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Sports And Adventure
Since 2009, the adventure travel industry has grown at a staggering rate – 65 percent year-over-year – and today it’s a $263 billion industry. While the words “adventure travel” might make you think of extreme heli hiking or mountain biking through the Alps, there’s a huge range of options, many of which are entirely doable for the average traveler. From slow-paced culture and adventure trips, to hiking, kayaking, and biking tours, there’s something for almost everyone, from kids to baby boomers and beyond. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite tours and ranked them by effort and strenuousness – 1 being the least challenging (light activity like walking), 2 a little bit challenging (like snorkeling), 3 mid-level challenging (longer, slow-paced hikes), 4 intermediate-level challenging (like stand-up paddle-boarding and hiking through rainforest), and 5 at an advanced level (strenuous hikes or mountain climbs throughout the trip). You might be surprised at how affordable – and approachable – they can be:
1. South Africa
If Africa has always been on your travel bucket list, consider this vacation. It’s guaranteed to cross off some major destinations like Table Mountain, Cape Town, and Victoria Falls. Explore the country’s capital, stop in South Africa’s wine country, and continue on to Kruger National Park, a game sanctuary, for a few days of safari. You’ll have the opportunity to see zebra, giraffe, hippo, and more wild animals. End on a high note (literally) at Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, where 550,000 cubic meters of water go over the towering falls every minute. 11 nights; from $3,593 with airfare
Adventure level: 1
Of Sedona’s 100+ hiking trails, there are four that tend to stand out from the crowd. And it’s not their natural beauty, climate, or level of difficulty that makes them special, but rather, if you can believe it, the energy of their respective locations. Though many of its residents are there for the hiking and extreme beauty of the area, the town also attracts an eclectic group of psychics, fortune-tellers, and soul-seekers who make frequent pilgrimages there to connect with a higher plane.
In 1981, a woman named Page Bryant, a psychic, author and lecturer who made her home in Sedona for 10 years, identified four “vortexes” throughout town, where she felt the metaphysical energy was the strongest. Now, locals roll their eyes at this for a couple reasons. To start, the vortexes are all conveniently located off major highways, drawing concerns that tourism might be the motivation behind their selection. Guides also like to joke is that Bryant was a bit out of shape, so she selected areas that were easily accessible. It’s also tough to tell whether these areas cause visitors to feel good because of their “energy,” or simply because they showcase Sedona’s incredible beauty.
What’s the truth? Well, I guess you’ll have to make a visit and decide for yourself. In the meantime, here’s a breakdown of the four individual sites: Read more
After spending five days in Iceland, I can’t understand what took me so long to visit. The country is a mere five-hour flight from New York (like flying to California) but it’s a world away in terms of the scale of its nature adventures. Iceland is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.
Reykjavik is a small, charming city with one main street, a cute harbor, excellent restaurants, and a handful of city sights to explore, like the new opera house. But if you want to get the best of Iceland, the prime sightseeing is outside of town. I hadn’t planned any excursions in advance so I had to work fast and learn about what I needed to see.
I short-listed a few activities after asking fellow hotel guests what they recommended. Here’s what I did: Read more
Angkor Wat, the Grand Canyon, the Blue Lagoon: just a few of the natural and man-made wonders many of us, if we’re lucky, get to experience during a lifetime of travel. In most cases, visiting them is as easy as just showing up. But what about the countless other jaw-dropping sites we’ll never get to see? Whether too remote, or frozen under ice, or sunk at the bottom of the ocean, here are a few “hidden” sites that no technological advancements – or wishful thinking – can ever bring us closer to.
Earlier this month, a team of scientists discovered a previously-unknown volcano, located deep under the Pacific, 1,000 miles off the coast of Japan. Confirmed as the largest volcano in the world (about a hundred times bigger than Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, which previously held the title), the rock mound, nicknamed Tamu Massif, would make for a pretty impressive sight – too bad its summit lies 4,500 feet below the ocean’s surface. Evidence shows that the 124-million-year-old volcano likely went dormant shortly after it formed, though that doesn’t bring us any closer to traversing its wide, craggy surface. Read more
Walking along the path to visit the famed Dayang Bunting Lake (or Pregnant Maiden Lake) in Langkawi, Malaysia, you’ll find yourself stopping constantly, like I did. It’s not because of the scenery is beautiful (though it is), or because you’re tired from hiking up and down the slippery steps (though I was), but because of the monkeys. Lush jungle borders the walkway that leads to the lake and monkeys are everywhere. They’re hanging from trees, tearing apart Coke cans, and running across the path just inches in front of you.
Just before I descended the last steep stairway to reach the lake’s docks and swimming area, I came across a bigger monkey perched on an information board meant to tell tourists about what they were seeing in the forest (pictured). He was asking for his photo be taken. So I obliged and took my fair share. And then things went bad, real fast. He came after me, reached out his long arm and grabbed onto my backpack as I took off running. I felt a slight tug before I managed to get loose – while they may look small, believe me, those primates are strong.
Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, India, they all have huge national parks, nature reserves, and geoparks. If you’re traveling to Asia, chances are you’ll run into a monkey or two. But before you go, you’ll want to learn the ins and outs of interacting with wild animals, namely monkeys. (They’re like squirrels in the Northeast.) Consider these tips before you go: Read more
At a glance, the 48 contiguous United States seem pretty well glued together. A few oddities may stick out – like Florida dangling limb-like out into the ocean, or that big hole in the northern Arizona desert – but for the most part, with a full tank of gas and the open road, you can pretty much get anywhere you need to go. Which makes it even harder to believe there’s a part of Washington state that can only be accessed by crossing the Canadian border, and then re-entering the country. Located just 22 miles south of Vancouver, Point Roberts, Washington is indeed out-of-the-way, it’s what you’ll find there that makes the trek worthwhile. Read more
Though mainland Malaysia is already considered a budget-friendly destination for many travelers, the cost of traveling to Malaysian Borneo might initially seem like an unnecessary expense if you’re trying to see the country on a budget. However, with incredibly affordable round-trip flights now being offered by Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching for as low as 120 ringgit (about $36), there are tons of reasons to add a few more days to your trip and explore this often overlooked island. If you stay away from the higher-end resorts and expensive restaurants, you’ll find that seeing Malaysian Borneo is not only easy on your wallet, but also a phenomenal place with jungles, a cat city, ancient ruins, national parks, and plenty of monkeys. Here are my top five ideas for enjoying the best of Borneo for a lot less than you might expect.
Take a day trip to one of Borneo’s national parks:
While there are plenty of national parks all throughout the island of Borneo, my favorites were Bako National Park (where you can likely catch of a glimpse of the rare long-nosed proboscis monkey) or Niah National Park (where you can see gorgeous cave paintings dating back 1,200 years). The only costs you’ll incur on a day trip like this is getting there and paying your entrance to the park, so there’s absolutely no reason not to add a day of nature to your itinerary.
Getting to Bako: Simply take a bus to Bako Bazaar in Kampung Bazaar (1.50 ringgit; $0.45) and then charter a boat to the park (they wait at the dock for customers). If you’re willing to share the boat ride with other passengers, you can cut your cost down from 40 ringgit per person to as low as 8 ringgit ($2.40). Entrance to the national park for foreign visitors is just 20 ringgit ($6).
Total cost: 29.5 ringgit (under $10) Read more
Table Mountain, the flat-topped monolith that soars over Cape Town, South Africa, is one of the coastal city’s most iconic landmarks. Named as one of the world’s new seven wonders of nature last year by the foundation New7Wonders, the gorgeous, cloud-swathed mountain is flanked by the surrounding peaks of Lion’s Head and Devil’s Peak, and offers stunning views of the city and its beaches and harbor below.
It’s not surprising, then, that exploring Table Mountain is a huge draw for both visitors and Capetonians themselves – a fit, outdoorsy bunch who relish the abundance of outdoor activities their city offers. One way to impress them? Ascend to the 3,280-foot peak on foot.
On a recent trip to South Africa, I did just that – and the experience was a shining highlight of my time in Cape Town. Here, a few tips I learned on the way up. Read more
Each year, The Economist releases its list of the world’s most livable cities – and for three years now, Melbourne in Australia has earned the number one spot. We got to thinking, there must be something we’re not seeing – certainly, we thought, it has nothing on Sydney’s rich culture, or the Gold Coast’s beautiful beaches, but after a little digging, we uncovered a few reasons why we think it’s made it to the top, year after year. Read more
The news from the World Travel Awards that Yorkshire is this year’s Leading European Destination had us feeling a little skeptical. Yorkshire is lovely, and we’ll even concede its ”God’s Own Country” moniker has merit, but is it really more deserving of such a grand title over, say (runners up) Paris, Barcelona, and Florence? Well, maybe. Here are our 10 favorite things about Yorkshire, so you can decide for yourself. Read more
Nerd alert: I’m kind of obsessed with roller coasters. The first time I went to Darien Lake, an amusement park near my hometown in upstate New York, and saw the Viper run it’s looping course, I was hooked. I could tell you all sorts of details on the speeds, heights, and design aspects of various coasters (as roller coaster enthusiasts call them) across the country…but I’ll spare you those boring statistics.
Instead, I’ve put together a list of the top attractions (there are a few non-coasters in the mix, too) slated to open next year. While most major parks close for the cold winter months, construction crews get to work building the next adrenaline-pumping thrill rides that keep millions of park patrons coming back for more. Here’s what you have to look forward to in 2014:
1. Banshee, Kings Island (Ohio):
Come May, Kings Island, a sprawling amusement park near Cincinnati, will be home to the world’s longest inverted coaster, Banshee (pictured above). Inverted coasters feature trains with seats hanging below the track, allowing riders’ legs to dangle freely in the air. Riders will be flipped upside-down seven times on what the park calls it’s first “female themed” ride. Read more
When Sir Walter Raleigh arrived at a peculiar, black-colored lake on the southeast coast of Trinidad in the late 17th century, he ordered his men to barrel up its contents. Though originally in search of El Dorado, the fabled city of gold, Raleigh instead stumbled upon a different treasure – tar – and began using the stuff as caulk for his ships.
Known today as Pitch Lake, or Tierra de Brea, what Raleigh had unknowingly discovered was the world’s largest natural asphalt deposit (there are four others: three in California and one in Venezuela). Though don’t let its name fool you: while small pools tend to form during the rainy season, it’s far from a typical lake. Read more
Some people only dream of exploring Australia’s prized gem: The Great Barrier Reef, with its crystal clear blue waters and countless species of fish that call it home. But getting to Australia, let alone the natural heritage site (and one of the seven natural wonders of the world), isn’t easy. Aside from the numerous hours on a plane, hotel expenses, activity fees – the list goes on – there are plenty of reasons to just save it for “later.” Until now.
With its various reds, yellows, and greens, the oft-photographed Zhangye Danxia landform is known as the eye candy of Zhangye, China. This national geopark is filled with colorful hills and rock formations that look like an artist swept a rosy paint brush across the land. The multi-colored landscape was formed out of reddish sandstone that has eroded over 24 million years into the various mountains surrounded by curved cliffs and unusual rock formations that we see today. Read more
Two years ago, my 87-year-old grandparents took a river boat cruise through Germany. When they were younger, they had traveled the world – and weren’t about to give up that adventurous part of their lives just because they’d gotten older. They came back raving about how wonderful it was to go abroad again, particularly on a trip where everything was taken care of, and where the pace was designed for their age group.
Below are several good-value tour options for mature travelers to book for themselves, or that would make a great gift for a parent or grandparent. Read more
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