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If luxury hotels are meant to give travelers a heightened experience of the destination, there may well be no more dramatic experience than the brand new Shangri-La Hotel, Lhasa, set to open this April.
Located in one of the highest inhabited points on earth, the 279-room hotel itself is built on a plateau nearly 12,000 feet above sea level. Nearby cultural attractions (Potala Palace, Jokhand Temple, Sera Monastery) are in abundance, but it’s the structure itself that’s drawing all the attention.
With traditional Tibetan architectural details aplenty, the new Shangri-La Lhasa gives a very definite sense of place through its 21 foot bell-shaped lobby chandelier, its floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the mountains, a spa, a Tibetan tapas bar and adjoining restaurant and even an oxygen lounge to help acclimate guests to the high altitude.
Online reservations officially begin this week (rates from $380.50). Here are some more shots from inside the breathtaking new property… Read more
As convenient as airlines can be, the act of flying often sucks the joy out of getting there, wherever ‘there’ might be. After enduring the endless security lines, the tedious boarding process, and the subpar airplane food, we arrive at our destination cranky, tired, and often a little disoriented. Not so with train travel. Assuming you have the luxury of time, trains can be one of the most enjoyable ways to explore a new country, with their slower pace and more civilized atmosphere.
More and more travelers are now rediscovering the magic of trains, and luckily, supply is meeting demand. Countries are investing in their rail networks as a viable source of tourism revenue, and promoting off-the-beaten-path destinations as stop-offs along the way. Want to wander through Vienna en route to Stockholm? Or spend two weeks visiting natural wonders in western USA? These new train routes could be worth looking into.
Since 1911, intrepid passengers have cruised inland along the Noyo River aboard the California Western Railroad, a 40-mile route between Fort Bragg, CA and Willits, CA. The rail service was originally created to ferry timber to and from the Pacific Coast, and indeed the route itself winds through stunning redwood forests in the Noyo River Canyon. These days, the ‘Skunk Train,’ as it’s commonly known (thanks to a pungent odor emitted by the old trains’ exhaust gases), is one of the state’s most popular train routes, despite its brevity. A tunnel collapse earlier this year forced a temporary closure, but as of this month, the one-of-a-kind historic rail service is open to passengers once more. Choose from a Saturday evening “Sunset BBQ Excursion,” ($70) which involves a stop-off in Northspur Station, or a simple 4-hour trek between Fort Bragg and Willits ($49). Read more
Jiuzhai Valley National Park, or locally known as Jiuzhaigou (Chinese for “Nine Village Valley” because there are nine Tibetan villages scattered throughout the park), is one of the most beautiful national parks in the world. Sure, that’s a lofty phrase, what with the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, but it’s true (and we have the photos to prove it). With over 220 species of birds, countless endangered plants and animals (like the giant panda!), the national park has plenty to see other than just the landscape. Read more
In my humble opinion, the Dalai Lama is just about the best darned human being roaming planet Earth today – if there’s such a thing as a holy man, he’s truly it (little wonder, considering he’s venerated by the Tibetan people as the 14th incarnation of the bodhisattva – or enlightened being – of compassion). I’ve long admired the affable Nobel Peace Prize winner’s steadfast support of nonviolence and basic human values (compassion, forgiveness, etc.), spiritual and political leadership of the Tibetan people, and promotion of inter-religious harmony while spreading the virtues of Tibetan Buddhism worldwide – all of which, despite a lifetime spent in the face of incredible adversity, comes delivered with an infectious laughter that can drive a chuckle out of even the most stoic of persona. Read more
Travel as a vehicle for spiritual transformation is hardly a new notion – seekers have practiced the act of pilgrimage for as long as they’ve looked up to the skies and attempted communion with a higher power. Even in today’s short-attention-span society, setting out to honor the divine or ponder the mysterious is a time-honored tradition that refuses to wane with the changing tides of our technologically driven lives. This list of 10 sacred places (and the accompanying slideshow) showcases points of perceived power and peace around the globe, where the physical appears to meld seamlessly with the metaphysical whether due to awe-inspiring natural settings, reported ties to great gods or holy humans, or long-standing consecration as sites of worship and ritual.
Our list isn’t meant to be comprehensive. Sacred places mean many things to different people – zipping along an open highway, sailing a calm sea, or even hibernating inside on a cold winter’s morning can all bring about their own sort of peace. Where do you go to retreat from the world?
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