For all of you multi-taskers and fidgety folk: have you ever considered going on a holiday that would teach you something you didn’t know before? Travel (no matter where you go and what you see) inherently offers the opportunity to learn new things or to see things from a different perspective. But what if the purpose of your holiday was to acquire a new skill or further your education formally? Here is some food for thought to make your next holiday a learning adventure.
1. Salsa Dancing Holiday, Cuba
Even if you’ve got two left feet, there is no denying the lure of the beat of salsa music, especially if you are in a tropical destination. For your next holiday, why not jump in with both feet (left and other left) and take a Salsa Dancing Holiday? In Cuba, many all-inclusive resorts offer complimentary salsa lessons as part of the resort amenities, but there are a number of planned itineraries available through travel companies that will arrange for dance lessons in different venues and cities over the course of your two-week stay, as well as an opportunity to savor authentic Cuban cooking, lifestyle and of course, music. By the end of your holiday, you’ll be a dancing fiend!
2. Big Life Stretch, Spain
Travel opens up opportunities that you don’t have at home, so it stands to reason that if you are seeking to make a change in your life (advance in your career, improve your relationships or work towards that elusive work/life balance) that leaving your familiar surroundings might open your mind and usher in that change. The Big Life Stretch is a one-week retreat near Malaga, Spain in the mountains. You’ll spend a very reflective week, surrounded by nature. Guests participate in scheduled life coaching, and also learn techniques to embrace change, amplified by the natural setting.
3. Learn a Language, Around the World
Instead of stumbling around in a foreign country with a guidebook, trying out phrases, why not make learning the language the aim of the holiday? There are literally dozens of travel companies that offer language travel experiences and courses. You simply need to consider what language you’d like to learn, and where you’d like to go to learn it. Another thing to consider- how do you want to learn? While there is undeniable merit to classroom learning, why not take advantage of local learning opportunities to see your language of choice in action (and use it yourself- which is the real way to learn a language). Seek out travel companies that include field trips, and offer other leisure opportunities (i.e. wine tours, cycling tours, etc.) that will allow you to get the most immersive (and fun) experience that you can.
4. Surfing School, Canary Islands
Surfing is just cool- cool to watch and even cooler if you’re the one of the surfboard. While there are any number of surf destinations worldwide, beginners will appreciate having a school with hands on instructors and a holiday experience meant to help you learn to surf- but enjoy the destination as well. 7 Island Surf in the Canary Islands specializes in Beginner and Intermediate surf lessons (although they offer a range to appeal to different skill levels). All guests need to do is book their flights, and they take care of your accommodations and your lesson plans. They also offer Surf & Spa packages as well as Surf and Yoga/Pilates packages too.
5. Creative Writing Holiday, France
Got a novel or other piece of writing lurking inside of you? What better way to smash through that Writer’s Block then to visit a locale that is scenic and receive training to be a better (or to start as a) Creative Writer? Abri Creative Writing Holidays in the Cévennes Mountains of the Languedoc region in the South of France offers residential writing retreats and programs to cater to beginners and experienced writers alike. They specialize and offer support with professional tutors in all kinds of genres- from poetry to prose to memoirs. These holidays include food and accommodation, and are limited to 16 people to keep the setting intimate and muse-worthy.
6. Photography Holiday, Spain
Taking pictures is a major part of every holiday, but how many of us are any good at it? Why not take the opportunity on your next holiday to learn how to really capture your travel memories- on this trip and on every trip you take afterwards. In scenic Torrix, Spain, Awaken Holidays offers 8 day long all-inclusive vacations (room and board), photography workshops and personalized photography tours. Places this tour visit to photograph include traditional Spanish homes, the mountains, rock formations, and the sun rising over Lake Vineula.
7. Wild Cookery, Scotland
Everyone is familiar with cooking holidays, which are enormously popular, particularly in regions of Italy and France, where travelers flock to learn regional cooking in the most authentic way. If you are looking for a cooking holiday with a twist, consider the Wild Rose Outdoor Cookery and Foraging courses. Head out to the Scottish Highlands for the weekend, where you’ll forage for greens and other ingredients and learn about ancient ways of cooking outdoors, like fireside cookery, hot stones and pit cooking. Pit cooking is the original crock pot, where food simmers in its own juices for hours, and is excellent for cooking soups and stews.
Most travelers to Cuba have one thing in common; they tend to stick with the better-known areas of Havana, Varadero or Cayo Coco. Unfortunately for those travelers they are missing out on an abundance of charming towns that offer vacationers an unforgettable experience. If you really want to experience authentic rum, cigars, Rumba music and classic 50’s cars, there is no better place to visit than these seven charming small towns.
Cuba’s oldest and most isolated town is located over the hills and on the wet and windy side of the Cuchillos del Toa Mountains. Don’t let that steer you away from experiencing the atmosphere and people here, best described as mysterious, surreal, outlandish and hallucinogenic. Secluded beaches and virgin rainforests begging to be explored surround the unspoiled colonial village. You won’t find any fancy hotels or resorts here either, visitors will stay in casa particular or as we know them a bed and breakfast. Expect home cooked meals of fried chicken, beans, sweet plantains or fresh seafood. This is the land of great rainfall and many rivers, which means the lush green vegetation thrives and visitors shouldn’t miss boating between the tall cliffs at the mouth of the Yumuri River. Head into the mountains to see the stone zoo, where a farmer who taught himself to sculpt has created over 400 animals out of the original stone. Baracoa, largely undiscovered and the perfect charming small town to discover in Cuba.
Welcome to the ‘real Cuba’ is a phrase that is often associated with Matanzas. The city offers little in the way of standard tourist sights but offers a ton of under-the-radar pleasures. This town is the home of Cuba’s finest provincial theaters and is the birthplace of most of the eloquent poets and writers. Two forms of Cuban music were hatched here, the danzon and rumba, along with various religions of African origin. It is a town loaded with interesting history and thriving with cultural life. There are a few beaches here, close to the downtown center where locals are often seen swimming and fishing and visitors are always welcome to join. More than likely though you will be listening to some drummers in the Marina neighborhood, hanging with the artists and dancing the nights away on the streets. Expect to stay in casa particular, eat amazing freshly made food and meet some of the most interesting people in the country.
5. Santiago de Cuba
Located on the southern edge of Cuba, this is the second most important city in Cuba after Havana and one of two things will happen when you visit; you will love it or hate it. This city can be taken one of two ways, the first as a hot city full of hustlers and hagglers or a charming cultural capital that has played an extremely important part in Cuban cultural history. Nowhere else in Cuba will you find such a mix of diverse people and history, Castro used this city to launch his nationalistic revolution, the first rum factory was built here and just about every Cuban music genre first emanated from here. Tourists here are welcomed with open arms and there are plenty of hotels and casa particular to stay in, whether on the beach or in the city. Stroll through the winding streets, have picnics in the shady parks or tour the museums and theater and discover this charming city in Cuba.
They say that Christopher Columbus took his first step onto Cuba here, and whether that is true or not, the people of Holguin will fiercely defend that statement. This is the place where you will find the most intimate and picturesque beaches in Cuba, with warm turquoise waters and thick vegetation. Holguin is not just a town but an actual province as well, and many small towns make up this area. Most visitors here choose to spend their time snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, horseback riding and cycling. The city of Holguin is known for its beautiful parks, public squares and cultural centers. One of the most unique Holguin attractions is the Museo Indocubano in Banes, which has an impressive collection of artifacts from pre-Columbian Cuban culture. Whether you stay in one of the larger resorts or choose to stay in the actual town of Holguin, it won’t disappoint.
It is the most Spanish of the Cuban cities and it is here where you can still see kids kicking balls in the street and old men and women sitting on the stoops watching the people pass by. Walking around this town is one of the favorite things to do, the streets are designed like a maze and it is easy to get lost for hours wandering around. The historic center is considered one of the largest and best preserved on the island and the towering lavish churches delight visitors. One of the more unique features in this town is the decorative tinajones (earthenware jars) on the streets. The people of Camagüey originally produced the jars to collect rainwater during a drought and now they are a decorative trademark. Art galleries and public squares invite visitors in, and don’t be surprised if you end up leaving here with more than one piece of art.
This charming waterfront city is situated on the bay of the same name and is truly a picturesque nautical setting, earning its name “the Pearl of the South”. The reefs along the coastline are absolutely stunning and draw divers from all over the world, as well as kayakers and boaters who look forward to the calm waters. The architecture in this city also draws visitors who look forward to discovering the imposing fortresses and the Cultural Center. It is also here where you will find the longest street lined with trees in Cuba. There is no shortage of parks, bars, restaurants and hotels to entertain any visitors to the area.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is largely unknown when it comes to visitors outside of the country but we highly suggest making your way here on your next visit to Cuba. This charming town is full of museums and many proclaim that the actual town itself is just one big museum. The clip clop sounds of horse hooves play out on the cobblestone streets while local men sell bread from their bicycle baskets. But don’t be fooled by this sleepy town, there is quite the happening nightlife that takes place after the sun goes down. Visit one of two discos, especially the one that is located inside the cave or visit one of the new private restaurants that have popped up in recent years. Cultural walking tours, cycles to the beach and steam train trips are just a slice of what you can do here in this town.
Thoughts of Cuba evoke images of pristine beaches, far-reaching ocean, and tropical drinks. Cuba is a renowned beach destination but it’s also so much more than that: think wild, unspoiled wilderness, sun-bleached landscapes, lush forests, and abounding diversity in wildlife. This is an Indiana-Jones-worthy backdrop with plenty of places uninterrupted by throngs of people. Capture peaceful authenticity in Cuba across wonderful landscapes outside of hot spots and enjoy rich, fulfilling experiences. Mountain ranges, natural reserves, lavish jungle, traditional villages, and historic sites reveal a side of Cuban most never get to know.
6. La Boca, Camagüey Province
La Boca is a bonafide fishing village in Cuba’s Camagüey province where clapboard huts are tucked along the coastline, overlooked by palms offering slices of beach shade. The village offers a look at local life through residents hustling catches out of the water, laundry swaying on taut lines between homes, and kids playing in the streets. Two seafood restaurants are located at La Boca beach’s far end, mostly catering to tourists day-tripping from popular Santa Maria. Avoid it and you’re likely not to see another tourist all day. Go a step further and rent a room from a villager. Trade buffet fish for a fresh catch grilled in front of you, a packed sand beach for a secluded coastal stretch, and a night sky filled with constellations that seem to belong only to you.
5. Mountain Hiking, Banao & Gavilanes
Anyone considering hiking in the Cuban mountains has likely come across the names Pico Turquino and/or Sierra del Escambray. One of the best spots is the mountain retreat Reserva Ecológica Alturas de Banao, accessible from Banao less than 20 kilometers from the central Cuban city of Sancti Spíritus. The area is reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands, with barren, sheer, craggy cliffs and four distinct ecosystems easily explored from the base of Campismo Planta Cantú. One of the top highlights is a nod to Che Guevara; hike to his old guerilla headquarters, Comandancia del Guerrillero Heroico, in the thick of the mountains close to the village of Gavilanes. Combine a visit to Banao with a hike through Parque Nacional Caguanas. The conservation area protects semi-deciduous forests, coastal swamps, offshore cays, and lush mangroves along with 35 caverns painted with pre-Columbian images.
4. Birán Historic Site
Another excellent place to veer off onto the path less taken is at Sitio Histórico Birán, about an hour from Holguín. This is Fidel Castro’s birthplace, a complete two-story home surrounded by cane fields and pastures where he was born on August 13, 1926. The wood-built home is often called primitive and devoid of brick, mortar, and cement. But Castro’s father was an important man whose home was substantial in its simplicity. In 2002, the farm became a National Historic Site and was opened to the public for viewing. This became a rather big deal in the country and attracted thousands of visitors. It’s heavy on security though–armed guards escort tourists through the family home, Fidel’s austere schoolhouse, and his parents’ graves. Within the home, Fidel’s personal belongings are on display including the crib he used as a baby, his basketball, and his favorite baseball.
3. Playa Los Pinos, Cayo Sabinal
Some of the most remote places in Cuba reveal the country’s most beautiful backdrops, devoid of tourists and filled with nature’s most impressive creations. Cayo Sabinal, one of the most remote cays in Cuba, is connected to mainland Camagüey province by an exceptionally narrow slice of land on the tip of the northern coast. The sun-bleached landscape is wild and stunning, reached by a long and picturesque road created by crushed coral that seems to hover above Laguna de los Flamencos, reflective waters home to hot pink, tip-toeing flamingos, a sight that becomes familiar when traveling in these parts. On this cay is Playa Pinos, one of the most beautiful beaches in Cuba, and deserving of the description “breathtaking.” Where on most of Cuba’s best beaches you’ll most certainly find crowds, here it’s more likely you’ll find silence meeting headlong with the sound surf breaking. A row of homespun cabanas are the only accommodation option and lunch comes directly from the ocean.
2. Protected Reserves
Reserva de la Biosfera Península de Guanahacabibes lies at Cuba’s western tip, and is a protection zone filled with mangroves, semi-deciduous forests, and a vast array of wildlife. The peninsula recedes moving toward Cabo de San Antonio and here the land eventually narrows to its tip. A good hotel has opened in recent years, which makes exploring the dramatic seascapes, caverns, and other attractions in this remote area much easier. Guides are mandatory but offer excellent comprehensive tours and ensure the protected area remains so. Deer, crocodiles, wild pigs, and endangered cranes live within nearby Área Protegida Sur de la Isla de la Juventud, another of Cuba’s most important protected areas. A local tour company operating out of Nueva Gerona town can arrange a variety of tours. They also take visitors to the caves of Cueva Punta del Este where guests get a glimpse at pre-Columbian drawings which present a remarkable look into history.
1. Sierra Maestra, Granma Province
World renowned revolutions started in the Sierra Maestra, a mountain range that has attracted the likes of Celia Sanchez, Che Guvara, and Fidel Castro. Sierra Maestra is the highest mountain chain in the country, runs west, and crosses Oriente Province in the south where it peaks abruptly from the shore. Important to the country for its rich cache of minerals (chromium, manganese, iron, and copper) it sees little traffic save for a small stream of hikers. The range is lush and green and smothered in towering palms. Hiking is excellent–a stop at the revolutionary base camp means standing in virgin jungle where world history was repeatedly made and views are epic. The symbolic area is topped by Pico Turquino, a whopping 6,580-foot summit, the highest in Cuba. The nearby village of Santo Domingo, an ideal mountain access point, offers clean classic cabins for overnight visitors.
For the ultimate paradise experience, head to theses 10 pristine getaways filled with tropical wonders. In a world of underwater coral gardens teeming with marine wildlife and lush tropical rainforests, the islands of the Caribbean are some of the most cherished natural wonders in the world. In fact, vacationers travel from all corners to witness the clear, turquoise waters and scuba dive in the rare marine sanctuaries.
Set sail for a magical adventure in the tropics of Guadaloupe, a natural paradise filled with unforgettable activities like snorkeling the reefs, swimming with dolphins, and relaxing on white sandy beaches with a bright colored cocktail. With a minimum of tourism infrastructure, the large island is ideal for exploring pristine waterfalls and rivers in Basse-Terre, the mountainous western half and the smaller islands that float nearby in a stunning turquoise hued-sea. Other highlights can be found on the north coast at the Port D’Enfer and Pointe de la Grande Vigie with dramatic cliffs scattered across the dazzling aqua waters. Nature lovers can go on mountain treks through tropical jungles in Basse-Terre on a trail leading to the magnificent Cascade aux Ecrevisses on Route de la Traversee. And for an unforgettable scuba diving excursion, grab your gear and head to the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve, a protected underwater oasis.
With Cuba’s vibrant cultural and history starting with the Spanish influence, get ready to enter a world of café con leches, vintage 1950s cars, and the cherished Buena Vista Social Club. Part of the Greater Antilles, Cuba is a perfect getaway spot for experiencing their distinctive cultural mecca of Havana and discovering some of the most untouched marine ecosystems in the world. For a scuba diving adventure of a lifetime, head to La Costa de las Piratas, an underwater sanctuary of 56 reef sites teeming with marine wildlife. Along the way, make a stop at the beachside town of Varadero to sample some Cuban cigars and drink rum with the sociable locals. All-inclusive hotels line the island’s most popular beach and could be a useful home base for afternoon water excursions.
8. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
What sets St. Vincent and the Grenadines apart is its dramatic natural beauty and like many islands in the Caribbean, a great way to see the sights is by sailboat. You might recognize the white sandy beaches, waterfalls, and lush rainforests in scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean, which was filmed here. It also is home to Mick Jagger and David Bowie’s private islands outside of St. Vincent. With its jagged mountain terrain and La Soufriere volcano in the north, it’s a haven for eco-tours and nature trekkers. The hike up the 4,000-ft volcano is about a four-hour climb and along the way, you’ll pass through a series of diverse vegetation like tropical rainforests, coconut plantations, and a cloud forest with stunted growth.
With its tropical flowers covering the countryside and lush mountain rainforests in the background, Martinique is a beautiful getaway that inspired the famous landscapes by French artist Paul Gaugin. To see the vibrant natural wonders up close, head to the Carbet Mountains on a scenic drive through the interior rainforest. The drive starts at Route de la Trace that follows an old path laid by the Jesuit priests in the 1700s. Scuba diving excursions are also popular, especially the graveyard of sunken ships off Saint-Pierre and the caves and tunnels off Rocher du Diamant. For the novice diver, a good place to get your fins wet are in the shallow coral gardens near Cap Enrage, a underwater habitat filled with tropical fish and sea turtles. The Main Hull, a sunken Canadian barge, is also an ideal spot for the beginner wreck diver.
6. St. Lucia
When it comes to tropical island getaways, you can expect all the standards of paradise in St. Lucia, a small island in the Windwards and neighboring Martinique and St. Vincent. Get swept away in a natural wonderland filled with turquoise waters teeming with fish and corals, tropical rainforests, and unspoiled, white sand beaches. A good place to get into the island spirit is at Discovery, a high-end resort in the popular Marigot Bay. Flanked by lush, green hills, the bay is considered one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean and has been the setting of several films, including Firepower (1979) and Dr. Dolittle (1967). For stunning bay views and lounging poolside with cocktails, Discovery suites are nestled high in the hills overlooking the bustling marina. From here, you can take excursions to nearby coral sites for an afternoon of snorkeling.
With its beautiful beaches, clear turquoise waters and natural wonders abounding, the tiny island of Barbados encourages exploration, particularly along the coastline of Bathsheba, which is known for its massive rock formations and boulders scattered along the shore. Another popular eco-destination is Harrison’s Cave near St. Thomas, a spectacular labyrinth of hidden waterfalls and underground rivers. On the west coast, you’ll find pristine sandy beaches that are ideal for sunbathing under coconut and palm trees swaying in the breeze and with a coast lined with luxury resort hotels in the distance. The island is also full of colonial relics like St. Nicholas Abbey, a grand stone mansion built on a sugar plantation in the mid-17th century.
4. Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire
Just outside the Atlantic hurricane belt are the Dutch isles of Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire, which are protected from storms by their strategic southern Caribbean location. In Aruba, you’ll find a mix of lively street scenes at the action-packed casinos and resorts lining the coast. Close by is the Arikok National Park, a change of pace with its natural tranquility and thriving wildlife. Meanwhile, over in Bonaire, the flamingo colony in southern Pekelmeer enjoys protected seclusion in between trips from Venezuela for nesting obligations. The isle also has several protected marine sanctuaries, making it one of the top scuba diving destinations in the Caribbean.
Standing out among the beautiful islands of the French Antilles is Anquilla, a modern resort island that is cherished by vacationers for its bright turquoise waters that glow from the surrounding ancient coral base. All around the island you’ll find cays and coral reef sites for unforgettable scuba diving and snorkeling excursions. Back on the mainland are some of the Caribbean’s most luxurious resorts like the swanky Carimar Beach Club on Meads Bay Beach or Cap Jula lining the west end of the coastline. The flatlands of the interior are also ideal for a horseback ride through the tropics and the horse handlers at Seaside Stables are always ready to help you saddle up for a romantic sunset trail ride in paradise.
2. Virgin Islands
The jewel of the Virgin Islands is St. John and the Virgin Islands National Park is the major highlight, a tropical Eden filled with pristine natural beaches, verdant hillsides, and reef patches in Caneel Bay. The great thing about tiny islands is that you’re never far from a strip of coastline that invites afternoons of swimming and snorkeling year round. Day sailing is also a favorite activity and a great way to explore the waters and inlets surrounding the islands. Boats leave daily from Cruz Bay and venture out to offshore cays and snorkeling meccas. Back on the mainland are excellent wooded hiking trails like Reef Bay Trail and Lind Point Trail, which have impressive views of Cruz Bay.
1. Trinidad and Tobago
Situated in the southernmost part of the Caribbean chain, the twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a fascinating getaway with its diverse natural habitats and thriving tourism infrastructure. The shorelines range from wild, hilly terrain carpeted with verdant foliage to calm, sandy beaches that encourage blissful seaside afternoons and tranquil sunset strolls. Tobago’s central forest preserve is also full of wildlife and exotic plants in the oldest protect rainforest in the Western Hemisphere. More lush rainforests dominate the northern landscape of Trinidad next door while peaceful waters lap onto the serene shorelines on the east coast.
For Cuba, the tourists just keep pouring in as the ‘it’ country of the Caribbean sees global attention thanks to an on-going ease of travel restrictions for Americans. And every one else seems to want to see the island trapped in a time warp before the influx of Americans changes the Cuban landscape for good. The country is said to be on track for a record-setting year of tourism, topping last years record three million visitors. With this increase in popularity, it’s no surprise that many new hotels, attractions and tours are opening next year… after all, you’ve got to give the people what they want. Let’s take a look at some of the new openings in Cuba for the coming year:
The first part to think about when looking at a trip to Cuba is how you’re going to get there, and several American airlines are addressing those issues now. CheapAir.com is launching 3 new charter flights with American Airlines. The flights will commence on December 12, 19 and 26 and fly from Los Angeles (LAX) directly to Havana.
American airline giant Delta has also announced plans for a weekly charter service from Atlanta to Havana which is said to commence April 2nd. Details around which charter operator it would partner with for the route have not been released yet.
3. Ocean by H10 Hotels
More tourists means more accommodations are required (not that there aren’t a lot already) and the incoming American market will increase demand greatly. Spain-based Ocean by H10 Hotels already has properties in Varadero and Havana but is expanding their Cuban portfolio with two new properties opening in 2016. The 800-room Ocean Casa del Mar will open in January on the island of Cayo Santa Maria while the 470-room Ocean Vista Azul will open in Varadero in December.
4. Abercrombie & Kent
Luxury and adventure travel company Amercrombie & Kent will launch its first Cuban tour in 2016 titled ‘ Signature Cuba: A Private People to People Journey’. The 7 day tour will take participants on a private journey through Havana using local guides and making stops at many of Havana’s historic and cultural attractions and family-run restaurants. The price per person (based on double occupancy) starts at $10,795 USD. Even at this price, bookings for 2016 are said to be going fast.
5. Ya’lla Tours
US based Ya’lla Tours has eight organized Cuba tour departures scheduled for 2016 (one of which is already sold out) with the last tour of the year coinciding with the Havana International Jazz Festival in December. According to the tour operator, this departure will give people the opportunity to attend the festival concerts of their choice as well as have the chance to “Meet with Cuban Jazz musicians for a casual exchange and to learn about the famous local Jazz stars, as well as the current expressions and manifestations of Afro-Cuban Jazz.” Prices for the 7-night tour start at $5,995 based on double occupancy.
6. Central Holidays
While vacation company Central Holidays has been operating five Cuba programs for a number of years, their new 2016 offering titled “AFRO CUBANISMO” is a totally new experience. company CEO Gianni Miradoli says “We’ve lined up Cuba’s top historians and experts to lead the tours,” for the 10 day itinerary and they promise visits to artist studios and performance spaces as well as dining with artists and other community representatives. Prices start at $4,199 USD per person for double occupancy.
7. Island Destinations
Luxury travel company Island Destinations has a new tour for 2016 titled ‘Ultimate Itineraries-Cuba’ and promises participants “exclusive visits to private homes and businesses in Havana” with a small tour group setting (maximum 8 guests per tour). The 4-night tour starts at $5,245 per person based on double occupancy and not including airfare from Miami.
8. Sarao’s Bar
While this Havana nightclub has been open for a while already, it’s just gaining attention as one of the biggest clubbing hotspots in Havana. Celebrities are even giving the ultra-modern club the time of day and Katy Perry, Usher and Ludacris have all been spotted here in the past few months. With names like that, you can bet this club is only going to get more attention in the coming year.
9. Carnival Cruises
This past summer, cruise giant Carnival Corp. announced it would commence sailings to Cuba starting in Spring 2016. a seven-night ‘people to people’ tour to the island via ship is said to start in May while by-weekly cruises from Miami will start in April on the company’s new socially-conscious Fathom brand.
Technically we are all in places that are about to change drastically. There are many remote idyllic, places being threatened by climate change that face melting glaciers or catastrophic flooding. But then so does Miami. Whether it’s rising sea levels, desertification, torrential monsoons, melting glaciers or ocean acidification, climate change is rapidly altering the landscape of our planet and perhaps about to destroy some of the world’s legendary vacation spots. Then there is the traditional destruction inflicted by human error and downright imbecility. More hotel rooms, spas and golf courses are part of the inherent contradictions of tourism increasing accessibility means increasing degradation. There seems to be no solution to that equation. We will be one of the last generations to see some of the Earth’s most cherished places. Here’s our list of 20 places to see before they vanish to climate change, over development and encroachment. It’s a survey of various sources from CNN to MNN (as in Mother Nature Network), at the same time being quite conscious of the other contradiction that advising more people to visit already vulnerable sites is farther contributing to the degradation. Perhaps you can solve that moral quandary by designing am environmentally sensitive visit. Or contribute to conservancy groups that are fighting to save them.
20. Gozo, Malta
CNN has this theory that once a foreign city is featured in a blockbuster movie, it takes a hit from an influx of curious tourists. Gozo, population 37,000 is a short ferry ride from Malta. Its website proudly proclaims its natural beauty, its “tortoise-like pace” and amazing history. Gozo means ‘joy’ in Castilian, so named at its founding in 1282. Last year Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt shot their latest film “By the Sea” there. Directed by Jolie, it appears to be a drama about an artistic couple’s fading marriage with Gozo subbing for France. CNN warns that “There are few better advertisements for a destination than a good movie,” and expects hordes of Brangelina fans to disturb the tranquility in search of the places the couple tried to rekindle their romance.
19. St. Kitts
With its neighbor and sidekick Nevis known as the decadent playground of the idle rich, St. Kitts is passing under the spell of the Evil Trinity of tourism; Big name hotel chains, golf course designers and marina builders. It is being done in the name of sustainability which may be easier to do environmentally that in preserving the spirit of a place heading to over development. When they open the world’s first edible golf course, you know the gimmicks have just begun.
18. The Seychelles
National Geographic rates the beach at Anse Source d’Argent as the best in the world. One of nature’s most convincing versions of paradise. The beauty of the pink sand, the coral reef sheltered by massive granite boulders brings many beach lovers to this archipelago of more than a hundred islands in the Indian Ocean but the water rises relentlessly, the perfect beaches are eroding and its coral reef, like others around the world is being degraded. Barring some miraculous engineering innovation or divine intervention, many of the islands could be lost in the next 50 years.
17. The Athabasca Glacier, Canada
With its relatively convenient location in mid-Alberta between Banff and Jasper National Parks, The Athabasca Glacier attracts more tourists than any other on the continent. It is also the largest ice field between the poles. It’s a kind of frozen tributary of the massive Columbia Ice Fields. But with ice fields north of 90, as old hands call the Arctic, the Athabasca at 52 degrees north latitude is in for The Big Melt. Parks Canada estimates it’s receding up to ten feet a year. At this rate maybe too far gone for the next generation to experience.
16. St. Helena
In its own way, St. Helena is an exotic destination. A volcanic speck of 50 square miles in the middle of the south Atlantic, it is the definition of remote, 4,000 miles east of Rio de Janeiro. Let’s face it, after Waterloo, the British were not about to exile Napoleon in Paradise. Part of its cache is that getting there is a challenge, by the Royal Mail ship St. Helena from Cape Town, Walvis Bay or Ascension Island. It’s somewhat for bird watching and its rugged terrain protects well preserved Georgian buildings. After Longwood, Napoleon’s home after 1815 (now a museum), the island’s biggest celebrity draw is Jonathon the tortoise, age 180 and going strong. The British have sunk the better part of half a billion dollars into an airport for the tiny island to open early in 2016. For that chunk of change, expect more than the usual 3,000 or so visitors soon.
15. Taj Mahal, India
Even the great frescoes of the Sistine Chapel dulled with age and the emission from centuries of candle smoke and neglect. But they were inside the walls of a building in the First World, whereas the Taj Mahal is neither. The whole point of the spectacular tribute to an Emperor’s late wife, is its pristine whiteness indicative of the purity of their love. But the air quality in India’s major cities is worse than the horrific pollution levels of Beijing. Fading to yellow or rust is not just a cosmetic downgrade it degrades its very meaning. An ornate mausoleum of white marble, The Taj Mahal is the sparkling jewel of Muslim art in India. Built in the 17th century by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his favorite wife, The Taj currently has more than 3 million visitors a year and the heat, foot traffic and toxic air are beginning to undermine the building’s structural integrity. It’s not hard to see a lengthy shutdown for restoration in the near future, not to mention banning people from going inside.
14. Dead Sea
There is the old joke that someone says he’s so old he remembers when the Dead Sea was only sick. Sadly that’s no longer just a joke. It is being sucked dry by the water-desperate countries around it who are helping themselves to the water in the River Jordan, the sea’s main source. It has shrunk by a third in size and scientists fear if the rate of attrition continues, the intensely salted water some claim has medicinal qualities, has maybe 50 years of life left.
13. The Galapagos Islands
Truth be told Europeans have been abusing the Galapagos since the late 19th century when pirates used it as a base to launch their raids. Darwin didn’t arrive until 1835 to begin on what would become The Origin of the Species 25 years later. Now there are pages of tours echoing the name of his ship The Beagle. The islands are threatened by too many people. Too many insensitive people acting reprehensibly to degrade this natural treasure to take the greatest selfies and poach plants and animals (not necessarily at the same time.) The prognosis is much better than many other sites however because the ecosystem, while delicate, can still be saved by limiting if not stopping altogether, the onslaught of tourists. So if it’s on your bucket list…tread lightly.
12. Glacier National Park Montana
In fact, anything with the word “Glacier’ in its name or title may be at risk, barring some miraculous reversal in climate change, the effects are well documented. They are living on borrowed time, the more temperate the climate the more critical the patient. The number of glaciers in this stunningly beautiful park on the Montana-Canada border has shrunk by 75% in the last century. Pessimistic estimates say the glaciers and the ecosystem that depends on them could be gone by 2030. The good news if you’re into dark humor; the surfing in Montana is about to improve dramatically.
11. South Australia
One of those areas facing the climate change double whammy, coastal flooding and interior desertification the Australian government has studied and published many daunting studies on the effects. Rising sea levels will threaten hundreds of miles of beaches and the lovely city of Adelaide will be put at risk. The soaring temperatures and absence of rain in the interior will challenge some of the most renowned wine growing regions in the world, including the Barossa and Clare Valleys. While the region accounts for only 7% of Australia’s population, it is also responsible for half of the $1.3 billion in wine exports. Unless you are entertained somehow by catastrophic flooding and drought, best to go soon.
10. Greek Islands
There are 6,000 islands from Aegina to Zaforas in the Ionian and Aegean seas off the Greek coast. Only 227 are inhabited and only 50 have airports. Traveling between them has always been a question of taking leisurely ferries with shall we say occasionally regular schedules. Until now after a Greek airline has announced to connect another 100 by seaplane. As always accessibility is a mixed blessing. The islands of Crete, Skyros and Pelion are first on the list with more to come as early as year’s end. Book accordingly. Unless you like crowded beaches, then this is your lucky year.
9. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia
The famous falls are twice the height of Niagara with a fraction of the tourists. At least until the new Victoria Falls International Airport, on the Zimbabwe/Zambia, border opens in the fall of 2015. It’s being built to handle what pilots call “Heavy Metal”, wide body A340’s and Boeing 777’s and their human cargo. It will be a huge boost for the tourism sector in the long-suffering country. The five regional airlines that used the old airport will be joined by British British Airways, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Emirates, and Kenya Airways, just to start.
8. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean
An idyllic place. Everything you wish for in a Caribbean destination. And less, without the crowds, partiers and such. Beaches rank among the best in the world, coral reefs provide diving that’s to die for, it’s care free relaxation in a setting almost too beautiful to be true. But it’s always been a bit of a schlep to get there by connecting flight. The new $250,000,000 Argyle International Airport , will come with direct flights to North American and European cities increasing capacity by at least 400%. Plus it is upgrading its port infrastructure to bring in more cruise ships whose environmental record has been somewhere between bad and wretched. The good news for would-be visitors is that the airport is behind schedule for those who would like to have the island experience before it gets paved and up go the condos.
Lake Nicaragua is a scenic, unspoiled place with coastal towns lost to time and lots of fishing spots locals love. It has been fast-tracked to the environmental critical list by a crazy ambitious $50 billion Chinese-backed project to build a canal three times the length of the Panama Canal from the Pacific to the Caribbean Sea and hence the Atlantic, in the process trampling through prized lakes, wetlands, coral reefs and any number of delicate ecosystems in Central America and the Caribbean. The Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences warns “this canal would create an environmental disaster in Nicaragua and beyond. Tourist visits have soared since the construction started.
6. Papua New Guinea
There is an automatic exoticism to the south Pacific and in the case of Papua New Guinea, it’s enhanced by its status as one of the last truly unexplored places on earth. The government has expressed a “wish” to maintain the rarely seen villages as the basis for its society. It’s a nice gesture, but at the same time they’re expanding the almost non-existent tourism infrastructure starting with cruise ships and with them a fading chance to experience a land not far removed from first contact.
5. The Alps, Europe
The mighty Alps are facing an uphill battle they can’t win. The evidence is incremental but unmistakable. The temperature, even on peaks over 10,000 feet has been steadily rising. The elevation at which snow falls and accumulates is falling. Towns and cities dependent on skiing for their livelihoods are taking strong measures to lower local CO2 emissions, but climate change scientists say the effects of climate change could hit hard by 2040. So maybe the problem will be solved by then, it still leaves you at least 25 years to book, but after that forget the skies and take hiking boots and sunblock.
4. Venice, Italy
Like the famous writer Mark Twain, reports of the death of Venice have been greatly exaggerated. The magical kingdom of canals and Renaissance masterpieces has been written off many times before. But the severe flooding it has long suffered has become deeper and more chronic. When you can stop on your way to St. Mark’s and, bend down and catch fish with your bare hands, the fat lady may not be singing but is definitely warming up. The prognosis: the only people to see Venice past the 22nd century are likely scuba divers and snorkelers. However, the city has miraculously hung tough before. It may not be clear just how just yet, but surely no expense will be spared to save one of the greatest treasures on the planet.
3. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Another long running natural disaster that could have been easily mitigated by sustainable practices. The fabulous reef has been assaulted not only by climate change but by human stupidity. Higher water temperatures and its older foes of pollution and acidification from ever rising carbon dioxide emissions are killing off the corals at an alarming rate. More recent threats are damage caused by the development of Australian ports to export coal to China, thereby contributing to more CO2, hence more damage to the reef and its $4 billion in tourist income. A whole new enemy has emerged as well in industrial overfishing which doesn’t directly damage reefs around the world, but destroys the fish stocks that are part of its ecosystem. The wonderful reef in Belize is facing the same threat of death by coral bleaching.
Oh the irony. According to CNN, the son of Che Guevara, the iconic Marxist guerrilla leader, has turned out to be quite the entrepreneur, launching a motorcycle tour company for the biking crowd to see the island from behind their choppers. With the easing of American travel restrictions, the fabric of the island is in for rapid change for the less impoverished though not necessarily better. Not to revel in other’s poverty but the anachronism of the island frozen in a time warp by antiquated Communist central planning was part of the charm, like the famous 1950’s vintage vehicles constantly repaired and rebuilt out of economic necessity. The wonderful beaches are already popular and if there are bikers, the massive cruise ships won’t be far behind. Hemingway’s Havana is already on borrowed time.
Expect to see more headlines like this one from the BBC: “Should tourists be banned from Antarctica?” It’s feared that Antarctica is shedding up to 160 billion tons of ice annually and rising. The biggest threat to the ice cap is warming temperatures, not humans. Less than 40,000 people visit every year and only a quarter of them actually go ashore. Tour companies abide by strict international guidelines to limit human impact but those guidelines are voluntary. That human impact may be minimal, but any additional pressure on an increasingly vulnerable ecosystem is critical. There will be many more calls for restrictions to follow the BBC’s warnings. It won’t disappear in a century but trips to see it may be extinct long before.
The tragic events of the Paris attacks and political instability in many countries has some travelers re-evaluating their upcoming travel plans. In the wake of the attacks, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office released a list of terror threat ratings by country, and the surprising part is that more than 30 countries around the world are currently sitting at a threat level of ‘high’. Vacation favorites like Spain, Australia, Thailand and much of Europe all have a level 4 (high) rating, putting them alongside countries like Syria, Iraq and Nigeria. If you’d rather have peace of mind on your vacation here are 8 countries that currently have a low, level 1 threat rating as per the Foreign Office report:
If you were hoping to escape for an exotic trip through Asia this winter, you still can and Laos is one of a few countries that poses a low threat of terrorism activities. There are other dangers to be aware of in this beautiful country like drug trade and unexploded ordnance in certain rural areas but these issues are nothing new. A visit to the capital and largest city of Vientiane will allow you to enjoy the many temples and Buddhist monuments located within the city.
If you’re looking for a far-flung vacation destination with political stability, low threat of terrorism and plenty to see and do, Japan should be a strong contender. Shop in Tokyo’s Ginza fashion district, explore the Imperial Palace and gardens and dine on some of the best and freshest sushi you can get on this planet.
Another exotic Asian destination and popular place for backpackers and budget travelers, Vietnam currently has a low threat of terrorism activity. In visiting the country, you’ll quickly find it’s a place of breathtaking natural beauty, abundant in beaches, historic architecture and friendly people.
If a trip to the mysterious island of Madagascar has always seemed out of reach, perhaps now is the time to consider this popular eco-travel country for a holiday. Though the threat of terrorism is low in Madagascar, there are other safety concerns to be aware of such as political issues which sometimes result in violence. Still, thousands travel to this country annually and without issue to see the amazing scenery and wildlife that can only be found here.
Canadians and Europeans (and soon to be Americans) will be pleased to hear that Cuba is currently low on the threat level. The popular winter vacation destination is a favorite for offering an affordable escape from the chilly winter months. Visitors can opt for the popular resort life offered in many towns around the country or instead, head to the capital city of Havana for an authentic cultural experience without the worries of many other countries.
3. Costa Rica
This Latin American gem is perhaps one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Central America, so thankfully for travelers there is little threat of terror at this time. The green country famously abolished their army in 1949 becoming one of only a few nations without a standing army. It’s a perfect retreat for beach seekers, eco-travelers and adventure types looking for their next big thrill.
While bordered by higher threat countries like Colombia and Peru, Ecuador remains at a loe level 1 threat level. Good news for travelers who have been thinking of visiting this country whose popularity has been growing exponentially in recent years. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Quito where every angle provides a picture perfect view, rich in colonial history.
While already wildly popular in recent years, Iceland remains a place of safe travel. The Nordic nation, like Costa Rica, has long been considered a peaceful country and has no standing army of its own. Visitors will be nothing short of awestruck when they take in landscapes that seem almost otherworldly. A visit to the famous Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa is a must and you won’t want to miss out on the notoriously fun nightlife in the capital city of Reykjavik, not to mention catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights in action.
While some of us are still hanging on to our pumpkin spice lattes and savoring the last days of fall, others are already daydreaming about how they’re going to escape the snow. Although lots of vacations are expensive and costs can be prohibitive for some, these 8 locations will help you travel on a budget this winter.
Cuba has long been a fairly inexpensive vacation spot for Canadians and Americans willing to risk not being able to get back into their country. Although U.S. relations with Cuba have been improving, travel restrictions for tourism are still in place. For Canadians and others, Cuba remains an inexpensive Caribbean option. Havana is the place to go for the most culture, although other popular spots include Manzanillo de Cuba and Varadero. Round-trip flights can be as low as $300 USD, and hotels start at $50 USD per night. If you’re looking for an all-inclusive option, things get even more affordable: a 7-night package deal, including all taxes and fees, starts around $380 USD for 2 people.
Here’s a destination not many people would consider when they think about flying south for the winter: Panama. This Central American country doesn’t get a lot of love from sun-seekers. Nonetheless, Panama City is a prime destination. The flight will set you back around $550 USD to the lesser demand and more infrequent flights, but accommodations will run you around $40 USD a night for a 3-star hotel. Package deals are also available, usually running around the $1,000 USD mark—a little higher than some would like to pay, but worth it to get to a destination that’s off the beaten path for most snowbirds. Unlike high-traffic destinations like Punta Cana and Cancun, Panama City is still economical and less likely to be overrun with spring-breakers, making for a relaxing vacation whether you go all-inclusive or not.
Your Florida vacation can either be really expensive or really cheap. While people flock to Orlando and Miami, there are plenty of places that offer all the sun and sand with a lower price tag. You can fly to Tampa for the same price as Miami, but you can pick up 3-star accommodations for $65 USD per night in Tampa (compare Miami at $90 USD per night). If you insist on Miami or Orlando, a flight will set you back around $200 USD, and a hotel in Orlando can cost as little as $49 USD per night. If you’re visiting either of these popular locations, definitely check into package deal options offered by travel agencies and vacation companies to see if you can get even better pricing. Other options for those looking to get off the beaten path could include West Palm Beach and Daytona Beach.
At first glance, the Bahamas might seem overpriced to a lot of North Americans. First, they’re relatively close to Florida, but flight prices seem to jump, and hotels start around $75 USD. Package deals, in theory, should make a trip to the Bahamas a little more affordable, but the truth is that you’re better to book the Bahamas yourself. Flights can be as little $380 USD and even with the cost of accommodations for 7 days, that’s still cheaper than some of the packages out there. Selecting your own destination in the Bahamas also allows you to best pick the venues suited to your itinerary. While Freeport is an option, it is more expensive than the bigger port of Nassau. This is one destination where looking for last-minute deals and seat sales will save you more cash.
How much you pay to escape to Jamaica really depends on where and how you go. For some destinations, package deals are your best bet; all-inclusive vacations for Ochos Rios start around $680 USD with all the taxes and fees in. Montego Bay, on the other hand, is better for travelers looking to build their own itineraries: a flight will set you back around $500, but accommodations can be as low as $30 or $40 USD a night. Runaway Bay is another do-it-yourself option; you’ll still need to fly into Montego Bay and accommodations are better booked on your own—a package deal in this area will actually cost you more. Kingston, the country’s capital, is more expensive to fly in to, as its airport is smaller than the one at Montego Bay.
If you’re looking to escape the cold, why not consider Arizona? Located in the middle of a desert, Arizona is actually more pleasant during the winter months and you can score a roundtrip flight to Phoenix for about $300 USD. At the lower end of things, accommodation hovers around the $40 USD per night mark. While not exactly a high profile destination, Arizona has been gaining popularity with the snowbird crowd who are looking for alternatives to Florida, at a lower price-point than California. Phoenix, in particular, has a lot of attractions—including a number of golf courses. If you want to hit the greens, definitely consider Arizona as your winter escape. While you may not be able to pick up package deals for Arizona like you can for some sun destinations, definitely keep your eyes peeled for deals—seat sales can save you a pretty penny on airfare.
Mexico has long been known as a haven for snowbirds looking to escape the chill of winter without feeling the pinch of their pocketbooks. While destinations like Acapulco and Cancun are on the lists of every spring-breaker, try nabbing up a cheap destination vacation to one of Mexico’s many other charming areas, like Puerto Vallarta, where a flight will cost you about $380 USD but a hotel will set you back just $35 USD a night, or you can package it up for about $600 USD. Ixtapa and Manzanillo are popular destinations as well, and both come with a similar price tag. Other, less-frequented Mexican destinations can cost a bit more since there’s less demand for flights, but hotel prices remain low throughout the country. Last-minute deals and seat-sales can be your best friends to get to these less-frequented locales.
1. Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic has earned a reputation among snowbirds and travelers as a relatively cheap destination to soak up some sun. Popular with spring-breakers, the Dominican Republic has a few popular destinations like Punta Cana and Puerto Plata. Flights will run you around $500 USD to either destination, but 3-star hotels are available for about $60 USD a night. Like other destination vacations in the Caribbean, you can look for a package deal to maximize your savings; roll your flight and hotel together into a 7-night all-inclusive excursion for about $900 USD. Other popular destinations on the island include Santo Domingo, which is a better book-it-yourself option; the flight is slightly more expensive than other areas on the island, but accommodations will set you back just $35 USD a night.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A homestay can be an incredibly rewarding experience both for the homeowners and visitors. Typically, students use homestays as safe, affordable accommodations when traveling on a tight budget. But it’s also a great way to practice language skills in a comfortable environment and receive insider information on the best areas to explore in their travel destination—homestays are especially suited to solo female travelers. There are homestays all around the world to suit almost any type endeavor, from remote villages to vivacious cities, the following are 10 alluring destinations ripe with homestay options ideal for enjoying a fulfilling sojourn abroad.
10. Yuvacali, Turkey
In Turkey’s southeast region, in the village of Yuvacali, visitors receive a raw experience of what daily life is like for local Kurdish families. Traditional life means hard work for families living here, most only survive off a few dollars a day. Though struggling financially, these families offer a culturally rich experience for anyone interested in a unique holiday. A handful of families in the small village offer accommodation under the starry skies of Yuvacali in a nomadic canvas tent adorned with vibrant paintings or in a traditional, mud/brick house. Guests help out on the farm, learn to cook traditional dishes on an open hearth, and enjoy swapping stories with locals. This is no five-star hotel (in fact, it’s far from it) and families here, though extremely friendly, present an opportunity to work together, not offer hotel-like services. If you’re up for the challenge of helping out, Yuvacali has plenty to offer any curious, open-minded traveler.
9. Tighza Valley, Morocco
Throughout Morocco, there an abundant number of opportunities to experience a homestay with a local family. One particularly magical place is within the breathtaking Tighza Valley where many Berber families open their homes to foreign visitors, offering simple, clean rooms within family owned homes. The arid valley, dusted with cacti and leafy green foliage, is within the high-reaching Atlas Mountains, far from the turbid, bustling cities of Fez, Marrakesh, Casablanca, and Rabat. This is rural Moroccan life at its finest: simple and scenic. Within the valley, most guests take to the alpine trails, hiking throughout the valley and enjoying mountainous routes filled with endless snap-worthy scenes: Berber women cultivating fields, shepherds watching after flocks of goats and sheep, and boisterous children playing imaginative games. Life definitely happens at a slow pace, which is not for everyone, but the Berber people are exceptionally welcoming and on point with keeping guests occupied and well-fed.
8. Old Havana, Cuba
Becoming familiar with the words “casa particular” or “casa particulares” is a great advantage when traveling to Cuba for an independent holiday. The term means “private house”, and upon booking, will land you either a private home or room. The Cuban government issues special permits for renting out privately owned homes, or rooms in family homes, and they are advertised through bright blue signs out front with the words “Arrendador Divisa”, it’s a rental permit showing which casas are legal. Prices vary and depend on the travel season, area of Cuba, amenities offered, square footage, and so on. One of the best places for casas is in Old Havana, where friendly owners give a healthy measure of gossip and tips on the lay of the land. You’ll get great insider information on Old Havana’s top music clubs, festivals, and bars, and most often the owner will treat you just like family.
7. Lisbon, Portugal
In Portugal, “Solares de Portugal” is an interesting idea introduced to bolster tourism within houses laden with charm and unique character, called “Turismo de Habitação”. The concept is aimed at preserving rich heirlooms of the country’s cultural and architectural heritage. This type of accommodation is not a guesthouse or hotel, but a genuine homestay. Accommodation comes in various forms such as rustic farmhouses, elegant estates, and grand country homes restored to their original luster for welcoming guests from around the world. Most homestays can be found in Lisbon, but others are in Porto, Faro, the southwest islands, and other small Portuguese cities and towns. The Solares exemplify hundreds of years of Portuguese culture and history (a large part of the magnificent 17th and 18th centuries manors are owned by descendents of the original owners). Taken quite seriously as a representation of their country, the Portuguese are dedicated to providing exceptional experiences to foreign visitors.
6. Amazon Rainforest, Brazil
If you’ve ever had the desire to explore the deepest reaches of the Amazon Rainforest, a Brazilian homestay could be an idyllic experience. Easily planned in Manaus, you can book a trip and be paired up with an indigenous family. You’ll score a room in an eco-lodge or camp under the forest canopy—it’s entirely up to you. Lodges are simply constructed from locally sourced, natural building materials and designed in traditional style. Think “fancy” thatch hut with some modern conveniences and you’re not far off. Ideal for intrepid spirits, planning a trek through the lush, magical landscape is authentic, eye-opening, and lands you where wildlife is richest. Friendly indigenous guides offer a healthy dose of insight on the rain forest ecosystem and teach guests survival tips in a natural environment. You’ll also be treated to some amazing local eats and be privy to some Amazonian cooking secrets too.
5. Lake Titicaca, Peru
Peru is home to some of the greatest archaeological treasures in the world and exhibits some truly fascinating history. The entire country has something to offer: the finest specimens of Inca ruins, Pacific Coast beaches, Amazon River rafting, sand-boarding, incredible national parks, and magnificent cross-country train rides. There are a host of options for budget accommodation in Peru, but a homestay experience offers more; enjoy a vacation with a ton of insight into one of the most culturally and historically prosperous countries in the world. There are several homestays around Lake Titicaca (the highest lake in existence) providing authentic accommodations with the added value of a tour of the floating reed islands, local dining and Andean musical evenings, and a look at pre-Inca ruins and centuries-old agricultural terraces. If city living seems more interesting, there are many host families in colorful Cusco and in the capital city of Lima.
4. Brest Oblast, Belarus
There are a large number of homestays and farmstays in the Brest region of Belarus, a cosmopolitan town situated in the southwest bordering Poland. Here you’ll find historical monuments, war memorials, charming galleries, and Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park. If you’re traveling from the capital city of Minsk, prepare to disembark into a town far more influenced by its EU neighbors than the Soviets. Cozy, comfortable Brest homestays are run by friendly families eager to show guests surrounding attractions, cook traditional meals, and facilitate independent outings including hiking and fishing trips, cycling tours, and other outdoor pursuits. Visitors will find that Belarusians have an innate love for the natural world so expect to spend quality time exploring surrounding landscapes. Most homes are two stories and have anywhere from two to six bedrooms with shared bathrooms. Some sport saunas, outdoor fireplaces, canoes, and fishing boats so check amenities thoroughly.
3. Brisbane, Melbourne & Sydney, Australia
Australia has scores of homestay organizations typically helping students find a safe and comfortable place to live while studying abroad. Many programs are government endorsed, aimed at helping students acclimate in a healthy and safe environment while providing a reliable place to practice their studies. Though those scenarios are typical, homestays are also an option for anyone wishing to travel in Australia while staying with local hosts. There’s a dizzying array of options in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney along the southeastern stretch and even more in the west and northern territories. Australian homestays are popular because of their relatively inexpensive rates compared to hotels while also offering an authentic local experience in the Land Down Under. If you’re using an organization to book accommodation, succinctly communicate your desired experience; some families offer more of a bed and breakfast whilst others set aside ample time to spend with guests.
2. Sa Pa, Vietnam
If Southeast Asian culture is appealing, there are Vietnamese families offering homestays across the country. From lively cities packed with people and an endless flurry of activity, to verdant farmlands and rice paddies where slow and steady is the pace, what’s up for grabs in Vietnam is fairly unique to many other countries. In the old town of Sa Pa in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains there are stunning agricultural terraces that define the landscape where host families wait with open arms; Vietnamese people are extremely welcoming, hospitable, and chatty. Families embrace you, ply you with food and drink, introduce you to all the neighbors. They will even show you around the area. There’s almost no beating the incredible pride Vietnamese people feel when hosting foreigners. Enjoy Sa Pa’s beauty through climbing and hiking within the mountains, exploring hill tribe markets, volunteering at the local school—there are plenty of fulfilling activities available.
1. Kerala, India
Tucked into the southwest tip of India is delightful Kerala, a world away from the typical, chaotic India. A lovely coastal town nestled on the shores of the Arabian Sea, Kerala is a laid back plexus of gleaming backwaters and flourishing tea and spice covered slopes. Tame your inner wild child with a hefty dose of Kerala, breathe in the salty air, gaze upon peaceful temples, and smell the endlessly spiced aromas. Festivals and celebrations, wild elephants, and exquisite boathouses will reel you in. Most accommodations are heritage homes, unique in architectural design with anywhere from one to twenty-plus rooms led by easygoing locals for nominal fees—choose a smaller abode for a more personal cultural exchange. Hosts are easygoing, offer rides to and from town and usually provide bicycles for exploring. Sanctuaries and synagogues, beaches and bayous; Kerala is an arresting blend of attractions with piles of things to do and see.