Move over Iceland; there’s a new northern country in town. Long ignored by travelers, Greenland is finally earning its place on the international stage. With vast tracts of wild open spaces, huge ice fields and small, friendly towns with plenty of culture, it’s little wonder that Greenland has been named one of Lonely Planet’s top destinations for 2016. If you’re planning to book your ticket to the northernmost capital city in the world, here are 10 ideas to consider adding to your itinerary:
10. Sail Amongst Icebergs
This might seem a bit dangerous at first, but one of the most popular things to do in Greenland is to take an iceberg sailing tour. An expert guide navigates through the narrow passages between icebergs, bringing you up close to one of nature’s most awesome forms of art. While boat excursions are possible at any time of year, summer offers the most open water. The bergs are drifting southward during this time, many of them melting. You might even spot a whale or two! Boat trips are just a way of life for Greenlanders; you’ll probably take a boat just to get from point A to point B a couple of times during your trip. If you do take a tour, keep in mind that there are no official routes, so each trip may take you to a new location, like a waterfall.
9. Take a Dog Sledding Tour
While boats are popular modes of transport and snowmobiling has largely displaced dog sleds, you can still experience this traditional mode of transport by taking a dog sledding tour during your Greenlandic excursion. There’s nothing quite like the symbiotic relationship between a musher and his dogs, the dogs’ paws pounding out a rhythm over the snow. Even though dog sledding is a wintertime excursion, the colder temperatures will be made more tolerable as you sip a warm cup of tea while bundled up in a sealskin garb and wrapped in a reindeer skin blanket—traditional parts of the dog sled experience! Another part of the experience is a heavy dose of Greenlandic culture, as dog sledding has been an integral part of myths and legends for 5,000 years. Many stories are entwined with dog sledding—and you may hear a few of those tales along the way.
8. Hike to Norse Ruins
Hiking is a popular pastime throughout Greenland. With a range of different landscapes, the terrain is almost certain to challenge and the untamed wilderness of many areas will attract those travelers looking for adventure off the beaten path. Some of the more tame hikes will take you to various Norse settlement sites, where you can still see ruins. The Norse settled in Southern Greenland, but had all but disappeared by the 1700s. The best preserved ruins are in Hvalsey, which was part of the Eastern Settlement, near modern-day Qaqortoq. The ruins of Hvalsey church are considered the best-preserved example of Norse architecture and settlement in Greenland. Other sites include Brattahlid, Erik the Red’s estate near Qassiarsuk; Sandnaes near Kilaarsarfik; Dyrnaes north of modern-day Narsaq; and Gardar, which was the seat of the Norse bishops.
7. Trek to an Ice Cap
Despite the name, huge portions of Greenland are covered in ice. While there is concern that much of Greenland’s ice is melting away, one popular activity you can take part in is hiking out to an ice cap. In the south of Greenland, you can take the Iceview Plateau Hike, which departs from Narsaruaq. The trek takes about 5 or 6 hours to complete. The first stage of the hike is pleasant, with varied scenery. A milky-blue river wends its way through valleys. The real hike begins with the incline; bright blue ropes mark the way and you may need to pull yourself up as you gain 300 meters in altitude. At the top, you’ll have a spectacular view of the pond-dappled Iceview Plateau. The area features a lake surrounded by glacial boulders. Descend into the valley and walk across 10,000-year-old ice.
6. Go on “Safari”
You might think that safaris only happen in Africa, but wildlife watching is one of the most popular activities in Greenland. Although the country doesn’t have the abundant biodiversity that exists in Africa or South America, there are still plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with some of Mother Nature’s creations. Whale watching is one popular wildlife expedition. On steep mountainsides and sheer seaside cliffs, you’ll find colonies of seabirds like puffins and auks. Snowy owls and arctic foxes hunt hares and ptarmigans. Reindeer, polar bears and arctic wolves roam the untamed wilderness. Seals and other aquatic wildlife dwell on beaches. The best time to visit is in the summer, when seabirds will be nesting and numerous whales move by the coast of Greenland.
5. Visit Nuuk
Nuuk is Greenland’s capital city and the world’s northernmost capital city, just beating out Reykjavik by a few kilometers. Nuuk is also one of the smallest capital cities by population, with approximately 16,500 inhabitants. Nuuk has a long history, however, dating back to around 2200 BC. It has been inhabited by various Inuit peoples, including the Dorset culture and the Thule, as well as the Norse and eventually the Danish. It was the Danes that founded the modern city. Nuuk is situated on a fjord, with a mountain as the backdrop, making the city scenic at any time of year. Nuuk is the cultural center of Greenland, with museums and heritage buildings, as well venues for concerts, conferences and exhibitions. Nuuk is also the center for professional sports. The Greenland National Museum is located in the city.
4. Explore an Abandoned Village
Greenland has a number of sites that have been either abandoned or built over top of; many modern communities sit on ruins or very near to former settlements. The Norse ruins are good examples of this; Sandnaes and Dyrnaes, for example, are just a few kilometers from modern communities. Another good example is Kangeq, an abandoned fishing village near Nuuk, Greenland’s capital. It is located on a small island, which was also the site of the first Danish settlement in Greenland, between 1721 and 1728. In 1728, the Danish colony was moved to the mainland. Kangeq has been an important site for the Inuit peoples of Greenland for thousands of years; the Thule people settled there and Kangeq functioned as a traditional fishing village until the 1970s. The village has been used as a stand-in for 1950s Nuuk, and the ruins are sometimes visited by tourists.
3. Experience Traditional Cuisine
You’ve taken a dog sled trip or a boat trip and heard traditional Greenlandic stories. You’ve explored both Inuit villages and Norse settlements. You’ve even seen Greenlandic art and history at Nuuk’s museums. But there’s more to Greenlandic culture yet—have you tried the traditional tastes? Suaasat, a traditional soup commonly made from seal, is considered Greenland’s national dish. Meat and seafood are staples in most Greenlandic meals, with reindeer meat being the most popular food. Berry compotes, often made of blueberries and crowberries, are common accompaniments. After dinner, enjoy a cup of Greenlandic coffee, an alcoholic brew that’s set on fire before serving. Beer is another popular drink; try the ice beer, which is made with 2,000-year-old Arctic ice water, brewed by the Godthaab Bryghus and the Icefiord Bryghus.
2. Participate in a Festival
Although most of the population of Greenland is Christian, Greenlandic culture has been heavily influenced by traditional Inuit beliefs, which are widespread even today. In many remote communities, Greenlanders still practice their traditions and religion. Many in Southern Greenland celebrate national holidays and Christian festivals using traditional Inuit costumes, music and dancing. In the summer, Greenland celebrates its National Day, which is also the longest day of the year. The celebrations are both an expression of national identity and of welcoming the short summer in the country. Many people wear traditional costumes, and plenty of singing and dancing are on the agenda. In the winter, Greenlanders celebrate the return of the sun after the long polar night, typically in mid-January. In December, they celebrate Christmas, although Christian traditions are mixed with expressions of Inuit culture and identity.
1. Go Kayaking
The Thule people arrived in Greenland thousands of years ago and they brought with them 2 modes of transportation: the dog sled and the kayak. Since that time, kayaking has been an important part of Inuit culture, and many Greenlanders still use kayaks just to get around. If you’re not up for taking a boat trip with someone else piloting the vessel, a kayak adventure is just what the doctor ordered. Rent a kayak and head out into one of the many fjords and bays. Show your daring by navigating through fields of icebergs or paddling with the whales as they swim by in the summer waters. Take your kayaking tour to hard-to-reach areas, such as the sheer cliffs used by nesting seabirds. Ask the locals about points of interest; there may be waterfalls, ruins or even an eagle’s nest nearby.
Eco-tourism has become something of a buzzword in recent years. Some might be quick to write it off as nothing more than fancy marketing, but the trend toward “green” travel has stayed strong through 2015, with 53% of Americans looking to book green hotels, and interest in environmentally viable and sustainable tourism is likely to grow in 2016 as talks around climate change continue. So where can we expect green travelers to head off to in 2016? Here are our 10 picks for the year ahead.
10. Costa Rica
Let’s start with the tried-but-true Costa Rica. Costa Rica is a recognized leader in ecotourism, often considered a pioneer. The country’s focus on sustainability makes sense because Costa Rica’s tourism industry is heavily centered on its natural resources, including its abundant wildlife, lush mountain ecosystems and its “cloud forests.” Costa Rica’s commitment to green extends outside of the tourism industry, however; in 2007, the country committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2021 and, as of 2015, 93% of the country’s energy needs are met by renewable sources. Environmental taxes act as disincentives to polluting businesses and laws such as the 1996 Forest Law have helped reorient other industries to sustainable development. All of this means that tourists traveling to Costa Rica can feel secure knowing they’ve made an environmentally sound choice.
Two decades ago, Laos was relatively low on the list of international destinations; since the 1990s, however, tourism has grown explosively, from under 100,000 visitors annually to nearly 2 million tourists every year. The relatively quick growth of the industry might lead to concerns about exploitative development and destructive mass tourism, but Laos has also developed a strong orientation toward ecotourism—perhaps fitting for a country that has adopted the slogan “Simply Beautiful.” Luang Namtha, the northernmost province in Laos, is one of the best areas for tourists looking for a trip focused on sustainability: local villages earn alternate income from offering trekking and rafting tours through the biodiverse region around the Nam Ha Protected Area and the Namtha River, which encourages preservation of the environment as an attraction for continued tourism.
Tourism in Cambodia has long been overshadowed by violence in the country. Nonetheless, tourism is the second-most important industry in the self-proclaimed “Kingdom of Wonder,” and is based on 3 key elements. One of those elements is an embarrassment of natural attractions, and nowhere is that more evident than in Koh Kong, the country’s southwestern most province. Located near the border with Thailand, the region embraces part of the Cardamom Mountains and boasts 1 of the largest forests in Southeast Asia. The area also features untouched beaches and pristine waters along its undeveloped coastline. Cambodia’s largest national park, Botum Sakor National Park, is also located in Koh Kong, along with part of the Kirirom National Park. The rugged terrain along the Tatai River has been perfect for developing sustainable tourism aimed at keeping the natural wonders of Koh Kong intact for future generations.
There’s been plenty of discussion about Greenland lately: the country has been named one of Lonely Planet’s top travel destinations for 2016, and much of the country’s frozen landscape seems to be melting at an alarming rate. While that might seem to be a call to travelers to see Greenland before it’s “too late,” Greenland has been working on a better plan: a sustainable tourism industry. Since much of the country’s young tourism industry focuses on experiences like dog-sledding, hiking along glaciers and whale-watching, ensuring that tourism in Greenland is eco-friendly is a must. Natural Habitat’s Base Camp Greenland is one recent eco-friendly initiative; the small-group excursion takes adventurers to a carbon-neutral expedition camp at the eastern edge of Greenland’s ice sheet. While 2016 promises to be a big year for Greenland tourism, that doesn’t mean it can’t be kept green.
While it might be eco-conscious Western tourists who have been a driving force in the development of sustainable tourism, the tourist industries of most Western economies are run on less eco-friendly initiatives. One country that’s pushing toward an increasingly green tourism industry is the Scandinavian country of Norway. One of Norway’s top attractions has always been its environment, most particularly its rugged mountains and stunning fjords. While the remoteness of the fjords has kept them well-protected, so too have Norway’s strict environmental regulations played a role in keeping the iconic Norwegian landscapes pristine. Ensuring a healthy environment extends outside the realm of the tourism industry, and Norway is considered a leader in environmental policy in other industries as well. That means that scenic boat tours, biking through rugged mountain terrain and wondering at the snow-capped mountain vistas of the Norwegian fjords will be activities for future tourists as well.
Botswana gets the short end of the stick when it comes to African tourism; the southern African country is bordered by South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia. In the ecotourism industry, Botswana is often overlooked for Kenya. Botswana, however, has its own charms: about 70% of the country is covered by the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta, 1 of the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa and UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also located in the country. The Chobe Game Reserve is home to a large herd of free-ranging elephants and the Khama Rhino Sanctuary offers guided trekking experiences, while the Central Game Reserve offers up some of southern Africa’s most unspoiled wilderness. In terms of tourism, the industry is small, but growing in Botswana, which means that the country has had time to focus on developing sustainable initiatives.
The Maldives, located in the Indian Ocean, is a chain of 26 atolls that is threatened by rising sea levels. With this in mind, the country has been a leader in green industries, including ecotourism. The government has pledged to make the country carbon neutral by 2019. The islands rely heavily on tourism, which is the largest sector of the economy. Most tourism is driven by the Maldives’ natural beauty, including extraordinary diving opportunities in clear blue waters. The islands are often promoted as a tropical resort getaway, and white sand beaches and sports like surfing and scuba diving are popular. Government policies have aimed to reduce damage to sensitive coral reefs and to make stricter laws for waste disposal, while resorts themselves have focused on recapturing wasted energy and recycling heat.
The Seychelles is a 115-island country located off the east coast of the African continent. Tourism is the primary industry in the economy and has been since the late 20th century. Since the mid-1990s, however, the government has moved to ensure that tourist development doesn’t come at the expense of the islands’ natural environment. This has included capping the number of beds in some of the most popular destinations, such as La Digue. The islands contain a number of unique ecosystems and are home to a host of diverse plants and animals, some of which live on only 1 or 2 islands. While Seychellois culture is coming to value environmental protection, the nation is not currently committed to clean energy or a carbon-neutral plan; time will tell if the environmental conscience of the tourism industry spreads to other sectors of the economy.
Tourism in Kenya has always been driven by its natural attractions; in recent years, visitors have been attracted to coastal beaches and game reserves, such as the expansive East and West Tsavo National Park. The country boasts 19 such national parks and game reserves, the Great Rift Valley and a stunning view of Mount Kilimanjaro. Best known for its savannas, Kenya is still most popular for safaris, but you can also visit coral reefs on the coast, along with rainforests and deserts. Ecotourism Kenya, a watchdog organization, keeps an eye on tourism and rates accommodations based on their environmental policies. Most safari outfitters now offer eco-friendly options for visitors, and many of them ensure they give back to or work on behalf of the local people, thus working toward sustainability in the industry.
1. New Zealand
New Zealand is a major destination for travelers who seek adventure; the wild, untamed and often rugged landscape offers excellent opportunities for almost all outdoor activities, from hiking to trekking to mountain climbing to surfing and diving. Given that tourism focuses largely on the natural environment, it’s little wonder that New Zealand is also invested in protecting its natural assets—the country has committed to becoming carbon neutral and markets itself as a “clean, green” playground for adventurers. The country has developed numerous walking and hiking trails, such as the internationally recognized Milford Track and the Te Araroa Trail, which spans the country. In line with the country’s presentation of itself, ecotourism initiatives have been on the rise, although there is some concern about tourism being a carbon-intensive industry, as many visitors travel huge distances to reach this remote country.
Winter is coming. Actually for many places, the season of chapped lips, cracked knuckles and putting on five layers before stepping foot outside is already here. Those living in the far north know what it’s like to have to ‘endure’ a long, bleak winter and for some living in the really remote areas, winter is a year-round way of life. To kick off the impending snow season, EscapeHere presents an ode to winter with the 10 coldest places on earth:
10. Denali/Mount McKinley, Alaska
Denali Alaska, (formerly known as Mount McKinley) has long been known as the coldest mountain on earth. Located in the Alaskan Range of Denali National Park, it’s summit is a staggering 20,310 feet about sea level. On December 1, 2013 the peaks weather station recorded a temperature of −75.5 °F (−59.7 °C) and even in the summer, this chilly mountain can register temperatures as low as −22.9 °F (−30.5 °C) or −59.2 °F (−50.7 °C) with the windchill.
9. Eureka, Canada
Few Canadians ever venture up to the remote Ellesmere Island region of the Nunavut territory, and unless you’re a research scientist or a First Nations person, you probably haven’t ever heard of Eureka. This active research settlement has an average temperature of around −1.8 °F (−18.8 °C) and has seen a record low of −67.5 °F (−55.3 °C).
8. Amundsen-Scott Station, South Pole
It’s not just the far north that sees some cold temperatures, the far south can be just as inhospitable. The Amundsen-Scott Station located at the South Pole is an American scientific research station and is known as the southernmost place on earth. Because of its unique location, the sun rises and sets only once a year creating a continuous six months of sun followed by six months of darkness. The lowest temperature recorded happened during the cold dark period was −101 °F (−74 °C) in 1957. This kind of temperature is only survivable with specialized equipment.
7. Verkhoyansk, Russia
Unlike the previous location on this list so far Verkhoyansk Russia has an actual year-round population. Approximately 1,300 hardy residents live in this town on the Yana River near the Arctic Circle. The town is notorious for extreme lows in winter and some of the highest temperature differences between winter and summer on earth. The lowest temperatures of the winter are around −49.7 °F (−45.4 °C) while summer can reach upwards of 61.7 °F (+16.5 °C).
6. Prospect Creek, Alaska
This small Alaskan settlement was once home to several mining expeditions and camps for the 27,000 people involved in the building of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. It’s also home to the record for the lowest recorded temperature in the United States of America. On January 23, 1971 a record low of −80 °F (−62 °C) was reached. Despite the extremes, wildlife can still be found here including bears and bald eagles.
5. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Ulaanbaatar, the largest and capital city of Mongolia makes the list as being the most populated city with extreme low temperatures. The total population of the city is over 1.3 million and residents experience very short but warm summers followed by bitterly cold and dry winters. The lowest recorded temperature here is −56 °F (−49 °C). Because the city lies in an area of permafrost, building can be difficult so many suburban residents live in traditional yurt houses which sit above ground.
4. Oymyakon, Russia
The Russian town of Oymyakon is officially recognized as one of the two coldest continuously inhabited places on the planet (along with the previously mentioned town of Verkhoyansk, Russia). The population of around 500 people must endure some of the coldest temperatures in which a person can live. On February 6, 1933, Oymyakon set a record for the lowest temperature recorded in a permanently inhabited place at −90 °F (−67.7 °C).
3. North Ice, Greenland
It’s no surprise to see a location in Greenland on this list. After all, the country is 85% covered in ice and snow and the temperature only rises above freezing during the month of July. North Ice was a British research station in the country’s northern interior. On January 9, 1954, the station recorded the lowest temperature ever recorded in North America at −87.0 °F (−66.1 °C).
2. Snag, Yukon Territory
Canada has a reputation for being a cold place and the town of Snag certainly helps that reputation remain intact. Located in the Yukon Territory, the village was established during the Klondike gold rush and was home to about ten First Nation people plus 15-20 airport staff and meteorologists. On February 3, 1947, Snag set the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in continental North America at −81.4 °F (−63.0 °C).
1. Vostok Station, Antarctica
Our number one pick for coldest place on the planet is actually the official current record holder for having the coldest temperature on earth. The Russian research station located at the Antarctica’s Pole of Cold measured a bone chilling temperature of -128 °F (-89.2 °C) on July 21, 1983.
You’re going to be hearing a lot about Greenland over the coming year; travel guidebook publisher Lonely Planet has named the country #9 in their top 10 countries to see in 2016. And as the planet keeps getting warmer, a country that’s covered in ice and snow is going to see some changes. While Iceland seems to have had its fair share of publicity in recent years, few travelers know very much about the nearby country of Greenland at all. Consider this an education in Nordic culture; here are 10 interesting facts about Greenland:
10. Not a lot of Green
In Viking legend, Greenland was described as a lush, green, fertile land. Today, however, ‘Whiteland’ would be a more accurate term since approximately 85 percent of the country is covered in ice and snow.
9. No Roads
Greenland is big, really big. But despite having a land size of over 2 million square kilometers there are no roads or railway systems. All travel between towns is done by plane, boat, helicopter, snowmobile, or dogsled (yes really.)
8. They’re Not Eskimos
And they will be quite offended if you call them this. The proper name for an indigenous person from Greenland is Kalaallit. Which actually means ‘Greenlander’ in the native Inuit language Kalaallisut.
7. Full of Gems
Literally. A large amount of gemstones like ruby and sapphire found in this country is surprising given that it’s such a barren place of ice and snow. Reportedly, gemstone mining could one day overtake fishing as the countries largest industry.
6. Not For Sale
In 1946 the United States tried to purchase Greenland from Denmark but the European Kingdom refused to sell this island to the Americans.
5. Cool Capital
The capital and largest city in Greenland is Nuuk, with a population of approximately 17,000 people. It’s home to the University of Greenland, an art museum, sports stadium, cultural center, the National Library of Greenland, and the country’s international airport.
4. No Cars
Well, there are some; an estimated 2,570 cars are owned in the entire country of Greenland. But given that there are no roads, the majority of these cars are located in the capital of Nuuk. The most popular form of owned transportation is a boat.
3. It’s Cold
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise actually since we already told you the country was 85 percent covered in ice and snow. July is the only month when the temperature actually gets above the freezing point.
2. The Sun Never Sets
Admittedly this only occurs in summer but it’s a pretty cool natural phenomenon. Know as the ‘midnight sun’ places north of the arctic circle do not see any darkness all summer. From late April to late August, the sun will rise and colors will change as the day goes on but the sun will still be visible throughout the entire day and night.
1. The Northern Lights
Though winters in Greenland may be long and dark, they do provide the opportunity to see the amazing Northern Lights (aka Aurora Borealis) in all their glory. From September to mid-April, you can see the lights on just about any night the sky is clear, and since there’s little light pollution here, the colors are extremely vivid.
As 2015 has started to wind down, no doubt many of us are already looking ahead and planning those vacations for the coming year. If you’ve been having trouble deciding just where you want to cross off your travel bucket list next, check out this list of the top countries to visit in 2016 as per Lonely Planet’s new guidebook; ‘Best in Travel 2016’. All countries and their rankings were determined by Lonely Planet’s staff and community members.
It’s true that Fiji has had a rocky last decade or so after political unrest and government instability but it seems the country has sorted all that out and can now get back to being the model for island paradise. It’s geographic location has made it a bit harder to get to in the past but in 2016, the country’s international airport will get an upgrade making the travel process much smoother. Lonely Planet says that in 2016,”Fiji’s got its groove back” so prepare yourself for warm welcoming singers at every turn.
While everyone else still seems to be hung up on Iceland, Lonely Planet insists that in 2016 it’s Greenland that arctic travelers should take note of. Part of this is due to the limited time factor, as a country that’s 80% covered in snow and ice will only last so long in a world that’s continually getting warmer. Come for the icebergs, midnight sun, dog-sledding and of course the Northern Lights, but also in March of 2016, come as Greenland hosts the Arctic Winter Games, the largest event of it’s kind ever held.
For decades Uruguay has flown under the travel radar, often being overshadowed by its boisterous neighbors Brazil and Argentina. But they don’t call this country “the Switzerland of America” for nothing; while other South American countries deal with conflict after conflict, Uruguay revels in political stability, good governance, peacefulness and prosperity. Granted safety and security does not make a top travel destination, certainly not a Lonely Planet top 10 one anyway, but the architecture of Old Town Montevideo, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the opportunity to live out a traditional gaucho (cowboy) experience do.
According to Lonely Planet, the country of Poland has superpowers. That may seem ridiculous but for a country whose economy and visitor number continue to climb through a recession that brought to rest of Europe to its knees, it may not be such a stretch after all. Wrocław, the historical capital of Silesia will become a European Capital of Culture in 2016, a designation appointed by the EU that will surely see the city in the spotlight. And it’s not the only city to see some stardom in 2016 either; Kraków will be getting a visit by the Pope for World Youth Day when arrives to kick-off a calendar of celebrations and activism.
Unless you’re from New Zealand, a trip to Australia may seem out of reach. It’s a notion that has many travelers saying “too far, too expensive” but Lonely Planet insists the 24 hours of flying time will be well spent one you experience the beauty and diversity of this land down under. The weakening Australian dollar is also another reason why 2016 is the right time for that trip you’ve always dreamed of. Several of Australia’s most renowned natural attractions are under threat, including the Great Barrier Reef and Tasmania’s astounding wilderness. With the threats of dredging and logging looming, the time to see these natural wonders is now, before they’re seemingly unrecognizable.
Latvia hasn’t always been a place you’d want to visit, mostly thanks to the shadow of Communism and oppression that blanketed the country during its Soviet occupation from 1944 to 1991. Now, on the country’s 25th anniversary of independence, the story is much different. Lonely Planet says that after over two decades of playing catch up to its neighboring European countries, it’s clearly earned the title of ‘most improved.’ This theme is evident in everything from the food to the buildings as everywhere you turn, old castles and manor houses are being lovingly restored and turned into beautiful inns and museums.
This country is more accurately described as an archipelago of over 500 islands in the Western Pacific Ocean. From that info one may have pieced together that the scuba diving and snorkeling here is unsurpassed by many other places on earth. While Australia is struggling to protect its famous reef, Palau is blazing new trails by designating 100% of its marine territory as a protected sanctuary. A move which earned President Remengesau the title of ‘Champion of the Earth’ by the United Nations. Even if you prefer to keep your head above water, this ‘underwater Serengeti’ has offerings for you too, including kayaking, sailing and wildlife watching.
You wouldn’t be alone if you’re thinking that the USA may be the odd man out on this years top countries list but Lonely Planet knows what they’re doing and there’s good reason for it. In 2016 the US National Park Service turns 100, celebrating a century of the governing body responsible for protecting the nation’s national parks and historic landmarks. It’s one of the reasons that names like Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Badlands, Zion, and Shenandoah are still accessible today. So in 2016, pack your hiking boots (and some good wool socks of course) and prepare for an outdoor adventure of natural splendor.
While Japan lands at #2 on this years top travel list, Lonely Planet insists it still “ranks number one in the world for that quintessential not-in-Kansas-anymore travel experience.” Anyone who’s been to Japan and witnessed the brightly illuminated, highly automated streets of Tokyo, already knows this to be true. But in 2016 it’s Japan’s amazing juxtaposition of old and new, modern and historic that puts it firmly on the Best in Travel list. The city of Tokyo is already seeing activity in preparation for hosting the 2020 Olympic games, including the creation of a new shopping district, an Olympic Village and the movement of the famous Tsukiji fish market to a brand new facility.
Lonely Planet describes the #1 country on this list as “Democratic, progressive, enlightened – but above all, invigoratingly wild.” The continent of Africa doesn’t exactly scream safety and political stability but Botswana is an exception to these stereotypes. In 2016 the country celebrates 50 years in independence and in those 50 years Botswana has become one of Africa’s most stable, thriving societies with a growing economy, minimal corruption (what country doesn’t have some) and a forward thinking tourism industry. Aside from economic factors, it’s Botswana’s vast, untamed and pristine wilderness (17% of the country is dedicated to national parks) that deserves your attention. Lonely Planet also says that the myths of this country being ‘too far, inaccessible, and not catering to families’ are simply not true. But as always, you’ll just have to plan a trip and see for yourself.
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.
Any runner will tell you that there are few greater moments than when you cross that finish line during a race. It’s not just about having completed the race, but marks the achievement of all of the training that you’ve done to get there. If you feel like you may have plateaued a little in your training, or want some extra incentive, here are a few destination races that will make you want to get those feet moving.
10. Big Sur International Marathon -Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
This April race has the tagline of “running on the ragged edge of the western world”, which is a pretty apt description of the vistas that runners will take in during their race. Runners understand uniquely the effort/reward relationship in training, and they’ll take full advantage of some spectacular ocean views after tackling the challenging hill that spans almost two miles about a third into the race up to Hurricane Point. This race winds its way along the Pacific Highway, and is closed for the most part to vehicular traffic, providing for a serene, scenic run experience.
9. Not Since Moses -Five Island, Nova Scotia
Wanting to change your run routine up a bit? How about going for a run on the ocean floor? That’s exactly the terrain that runners get to cover in this August race at Sand Point, Five Island, Nova Scotia. Runners can choose between 5km and 10km distances, and will get to run across the Bay of Fundy at low tide. While the tide is out, runners run alongside scenic, ragged cliffs.
8. Swiss Alpine Marathon -Chur, Switzerland
This 30-year old race began as “a race for the insane”, most likely named so for the number of height inclines and uphill portions in the races, as well as the extra challenges that are present when running at higher altitudes. It has evolved over the years to appeal to a wide variety of runners abilities and also promotes itself as a family friendly event by offering several different distances from a grueling 78km ultra marathon to a 500m kids fun run. It takes place in and around Davos in the Swiss Alps in July.
7. Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend -Orlando, Florida
Who couldn’t use a little magic to carry them through the tough times in their next big race? How about magic from the Magic Kingdom and surrounding parks? The Walt Disney World Marathon weekend offers several different distances over a single weekend, including a full marathon that winds its way through four of the Disney parks, and the Goofy Challenge (which is truly goofy) that involves running a half marathon on the Saturday, followed by the full marathon the following morning. This race weekend occurs in January every year.
6. National Capital Marathon Race Weekend -Ottawa, Ontario
The Ottawa Race weekend is Canada’s largest race weekend and several of the races consistently sell out every year. This particular race weekend usually takes place during the second last weekend in May before the summer heat really sets in. Distances include the full marathon, half marathon, 5km and 10km as well as a Kids Marathon. Runners are treated to some great views along the Rideau Canal, Parliament Hill and other famous landmarks as they wind their way through downtown Ottawa and over the bridges to Gatineau, QC. Almost the whole route is accessible for spectators, so runners can expect lots of fan enthusiasm, beginning to end.
5. Reggae Marathon -Negril, Jamaica
Sun, surf, Reggae music and cold beer when you’re done running? Sounds like a runner’s delight (although the beer may not usually be part of post-run recovery, but when in Rome…). Set for the first weekend in December every year, the Reggae Marathon goes in Negril with a full marathon, half marathon and 10km distances. This event is promoted as having “good vibes and irie spirit”. Once you’re done, there is a party on the beach with Red Stripe Beer and lots of live music.
4. Great Wall Marathon -Tianjin, China
The Great Wall of China may already be on your bucket list, but what about combining that visit with a once-in-a-lifetime run at the same time. Promoted as “5,164 steps into history”, this race offers full and half marathons, as well as an 8.5 km race. This course is challenging, with lots of steps and inclines, but the views are reportedly worth the work. Runners will wind their way through towns and villages as well. This race takes place on the third Saturday in May every year.
3. The Polar Circle Marathon and Half Marathon -Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
If running in one of the most remote, yet scenic spots on the planet appeals to you, then this is your race. Otherwise known as “the coolest marathon on earth” (for obvious reasons) these races take place in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland in October. Runners will run through glaciers tongues, along ice caps and along some more forgiving gravel-based terrain. This route takes them just north of the Polar Circle.
2. Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon -Kauai, Hawaii
After running through the Polar Circle, runners may want a more temperate climate, namely the islands of Hawaii. Held annually in September, these races let runners wind their way through tropical rain forests and stunning views atop oceanside cliffs, the kind that lessen the burn in your thighs as you climb those hills.
1. Bay Shore Marathon -Traverse City, Michigan
This May race offers a full marathon, half marathon and 10km distance run. As far as scenery goes, this run is tops. Runners will be treated to lovely views of Lake Michigan on one side and Traverse City’s orchards and cherry trees on the other. This course is known for being fast and flat which is popular for runners seeking those elusive personal bests.
Early in 2015, the venerable New York Times published its list of ’52 Places To Go To This Year’. Its reasoning rested on the observation that “Untrammeled oases beckon, once-avoided destinations become must-sees and familiar cities offer new reasons to visit.” Its philosophy seems to be that it’s time to stop fighting our way into the overcrowded, stratospherically expensive established sites. Most of the list that follows features three qualities: great food, novelty and at least one United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) site defined as “places on Earth that are of outstanding universal value to humanity”. There are 1007 UNESCO sites in all as of this writing and the places below contain almost 200 of them. Provence and Tuscany? How about Georgia with terrific wine, breathtaking scenery and enough history for a bus full of PhDs. Tired of the prices and lineups in Greece? There’s this little fishing village on the Turkish Riviera. It’s a great idea. Let’s change it up a bit here people. Do something original. How about a feast of muskox on a sub-Arctic speck of rock in the North Atlantic? Beyond that there are some tourism plain Janes who have suddenly let down their hair and are proving to be quite fetching. And there’s a promising crop of the shunned or unavailable who are opening up their unseen treasures. The war in Sri Lanka, with its seven World Heritage Sites is over. The pariah state of Zimbabwe with its incredible wildlife, savannahs, is behaving. So, in the spirit of the Times, here are the best of the best. Twenty totally fresh ways to seriously renovate your travel itinerary:
20. Kas, Turkey
Less expensive than Greece, far less overrun than other places in the region, Kas is a happening place. This little fishing village on the Turkish Riviera, the Turquoise Coast is one of those ever-dwindling number of getaways where you can still get away. It has all the active seaside things you’d want: kayaking, trekking and serious diving (with wrecks and underwater sculpture). One Times reader called it “a must for nature lovers”. To firm up both the mind and the thighs, there are hikes along the Lycian Way to see tombs from the pre-Roman Empire. The elaborate ones carved into the mountainsides are extremely impressive and the best ones are a 45 minute drive away in Xanthos. Pronounced “Cash”, it won’t take a lot of yours to enjoy quality down time without the partying hordes.
19. Baku, Azerbaijan
Begin with the walled city dating from the 12th century. UNESCO calls the 15th century Shuirvinshaj’s palace “one of the pearls of Azerbaijan’s architecture which reflects evidence of Zoroastrian, Sasanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman, and Russian presence”. Looming over the ancient streets is the gaudy modernity of the Flames Towers, a pair of 600 foot buildings, flame shaped, with thousands of LED lights whose ‘flames’ can be seen for miles. It works as an elegant combination of very old and very new as oil money brings the Mercedes, caviar crowd onto the medieval streets.
18. Cáceres, Spain
A phenomenal place that has everything but a beach. History, art, architecture, excellent wine and renowned kitchens. In fact, it is designated as Spain’s Gastronomic Capital for 2015 so there’s a huge buzz about this city of 100,000 near the Portuguese border. The buzz began with the opening of Atrio a striking futuristic hotel-restaurant in the prestigious Relais and Chateau chain with a pair of coveted Michelin Stars. It’s located in the ancient walled city, on UNESCO’s list. The city was captured by the Moors in the 8th century and not retaken by Christians until 1229. Its towers reflect its Roman, Muslim, Visigoth and Christian rulers. Gothic and Renaissance building abound. Much of the city’s once prominent Jewish quarter survives. The UNESCO citation calls it “Outstanding universal value”. A fairy tale place occupied through history by military powers, though the occupying force today consists of brilliant, creative chefs.
17. Chengdu, China
Chengdu eminently qualifies for the off the beaten track status, being near Tibet, 1200 miles inland from the coastal colossus of Shanghai. But there are direct international flights sprouting and it’s the panda capital of the world. The Giant Panda Research Base houses about 200 of the much loved bears. It is also the capital of Sichuan cuisine, luring foodies with spicy palates just to eat the tongue tingling cuisine. There is a Chinese saying “the best cuisine is from China, while the richest flavor is from Chengdu”. There are over 60,000 restaurants and another 62,000 caterers. The city isn’t much to look at but it is one of only eight cities in the world with a UNESCO City of Gastronomy Designation.
16. Danang, Vietnam
Danang has long been known as a good place to stop over on the way to somewhere else, most notably, the UNESCO heritage sites nearby. The old Imperial city of Hue and the ancient town of Hoi An are short trips away. But a modern skyline is taking shape and the city between the Marble Mountains and the gorgeous beaches on the South China Sea is becoming worthy of a stay on its own. China Beach was a favorite place of GI’s for R&R during the Vietnam War. Beachside luxury resorts are going up, and keep in mind, the exchange rate for the Vietnamese Dong is well over 20,000 to the US$ and Euro making those hotels and signature banh mi Vietnamese sandwiches pretty affordable.
15. Alentejo, Portugal
It’s something that makes North Americans shake their heads. The beaches of Alantejo (the best in Europe says The Guardian) are relatively unknown because they are remote, a whole two hours from Lisbon. Two hours? That’s a daily commute in the New World. But all the better for non-Europeans who have no qualms about spending chunks of their lives in cars. Beaches aside there are Roman ruins to be found. Visigoth ruins in fact. Evora is another UNESCO site, an impeccably preserved medieval town. The winemakers produce delicious rich, fruity reds yet Alantejo remains one of the poorest regions of Europe. The crash of the ocean waves, the melodies of the Fado singer in the square, the sense of looking back through time at a disappearing way of life make it a most compelling destination. But hurry, because Michelin stars and oenophile hotels are sprouting already.
14. Shikoku, Japan
It’s called the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Eighty eight temples along a 750-mile trail begun in 815 A.D. to honor the much revered monk Kobo Daishi. It is considered a path to spiritual enlightenment. Modern pilgrims can forego the quest for perfection and choose from the many places on Japan’s smallest island that demand a visit. Pick and choose which of the many sites that demand a visit. Matsuyama is the largest city with an imposing castle, ancient hot springs and seven sacred temples. Up in the inland mountains is the Iya Valley; lush, isolated with heart-stopping gorges and vine bridges for the brave. The many hot springs will soothe your mortal coil after a day of incredible hiking or white water rafting.
13. Papua New Guinea
It’s a good news, bad news kind of story. One of the most remote, exotic places in the world is opening up to tourism. The not so good part is monster cruise ships are just beginning their intrusion on a pristine island country. The beaten track is barely visible from PNG. There won’t be much chilling by the hotel pool here. Because there aren’t a lot of hotel pools, as tourism is still a fledgling industry. There’s a whole new rich ecosystem here wit tribal cultures to experience and timeless beauty in jungles almost lost to time. The 60 mile long Kokoda Track takes hardy trekkers through native villages. Madang in the north is getting famous for diving and PNG as a whole is a birders paradise. Do keep in mind that the capital, Port Moresby has often been rated among the Least Livable Cities in the world. Nobody’s perfect.
There are still the breathtaking fjords to be cruised, whales to be watched and sunning at midnight to be done. Chalk one up for climate change, Greenland is getting greener (we joke). The amazing UNESCO Heritage Site the enormous Ilulissat Icefjord is at its noisiest and most active during summer sunshine when icebergs the size of mountains heave and crack. It’s a memorable day trip from Ilulissat, the third largest city and there are boat trips out into Disko Bay to get up close and icicle with the massive bergs. As with other northern countries, there’s a movement to modernize traditional cooking, focusing on local ingredients and freshness. Seafood to die for and game, especially muskox are favorites. The Greenland website reassures diners about the taste of muskox “The taste of muskox surpasses that of domestic livestock and, it melts in your mouth bursting with flavor”. Get more acquainted with native culture at the Qasigiannguit Museum with exhibits from the Stone Age to today.
The Georgian word for wine is ‘ghvino’, claimed to be the origin to the English ‘wine’, Italian ‘vino’. They have been making wine here for 7000 years and they are pulling the cork on what the Times calls the next great wine destination. The pleasant capital Tbilisi has a wine bar on just about every corner and there are wine tours of Kakheti, the main producing region. Surprisingly rich in natural beauty, situated between Russia and Turkey, many empires have left their mark on it. There are fabulous old churches, Black Sea resorts and alpine beauty. But it’s the vino attracting the attention now. The Georgian description of a good wine is one that could make a pheasant cry. So an American who came to visit, stayed, and started a vineyard whose wines bear the name “Pheasant’s Tears.”
10. Sri Lanka
A long deadly civil war made this an island that people only wanted desperately to get out of. Now, a tourism industry is being built where there were battlefields not long ago. The peace has allowed the small island nation to show off its considerable assets. Beaches that go on forever. Eight World Heritage sights. Cuisine to please the pickiest foodie. Sri Lanka is a world tea superpower. Plantations and tea museums are popular. There are safari camps here too, especially in the lush Sinharaja rain forest. Find a treetop yoga studio or luxury spa. At Dam bulla, temples have been carved out of sheer rock and filled with stunning centuries-old Buddhist artworks and artifacts. And last but certainly by no means least, the perfection of the Maldives, a thousand or so islands off the southern coast in the Indian Ocean. It is on the short list for best beach in the world. And if it’s not it, it sure is close.
Thoughts of rugged fjords bring forth images of icy Scandinavian inlets with bone chilling cold and sheer granite cliffs. Well, welcome to the Norway of Arabia where the heat can melt your bridgework. Here in the isolated Musandam Peninsula the fjords are called khors. The scene is so other-worldly the BBC compared it to “the shores of a Martian Sea.” Adding to the spice is its location on the Strait of Hormuz, one of the top three places where WW3 is likely to start. Nearby are little-known but spectacular coral reefs making for great diving. Oman is the last part of the Arab world that hasn’t been paved and skyscraperred with oil money. The capital Muscat is a lovely low-key feast of Muslim architecture, old Portuguese forts and bazaars. Its geography ranges from incredible mountainscapes to ancient desert to pristine beaches, but the cranes are becoming more common on the skyline and names like Radisson, Kempinski, Four Seasons and Fairmont are now setting up shop.
8. The North Coast of Peru
A number of places on the list are familiar destinations opening up new alternative tourist attractions. The medieval Incan capital of Cusco and the mysterious, celestial Macchu Picchu need no promotion and may even have too many visitors for their own good. The North Coast is remote, as in 22 hours from Cusco. Its Macchu Picchu rival is the fort at Kuélap, a stone city at 10,000 feet. Built by the Chachapoyas, or ‘People of the Clouds’ around the first Millennium, its sophisticated design required more stone to build than the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Eco-friendly hotels and sites abound. The Andean spectacled bear is nearly extinct, but can be found in numbers at the Chipparri Reserve. Surfers will like the waves and vibes in the village of Mancora. For whale watchers and serious fishing types, there is Cabo Blanco, once a favorite of Ernest Hemingway. It’s like a whole new world in Peru’s North Coast, still unspoiled relatively undeveloped and still inexpensive.
Home of the timeless, magical Serengeti with its breathtaking scenes and staggering annual migration of more than two million mammals, wildebeests, gazelles and zebras. The Times says “the real new treasure here is unprecedented access to sparsely trafficked regions.” The Selous Game Reserve in the south is home to large populations of elephants and leopards. The landscape in the relatively unknown Arangire National Park unique in the region and is home to climbing lions and giraffe. Trek as far up Africa’s highest mountain in Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park, and when you done following the herds and conquering mountain tops, Zanzibar awaits with its rich history, wonderful beaches and newly upgraded creature comforts.
Long run by one of the world’s most despicable despots, Zimbabwe is slowly emerging from pariah status with political stability unseen in years. With the currency next to worthless, a window of tremendous opportunity has opened on a country whose natural beauty cannot be overstated. Infrastructure and travel companies are making visiting easier than ever. There are five UNESCO Sites including the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, said to be the home of the Queen of Sheba. There is the legendary Mosi-oa-Tunya or Victoria Falls the largest curtain waterfall on earth. Stability looks good on the capital Harare, one of the nicest on the sub content, but it’s still the big game safaris that are the biggest draw on open savannahs or in numerous National Parks. It’s truly the stuff that dreams are made of.
5. Medellin, Colombia
Urban renewal with innovative architecture and design. Not long ago the name Medellin was synonymous with drug lords and corruption. It is now becoming known for one of the most ambitious urban transformations in the world. The renewal is epitomized by the futuristic Metrocables, cable cars that unlocked the impoverished people in the surrounding hills from poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods integrating them with the urban renewal below. Similarly, another slum was transformed by the stunning Avant Garde architecture of the Biblioteca Espana. Revel in the night life with the beautiful people at the Parque Llera and enjoy the gentle climate in the place known as City of Eternal Spring.
According to the Times, this is THE next Balkan destination. The first good sign: there are no McDonalds. All closed. God bless them. The capital Skopje was recently rated one of the 10 least expensive cities in the world. Once one of the great crossroads of history, Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and much later Communist empires held sway and left their cultural, architectural and culinary influences. Skopje is a vibrant melting pot of all of them. A surprising treasure trove of natural beauty, there is much to sight-see or for the more active to climb, hike or ride. It is landlocked but the beaches of Lake Ohrid are renowned as are the vineyards are a mere three hour drive across the Greek border.
3. The Faroe Islands
The Faroes are a scattering of rocky islands 150 miles due north of Scotland in the north Atlantic. It has a famously ornery climate and a brooding sub-Arctic other-worldly beauty that traditionally drew bird-watchers, naturalists and trekkers. It is one of the world capitals for those adorable puffins, which also show up on local menus. Its current celebrity is based on a unique new cuisine as set out in The New Nordic Kitchen Manifesto that is traditional Scandinavian food meets The Iron Chef. Not much grows in that climate so they forage for herbs, harvest seaweed and pair them with locally grown mutton and the superb deep-sea Faroe Bank cod and mussels and serve them with wild angelica on driftwood plates, all washed down with schnapps followed by local beer and cheese. An unforgettable feast after an unforgettable day trekking up the highest mountain at Slættaratindur. It is tucked away off the beaten track but as part of Denmark, it’s a short flight from Copenhagen.
A definite hint that things are happening here: the culinary genius behind the world’s # 1 rated restaurant for three consecutive years in Copenhagen has opened a place in La Paz. Another South American bad boy turning it around drawing investors and interest in its unsurpassed scenery and cities. It has become a destination for foodies, trekkers wine snobs and adventure seekers. Who knew Bolivia made wine, let alone having an acclaimed wine route? From the exuberance of La Paz to an array of sublime World Heritage sites to spectacular settings to hike, ski, mountain bike and exhaust yourself to your heart’s content. You can follow Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid south to Tupiza, but lay off the train robbing and your visit will end much happier than theirs.
1. Durban, South Africa
Long overshadowed by its two bigger, siblings, Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa’s third largest city is stepping into the limelight. ‘Durbs’ as it’s known is undergoing a serious reno and upgrade, thanks in part to facilities from the 2010 Worlds Cup. The beachside Rivertown neighborhood of warehouses and Art Deco buildings is being transformed into a happening ‘hood of galleries, restaurants and skateboard installations to jumpstart its rather tranquil night life. Durban is also home to a large ethnic Indian community and the influence is unmistakable. It was here that a young lawyer named Mohandas Gandhi settled in 1883 and began his legendary life as activist and leader.
Depending on your perspective, wintertime is either a time to sit at home and hibernate or it’s the time to kick into high gear and really participate in some high action, fun and exhilarating sports. The fact is that participating in sports is one of the best things you can do as a tourist when you’re traveling the world and the wintertime shouldn’t stop you from doing it. It’s for the people who love winter, sports and traveling that we present this list of the 10 Best Winter Sports and Where to Find Them. Some of these sports are meant to provide you with relaxation and fun for the whole family, while others are meant to challenge you to be at your very best, because no matter what your goal is when you’re participating in sports one thing is for sure, you can visit some of the most beautiful places in the world and create memories that will last forever once you’ve had the chance to visit some of these jewels of winter sports. Here’s the list…
Have you ever had to walk outside after a winter blizzard only to notice that your feet are buried in the snow and you’re practically waist deep and unable move? Alright, we’re exaggerating a little bit here, but that very challenge we humans have faced probably contributed to the invention of snowshoeing. A snowshoe is like a big giant tennis racket that’s tied to the bottom of your foot and spreads your weight evenly across the snow, allowing you to move through treacherous terrain in the wintertime without falling into the white powder.
It can be a truly exhilarating aerobic exercise, and definitely is a fun sport to participate in during the dead of winter. Krvavec, Slovenia offers its famous Igloo Village as one of the great places in the world to participate in snowshoeing. It offers a huge stretch of Alpine landscaping that remains completely untouched. The whole village is basically a network of tunnels that connect you to hotels, bars and restaurants as well, which makes for an all-around tourist’s paradise for avid winter athletes.
9. Dog Sledding
Dogs are awesome. They’re friendly, cuddly and man’s best friend, but they can also be quite fierce and reliable when called for, especially when it comes to battling through winter weather. Of course the little beagle that you have at home isn’t really going to protect you or get you anywhere in the middle of the wilderness in the wintertime, but a pack of Huskies would certainly do the trick.
The bottom line is if you want an exhilarating experience that you’ll never forget, you should definitely try dogsledding. A pack of dogs chained to a sled running through trails can really get the speed going and your adrenaline rushing. The best place in the world for it is in Greenland through Greenland Explored. This place offers you the real deal; a chance to go dogsledding with Inuit guides. You can go on a day trip or a trip that lasts several days with the guide, the dogs and an in-depth tour that gives you loads of information and fun facts about what you’re seeing. It’s really a once in a lifetime winter sport experience.
8. Ice Fishing
There really is nothing like going fishing when you want to relax, especially in the summertime with a cold beer in your hand, assuming of course that you’re not drinking and boating at the exact same time. However, there is something to be said for fishing in the wintertime. Ice fishing can be fun too, especially if you’re a kid and your dad’s really into it and asks you to skip school to go with him on a trip, (like a certain writer at EH once did).
Now as much as the cool kids don’t exactly skip school to go ice fishing, it really is a thrilling spin on a hobby normally reserved for summertime. One of the best places in the world that you can go and do it is Cold Lake in Alberta. You’ll have the opportunity to catch fish there weighing upwards of 18 pounds! Cold Lake is located right on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada. You can fish for walleye, pike and whitefish. What most of what you manage to nab out of the water may not weigh 18 pounds, catching a 10-pound fish is not uncommon.
7. Snow Sculpture Competitions
No matter what your experience level participating in winter events and sports may be, there’s a good chance we can probably all agree that snow sculptures and the concept of them is just amazing. If you can say that you have an appreciation for that kind of art, then you’ll be absolutely blown away by the sights you can see at the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in China. The festival includes the world’s biggest ice sculptures and is considered the biggest event of its kind on the planet.
To see sculptors from all over the world challenge themselves mentally in terms of the cool designs and amazing images they can conjure up through their art and also challenge themselves physically in terms of being able to put together so many amazing pieces in perfect detail is just incredible to witness. If building ice sculptures was a sport, these artisans would be the top athletes in the world. One visit there will inspire you to try it yourself without a doubt. The festival celebrated its 30th anniversary last year and it seems to only get bigger and brighter every year.
Remember back in the day when you were a kid and you would slide down a really big hill close to your home on a sled in the dead of winter and never want it to end? Well the sad fact of life is that what goes up must come down, so eventually the incredible speed, the wind blowing through your hair and the fun of being a little bit scared and exhilarated all at the same time had come to a halt. The good news is that while there is no such thing as a never-ending downhill slope, you can get pretty close to one if you go to the Wildkogel Sledding Arena in Bramberg, Austria.
This tobogganing haven is located in the western part of Austria and it’s probably the biggest tobogganing hill in the world. It takes approximately 30 to 50 minutes to go all the way down the course. The entire course is floodlit until 10 PM every night and it’s open from mid December through March. With a course this long it’ll feel like an eternity of tobogganing fun (almost).
5. Snow Tubing
Not to be confused with tobogganing of course, snow tubing is a little bit different. For one, you can spin around in circles while you’re going down which makes it way more fun. Secondly, you can go downhill after midnight thanks to Midnight Madness. At least that’s the case if you’re at Mad River Mountain in Ohio. No doubt there are many places that offer big-time slopes you can go down on a tube from Japan to Germany and everywhere in between, but there aren’t too many places that offer it after midnight.
This is obviously an especially cool experience for adults, because after all school is in session during the wintertime and the little ones should really be in bed by then. But seriously, if you want to go snow tubing you can go for three hours for just $25 and the website offers you an opportunity to bring along your fellow snow tubers in a group and save a little bit more money. The slope itself is pretty awesome, but it’s the experience of flying down it in the middle of the night that’s most exciting and totally worth every penny you spend.
When your city plays host to the 2010 Winter Olympics there’s a good chance you might be some world-class facilities left behind for tourists to use, which bodes well for winter sports athletes of all levels, particularly those that would like to try the luge. If you’ve never heard of the sport, it involves going down a big giant twisting tube of ice on a sled with nothing except a helmet and a skintight suit to protect you. You also wear shoes that can dig into the ice but who’s worried about that when you’re sliding down feet first at what feels like 200 miles an hour?
Of course no sports manager in their right frame of mind would let you slide down the ice at 200 mph on your first go around, but you can indeed try the luge in Whistler, British Columbia Canada. If you wanted you could do the riskier version of the sport as well and try the skeleton. It’s the exact same thing as the luge only you are going down headfirst instead of feet first, getting you even closer to an exhilarating, near death experience. We’re exaggerating a bit here as it doesn’t have to be that intense but if you try the luge in British Columbia, even at a recreational level you’ll have a great time.
Yellowstone National Park in Montana is one of the best places in the world to go snowmobiling. The western part of it averages 143 inches of snow per year, which means that as long as the season calls for cold weather, you are guaranteed to be able to go there, get on your snowmobile and ride through incredible, scenic terrains on fresh white powder. People first started riding the modern-day snowmobile in Yellowstone National Park back in the early 1960s, and ever since then it’s been a popular thing to do in Montana.
In this day and age the tenders of the park have focused more on managing the large amount of snowmobiles that come into the park every year and there are restrictions in place to keep things safe when it comes to speed and other aspects of snowmobiling. That said, the scenery you get to witness as you ride in the wide open spaces make it way too exciting to pass up and one of the best places in the world to check out when it comes to snowmobiling.
2. Cross Country Skiing
If you don’t like the idea of skiing down a slope at 100 miles an hour, you can still enjoy the exhilarating parts of the sport by trying the cross-country version. Comparing cross-country skiing to downhill skiing or snowboarding is like comparing a walk or jog in the park to a downright sprint. You can go through trails with up and down hills that challenge you, but move at your own pace and get your arms going as well. It’s basically like walking on skis.
Even if you don’t know a lot about sports it’s probably no secret that Norway is the best place to go for cross-country skiing. Norwegians don’t excel at the sport in the Winter Olympics by accident. Fortunately you don’t have to be an Olympian to excel at the activity recreationally and have a great time. In the fall and winter, you can get a great view of the Northern Lights, and there are several different paths and areas in the country where you can give it a shot. Stabbursdalen National Park is probably one of the more infamous cross-country skiing spots in the nation.
Other than ice hockey, perhaps the only other sport completely synonymous with the winter is skiing, and of course for the cool kids who are into the more extreme version, there’s snowboarding and ski-blading too. Ski blades are simply shorter versions of skis designed for speed and acrobatics. No matter what floats your boat in terms of winter sports, the point is you can use skiing to enjoy racing downhill, participate in the cross-country variety, or even jump out of a helicopter right onto a mountain if you really wanted to.
Whistler, British Columbia would no doubt be one of the top places in the world to go and try any one of those skiing related activities. As mentioned earlier, the city hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, so to say that you have access to world-class slopes there is an understatement. If you’re feeling like traveling elsewhere however just to get a little outside of the domestic North American locations, you could always make a trip to Switzerland and check out The Swiss Alps. The town of Zermatt is worth a look if you’re the type of person that wants to party while you enjoy the fresh powder.
Experiencing the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights is a goal for many people. This beautiful light display can only be seen in the late fall and winter months, and only from the northernmost areas of the world. Sometimes, when the lights are at their fullest, you can see them farther south, but this is a very rare occasion.
If it is your dream to see the Northern Lights, you will find that the following eight places offer you the best view of the Aurora Borealis.
1. Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks may be one of the northernmost cities in the United States, but it may not be north enough to enjoy the Northern Lights. There are, however, tours that are specifically designed to take people north past the Arctic Circle so that they can experience the Northern Lights. Visitors will need to fly into Anchorage and then find transportation to Fairbanks. One of the best methods is the Alaska Winter Snow Train. This is a wonderful ride through the wilderness and adds to the overall experience.
2. Yellowknife, Canada
Yellowknife is the capital city of the Northwest Territory and is located about 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Famous for its gold and diamond mines, this city is also referred to as the “Northern Lights Capital of the World.” Once you leave the city area, you can see the Northern Lights with such clarity that it will take your breath away. Of course, make sure that you have some extra time to explore this relatively new yet historically rich city.
3. Reykjavik, Iceland
This beautiful area is located on the very edge of the Arctic Circle. While Reykjavik offers one of the most accessible ways to see the Northern Lights, transportation to and from Iceland can be difficult, especially during the winter season when the Northern Lights are most prominent.
4. Ivalo, Finland
Located in the Arctic right near the Russian border, Ivalo is one of the finest places on earth to experience the lights. In many cases the lights are so bright here that you can see them from the city. If you are having a hard time seeing the Northern Lights, hire a tour guide to take you out into the Arctic areas to experience them in a wilderness area.
5. Kiruna, Sweden
Kiruna is the northernmost city in Sweden and is famous for being the perfect place to see the Aurora Borealis and the Midnight Sun. Kiruna is actually located 145 miles north of the Arctic Circle. One of the largest attractions in Kiruna besides the Northern Lights is the Ice Hotel. This area has been a favorite among Norther Lights watchers because of the many other things that they can enjoy inbetween viewings of the Lights.
6. Tromso, Norway
Tromso is located even farther north than Kiruna. Located 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the city is a prime location for the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun. You can see the Aurora Borealis between 6 p.m. and midnight every night between September and March, with the best nights in December and January. Visitors must remember that the sun is not visible at all between November 21 and January 21 each year. This, of course, is also the best times to see the Northern Lights.
7. Shetland Islands, UK
The Shetland Islands are a part of Scotland and are located about 110 miles north of mainland Scotland in the Polar Regions of the Atlantic Ocean. With mild weather in comparison to other areas located this far north, Shetland is a wonderful place to experience the Aurora Borealis. Because of the wide open spaces located throughout the many islands that make up Shetland, there are innumerable places to view the Lights with pleasure.
8. Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
This area of Greenland is very desolate even though it holds the largest commercial airport in the country. The total population of Kangerlussuaq is only 512 people. Northern Light tours are offered between October and April. If you are very adventurous, Dog Sled tour packages to see the Northern Lights are offered between February and April each year. These are three day expeditions. With over 300 clear nights each year, you may also be able to see the Northern Lights from your hotel room window.