyan.

Miyajima, Japan

camping

Best known as the “Island of the Gods,” Miyajima is laced with hikes (you’ll want to summit sacred Mt. Misen), though nature-lovers will prefer the Omoto Route, which passes enormous rock formations, Fui and Iwaya Taishi, and is surrounded by century-old fir trees. Well-kept campsites and modest cabins are your best bet.

High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

camping

Morocco’s most iconic range is a bucket-list camping destination for adventurous travelers. Pass through isolated Berber villages and trek from hot desert to snow-capped peaks. You can follow ancient mule paths, though guides in this area are highly recommended. Many will employ the use of a camel to help you carry your load: bed down in the grasslands beneath Jebel M’goun, a mountain far more quiet than Jebel Toubkal.

Valle de Cocora, Colombia

camping

Beneath the shadows of the Andes and the towering Quindío wax palms—the world’s tallest palms, which can reach 200-feet in height— found exclusively in this sliver of Colombia, is the Zona de Camping. This campsite (tents and sleeping bags can be provided upon request) is the perfect launch pad for horseback rides and rigorous hikes through the mountains. Take the loop trail to Acaime, a dazzling hummingbird reserve, or hire a jeep to bring you into the nearby mountain town, Salento.

Tierra del Fuego, Chile

camping

Patagonia is an explorer’s dream. Take a cross-border journey from Argentina to Chile via Radman (the only overland option) and set up camp along one of the glacial lakes Blanco or Ofhidro. Beavers are common in this area, as are condors. Linger in the mossy Fuegian forests.

Mahai Campsite, Royal Natal National Park, South Africa

camping

Tucked up against the Northern Drakensburg mountains, this campsite is an ideal base for hiking and mountain biking through the Royal Natal National Park. The famed Amphitheater-style mountain formation boasts enormous water cascades: ascend to the highest peak by tracing the route of the Mahai river. You’ll pass Sentinel Caves and scale a near-vertical chain ladder.

Main Range, Kosciuszko National Park, Australia

camping

Whether you fill your days with strenuous mountain hikes (pass over the country’s highest peaks and watch snowdrifts across the shale ridges) or fishing in the glacial lakes, make sure to spend an evening admiring the stars as they rise over Victoria.

Acadia National Park, Maine

camping

Get your lay of the land by scaling Cadillac Mountain, a 1,530 promontory over the Eastern Seaboard, and set up camp on Isle au Haut (thick woods and lean-to-shelters) or the month-old Schoodic Woods Campground on the mainland. Bikers will appreciate the virtually untouched network of trails.

 

Weaving a home…how one woman can help millions of people globally

Amazing inspiration from 1millionwomen.com.au  footer_logo

https://i2.wp.com/cdn.1millionwomen.com.au/media/article/abeer.jpg
A sustainable tent that collects rainwater, folds up for easy transport and stores solar energy? Sounds visionary, right? But this is the invention of Jordanian-Canadian architect, designer and artist Abeer Seikaly.

[IMAGE: Abeer Seikaly]

Seikaly designed these amazing multipurpose tents with refugees in mind, people who have been displaced by global and civil war, climate change and more.

Inspired by elements of nature such as snake skin and traditional cultural aspects such as weaving, nomadic life and tent dwellings, this weather proof, strong but lightweight and mobile fabric tent gives refugees shelter but also a chance to “weave their lives back together”.

The flexible dual layer tent structure has the ability to close out the cold of winter and wet weather. It also opens up to allow cool air in and hot air out in summer. Rainwater is collected in the top of the tent and filters down the sides so the tent does not become flooded. The tent also has the ability to become a showering facility with water being stored in pockets on the side and drawn upwards via a thermosiphoning system providing basic sanitation.

[IMAGE: Abeer Seikaly]

Solar energy hits the tent fabric and is stored in a battery for use at night providing renewable electricity.

[IMAGE: Abeer Seikaly]

For this amazing life changing structure, Seikaly won the 2013 Lexus Design Award.

These tents also would make excellent shelter for people who have been displaced by natural disasters.

A simple but effective structure which has the potential to change so many lives across the world by providing some of the basic human rights to displaced people: a home, water and energy.

 

Can YOU guess where it is?

Another photography article but WHAT an incredible one. Infinite thanks to Benjamin Grant (via the Daily Mail Online) for sharing these stunning images with the rest of humanity!

Ned


Mesmerising Instagram pictures taken from space show iconic worldwide landmarks as they’ve never been seen before

  • A photography series, called Daily Overview, has been posting satellite images of Earth’s most iconic landscapes 
  • Inspired by the ‘overview effect,’ which is the sensation that astronauts experience viewing Earth from space
  • Project creator Benjamin Grant begins with a ‘thought experiment’ to find each eye-catching aerial image
  • New additions include the blooming tulip fields of Lisse, Netherlands and the medina quarter in Marrakech 

This incredible photography series is inspired by what is known as the ‘overview effect’: the sensation that astronauts experience when the view the Earth from space.

New York-based project creator Benjamin Grant starts with what he calls ‘a thought experiment’ and then works to find an eye-catching satellite image on the resulting theme.

Thanks to an official partnership with satellite imaging company Digital Globe, Benjamin is able to zero in on a location to present and post a new photo every single day on his Daily Overview website.

The Spiral Jetty, which is is a counterclockwise coil jutting out from the Great Salt Lake in Utah, USA, makes for a stunning image

The Spiral Jetty, which is is a counterclockwise coil jutting out from the Great Salt Lake in Utah, USA, makes for a stunning image

The blooming tulip fields in Lisse, Netherlands, offer a stunning sky-high shot - in particular, during the peak bloom season in April

The blooming tulip fields in Lisse, Netherlands, offer a stunning sky-high shot – in particular, during the peak bloom season in April

The medina quarter in Marrakech, Morocco is characterised by its winding, maze-like streets, though is hard to identify from the air

The medina quarter in Marrakech, Morocco is characterised by its winding, maze-like streets, though is hard to identify from the air

The stunning results include aerial views of the 7.8 mile long, circular Nardo Ring test track and the Mad Max-esque Burning Man festival held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.

Other highlights include the dense urban sprawls of the medina quarter in Marrakech, Morocco, a plane boneyard in Victorville, California and the otherworldly Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant in Seville, Spain

Benjamin explains: ‘Nearly all of the Overviews focus on the places where human activity—for better or for worse—has shaped the landscape of the planet. Each one starts with a thought experiment.

‘I consider the places where man has left his mark on the planet and then conduct the necessary research to identify locations (and the corresponding geo-coordinates) to convey that idea.

‘A number of themes have now developed for example transportation, agriculture, energy, so I often use those buckets to help generate new ideas as I search for new places to capture.

‘Our project was inspired, and derives its name, from an idea known as the Overview Effect.  This term refers to the sensation astronauts have when given the opportunity to look down and view the Earth as a whole.’

The impressive image of radiating streets is taken at Plaza Del Ejecutivo in the Venustiano Carranza district of Mexico City

The impressive image of radiating streets is taken at Plaza Del Ejecutivo in the Venustiano Carranza district of Mexico City

Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, resembles the design of an aeroplane when photographed from above

Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, resembles the design of an aeroplane when photographed from above

The otherworldly Mount Whaleback Ire Ore Mine, located in Western Australia, boasts a kaleidoscope of colours from the air

The otherworldly Mount Whaleback Ire Ore Mine, located in Western Australia, boasts a kaleidoscope of colours from the air

The roads crossing along the Stelvio Pass, a road in Northern Italy, are the highest paved routes in the Eastern Alps

The roads crossing along the Stelvio Pass, a road in Northern Italy, are the highest paved routes in the Eastern Alps

At the Huelva Orchard in Spain, fruit trees create a swirl-like pattern on the hills in the ideal temperate climate

At the Huelva Orchard in Spain, fruit trees create a swirl-like pattern on the hills in the ideal temperate climate

The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park gets is vivid colour from pigmented bacteria that grow along its edges

The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park gets is vivid colour from pigmented bacteria that grow along its edges

The town of Bourtange, Netherlands - shaped like a star - makes for an incredible satellite image on the Daily Overview

The town of Bourtange, Netherlands – shaped like a star – makes for an incredible satellite image on the Daily Overview

The Gamasolar Thermosolar Plant in Seville, Spain uses 2,650 mirrors to focus the sun's thermal energy - and looks like an optical illusion from the air

The Gamasolar Thermosolar Plant in Seville, Spain uses 2,650 mirrors to focus the sun’s thermal energy – and looks like an optical illusion from the air

Aluminum toxic waste gathers in the collection pond of a plant in Darrow, Louisiana, though the red mud generated makes for a stunning shot

Aluminum toxic waste gathers in the collection pond of a plant in Darrow, Louisiana, though the red mud generated makes for a stunning shot

The social media account also includes an image of the Great Pyramids of Giza, located on the outskirts of Cairo in Egypt

The social media account also includes an image of the Great Pyramids of Giza, located on the outskirts of Cairo in Egypt

Niagara Falls, which straddle the border between Ontario and the United States, make for a majestic satellite shot

Niagara Falls, which straddle the border between Ontario and the United States, make for a majestic satellite shot

During the Burning Man festival, which is held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, USA, participants can be seen as a semi-circle

During the Burning Man festival, which is held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, USA, participants can be seen as a semi-circle

The Nardo Ring is a high-speed circular test track in Italy and photographs like a contained circle from the sky

The Nardo Ring is a high-speed circular test track in Italy and photographs like a contained circle from the sky

‘They have the chance to appreciate our home in its entirety, to reflect on its beauty and its fragility all at once. That’s the cognitive shift that we hope to inspire,’ Benjamin adds.

‘From our line of sight on the earth’s surface, it’s impossible to fully appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the things we’ve constructed, the sheer complexity of the systems we’ve developed, or the devastating impact that we’ve had on our planet.

‘We believe that beholding these forces as they shape our Earth is necessary to make progress in understanding who we are as a species, and what is needed to sustain a safe and healthy planet.

‘As a result, the Overviews (what we call these images) focus on the the places and moments where human activity—for better or for worse—has shaped the landscape.

Each Overview starts with a thought experiment. We consider the places where man has left his mark on the planet and then conduct the necessary research to identify locations (and the corresponding geo-coordinates) to convey that idea.

‘The mesmerising flatness seen from this vantage point, the surprising comfort of systematic organisation on a massive scale, or the vibrant colours that we capture will hopefully turn your head.

‘However, once we have that attention, we hope you will go beyond the aesthetics, contemplate just exactly what it is that you’re seeing, and consider what that means for our planet.’

And, so far, the response to the images has been overwhelming.

Today, the account has amassed over 40,000 followers and Benjamin even sells some of his more popular images as large prints on his website.

An olive tree plantation covers the hills of Curdoba, Spain, and from the air looks more like dots among a field

An olive tree plantation covers the hills of Curdoba, Spain, and from the air looks more like dots among a field. 90 per cent of all harvested olives will be turned into oil

The Example DIstrict in Barcelona, Spain, is characterised by its strict grid pattern and apartments with communal courtyards

The Example DIstrict in Barcelona, Spain, is characterised by its strict grid pattern and apartments with communal courtyards

Venice, Italy is fascinating to observe from above, with its canals, bridges and 78 giant steel gates across the three inlets

Venice, Italy is fascinating to observe from above, with its canals, bridges and 78 giant steel gates across the three inlets

The canal system of Amsterdam makes for an intriguing subject - all a result of conscious urban planning 

The canal system of Amsterdam makes for an intriguing subject – all a result of conscious urban planning

Benjamin Grant's Instagram account, Daily Overview, posts images - taken from space - depicting man's impact on civilisation. This picture shows Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia

Benjamin Grant’s Instagram account, Daily Overview, posts images – taken from space – depicting man’s impact on civilisation. This picture shows Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia

The Moab Potash Ponds in Utah is a stunning example of vibrant colour contrast between the bright blue water and salt 

The Moab Potash Ponds in Utah is a stunning example of vibrant colour contrast between the bright blue water and salt

In Norfolk, Virginia, Lamberts Point Pier 6 is the largest coal-landing station in the Northern Hemisphere

In Norfolk, Virginia, Lamberts Point Pier 6 is the largest coal-landing station in the Northern Hemisphere

Central Park in New York City spans 843 acres, which accounts for six per cent of the island of Manhattan

Central Park in New York City spans 843 acres, which accounts for six per cent of the island of Manhattan

The Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California, has a large boneyard of over 150 retired planes

The Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California, has a large boneyard of over 150 retired planes

The neighbourhoods of Sntosh Park and Uttam Nagar in India are some of the most built-up and densely populated

The neighbourhoods of Sntosh Park and Uttam Nagar in India are some of the most built-up and densely populated

Cargo ships and tankers are pictured waiting outside the entry to the Port of Singapore - the world's second-busiest port 

Cargo ships and tankers are pictured waiting outside the entry to the Port of Singapore – the world’s second-busiest port

A whirlpool interchange, which was first built in 2006, connects three major roads by the Miracle Garden in Dubai, UAE

A whirlpool interchange, which was first built in 2006, connects three major roads by the Miracle Garden in Dubai, UAE

Located at the centre of 12 radiating avenues in Paris, France, construction of the Arc de Triomphe took nearly 30 years to complete

Located at the centre of 12 radiating avenues in Paris, France, construction of the Arc de Triomphe took nearly 30 years to complete


Check out Benjamin’s website for the full beauty of the Overview Effect.  This is what he says about it:-

Our project was inspired, and derives its name, from an idea known as the Overview Effect. This term refers to the sensation astronauts have when given the opportunity to look down and view the Earth as a whole. They have the chance to appreciate our home in its entirety, to reflect on its beauty and its fragility all at once. That’s the cognitive shift that we hope to inspire. 

From our line of sight on the earth’s surface, it’s impossible to fully appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the things we’ve constructed, the sheer complexity of the systems we’ve developed, or the devastating impact that we’ve had on our planet. We believe that beholding these forces as they shape our Earth is necessary to make progress in understanding who we are as a species, and what is needed to sustain a safe and healthy planet.

As a result, the Overviews (what we call these images) focus on the places and moments where human activity—for better or for worse—has shaped the landscape. Each Overview starts with a thought experiment. We consider the places where man has left his mark on the planet and then conduct the necessary research to identify locations (and the corresponding geo-coordinates) to convey that idea. 

The mesmerizing flatness seen from this vantage point, the surprising comfort of systematic organization on a massive scale, or the vibrant colors that we capture will hopefully turn your head. However, once we have that attention, we hope you will go beyond the aesthetics, contemplate just exactly what it is that you’re seeing, and consider what that means for our planet.

Under-The-Radar Vacation Destinations

Some more amazing places to visit if you’ve already done the obvious ones.

Original article from HuffPost Travel & Thrillist

ANGUILLA

Photo Credit: Alexshalamov | Dreamstime.com

Where: Caribbean

Ringed by blindingly white sand and lustrous aquamarine waters, this mostly flat desert island offers a decidedly low-key escape, especially compared to bustling St. Martin nearby. There are no nonstop flights from the U.S. to Anguilla, and no port for cruise ships to pull into, which helps to maintain the island’s relaxed vibe. Locals value privacy and peace—they won’t even permit Jet Skis on the island for fear of noise pollution.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Anguilla Travel Guide

NORTH STRADBROKE ISLAND

Photo Credit: THPStock / Shutterstock

Where: Australia

Located less than 20 miles from Brisbane, “Straddie” (as locals call it) is a popular weekend destination for Brisbanites looking to escape the city. Activities here include swimming, fishing, surfing, and hiking to explore the island’s five beaches and dozens of inland lakes. You can spot koalas on the island, or head to Point Lookout, considered one of the best land-based whale-watching spots in the world.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Australia Travel Guide

HAINAN ISLAND

Photo Credit: LU JINRONG / Shutterstock

Where: China

Popular with Chinese and Russian tourists, but mostly unknown to other travelers, this tropical island off China’s southern coast is home to gorgeous beaches, a volcano park, monkeys, a Shaolin Buddhist temple, an ancient Hainanese village, and more. The island is now being promoted as “China’s Hawaii,” which may sound like a tourism ploy, but the scenery here is worthy of the comparison.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s China Travel Guide

HOCKING HILLS STATE PARK

Photo Credit: Saffiresblue | Dreamstime.com

Where: Ohio

Hiking, biking, archery, fishing, hunting, camping—you’ll find all this and more at this state park, spread across more than 2,300 acres. The park is most notable for its waterfalls and dramatic rock formations, including Old Man’s Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Ash Cave, and Cedar Falls.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Ohio Travel Guide

KOH LIPE

Photo Credit: Blanscape / Shutterstock

Where: Thailand

Accessible only by boat, this island paradise in the Andaman Sea is surrounded by clear water and pristine reefs, where 25 percent of the world’s tropical fish species live and swim. Considered a calmer alternative to overrun Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lipe features a variety of beaches—some developed, some deserted—but you’ll find peace and quiet at Sunrise Beach. As part of the Tarutao National Marine Park, Koh Lipe is unlikely to see the kind of massive developments that have detracted from the appeal of other Thai islands.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Thailand Travel Guide

GATES OF THE ARCTIC NATIONAL PARK

Photo Credit: Joshanon1 | Dreamstime.com

Where: Alaska

Travelers who are proficient in outdoor survival skills should head to this vast, nearly untouched wilderness park, spread across 8.4 million acres in northern Alaska. The park has no established, roads, trails, or campsites, which means that trekking across this landscape is a challenging but one-of-a-kind adventure. Home to the Brooks Range mountains and six rivers, the park offers excellent fishing opportunities in addition to its superlative scenery.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Alaska Travel Guide

ŞANLIURFA

Photo Credit: Orhan Cam / Shutterstock

Where: Turkey

Commonly called Urfa, this historic city dates back at least 3,500 years, and Turkish legend has it that Abraham was born in a cave here. The cave and other important sites draw hundreds of thousands of Muslim visitors annually. Aside from its traditional architecture, Urfa’s main attractions are the Fish Pool, an old covered bazaar, the Throne of Nimrod fortress, and a small archaeological museum. A trip to nearby Göbekli Tepe is considered a must, as it is home to the world’s oldest temple, dating from more than 11,000 years ago.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Turkey Travel Guide

KOBARID

Photo Credit: dohtar / Shutterstock

Where: Slovenia

Located in the Soča Valley, this picturesque town is surrounded by majestic mountains and rolling green pastures. Aside from its natural beauty, Kobarid has historical importance, with archaeological sites dating to the Iron Age in addition to a museum commemorating the town’s role in World War I. For such a small place, Kobarid is home to a surprising number of fine restaurants, five of which comprise a group known as the Kobarid Gastronomic Circle.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Slovenia Travel Guide

VIRUNGA VOLCANOES

Photo Credit: PRILL / Shutterstock

Where: Rwanda

This very active eight-volcano chain straddles the borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but for security reasons, your best bet is to visit the section located in Rwanda. Hikers who scale the volcanoes, up to heights of 15,000 feet, will be rewarded with incredible views and sightings of mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, and other wildlife.

Read More: 12 Reasons to Go to Rwanda

SCHÖNAU AM KÖNIGSEE

Photo Credit: Fyletto | Dreamstime.com

Where: Germany

Popular for health retreats and winter sports, this town lies near the Austrian border and sits inside Berchtesgaden National Park, on scenic Lake Königsee. Mount Jenner offers skiing in winter, while Mount Watzmann is better suited to mountain climbers. Featuring small-town Bavarian charm, Schönau am Königsee is home to a number of cafes and traditional restaurants

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Germany Travel Guide

RANGIROA

Photo Credit: iPics / Shutterstock

Where: French Polynesia

You’ve heard of Tahiti and Bora Bora, but not this place, which happens to be the second-largest atoll in the world. Essentially a string of coral encircling a beautiful lagoon, Rangiroa offers world-class diving and one-of-a-kind natural beauty. Activities are centered on beaches and the water, though you can also explore villages and visit a working pearl farm.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s French Polynesia Travel Guide

PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK

Photo Credit: iPics / Shutterstock

Where: Croatia

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979, this stunning national park features approximately 20 lakes in addition to breathtaking caves, forests, and waterfalls. There’s also an abundance of wildlife here, including bears, wolves, and 126 bird species. Spread over more than 70,000 acres, the park is notable for the unique geological processes that formed its cascading lakes and continue to alter the terrain to this day.

Where to Stay: there’s no lodging inside the park, but Hotel Degenya and Turist Grabovic are both popular with park visitors.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Croatia Travel Guide

LOMBOK

Photo Credit: Kim Briers / Shutterstock

Where: Indonesia

Want the splendor of Bali without all of the crowds? Then head to Lombok, where you’ll find beautiful beaches, enchanting waterfalls, a looming volcano, and relatively few tourists. The natural scenery and local way of life have remained unchanged for hundreds of years, and the indigenous culture is quite rich. Aside from relaxation, this island is ideal for surfing and snorkeling.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Indonesia Travel Guide

ULAN BATOR

Photo Credit: Jeppo75 | Dreamstime.com

Where: Mongolia

The Mongolian capital has a reputation for being a rather unattractive city, but don’t let that discourage you, as it makes a good base for exploring one of the world’s most beautiful and hospitable countries. (Don’t pass up the opportunity to hike in the mountains south of the city.) Primarily a business-traveler destination, you won’t see too many Western tourists here, meaning the museums won’t be overrun.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Mongolia Forum

EL DJEM

Photo Credit: Nicku / Shutterstock

Where: Tunisia

Originally built as the Thysdrus, this town in northern Africa features well-preserved architecture from the days of the Roman Empire. El Djem was once the second-most important city in the region, behind Carthage, and its most famous feature is a massive amphitheater, constructed in the third century, which could house up to 35,000 spectators. Though parts of the structure have crumbled, enough of it still stands to conjure its former glory. The town is also home to a museum that features a large selection of mosaics and a restored Roman villa.

Ned’s tip: for the best service in Tunisia, stay at Le Royal Hammamet, part of the luxury Le Royal Hotels & Resorts division of the General Mediterranean Holding group

11 Reasons Guam Is The Most Exotic Destination In America

Source: Huffpost Travel

guamig

What happens if you mix Texas with Hawaii?

You’d probably get a remote island paradise that looks a lot like Guam: an island with a rich culture, a contentious and diverse colonial history and absolutely stunning vistas.

In many ways, Guam seems like a wonderfully unique contradiction. It’s a remote island and an international melting pot; it’s an American territory, and the gateway to Asia; it’s home to an intensely local culture, but it’s filled with outsiders. And to top it all off, it’s just beautiful.

Below, the 11 reasons Guam just might be America’s most interesting and exotic destination.

1. The diving:
The water is crystal clear and, unlike much of the world, Guam’s coral reefs are actually thriving. Piti Bomb Hole features such lushly perfect coral craters that it looks like they were sculpted by bombs. Between Apra Harbor, where WWI and WWII ships sunk on top of each other, to Gun Beach, where stingrays go for breakfast, divers and snorkelers are never, ever bored.

guam diving

Apra Harbor

2. Chamorro food:
With clear influences from Spanish and Mexican cuisine, Chamorro food features tortillas, tamales, atole and chilaquiles. Locals especially crave Finadene (a soy sauce-based condiment) and Chicken Kelaguen, which features lemon, chile peppers and coconut shavings.

chicken

3. History:
The U.S. territory enjoys the culture of the Chamorro people (the indigenous Pacific islanders), but with heavy Spanish, Japanese, and American influences. It was first colonized by Spain in the seventeenth century, was occupied by Japan for two years during World War II, and is home today to a relatively large U.S. military presence.

fort soledad

Fort Soledad

4. The culture:
Are you ready for this? Many equate the culture in Guam to that of Texas. Seriously. Between an obsession with high-school football and little league to the people themselves, apparently the Lone-Star state and the lone island have a lot in common. Guam locals have big hearts and even bigger parties (called village fiestas), and a frontier mentality means that communities are tight-knit and take care of one another.

chamorro

5.The hiking:
To get you drooling, just try Instagram searching the following: Pagat Caves, Cetti Bay, Sigua Falls, Ague Cove, Talofofo Falls and Marbo Cave. Yes, please!

guam

Talofofo Falls

6. The beaches:
A pretty beach is a pretty beach, right? Apparently not. Guam enjoys near perfect weather year round (temperatures range from the low 70s to mid 80s) and the water, according to one local, is warm and uniquely delightful, as if “Mother Nature herself drew you a warm bath.”

guam

7. Sunsets:
This is the kind of majesty you have to see for yourself.

guam

Agana Bay and Alupai Island at sunset.

But seriously, the sunsets are incredible:

guam

Tamuning beach

8. The music:
Reggae and ukelele lovers rejoice. With such a laid-back lifestyle, it’s easy to stumble upon great live music at the beach, the bars or the ubiquitous barbecues.

ukelele beach

9. Exoticism:
Admit it: vacationing in Hawaii is so last century (ahem, “Mad Men”). Guam, on the other hand, is the new exotic destination for America.

guam

10. A head start:
Guam is “where America’s Day begins” — quite literally. With it’s own timezone (Chamorro Standard Time), Guam wakes up 14 or 15 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone, depending on Daylight Savings Time. The island celebrates New Year’s first in America and movies often premiere ahead of the rest of America.

international date line map

11. Romance:
Perhaps the island’s most famous landmark is Two Lovers’ Point, a dramatic and steep cliffside overlooking the Philippine Sea. According to Chamorro legend, two star-crossed lovers, forbidden from being together in life, leaped from the cliff so that they could be together in the afterlife. Not surprisingly, weddings are held there regularly.

two lovers point

 

 

The Airfare Hack That Can Double Your Vacation for Free

conde_nast_traveler_logo_detail

Why visit one country when you can see two? Many airlines let you do just that with free or low-cost stopovers.

Tom Nagy/Gallery Stock. This airfare hack can help you see Rio and Buenos Aires in one trip.

If you’re adventurous and want to get the most out of your airfare dollar, consider working a free stopover into your next international trip.

The first thing to know about a stopover is that it’s absolutely not the same as a layover. Far from being an inconvenience in the middle of a long-haul trip, a stopover is a legitimate stay—days, even weeks—in a city along the way to your final destination. Such an itinerary can afford you the opportunity to visit two cities on one ticket for about the same fare as you’d pay to simply fly directly to your destination.

For example, you could fly from New York to spend five days in Rio de Janeiro then continue on to visit Buenos Aires for a week for about the same price as a round-trip to just one of those cities.

While airlines occasionally charge for stopovers, often times they’ll offer them for free as a way to encourage tourism in their home regions or better compete against nonstop flights to particular destinations. (Even “free” stopovers do require you to pay some additional airport taxes; these are often just a small percentage of your overall fare.)

So how do you find these fares? Stopover information is buried in the fine print of fare rules, but you can find them using airfare search tools like Google’s ITA Software. All you need to do is click on “rules” when you pull up the details on a particular flight option. From there, you can search for the stopover section and see if one is allowed on the fare.

The truth is, though, that simple experimentation can yield good results. Pick two cities you want to visit then input them into the multi-city search available on many travel sites, like Expedia, Hipmunk, Kayak, or Orbitz. You’ll often see options that are reasonably priced, about the same as if you booked a typical round-trip to just one city. While it may not be apparent in the results, these are often fares that leverage free or low-cost stopover rules.

You can also take advantage of free stopovers on some award tickets booked with airlines miles. United MileagePlus allows one free stopover on round-trip international award tickets, and Alaska MileagePlan allows a stopover on any award. (American AAdvantage and Delta SkyMiles no longer offer free stopovers on awards.)

While stopover rules are always subject to change, here are just some of the trips that are possible.

Australia and New Zealand
Qantas and Virgin Australia often let you stopover for free in Brisbane, Melbourne, or Sydney on trips from the U.S., so there’s no need to buy a separate ticket to visit two of those cities. Air New Zealand offers a free stopover in Auckland, and Hawaiian Airlines offers one in Honolulu on the way to Australia.

Africa
Royal Air Maroc, with service from New York, offers free stopovers in Casablanca, even on trips to Europe, while South African Airways sometimes allows them in Johannesburg.

Asia
Cathay Pacific often offers a free stop in Hong Kong, while EVA Airways does on select flights to Taiwan. Air India and Jet Airways each allow one for many flights to India, letting you for example hit both Mumbai and Goa or Delhi and Chennai on one fare. Singapore Airlines offers a free stop in Singapore on some fares.

Europe
Aer Lingus lets you stop in your Ireland gateway as part of an onward journey to other European destinations, and Icelandair has one of the better publicized free stopover programs in Reykjavik. Virgin Atlantic offers a free stop in the U.K.—and prominently displays the option when you search for flights on its website.

Turkish Airlines offers a free Istanbul stop, and if the Turkish Airlines schedule requires you to spend at least ten hours in Istanbul, you get free hotel accommodations for up to two nights. LOT Polish Airlines, with service from Chicago and New York, allows a free stop in Poland, and Finnair offers one in Helsinki if you book via its call center.

Middle East
Emirates and Etihad Airways offer a free stop when connecting through their Dubai and Abu Dhabi hubs.

South America
Most South American airlines offer a free stop, including LATAM (which operates under the LAN and TAM brands), letting you for example fit both Brazil and Argentina into a trip. Copa also offers a free stop at its Panama City hub along the way.

 

 

From Popeye’s picturesque fishing village to the Star Wars desert planet of Tatooine: Movie sets that are still there for fans to visit

I love a good movie, and I just added a load more cool destinations to my To Go To list for the coming months! Thanks to Daily Mail Travel

  • Step into the shoes of your favourite film characters and visit the former movie sets that are still open to tourists
  • Like Captain Jack Sparrow, explore the picturesque cove that provided the setting for Pirates of the Caribbean 
  • Or take a two-hour tour of Hobbiton, featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, in Matamata, New Zealand

Stepping into the shoes of your favourite film character may not be quite as hard as you think.

Despite having wrapped filming years or sometimes even decades ago, many movie sets that were once specially and presumably, temporarily, built are still around.

Like Captain Jack Sparrow, are you keen to explore the shores of Port Royal, which is actually located in St Vincent and the Grenadines? Or would you prefer to visit the desert home of Luke Skywalker in Tozeur, Tunisia?

Here are some of the most picturesque (and most popular) former film sets.

Popeye’s Village – Mellieha, Malta

The 1980 live-action movie musical, Popeye, which starred Robin Williams, and was filmed just two miles from Mellieha, Malta

The 1980 live-action movie musical, Popeye, which starred Robin Williams, and was filmed just two miles from Mellieha, Malta

Now, the sailor's picturesque fishing village, called Anchor Bay, is open to the public seven days per week as an entertainment complexNow, the sailor’s picturesque fishing village, called Anchor Bay, is open to the public seven days per week as an entertainment complex

The village from the 1980 live-action feature, Popeye, is also known as Sweethaven Village, located at the north-west corner of the Mediterranean island of Malta.

The rustic, ramshackle town is located at Anchor Bay, which is just two miles from the Mellieha.

Though production has long since ceased, today it’s open to the public seven days per week as an open-air museum and family entertainment complex.

There are shows, rides and museums, as well as opportunities for children to meet the main characters from the show.

Tatooine – Tozeur, Tunisia

In Tunisia, the town of Tataouine actually inspired George Lucas to name his fictional desert plan Tatooine

In Tunisia, the town of Tataouine actually inspired George Lucas to name his fictional desert plan Tatooine

However, most scenes were filmed just outside of the town in Tozeur, where the set of Mos Espa still stands

However, most scenes were filmed just outside of the town in Tozeur, where the set of Mos Espa still stands

Tataouine is the town in Tunisia that inspired George Lucas to name his fictional desert planet Tatooine.

And while it wasn’t actually used during filming, several scenes were shot just on the outskirts of the town and in the nearby beach town of Djerba.

For die-hard fans, Luke Skywalker’s home still exists in Tozeur, as does the set of Mos Espa – and almost everything has been left intact over the years.

Ned’s tip: for five-star Tunisian luxury stay in Le Royal Hammamet Resort

Pirates of the Caribbean – Walliabou Bay, St Vincent and the Grenadines

On the picturesque island, leftover film sets still remain.

The picturesque island of St Vincent and the Grenadines proved the perfect filming location for Pirates of the Caribbean

In Wallilabou Bay, fans can retrace the steps of Captain Jack Sparrow exploring the clear waters and relaxing on the leftover sets

In Wallilabou Bay, fans can retrace the steps of Captain Jack Sparrow exploring the clear waters and relaxing on the leftover sets

The picturesque island of St Vincent and the Grenadines proved the perfect filming location for the second installment in the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, standing in for the town of Port Royal.

Interestingly, the ‘real’ Port Royal is a city located at the mouth of Kingston Harbour in Jamaica.

But, in Wallilabou Bay, fans of the films can retrace the steps of Captain Jack Sparrow and relax on the leftover film sets, explore the crystal clear waters and sunbathe on the dock or sandy beach.

There’s also a popular hotel and restaurant located on the bay, Wallilabou Anchorage, for grabbing a bit of grub.

Hunger Games District 12 – Henry River Mill Village, North Carolina

Eagle-eyed Hunger Games fans will recognise District 12 as a small ghost town outside of Asheville, North Carolina

Eagle-eyed Hunger Games fans will recognise District 12 as a small ghost town outside of Asheville, North Carolina

The small textile town of Henry Mill River Village in Burke County, wouldn't usually be considered a top tourist destination

The small textile town of Henry Mill River Village in Burke County, wouldn’t usually be considered a top tourist destination

The small textile town in Burke County, North Carolina, wouldn’t usually be considered a top tourist destination.

However, following the massive success of the Hunger Games film series, some eagle-eyed fans will better recognise the ramshackle town as Katniss Everdeen’s post-apocalyptic home of District 12.

However, don’t expect for many tourist attractions to pop up in the deserted ghost town – in fact, the abandoned homes shouldn’t even really be entered due to their collapsing floors.

Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit – Matamata, New Zealand

One of the most built up of all movie set destinations, fans of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies can easily experience Hobbiton

One of the most built up of all movie set destinations, fans of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies can easily experience Hobbiton

Located on private farmland near Matamata, New Zealand, the film set was completely rebuilt and can be explored during a two-hour tour

Located on private farmland near Matamata, New Zealand, the film set was completely rebuilt and can be explored during a two-hour tour

As one of the most built up of all movie set destinations, fans of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies are spoiled for choice when it comes to ways in which they can experience Hobbiton for themselves.

Located on private farmland near Matamata, New Zealand, the film set was completely rebuilt and can be explored during a fascinating two-hour guided tour.

During the tour, fans will take in hobbit holes, The Green Dragon Inn, The Mill, double arched bridge and other structures and gardens built for the films.

And for those who just don’t want to leave once the sun goes down, some tour operators even offer overnight farmland stays.

Schindler’s List – Plaszow Labour Camp, Poland

At the Nazi concentration camp of Plaszow, located near Krakow, villa 22, also known as the 'Red House' still stands

At the Nazi concentration camp of Plaszow, located near Krakow, villa 22, also known as the ‘Red House’ still stands

In the film, Schindler's List, Commandant Amon Goeth oversaw the Plaszow concentration camp from the balcony of his infamous villa

In the film, Schindler’s List, Commandant Amon Goeth oversaw the Plaszow concentration camp from the balcony of his infamous villa

Thanks to Stephen Spielberg’s important film, Schindler’s List, the story of the Plaszow concentration camp has become one familiar to movie-watchers the world over.

The Nazi camp, located in the Podgorze district, 10 kilometres outside the city of Krakow, is highlighted in the film primarily as it pertains to the cruelty handed down by Commandant Amon Goeth.

And though the area has since changed, Goeth’s home is still standing, having been returned to the family who originally owned it after the war.

Located at number 22 and known as the ‘Red House,’ the villa overlooks the concentration camp.

M*A*S*H Sign – Malibu Creek State Park, California

Despite the fact that M*A*S*H wrapped several decades ago, fans still descend in droves to the popular outdoor set in California

Despite the fact that M*A*S*H wrapped several decades ago, fans still descend in droves to the popular outdoor set in California

Despite the fact that the television programme M*A*S*H went off air several decades ago, the site of the show’s outdoor set is still as popular as ever.

Malibu Creek State Park, located just a short drive from Los Angeles, is the former location ranch of 20th Century Fox studios, who owned the land between 1946 and 1974.

M*A*S*H was filmed between 1972 and 1983 in much the same way that a real unit would operate – electricity was sourced from powerful generators, and water came in on tanker trucks.

Today, fans can visit the rock pool and infamous sign, indicating the distance to several global destinations, such as Tokyo and Seoul.

Lone Star Township – Contrabando, Texas

Contrabando, Texas is a ghost town that was built initially as the set for a 1985 Western, but is better known as the set of Lone Star

Contrabando, Texas is a ghost town that was built initially as the set for a 1985 Western, but is better known as the set of Lone Star

Today, fans can explore all of the buildings - most of which are only facades - at the Big Bend Ranch State Park

Today, fans can explore all of the buildings – most of which are only facades – at the Big Bend Ranch State Park

Contrabando, Texas is a ghost town that was built initially as the set for the 1985 Western Uphill All The Way, but is known most as the setting of Lone Star in 1996.

The latter film starred Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson, Matthew McConaughey, and Elizabeth Pena and fans can explore all of the recognisable buildings from the flick at the Big Bend Ranch State Park.

However, don’t be too surprised when you step inside and realise that the extremely realistic looking buildings are actually nothing more than facades.

The Hills Have Eyes – Gas Haven petrol station in Souss-Massa-Draa, Morocco

The 2006 remake of the horror film, The Hills Have Eyes, was filmed on location in Morocco, where a Gas Haven petrol station was erected

The 2006 remake of the horror film, The Hills Have Eyes, was filmed on location in Morocco, where a Gas Haven petrol station was erected

Located just 15 minutes from Ouarzazate on the way to Agadir, the distinctly American structure is a favourite stop for tourists

Located just 15 minutes from Ouarzazate on the way to Agadir, the distinctly American structure is a favourite stop for tourists

The 2006 remake of the classic horror film, The Hills Have Eyes, was filmed on location in Morocco, where a Gas Haven petrol station was erected – and remains.

To find it, simply take a 15 minute drive along the desert road from Ouarzazate to Agadir in the southern part of the country.

And you likely won’t be alone, as car-loads of tourists are known for pulling up alongside the distinctly 1950s American structure to snap photos.

From there, consider returning to Ouarzazate, as the town is the starting point for many tourist treks through the Sahara.

Ned’s tip: check out this feature and this one on two of the most gorgeous hotels in Morocco

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.

 

 

A Collection of Lodges That Inspire

Stunning piece here from National Geographic

From an Alaskan fjord log cabin to a private Caribbean eco-island: National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World adds 14 new retreats to its list (and these pictures show why they qualify)

  • The National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World launched in January 2015 with 24 charter properties
  • It has now increased by 14, with each incredible lodge focused on  a commitment to excellence and sustainability
  • Properties include Cuixmala, set within a 25,000-acre biosphere in Costalegre, Mexico

Located in some of the most spectacular places around the globe, there are a number of rare retreats which push the hotel experience way beyond travellers’ expectations.

The National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World seeks out accommodation that breaks the mould of hotel stays and has just added 14 new paradise lodges to its impressive portfolio.

From a historic hacienda in Mexico to beautiful log cabins at the mouth of an Alaskan fjord to a stunning safari camp in Botswana’s Okavango Delta region, the new additions it’s hoped, in the words of National Geographic, will help people discover how ‘staying can be truly extraordinary’.

A private island in the Windward Islands, Petit St. Vincent is an elegant, secluded Caribbean paradise for those who love sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, or just reading on an empty beach

A private island in the Windward Islands, Petit St. Vincent is an elegant, secluded Caribbean paradise for those who love sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, or just reading on an empty beach

At the stunning  ol Donyo Lodge, on the slopes of the Chyulu Hills, wildlife teems on the slopes below and Mount Kilimanjaro towers on the horizon

At the stunning ol Donyo Lodge, on the slopes of the Chyulu Hills, wildlife teems on the slopes below and Mount Kilimanjaro towers on the horizon

Enjoy a peaceful afternoon overlooking Africa's wildlife landscapes - or why not order dinner to accompany the view 

Enjoy a peaceful afternoon overlooking Africa’s wildlife landscapes – or why not order dinner to accompany the view

Sparkling fountains and beautiful gardens fill the courtyards of Hacienda de San Antonio, an elegant 19th-century home with a working ranch and coffee plantation set dramatically among volcanic peaks in the Mexican highlands

Sparkling fountains and beautiful gardens fill the courtyards of Hacienda de San Antonio, an elegant 19th-century home with a working ranch and coffee plantation set dramatically among volcanic peaks in the Mexican highlands

Enjoy a sunset from the relaxing well-maintained gardens surrounding the Hacienda de San Antonio resort

Enjoy a sunset from the relaxing well-maintained gardens surrounding the Hacienda de San Antonio resort

Sheltered by an intricate forest canopy, the screened-in cabanas of Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción reveal the sights, sounds and scents of the Amazon Rain Forest

Sheltered by an intricate forest canopy, the screened-in cabanas of Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción reveal the sights, sounds and scents of the Amazon Rain Forest

Launched in January 2015, the initial collection of 24 properties on six continents sought to build upon the National Geographic travel portfolio, which includes National Geographic Expeditions, Traveler magazine, travel books, photography courses and the @NatGeoTravel digital and photography community.

Six months after the launch, 14 more have been added to the collection – selected based upon the uniqueness of the  property, guest experiences, quality of service and the standard of cuisine.

What is also vital for the collection is that the hotels not only defy the imagination in their design and detail, but that they also demonstrate that they are founded on a deep desire to protect the cultures and precious ecosystems that surround them.

An onsite inspection is undertaken by an expert to assess hotel operations, to meet staff and to evaluate the lodge’s sustainable tourism practices.

‘Our growing collection of Unique Lodges of the World offers a wide range of meaningful travel experiences to all kinds of explorers,’ said Lynn Cutter, National Geographic’s executive vice president for Travel and Licensing.

‘We are thrilled to bring on these extraordinary new members, as they embody the values National Geographic and our travellers hold close.’

THE 14 NEW NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC’S UNIQUE LODGES OF THE WORLD

• Cuixmala, Costalegre, Mexico

• Siwash Lake Ranch, British Columbia, Canada

• Hacienda de San Antonio, Colima, Mexico

• Petit St. Vincent, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean

• Capella Lodge, Lord Howe Island, Australia

• The Bushcamp Company, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

• Mara Plains Camp, Olare Motorogi Conservancy, Kenya

• ol Donyo Lodge, Chyulu Hills, Kenya

• Tutka Bay Lodge, Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, United States

• Winterlake Lodge, South-Central Alaskan Wilderness, United States

• Zarafa Camp, Selinda Reserve, Botswana

• Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción, Amazon Rain Forest, Peru

• Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, Sacred Valley of the Inca, Peru

• Inkaterra La Casona, Cusco, Peru

Inkaterra La Casona in Cusco, Peru, is an intimate hotel set within an exquisite 16th-century manor house, and one of Cusco’s most storied dwellings

Inkaterra La Casona in Cusco, Peru, is an intimate hotel set within an exquisite 16th-century manor house, and one of Cusco’s most storied dwellings

An inconspicuous door in the heart of Cusco’s old town opens into a world of Spanish-colonial splendor at Inkaterra La Casona

An inconspicuous door in the heart of Cusco’s old town opens into a world of Spanish-colonial splendor at Inkaterra La Casona

Enjoy a unique sunset meal and bottle of wine overlooking the plains at Zarafa Camp in the Selinda Reserve in Botswana

Enjoy a unique sunset meal and bottle of wine overlooking the plains at Zarafa Camp in the Selinda Reserve in Botswana

With a stunning main lodge as its base and six intimate camps secluded in the surrounding wilderness, the Bushcamp Company invites guests to experience one of Africa's lesser-known wildlife preserves from different angles

With a stunning main lodge as its base and six intimate camps secluded in the surrounding wilderness, the Bushcamp Company invites guests to experience one of Africa’s lesser-known wildlife preserves from different angles

With jaw-dropping views of the ocean, the lagoon, and the two massive peaks, this contemporary beach house is a stunning base to explore the little-known gem of Lord Howe Island

With jaw-dropping views of the ocean, the lagoon, and the two massive peaks, this contemporary beach house is a stunning base to explore the little-known gem of Lord Howe Island

Overlook an incredible beach sunset at the Capella Lodge, Lord Howe Island in Australia 

Overlook an incredible beach sunset at the Capella Lodge, Lord Howe Island in Australia

Poised along a jungle-clad ridge overlooking remote beaches on Mexico’s Pacific coast, the grand villas and cozy casitas of Cuixmala are a secluded eco sanctuary set within a 25,000-acre biosphere reserve

Poised along a jungle-clad ridge overlooking remote beaches on Mexico’s Pacific coast, the grand villas and cozy casitas of Cuixmala are a secluded eco sanctuary set within a 25,000-acre biosphere reserve

Enjoy a clean, minimalistic environment at the hotel, which overlooks the sparkling turquoise waters visible from the rooms 

Enjoy a clean, minimalistic environment at the hotel, which overlooks the sparkling turquoise waters visible from the rooms

Included in the new additions is Cuixmala, set within a 25,000-acre biosphere in Costalegre, Mexico.

Nestled in the jungle surroundings, the grand villas and cosy casitas overlook the remote beach in the eco-sanctuary.

Contrasting with this is are the thatched bungalows of ol Donyo Lodge, Chyulu Hills, in Kenya.

The stunning wildlife retreat offers unbeatable views of the sloping plains below and Mount Kilimanjaro looming on the horizon.

Each lodge in the collection has the option of a special ‘National Geographic Exclusive’ experience for guests who book their stay through National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World.

This complimentary experience provides the opportunity for guests to immerse themselves in the local culture and environment.

These range from cooking classes in the Australian Outback, to a behind-the-scenes architectural tour in Newfoundland to meeting marine scientists in Tahiti.

Travellers can browse the incredible properties on the Unique Lodges website, which offers a full-service experience from booking to checkout.

There is also the opportunity to join a National Geographic Expedition, that features a Unique Lodge, or book one of National Geographic’s new private expeditions.

A secluded cove at the tip of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula harbors Tutka Bay Lodge, an intimate family-owned wilderness lodge with a culinary twist

A secluded cove at the tip of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula harbors Tutka Bay Lodge, an intimate family-owned wilderness lodge with a culinary twist

At the edge of a lake along the historic Iditarod Trail, the hand-built wood cabins of Winterlake offer a beautiful base for your adventures -fishing, hiking, or dogsledding in Alaska's backcountry

At the edge of a lake along the historic Iditarod Trail, the hand-built wood cabins of Winterlake offer a beautiful base for your adventures -fishing, hiking, or dogsledding in Alaska’s backcountry

THE ORIGINAL 24 PROPERTIES FEATURED IN  THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC’S UNIQUE LODGES OF THE WORLD

  • Fogo Island Inn, Canada
  • Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa
  • Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, PeruKapari Natural Resort, Greece
  • Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco
  • Lapa Rios Eco Lodge, Costa Rica
  • Lizard Island, Australia
  • Longitude 131°, Australia
  • Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
  • Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, Canada
  • Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica
  • Rosalie Bay Lodge, Dominica
  • Rubondo Island Camp, Tanzania
  • Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, South Africa
  • Sayari Camp, Tanzania
  • Southern Ocean Lodge, Australia
  • Sukau Rainforest Lodge, Malaysian Borneo
  • The Brando, French Polynesia
  • The Ranch at Rock Creek, United States
  • Three Camel Lodge, Mongolia
  • Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa, Chile
  • Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, Chile
  • Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa
  • Zhiwa Ling Hotel, Bhutan
Edging the shores of a wildlife-rich lagoon in the Okavango Delta and surrounded by more than 320,000 acres of private, protected land, Zarafa's spacious tents offer an intimate experience with one of Africa's great wildernesses

Edging the shores of a wildlife-rich lagoon in the Okavango Delta and surrounded by more than 320,000 acres of private, protected land, Zarafa’s spacious tents offer an intimate experience with one of Africa’s great wildernesses

From their perch on an emerald Andean slope, the colonial-style estate and casitas of Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba allow guests to soak up the spirit of the Sacred Valley, a region still shrouded in the mysteries of the Inca

From their perch on an emerald Andean slope, the colonial-style estate and casitas of Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba allow guests to soak up the spirit of the Sacred Valley, a region still shrouded in the mysteries of the Inca

A collection of cozy cabins and canvas tents hidden deep in the heart of British Columbia's cowboy country, Siwash Lake Ranch offers a premier horseback riding experience as well as fly-fishing, kayaking, and miles of trails

A collection of cozy cabins and canvas tents hidden deep in the heart of British Columbia’s cowboy country, Siwash Lake Ranch offers a premier horseback riding experience as well as fly-fishing, kayaking, and miles of trails

Just north of Kenya's famous Masai Mara National Reserve, Mara Plains Camp recalls the elegant safari tents of centuries past, set on a private conservancy where the wildlife is plenty and the crowds are nowhere to be found

Just north of Kenya’s famous Masai Mara National Reserve, Mara Plains Camp recalls the elegant safari tents of centuries past, set on a private conservancy where the wildlife is plenty and the crowds are nowhere to be found

Just north of Kenya's famous Masai Mara National Reserve, Mara Plains Camp recalls the elegant safari tents of centuries past, set on a private conservancy where the wildlife is plenty and the crowds are nowhere to be found

LODGE CRITERIA

The Property — The design and character are unique and authentic, and the property provides guests with a true sense of place by celebrating the surrounding landscape and cultural heritage.

Guest Experience and Quality of Service — Guests are offered top-quality service and exceptional and inspiring experiences — from activities that enable them to engage with local people to wildlife encounters with seasoned naturalists.

Sustainable Tourism Best Practices — The property demonstrates a commitment to conservation and green operations; it actively supports the protection of cultural heritage; and it provides tangible benefits to local communities.

 

 

 

Forget crisps and a can of Coke: The world’s most over-the-top hotel mini-bars offer everything from oxygen canisters to aged Japanese whisky

Source: Daily Mail Travel   

  • Many hotels now boast extensive and extremely quirky mini-bar offerings
  • At the Little Nell in Aspen the mini-bar has canned oxygen and Brain Toniq
  • Hotel 41 in London has traded the mini-bar in favour of a lobby ‘maxi-bar’

Today, hotel mini-bars offer so much more than a bag of nuts and a chocolate bar.

From farmer’s market produce stocked in a Fresh Fridge, delivered to your room upon check-in, or your own in-room ice cream freezer, the world’s most luxurious hotels sure have upped their minibar game.

Here, MailOnline Travel looks at some of the most unique offerings from around the world. Go ahead, tuck in…

Epiphany Hotel in California    Here, guests have access to a fully-stocked Fresh Fridge, which can be delivered on demand.

There’s no standard mini-bar at the Epiphany Hotel in California – instead a fully-stocked Fresh Fridge can be delivered on demand

Epiphany Hotel, Palo Alto, California

Who says that mini-bars need to be havens of unhealthy snacks? At the Epiphany Hotel in northern California, healthy food and drink options from local purveyors are readily and widely available, courtesy of their impressive Fresh Fridge offering.

But, here’s the catch – you’ll need to pay $95 (or about £61) for the entire fridge.

Still, if you plan to eat all of the farmer’s market produce, biotic yogurt, seasonal salads and superfood-infused power bars, the price tag isn’t quite so hefty.

In fact, you might even save money over eating out each night.

Baccarat Hotel & Residences, New York

At the Baccarat Hotel & Residences in New York, the in-room bar offering is anything but mini. All of the premium liquor bottles are full-sized and the snacks are imported from France

At the Baccarat Hotel & Residences in New York, the in-room bar offering is anything but mini. All of the premium liquor bottles are full-sized and the snacks are imported from France

 The Baccarat Hotel is one of the most luxurious hotels in New York

The Baccarat Hotel is one of the most luxurious hotels in New York

This is essentially the opposite of a mini-bar, considering that all of the bottles stocked in the Baccarat Hotel & Residences in New York are full-sized – and, of course, extremely high quality.

The champagne is Ruinart, one of the oldest in the world, and the water is Badoit,

And should you care to tuck in to a treat, Parisian macarons and truffles from Fauchon are available to purchase.

Plenty of gorgeous glassware is also provided to add that touch of elegance.

Andaz Tokyo

At the Andaz Tokyo, all guests can imbibe in the local whisky with the hotel's Japanese styled mini-bar. There are two fine spirits on offer, as well as okaki (Japanese rice crackers) and yokan (jellied bean paste)

At the Andaz Tokyo, all guests can imbibe in the local whisky with the hotel’s Japanese styled mini-bar. There are two fine spirits on offer, as well as okaki (Japanese rice crackers) and yokan (jellied bean paste)

The snazzy Andaz Tokyo, which opened in June 2014, occupies floors 47 to 52 of the Toranomon Hills skyscraper

The snazzy Andaz Tokyo, which opened in June 2014, occupies floors 47 to 52 of the Toranomon Hills skyscraper

Imbibe in the local whisky at the Andaz Tokyo hotel with their Japanese styled mini-bar.

There are two fine whiskies on offer: Hibiki 12 years and Hakushu 12 years, which is a single malt whisky from the country’s Southern Alps.

And don’t forget to try the okaki (a Japanese rice cracker) and the yokan (a bar of sweet jellied adzuki-bean paste) from some of the city’s finest establishments.

QT Sydney

    Stocked with everything from booze to bowties, the in-room bar prepares guests for any contingency.

At the QT Sydney, their mini-bar has everything you could need – from booze to bowties to intimacy kits

This mini-bar quite literally has it all.

Chock full of premium spirits, like Belvedere vodka and Patron XO Cafe, there’s also organic beetroot tips and gingerbread cookies.

And preparing you for just about any contingency – it also comes stocked with vintage games, an emergency bowtie and an Intimacy Kit.

Mondrian London

At the Mondrian London, guests don't need to worry about mixing their own cocktails. The mini-bars at this hotel offer premade bottles of the bar's signature cocktails - simply pour and enjoy

At the Mondrian London, guests don’t need to worry about mixing their own cocktails. The mini-bars at this hotel offer premade bottles of the bar’s signature cocktails – simply pour and enjoy

At the Mondrian London you can sip your mini-bar cocktail while looking out over the Thames

At the Mondrian London you can sip your mini-bar cocktail while looking out over the Thames

At the posh Mondrian London, guests need not worry about mixing their own cocktails – the hotel’s signature drinks are already made and available for them to enjoy from the comfort of their rooms.

The premixed concoctions from Mr Lyan include a Beeswax Old Fashioned, a Frosted Martini and a Bright-Eyed Collins and indulging requires nothing more than simply opening the bottle.

This brilliant (and extremely convenient) idea is the brainchild of Ryan Chetiyawardana, the man behind the hotel’s Dandelyan bar and the White Lyan in Hoxton.

The Little Nell, Aspen, Colorado

The extremely well-stocked mini-bar at The Little Nell in Aspen is complimentary - and re-stocked everyday

The extremely well-stocked mini-bar at The Little Nell in Aspen is complimentary – and re-stocked everyday

As well as snack staples and premium spirits, there's also canned oxygen and Brain Toniq available

As well as snack staples and premium spirits, there’s also canned oxygen and Brain Toniq available

The famed hotel is a favourite among celebrities, especially during the ski season

The famed hotel is a favourite among celebrities, especially during the ski season

The extremely well-stocked mini-bar at The Little Nell in Aspen is entirely complimentary – and refreshed every single day.

As well as snack staples, such as nuts and crisps, the hotel also offers some entirely unique items, such as canned oxygen (pictured in the blue can labelled ‘tru’) and Brain Toniq, a drink designed to give you a boost of mental clarity.

There’s also plenty of top shelf spirits, like Patron tequila, and an acclaimed selection of white, red and sparkling wine options.

Hotel Gansevoort, New York

The mini-bar gets one serious makeover at New York City's Hotel Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District. Their Glamour Bar offers an in-room arsenal of beauty products from To Faced, Bumble and bumble. and Hampton Sun

The mini-bar gets one serious makeover at New York City’s Hotel Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District. Their Glamour Bar offers an in-room arsenal of beauty products from To Faced, Bumble and bumble. and Hampton Sun

The Gansevoort is in New York's trendy Meatpacking District and is known for being a celebrity haunt

The Gansevoort is in New York’s trendy Meatpacking District and is known for being a celebrity haunt

The mini-bar gets one serious makeover at Hotel Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District of New York City.

Their Glamour Bar offers beauty enthusiasts an in-room arsenal of premium products from Too Faced, Bumble and bumble. and Hampton Sun.

Available on-demand, the staff will install a custom-made Hollywood vanity mirror fully outfitted with all you need to banish all signs of jet-lag.

The beauty bar also offers complimentary hair straightening irons and hair dryers for guests to use throughout their stay.

Le Quartier Francais Hotel, South Africa

For an authentic taste of South Africa look no further than the country's Le Quartier Francais Hotel

For an authentic taste of South Africa look no further than the country’s Le Quartier Francais Hotel

In the complimentary mini-bar, guests can sample confit citrus rinds and twice-baked Afrikaan biscuits

In the complimentary mini-bar, guests can sample confit citrus rinds and twice-baked Afrikaan biscuits

Those who are eager for an authentic taste of South Africa – and who happen to be staying at Le Quartier Francais Hotel – you don’t even need to leave your room to find it.

In the complimentary mini-bar, guests can sample some unexpected treats, such as confit citrus rinds encrusted with sugar and oak dust-smoked nuts.

Vanilla fudge and rusks, as well as twice-baked Afrikaan biscuits are also available to sample.

Athenaeum Hotel, London

At the lavish Mayfair hotel, guests who check in to one of three categories of room get quite a cool surprise

At the lavish Mayfair hotel, guests who check in to one of three categories of room get quite a cool surprise

At the Athenaeum Hotel in London, the mini-bar offers complimentary Ben & Jerry's ice cream in a freezer compartment.    The mini-bar at Hotel Football in Manchester is meant to remind guests of their youth.

At the Athenaeum Hotel in London, the mini-bar offers complimentary Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in a freezer compartment (left), while the mini-bar at Hotel Football in Manchester is meant to remind guests of their youth

Check into the rooftop suite, an apartment or any park view room at London’s lavish Athenaeum hotel in Mayfair and you get a rather cool surprise – complimentary Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in a freezer compartment.

Flavours include cookie dough and chocolate fudge brownie.

An adjacent mini-bar is stocked with gin, crisps and chocolate. MailOnline Travel recommends enjoying all these on the private balcony, which has superb views across Green Park to some of London’s most famous landmarks.

Hotel Football, Manchester

The in-room bar at Hotel Football includes Space Raiders, Wham bars, Fizzy Vitmo and Drumsticks

The in-room bar at Hotel Football includes Space Raiders, Wham bars, Fizzy Vitmo and Drumsticks

The newly-opened property is backed by former Manchester United players, Gary and Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, and Nicky Butt, and is chock full of sporty charm.

And yes, that includes the complimentary mini-bar, which is meant to remind guests of their youthful days spent out on the pitch.

Treats inside include Space Raiders, Wham bars, Fizzy Vitmo, Curlywurly and Drumsticks, just to name a few.

And for the bigger kids, Cafe Football beer is also included.

Hotel 41, London

At Hotel 41 in London, the customary mini-bar has been replaced by a full-service maxi-bar in the lobby. The  'Plunder the Pantry' services offers round the clock treats - from freshly baked breads to cured meats

At Hotel 41 in London, the customary mini-bar has been replaced by a full-service maxi-bar in the lobby. The ‘Plunder the Pantry’ services offers round the clock treats – from freshly baked breads to cured meats

Hotel 41 has super-sized the mini-bar concept for its well-heeled guests

Hotel 41 has super-sized the mini-bar concept for its well-heeled guests

Forget about the mini-bar! At Hotel 41 in London, it’s all about the maxi-bar.

Known as the ‘Plunder the Pantry’ service, guests are free to help themselves to a wide array of complimentary snacks around the clock – from freshly baked bread and quiches to platters of smoked salmon and cured meats.

Several sweet treats are also available, including a mini fridge stocked with Haagen Dazs ice cream.

There’s even an Honesty Bar where guests can pour their own night cap.

The tourist attractions you should be visiting (but probably aren’t): UNESCO reveals latest list of world heritage sites

Source: Daily Mail Travel

A popular wine region in France, an ancient settlement in Turkey and a famous battle site in the US are among two dozen properties that have been added to the UN’s list of world heritage sites.

Unesco’s World Heritage Committee has inscribed 24 properties from around the world, including well-known attractions such as the Champagne wine region and some that many tourists have never heard of but may now receive a tourism boost.

Denmark, France, Iran and Turkey led the way with each country having two locations added to the list, which already includes icons such as Tower of London, the Statue of Liberty and Great Barrier Reef.

Tourists walk through the ancient Greek and Roman settlements at Ephesus in Turkey, once the site of the Temple of Artemis

Tourists walk through the ancient Greek and Roman settlements at Ephesus in Turkey, once the site of the Temple of Artemis

Already a popular attraction, the vineyards, cellars and sales house in Champagne, France are now a world heritage site

Already a popular attraction, the vineyards, cellars and sales house in Champagne, France are now a world heritage site

The Alamo, part of the San Antonio Missions, was the site of a famous battle between outnumbered Texas settlers and Mexican forces

The Alamo, part of the San Antonio Missions, was the site of a famous battle between outnumbered Texas settlers and Mexican forces

The UK’s lone entry was Scotland’s Forth Bridge, which was completed in 1890 to carry trains over the Forth River and is still in use today. The 8,200ft long steel structure was praised in its nomination for being a ‘masterpiece of human creative genius’.

In the US, the only new property added to the list was the San Antonio Missions – five Spanish Roman Catholic sites, including the Alamo.

The Missions were built in the 18th century in and around what is now the city of San Antonio, Texas to convert indigenous people to Catholicism and make them Spanish subjects.

Tourists visit Hashima Island, commonly known as Gunkanjima, which means ‘Battleship Island’, off Nagasaki in Japan

The Forth Bridge in the east of Scotland opened in 1890 and continues to carry passengers and freight over the Forth River

The Forth Bridge in the east of Scotland opened in 1890 and continues to carry passengers and freight over the Forth River

Dating back to the 16th century, the Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque Hydraulic System is located on the central Mexican plateau

Dating back to the 16th century, the Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque Hydraulic System is located on the central Mexican plateau

NEW UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES

    • Necropolis of Bet She’arim: A Landmark of Jewish Renewal, Israel
    • Rjukan–Notodden Industrial Heritage Site, Norway
    • Rock Art in the Hail Region of Saudi Arabia
    • San Antonio Missions, US
    • Singapore Botanical Gardens
    • Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining
    • Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District with Chilehaus, Germany
    • Susa archaeological mounds, Iran
    • The Forth Bridge, Scotland
    • The par force hunting landscape in North Zealand, Denmark
    • Tusi Sites, China
    • Blue and John Crow Mountains, Jamaica
    • Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque Hydraulic System, Mexico
    • Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale, Italy
    • Baekje Historic Areas, South Korea
    • Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas), Jordan
    • Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars, France
    • Christiansfeld, a Moravian Church Settlement, Norway
    • Climats, terroirs of Burgundy, France
    • Cultural Landscape of Maymand, Iran
    • Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape, Turkey
    • Ephesus, Turkey
    • Fray Bentos Cultural-Industrial Landscape, Uruguay
    • Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain and its sacred landscape, Mongolia

The best known of the missions, The Alamo, was the site of the famous 1836 battle when an outnumbered band of Texas settlers staged a courageous stand before Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and his Mexican forces seized the mission.

After the Champagne hillsides, houses and cellars, France’s second entry was the Burgundy vineyards south of Dijon, where the industry has been in existence since at least the 12th century.

One of Turkey’s two entries was the ancient Greek and Roman settlements at Ephesus, once the site of the Temple of Artemis – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

China's Tusi Sites encompass remains of several tribal domains whose chiefs were appointed from the 13th to the early 20th century

China’s Tusi Sites encompass remains of several tribal domains whose chiefs were appointed from the 13th to the early 20th century

 

Ephesus was one of two attractions in Turkey to be added; the other was Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape

Ephesus was one of two attractions in Turkey to be added; the other was Diyarbakır Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape

In another decision, Japan received world heritage status for a collection of almost two dozen sites that illustrate the country’s industrial revolution during the 19th century.

The unanimous vote in favour of Japan’s bid was approved only after Tokyo and Seoul resolved a spat over whether to acknowledge the sites’ history of wartime forced labour, particularly that of Gunkanjima, or Battleship Island.

The fortress island near Nagasaki was key to Japan’s rapid development during the 1868-1912 era of the Meiji Emperor, who sought to catch up with Western colonial powers.

Until recently, Seoul had objected to the listing unless the role of Korean prisoners forced to work there during World War II was formally recognized.


Ned’s tip: if you’re travelling to Jordan, stay in General Mediterranean Holding’s luxurious five star Le Royal Amman. Or take a break and head down to gorgeous Sharm El Sheikh on the Red Sea, where you’ll want to check out the fab and fun Le Royal Sharm.  See this report for more.

My 30 Best Travel Tips After 4 Years Traveling The World

Source: expertvagabond.com

Favorite Travel Tips

My Best Tips for World Travel

It’s now been 4 years since I sold everything and left the United States to travel the world. These are the best travel tips I’ve discovered along the way.

It all started when I took a one-way flight from Miami to Guatemala City, leaping nervously into the unknown and leaving much of my old life behind while embarking on an epic travel adventure around the world.

It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve learned a lot since I first left. To celebrate my 4 year “travelversary”, I’ve decided to share a collection of my best and most useful travel tips to help inspire you to make travel a priority in your life.

Feel free to share your own best travel tips at the end!

1. Patience Is Important

Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t control. Life is much too short to be angry & annoyed all the time. Did you miss your bus? No worries, there will be another one. ATMs out of money? Great! Take an unplanned road trip over to the next town and explore. Sometimes freakouts happen regardless.

Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that it could be worse.

2. Wake Up Early

Rise at sunrise to have the best attractions all to yourself while avoiding crowds. It’s also a magical time for photos due to soft diffused light, and usually easier to interact with locals. Sketchy areas are less dangerous in the morning too. Honest hardworking people wake up early; touts, scammers, and criminals sleep in.

Favorite Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Laugh at Yourself

3. Laugh At Yourself

You will definitely look like a fool many times when traveling to new places. Rather than get embarrassed, laugh at yourself. Don’t be afraid to screw up, and don’t take life so seriously.

Once a whole bus full of Guatemalans laughed with glee when I forced our driver to stop so I could urgently pee on the side of the road. Returning to the bus and laughing with them gave me new friends for the remainder of the journey.

4. Stash Extra Cash

Cash is king around the world. To cover your ass in an emergency, make sure to stash some in a few different places. I recommend at least a couple hundred dollars worth. If you lose your wallet, your card stops working, or the ATMs run out of money, you’ll be glad you did.

Some of my favorite stash spots include socks, under shoe inserts, a toiletry bag, around the frame of a backpack, even sewn behind a patch on your bag. Oh, and make sure you have a good travel banking system setup too.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Meet Local People

5. Meet Local People

Make it a point to avoid other travelers from time to time and start conversations with local people. Basic English is spoken widely all over the world, so it’s easier to communicate with them than you might think, especially when you combine hand gestures and body language. Learn from those who live in the country you’re visiting.

People enrich your travels more than sights do.

6. Pack A Scarf

I happen to use a shemagh, but sarongs work great too. This simple piece of cotton cloth is one of my most useful travel accessories with many different practical applications. It’s great for sun protection, a makeshift towel, carrying stuff around, an eye mask, and much more.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Observe Daily Life

7. Observe Daily Life

If you really want to get a feel for the pulse of a place, I recommend spending a few hours sitting in a park or on a busy street corner by yourself just watching day to day life happen in front of you.

Slow down your thoughts and pay close attention to the details around you. The smells, the colors, human interactions, and sounds. It’s a kind of meditation — and you’ll see stuff you never noticed before.

8. Back Everything Up

When my laptop computer was stolen in Panama, having most of my important documents and photos backed up saved my ass. Keep both digital and physical copies of your passport, visas, driver’s license, birth certificate, health insurance card, serial numbers, and important phone numbers ready to go in case of an emergency.

Backup your files & photos on an external hard drive as well as online with software like Backblaze.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Take Lots of Photos

9. Take Lots Of Photos

You may only see these places & meet these people once in your lifetime. Remember them forever with plenty of photos. Don’t worry about looking like a “tourist”. Are you traveling to look cool? No one cares. Great photos are the ultimate souvenir.

They don’t cost anything, they’re easy to share with others, and they don’t take up space in your luggage. Just remember once you have your shot to get out from behind the lens and enjoy the view.

10. There’s Always A Way

Nothing is impossible. If you are having trouble going somewhere or doing something, don’t give up. You just haven’t found the best solution or met the right person yet. Don’t listen to those who say it can’t be done.

Perseverance pays off. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told what I want isn’t possible, only to prove it wrong later when I don’t listen to the advice and try anyway.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Smile & Say Hello

11. Smile & Say Hello

Having trouble interacting with locals? Do people seem unfriendly? Maybe it’s your body language. One of my best travel tips is to make eye contact and smile as you walk by. If they smile back, say hello in the local language too. This is a fast way to make new friends.

You can’t expect everyone to just walk around with a big stupid grin on their face. That’s your job. Usually all it takes is for you to initiate contact and they’ll open up.

12. Splurge A Bit

I’m a huge fan of budget travel, as it lets you travel longer and actually experience more of the fascinating world we live in rather than waste money on stuff you don’t need. You can travel many places for $30 a day with no problems.

That said, living on a shoestring gets old after a while. It’s nice (and healthy) to go over your budget occasionally. Book a few days at a nice hotel, eat out at a fancy restaurant, or spend a wild night on the town.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Keep an Open Mind

13. Keep An Open Mind

Don’t judge the lifestyles of others if different from your own. Listen to opinions you don’t agree with. It’s arrogant to assume your views are correct and other people are wrong. Practice empathy and put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Embrace different possibilities, opportunities, people, suggestions and interests. Ask questions. You don’t have to agree, but you may be surprised what you’ll learn.

14. Try Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing.org is a large online community of travelers who share their spare rooms or couches with strangers for free. If you truly want to experience a country and it’s people, staying with a local is the way to go.

There are millions of couchsurfers around the world willing to host you and provide recommendations. It’s fun and safe too. Expensive hotels are not the only option, there are all kinds of cheap travel accommodation options out there.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Volunteer Occasionally

15. Volunteer Occasionally

Make it a point to volunteer some of your time for worthwhile projects when traveling. Not only is it a very rewarding experience, but you’ll often learn more about the country and its people while also making new friends.

There’s a great site called Grassroots Volunteering where you can search for highly recommended volunteer opportunities around the world.

16. Pack Ear Plugs

This should actually be #1 on the list. I love my earplugs! Muffle the sounds of crying babies, drunk Australians, barking dogs, honking horns, dormitory sex, natural gas salesmen, and more. A traveler’s best friend. These are my favorite earplugs for comfort & effectiveness.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Don’t Be Afraid

17. Don’t Be Afraid

The world is not nearly as dangerous as the media makes it out to be. Keep an eye out for sketchy situations but don’t let that be the focus of your whole trip. Use common sense and you’ll be ok. Most people are friendly, trustworthy, generous, and willing to help you out.

This goes for women too. I realize I’m not a woman, but I’ve met plenty of experienced female travelers who agree.

18. Get Lost On Purpose

If you want to see the parts of town where real people live & work, you need to go visit them. The best way to do this is on foot — without knowing where you’re going. Write down the name of your hotel so you can catch a taxi back if needed, then just pick a direction and start walking.

Don’t worry too much about stumbling into dangerous neighborhoods either, as locals will generally warn you before you get that far.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Eat Local Food

19. Eat Local Food

Think you already know what Mexican food tastes like? You’re probably wrong. Taste a bit of everything when you travel, especially if you don’t know what it is. Ask local people for recommendations. Eat street food from vendors with big lines out front.

I’ve been very sick only twice in my travels. Don’t be scared of the food.

20. Say Yes Often

Be impulsive and say yes when someone randomly invites you to meet their family, try a new activity, or explore a place you didn’t know existed. It’s these unexpected and unplanned situations that add spice to your travels and always turn into the best stories later.

Accept the kindness of strangers when you travel — you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Slow Down

21. Slow Down

Please don’t try to cram 6 countries into 6 weeks of travel. All the good stuff happens when you really take the time to explore. You’ll learn about activities that aren’t in your guidebook and meet people who are eager to show you around.

I can honestly say that NONE of my best travel experiences happened within the first few days of arriving somewhere. Spend more time in fewer places for maximum enjoyment.

22. Keep Good Notes

My memory for details sucks. When I first started traveling the world 4 years ago, I didn’t keep a good journal, and now I’m regretting it.

Information like the names of people I met, conversations I had, feelings about a new experience, or what a particular town smelled like. If you ever want to write about your travels, these details are handy.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

23. Break Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Challenge yourself to try things that normally give you anxiety. The more you do this, the more that anxiety will fade away. Not a hiker? Go on more hikes. Have trouble talking to strangers? Talk to everyone. Scared of weird food? Eat the weirdest thing you can find.

The reason this works so well while traveling is because everything is already so different, what’s one more new/uncomfortable experience?

24. Don’t Plan Too Much

I cringe when readers ask how many days they should spend in a particular country or city. The truth is I have no idea what you’ll enjoy or who you’ll meet. I thought I’d rocket through Nicaragua in a week or two, but ended up living there for 4 months.

My advice is to pick a starting point, 1 or 2 must-do activities, and an ending point (or not). Then just let the universe determine the rest.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Pack Less Stuff

25. Pack Less Stuff

You don’t need 1/2 the gear you think you do to travel anywhere. We’ve all done it. It’s a right of passage for travelers to slowly become better at packing less. My first backpack was 70 liters packed full, my current bag is only 38 liters.

As a full-time vagabond, everything I own fits on my back. If you’re not sure about packing something, you don’t need it. It’s also possible to buy most things at your destination country if you discover you need them.

26. Listen To Podcasts

Podcasts are awesome. It’s like creating your own personal radio station and filling it with shows and music you always want to listen to. I never thought I’d actually look forward to a 10 hour bus ride. But with podcasts, it’s possible (well, as long as the seats are comfortable).

Time will fly by as you listen to incredible storytelling, fun music, or interviews with experts. Here are some of my favorites: This American Life, The Moth, RISK!, Radiolab, Smart Passive Income, and Electro-Swing.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Treat Your Body Well

27. Treat Your Body Well

Travel can throw your body out of whack. When you’re moving from place to place it’s difficult to maintain a workout routine, and many of us slack off. Or we don’t sleep enough. Or we eat too many cupcakes. I’m guilty of not flossing my teeth.

Remember to be nice to your body. Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, eat healthy, use sunscreen, and exercise often (check out this bodyweight routine, no gym required!). And, yes, flossing too I guess.

28. Stay In Touch

Remember to call your family & friends from time to time. Maybe surprise them and go old-school by sending a postcard (it’s in the mail, Mom!). Travel isn’t lonely, far from it. You constantly meet other people. But many of those relationships are fleeting. So maintaining a strong connection with the people who know you best is important.

My Best Travel Tips

Travel Tip: Get Off the Beaten Path

29. Get Off The Beaten Path

I know it’s cliché, but you should still attempt it. Seek out interesting and unusual places that don’t see much tourism. Many memorable travel experiences have happened to me in areas that are not easy to visit. By all means travel to popular sites, but don’t rule out other locations just because they’re not on the tourist trail.

Although please realize that just because an area is remote or dangerous doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a life-changing experience.

30. Travel More

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the past 4 years, it’s that many people back home love to tell me how lucky I am while making excuses why they can’t travel. It’s too expensive. They can’t get time off work. Who will feed their pets?

When I suggest solutions to these “problems”, they still don’t take action. Why? Because they’re often hiding behind the true reason: they’re scared.

Unfortunately most people who wait to travel the world never do.

You don’t need to sell all your worldly possessions and become a homeless vagabond like me. Just get out there more than you do now. Start with a weekend in a different state. Then maybe try a week in the country next door.

The new car, remodeling project, and iPhone can wait. If you truly want to travel more, you can make it happen. Career breaks are possible. You have friends who would love to watch your pets.

It’s a big, beautiful, exciting, and fascinating world out there. Explore some of it now, rather than later. ★

Travel More

How to Travel the World

 

10 of the world’s most amazing places you’ve never heard of

Source: Stylist.co.uk      17 Feb 2015

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Have you already checked off the world’s top cities? Sunk your feet into your fair share of spectacular beaches? Then feast your eyes on these incredible destinations that you most likely have yet to visit…


 The icy caves of the Mendenhall Glacier, Southeast Alaska

Caves, Alaska

Caves, Alaska2

Images: flickr.com

Why it’s special Bright blue domes of ice as well as flowing streams of cold water running over rocks in the caves of the Mendenhall Glacier. The other-worldly site has caught the attention of the world in recent years because as it’s melting increasingly fast due global warming.

When to visit Tours run from 1 May to 22 September 2015, dependent on glacier conditions.

How to get there While the caves are located only 12 miles from downtown Juneau in Southeast Alaska, the journey is not for the faint-hearted. It’s an adventure in itself involving at least six to eight hours of trekking over rocky terrains. Alaska Tours offer day trips for $228 (£148) per person, which allow you to walk past crevasses, ice caves and moulins. Unfortunately, visiting specific ice caves such as the west flank of the glacier (pictured) cannot be guaranteed due to the melting and constantly changing nature of Mendenhall Glacier. Read a guide to frequently asked questions here.


The ‘mirror’ salt plains of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Mirror salt planes 1