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Set smack dab in the midst of New Zealand’s North Island – and sitting squarely on the notorious Pacific Rim of Fire – Rotorua marks a steaming and bubbling cauldron of dynamic geothermal activity. Oozing with boiling mud, colorful mineral pools, steam-spewing geysers, ancient caldera-capped lakes, and an overall fantastical geography, Rotorua’s geothermal landscape ensures its firmly fixed place on the country’s well-trodden tourism circuit. Visitors here will discover abundant opportunities to contemplate the earth’s raw geothermal power and to ogle its otherworldly landscapes – and will also encounter a spa town culture that maximizes the natural spa features just underfoot.
Think of New Zealand, and chances are images of dramatic natural landscapes spring to mind long before its cultural triumphs do. But for culture vultures swooping in on Kiwi country, New Zealand’s charismatic Wellington capital (affectionately dubbed “Welly”) makes for an engaging urban base to sample the creative local take on Kiwi culture.
The lively little city brims with world-class museums and galleries; quirky outdoor sculptures; a slate of local theaters, live music venues, and performing arts centers (including the Royal New Zealand Ballet, New Zealand Opera, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, to name a few); regular arts and cultural events; and a vibrant film industry (“Wellywood” is the base for Peter Jackson’s international film empire). But you’ll still get that wow-factor true-to-New Zealand natural setting nestled between a picturesque harbor and rolling windswept hills. Plus, a coffee, culinary, and craft beer culture (perhaps best sampled in the Bohemian quarter near Cuba Street) help fuel this urban jewel’s pulsing creative buzz.
Read on for some of the best cultural freebies to ensure your time and money is well-spent in Wellington. Read more
Since the release of the first Lord of the Rings film, tourism in New Zealand has not been the same. All the evidence you need is right there on New Zealand’s tourism site; their biggest tour plug on the homepage states, “Take a journey through Middle-earth.” And boy can you do that. The site has mapped out important spots from all the movies and suggest tours around the films like A Haflings Ramble on the North Island or Elven Magic which is a 10-day tour through all of middle earth (you can hit Auckland, Wellington, Glenorchy and Queenstown, among other spots). Or, tour companies like Hobbiton Movie Set Tours will do all the scheduling for you. But, many of the sites can be seen on your own. Here are three spots we think you should definitely hit: Read more
You might have been waiting all summer for that perfect sunny day, but in the U.S., those rays have turned into a scorcher. With America currently experiencing the hottest summer on record, some of us are wishing for a cooler front. What better time, then, to dream about the Southern Hemisphere, which is going through its winter months? While it may not be easy to book a last minute getaway to these destinations, just lusting over them will hopefully cool you down.
Angel Falls – Venezuela
Venezuela is mostly tropical due to its location just north of the equator, but thanks to its varied geography, pockets of microclimates exist. One such area is the Guiana Highlands, a southern region of the country characterized by imposing plateaus and vast upland plains. From June to early September, the average temperature hits 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 35 degree at night, making this the best time to visit the Angel Falls in Canaima National Park. Renowned as the world’s highest waterfall at 3,212 feet, winter’s torrential rains causes the rapids to swell to their full glory. However, if storm clouds shroud your view, Canaima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a destination in itself, with impressive geological formations and lush greenery.
As you might have noticed, we’ve been a bit obsessed with the beach lately thanks to the East Coast heat wave. We’ve looked at the worst people at the beach, the crazy things that beachgoers do, and The Definitive Guide to Going to the Beach. This all started a few weeks ago when we asked you to share your favorite underrated beaches with us. We put the call out on Twitter and Facebook, as well. It’s clear that you all have firm opinions on the best beaches in the world that don’t get enough attention. With summer in full swing and everyone looking for ways to beat the heat without dealing with obnoxious crowds, traffic snarls, and boring routines, it’s time to take a look at some of your favorite underrated and lesser-known beaches. Read more
Wine regions have long provided the perfect backdrop for romantic endeavors. Visiting is an inspiring way to get a lay of the land, the grapes, and the locals. Plus, these regions typically have a wealth of romantic accommodations – think chic boutiques, luxury castle accommodations, and wine-inspired bungalows. Herewith, six of the world’s most stirring vino-producing areas:
Morocco is a provocative spot and a tip-top choice among honeymooners, yet few travelers think of wine when they think of this Muslim country. It’s time to reconsider: Morocco produces more than 40 million bottles of wine a year and employs 10,000 Moroccans in this booming business.
We’re already a month into 2011 (and close to Valentine’s Day), so I’m sure you’ve begun thinking about when you can get away with your sweetheart – for an anniversary or birthday – and where to go. Here’s a roster of my favorite ideas:
January: New Zealand You missed out this year, but that gives you time to save for next year and see one of the world’s most beautiful places. It offers a superb mix of outdoor adventure (from hiking to bungee jumping) and excellent food and wine (amazing lamb and world-class pinot noir). It will be summer, so plan ahead and allot two weeks as the North and South Islands combined are about the size of California.
February: Costa Rica This jungle-meets-beach playground – home to loquacious howler monkeys, luminous blue morpho butterflies, and next Monday’s episode of The Bachelor” – is close enough to enjoy on a five- or six-night getaway. Most flights are into the capital, San Jose, but if you plan to explore the Pacific Coast, you can fly into Liberia. Another option, a seven-night cruise on Windstar (www.windstarcruises.com), which also visits neighboring Nicaragua.
New Year’s might seem far off, but for powder hounds, it can’t come soon enough – especially when there are deals to be had for booking some of 2011′s roster of gay ski weeks early. Some even start happening before your hangover has had time to subside. Details below.
Never been to a gay ski week? Looking for something more low key? Ski Bums, the nation’s largest LGBT ski and snowboarder organization, runs group trips across the country and select worldwide pilgrimages (Courchevel, France and heliskiing in Sweden are on tap for in 2011), as well as day trips from NYC, creating what amounts to a mini gay ski week in the process. A new California chapter launches next Friday, October 8 at Gym Sportsbar in WeHo, so West Coasters can start feeling the chilly thrills soon. Both black diamond masters and bunny hill newbies are welcome.
When you’re packing your bag for Labor Day this year, make your passport as essential as the SPF. With Austria’s Pink Lake turning three and New Zealand Gay Ski Week maturing at eight, you can beat the holiday crowds by avoiding them altogether – in another country.
Pink Lake (September 2-5)
On the picturesque Lake Woerthersee in the southern Austrian state of Carinthia, the Pink Lake Festival has drawn a diverse group of roughly 3,500 (aged 21-50 with 80/20 gay-lesbian mix) to the area’s resort towns in each of its past two editions, with participants hailing from Germany, Italy, Slovenia, the UK, and Austria (naturally), and as far flung as Thailand, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Think less segregated circuit weekend or Pride and a more all-inclusive international gay get-together on the Austrian Riviera.
If the balmy days ahead already have you pining for your pea coat, you’re in luck: Qantas invites to you “Fly with Pride” with an extended fare sale to get you down under just in time for their fall and winter (a.k.a. our summer). An LGBT-targetted extension of their recent killer sale, but limited to gay hubs Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, round-trip fares start at $678 before taxes—roughly 60-percent off normal rates—for outbound travel between April 9 and June 8 or July 24 and September 21. Flights must be booked by April 14 and are valid between Qantas’ Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York (JFK) gateways, with add-ons ($50+) for other cities via partner airlines American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Horizon Air. Note: rates are valid on the new Airbus A380 jumbo jet between LA-Melbourne/Sydney; check specific routes here for the ultimate in jet-set travel. Read more
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