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What to Pack for Hiking: 38 Essentials

Don’t hit the trails without packing these hiking essentials that could save your life, or just your summit attempt.

Hiking Essentials: Gear

Hiking essentials: backpack

[st_content_ad]Backpack: A good backpack is key to a comfortable hiking trip. Pick one that’s lightweight and big enough to hold all your hiking essentials, but not so big that you’re tempted to over pack. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak Ultralight Daypack is one of the lightest daypacks out there, weighing in at just 1.26 pounds. The light weight doesn’t mean that important features are skimped on—it still has comfortable padded straps, a hip belt that can be stashed away, a water-resistant exterior, and a padded back panel. Keep your backpack organized with Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Stuff Sacks  which are equally lightweight. Bonus: All Hyperlite gear is hand-made in Maine.

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Water Bottle: If you don’t want to carry a ton of water on a long hike, or just want to be prepared in case of an emergency, the Lifestraw Flex is a good choice for a water bottle. The included filter removes bacteria, parasites, and chemicals, so that you can safely and quickly drink from any water source you find. The soft bottle is lightweight, easy to pack, and simple to drink from.

Portable Battery: Don’t be stuck with a dead phone in an emergency. The Sherpa 15 Power Bank won’t take up too much room in your pack, and gives your phone a full charge without needing to pack extra cables. If you get lost, having a charged cell phone is essential.

Trekking Poles: A good set of hiking poles can help save your knees from strain on the descent, and prevent slips and falls on tough terrain or muddy trails. I like the Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles, which fold down small to fit in your daypack, and fast thanks to a simple push-button release system. These poles can adjust to fit almost any hiker, and weigh a mere 8.25 ounces.

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Hiking Essentials: Footwear

Hiking Shoes: Low-top hiking shoes are designed for shorter day hikes. The Keen Terradora Waterproof shoes are designed specifically for women hikers, offering a more narrow fit that’s completely waterproof but still breathable. For men, the Keen Targhee II is a similar choice, with the same breathable waterproofing and lightweight design.

Hiking Boots: Opt for hiking boots over shoes when you’re facing a longer, tougher hike, or for those times when you’ll be carrying a heavier pack—like on an overnight trip. Hiking boots offer more ankle support, as well as additional protection from bites, scrapes, and water. I love the Scarpa Hydrogen Hike GTX, available for both women and men. These boots are waterproof and breathable, and have a Vibram sole that gives traction that’s lightweight. I especially appreciate the understated and stylish design of these hiking boots.

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Hiking Essentials: Clothing

Hiking Tights: Tights are a tempting choice for hikes. You probably already own something similar to these super-flexible leggings in your wardrobe for running or yoga, but a hiking version are designed to withstand the rigors of an intense hiking trail. Fjallraven’s Abisko Trekking Tights are tough enough for hiking thanks to a super durable four-way stretch fabric that has extra reinforcement over the rear and knees to protect your skin when you’re scrambling over rocks or sitting on the ground. Plus, unlike most leggings, these trekking tights come with plenty of pockets and are available in a men’s version as well.

Socks: Good socks are the key to comfortable hiking. They keep your feet dry, prevent blisters, and provide cushioning and warmth. Smartwool’s Hiking Socks are available for both women and men, and use merino wool to wick away moisture, prevent chafing, and help regulate your temperature.

Hiking Pants: For serious backcountry hikes you’ll want some heavy-duty hiking pants, like Arcteryx’s Sabria Pant. These pants are lightweight, durable, and boast 50-plus SPF. The Sabria’s are specially designed for women with a lower adjustable waist and a slim silhouette feminine.

Base Layer: For cold weather hikes, add a layer underneath your hiking pants with lululemon’s Fast & Free 7/8 Tight II, which are made from patented Nulux fabric that’s quick-drying and sweat-wicking, yet designed to feel like you’re not wearing anything at all. For trail running or less-intense hikes that don’t involve scrambling these can be worn alone.

Sunglasses: Enjoying the view at the summit means protecting your eyes with sunglasses like these ones from Maui Jim, which wrap around for full eye protection. The lenses are also scratch-resistant, so you can be tough on them.

Hiking Underwear: Your favorite delicates might be comfortable, but they aren’t immune from the wear of lengthy hiking trips. Look for underwear that’s moisture-wicking and odor-resistant, like these pairs from ExOfficio for both women and men. For women, Patagonia’s Switchback Sports Bra is a soft and supportive option that’s also quick-drying and won’t cause chafing.

Hiking Shirts: If you’re planning on carrying a backpack, opt for a t-shirt over a tank top to prevent any irritation from your backpack straps. Smartwool’s Merino 150 Base Layer Micro Stripe Short Sleeve tops for both women and men can be worn alone or layered for cooler days, and merino wool fabric means it won’t smell, even on a longer backpacking trip. For warmer days, Patagonia Capilene Lightweight T-Shirts for women and men are an ultra-light option that’s moisture-wicking, breathable and features patented Polygiene for odor control.

Hiking Shorts: For hot trail days, Fjallraven’s Abisko Shade Shorts are designed to keep you cool, with ventilation for air circulation. The lightweight fabric is quick-drying and stays cool even as the temperature rises. The shorts are made for hikers, with zippered hand pockets and a loop to secure your gear to.

Jacket: Even if it looks like it’s going to be a warm day, packing a jacket is always a good idea on hikes, especially ones with a summit above the tree line (where it can be significantly colder/windier than it is  at the base). The weather can change quickly: Prepare by bringing along a lightweight jacket like the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody, available for both women and men, which delivers an impressive amount of warmth and wind-resistance for the weight.

Hat: You’ll want a hat to keep the sun off of your face, but a regular ball caps can get very sweaty after a while. Get a hat that’s made for activities and wicks away moisture, like Fjallraven’s High Coast Vent Cap.

Gloves: On chilly fall hikes or cool summer mornings, a pair of lightweight, waterproof gloves are essential. These picks for both men and women will keep you warm and dry, even in a sudden downpour.

Gaiters: Although not very fashionable, gaiters, waterproof covers that slip on over your boots to protect your ankles and calves from rain and mud, are very practical. I like this pair from Outdoor Research which easily slip on and off.

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Hiking Essentials: Miscellaneous

Snacks: Peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, and trail mix are also good options for packable sustenance.

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Caroline Morse Teel loves to hike, especially in New England. Follow Caroline on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from the summit.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

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The Ultimate Camping Packing List: 29 Essentials

Unlike other vacations where you can just run out to the nearest store if you’ve forgotten something, you’re solely dependent on your packing skills when you’re out in the wilderness. This camping packing list has all the essentials you’ll need for a safe and comfortable trip.

Camping Packing List: Gear

[st_content_ad]Sleeping Bag: A sleeping bag is the most essential piece of camping equipment—without the right one, you’ll be in for a cold and uncomfortable night. Many sleeping bags are “mummy style,” which can be way too claustrophobic for a good night’s sleep, especially if you’re a side or stomach sleeper.  Sierra Design’s Backcountry Bed 700 / 20 Degree sleeping bag has a unique design that feels more like sleeping with a comforter on your bed at home than a sleeping bag. It doesn’t have any zippers; instead, there are insulated hand and arm pockets to help you completely cover yourself, plus a self-sealing foot vent so you can regulate temperature. The bag has an minimum temperature rating of 16F, which is very impressive considering that it only weighs 2.5 pounds.

Sleeping Pad (Backpacking): Thermarest’s NeoAir XLite is a favorite of many through-hikers, and it’s easy to see why. This three-season air mattress will keep you warm and comfortable even on the rockiest ground, yet it packs down to the size of a water bottle and weighs a mere eight ounces. I love that this mattress doesn’t skimp on comfort despite the light weight—the fabric is super soft, and it uses a patented reflective ThermaCapture technology to trap your body’s warmth and minimize heat loss.

Sleeping Pad (Car Camping): If you’re not hauling all your camping supplies on your back, comfort is more of a concern than weight, and you can go for a plush model like Sea to Summit’s Comfort Deluxe S.I. Sleeping Mat, available in a double size that’s perfect for couples camping together. This mat has an R-value of 5.2, so you can use it even in the winter, and it has 10-centimeter vertical side walls that make it feel like a real mattress. Best of all, this sleeping mat is self-inflating, so you don’t have to waste your breath trying to blow it up before you can finally go to sleep.

Pillows: After a long day in the woods, you’ll want to rest your head on something soft. Short on space? Sea to Summit’s Aeros Pillow Ultralight lives up to its name, clocking in at 2.1 ounces, and is small enough to fit in a pocket when deflated. The pillow is covered with a polyester stretch knit fabric that’s cozy enough that you won’t miss a pillowcase. Got a little extra room in your pack? For just 0.5 ounces more, the Aeros Pillow Premium uses an even more plush fabric covering and is extra comfortable. Both pillows have a thin synthetic fill layer that wicks away perspiration, as well as a curved design that cradles your head. Each pillow inflates in just three breaths and deflates in under a minute.

Tent: Unless you truly want to sleep under the stars (and deal with any inclement weather that comes your way), you’ll need a tent. An easy-up tent, like this one, is quick to assemble or to tear down.

Chair: Relaxing, eating, and sitting around the fire are all better when you’re not on the ground. Mountain Standard’s Camp Chair packs down small for easy transport, but assembles into a comfortable seat in seconds.

Light: Goal Zero’s Crush Light runs off of solar power and can last for up to 35 hours on one charge. It collapses nearly flat, so you can use this on backpacking trips—hang it from your tent as a reading lamp or carry it to light your way on a dark trail.

Solar Charger: If you can’t bear to completely disconnect in the wild, pack a solar charger (like this small waterproof one) to power up your phones and other gadgets. Even if you don’t plan on using your phone, this is good to have in case of emergency, as it has a built-in LED flashlight, compass, and whistle.

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Camping Packing List: Food and Drink

Bear Bags: If you’re bringing food, you need to also bring a way to protect that food from wildlife. Even if you’re not in bear country, you’ll still have rodents and other animals after your stash. A bear-resistant bag, like this one by Ursack, is made from a bulletproof fabric that can withstand a bear attack and doesn’t need to be hung off the ground (but must be tied to something secure, like a tree trunk). Or go for a lighter-weight odor-barrier bag like this one from Base CampSource, which eliminates any food smell and won’t attract animals to your camp. These should be hung off of the ground in bear country.

Cooking Set: Unless you’re doing ready-to-eat meals, you’ll need to bring utensils and pans for cooking. This one from KEMP has everything you need, from pots and pans to a dish sponge for scrubbing, for a very inexpensive price.

Camping Stove: This kit contains a folding camping stove, paracord bag, fire starter, and survival kit for emergencies.

Instant Coffee: If you’re used to starting off your day with a nice hot cup of coffee, don’t deprive yourself of that in camp. Instant coffee, like these sachets from Tandem Coffee Roasters, are easy to pack and prepare in minutes.

Cups: These collapsible cups are made from a food-grade silicone that is lightweight and packs down small, but can hold hot beverages without scalding your hands.

Water Bottle: If you’re staying at a campground with potable water, where keeping your drink cold is more of a concern than water quality, pack an insulated bottle like this one from Klean Kanteen. Headed to the backcountry? The LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle will give you safe drinking water fast.

Meals: Don’t feel like cooking while on vacation? There are plenty of tasty ready-to-eat meals these days that just need boiling water to eat. Check out our editors’ taste test of Good to Go meals here.

Camping Packing List: Hygiene

Wet Wipes: If no shower is in sight, these Surviveware biodegradable wet wipes are designed for “no rinse bathing and showers.” Thankfully, they’re unscented and hypoallergenic.

Dry Shampoo: Similarly, a small container of dry shampoo can help remove sweat, smells, and oil—no water required.

Hand Sanitizer: Hygiene is really important while camping, especially if you don’t have a clean water source for hand washing. Use hand sanitizer before eating, before preparing food, and after using the bathroom.

Camping Shower: Can’t go that long without a shower? A small solar shower bag can be filled up and heated by the sun to give you a quick hot shower.

Quick-Dry Towel: This microfiber towel dries up to four times faster than a regular cotton towel, and packs down very small.

Biodegradable Soap: Coleman’s Camp Soap comes in spill-proof sheets that are biodegradable and can be used for hand washing, showers, and dish washing.

Biodegradable Shampoo & Conditioner: This eco-friendly set from Stream2Sea comes with biodegradable shampoo, conditioner, body wash, sunscreen, sun/sting relief gel, and lip balm.

Toothbrush and Paste: Make sure you use potable water when brushing your teeth, and pack a small toothbrush and toothpaste set like this one.

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Camping Packing List: Miscellaneous

Trashbags: Always pack out what you pack in (even trash), so don’t forget the trashbags.

Sunscreen and Bug Repellent: Badger Balm combines sunscreen and bug repellent into one handy cream.

First Aid Kit: Don’t go camping without a first-aid kit—even if you just use the bandages for blisters, you’ll be glad you have it.

Find some more of the best camping gear available to keep you warm, safe, and comfortable while you explore the great outdoors.

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Caroline Morse Teel is still working on her camping packing list. Follow Caroline on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from camp.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

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11 Clever Uses for Duct Tape When You Travel

You don’t need to be MacGyver to get creative with how to use duct tape in your travels. Got a busted backpack? Duct tape can help. Is your bottle of sunblock leaking? Slap a little tape on it. Smart uses for duct tape on vacation are almost endless.

Clever Uses for Duct Tape When You Travel

From blocking unwanted light in a hotel room to patching up your tent on a camping trip, these are the top uses for duct tape when you’re on the road.

Fix a Broken Suitcase or Backpack

[st_content_ad]If your bag comes off the luggage carousel with a rip in the side or a damaged handle, use duct tape for a quick repair. This will get you and your bag through the airport—or maybe even the rest of your trip—without your underwear spilling out or the handle breaking off completely.

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Block Unwanted Light

What if the hotel’s blackout curtain doesn’t quite cover every part of the window, or the TV has an annoyingly bright green light even when it’s turned off? You can duct tape the curtain to the wall or stick a little piece of tape over the light to bring full darkness to your room.

Mend Clothing

Oops—a stray branch tore a hole in your rain poncho while hiking through the woods. Stay dry by patching it with a piece of duct tape. Is the hem of your pants starting to unravel? Tape it up from the inside until you can get home and stitch it up yourself.

You can also fix shoes with duct tape. It can cover a hole in the toe from the inside or temporarily seal a sole that’s starting to detach. Duct tape may not be the most fashionable option when it comes to clothes, but it’ll last you until you can get to a store and buy something new.

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Fix Broken Glasses

During the first international trip I ever took with my now husband, he accidentally sat on his glasses and spent the next hour fiddling with tiny screws to ensure they held together until we got home. A quicker solution would’ve been to slap a strip of duct tape on them and call it a day.

Remove Lint from Clothes

Who needs a lint roller when the many different uses for duct tape include peeling unwanted fuzz or pet hair off your clothes? This is particularly useful for business travelers who need to look presentable for meetings or conferences.

Seal a Leaky Bottle

Don’t let shampoo or sunblock seep out into the rest of your bag. If a bottle is leaking, wrap duct tape around the edge of the lid to seal it off.

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Childproof a Hotel Room or Vacation Rental

If your kids are at an age that makes electrical sockets dangerous to their tiny fingers, you can quickly and easily childproof your vacation digs by putting duct tape over any outlet within reach. You can also tape drawers and cabinets closed to keep them safe from prying little hands.

Repair a Tent or Mosquito Net

This one could be a literal lifesaver: In countries where fending off mosquitoes means protecting yourself from malaria or yellow fever, you can use duct tape to mend any tears in your mosquito netting or tent.

Seal Off Smoke

Here’s hoping you never find yourself in a hotel fire, but if you did, duct tape might (again) save your life. You can use duct tape to seal off the door jamb if smoke comes billowing in while you wait for rescue. You can also put duct tape over any air vents that might blow in smoke from other parts of the building.

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Fend Off Clingy Shower Curtains

In some small hotel rooms and cruise ship cabins, the shower stall is so cramped that you can barely turn around without the curtain clinging to one body part or another. Pin it back with a few squares of duct tape, and enjoy your new freedom. (Be sure to do your tape job before things get wet.)

Stabilize Cruise Ship Furniture in High Seas

It’s hard enough to sleep on a rocking cruise ship without hearing the scraping of closet doors and dresser drawers as they slide open and shut. Lock them in place with a strip or two of duct tape as the ship rides out the storm.

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Concerned about packing a hefty roll of tape? Save space in your suitcase by bringing a small roll of travel duct tape like this one from Survive Outdoors Longer.

What other uses for duct tape have you discovered in your travels? Comment below.

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Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

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10 Exotic Dream Trips You Can Take in 2018

For many of us, the new year brings dreams of new travel destinations. And even if your other dreams and resolutions for 2018 have already fallen to the wayside, it’s not too late to make this the year that your dream trip becomes a reality. Whether your ideal getaway involves sun-soaked beaches, fairytale castles, epic long-distance hikes, or exclusive safaris, there’s an adventure for every taste and budget.

The Best Dream Trips for 2018

Here’s a sampling of the best dream trips you can take in 2018—many of them newly designed for the year ahead.

Visit an Exclusive Private Game Reserve at Thanda Safari in South Africa

[st_content_ad]Imagine a place where Africa’s famed Big Five game animals—lions, elephants, rhinoceroses, leopards, and Cape buffalo—roam freely in a spacious natural habitat, protected from hunters and poachers yet easily accessible to curious travelers. Imagine yourself there in the foothills of South Africa’s Drakensburg Mountains, led by a seasoned tracker and armed not with a hunting rifle but a camera. Now imagine you have an expert wildlife photographer at your side to teach you the secrets of capturing these magnificent animals up close in the African Bush.

At Thanda Safari, a five-star World Tourism Award-winning private game reserve in South Africa, you don’t have to imagine it. You can live it with a stay at the luxury reserve’s upscale lodge, luxury camping tents, or private villa. This African outfitter combines all of the traditional elements of a once-in-a-lifetime safari with a commitment to supporting the local Zulu culture and caring for the environment. There’s no better time to visit than in 2018, when South Africa celebrates Nelson Mandela’s centenary.

Important Information: Local staff and guides enhance the experience and provide cultural immersion opportunities. Guests can opt to stay in a traditional safari lodge, a luxury safari camping tent, or a private villa.

Provider: Thanda Safari Private Game Reserve

Price: ‎$687 to $1,389 (based on average rates for a standard room)

Sail the Coast of Sri Lanka with G Adventures

Sri Lanka, an island nation in the emerald waters of the Indian Ocean, is the up-and-coming destination for international travelers in Southeast Asia. But more interest naturally means bigger crowds, too, which is why G Adventures‘ intimate new seven-day sailing trip around the southern coast of the island is a perfect way to discover this rising destination in 2018. In addition to exploring ancient forts, remote beach towns, and tiny fishing villages, you’ll also have ample time to relax, surf, and snorkel.

This is a brand-new itinerary for G Adventures in 2018, making it a must-book dream trip for avid travelers who want to be the first to see a hot destination that’s high on rewards and low on crowds.

Important Information: Travelers must be at least 16 years old to book this trip. Light physical activity, including hiking, kayaking, rafting, and walking, is required. This is a small-group trip with a maximum group size of eight people.

Provider: G Adventures

Price: Starting at $1,359 from G Adventures

Hike Japan’s Long-Distance Paths with Walk Japan

Beyond the bright lights and sensory overload of Tokyo, Japan’s rural past lives on in its serene long-distance walking routes, many of which are offered as guided trips by tour operator Walk Japan. Nakasendo Way, one of the five established routes used during the Edo period, once connected Edo—modern day Tokyo—to Kyoto for pedestrian travelers. Today you can take a guided walking tour of Nakasendo Way for a taste of old Japan—while still benefitting from a few modern amenities, like baggage transfers between stops.

Important Information: Walk Japan’s five-day guided tour of Nakasendo Way: The Kiso Road can be booked for travel in March, April, May, June, September, October, or November. A longer and more strenuous alternative is also available.

Provider: Walk Japan

Price: Starting at 216,000 YEN (about $1,900 USD at time of publication) from Walk Japan

Uncover the Mysteries of Easter Island at Explora Rapa Nui

A far-flung and mystical destination hundreds of miles off the coast of mainland Chile, Easter Island (called Rapa Nui by its indigenous people) often finds its way onto the bucket lists of passionate travelers. Just 63 square miles in size, Rapa Nui packs a lot of adventure into its small stature: Think volcanos, beaches, wild horses, and of course moai statues—the famous “Easter Island heads” that have confounded explorers and archeologists for centuries.

There’s no better way to see all of Rapa Nui than with a stay at the famed Explora Rapa Nui lodge, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2018. At Explora, you can select from more than 30 guided explorations of the island based on your personal interests and fitness level. And at the end of the day, you’ll return to the lodge for a glass of Chilean wine or a frisky pisco sour, or perhaps indulge at the spa amid a luxe environment with waterfront views.

Important Information: Local staff and guides enhance the experience and provide cultural immersion opportunities.

Provider: Explora Rapa Nui

Price: $996 to $1,754 (based on average rates for a standard room)

Animate Your Summer at Disney’s New Toy Story Land in Florida

Last year it was Pandora—The World of Avatar. Next year, it will be Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. But don’t overlook this summer’s big Disney Parks reveal: Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Featuring new rides like the Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers, as well as a carnival-themed 4-D arcade, Toy Story Land is primed to be the hottest ticket in Orlando this summer.

Important Information: Final dates have yet to be announced, but Toy Story Land is expected to open in time for the summer travel season. Some Disney hotels will also feature Toy Story décor this summer.

Provider: Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando

Price: Starting at $99 for a one-day pass to Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Relax at a Floating Hotel Off the Coast of British Columbia

Located in the Haida Gwaii archipelago off the coast of British Columbia, the spectacular Ocean House floating hotel offers isolation-seekers the ultimate opportunity to experience a remote part of the world in virtual solitude.

Newly opened in 2018, the Ocean House offers three-, four-, and seven-night adventure travel packages highlighting the culture and natural environs of the local Haida people—all with unexpectedly luxurious touches. Activities include guided rainforest hikes amongst old-growth forests and up-close explorations of ancient Haida villages now returning to wilderness. Pair a stay at the Ocean House with the floating hotel’s sister property, the Haida House, located in the village of Tlell on Haida Gwaii’s east coast, for even more opportunities to explore and relax.

Important Information: Packages include return flights to Vancouver, as well as helicopter transfers to and from Ocean House. Meals, snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, and adventure activities are also included.

Provider: Ocean House in Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

Price: Starting at $4,410 per guest

Discover Cyprus, a Mediterranean Alternative to Croatia, with Intrepid Travel

Tourists love the Mediterranean Sea so much that Europe’s most popular coastal countries become a sea unto themselves every summer—a sea of tourists, that is. But that’s not the case in sunny Northern Cyprus, a dream trip candidate that remains gloriously unspoiled by mass tourism. One of the best kept secrets in the region, Northern Cyprus delivers peaceful beaches and plenty of sunshine, sans crowds.

Intrepid Travel‘s new eight-day Northern Cyprus guided trip lets you explore ancient monasteries and fairytale castles (including Saint Hilarion Castle, said to be the inspiration for the castle in Disney’s Snow White and Seven Dwarfs), swim along the coast, and relax against an idyllic Mediterranean backdrop. It’s relatively inexpensive, too—especially considering what you get for the price: private transportation, seven nights’ accommodations, bread and cheese making experiences, a day cruise, and multiple castle and monastery visits.

Important Information: This eight-day trip runs four times between May and October 2018. The minimum age of participants is 15 years old. Maximum group size is 12 people.

Provider: Intrepid Travel

Price: Starting at $1,054 from Intrepid Travel

Witness Iceland’s Northern Lights with Wilderness Travel

Once ignored considered more of a stopover than a destination in and of itself, Iceland is now among the top dream trips for adventure seekers and casual tourists alike. Yet even with its recent surge in visitors, the country shows no hint of being spoiled by its popularity. Perhaps that’s because the best parts of this sparsely populated island nation remain inaccessible except to the hardy few who venture into its vast and icy wilderness.

New for 2018, upscale adventure outfitter Wilderness Travel has assembled what might be the ultimate Icelandic experience: eight days of hiking, snowshoeing, and star gazing during the darkest months of the year in search of the elusive Northern Lights. If snowshoeing across lava fields and spelunking through lava tubes is your jam, this is the trip for you.

Important Information: This eight-day winter trip is recommended for those who are physically able to complete all excursions. Departures are offered in February, March, and November 2018.

Provider: Wilderness Travel

Price: Starting at $7895 from Wilderness Travel

Explore the Galapagos by Catamaran with Exodus Travel

The Galapagos Islands need no introduction, but this new-for-2018 dream trip offers a whole new way to see this remote archipelago with popular adventure travel company Exodus Travel: onboard the Nemo II, a First Class Motor Sail Catamaran with room for the whole family.

This brand-new itinerary is the perfect trip for those looking to bring a dream family vacation to life. The itinerary includes snorkeling, guided walks through the islands, and plenty of up-close photo opportunities in Exodus Travel’s trademark responsible travel style.

Important Information: This is a leisurely trip appropriate for most fitness levels. The minimum age for participants is eight years old. Maximum group size is 14 people. Departures are available in April, July, and August 2018. A local leader accompanies travel parties on their adventure.

Provider: Exodus Travels

Price: Starting at $5,655 for adults and $5,385 for children from Exodus Travel

Experience Europe’s Last Great Adventure with Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel

You have to be a certain kind of traveler to hear about a place called the “Accursed Mountains” and think to yourself, “Yes, that sounds like a dream trip to me.” If you’re just such a traveler, then a) we are kindred spirits, and b) get yourself to the Albanian Alps—the so-called Accursed Mountains—to discover a seemingly endless wilderness of alpine lakes, rugged river valleys, secluded villages, and staggering limestone gorges.

This is, in many respects, the last underexplored wilderness in Europe, and Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel‘s eight-day guided trip takes you there for a week’s worth of hardcore hiking against an indescribably spectacular backdrop.

Important Information: This trip requires a high level of physical fitness. All breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are included. You will spend five nights in hotels and two in local guesthouses. Departures are available in June and September 2018.

Provider: Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel

Price: Starting at $1,349 from Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel

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Josh Roberts believes the best trips involve long hikes and muddy boots. His life goals haven’t changed much since he was a kid: He still wants to be Indiana Jones when he grows up. Follow him on Instagram at @jauntist and on Facebook @JoshRobertsBooks.

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10 Fitness Getaways That Will Change Your Life

Traditional vacations can leave you feeling unhealthier than ever when you get home—whether you’ve overindulged in the local cuisine, sampled too much nightlife, or simply spent too much time sitting while in transit. So this year, why not come back rejuvenated instead of drained with one of these vacation-worthy fitness getaways?

Fitness Getaways

These vacation retreats promise to change your mindset, prolong your life-span, and give you the foundation you need to help you live a healthier life.

Volcanoes Safaris

[st_content_ad]If the word “safari” conjures up images of sitting in a jeep all day, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by Volcanoes Safaris, which takes travelers on gorilla trekking tours in Uganda and Rwanda. The gorillas live in thick forests, up steep mountains, and in other places inaccessible by vehicle, so be prepared to walk a lot. Charlotte Pokoik, who represents Volcanoes Safaris, advises, “Depending on where your gorilla family is located, the hike to get to them can take anywhere between 2 and 6 hours! Many parts of the hike are through thick forest at heights of up to 3,000 meters and visitors will be traversing steep-sided mountains and ravines so it’s definitely a work out.” The once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing these majestic creatures in the wild should be workout motivation enough to get in shape for the trip.

On Foot Holidays

On foot holidays fitness getaways

Leave the tourist-packed tour buses behind and get off-the-beaten path with On Foot Holidays fitness getaways. You’ll walk from hotel to hotel (your luggage is transferred for you each day), so you can indulge in the local cuisine guilt-free, knowing that you have an eight-hour workout ahead of you on some days. Choose from classic European destinations like Austria, England, France, Germany, Greece, Spain, the Czech Republic, or Italy; or check out new hot spots like Bulgaria, Croatia, or Slovenia.

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Telluride Live Longer Retreats

Many fitness getaways claim to change your life, but how many of them could actually help you live longer? That’s the premise behind Live Longer Retreats, at The Peaks Resort & Spa in Telluride, Colorado. The six-night program promises to “teach you medically based ways to prolong your life”through meetings with personal trainers, physicians, dieticians, and more.

Safari Surf Adventures

If you’re looking for fitness getaways that will change both your body and mind, try a surf camp like Safari Surf Adventures. These lessons take place all over the world in surfing paradises like Australia, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, and will teach you valuable skills that you can use once you’re back in the real world. The company writes, “Blending breath work – learning how to control your breath in uncomfortable situations, building a core mental approach to situations in the surf that once had you handcuffed will unleash your potential not only in surfing, but also in all stress type situations in life.”

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Hilton Head Health

Sure, anyone can lose weight when they’re isolated at a fitness retreat having healthy meals cooked for them and plenty of free time to exercise. But it can be a lot harder if you want to keep that wholesome lifestyle going once you leave. That’s why Hilton Head Health gives attendees the tools to succeed long after their fitness getaway, by giving them seminars on healthy cooking, portion control in restaurants, and stress management.

World Bicycle Relief Ride

Get in shape, help others, and see Italy—it’s a win-win. If you join World Bicycle Relief/Tourissimo’s Appenninica tour, you’ll be responsible for raising $2,000, which will be used to buy 14 bikes for students, healthcare workers, and entrepreneurs in rural Zambia. Your bike ride will traverse the scenic Alta Via dei Parchi in the Apennine Mountains; and along the way, you’ll get to sample local delicacies from the famous Emilia Romagna region, including lasagna, tortellini, prosciutto di Parma, and more (so maybe you won’t get too in shape).

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BodyHoliday Saint Lucia

The BodyHoliday, an all-inclusive resort in Saint Lucia, has a bold slogan: Give us your body for a week and we’ll give you back your mind. You can literally give BodyHoliday part of your body with its new Villa Firefly’s Weight Loss Retreat, which asks participants to give a DNA sample before arriving so that a custom plan can be designed based on biology.

Outward Bound

Outward Bound isn’t just for teenagers—it also has expeditions for adults (aged 30 and above) that are designed to teach participants a new skills and a sense of self-reliance. The courses feature everything from dogsledding to sea kayaking, and will leave you feeling like you can handle anything that comes your way.

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Adventure Life Iceland Trek

If you like the idea of challenging yourself to a multi-day hike, but dread the thought of sleeping in a tent, you should try a hut-to-hut trek, like the ones offered by Adventure Life in Iceland. On this fitness getaway, you’ll hike for four to seven hours every day, but at night, you’ll get to sleep indoors in one of the huts along the trail.

Cuba Unbound

Get a killer arm workout and see parts of Cuba that most tourists don’t with Cuba Unbound’s Kayak Tour. You’ll paddle a sea kayak on the Bay of Pigs, through Zapata National Park, and inside the Guanaroca Nature Reserve. No kayaking experience is required for this trip, as you’ll have lots of time to practice (and plenty of patient guides).

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Caroline Morse Teel’s New Year’s resolution is to go to more fitness getaways. Caroline on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline to see her journeys around the world.

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8 Ways to Use a Fitness Tracker When You Travel

By its nature travel gets people out into the world doing things they rarely do at home, so for folks locked into the bed-commute-office-commute-bed grind, a trip can feel liberating—but also physically challenging. If you’re feeling a little worn out during a trip, how do you know whether it’s a “good” tired due to activity, or a “bad” tired due to jet lag or too much time jammed into an airplane seat? Enter the fitness tracker, the ubiquitous 21st-century gauge of what we are—and are not—doing with our bodies.

[st_content_ad]A fitness tracker such as the Fitbit Blaze or Garmin Vivofit can take some guesswork out of life on the road. Did you really catch any Zs on the plane? When it feels like you haven’t slept in a week, is that really the case? How many flights of stairs did you climb, and does it count as a workout? A fitness tracker can tell you all this and more.

How to Use a Fitness Tracker When You Travel

While many people use activity trackers all the time, in an informal survey of friends I found that those who travel the most lean most heavily on a fitness tracker to help them stay healthy, in shape, and on track. Here are some of the ways a fitness tracker can benefit any traveler.

Protect Yourself from Getting Sick

Perhaps the clearest benefit of using a fitness tracker is to have a general sense of how much you’re sleeping as well as how much exercise you’re getting, and then to use the data to make sure you’re not pushing so hard that you become vulnerable to illness and exhaustion. This can help you stay healthy, productive, and confident on the road.

[st_related]18 Surefire Ways to Get Sick While Traveling[/st_related]

Find Out How “Healthy” Your Trip Is

Some vacations are much more sedentary than you might think. For example, a beach vacation where you spend your days outdoors and playing in the ocean seems like it would be “better for you” than a visit to a big city, but that isn’t necessarily borne out by data. In fact, a study by the company behind the now-defunct Jawbone tracker found that people took fewer steps when traveling to beach locations—they did get more sleep, however.

Your chosen destination matters as well; visitors to Delhi take around 7,000 steps per day, according to the study, while visitors to Rome take over twice that many at 15,000 per day.

Measure Your Distance Walked

Travel often requires walking distances that your daily life may not. If you’ve got an office job in the suburbs, for example, it’s pretty easy to walk only a few hundred yards on any given day—maybe 30 yards to your driveway, 50 to the office, a couple hundred while at work. I frequently work out of my house and can go almost an entire day without walking more than 10 or 20 yards at a time.

But even the most basic travel sometimes requires more steps than a day at the office. Even if you drive to the airport, you have to hoof it across the skyway from the parking lot, then to check-in, then through security, then to your gate—this alone might get you covering more ground than a regular workday.

The steps add up. The longest walking distances between gates at some U.S. airports can range from a half-mile up to two miles, according to USA Today.

These are respectable distances; two miles with a carry-on bag or two is approaching “hike” status if you ask me.

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Track Sleep on the Plane

Lots of us doze off at some point in-flight, and when traveling long distances these can be some really helpful Zs. In the absence of clocks, normal mealtimes, a view out the window, and other factors that help us track time, however, it can be nearly impossible to know how much sleep you actually bagged.

I have taken red-eyes on which I fell asleep before takeoff and then thought I slept almost the entire flight, with maybe a few short stirrings due to meal service, people moving around, or a neck crick. Reckoned on a fitness tracker, however, I found I did not get the nearly six hours of sleep I thought I had, but logged more like 3.5 hours of actual sleep time. No wonder I felt wrecked the next day.

This information is helpful to know both at the outset of travel and when coming home; a restful vacation often concludes with a grueling forced march of pre-dawn wakeups, airport connections, and tarmac strandings. Having a bit of data about how much sleep you actually sacrificed can help you reset when you finally get home.

Measure Sleep During Your Trip

Getting your sleep under control when traveling is perhaps one of the most common and oft-mentioned challenges, and having a baseline from “real life” will help you understand what you need when you’re trying to adjust to jet lag and catch some Zs at a hotel.

[st_related]33 Ways to Sleep Better at a Hotel[/st_related]

Survive a Business Trip

Frequent business travel is grueling and has been found to speed up the aging process and increase your risk of suffering several life-threatening conditions, according to Harvard Business Review. Time changes, extreme jet lag, poor sleep, bad food, too much alcohol, and other factors pile up over time to beat up frequent travelers.

If you’re a road warrior, using a fitness tracker to monitor sleep, activity levels, resting heart rate, and more could help you take better care of yourself and lower the risk of ill effects during your business trips.

Inspire You to Go to the Hotel Gym

Most hotel fitness centers are desolate little closets with CNN headlines blaring at you from a TV on the wall and no one else around to share the misery. So who could blame you for not wanting to drag yourself out of the comfort of your hotel room?

But hard data can sometimes create considerable motivation—and if your activity tracker is showing that you haven’t gotten many steps in over the past few days, it just might goad you into working up a sweat.

If the hotel gym is still a dungeon too far, use the data to get you out of the hotel and to a local running trail.

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Start a Fitness Program

The capstone achievement of all this information might be to use your activity tracker on a trip to kick-start a fitness routine that you’ve been putting off due to other obligations, inertia, or excuses.

I found myself in this situation over the summer, so on a business trip I booked lodging that was close enough to where I would be working to make a car ride seem silly, but not so far that I would run late or even be discouraged by a little bit of weather. At the end of a week I had logged more walking miles on my fitness tracker than I had in the entire previous month; then I took a short vacation that involved some hiking (that was much easier than I had anticipated, so I knew I was onto something)—and I was under way. Now, five months on, that “walking start” is still paying dividends.

If you use an activity tracker on the road, are there any benefits you’ve experienced that I missed? Share them in the comments!

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Ed Hewitt is a seasoned globetrotter who brings you a biweekly glimpse into the latest travel news, views, and trends—and how they could affect your travel plans.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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What to Pack for Switzerland: 31 Essentials

I traveled to Switzerland on a ten-day trip to Solothurn, Biel, Thun, and Zermatt in August 2017. Traveling in Switzerland means packing for different temperatures and terrains. From urban walks to alpine treks, here’s what to pack to be prepared, comfortable, and fashionable on a trip to Switzerland.

What to Pack for Switzerland: The Suitcase

[st_content_ad]Eagle Creek Lync—my Switzerland trip involved lots of public transportation, including trains, buses, and ferries, so I needed to pack light. Eagle Creek’s Lync rolling suitcase was perfect—the suitcase itself was lightweight (4.6 pounds) and easy to roll or carry. I chose this bag for my trip because it converts to a backpack (weighing 1.12 pounds), which I could use for day hiking trips without having to bring a separate backpack.

What to Pack for Switzerland: The Personal Item

The Eagle Creek Lync was a tight fit for 10 days, so I brought a larger “personal item” to go under my seat on the plane. I used Aide de Camp’s Nadine bag, which comfortably held my camera bag, purse, toiletry kit, and in-flight essentials.

What to Pack for Switzerland: In-flight Essentials

  • Travel wrap: I always bring a wrap when I travel, and I like this one because it has pockets. On this trip it got used as a blanket on the plane, an extra layer over a dress, and as a towel after a dip in a lake.
  • Inflatable neck pillow: This one by Eagle Creek is my favorite as it cinches in the front so that my neck doesn’t fall forward and wake me up.
  • Eyemask and earplugs set: No overnight flight is complete without them.

What to Pack for Switzerland: Shoes

  • Running Sneakers: I opted to bring my running sneakers instead of hiking boots, as these were more versatile. I was able to get runs in along some of Switzerland’s gorgeous urban jogging paths, and these sneakers were more than adequate for the well-maintained trails of the Swiss Alps.
  • Allbirds: Lightweight, packable, washable, stylish, and can be worn without socks—these sneakers were comfortable for long walks and paired well with both my dresses and pants.
  • Flip flops: For visiting saunas/pools/beaches and simply wearing around the hotel room.
  • Born Izzabella: These ballet flats were super packable and comfortable—I wore them when my feet needed a break from sneakers and for evenings out.
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What to Pack for Switzerland: Jacket

  • Patagonia Nano Puff Hoodie: Despite heading to Switzerland in the summer, I packed a jacket and was so glad I did. Patagonia’s Nano Puff hoodie was perfect because it was water-resistant and had a hood (which came in handy when it rained). It was lightweight and packed down small, so I didn’t mind carrying it in my backpack during hiking, and it was warm enough at most of the higher summits.

What to Pack for Switzerland: Clothing

  • Comfortable pants/jeans: I brought one pair of pants but regretted not bringing two pairs—it can get cold on the trains as well as in the mountains, so definitely pack a few pairs.
  • Shirts/Sweaters: Layers are key for Switzerland’s quick-changing weather. I brought a good mix of shirts, sweaters, and workout tanks.
  • Dresses: Dresses were a great option for days when I was just walking around cities, as well as for dinners out. The Swiss tend to dress up a little bit, so you’ll fit in more if you dress up a bit.
  • Hiking clothes: I packed my regular workout clothes for hiking in Switzerland and they were great—look for something moisture-wicking if you’re going in summer as it can get really hot.
  • Swimsuit: You can swim in most lakes and rivers in Switzerland, so don’t forget to pack your swimsuit if you’re visiting in the summer.

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What to Pack for Switzerland: Toiletries

  • Sunscreen: You’ll burn faster at high altitudes, so don’t skimp on this. Sunscreen was pretty expensive in the stores.
  • Refillable bottles for hair conditioner, body wash, and body lotion: I used Eagle Creek’s refillable bottles to bring my own hair conditioner, body wash, and body lotion and was glad I did. Switzerland as a whole is very eco-conscious, and most of the hotels that I stayed in did not provide small bottles of free shampoo, conditioner, and lotion as is usually standard. Most hotels just had a large bottle of shampoo (no conditioner) in the shower and that was it for toiletries.
  • Ibuprofen: Ibuprofen is a recommended cure if you get headaches at high altitude, and it also comes in handy if you get sore after hiking.
  • Probiotics and antacids: I found the food in Switzerland to be delicious and rich, so if you have a sensitive stomach and no willpower, you might want to bring some medicine to help with indigestion.
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What to Pack for Switzerland: Purses

  • Lo & Sons The Claremont Crossbody Camera Bag: I had a DSLR camera with me, and needed a camera bag to protect it. I liked Lo & Sons because it looks like a normal purse, is lightweight, and fit all my daytime essentials as well as my camera.
  • Pacsafe Stylesafe Anti-Theft Crossbody Bag: When I wasn’t carrying my big camera, I downsized to this smaller bag, which is lightweight, water-resistant, and protects against pick-pockets.

[st_product products=”294694″]

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What to Pack for Switzerland: Gadgets

  • USB cable: I took Swiss Rail between all of my destinations, and most of the trains were outfitted with USB ports to charge all my gadgets.
  • Kindle: I brought a Kindle thinking I would read on the train rides, but the scenery outside was way too distracting. However, if you get bored easily, you may want one.
  • Waterproof pouch: Switzerland has lots of pristine lakes and rivers for public swimming—I found this waterproof pouch to be a good way to keep my valuables with me and dry.

What to Pack for Switzerland: Accessories

  • Umbrella: Weather in Switzerland can be unpredictable. A good travel umbrella is a must.
  • Sunglasses: Especially at higher altitudes, you’ll need eye protection from the strong sun.
  • Running armband: If you’re a runner, Switzerland has some great urban jogging paths that you should take advantage of. I used Otterbox’s armband to carry my phone so I wouldn’t get lost (and could snap some photos on my route).
  • [st_product products=”196395″]

What to Pack for Switzerland (That I Didn’t)

  • Water bottle: Water is safe to drink from public fountains and taps (and even some streams) all over Switzerland. I should have brought a refillable bottle and taken advantage.
  • Hat: I wasn’t prepared for how strong the sun can be at higher altitudes.
  • Gloves and warmer layers to wear under my jacket: When I visited the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, the temperature at the top (in August) was 29 degrees Fahrenheit (at the bottom, in Zermatt village where my hotel was, it was in the 70s). I couldn’t stay outside on the observation platform for long as I was too cold. If you’re planning a visit here, make sure you pack something warm.

What Not to Pack for Switzerland

  • Noise-cancelling headphones: I was surprised that Swiss Air used the two-prong headphone jacks with its seatback entertainment system, so I could have left my noise-cancelling headphones behind, as I had to use the freebie airline ones in-flight.
  • Hiking boots: I debated whether or not to bring hiking boots as I did some day hikes in the Swiss Alps. If you’re going in the summer, you should be fine with regular sneakers, even on longer trails.

Look Switzerland-Chic for Your Trip

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Caroline Morse was hosted by Switzerland Tourism. Check out their website for lots of great Switzerland travel tips, and be sure to follow Caroline on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from her adventures in Switzerland and around the world.

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The 10 Biggest Benefits of Nature Travel

We have all felt it: the uncanny sensation of clear-headedness and relief that comes from a long walk in the woods, a climb to a mountain overlook, or a stroll on the beach. Even a quick dive into cool ocean surf can do it; you emerge feeling somehow cleaner despite being covered in salt water and brine. It turns out there is a heap of science behind that sensation, enough to encourage the use of our precious vacation time to immerse ourselves in nature travel for extended periods.

[st_content_ad]As John Muir said, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” Below is what the experts have to say on the extensive benefits of getting out into nature in your everyday life, and especially when traveling.

Nature Travel Increases Your Attention Span

The constant barrage of information and images that characterizes modern life is thought by many to have a negative effect on our ability to control our attention—but time in nature has the capacity to correct it, according to this study. It turns out that even viewing photos of nature can have a positive effect; while I’m not much for armchair travel, it actually seems to work when it comes to exposure to nature.

These benefits seem especially important for kids, so get started early on the nature trips and hikes.

Nature Travel Boosts Creativity

Heading out into nature has been found not only to assist attention span, but to boost creativity considerably as well—by up to 50 percent, according to a University of Kansas study. The study emphasizes that these benefits accrue “after living for a few days steeped in nature,” much as you would on a nature trip to the mountains or the woods.

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Awe Is Good for You

Looking out over the planet’s most spectacular natural landscapes isn’t just good for your Instagram account; the awe these places inspire is also good for you. A Stanford study linked awe to improved patience, increased interest in helping other people, and greater life satisfaction.

Nature Travel Encourages Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness may be a bit of a fad at the moment, but the underlying concepts are as old as human history. Deliberately turning your attention to sounds, smells, changing light, and other details of your environment is a favorite type of mindfulness training for many, and is fun and easy—and almost unavoidable—when you travel in nature.

Nature Travel Offers a Reset

One important benefit many of us seek from a trip is a reset, an increase in our enthusiasm and overall liveliness that doesn’t evaporate when we get back to the grind. It turns out that travel in nature offers just this; this study by researchers at the University of Rochester found a direct link between time in nature and increased energy and vitality, even when controlling for the benefits of exercise.

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The Air Is Healthier

According to the EPA, Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, where concentrations of some pollutants can be two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations. Go deep into a natural landscape, and the relative air quality improves even more.

Sunlight Is Good for You, Too

While it is well known that UV radiation from the sun can cause health problems, it is also essential to good health; in fact, the benefits of UV rays may be much greater than the risks. A study by the World Health Organization found that adequate sunlight exposure lowers the incidence of major musculoskeletal disorders, autoimmune diseases, and some types of cancers.

Take care not to get a sunburn, and the benefits of sunlight are free for the taking on your next nature trip.

Nature Travel Can Help Your Mood

According to the USDA, Duke University researchers found that walking regularly was more effective than Zoloft in reducing depression symptoms. And it’s not just the walking that does it. The Duke study quantified the effects of walking three times per week, which are considerable but significantly amplified when done in nature, according to a study at the University of Rochester.

It’s not just the exercise with your friends that makes you feel “more alive,” as the study notes; it is the immersion in nature. Do this on a weeklong nature trip, and the benefits continue to pile up.

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It Can Also Help with Other Difficult Emotional Conditions

Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appear to be helped by time outdoors and in the wilderness, according to U.S. News & World Report. Experiencing nature helps them recover from their experience and offers a slow and more natural reintegration into civilian life. These findings suggest that anyone with PTSD could benefit from nature travel, whether or not they’ve served in the military.

It’s an Easy Way to Jump-Start a Fitness Routine

In addition to all of the science above, I have found no better way to jump-start a workout regimen than nature travel. A trip that puts you in natural surroundings typically requires walking, climbing, carrying your stuff, and other relatively low-impact but high-payoff activities.

Compared to a half-hour or so in the gym every other day, an entire week of carrying even a 10- to 15-pound backpack all day leads to greater and gentler fitness gains every time, in my experience. Weight loss becomes easier, too; when you are moving around burning calories 12 hours each day, “dieting” becomes less critical to creating the calorie deficit that weight loss requires.

Sure, you can get fit walking around Rome all day long, but the temptation to Uber it home from dinner can be almost irresistible; not so much at the campfire.

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Ed Hewitt is a seasoned globetrotter who brings you a biweekly glimpse into the latest travel news, views, and trends—and how they could affect your travel plans.

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9 Switzerland Travel Tips

Don’t plan a trip to Switzerland without reading these Switzerland travel tips first. You’ll save money and have a better time!

Invest in a Swiss Travel Pass

[st_content_ad]Switzerland is easy to get around, thanks to an impeccably run transit system that includes everything from boats to trains and cable cars. If you plan on traveling between cities, as well as utilizing intra-city transportation (like city buses), get a Swiss Travel Pass that covers unlimited travel  “throughout the rail, bus and boat Swiss Travel System network.”  It also offers 50 percent off most mountain railways and cable cars.

Not only will you save money on travel, but the Swiss Travel Pass also gets you free entrance to 500 museums and exhibitions.

Don’t Take Taxis

Swiss public transportation is easy to navigate, with well-marked signage for routes and countdown clocks that let you know when your bus will arrive. Most cities and towns in Switzerland are walkable as well. If you want to save money, avoid taxis, though, as you may be shocked—even for a short ride—at the exorbitant cost. In fact, a recent survey by Carspring found that the taxis in Zurich are the most expensive in the world, at an average of $5.19 per kilometer. So, not taking a taxi is one of the best money saving Switzerland travel tips.

Mind the Altitude

Headed to the Swiss Alps? Thanks to the great network of cable cars, trains, and gondolas, it’s easy to get up to high altitudes quickly. Make sure you bring sunscreen with you, as you’ll get a sunburn faster at higher altitudes. Don’t push yourself too hard if you’re hiking, and take breaks if you feel lightheaded or dizzy—even if you’re just walking around a viewing platform. Be sure to drink lots of water, as that can help with some of the effects. Learn more about altitude sickness.

Don’t Buy Water

Purchasing bottled water from the supermarket in Switzerland is a total waste of your money, as the country is home to some of the world’s cleanest and best-tasting tap water. (In fact, in some places, you can even drink straight from a lake with no ill effects, but I don’t advise testing that on your trip if you’re not familiar with the area.) You can drink from any tap or one of the numerous free-flowing fountains you’ll find in every town, city, and sometimes even along mountain trails. Unless there’s a sign advising that the water is not potable (like you’ll see in train bathrooms), feel safe to drink for free and skip the bottled water.

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Don’t Buy Tourist Chocolate

Souvenir shops and airport kiosks display mouth-watering assortments of Swiss-branded chocolates. Use your willpower to walk straight past those and into the nearest supermarket, where you’ll find entire aisles of equally great (or better) quality chocolate that the locals eat—at less than half the price.

Check Out Less Touristic Spots

Famous spots like Lausanne and Zurich get packed with tourists in the peak season, so if you’re adventurous and don’t mind getting off the beaten path, you’ll be rewarded with a cheaper and less crowded vacation experience. Try lesser-known towns of Biel, Solothurn, and Thun in the summer—you’ll likely never have to deal with crowds or lines.

Take Out Minimal Cash

Although it’s surrounded by EU countries, Switzerland is not part of the European Union. Since the country has its own currency, the Swiss Franc (CHF), it’s a good idea to take out out a small amount of cash when you arrive to use for emergencies (like when you want to buy ice-cream from a cash-only street vendor) and use your credit card (assuming it doesn’t charge a foreign exchange fee) everywhere else. This way, you won’t get stuck with a bunch of leftover CHF at the end of your trip.

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Also note, that some places in Switzerland (but not all) will accept Euros, but they will likely give you your change in CHF.

Learn Which Language is Spoken

Normally, it’s pretty clear ahead of time what language is spoken in a country. Not so much in Switzerland, which has four official languages—German, French, Italian and Romansh. This can make it pretty confusing when deciding how to greet a local. As a general rule, Swiss-German is a safe bet, as it’s the most popular language in Switzerland, with 19 of the country’s cantons, or districts, being Swiss-German speaking. And many people speak English, so you shouldn’t have much trouble communicating.

Watch Out for Closing Times

Hoping to do some souvenir shopping or pick up groceries for a picnic dinner? Keep an eye on closing times. Particularly in the smaller towns, many shops close for lunch from noon until 2 pm, and then close fairly early, at around 5 pm. On Sundays and Mondays, many shops are closed all day.

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Caroline Morse was hosted by Switzerland Tourism. Check out their website for lots of great Switzerland travel tips, and be sure to follow Caroline on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for more photos or to share your Switzerland travel tips!

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Canada 150: Wild Frontiers and Unforgettable Nature in the Yukon

This year our national neighbors to the north celebrate their 150th anniversary and we’ll be celebrating with them as they do. Each month we’ll focus on one part of their magnificent country and share it with you. From the sky-high trees and brown bears in British Columbia to the kitchen parties and codfish-kissing in the Maritimes, our toast to Canada will give you well over 150 reasons to make this the year you take the trip. This month we’re exploring wildlife highways and creative cocktails in the Yukon.

Canada 150: Yukon

[st_content_ad]Of Canada’s three northern territories, Yukon is the one most likely to suit travelers who are looking for a mix of gold rush fever fun and incredible wildlife adventures. The territory that bridges British Columbia and Alaska has been an American favorite for generations thanks to the iconic Alaska Highway that runs through it, but the Yukon is much more than a drive-through destination. Come see the place where vast forests resemble the ones you’ve seen on Canadian travel posters for generations and where the landscape is both harsh and full of promise.

The Cities: Dawson City and Whitehorse

With a population of about 36,000 people, Yukon is hardly bursting at the seams. The small communities and solitary outposts that dot the vast landscape are made up of memorable characters and four-legged wonders. If what you’re looking for is a bustling city, your best shots will be in Dawson City or Whitehorse, and even there you’ll need to use a bit of imagination.

Relive the days of the Gold rush in Dawson City

Gold was first discovered near the Klondike River in 1896 and once word got out, prospectors began the long hard trip to riches. The trip north wasn’t an easy one and Dawson City was built for much the same purpose that it exists today: to provide travelers with some fun along the route. Not all that fun was legal. Dawson City developed a “you can do anything there” reputation attracting gunslingers, profiteers, and barkeeps alongside the miners themselves.

Today the city retains much of that feel but keeps—for the most part—on the right side of the law. You’ll still find the clapboard buildings, swinging saloon doors, and opportunities to try your luck panning for gold, but more often travelers are families coming through in RVs.  Geocaching, stargazing, informative tours, and interactive experiences can be found at this stop smack dab in the middle of the Dempster Highway—Canada’s only all-weather road across the Arctic circle. Adults looking for fun can pop into the iconic Downtown Hotel where a real human pickled toe at the bottom of a rum-based beverage must touch your lips if you want the honor of being named an honorary local. Or spend an evening at Diamond Tooth Gerties to get a taste of the dance hall saloon life of the past.

Find serenity in art and nature in Whitehorse

Yukon’s capital city sits at the crossing of the Klondike and Alaska highways—the territory’s two most prominent roads—but don’t expect skyscrapers and four-lane traffic. The city is simple and surrounded by a natural paradise. This is the forested Canada you’ve dreamed about.

Within the city limits you’ll find a mix of locals who’ve come from around the world. Locals will tell you: No one ends up in Whitehorse by accident. You choose to come here.

Among those who are here now, are those who were here first: Fourteen First Nations’ communities call the area home and ancestors have been doing so as many as 10,000 years before the gold rushers found it. You can get to know them better through their contributions to many facets of the city, including their art. Totem poles (including the 36-foot-high healing totem meant to assist former Aboriginal Residential school residents) and the exhibits inside the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre are only the beginning.

Ready to see some wildlife? Animal lovers may spot caribou, moose and fox, but to catch them all in one place visit the Yukon Wildlife Preserve.

Why Now is the Perfect Time to Go

The Weather: Yukon’s summer season comes to an end this month, and with the beginning of falling temperatures (expect it to top out at about 69 degrees this month) comes a brilliance in the forests that is well worth the trip.  You can expect about 17 hours of sunlight per day this month—a big difference from the five to six hours per day you’ll find in January.

Nature: By the end of this month, the tundra landscape will be changing colors and everything from bright yellows to deep crimson reds will completely transform the look and feel. Tombstone Territorial Park off the Dempster Highway is one of the many places you can witness the colors, all dramatically set against a black granite backdrop and with the bonus of incredible wildlife viewing.

Alaska Highway 75: 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of the completion of the Alaska Highway. Originally built to help America protect itself during World War II, today the route is a popular holiday drive. Visit and you’ll be impressed with the way communities along this BC/Yukon/Alaska corridor have managed to preserve their history.

Festivals: Both Yukon Discovery Day and Klondike Gold Discovery day are celebrated on the third Monday in August. You’ll find one of the biggest celebrations in Dawson City and can expect fun for all ages.

Miles Canyon: Gold rushers would have had to navigate the winding Yukon River Pass to get to their prize in the Klondike; today you can approach it with less at stake.  A suspension bridge built across the Canyon in 1922 means hikers can take advantage of an extensive network of year-round trails in the area.

Why It’s Great Other Times of Year

The Northern Lights: The darker it gets in the Yukon, the more likely you are to see those shimmering neon lights streaking through the skies above. The rewards are greatest in deep winter, and some great hotels will wake you to make sure you don’t miss it.

Hot springs in cool temps: The Takhini Hotsprings mineral springs are great any time of year; but in the winter, the mineral-rich pools become a sought-after activity by visitors and locals alike. A dip in the pool and a dip in the snow is the thing to do.

Winter done right: When you live in a place where heavy snow and plenty of ice are an annual event, you learn to embrace it. Will it be dogsledding behind a team of trained huskies or snow festivals that have you dancing in the crisp air (Try the Frostbite Music Festival)? Will you give snowshoeing a try, perfect your ice fishing or try fat-tire biking for the first time? Whatever you choose, Yukon locals will teach you how to make the most of the season.

If You Go Don’t Miss …

An aerial view: The territory stretches over a slice of land twice the size of Great Britain. From above—in helicopter or sea plane—you’ll get a deeper appreciation of the serpentine roads that slice through forests of spruce, pine, and fir.

The National Park

Kluane National Park

Kluane National Park is a pristine natural gem with an abundance of bald eagles, caribou, and bears (both black and grizzly). 8,500 square miles of protected land, a snow-capped mountain that rises 19,525 feet above the largest non-polar icefield in the world, and glacial lakes that glisten in the sunlight make it bucket-list worthy. Come to hike, bike, raft, and camp. You’ll find experts at the area’s two visitor centers primed and ready to help you along. A mix of interactive exhibits and hands-on activities mean you can spend an hour or a day. Both are open into September.

Visit Kluane National Park and Reserve Visitor Centre or Thachäl Dhäl Visitor Centre for details.

Remember: National Parks and National Marine Conservation Areas are offering free admission all year as part of the celebration of Canada150. Request your free park pass here.

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Heather Greenwood Davis is a lifestyle journalist and a National Geographic Travel columnist. Follow her on Twitter @greenwooddavis or keep up with her family’s adventures on

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9 Best Things to Do in Stowe, Vermont in the Off-Season

Stowe, Vermont is best known as a winter hotspot for skiers and snowboarders, so when I recently visited over the summer, I expected to find a sleepy mountain town. Instead, Stowe was booming—the off-season is really the new “on-season.”

Stowe cherishes its small-town charm, and with warm (but not hot) weather, boutique hotels and resorts, and fresh mountain air, the the best time to visit Stowe is from late spring through early fall. And with Vail Resort’s recent purchase of the mountain, the area could see even more off-season development and new businesses.

The Best Things to Do in Stowe in the Off-Season

Here are the best things to do in Stowe when the snow isn’t falling.

Go for a Day Hike

[st_content_ad]There are dozens of popular trails in Stowe, making a day hike the perfect way to enjoy the weather, views, and, in the fall, foliage. The Stowe Pinnacle Trail is one of the best things to do in Stowe for leap-peeping views, and the steep but manageable hike to the summit is mostly shaded. The trail is about three miles out-and-back, enough of a workout to earn you some brews post-hike.

Another great trail is the Sunset Rock Trail, which starts right in town and can be done in under an hour—yes, the sunset views are amazing. If you’re chasing waterfalls, check out the Moss Glen Falls Trail, a 2.9-mile route that’s suitable for all levels.

Other hiking areas include Smugglers’ Notch State Park and Underhill State Park—where you’ll find Mount Mansfield, the town’s main ski mountain.

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Take a Dip in a Swimming Hole

You’ll find the breathtaking Bingham Falls swimming hole along the Mill Trail, or near a parking lot located just a few minutes’ drive from Topnotch Resort. The waterfall is part of Smugglers’ Notch State Park and can get crowded during the weekends and in nice weather. There are a few different rocks you can use to plunge into the chilly water—just use caution.

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Go Horseback Riding

(Photo: Topnotch Resort)

There are a few horseback trails in Stowe, and Topnotch offers both guided trail rides and riding lessons at its Equestrian Center. The trails in Stowe are flat and scenic, perfect for a first-time rider.

Go on a Brewery Tour

(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

Stowe has one of the best craft brewing scenes in New England, if not the entire Northeast. From the cult favorite (and often sold out) Heady Topper by The Alchemist to the newly opened Von Trapp Bierhall, you could spend a day (or weekend) touring Stowe’s breweries. And that’s exactly what you can do with Rick Sokoloff’s 4 Points brewery tour—with groups of four or more you can customize your stops and leave the driving (and knowledge) up to him.

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(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

Whether you’re looking for intense mountain biking or a leisurely ride, biking is one of the best things to do in Stowe. The Stowe Recreation Path is a 5.5-mile greenway that runs from Topnotch Resort (the access point is across the street) to Stowe Village. It’s a flat, picturesque path with covered bridges, open farms, and winding creeks. There are a few other access points along the way, but the full-length ride is a leisurely way to spend a morning or afternoon.

Adrenaline junkies can opt for some mountain biking down or around the mountain. 4 Points also offers mountain biking tours and lessons (as well as a popular brewery/mountain biking combo tour—don’t worry, you bike first). With local guides and awesome trails, these tours are suitable for all age and fitness levels.

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Relax at a Spa

(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

After a day of hiking or other outdoor activities, finding a relaxing spa is one of the best things to do in Stowe. Most mountain lodges have their own spa, but you can typically purchase a day pass if you’re not a guest.

Contact these resorts for reservations: The Spa at Stoweflake, The Spa at Stowe Mountain Lodge, Golden Eagle Resort, Trapp Family Lodge, and Topnotch Spa.

Go to the Top of Mt. Mansfield

Whether you hike to the top or cheat and take a gondola or drive, enjoying the highest point in Vermont is one of the best things to do in Stowe in the off-season. Famous for its silhouette shape—locals will be happy to point out the nose, upper lip, lower lip, and chin—there’s tons to do besides skiing on the mountain.

Besides countless hiking trails, the mountain is home to an Adventure Center—known for its zip-line course down the mountain—as well as the Cliff House Restaurant, the Gondola Skyride, biking trails, a visitor’s center, and more.

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Shop for Vermont Specialties

(Photo: Shaws General Store)

Don’t let its size fool you. While Stowe’s Main Street is small, the town is packed with cafes, ice cream parlors, galleries, restaurants, and boutiques. Shaw’s General Store is a must for mountain gear and souvenirs.

And don’t leave town without your Vermont staples; you’ll find plenty of maple syrup, farm-fresh cheese, and cider donuts here, too.

Embrace the Farm-to-Table Concept

(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

With more than 7,000 farms in the state, you’d better take advantage of fresh food and meats while you’re in Stowe. Go full throttle at the local Sunday farmers’ market and bring home your own fresh goods. Or get hands-on and do your own maple sugaring at Nebraska Knoll Sugar Farm.

Don’t worry: If you’re just looking for some locally sourced ingredients at dinner, there are plenty of farm-to-table restaurants in the area. Favorites include Flannel, Plate, and Edison Hill Inn‘s dining spaces.

You can also look for the Vermont Fresh Network logo on a restaurant’s website to ensure it uses local Vermont ingredients.

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Ashley traveled to Stowe, Vermont, courtesy of Topnotch Resort. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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7 Reasons Why Anyone Can Hike the Swiss Alps

Hiking the Swiss Alps conjured up daunting images in my mind—facing down towering mountains with an overloaded backpack, having to purchase special gear, and getting lost hiking alone, never to be found again.

Why Anyone Can Hike the Swiss Alps

Turns out that was a bit dramatic, and pretty much anyone, regardless of experience or fitness level, can hike the Swiss Alps (no hiking boots required)

You Can Catch a Ride up or Down

[st_content_ad]Some people may call this cheating, I call it eliminating the worst parts of hiking—much of the Swiss Alps are serviced by a great network of fast and easy-to-use cable cars, gondolas, funiculars, and cog railways that can whisk you up or down the mountain. This is great for people who are short on time but still want to hike the Swiss Alps on a day trip, as you can start from a higher elevation and get right to the great views and good trails.

Or, hike up and take a cable car down, saving your knees/joints and skipping the boring descent after you’ve already summited.

Most cable cars, cog railways, and gondolas are handicapped accessible as well (click here for more information), as are the viewing platforms.

No Gear Required

I usually have my Vibram-soled hiking boots when I attempt any summit at home in New England, but to save suitcase space, I only packed running shoes. Thanks to the well-maintained, mainly dirt trails, I was completely fine, even on the hikes with “medium” and “difficult” ratings. The only essentials you need to hike the Swiss Alps in the summer are: Sunscreen (the sun is stronger at higher altitudes), sneakers, a water bottle, and a jacket (the weather can change quickly and gets cold at higher elevation). That’s it!

No Sad Granola Bars Needed

I’ll admit a squished peanut butter sandwich or granola bar tastes pretty good when it’s the only thing available after a long morning of hiking, but you know what’s even better? A three-course hot meal served with local wine. Since most of the mountains are accessible without hiking, you’ll find amazing restaurants next to many of the trails, so you don’t have to worry about carrying all your fuel with you. Check out these high-elevation restaurants in Zermatt, and you can spend your hike deciding whether to get fondue or rosti when you arrive.

Themed Hikes

Do nature, fresh air, and amazing views bore you? (Or maybe you want to hike the Swiss Alps with a reluctant partner or kid?) Then Switzerland’s Theme Trails are for you. These hikes educate, offer up tastings (hello, wine road) or entertain, as the trails are based around different subjects to hold your interest.

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Easy-to-Follow Trails

If you’ve ever panicked from not seeing a rock cairn for miles, you’ll appreciate the Swiss Alps’ easy-to-follow trails. Most of the day hikes you’ll do in the Swiss Alps are single track paths that have bright yellow signs, which are clearly marked with directions and the amount of time to certain landmarks—so you won’t even need a map.

It’s Free

You don’t have to pay an entrance free before you hop on a trail, as most are on public land.

However, if you’re planning on utilizing one of the transport systems up or down, you’ll have to pay. Note that if you have a Swiss Travel Pass, you’ll get a 50 percent off your ticket on mountain railways and cable cars.

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Well-Maintained Paths

The Swiss have a reputation for being detail-oriented and efficient, which is evident in their hiking trails. A network of volunteers from the Swiss Hiking Trail Federation does an excellent job at keeping the trails in great shape, so you won’t have to fight through overgrowth or worry about a washed-out trail when you’re here.

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Caroline Morse was hosted by Switzerland Tourism on her visit to hike the Swiss Alps. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline to see photos from the Swiss Alps and the rest of Switzerland.

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Sacred Valley, Peru: How to Plan the Perfect Trip

Exploring Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas feels like going back in time. Centuries-old Inca terraces spill down green, misty hillsides. Women in traditional Andean dress stroll along the cobblestone streets of colonial towns, long black braids trailing down their backs. Colorful village markets display soft alpaca sweaters, hats, and ponchos woven by hand.[st_content_ad]

The Sacred Valley is tucked between Cusco and Machu Picchu, running along the Urubamba River from Pisac to Ollantaytambo. Travelers with limited time often skip the Sacred Valley in their rush to see Machu Picchu, but the valley’s picturesque towns and well-preserved Inca ruins are worth a day or two in their own right.

The Sacred Valley has an additional benefit for travelers hoping to acclimate to the region’s altitude before visiting Machu Picchu: Most of the valley sits several hundred feet lower than Cusco.

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When to Visit the Sacred Valley

For the best chance of dry weather, visit the Sacred Valley during its high season between June and August. The rainiest part of the year is November through March. Come during the shoulder-season months—April, May, September, and October—for slightly smaller crowds and lower prices than you’d find in high season, without an excessive threat of rain.

Top Sights in the Sacred Valley

Pisac: Famous for its Sunday market, in which farmers come from all over the Sacred Valley with a colorful bounty of local fruit and vegetables, Pisac is also worth a visit for its large Inca ruins. Located above the town via a zigzagging road, the agricultural terraces and stone ruins offer sweeping views of the valley below.

Ollantaytambo: Aside from its cobblestone streets and friendly cafes, Ollantaytambo’s primary attraction is the Inca fortress located right at the edge of town. Though these ruins are more compact than those in Pisac, be prepared for some climbing; the terraces and temples were built into a steep hillside.

Chinchero: In this small town, you can take in a traditional weaving demonstration, visit a pretty colonial-era church, and explore Inca terraces. Chinchero also has a Sunday market.

Maras: This town is home to two of the Sacred Valley’s most distinctive attractions: a patchwork of hillside geometric salt pools that have been used to mine salt for centuries, and an Inca site called Moray, where the concentric terraces look like a giant green amphitheater.

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Getting There and Around

The nearest major city to the Sacred Valley is Cusco; most international travelers arrive by air via Lima. Once in Cusco, there are a variety of ways to get to the Sacred Valley. While cheap public buses operate in the area, most tourists find it safer and more comfortable to take a taxi or arrange a private transfer through a hotel. Another option: Shared taxis, or colectivos, carry up to four passengers and connect major towns in the area.

You can rent a car at the Cusco airport, but the U.S. State Department cautions against driving yourself at night or in rural areas in Peru, thanks to poor signage and sometimes dangerous roads. Instead, many travelers join local tours (see below) or hire a driver to take them around the Sacred Valley. Your hotel can help you find a driver and English-speaking guide.

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Sacred Valley Tours

For travelers with limited time, the easiest way to explore the Sacred Valley is to take a group tour from Cusco. Full-day tours—such as this tour from SmarterTravel’s sister site, Viator—typically stop in Pisac (including the market and ruins) as well as Ollantaytambo. Other tours include Chinchero and/or Moray and the Maras salt flats. For a more active day, you can even go biking or horseback riding in the valley.

There are also two-day tours that include one day in the Sacred Valley and one at Machu Picchu, such as this Viator offering.

Dozens of tour companies in Cusco run Sacred Valley tours. A couple of reputable options include Llama Path and Alpaca Expeditions.

When choosing a tour, take a look at the size of the group and the number of sites the itinerary includes. Some travelers want to squeeze as much sightseeing as they can into a single day, while others prefer a more leisurely schedule. Look for reviews of the tour by previous travelers to get an idea of what to expect.

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Sacred Valley Hotels

Many travelers to the Sacred Valley use Cusco as a base, but if you have a little extra time—or if you’re worried about the altitude in Cusco—consider staying in the valley instead. Most Sacred Valley hotels are located near Urubamba or Ollantaytambo, with a smaller number clustered in the Pisac area.

One luxurious option is Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, which offers spacious hacienda rooms and freestanding casitas overlooking the valley. Elegant touches include stone and wood decor, heated towel racks, and hot-water bottles to keep your bedsheets nice and toasty. Guests can take part in a variety of on-site activities such as birdwatching walks and learning to make chicha de jora, a traditional Inca corn drink.

For a more affordable stay, head to Hostal Iskay in old-town Ollantaytambo, where the rooms are basic but comfortable and the garden offers views of the town’s Inca ruins. Or retreat to Villa Urubamba, where you can stroll through beautifully landscaped grounds and limber up in the on-site yoga room.

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Sarah Schlichter recently spent the night in the Sacred Valley courtesy of Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor  for more travel tips and inspiration.


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8 Best Places to Zip-Line in the World

Ready to feel the wind in your hair and see your destination from a bird’s-eye view?

Best Places to Zip-Line

Here are some of the world’s best places to zip-line, from active volcanoes to historic landmarks.

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

zip line

[st_content_ad]Costa Rica is perhaps best known for two things: active volcanoes and zip-lines. Combine both with a canopy tour of Arenal Volcano. Arenal’s foothills make up one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the country and therefore one of the best places to zip-line. You’ll sling from platform to platform, learning about the wildlife and the volcano along the way. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a sloth or monkey.

Not into volcanoes? Try the famed cloud forest of Monteverde for higher cables and an elevation that makes for whimsical fog in some weather conditions.

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Waiheke Island, New Zealand

zip line

Don’t want to go it alone on a zip-line? You and a friend can experience the thick New Zealand bush together in an untouched native area outside of Auckland thanks to EcoZip Adventures’ dual zip-lines. Learn about the North Island’s more remote natural areas on a day trip to these three different zip-line experiences, crisscrossing across the property and overlooking vineyards and the Hauraki Gulf.

Orocovis, Puerto Rico

zip line

One of the world’s most famous and best places to zip-line is called La Bestia (the beast) for a reason. At over 1.5 miles long, Puerto Rico is home to the world’s longest zip-line, and riders tackle it head-first—literally. Suspended belly-down and “Superman-style,” you can hit speeds of up to 65 miles per hour over the Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park on La Bestia. Transportation from San Juan is included, making for easy access to the experience. Just be ready for an adrenaline rush.

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Labadee, Haiti

zip line

The longest overwater zip-line in the world, Haiti’s Dragon’s Breath zip-line will send you soaring 500 feet above the island’s bright blue waters and idyllic beaches. Riders reach speeds of about 50 miles per hour and land at a rocky sea cove called Dragon’s Breath Rock. This zip-line caters mostly to cruise passengers thanks to its proximity to a port.

Stowe, Vermont

zip line

Zip-lining isn’t just a tropical pastime—it’s also the best way to go leaf peeping in a deciduous autumn forest. One of the most colorful places in the U.S. during fall is Vermont, which protects many of its forests and doesn’t allow billboards to obstruct its sweeping mountain views. Stowe, Vermont, is a favorite for skiing during winter, but is also perfect for fall thanks to its zip-lines, like the ones at Stowe Mountain Resort. They’re also side-by-side for paired runs, and open to ages 10 and up.

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 Jaguar Cave, Belize

zip line

In case the height and speed of zip-lining doesn’t give you enough of a rush, you can add caves to the mix in Belize. Soaring into Jaguar Cave, an ancient ceremonial space, means you’ll see the green, leafy canopy from above before entering a dark, stalactite-filled mouth at a sudden end to the forest floor. Jaguar Cave also offers tubing and spelunking tours to visitors, but seeing and entering it from the jungle sky is the most mesmerizing way to discover it.

Eiffel Tower, France

For one brief week this summer, the Eiffel Tower made history by suspending a temporary zip-line over its historic grounds and offering it up to visitors free of charge. The urban zip-line was sponsored by Perrier and celebrated the French Open in June, but its immense success begs the question of whether or not it might temporarily return again one day. The trip down from the world’s most visited monument took about one minute to complete, and riders hit speeds of about 55 miles per hour.

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Icy Strait Point, Alaska

zip line

Alaska has some of the best mountain and glacier views in the world, and a lengthy zip-line might be the most invigorating way to see them. The Icy Strait Point ZipRider sends up to six riders at a time (side-by-side) across the length of 18 football fields for an all-encompassing view of Icy Strait Point, near the small Alaskan village of Hoonah. Evergreen trees and mountain peaks punctuate the sightline to a ship-dotted harbor. Try it in in winter for snow-capped views if you’re not deterred by the cold.

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Associate Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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Trips That Will Inspire You to Get in Shape

Need a push to achieve your resolution to finally get in shape? Book a trip that will push you to your physical limits and motivate you to get fit so you make the most of it. I’ve found 10 awe-inspiring trips that will be worth all the sweat and preparation. Think of them as a much more satisfying reward than that piece of cake.

Walk the Cotswolds

A fitness-inspiring trip doesn’t have to be extreme–imagine a relaxing walk through the rolling green hills of the English countryside. You’ll still want to be in shape, but you won’t have to sleep in a tent. Many walking tours of the Cotswolds involve six to 12 miles of easy-to-moderate terrain broken up by stops in quaint pubs and nights in plush boutique hotels. (No giant backpacks required either–they’ll transfer your luggage for you.)

Swim with Whale Sharks in Ningaloo, Australia

A trip can be motivation to pick up a new exercise or develop muscles you might not normally use. I work out regularly, but I very rarely swim. Having the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim with the whale sharks in Ningaloo, Australia, inspired me to focus on getting in swimming shape (which is different than running shape). Swimming is a great, low-impact workout, so if you need motivation, book a similar trip with Ningaloo Whaleshark Swim. Trust me, you’re going to want to be able to keep up with the sharks.

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Run the Great Wall of China

Ever wanted to look at someone bragging about their marathon time and one-up them by saying, “Yeah, but did you run it on the Great Wall of China?” Me neither, but if you are that kind of person, you can sign up for the most extreme tour on our list: running a marathon on the Great Wall of China with Intrepid Travel. Too crazy for you? Half-marathon or 10K options are also available.

Trek to Machu Picchu and Choquequirao

Managing Editor Josh Roberts was inspired to get in shape for a bucket-list trip to Peru. He recalls, “I’ve always been drawn to the undiscovered and less-explored places around the world, but not necessarily at the expense of missing the great wonders, either. G Adventures’ Choquequirao trek provided me a best-of-both worlds opportunity to take in both Machu Picchu and the lesser-known (and far remote) Inca city of Choquequirao. It required a week of trekking and camping in the mountains at high elevation to get there, and that required months of cardio at the gym to get in shape for it. But in the end, it was the ultimate worth-the-effort adventure.”

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Climb Table Mountain, South Africa

You’re going to want to hit the Stairmaster for this one. Although climbing one of the world’s most famous mountains is a very attainable goal (it can be done in a few hours, no oxygen tank required), it still feels like you’re summiting via an endless staircase. The best part—it’s free (no guide needed) and so is training for it (assuming you have access to stairs).

If possible, time your climb for when the cable car is closed, which happens fairly often due to high winds at the summit. The journey up won’t be unbearable, and you’ll be rewarded with zero crowds at the top, making the hike all the more rewarding.

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Ski the Swiss Alps

Get those quads in shape—the Swiss Alps are calling your name. See the mountains in all their winter glory by conquering them on skis. Want to experience the snow in serene silence? A ski touring adventure from Viator takes you away from the busy, groomed slopes and into the wilderness. Stamina is definitely required, as you’ll be hiking on touring skis.

Cycle Central America

All those long hours you’ll put in at the gym, cycling on a stationary bike to nowhere, will be worth it when you catch your first glimpse of Costa Rica’s magnificent Arenal Volcano over your handlebars. An epic 16-day biking trip from Intrepid Travel will take you from Nicaragua to Panama with stops in Costa Rica in between (and of course some transfers—16 days isn’t quite enough time to bike across three countries and still see some sights, even if you’re Lance Armstrong).

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Hike the Grand Canyon

Seeing the Grand Canyon should be on every American’s bucket list. Go beyond gazing at this natural wonder from the rim—you can actually explore it top to bottom. G Adventures’ Grand Canyon trip involves hiking several miles down the North Rim and then up to the South Rim. You’ll get two nights’ at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon so you can recover in between the descent and ascent.

Kayak Cuba

Most tours to Cuba focus on a more urban environment—but why not opt for a kayak over a car and see a totally different side of the country? Fire up the rowing machine and dream about kayaking through Cuba’s national parks. Then live it on a tour with G Adventures and kayak in the Bay of Pigs, the wetlands of Zapata National Park, and on the river in Trinidad.

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An Urban Adventure

Hiking, biking, running, and other super-active trips aren’t the only ones worth getting in shape for. Even if you’ve got something more urban planned, hitting the gym ahead of time can really help. Think of how sore and tired you can get after a long day of walking around a city. Up your workout regime a few months in advance and see how much better you feel on your next journey.

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Caroline Morse loves active vacations. Follow her on Instagram TravelWithCaroline and on Twitter @CarolineMorse1 for photos from around the world.