Outside Magazine’s Travel Awards 2015

In March, Outside magazine minted the winners of their 2015 travel awards, passing out awards from best island to best Airbnb, hoping to inspire readers’ summer travel plans. Even with summer now drawing to a close in the northern hemisphere, it’s not too late to get outside and enjoy some of the best outdoor adventures, whether in some far-flung corner of the earth or in your own backyard. We’ve selected 15 of the best adventures you could still squeeze in to get the most out of your summer—or start planning for next year.

15. Montana’s Wild West Adventure

The 21st century has been the century of environmental concern. At first glance, enjoying America’s West like a 19th-century traveler seems far-removed from that concern, but it’s thanks to conservation efforts that you can enjoy a Wild West-style camping trip in northeast Montana. The area is home to a 305,000-acre reserve which conservationists are hoping to turn into an American “Serengeti,” where the deer and the buffalo do roam. Buffalo Camp has 11 campsites available for just $10 per night. If you’re looking for a little more luxury, Kestrel Camp offers travelers the option to rent 1 of 5 yurts, each equipped with air conditioning and a hot shower. Either way, you’ll sleep soundly after spending the day paddling the river or mountain biking by abandoned farms.

Montana

14. Roadtripping in India

The roadtrip is a classic way to spend an American summer; for many, it’s a rite of passage. But why stick to domestic shores when you could use your roadtrip to explore some of the world’s most stunning mountain views? Book a 10-day trip with Mercury Himalayan Explorations and see a new side of India, far away from throngs of people in busy urban markets and gawping tourist crowds. Your trip will take you through the foothills of the majestic Himalayans, replete with narrow, dangerous mountain roads and stunning views. Not up for mountains? The company also offers a trip through the sand dunes of Rajasthan. Don’t worry, though—a mechanic will be right behind you.

Photo by: Mercury Himalayan Explorations
Photo by: Mercury Himalayan Explorations

13. Conquer the San Juan Mountains

You needn’t go as far as India to encounter mountains, of course. The American West is full of soaring peaks, courtesy of the Rocky Mountains. To fully appreciate dazzling new heights, trek through the San Juan mountains on your bike. Start your trip in Durango, Colorado, and make your way some 200-plus miles to Moab, Utah. The trip isn’t for the faint of heart; the elevation rises to 25,000 feet between start and finish. The going is not easy, but for those who want a challenge, this is a rewarding one—the top of the mountains provides an excellent perch to get a new perspective on life. Once you’ve completed the trek, there’s no doubt you’ll agree that the stunning vistas are well-worth the effort.

San Juan Mountains Colorado

12. A New Spin on the Classic Safari

Much like the roadtrip epitomizes American summer, the safari is a classic way to explore Africa’s wilderness. The oft-maligned trip has been given new life in Kenya, thanks to Sandy and Chip Cunningham. The 11-day Ultimate Conservation Safari takes you to Campi Ya Kanzi, a 300,000-acre stretch of wilderness in the shadows of Kilimanjaro. You’re hosted by local Masai in a campsite that uses solar for its power needs. The trip also takes you to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s elephant orphanage, which reminds us of the harmful effects of poaching and the importance of protecting earth’s amazing creatures. This safari is all about learning all we can about amazing world around us in an eco-friendly and sustainable way.

Photo by: Ultimate Conservation Safari
Photo by: Ultimate Conservation Safari

11. Road Trip the Golden State—on a Bike

If you can’t get away to far-flung locales like India or Africa, you can take yet another spin on the classic American roadtrip. This one is eco-friendly, much like the Kenyan safari experience, and it will take you through all the Golden State has to offer, from the edges of the Pacific to dizzying heights in the mountains in the Sierra Nevada. California’s environment can be biked almost year-round, which means you don’t need to wait for summer to roll around (unless you want to do the annual Death Ride through the mountains). This can be an economical trip too—route maps are available free from organizations like the California Bicycle Coalition.

biking san francisco

10. Dive Deep in Cuba

Maybe you’re not the type who likes to climb tall mountains or drive (or ride) through the landscape. In fact, maybe you’re not interested in the terrestial landscape, and the depths of the ocean intrigue you. If so, then you’ll want to pay a visit to Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen National Park, a no-take fishing zone and marine protected area. Located 60 miles off Cuba’s coast, the park contains some 250 coral and mangrove islands. Only 1,000 divers per year are admitted to the area, where you can encounter some of the world’s most pristine coral reefs and swim alongside sea turtles, goliath groupers, whale sharks and sperm whales.

Giant Grouper

9. Cruise Doubtful Sound

Maybe you don’t like going under the water. Or maybe you’re hoping to hit up a more exotic locale. New Zealand’s Doubtful Sound is the place for you, with a 70-person cruise on a 3-masted sailboat. Book a tour with Real Journeys and you’ll cruise into the sound and experience its surreal landscapes: lush forests overhanging sheer cliffs with towering waterfalls pouring over the edge, pods of dolphins playing in the water below. You might even spot a Fiordland penguin. You’ll want to bring your camera for sure, although pictures may not be able to do the place justice. The more adventuresome might join other passengers in leaping into the water off the rear deck of the boat—but be warned, the waters can be cold!

Doubtful Sound

8. Paddle through Fiji

For many, Fiji defines tropical paradise. The island is rich in environmental treasures, not the least of which is the 18-mile-long Upper Navua River Gorge, 10 miles of which has been protected as a conservation area since 2000. Paddle along the palm-lined river and take in the sheer cliffs and the cascading waterfalls. The area is maintained by Rivers Fiji in conjunction with landowners, villagers, the Native Land Trust Board and a timber company. You can continue on to the Middle Navua by kayak, which will take a couple of days to complete. You’ll arrive in Beqa Lagoon, where opportunities for sea-kayaking and snorkeling abound. White sand beaches and coral reefs also beckon to travelers who want to balance adventure with relaxation.

Kayak Fiji

7. A Safari in Greenland

Greenland is probably one of the last places anyone would think of to go on safari, but the trek offered by Natural Habitat Adventures takes a page straight out of the safari handbook and offers guests hot showers and gourmet meals prepared by a chef. The company’s eco-base camp is located on the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet on Sermilik Fjord, where 5,000-foot peaks plunge into the sea. On offer are opportunities to kayak alongside humpback whales, hike through 10 miles of tundra with a guide and visit Inuit villagers and experience their centuries-old traditions. Even though the temperatures in polar bear country remain low throughout the year, travelers will be awed by the beauty of the Arctic.

Photo by: Natural Habitat Adventures
Photo by: Natural Habitat Adventures

6. Experience Paddleboarding in Belize

Belize has long been a haven for snorkelers and divers, thanks to the country’s 180-mile-long barrier reef. Now Belize is also home to the world’s first lodge-to-lodge paddleboarding adventure. The trek, offered by Island Expeditions, takes you through the 118,000-acre Southwater Caye Marine Reserve. On the 6-day excursion, you’ll paddle 4 to 8 miles per day, making stops to snorkel with spotted eagle rays and barracuda and even snorkel at night to see coral in bloom after dark. Other stops along the way include a Garifuna fishing camp, Tobacco Caye and the private Southwater Caye with its 12 acres of white sand beaches against the backdrop of the calm, turquoise waters and the barrier reef.

Photo by: Island Expeditions
Photo by: Island Expeditions

5. Apres-Ski in New Mexico

You might not think of skiing when someone mentions New Mexico, but the state’s famous West Basin chutes, near Kachina Peak in Taos, have a bit of Old World charm. It might not be the Alps, but it’s about as close as you get in the southern Rockies; you can even stop at the Bavarian Lodge, a ski-in, ski-out chalet, to grab some authentic German fare before hitting the slopes or for apres-ski. Visiting before ski season is in swing? Not to worry; trails to Williams Lake and the 13,159-foot Wheeler Mountain, New Mexico’s highest peak, offer plenty of opportunity for some outdoor adventure.

Photo by: Bavarian Lodge
Photo by: Bavarian Lodge

4. Domestic Adventure in North Carolina

North Carolina is underrated when it comes to getting outside in the U.S. It has beaches and mountains much like California, minus the throngs of tourists and the elitism that pervades some parts of the Golden State. The Croatan National Forest offers paddleboarders 160,000 acres to explore, while the beaches offer up some of the East Coast’s best surf spots. Singletrack and road riding attracts world-class talent to the Blue Ridge mountains, where some train for races like the Tour de France, and the 13-mile Big Avery Loop offers mountain bikers a serious challenge. For hikers, 96 miles of the Appalachian Trail crosses through the state, and the Nantahala Outdoor Center offers up access to some of America’s best white-water adventures.

Photo by: Nantahala Outdoor Center/ Charlie Williams Photography
Photo by: Nantahala Outdoor Center/ Charlie Williams Photography

3. International Adventure in Chile

If North Carolina sounds a little too pedestrian for your adventure, you can always seek out international adventure. One of the best places to find an outdoor excursion is in Chile, which is 80% Andes mountains. The country is home to some wild spaces, like the 650,000-acre Patagonia National Park in the extreme southern sub-arctic clime, or the 370,000-acre Yendegaia National Park, a former cattle ranch. Or check out the Atacama Desert, where you can ride through the almost-alien landscape on horseback and take in some of the clearest skies on Earth. Another option is the Vina Vik, a retreat and wine spa in Millahue Valley. There are 65 miles of vineyard roads to be explored in this 11,000-acre Andean retreat.

Patagonia National Park

2. Bicycle Adventures for Families

Maybe you want to take the family on the adventure of a lifetime and some of the trips mentioned just aren’t kid-friendly or are too costly if you need to foot the bill for multiple people. Bicycle Adventures is one of the best outfitters to turn to if you need a domestic trip for kids of all ages. Infants and toddlers can ride along in provided trailers, while younger riders’ bikes can be hitched to adult bikes. About 10% of their trips are geared specifically toward families with preteens. New multi-day rides through Oregon, Idaho and South Dakota follow car-free bike paths and take you near attractions like Mount Rushmore and the Trail of the Hiawatha. Kids will appreciate stops for ice cream, rafting and swimming.

Photo by: Bicycle Adventures
Photo by: Bicycle Adventures

1. Wilderness Travel’s Outfitted Trips

If you want to do something no one else has ever done, you’ll want to team up with Wilderness Travel. The team, based in Berkeley, California, has been pioneering trips that other outfitters later copy for some 37 years. Think kayaking trips through Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America and organizing the world’s highest trek, through Tibet at 23,000 feet. All of the outfitter’s trips are designed to support locals and minimize the trip’s environmental impact as well. New trips available from Wilderness Travel include visiting little-known pyramids in Sudan, sea-kayaking and camping in Palau and tracking lions in Namibia with guide Flip Stander, who has spent decades living with the big cats.

Photo by: Wildreness Travel
Photo by: Wildreness Travel

Top 10 Destinations for Family Adventure Travel this Summer

Summer is the perfect time to travel, take vacation and explore new parts of the world. Traveling as a family, most people tend to stick to familiar destinations, campgrounds and all-inclusive cruises or resorts where everything is taken care of. But if you are a family that is looking for a little more flexibility, more adventure, plenty of thrills and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; we highly suggest checking out these top 10 destinations for family adventure travel.

10. Glacier National Park, Montana

If you are looking to stick within North America this summer but are still looking for an outdoor adventure for the whole family, Glacier National Park in Montana should be at the top of your list. There are lodges and campgrounds throughout the park with plenty of opportunity for hiking, biking, horseback riding and swimming. This national park features a dozen glacier peaks that are separated by clear mountain streams, pristine lakes and plenty of waterfalls to discover. Kids and adults alike will love looking out for the abundance of wildlife including deer, moose and mountain goats.  If you are looking for a more guided and organized adventure there are plenty of tour guides that offer family specific trips throughout the park, complete with adults-only meals, luxury lodge accommodations and enough activities to keep the kids busy all day long. Get into the heart of the mountains and feel like you are worlds away from home.

Grinnell Glacier - Glacier National Park

9.  Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos are best explored when kids are a little older and can appreciate what they truly have to offer. The best way to discover the islands is a family geared cruise that ensures the whole family will be involved in the fun. These family cruises are often small and intimate, which paves the way for the exceptional customer service that extends to the kids. While snorkeling with the turtles, swimming with the sea lions and watching the penguins swim by are always a hit amongst the whole family, these cruises offer so much more. Connecting with nature at a young age is important to teaching children about the planet and the guides aboard these ships know how to connect with them. Where else in the world can your 10 year old learn to anchor a boat, sleep in a treehouse and swim alongside a curious sea lion all in one day?

Galapagos Islands

8. Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

Sand, sand and more sand is what you will find at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado and we promise that the kids will absolutely love it here! This giant sandbox provides plenty of opportunity to bring out the kid in anyone as you slide down the hills on either a sled or sand board. This activity is actually legal in the park and sleds and boards can be rented at one of a few retailers in the San Luis Valley. The best time to visit this park is at the beginning of the summer before the dunes become scorching hot. This time of year is also when Medano Creek is flowing and families should bring inflatable tubes to float down it. Hiking, camping, horseback riding, four wheeling and fun ranger-led programs are all activities that families can look forward to here. Whether you travel here just for a day or spend a week camping; families won’t run out of fun and exciting things to do.

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

7. New Mexico

If your family is looking for adventure, real cowboys and Indians and exceptional food, New Mexico may just be the perfect vacation destination. Although this destination is widely known for its art galleries, boutique shops and spirituality; there is plenty more to discover if you dig a little deeper. With ranch resorts surrounding the area, families can choose adventures such as horseback riding, watching the Rodeo, fly fishing, rock climbing and white water rafting. One especially unique adventure here is the opportunity to hike and camp in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Rio Grande Gorge area with Wild Earth Llama Adventures. Each member of the family is coupled with its own llama, which carries the gear and creates a great distraction for the little ones who often tire easily of hiking. This camping experience is complete with campfires, gourmet meals and a never ending variety of activities for the kids.

Pecos National Historic Park Santa Fe New Mexico

6. Costa Rica

If you are looking for a thrilling summer vacation that really get’s the whole family’s hearts pumping, Costa Rica is the perfect country to do so. One of the safest, if not the safest country in Central America, traveling here is easy and inexpensive. Trek through an impressive cloud forest, zip line over lush green mountains, hike a volcano and learn to surf in the warm waters. Kids will delight in listening to the howler monkeys in the trees, relaxing in the many hot springs and splashing in the waves. Eco-tourism has taken a big step in this country and there are endless choices for accommodations, whether you want a luxurious treehouse or a laid back hotel. With two major airports to fly into, English speaking guides and a plethora of adventure; Costa Rica is a perfect summer vacation.

Max Herman / Shutterstock.com
Max Herman / Shutterstock.com

5. Canadian Rockies, Alberta

Wildlife, mountain treks, sparkling blue lakes and hot springs are what await families in the Canadian Rockies. If your family loves to hike, mountain bike and swim; there is no better place in Canada to visit for a summer full of adventure and thrills. Many choose to make Banff their home base as it is full of kid-friendly restaurants, hotels that feature pools and waterslides and easy access to the surrounding mountains and lakes. The other option for adventure travel here is a custom designed organized tour, designed with families in mind. There are some exceptional tour operators in this area and from canoeing to white water rafting to cliff jumping to exploring the towns; these trips are perfect for families who want adventure but prefer someone else does the planning.

Canadian Rockies Alberta

4. Grand Canyon and Surrounding Area, Arizona

It would be a mistake to think that kids will be bored exploring the Grand Canyon but it would also be a mistake to assume they will want to spend a week doing so. Therefore to make the most of this adventurous vacation, we suggest splitting your time between the Grand Canyon and the surrounding areas of Page and Sedona. Hiking below the rim in the canyon is highly recommended for avid outdoor enthusiasts and the ranger led hikes are a hit with families as the ranger points out things like fossils in the rock layers, lizards basking in the sun, and desert wildflowers and wildlife. The surrounding areas of Page and Sedona offer outdoor adventures such as exploring Glen Canyon Dam, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell. Combine that with the smooth water float trip you can take and the kids will have the best outdoor adventure of a lifetime.

Horseshoe Bend

3. Big Island, Hawaii

Animal adventures, outdoor thrills and the chance to sneak in some education is what await families on the Big Island of Hawaii. Start off with a heart-pounding helicopter ride over the island, introducing you to the hidden waterfalls, lava lakes and fiery fresh lava flows. Next up head to one of the many beaches were you can build towering black sand castles, take a family surf lesson and try your hand at stand up paddle boarding. Depending on the swimming levels of the kids, scuba diving and snorkeling are very popular among these warm waters that teem with colorful tropical fish. For an even bigger adventure make sure to try the manta ray night dive. Climb a volcano, zip line through the jungle and pitch your tent in one of the many campgrounds and discover the ultimate summer playground.

Big Island, Hawaii

2. Glacier Bay, Alaska

Say goodbye to overcrowded family cruises and experience the unforgettable landscape of Alaska from your own personal floating base. Tour companies are now offering intimate, family orientated cruises through Glacier Bay; set at your own personal pace. An on-board naturalist is there to teach the entire family about tide pools, the underwater songs of the whales and local botany. Kids will love kayaking to hidden inlets, walking out onto frozen glaciers and hiking through majestic old-growth forests and coming face to face with incredible wildlife such as bears, bald eagles and humpback whales. The best part for parents may just be when the kids conk out and they are privy to the on-board hot tub or an after dark paddle through the sea. Instead of watching the glaciers pass by from a typical ship, why not get adventurous and explore them with a family orientated boat trip.

Glacier Bay, Alaska

1. Zambia Safari, Africa

This is the best adventurous family vacation to take if your family includes active teenagers. Not necessarily recommended for younger children, Zambia Safaris promise high thrills, excellent wildlife spotting and a chance to hike in the national parks; keeping in mind the minimum age to hike through these parks is 12. Visit the unforgettable Victoria Falls, raft in the class 5 rapids of the Zambezi River and come face to face with big game such as hippos and lions. Walking safaris are an amazing way to discover creatures you could never see from a car such as the dung beetle, and still offer luxury accommodations in the heart of the parks. Expect to kayak the lakes, swim in a natural infinity pool, visit a local school and have an experience of a lifetime. Teens love this adventurous vacation as guides do an incredible job of making them feel independent and many companies even offer teen only dinners, hikes and more.

Zambia Safari, Africa

14 Breathtaking Places You Probably Didn’t Know Existed

Are you tired of visiting the same locations as millions of other tourists each year? Have you visited places like the Grand Canyon in the USA, Machu Picchu in Peru, and the Coliseum in Italy, but now feel yourself longing for something less ‘typical’? Our Earth is filled with an excess of far-fetched places, some we have all heard of, and some we haven’t.  While locations like the Grand Canyon, Machu Picchu, and the Coliseum are all spectacular sites to visit, they are overrun by tourists each year, littering the beauty of their location. Maybe it’s time to start discovering destinations that are not on most people’s radar, but equally as stunning- if not more. Traveling somewhere beautiful and undiscovered makes for a special trip. There’s just something charming about going to a place that isn’t as well known. Here are 14 Breathtaking Places You Probably Didn’t Know Existed to add to your travel bucket list.

14. Quiraing

To visit the Isle of Skye in Scotland without experiencing the Quiraing seems entirely unthinkable. Part of the Trotternish Ridge, which was formed by a great series of landslips, the massive landslip in the Quiraing has created tall cliffs, hidden plateaus and peaks of rock.  The Quiraing is the only part of the slip that is still moving and requires repairs each year. Parts of the distinctive landscape have earned particular names, such as the Needle, which is a jagged 120-foot high landmark pinnacle, a remnant of land slipping. Northwest of it is the Table, a flat grassy area from the summit plateau, with views of the marvelous Torridon Hills and the mountains of Wester Ross. Southwest is the Prison, a pyramidal rocky peak that can look like a medieval keep when viewed from a proper angle.

If you are fit enough, walk the narrow path and journey up and down the vertical slopes. Classed as medium in length, and hard in difficulty, it covers a distance of 4.2 miles, with the average time to complete the walk being roughly 2 hours with no stops. You are guaranteed wonder and amazement with some of the most incredible landscapes and beautiful sunsets found in Scotland- so don’t forget to bring your camera!

Quiraing

13. Hvítserkur

Hvítserkur is a rock that rises 50 feet from the sea, found on the eastern shore of the Vatnsnes Peninsula, in the northwest of Iceland.  Hvítserkur, which means “white shirt” in Icelandic, comes from the color of the sea-bird excrement deposited on the rock from the several species of birds that reside on it. This unusual rock formation was once the plug of a volcano, but over the years the craters surrounding the rock plug gave way to the pounding Atlantic Ocean, leaving only the bizarre outcropping of Hvítserkur behind. To protect the rock’s foundations, the base of the rock has been reinforced with concrete, helping it stay in its place. At low tides it is possible to walk out beyond the protruded rock.

In 1990, the geological oddity was even commemorated on an Icelandic stamp. Since the rock has two holes at its base, some say it looks like a thirsty dragon drinking from the Atlantic Ocean. Icelandic legend says that the rock used to be a troll that forgot to retreat itself from the light and as a consequence was turned to stone during sunrise.

Hvítserkur

12. Hamilton’s Pool Preserve

Located about 23 miles west of Austin, Texas, this unique natural pool has been a popular summer destination for Austin visitors and its residents since the 1960’s. Hamilton’s Pool Preserve is a natural pool that was created when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to thousands of years of massive water erosion. Cultural remains date this site back over 8,000 years.

The Preserve consists of 232 acres of protected natural habitat containing a beautiful jade green pool into which a 50-foot waterfall drops into the canyon adding to a pool of water that never entirely dries up. The pool is surrounded by large chunks of limestone that rest by the water’s edge and large stalactites that grow from the ceiling above. Hamilton’s Pool Preserve contains lush plant communities and a plethora of wildlife species. Flora ranges from semi-arid species in the uplands to riparian species in the canyon. In the uplands of the preserve you can find juniper and oak savannah with a variety of native grasses and wildflowers. In the canyon, you can see several rare plant species including canyon mock-orange, red bay, and chatter box orchid. Fauna include a variety of birds such as the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and cliff swallows.

Hamilton’s Pool Preserve

11. Namaqualand

Namaqualand is an arid region of Namibia and South Africa, extending over 600 miles along the west coast. Namaqualand becomes a popular destination in early spring, for both local and international tourists; when for a short period of time, this typically arid area becomes covered with a kaleidoscope of color during the flowering season (early August to late September). This area receives very little rain throughout the year, however after the winter rains of May through July, the normally barren landscape becomes a canvas of a variety of different wild flowers with vibrant colors.

The wide variety of wild flowers is largely due to the varied topography in this region. For example, many fertile valleys contrast with the high mountains, the semi-desert plains of the north contrast with the unique sandveld region near the coast with its wetter areas. Certain flora is found nowhere else in the world except in this area. Some years are better than others, all depending on the winter and spring seasons. Countless paintings, poems, novels, and prose have been dedicated to this annual spectacle of color, and rightfully so.

Namaqualand

10. Dean’s Blue Hole

While most other known blue holes only reach maximum depths of 360 feet, Dean’s Blue Hole, found in a bay west of Clarence Town on Long Island in the Bahamas, plunges a whopping 663 feet down below, making it the deepest known salt water blue hole. It is still unknown exactly how Dean’s Blue Hole was formed since it’s much deeper than most blue holes, but one hypothesis is that a much deeper cave slowed and moved upward as its ceiling eroded away.

The coral caves and sand banks on the side of the entrance are home to all kinds of tropical reef life, like shrimps, snappers, and groupers. Friendly sea turtles can sometimes be found in the hole taking a break from the ocean currents, and schools of tarpon fish hang in the hole’s shadows. In April 2010, professional and courageous diver William Trubridge broke a free-diving world record in the blue hole by reaching a depth of 302 feet without the use of fins. He decided to take it a step further in December of 2010, when he swam to a depth of 331 feet on a single breath while using only his hands and feet for propulsion!

Photo by: Alexandre Durocher
Photo by: Alexandre Durocher

9. The Flatirons

The Flatirons are rock formations near Boulder, Colorado, and is the perfect place for hikers and climbers. Although the Flatirons are made up of several small formations, there are five large, numbered Flatirons, from north to south, along the east slope of the Green Mountain, that are the most popular. Climbing options in the Flatirons can vary between obscure boulders and chunks scattered through the woods to technical summits and chillingly exposed towers. Climbing history dates back over a hundred years, and generations of the world’s best climbers have developed their skills on these Flatirons.

Accessible via trailheads in Chautauqua Park, there are dozens of named formations and established routes numbered in the hundreds to the thousands. A significant number of the routes finish on high summits and should not be missed if you enjoy climbing long and reasonable routes with worthwhile finishes. Certain climbs, the First and Third Flatirons for example, can be very crowded on weekends, but it’s easy to find solitude in the multitude of other less visited cliffs. Noteworthy summits in the Flatirons, aside from the numbered Flatirons themselves, include: the Devil’s Thumb, the Maiden, the Matron, Seal Rock and the Amphitheater towers.

The Flatirons

8. Benagil

The bluer-than-blue waters of this small Portuguese town are home to a mind-blowing sea grotto. This grotto, or algar in Portuguese, is found on the Algarve coast of Portugal –the country’s most southern coast. The grotto is located 500 feet to the east of the small beach and little fishing village of Benagil. The sea cave has two magnificent entrances, a huge collapsed roof, a secluded beach of sand and a circular inner grotto.

Access to this beautiful place is only by water. The first, easiest and most comfortable, is by commercial boat. Tours leave from several beaches nearby and some include this and other caves around the area as well. If you do take the tour however, you are not allowed off the boat. Another great option is renting a kayak. Many of the same companies that provide the boat tours also rent the kayak equipment. This option is recommended for those that want to go more inside the grotto and take some breathtaking pictures.

Benagil

7. Whitehaven Beach

A postcard perfect beach, Whitehaven Beach is a 4.3 mile stretch along Whitsunday Island, Australia and is the largest of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays. The turquoise, blue and green water, and the fact that the sand is 98% pure white silica give this place a brilliant, near luminescent color. The crystal clear aqua waters and pristine silica sand make it the most photographed beach in Australia. At the northern end of Whitehaven Beach is Hill Inlet, a stunning cove where the tide shifts the sand and water to create a beautiful fusion of colors.  As the tide shifts, the white silica sand and shades of turquoise blend flawlessly to create a breathtaking view of swirling Whitsunday colors.  It definitely defines nature at its best and provides the greatest sense of relaxation and escape for tourists from all over the world.

Whitehaven Beach is just a thirty-minute trip on a high-speed catamaran, and Hamilton Island offers several Whitehaven Beach day trips and Whitehaven Beach tours. Visitors can also choose to take a scenic helicopter tour and seaplane flights over Hill Inlet to give visitors an amazing aerial view of the magical water and sand dance below them.

Whitehaven Beach

6. Vatnajokull Ice Caves

Quiet a mesmerizing wonder of nature; the Vatnajokull ice caves are located inside an Icelandic glacier. Located on the south-east of the island, Vatnajokull itself is the largest and most voluminous Icelandic ice cap, and without a doubt one of the largest in area in Europe, so it’s no wonder visitors want to enter this massive glacier and explore its ice caves with their blue color and intriguing light. Created by the forces of the Vatnajvkull ice cap, the ice caves emerged as a result of its glacier meeting the Icelandic coastline. The cave’s ice dates back centuries, and its weight has pressed out all remnant air, so the resultant formation’s texture and colors are both brilliant and out of this world. The jewel-like interior of the ice caves makes adventure seekers feel as though they are in some sort of fairy tale world.

During the winter months is the best time to visit this attractive phenomenon, in terms of accessibility and also in terms of safety. However, it is always a risk to enter an ice cave and that risk increases late in the winter. Extreme caution is advised when visiting these caves and visitors should be accompanied by a tour guide and proper safety equipment. Conditions can also be different between caves and further safety equipment might be required.

Vatnajokull

5. Lake Natron

Dry, desolate and hauntingly beautiful; wild and remote Lake Natron lies in the northeast of Tanzania in between the Ngorongoro Highlands and Serengeti plains. Situated at the base of Africa’s only active volcano Oldonyo Lengai, meaning Mountain of God, Lake Natron is one of the most alkaline lakes in the world. The alkaline water in Lake Natron can reach a pH as high as 10.5 and is so alkaline in fact, it can burn the skin and eyes of animals that aren’t adapted to it. The water’s alkalinity comes from the sodium carbonate and other minerals that flow into the lake from the surrounding hills, hot springs, and small rivers. Since it is a shallow lake in a hot climate, its water temperature can reach as high as 106 degrees Fahrenheit.

Many rumors surround Tanzania’s Lake Natron, claiming the lake turns animals to stone. While the temperature and pH do indeed make it a dangerous place for a lot of creatures, the myths are only partly true. In fact, the lake is home to millions of tiny crustaceans, and during breeding season, the lake attracts more than 2 million lesser flamingos that use the shallow lake as their primary breeding ground in Africa, making it one of the most important flamingo breeding grounds on Earth.

Lake Natron

4. Kelimutu

Mount Kelimutu, located on the island of Flores, is an Indonesian volcano and home to three summit crater lakes. Kelimutu itself means Boiling Lake and often visitors can see wreathes of steam rise from the surface of the lakes. The summit can be accessed via trek by those adventurous enough to hike to the crest of Kelimutu. Although they are all located on the same volcanic peak, each lake is distinctly a different color and fluctuates between shades as well. Although no extensive scientific evidence has been done, it’s assumed that the color variations are due to underwater fumaroles. These are openings in the planet’s surface which let out gas and steam that creates an upwelling and constantly change its appearance. As a result, the visitor is never quite sure what color the lakes will be when they reach the top.

The three crater lakes all have different names and for centuries the locals have believed that the lakes are the spiritual resting place of their ancestors. It is said the lakes change color according to the mood of the spirits. The Lake of Old People is where it is said the spirits of the old who have led honorable lives go to rest. The Lake of Old People is typically blue. The Lake of Young Men and Maidens is characteristically green. The third, the Enchanted Lake can often be seen as blood red or even olive green. Supposedly, this is the lake where the evil people go, regardless of age or sex.

Kelimutu

3. Lake Resia

Bordering Austria and Switzerland, Lake Resia holds Italy’s most famous drowned town. The 3.7 mile long Lake Resia, with its majestic background of the Vallelunga Valley, looks something like out of a postcard, but the history behind it is far less pleasant. More than 60 years ago, after the end of World War II, the city of Curon was flooded by a power company’s plan to join two natural lakes to create a giant dam. Now, the only visible remnant of the sunken town is the Romanesque bell tower of a submerged 14th-century church. Below the waters of Lake Resia, the remains of over 163 buildings are now home to fish and other creatures, rather than people.

Nowadays, visitors and tourists can hike or bike along the stunning mountain path surrounding the lake (which is also known as Reschensee or Lago di Resia). During the winter months, the waters above this sunken town freeze, allowing visitors to walk on water and to access the only visible relic of Curon. Prior to demolition and creation of the lake, the bells of the church were removed, but rumor has it that during the winter months the church bells still sound. Spooky!

Lake Resia

2. Gullfoss

Gullfoss, translated to “Golden Falls”, is one the most visited tourist attractions in Iceland, and by  far Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Part of The Golden Circle tourist route in Southern Iceland, the three primary stops of the route are Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and the geysers Geysir and Strokkur. Gullfoss is situated in the upper part of the River Hvita (White River); the water cascades down two distinct drops in succession at right angles of each other, one 36 feet high, and the other 72 feet high, into a 1.5 mile long canyon below. The rock of the river bed was formed during an interglacial period. On a sunny day, the mist clouds surrounding the thrashing falls are filled with tons of rainbows, providing a marvelous display of color and motion.

Gullfoss almost disappeared due to the desire for hydroelectricity by various foreign enterprises at the beginning of the 20th century. The daughter of the farmer who owned the land opposed this and even threatened to throw herself into the falls. She fought bravely against the use of the falls for hydroelectricity for decades, and thanks to her extreme efforts, The Ministry of Culture and Education finally signed an agreement creating a nature reserve around Gullfoss in 1979. There is even a memorial near the falls commemorating the farmer’s daughter.

Gullfoss

1. Melissani Cave

Located on the Greek island of Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea, in Greek mythology, the site is also known as the Cave of the Nymphs. The cave has a lake inside of it, and on the outside, the cave is surrounded by lush green vegetation. The cave itself is B-shaped with dual chambers, which are separated by an island in the center. The roof of one of the chambers is caved in, allowing sunlight to enter the sky-blue colored lake, creating a magical illusion that the whole cave of Melissani is lit with blue light and that boats are floating through the air. The cave is 11.5 feet long, 118 feet high, and 131 feet wide. A balcony was built on top of the cave for tourists to get a spectacular view of the inside from the top.

Legend has is that the nymph Melissani committed suicide in the lake because Pan, god of the wild, shepherds, and flocks, and companion of the nymphs, would not reciprocate Melissani’s love. Dolphins are also associated with this myth, having been used by the nymph to carry messages to her beloved Pan. After her death the dolphins turned into stone in the cave, and you can quite clearly see the shapes of dolphins in the stalactites within the cave.

Melissani Cave

The 13 Best Sports Stadiums Outside of North America

Even though North America is home to some great sports venues, a number of countries throughout the world have very unique and original designs that home some of their most cherished sports teams. Some are nearly brand new, some are bordering on holy sites to team fans, and some are just plain cool to see, but each stadium provides the spectator with a truly one-of-a-kind experience.  Here are some of the best stadiums that given the chance, you should definitely check out on your travels:

13. The Float@Marina Bay (Singapore)

Located in Singapore, The Float@Marina Bay is the largest floating stage in the world. Made entirely of steel, the platform can sustain a total weight the equivalent of: 9,000 people, 200 tons of stage equipment and three 30-ton military vehicles. The stadium has a capacity of 30,000 and hosts a number of events including soccer, concerts and exhibitions. Try to get there soon, though. The Float@Marina Bay will see a decrease in use once the new National Stadium is finished construction.

joyfull / Shutterstock.com
joyfull / Shutterstock.com

12. Stadio Giuseppe Meazza (Italy)

The stadium known as the “San Siro” is located in the San Siro district of Milan, Italy and is the home of famous soccer clubs A.C. Milan and F.C. Internazionale Milano. Though the capacity is somewhat less than its peak, the San Siro still boasts a capacity of over 80,000. The stadium is set to host the final of the 2016 UEFA Champion’s League, and has seen a number of renovations over the years after first opening in 1926. However, the stadium is set to see a decline in use in the near future, as Internazionale have plans to move out of the stadium into their own venue.

Photo by: Bjørn Giesenbauer
Photo by: Bjørn Giesenbauer

11. First National Bank Stadium (Johannesburg)

Host to the 2010 World Cup final, the stadium is officially named the First National Bank Stadium, or FNB Stadium but is more effectively nicknamed “The Calabash” (in reference to an African pot, similar in appearance) or simply “Soccer City”. The stadium saw a number of major renovations take place in the buildup to the World Cup final. With a capacity over 90,000 Soccer City is the largest stadium in the continent of Africa. The venue was also the site of the first speech given by Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison in 1990, and was where his memorial service was held. Currently, the stadium is the home of the South African national soccer and rugby teams, as well as club soccer team Kaizer Chiefs.

Photo by: Rebecca Gill
Photo by: Rebecca Gill

10. Ericsson Globe (Sweden)

Stockholm’s Ericsson Globe Arena is the largest hemispherical building in the world, and required more than 2 years worth of construction before it was finished. Shaped like a giant golf ball, the stadium has a diameter of 361 feet, and a height of 279 feet. Seating capacity is just over 16,000 for concerts and shows, and just under 14,000 for ice hockey. The Ericsson Globe is one of the most instantly identifiable stadiums in the world due to its unique shape, and even provides visitors with the chance to travel up an inclined elevator to the top of the arena, providing a great view overlooking all of Stockholm.

Nadezhda1906 / Shutterstock.com
Nadezhda1906 / Shutterstock.com

9. Azadi Stadium (Iran)

Officially ranked as the fifth largest soccer stadium in the world, Azadi Stadium in Tehran, Iran has had a record attendance of 128,000 for a match between the Iranian and Australian national soccer teams. Located in the west of Tehran, the stadium provides easy access for the majority of the cities inhabitants. Though it has a simple concrete bowl style design, the sheer size of this behemoth is amazing. The stadium is home to a pair of soccer clubs, and remains the home for the national squad.

almonfoto / Shutterstock.com
almonfoto / Shutterstock.com

8. AAMI Park (Australia)

More casually referred to as, Melbourne Rectangular Stadium is certainly one of the most unique design concepts for a stadium. Having just opened in 2010, the stadium still has a new feel in comparison to most. Boasting a capacity that is just over a modest 30,000 the stadium is home to a number of Melbourne’s soccer and rugby clubs. The “Bioframe” design features a geodesic dome roof that provides cover to most of the seats, but still allows for natural light to shrine onto the pitch.

Photo by: AsianFC
Photo by: AsianFC

7. Stade Roland Garros (France)

Roland Garros is arguably the most identifiable tennis venue in the world. The famous complex hosts the French Open that is played annually around the end of May or beginning of June. The stadium is named after French hero Roland Garros, inventor of the forward-firing aircraft machine gun, and first pilot referred to as an “ace” during World War I. The complex contains 20 courts, and even a Tenniseum, a museum dedicated to the history of tennis. The Court Phillipe Chatrier is the largest court, and is instantly identifiable to sports fans for its distinct red-clay playing surface.

Olga Besnard / Shutterstock.com
Olga Besnard / Shutterstock.com

6. Old Trafford (England)

Nicknamed by English soccer legend Sir Bobby Charlton the “Theatre of Dreams” is the second largest soccer stadium in the United Kingdom after Wembley Stadium. Old Trafford has been home to one of the most famous teams in the world, Manchester United F.C. and has served as the team’s home ground since 1910. Current capacity at Old Trafford is north of 75,000 and is expected to see some further renovations in the coming years as the stadium continues to be refurbished to keep up-to-date with the most modern of venues.

mrmichaelangelo / Shutterstock.com
mrmichaelangelo / Shutterstock.com

5. Allianz Arena (Germany)

Home to one of the world’s finest soccer clubs FC Bayern Munich, the Allianz Arena was the first in the world to feature a color-changeable exterior, as the stadium also hosts a second Munich soccer club as well as the 2014 World Cup Champion German national team. The stadium was constructed to host the 2006 World Cup final and is one of the most instantly recognizable in all of Europe. Around 70,000 soccer-mad German fans pack the venue every time Bayern Munich or the German national team takes the pitch, providing for a fantastic atmosphere.

Photo by: Stewart
Photo by: Stewart

4. National Stadium (Taiwan)

The largest stadium in Taiwan, this venue is truly of world-class design. Completed in 2009, the National Stadium is used mostly for soccer matches with a capacity of 55,000 spectators. Not only is the stadium defined by its dragon-like design, but also the exterior is covered in solar panels that provide nearly 100% of the power for the facility, the first in the world to do so.

Sean Hsu / Shutterstock.com
Sean Hsu / Shutterstock.com

3. Santiago Bernabeu Stadium (Spain)

The Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is a very special place in sports. Even the most casual of soccer fan across the globe has heard of Real Madrid, the giant club that calls the Bernabeu home. Not only does the team feature some of the finest talent in the world, but more than 80,000 screaming fans routinely take in matches in the capital of soccer obsessed Spain. Plans for a redevelopment are underway to increase that capacity up to 88,000 in the near future as the stadium, which opened in 1944 looks to bring in some more modern additions to enhance the spectating experience.

Santiago Bernabeu Stadium

2. Estádio Alberto J. Armando (Argentina)

Situated in the La Boca district of the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires, this stadium is nicknamed “La Bombonera” or the “Chocolate Box” in English, because of its unique “flat” stand on one side, surrounded by three steep stands on the other sides. This very unusual shape allows for 49,000 fans to fill the stadium for home games for famous Argentinian soccer club Boca Juniors. The shape allows the venue to have excellent acoustics, which makes the stadium an extremely intimidating place to play for visitors. More work is being done on the stadium, taking the atmosphere to the next level while providing more features to supporters.

Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com
Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com

1. Estádio Municipal de Braga (Portugal)

Though it only has a capacity just over 30,000 the Estádio Municipal de Braga is unforgettable. Opened in 2003 and home to Portuguese soccer club Sporting Clube de Braga, the stadium was carved from a quarry overlooking the city. Behind the goal at one end, spectators and players alike get a magnificent view of the rock walls surrounding the stadium with the city sprawling in the distance. To get around the stadium, fans travel through a plaza built beneath the surface. The stadium has received critical acclaim for its architectural design, and is approved by UEFA for use at the highest levels of club soccer.

Photo by: Leon
Photo by: Leon