Wish you were there?

Magic Mountains

Looking for an exhilarating and challenging quickie summer escape?  Consider Canadian Mountain Holidays acknowledged world’s leading heli-hiking operator for 35+ years.  When the powder poufs and the ski season closes, CMH offers “Summer Adventures,” an invigorating menu of stellar guests leading inspirational 3-day trips. July and August 2013.

Set amid North America’s most spectacular mountains in the southeastern quadrant of British Columbia, this is the perfect program for adventurous solo travelers.

Chop Chop. Thrilling helicopter transport to and from the lodges, in and out of the most gorgeous peaks and valleys.

Days are spent heli-hiking, mountaineering, rappelling, climbing, and/or swimming in glacial lakes in small groups.  Or for the less intrepid: leisurely guided walks through mountain meadows carpeted in wildflowers and Jacuzzi tub soaks.  Each evening, back into the comforts of the lodge, listen to one of the guest speakers’ dramatic presentations and dive into the excellent meals served family style at communal tables. Similar interests and shared experience prompt an easy camaraderie and good cheer.

Who’s onboard?

A renowned anthropologist, ornithologist, botanist, chef and photographer.

  • Dr. Cam Gillies – Ornithologist, photographer and a keen birder who has traveled and birded his way through much of North and South America.  July 12-15, 2013
  • Wade Davis – National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence – who will enthrall guests with his acclaimed Massey Lecture, “The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World.” July 21-24, 2013
  • Brian Keating – Adventurer, explorer and global environmentalist.  Host of his own show on the Discovery Channel joins his wife Dee to lead an entertaining (and sometimes hilarious) Family Adventure for kids of all ages. Superb storytellers, their tall and true tales are CMH highlights. July 21-24, 2013
  • Peter Potterfield – Outdoor Adventure Journalist and Photographer leads guests on lodge-to-lodge adventures, sharing stories and photos from his world travels in the evenings. August 11-17, 2013
  • John Ash – Chef/owner of his beloved Santa Rosa, CA restaurant, an original culinary star in Northern California wine country with his focus on local, seasonal ingredients and local wines.  August 26-29, 2013

There’s still time to sign on. For more details please click directly: http://www.canadianmountainholidays.com/heli-hiking/trips/speakers.

Iceland on Horseback

Saddle up to ride in Iceland, the ancient Viking landscape and home of the free-roaming, talented Icelandic horse. Ride with the wind through glacial gorges, past rugged fiords, active volcanoes, thundering waterfalls, lava fields, steaming hot springs, and along smooth beaches framed by the Atlantic Ocean along trails known only to locals.

The amazing Icelandic horses are a breed beloved by equine enthusiasts all over the world – sure-footed, compact, very hardy, and uniquely five-gaited – walk, trot, tolt (a smooth running walk), canter and pace.

AdventureWomen’s Horseback Riding in Iceland: Land of Fire and Ice tour is the way to go. This trip has just been recognized as one of National Geographic Traveler Magazine’s “50 Tours of a Lifetime” for 2013.

Off trail, participants will sail out to sea to visit the bird cliffs, visit the shark museum in Bjarnarhöfn, and explore the colorful, historic western fishing village of Stykkishólmur.  Back in Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital, adventurers will enjoy a rousing “Viking Feast celebratory farewell dinner, and spend a relaxing afternoon soaking in the warm, mineral-rich waters of Iceland’s famous “Blue Lagoon” Hot Springs and Spa.

After years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, founder and President Susan Eckert, created AdventureWomen in 1982 for women traveling solo, with sisters, mothers, daughters, partners, and/or friends. She is passionate about this particular trip. “I went to Iceland 16 years ago to set up a horseback trip, and fell in love with the legendary and gaited Icelandic horse. My life changed and I’ve had two wonderful Icelandic horses of my own in Montana for 15 years.”

Rated “moderate-to-high energy” there is only one thrilling trip this year.  August 9-18, 2013 at the cost of $3995. for land arrangements. For their other upcoming women’s adventures such as to Borneo, France via barge and Thailand, click here.

In Search Of The Snow Leopard – An Extreme Adventure

Although “once in a lifetime” has become the travel cliché of the generation, a new Colorado-based exploration seems to actually fit the bill. Colorado-based Natural Habitat Adventures, voted “world’s best outfitter,” offers the first and only trip “In Search of the Snow Leopard” in Western Mongolia this summer.  August 18-31, 2013.

Together with their partners at World Wildlife Fund,  ultimate expeditioner, Olaf Malver,  will lead a small intrepid group in quest of one of the most beautiful, elusive, and endangered cats on earth- the silver white snow leopard. This trip is rugged.
Fly from Ulaanbaatar westward into Ulaangom, the capital of Uvs Aimag, in the Altai Mountains of the Central Asian steppe. Accompanied by WWF partners, researchers and local conservationists, the group will trek into the high glacial valley of Yamaat to “hunt” the snow leopards. This region is also home to the Siberian ibex, a large wild goat which also happens to be the snow leopard’s meal of choice.

The landscape is filled with expansive reed beds and marshes which support a multitude of birds and other wildlife in Mongolia’s Great Lakes Basin, a designated WWF Ecoregion. These plains are also home to the Mongolian saiga, a migratory antelope, as well as to the hardy nomads who tend their grazing horses, Bactrian two-hump camels, and cashmere goats.

Snow leopards, aside, the expedition leader is himself a bit of a marvel adventurer and eco-activist, Malver has been trekking the world’s most dangerous terrains for more than 25 years and in at least 80 countries – just the type of guy you’d feel good about following into one of the most remote areas on earth. Malver earned a PhD in Chemistry and a Master’s in International Law and Diplomacy from Tufts University, and not parenthetically, he speaks six languages.

Although the snow leopard numbers are relatively high in this area, actual sightings are not frequent.  Most important though, Olaf says, “We may or may not see one, but being in its habitat, finding signs of its presence, and learning firsthand about the efforts of global conservation leaders and traditional nomads to save the legendary feline, is worth the endeavor…”

Rated “Extreme Adventure,” those who sign on must be able to hike 4 to 8 hours a day (with breaks) over high mountainous terrain. Much of the route is trail-less, and spectacular … and surely an epic experience.

Best Job Ever? A Costa Rica Luxury Internship

The Costa Rica based Cayuga Collection, nine award-winning eco- lodges, resorts and hotels in different regions of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, is looking for qualified interns to help perfect delivery of its high-end hospitality.

While age doesn’t matter, attitude does. Their 2013 Eco-Internship is a working vacation in a country of enormous biodiversity and natural beauty.  Help with recycling, composting, beach cleanups, local schools and charities. Conservation help is also needed with tree planting and wild cat tracking.

And here is the best part: interns are needed to test the bedding, the hotel amenities, the food, and even check out spa services.  Selected interns will not be paid but accommodations are free, as are meals, tours and services as company’s basic premise is thoroughly tested: ecotourism tourism can also be luxurious.

“Our goal is to attract discerning interns who can help us ensure that we deliver that perfect blend of sustainable hospitality and luxury,” says Hans Pfister, co-founder and president of the Cayuga Collection. “Every year, we welcome young interns who work hard on our programs; but now we need a well-travelled person or couple who can test our blend of high-end service and responsible tourism.”

Application deadline is Earth Day, April 22, 2013.  The process is short, online and to-the-point with questions like, “why should Cayuga choose you?” and, “what do you bring to the table compared to other potential applicants?”

Interns will be asked to write about their experiences on Cayuga’s blog as they ‘work’ through the amenities with an eye to evaluating and improving the rooms, bungalows, casitas or villas; the daily meals; tours and activities such as rainforest and waterfall hikes, canopy tours, river rafting, horseback riding, mangrove kayaking and surfing; spa and wellness services, cooking classes, dance and Spanish language classes.

But it won’t be all fun and games—an emphasis on philanthropy is also part of the deal. Interns will be asked to raise and donate a minimum of $750 (tax deductible) to put towards the Cayuga community initiative of their choice through the company’s charity fund. Successful applicants will then put the money they raise into action during their internship.


Tired Of French Tourist Traps? Try A Cooking Vacation In Southwestern France

In the “Foodie’s Field Trip to France” Aurélie Brown guides you through a less-well-trod area of France, the Midi-Pyrenees. French-born and bred, she is a culinary travel expert, descendant of four generations of chefs and bakers, currently living in Chicago, and charmingly bilingual.

After the first night at the Hotel des Beaux Arts in the historic heart of the dynamic city of Toulouse on the Garonne River, your small group (8 maximum) will move deeper into the country to a luxurious 13th-century stone house in a hilltop village in the department of Ariège.

On the border of Spain, with the great spiky Pyrenees mountain range as backdrop, the Midi-Pyrenees is an area characterized by magnificent architecture, medieval villages, river valleys, rolling farmlands, and food that is fabulous as only the French can deliver. Ultimate perk of this trip: Aurélie will introduce you to the beloved local chef with 30 years experience tucked under his apron, Jean-François Martin who will open up his restaurant’s kitchen to teach you a trick or two about his exquisitely healthy “market” cuisine during hands-on classes.

A visit to the Marché Victor Hugo, one of the largest indoor food markets in France with over 100 shops, offers mounds of farm-fresh produce. Aurélie will also lead you through an unmarked door, upstairs, where five small and very lively restaurants serve the freshest food in Toulouse.  Set side by side, lunch-goers must walk through each one, checking the large chalkboard menus of specialties to get to the right one – and she knows which one that is!  The menu stars here are home-cooked cassoulet (a slow-cooked stew of white beans, sausages and duck or goose confit) and Mediterranean-style grilled fish.

More perks: A gourmet picnic in a picturesque vineyard. Visits to local artisanal bakers andles fromagers.  Endless photo opps in the little old villages with their half-timbered arcades, the Canal du Midi, and visit the 6th c. Roman-built medieval fortress city of Carcassonne (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites).

For A New View Of The Italian Riviera Consider Kayaking

In Liguria, northwestern Italy, there are 30 superb coastline miles between Portofino and Cinque Terre, perhaps the loveliest of Italy’s thousands of miles of beach. It is here that the Apennine Mountains drop a thousand feet straight down into the turquoise Ligurian Sea.  Small, colorfully painted homes cling to the rugged cliffs.  Ancient olive trees dot the terraced hills framing the inlets, harbors, bobbing boats, vineyards and scrub – barely accessible even by foot.

Instead of the usual hiking tour, Tofino Expeditions, the 25-year sea-kayaking outfitter top-rated by National Geographic Adventure, is now offering  a new way to explore this fabled coast – by gentle kayak over the course of 11 days.  This soft manner of travelling will provide paddlers with an unusually personal introduction to Italy’s marineria culture (“life of the sea”.)  And the local fishermen welcome those exploring by sea in a way they do not welcome the hikers.

A sea kayak is about 18-19 feet long and carries one or two paddlers.  Adventure kayaker Grant Thompson, founder, welcomes novices, preferably those with muscles. He calls kayaking a “cadence” type of sport, like cycling or cross-country skiing, where one becomes immersed in rhythmic movement as opposed to having to exert a great deal of strength. From the water, participants will enjoy a unique view of this intensely dramatic and intricate coastline.

Beginning in Genoa, the capital of Liguria and birthplace of Columbus, time to explore the city’s labyrinthine medieval old quarter, the 17th century walls, grand cathedrals, a bustling promenade, the enormous “Lanterna” (lighthouse) and the monumental Piazza De Ferrari, the heart of the city.

As you and your small group (12 max) paddle south along the coast of Cinque Terre (“five villages”) there will be plenty of breaks to enjoy short hikes into vineyards and olive groves. Visiting the car-free fishing village of Vernazza will be a satisfying treat, sampling warm focaccia bread, sipping the vino delle Cinque Terre, and hiking in ancient Phoenician ruins.

Overnight ferry to the wild isle of Sardinia and the Maddelena Archipelago, a group of 7 big and many small islands, national park and UNESCO World Heritage site (one of three on this tour) and explore stone monuments from 1500 BC, way older than the Etruscans on mainland Italy.

Click: http://tofino.com/trips/kayaking-italy-cinque-terre-and-sardinia/


Best-Selling Travel Writer Patricia Schultz To Host ‘Imperial Ethiopia’ Adventure

The land of Ethiopia, rich in natural, cultural and religious treasures and centered on the crossroads between North Africa, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa is consistently hailed as a must-see destination. Its 2,500 years of documented history (and 1500 years of Christian observance) has been ruled by a dramatic progression of warlords, emperors, and kings. Ethiopia’s 80 distinct ethnic groups each contributes to the rich cultural stew of life today which abounds with colorful ceremonies, traditional and sacred music, dance and theater.

The best way to see it? In the company of Patricia Schultz, author of NYTimes #1 Bestseller 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.

ET African Journeys is offering one 10-day trip – April 25 – May 4, 2013 – with an itinerary featuring three UNESCO World Heritage Sites which includes seven churches and six castles built in the mid-1600s in the fortress-city of Gondar. Plus: the art treasury of the Debre Birhan Selassie Church and the Falasha (Ethiopian Jewish) Village and Synagogue. It is in Gondar that castles built in the 7thcentury overlook Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile.

“It is surprising to me that with its mix of rich history, gorgeous scenery and beautiful people Ethiopia isn’t positively overrun by tourists,” Schultz has stated. “Africa’s best kept secret is hiding in plain sight! Stunning UNESCO sites in the north, and the remote and inaccessibleOmo Valley to the south, a whole other world of ancient tribes and fragile cultures visited by very few.”

The trip will also take participants to see 1,700-year old stelae (obelisks), St. Mary Zion Church and the Sanctuary Chapel, the reputed resting place of the biblical Ark of the Covenant in Axum near the Eritrean border. In Lalibela, built as a “New Jerusalem” by Emperor Lalibela in response to the Muslim capture of Jerusalem in 1187, the trip will visit some of the twelve UNESCO-designated subterranean churches cut from red volcanic rock – still places of active worship and pilgrimage destination.

Click: http://www.etafricanjourneys.com/1000places/

Meet Filmmaker Ken Burns In Baseball Heaven: Cooperstown, NY

Academy Award-winner and famed documentarian, Ken Burns, creator of The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, The National Parks and most recently, The Central Park Five, is partnering withTauck this June to offer baseball’s ultimate insider’s event in the village of Cooperstown, New York.

Burns’ PBS documentaries, “Baseball” and its sequel, “The Tenth Inning” are the foundation for the four-day immersion from June 27-30, 2012 — a unique trip to celebrate America’s most beloved sport.  The highlight is a private evening touring the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Guests will meet Ken Burns, a gracious, charming and brilliant personality, at a cocktail reception and after his talk.

“So many of the things that have shaped America are also reflected in baseball, from race relations to women’s rights to multiculturalism,” Burns has stated. “And baseball reveals the best and the worst in us while ultimately celebrating the human spirit. Baseball is about greed and scandal, but it’s also about teamwork and poise under pressure. It’s about sorrow and disappointment, but it’s also about perennial optimism and hard-won triumph. Baseball is truly a mirror in which we can all see pieces of ourselves and our own experiences reflected.”

Baseball Celebs

Perks of the event include: meeting former Major League players and enjoying talks by baseball experts such as historian and author Daniel Okrent, creator of “fantasy baseball” (prominently featured in both of Burns’ baseball films.) Another perk? Getting to meet baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, nicknamed “Knucksie” for his killer knuckleball. Meet outfielder Doug Glanville, Tom Heitz former Hall of Fame Librarian; and a former member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

An authentic 19th century “Town Ball” game will be played on the grounds of the Fenimore Art Museum and of course there will be a visit to Cooperstown’s elegantly manicured Doubleday Field with a chance to take a few swings in the batting cages.

Tauck CEO Dan Mahar says, “Ken’s broader perspectives on America, gained through all of his films, allow him to view the sport within the larger context of American culture and history.”



Join Celine Cousteau’s Sea Safari In Chilean Patagonia

Patagonia, a word that conjures remoteness … jagged snow-peaked mountains, glacial lakes, vast scrubby brush, brooding pampas, galloping horses, deep silence and Bruce Chatwin’s best-selling travel meditation on the “end of the world.”  Patagonia beckons with a distinct hint of eternality.

The Patagonia Sur Reserves, specialists in well-crafted wilderness and wildlife adventures, has announced a unique opportunity to travel in Chilean Patagonia with Celine Cousteau, world-renowned ocean explorer, photographer, documentarian, environmental champion.  She is the granddaughter of the legendary ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau whose career inspired three generations of ocean conservationists.

Seems that she inherited the marine gene – big time.

In a recent interview at the World Resources Institute, she said, “I think on a very personal level, Jacques-Yves Cousteau was a very charismatic, engaged person who was so passionate about what he did that he spoke of it in a very powerful way. I believe a great attraction for all of us is the exploration and adventure, like it was for him, but more importantly we have a desire to protect those areas that we know are fragile. In my family, we have been taught that we are active participants…”

Surf and Turf

Patagonia Sur Reserves encourages guests to combine their two distinct properties into one over-the-top experience: Melimoyu and La Estrella Ranch in Valle California, a short flight away.

Melimoyu excels in martime excursions.  A sea safari with Celine Cousteau elevates this trip from an adventure to an inspirational and possibly life-changing adventure.

Venture with Celine Cousteau into the private Melimoyu Reserve, a one-of-a-kind glacial bio-haven, home to a variety of flora and fauna not found anywhere else on earth. Wild and beautiful.  Set on the Gulf of Corcovado, Melimoyu’s rainforests, waterfalls, ice-covered mountains are all home to rare and unique species of animals and birds, such as Darwin’s frog, Magellanic penguins, pumas, pudú (an endangered miniature deer), gigantic blue whales, fur seals, and sea lions.

Chug along on with Ms. Cousteau in the touring boat.  Their pioneering study of blue whales in this area reveals its significance as breeding and feeding grounds for the largest creature on earth. Paddle the shoreline in double or single kayaks, hike in the temperate rainforest and visit the village of original settler descendants.  In the evening at the family-style dinner and before a hot tub soak, Celine will share her travel tales and ocean adventures.

La Estrella is their luxuriously rustic ranch in the Valle California Reserve, set along the river in the Andean foothills. The expert expedition team welcomes only 12 guests at a time, with a menu of experiential treats: horseback riding, river fishing in the pristine El Tigre River, hiking, kayaking, float trips, mountain biking, and limitless bird watching.

Only one departure this year features the chance to be with Ms. Cousteau: March 2 – 13, 2013, (it’s still summer there) with a maximum of 10 guests.

Patagonia Sur Reserves is dedicated to conservation in combination with rural community businesses and development.  The visionary and highly energetic owner and founder, Warren Adams promises to keep its environmental footprint small and its experience exclusive.


Explore Jordan – Sea to Sea: from the Dead to the Red

Set amid the vast deserts of the Middle East, Jordan is a compact, very varied, and hospitable country.  It is also a new destination for cycle-enthusiasts seeking the freedom and exhilaration of rolling through an exotic land. One week’s exploration will turn up millennia of history, raw nature, and a nip of nomadic Bedouin culture.

Cycling adventures are notably lower-in-price and higher- in-authentic experience than most forms of travel (this one in particular will cost you $2,185 including bike rental).

A new 8-night trip in Jordan, offered locally by Terhaal can be booked in the U.S. via Tennessee-based Bike Tours Direct. Rated “moderate” means pedaling and “sailing” for about 28 miles a day. The good news is that the hills are not-that-high and your small group (maximum 14) will be accompanied by professional local cyclist-guide, as well as a support car for those too pooped to pump. This thoughtfully-constructed trip also features family, village and Bedouin visits, music, dance and even a goat-milking opportunity.

Starting off near The Dead Sea, the lowest, saltiest and one of the most mysterious places on earth, ride the tarmac ribbon called the “King’s Highway” to the first stop: the ancient town of Madaba. The marvel of an early Byzantine mosaic map of the Middle East was discovered on a church floor here last century and is on view today. Stops en route to visit Crusader castles in Karak and Shobak, the natural springs and olive groves of Tafileh, and on to the hidden pink city of Petra, UNESCO Heritage site.

In the great Jordanian Rift Valley visit in and around the wind-cut sandstone cliffs of the Dana Biosphere Reserve, home to a great variety of plants, birds and the rare Nubian ibex.

Near Petra, cyclists will have the unusual opportunity to explore Wadi Rum, a massive sand valley that’s now carved forever into world consciousness as one of the most dramatic locales in the film, “Lawrence of Arabia.”  The very one T.E. Lawrence described as “vast, echoing and god-like.”  Unique overnight with a nomadic Bedouin family at their campsite in the Wadi, possible descendants of those who made up Lawrence’s army…

The two departures scheduled are both at optimal times of the year – April and October, 2013.


For another angle on Jordan, award-winning Toronto-based G Adventures offers 8 days to soak up the country’s highlights in a less strenuous manner. Partnering with The Discovery Channel, participants on this tour benefit from maximum variety –  a healthy mix of active exploration, uncommon landscapes, amazing wildlife and local cultures, simple language lessons and a hands-on cooking demo before dinner in Wadi Musa, near Petra.

Departing from Amman, the hilly capital, travel by mini bus and 4×4’s with some good walking prospects en route. Although one cannot sink or swim in the mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea, one can float and read while bobbing on the surface.  In the Red Sea resort city of Aqaba, there’s time for snorkeling and sun.

Their CEO, Chief Experience Officer, is the full-time guide, and local experts are engaged during the trip.There are one or two departures a month year-round for 16 participants maximum.