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12 Amazing Solo Vacations to Take in 2020

Don’t have anyone to travel with in 2020? That’s no reason to stay home. Solo travel is on the rise, and tour operators are expanding their offerings to meet the increasing demand. Below are the 12 best solo vacations for 2020, covering every corner of the globe. Some of these trips made the list because they’re specifically designed for solo travelers; others offer discounted single supplements or roommate matching so you don’t have to pay extra fees for traveling alone.[st_content_ad]

Note that all trips and single supplement discounts were available at the time of publication, but they could sell out at any time. If you’re interested in these solo vacations, it’s best to book early.

Explore Madeira, Portugal, on Foot

Exodus Madeira Portugal Hiking Excursion

Sweeping coastal views, sleepy fishing villages, and sheltered forests await on Exodus Travels’ Walking in Madeira itinerary. The seven-night trip includes leisurely walks of up to nine miles a day along some of Madeira’s most breathtaking hiking trails. The trip ends with free time to explore Funchal, the island’s historic capital. Exodus will match you with a roommate, or you can pay a modest single supplement for your own room. Departures are available every month throughout 2020.

See Morocco from the Mountains to the Desert

Camel Back Ride Sahara Desert Morocco

Overseas Adventure Travel is one of the best tour operators for solo vacations, thanks to free single supplements on most trips. That includes one of its most popular tours, the 14-night Morocco Sahara Odyssey, which takes you through the narrow streets of ancient medinas, over the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, and through the dramatic peaks of the High Atlas Mountains. Unique experiences include lunch in a Berber home and a couple of nights under the desert sky in a private tented camp. This trip has available departures between April and December 2020.

Explore Northern India’s Icons

Amber Fort Jaipur India.

See the Taj Mahal and much more on this dedicated solo trip to India from Intrepid Travel. The seven-night itinerary starts and ends in bustling Delhi, where you’ll discover the city’s oldest mosque and have free time to explore on your own. Then you’ll head to Jaipur to visit royal palaces and soar above the city in a hot air balloon before visiting the 14th-century village of Karauli and touring the magnificent Taj Mahal. Intrepid will match you with a same-gender roommate so you can avoid paying a single supplement. This trip departs on select dates between April and December 2020.

[st_related]11 Important Taj Mahal Facts to Know Before You Go[/st_related]

Take a Hiking Vacation in Vermont

hiker on long trail vermont.

Escape to the pristine mountains of Vermont on a wellness getaway, hiking each morning and enjoying spa treatments and fitness classes each afternoon. New Life Hiking Spa is the perfect retreat if you need a little R&R, drawing numerous solo travelers (mostly women) of all ages. Small-group hikes, communal meals, and friendly public spaces offer ample opportunity to get to know fellow travelers. New Life’s 2020 season runs from May 14 through October 5 and is held at Killington Mountain Lodge.

Discover Ireland Your Way

cliffs of moher ireland sunset.

Not big on group tours? Consider Great Value Vacations’ Irish B&B Getaway package, which includes airfare, a rental car, and accommodations at bed and breakfasts around Ireland, allowing you to wend your way through the countryside at your own pace. Highlights include dramatic coastal roads, lively villages, and historic castles. The itinerary can be customized for six to nine nights, and you may depart any month of the year.

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Have an Adventure in Colombia

colombian coffee REI adventures.

REI’s Experience Colombia tour showcases the breadth of the country’s landscapes, from the lush green highlands where world-class coffee is grown to the sandy beaches of the Caribbean coast. This eight-night itinerary starts in Bogota and finishes in Cartagena, with plenty of adventures along the way—like mountain biking through coffee plantations, hiking to a rare tropical glacier, and sea kayaking to a colorful coral reef. If you’d like to avoid a single supplement, REI will pair you with a same-gender roommate. This trip is available between June and December 2020.

Live Like a Local in Nepal

g adventures nepal living like a local.

Get an intimate glimpse of what life is like in rural Nepal on a fascinating six-night journey with G Adventures. After a night in Kathmandu, you’ll travel to the farming village of Panauti to meet your host family. You’ll spend the next few days learning to make dumplings, tasting local wine, hiking to villages and monasteries, and even playing volleyball with the locals. G Adventures will pair solo travelers with a same-gender roommate so you don’t need to pay a single supplement. This trip is available on select dates through December 2020.

Eat Your Way Through Central Mexico

Oaxaca City Street Mexico.

Flash Pack targets solo travelers in their 30s and 40s, matching each person up with a same-gender roommate so you can avoid single supplements. If you love good food and unique culture, give Flash Pack’s Cultural Journey into the Heart of Mexico trip a try. The eight-night itinerary features tequila tasting in Mexico City, a cooking class in Oaxaca, and lunch aboard a vibrantly colored trajinera boat in Xochimilco. You’ll also go swimming in natural thermal pools at the foot of the world’s only petrified waterfall. This trip departs on select dates between April and December 2020.

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Spot Rare Wildlife in Madagascar

black and white ruffled lemur madagascar.

Keep an eye out for lemurs, chameleons, boa constrictors, and numerous rare birds as you travel with Explore! through Madagascar: The Lost Continent.  In addition to wildlife-watching treks through the island’s national parks, this itinerary also features a walk along a spectacular canyon, a visit to Madagascar’s oldest palace, and a stay in a local community guesthouse. Explore! will match you with a same-gender roommate if you don’t wish to pay a single supplement. This trip has departures between April and November 2020.

Go Off the Beaten Path in Nicaragua

granada cathedral Nicaragua,

Less visited than neighboring Costa Rica, Nicaragua has its own magic to discover. Road Scholar puts some of the nation’s most intriguing spots on display in its seven-night Exploring Nicaragua: Colonial Towns to Countryside package, with highlights such as a visit to a rum factory (complete with tastings), a cooking workshop in Leon, a walk through a cloud forest, and an expert talk on Nicaragua’s history by a former guerilla. Road Scholar is currently offering single rooms at no added cost on this itinerary. This trip has several departures between September and December 2020.

Discover the Best of Tuscany and Umbria, Italy

tuscany italy winding road.

There’s a reason Tuscany and neighboring Umbria are two of Italy’s most beloved regions. Discover them for yourself on Insight Vacations’ Country Roads of Umbria & Tuscany tour, an eight-night voyage to destinations such as Florence, Assisi, Siena, and San Gimignano. You’ll dine in the kitchen of a local chef in Orvieto, then learn about traditional textile weaving in Perugia and visit a family-run olive mill in Assisi. Single supplement discounts up to 90 percent are available on select departure dates between May and October 2020.

[st_related]3 Ways for Solo Travelers to Avoid Single Supplements[/st_related]

Have an Adventure with Fellow Women

woman standing above dubrovnik.

If you, like many female travelers, feel safer and more comfortable in the company of other women, consider booking a trip with Adventure Women, which offers active, women-only tours to destinations around the world. Most of the company’s clients come alone, so you’re sure to find common ground with your fellow travelers. Solo vacations for 2020 with availability at press time include a nine-night Tanzania safari, an eight-night sailing trip around Croatia, a nine-night culture-focused trip to Oman, and more. You can choose to be matched with a roommate or pay a little extra for your own room.

For more ideas, see The Top Travel Destinations for 2020.

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Sarah Schlichter wants to take every one of these solo vacations. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Beach Food & Drink Historical Travel Island Outdoors

10 Fun Off-Resort Things to Do in Oahu

It’s easy to soak up the sun on Waikiki Beach for a week, sampling the area’s many restaurants and taking side trips to nearby Pearl Harbor or Diamond Head. But if you limit your Hawaiian vacation to just one area, you’re missing out. There are plenty of other things to do in Oahu, an island that spans 597 square miles of golden beaches, crashing waves, deep green forests, and laid-back surf towns.

To learn about Honolulu’s most popular attractions, see SmarterTravel’s Honolulu Travel Guide. But for the best things to do in Oahu outside the capital city, read on.

Have an Adventure

atvs at kualoa ranch

Sprawling across 4,000 verdant acres on Oahu’s Windward Coast, Kualoa Ranch offers just about every adventure you can imagine, from horseback riding and zip-lining to kayaking and ATV tours. This private nature reserve is also a popular Hollywood filming spot; movie tours lead visitors past familiar landmarks from films and TV shows such as Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, and Lost.

You can also relax at Kualoa’s exclusive Secret Island Beach, where you can swim, kayak, play beach volleyball, or simply enjoy the views of Mokolii, a small island off the coast also known as “Chinaman’s Hat.”

Other adventurous things to do in Oahu include a hike or off-road expedition with North Shore EcoTours. The company operates on private conservation land, so there are no other tourists around.

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Hit the Beach

oahu beach

Waikiki is the island’s most famous (and most crowded) beach, but there are plenty of other golden stretches of sand on Oahu where you can lay your towel. On the island’s Windward (eastern) Coast is Kailua Beach Park, which spans more than two miles and includes bathroom facilities, picnic tables, and multiple parking lots. Its calm waters are popular for swimming and kite surfing. Nearby is Lanikai Beach, which some travelers find even more beautiful, despite its lack of facilities and limited parking.

On the North Shore are beaches with towering wintertime waves for surfing, including Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach. Or head to the Leeward Coast on the west side of the island to catch the sunset from Keawaula Beach, also known as Yokohama; keep an eye out for dolphins or whales.

Help alleviate the environmental effects of your visit by participating in a beach cleanup. The company Travel2change offers a variety of activities like a yoga class or biking trip combined with a beach cleanup after your desired activity.

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Soak Up Local History and Culture

performer at polynesian cultural center

Oahu may be best known for beaches and natural beauty, but it’s also home to a wealth of fascinating cultural attractions. Start with the Polynesian Cultural Center, where you can watch performances and visit villages representing the cultures of Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and Aotearoa. The popular attraction now offers immersive cultural experiences with locals like the Umu Making Experience. Each ticket entry (when purchased online) allows you to come back for free for three days, so you can experience other parts of the center.

Learn about the island’s history at Hawaii Plantation Village, which features restored buildings from the sugar plantation era of 1850 through 1950. Follow it up with a visit to Queen Emma Summer Palace, the former royal mountain retreat that’s now a museum housing furniture and regalia belonging to the 19th-century queen. Oahu is also home to spectacular museums like the Bishop Museum, Honolulu Museum of Art, the Hawaii State Art Museum, Iolani Palace, and the Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design.

And don’t discount Oahu’s modern art scene; street art is increasingly prominent in Honolulu and its surrounding neighborhoods. Check out Pow! Wow!’s interactive mural map of Oahu.

Taste the Island Flavors

hawaiian poke

From fresh seafood (poke, anyone?) to shave ice, Oahu offers plenty of delicious flavors to sample throughout your trip. A great place to start is at the many farmers’ markets that take place around the island, offering locally grown produce and artisan food items. You can visit the North Shore Country Market on Saturday mornings, the Windward Mall on Wednesdays and Sundays, or a number of others supported by the Hawaii Farm Bureau. If you’re in Oahu on a Saturday or Tuesday evening, check out the KCC Farmer’s Market for fresh and local food like fried mochi balls, seafood, coffee, and more.

Also be sure to explore the island’s more modern neighborhoods like Kaka’ako for juice bars, farm-to-table dining, and its own farmers’ market. And don’t leave the North Shore without trying shave ice: Visitors line up for the famed Matsumoto Shave Ice, and it’s worth it!

And, of course, you can’t visit Hawaii without going to a luau. This traditional Polynesian-style feast typically features pork roasted in an umu, or underground oven, as well as other Hawaiian dishes such as poi (mashed taro) and poke. Some of the most popular luau events on Oahu include the Alii Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Ka Moana Luau at Sea Life Park.

[st_related]10 Great Places to Try Hawaiian Food in Honolulu[/st_related]

Take a Hike

hiker on mountaintop in oahu

Stretch your legs and enjoy some of Oahu’s best views by incorporating a hike or two into your vacation. One popular, not too strenuous option is the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, located along the Kalanianaole Highway east of Honolulu. The two-mile paved trail overlooks the ocean; keep an eye out for whales in season.

Not far away is a significantly more challenging hike, the Koko Crater Railway Trail, where railroad ties now serve as steps for a steep uphill climb. The reward for all that effort? Sweeping views of Hanauma Bay, Diamond Head, and other landmarks in the eastern part of Oahu.

Other trails to consider include the Kuliouou Ridge Hike and the coastal trail at Kaena Point State Park.

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Stroll Through Gorgeous Gardens

pink flowers in oahu

Nature lovers will enjoy the lush foliage and vibrant flowers in botanical gardens across the island. A particular highlight is Waimea Valley, where a walking trail winds through a mix of tropical plants and cultural sites on the way to a waterfall visitors can swim in.

Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden is another serene place for a stroll, spanning some 400 acres of plants from various parts of Asia, Africa, Polynesia, and the Americas. Or you can wander among the native Hawaiian plants at Wahiawa Botanical Garden, located just down the road from Dole Plantation.

You can also stop by Byodo-In Temple, a scale replica of a Japanese temple surrounded by Japanese-style gardens.

Hit the Water

surfer north shore oahu

If you wanted to, you could spend the majority of your vacation enjoying the crashing waves and turquoise waters surrounding Oahu. Learn to hang 10 with a surfing lesson at Uncle Bryan’s Sunset Suratt Surf Academy or North Shore Surf Girls. Or, for something a little different, go “canoe surfing” with We Go! Island Canoe in Kailua. On the North Shore, Sea and Board Sports Hawaii offers a little of everything, from stand-up paddleboarding to glass-bottom kayaking.

And don’t neglect Oahu’s underwater world. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, just a short drive from Honolulu, is one of the island’s most popular snorkeling spots, but you can also snorkel right off the beach at Shark’s Cove or Kuilima Cove on the North Shore.

The brave can book an open snorkeling session with famed marine biologist Ocean Ramsey and her company One Ocean Diving. The pelagic shark research snorkel teaches you about shark safety, biology, and conservation. And yes, you really get to swim in the open ocean with these fantastic animals.

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Play a Round

golf course oahu

The spectacular views at Oahu’s courses might ruin you for golf at home, but it’s a risk worth taking. Many of the most popular courses are on the grounds of resorts, including Ko Olina Golf Club, which features a Ted Robinson-designed course with plenty of water features, and Turtle Bay, which has two 18-hole courses on the scenic North Shore.

Non-resort courses to consider include the Ewa Beach Golf Club, a challenging course on the western side of the island, and the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club, offering lush foliage and mountain views on Oahu’s eastern side.

Learn About Agritourism

giant machine cog on display at the decommissioned Kahuku sugar mill plantation on the island of Oahu Hawaii

Many of Hawaii’s former sugar plantations are getting a second life. One example is Ko Hana Distillers, which is a rum distillery set on a former sugar plantation. You can even combine a distillery tour with a hike through the company Hawaii Forest & Trail. Or experience even more agritourism with the Farm to Forest Experience, which includes a tour of a working organic farm and a hike with amazing views.

A visit to Gunstock Ranch is another agritourism experience on Oahu. The ranch is home to a Hawaiian Legacy forest and offers tours to help plant trees as well as go horseback riding or tour the ranch. 

Kahumana offers tours of its organic farm, which offers vocational training for locals struggling with homelessness or disability. You can also enjoy a delicious meal on site at the Kahumana Cafe.

Kahuku Farms offers tours as well as a cafe featuring ingredients grown on site. At the Dole Plantation, you can take a train tour, find your way through a garden maze, and sample ice cream made with the company’s famous pineapples.

Discover WWII History

uss bowfin submarine admiral clarey bridge oahu.

Of course, no visit to Oahu is complete without a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial, but there are three other Pearl Harbor Historic Sites that are also worth visiting: the Battleship Missouri Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. Experiences range from guided tours to climbing aboard a real WWII-era submarine. The USS Missouri Memorial and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum are located on Ford Island and accessible via shuttle buses. Here you can tour the historic battleship, see the battle-damaged airfield, and even walk inside hangars with a fleet of vintage airplanes. Tours and passes are available for all four sites.

What to Pack

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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Sarah Schlichter traveled to Hawaii as a guest of Hawaiian Airlines and Barclays. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration. 

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2019. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Ashley Rossi contributed to this story.

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Active Travel Adventure Travel

The 12 Best National Parks in Europe

The United States may seem like the obvious choice for a national park vacation, especially for American travelers, but Europe has an abundance of national parks worth exploring as well. Whether your thing is hiking fjords in Norway, exploring castle ruins in Portugal, or sampling local cheese in Slovenia, the national parks of Europe appeal to a wide range of interests.

Ready to get inspired? Here are 12 of the best national parks in Europe.

Jotunheimen National Park, Norway

About 100 kilometers southwest of the Norway’s oldest national park, you’ll find Jotunheimen National Park, home to Norway’s highest mountain, Galdhopiggen.

It’s got all the water features you’d want for an outdoor adventure: waterfalls, rivers, lakes, and glaciers. It’s also known for its spectacular day hikes and hut-to-hut treks, including the famous Besseggen Ridge. People come here to ski, river raft, and glacier walk, too.

While you’re in the (relative) area, pay a visit to the largest glacier in continental Europe.

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Saxon Switzerland National Park (Germany)/Bohemian Switzerland National Park (Czech Republic)

Don’t let the name throw you off: Saxon Switzerland National Park borders the Czech Republic and is nowhere near Switzerland. The park continues into the Czech Republic where it is called Bohemian Switzerland National Park (there’s even a border crossing for hikers, though with more than 150 square miles of trails, including some for cyclists, you may not need to leave the country).

Rock climbers can choose from among 700-plus sandstone summits, carved by the Elbe River for millions of years. You don’t have to dangle from a rope, however, to appreciate the flower-filled valleys, chalky cliffs, mesas, and surrounding castles and fortresses. In fact, one of the best ways to take in the rocky terrain is from the source that created it: the Elbe. Entrance to the park is free.

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Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Lakes make up only one percent of Plitvice Lakes National Park‘s surface area (the northwest part of the park is a beech-fir forest), but they’re one of its biggest draws. There are 12 in the Upper Lakes area and four in the Lower Lakes group.

Boardwalk-style hiking trails lead around many of them, allowing you to get up close without disturbing the delicate ecosystem. The steep canyons make for dramatic waterfalls, including Great Waterfall, the highest in the country. And because limestone is prone to weathering, sinkholes and caves like Supljara Cave have formed in the park. Admission prices vary with the seasons, but include boat rides on Lake Kozjak and panoramic train rides.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its geological and ecological value. The karst topography, defined by its limestone and dolomite rocks, retains water in the lakes thanks to tufa formations that act as a natural barrier.

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Vatnajokul, Iceland

The largest national park in Iceland, Vatnajokull covers 13 percent of the country and encompasses the Vatnajokull glacier, as well as the area that once made up Skaftafell and Jokulsarglijufur national parks. This is where fire meets ice in the form of glaciers and volcanoes.

For those looking to climb the country’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnjukur, Skaftafell is a good place to start. Another popular hiking route takes visitors along a canyon from Asbyrgi to Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe.

The park’s lowland areas are the most easily accessible, with highland areas being only accessible by 4×4 vehicle for a few months at the height of summer and beginning of autumn. In the winter, ice caves formed by water or the geothermal activity are a popular draw. And though outside the park, Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon is also worth a stop if only to glimpse the icebergs floating on the lake’s waters.

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North York Moors National Park, England

North York Moors National Park is part forest, part moorland, with a mix of heathland, bog, and coastal cliffs thrown in. Wandering through villages on the rocky coastline between bays and beaches will give you an entirely different sense of the park than wandering through the higher ground covered in heather, turning the moors into a purple magic carpet in summer.

Explore the coast on the cliff path, part of the Cleveland Way National Trail, but otherwise don’t worry too much about sticking to trails; most of the park is open access, so you can wander at will through wooded valleys and past grazing sheep.

Beyond the natural features of the park, this chunk of earth has witnessed a considerable amount of history, with remains in the area dating to the end of the last Ice Age (tools and camps from the first hunters) on through the Cold War (concrete bunkers). Roman fortifications, ancient crosses, and medieval castles and abbeys are seemingly (and fortunately) unavoidable.

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Triglav National Park, Slovenia

It may be Slovenia’s only national park, but Triglav National Park preserves three percent of the country’s land, including much of the Julian Alps, the park’s namesake mountain, and the country’s highest peak, Triglav. Several mountaineering routes lead adventurous climbers to the top.

Elsewhere in Triglav National Park, deep gorges carved by the park’s rivers contrast with the high peaks, while caves have formed in the limestone mountainsides. It’s no surprise that hiking trails offer one of the best ways to appreciate the varied park features.

There are 25 settlements within Triglav, and many of the inhabitants make their living from agriculture (try the local hard and soft cheeses made from cow’s or sheep’s milks). Just outside the park’s eastern edge, picturesque Lake Bled is a good base for exploring the park’s attractions like Vintgar Gorge.

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Bialowieza National Park, Poland

On the border with Belarus, Bialowieza National Park is a rare area of undisturbed nature. It’s Poland’s oldest national park, covering the central part of Bialowieza Forest, considered the last original bit of European lowland forest. Because of its extensive old-growth forest and the role it plays in conserving the area’s biodiversity, Bialowieza National Park was named UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s also is also home to the largest population of European bison, with breeding reserves located within the park. The oldest (and most protected) sections of the park are only accessible with a guide, but there are areas for hiking and biking that do not require supervision. Admission fees to the park are minimal.

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Cevennes National Park, France

The appeal of Cevennes National Park (website in French) is varied. For some, the park is at its best in summer thanks to canoeing, kayaking, climbing, caving, and fishing. For others, it’s winter with snowshoeing, tobogganing, and Nordic skiing. But whether you hang out in the woods, moors, and meadows or the valleys, mountains, and gorges, you’ll likely see traces of human settlements past and present. People have inhabited the lands here since at least 400,000 B.C.E., and much remains: ancient megaliths from the Neolithic era, Roman ruins, medieval churches and monasteries, mills once famous for producing silk, and remnants of silver, coal, and iron mines, including water towers and railway tracks.

Eight national hiking trails cross through Cevennes National Park, which has hundreds of miles of marked trails, including mountain bike and equestrian routes. Around 300 footpaths with the average length of about five miles make for easy day hikes, though the park is equally great for scenic drives. Forage for mushrooms and chestnuts, among other edibles, but make sure you’re not picking them from private property.

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[st_related]The 7 Best National Parks to Visit in Winter[/st_related]

Gargano National Park, Italy

Forgo the most well-known national park in the country, Cinque Terre, and skip the also-packed Amalfi Coast for even more gorgeous cliff-side villages, hikes, and Mediterranean views in the less-traveled Gargano National Park. Located in Puglia in the “spur” of Italy’s boot, the rocky coastline of white limestone cliffs abutting turquoise blue waters of the Adriatic is a major draw. But Gargano National Park also encompasses wetlands, valleys dotted with wild orchids, and woodlands in the Foresta Umbra.

Millions of years ago, this section of land was disconnected from mainland Italy, which helps explain the dramatic geography dotted with almond, orange, and olive trees. The Tremiti islands also form a section of the park with the most developed, San Domino, also being the only isle in the archipelago with a sand beach. And there are enough coves, caves, and sea stacks to fill a photo album.

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Sarek National Park, Sweden

Sweden has a ton of national parks worth exploring, including Tyresta National Park (an easy day trip from Stockholm) and Fulufjallet, home to the country’s tallest waterfall and one of world’s oldest trees (more than 9,500 years old and counting). But Sarek is otherworldly.
The inaccessibility of the park (you have to hike or ski in and will probably end up wading through water since there are few bridges) only adds to its allure. This is the real wild, with no marked trails. Reading a map and compass aren’t just nice to know—they’re essential. The park contains nearly 100 glaciers and almost half of Sweden’s tallest peaks, including Barddetjahkka, the country’s most easily ascended 2,000-meter summit with views of its largest glacier.

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Peneda Geres, Portugal

Abutting the border with Spain, Portugal’s only national park is notable for its castles, culture, and ponies—Peneda Geres is full of wild Garrano ponies that have been in the region since the first millennium B.C.E. Today, you can find domesticated ponies that will take you across the park’s countryside. Granite cliffs, forests, and bogs keep the terrain interesting.

Castles like Laboreiro and monasteries like Santa Maria dos Pitoes are popular spots within the park for those interested in history. Beyond castles, remnants from earlier eras like megalithic tombs and a Roman road that you can still cross via bike are evidence of the area’s long history.

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Archipelago National Park, Finland

You might expect to find Archipelago National Park, with more islands than any other archipelago in world, in someplace like the Maldives. But this park and UNESCO Biosphere reserve is in the Baltic Sea off the southwest coast of Finland. The fairly remote location is reached by ferry, taxi boat, rented motor or sailboat, or kayak.

The larger islands have villages where cattle and sheep still graze, while some of the smaller ones are rocky islets. Oro Fortress Island, a former military area, was only recently reopened to visitors. Because it was closed for so long, it has protected threatened species and habitats. All the islands are good for birding, and you may also spot moose and seals. Two underwater nature trails off Stora Hasto Island give snorkelers and divers a different perspective on the landscape. Off Dalskar Island are statues on the seabed.

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What to Pack

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What to Pack for Patagonia: 36 Essentials

Soaring craggy peaks, jaw-dropping glaciers, and pristine forests await you in Patagonia. I spent two weeks trekking the classic “W” route in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, and hiking around Mt. Fitz Roy in El Chalten, Argentina, sleeping in tiny refugios and campsites along the way. Here’s what made it onto my Patagonia packing list … and what I wish did.

What to Pack for Patagonia: The Backpack

I’m a chronic overpacker, so I forced myself to stick to the 50-liter limit of my trusty Osprey Aura AG backpack. The lightweight frame makes it easy to carry for hours, and plenty of pockets, zippers, and compartments keep me organized.

What to Pack for Patagonia: The Day Pack

A day pack gives you flexibility in your itinerary. Drop your backpack at camp, make a quick switcheroo, and move on up to the summit for the day. This water-repellent backpack from Sea to Summit gets the job done.

What to Pack for Patagonia: The Sleeping Bag

Refugios and campsites offer linens and sleeping bags at an additional cost, so you can probably get away with not bringing one. I’m a cold sleeper though, so I don’t regret bringing my lightweight sleeping bag, especially when temperatures dipped below 30 degrees one night at camp.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Flight and Bus Ride Essentials

  • Headphones: There’s not much space for traditional over-the-ear headphones, so I brought my tiny Bose SoundSport Wireless ones and an adapter for the charger.
  • Scarf: The Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf doubles as a blanket or a pillow in a pinch, which is why I never leave home without it.
  • Motion sickness medication: It takes more than 10 hours of travel to get from Torres del Paine to El Chalten on winding mountain roads, so you’ll want your motion sickness remedy of choice.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Shoes

  • Sturdy hiking boots or shoes: Make sure you’ve broken them in before you leave. Even a small blister or slightly ill-fitting shoe can mean misery for multi-day hikes, no matter how beautiful the trails are.
  • Waterproof camp shoes: These can do double duty as shower shoes and for relaxing at night.

What to Pack for Patagonia: The Jacket(s)

Since you can experience bright sunshine, torrential downpours, snowfall, and high winds all in the span of 15 minutes in Patagonia, layers are essential.

  • Insulated vest: The Patagonia Nano-Puff Vest is my go-to for any kind of hiking or running. It keeps me super warm but is so light I barely notice wearing it. (It’s also available for men.)
  • Mid-weight windbreaker: Layer the vest with a midweight windbreaker (like this one for women or this one for men) when you’re hiking or the sun is out.
  • Warm coat: Keep a really warm puffy coat close by for the summits, around camp, and when the weather turns particularly nasty. Bonus: My L.L.Bean one is packable. (See a similar option for men here.)

What to Pack for Patagonia: Rain Gear

It will rain for some or all of your trip, so be prepared. The trails are well maintained, and with the proper gear, you can still have a great day.

  • Raincoat: The Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket fit perfectly over my puffy coat and kept me warm and dry. (Check out a similar option for men here.)
  • Backpack cover: If your pack doesn’t have one, you’ll want to make sure you bring a cover. It’s best to find one that fits perfectly so it stays secure in the wind and rain—this Osprey Ultralight Raincover matches mine.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Clothing

  • Convertible hiking pants: They may be nerdy, but they’re also necessary in a region with so many weather changes.
  • Long-sleeve shirts: You won’t need short-sleeve shirts unless you’re warm in 40-degree weather. Stick with technical long-sleeve shirts—I brought one base layer and two lighter hiking shirts.
  • Tights or leggings: I brought two pairs of tights since that’s what I prefer to hike in—one at mid-calf and one long pair.
  • Cozy lounge wear: I saved one pair of joggers and one fleece pullover for relaxing around camp.
  • Socks: Get yourself several pairs of wool socks for hiking, and at least one for relaxing.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Toiletries

  • Sunscreen: It’s a must since you can burn even when it’s cloudy.
  • Multi-purpose soap: One of the best perks of hiking the “W” is that you can shower at almost every campsite and refugio. I love Bronner’s since it’s multi-purpose—shampoo, body wash, and clothing wash all in one (plus, it’s environmentally friendly).
  • Face wipes: On days without showers, these will get the grime and dirt off your skin.
  • Moisturizer: With so much wind, don’t leave it behind.
  • Over-the-counter medications: No matter where you travel, always bring some over-the-counter medication with you, especially remedies for upset stomach and pain, as well as an antihistamine in case of an allergic reaction.
  • Bandages: Taking care of blisters can make a big difference in your comfort level when you’re walking in hiking boots all day.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Gadgets

  • Headlamp: These are handy to help you get around camp and the refugios once the electricity goes out at night.
  • High-quality camera: Photos won’t do Patagonia justice, but it’s worth a shot (pun intended).
  • Universal adapter: Chile and Argentina use different plug setups and voltages.
  • Portable phone charger: Because you won’t always have electricity.

What to Pack for Patagonia: Accessories

  • Hat: I mostly used my baseball cap, though mornings at camp definitely warranted a warm hat.
  • Multi-purpose buff: I love hiking with one of these because they’re suitable for just about every type of weather.
  • Micro-towel: I follow the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy philosophy and always travel with a towel.
  • Large water bottle: You can drink the water right out of the streams and rivers on the trails in Patagonia. Pack a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.
  • Sunglasses: Glaciers throw off glare, so when the sun does come out, you’ll want some shades.

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

  • Collapsible trekking poles: These would have been handy on some hikes. Note that airlines require you to bring them in a checked bag, or you can rent a pair in either Puerto Natales or El Chalten.
  • Rain pants, rain pants, rain pants: They will make your life less miserable than mine was, and significantly drier, too.
  • Poncho: I’m glad I stuffed an extra trash bag into my pack at the last minute, but next time I’d bring a poncho. Did I mention it rains a lot in Patagonia?

What Not to Pack for Patagonia

Unless you’re going off the beaten path, you won’t need traditional backpacking gear like a tent, sleeping pad, pots and pans, mess kit, or a stove on your Patagonia packing list. You can rent these items from almost any refugio or gear store in town if you feel like you need them once you’re there.

Chileans and Argentineans are very casual, so you won’t need anything dressy (even jeans) unless you’re planning on going to one of the major cities before the hiking portion of your trip. Otherwise, save that space for an extra layer or two.

Overall, when packing for Patagonia, keep in mind that less is more when you’re carrying everything on your back. While it may be tempting to bring lots of clothes or accessories, just remember that every ounce counts—and you wouldn’t want anything to distract you from the incredible scenery.

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Always in search of adventure, Kayla Voigt hails from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the start of the Boston Marathon. You can usually find her at the summit of a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta. Say hi on Instagram @klvoigt.

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10 Best Hidden Hot Springs in North America

Nothing beats a warm soak outside on a crisp day. You’ll have to ramble down dirt roads, hike into canyons, and cross suspension bridges to get to these hidden hot springs. But the effort will make the “ahhh” even sweeter when you finally slip into a steamy bath set in the middle of thick forest or beneath the glittery Milky Way. Here are 10 of our favorite hot springs in the U.S. and Canada.

Chena Hot Springs, Near Fairbanks, Alaska

At McCredie Hot Springs, a little string of hot pools lines the edge of Salt Creek, where you can sit and enjoy a warm soak with the sound of a river rushing by. Here, in the middle of the Willamette National Forest, bathers shift rocks to create just the right mix of warm and cool water in the pools, which can range from 98 to 114 degrees (temperatures can be dangerously hot, so proceed with caution when enjoying the hot springs). In winter, this area, at an elevation of 2,000 feet, is often blanketed in snow, so you can have a roll in the white stuff and then watch it melt off your skin in the hot springs. It’s a great way to spend the afternoon after hitting the slopes in Willamette Pass or snowshoeing at Salt Creek Falls, one of Oregon’s highest waterfalls.

Getting There: From Eugene, follow Highway 58 east for 46 miles. McCredie is between mileposts 46 and 47, just east of Oakridge and near Blue Pool Campground in Willamette National Forest. The springs are about 200 yards from the roadside parking lot. Note that the campgrounds are closed in the winter and operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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What to Pack

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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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2014. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Kaleidoscopes in Motion: Visiting Mexico’s Monarch Sanctuary

The monarch butterflies have no set flight pattern. Some dive-bomb from trees, others flutter down like fall leaves. Against the clear sky, whole colonies swish back and forth, orange marbles sent skittering across a tile floor. We think these things, but we do not say them aloud. We’ve been asked to stay quiet. It’s one of the conservation rules at Piedra Herrada Butterfly Sanctuary in Valle de Bravo, three hours outside of Mexico City.

My husband, David, and I have come to do some major monarch-spotting. Twenty to 30 million butterflies migrate to this sanctuary between November and March each year. They’ve flown south to escape the North American winter in Mexico’s highlands, some traveling as far as 3,000 miles.

 

Piedra Herrada Butterfly Sanctuary in Valle de Bravo, three hours outside of Mexico City.
Only the Sanctuary’s guides are allowed to touch any of the monarch butterflies.

Our path to the monarchs isn’t short either. The summit is an hour’s hike, or 45 minutes on horseback. “Steep” and “strenuous” are words that autofill when you Google the park, so we opt for horseback, knowing we’ll still have to dismount and walk the last 10 minutes to the peak.

Through the Hotel Rodavento, we arrange a lift to the sanctuary and an escort, Alejandro. On arrival, David and I tumble out of the van and chase butterflies to a grassy divot. They lay in a sunbeam, occasionally taking a bobbing lap around our heads as we snap photos. Alejandro laughs, clearly thinking, This is just the parking lot! Wait until the forest. He arranges for our park guide, Gustavo, and three petite horses.

“Not to worry,” Alejandro jokes. “These are automatic horses.”

He’s not wrong. Riding skills are not required. The short mares can be mounted as easily as a porch swing, and the reins are handled by a señor who walks beside us.

Before we set off, we tour the spotless base camp, with its bathrooms, food stands, and tchotchkes like hats embroidered with plastic monarchs. But I’m eager for the real thing. We saddle up.

“Andale!” I shout.

 

The trail starts out paved and fenced, but reverts to a dirt path as we climb. Much of it is shaded by oyamel fir trees, the monarchs’ favorite hideout. Occasionally, a lemon wedge of sunlight breaks through the forest canopy and the butterflies cluster there. Gustavo, who leads our equine parade on foot, takes off his sombrero, fanning them off the path.

“We are custodians for these butterflies,” Gustavo explains in Spanish. “Imagine if we trampled over them!”

As the monarchs get shooed away, I’m struck by their fragility—they’re flimsy as two-ply Kleenex. How have they traveled the distance of a high-powered jet plane?

Our troop continues its ascent. Behind me, Alejandro calls a booming “buenos dias” to the people we pass—young sweethearts hiking, fathers and sons on horseback, and one executive-type taking a cellphone call mid-trot. Despite our differences, we’re all seeking this one wild marvel.

After 40 minutes, we arrive at what Alejandro calls our “horse parking lot.” We dismount and climb with Gustavo the rest of the way. It’s slow going, twisty and—as Google warned—steep. But the butterflies, just a trickle at the bottom of the park, flow freely around us.

Here Gustavo announces the final rule: We must whisper. No more booming buenos dias.

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Piedra Herrada Butterfly Sanctuary in Valle de Bravo, three hours outside of Mexico City.

As we reach the top, the canopy of trees cracks open and daylight floods in, heating the powdery earth and infusing the air with a pine-needle scent. The flip-book sound of a thousand beating wings surrounds us. Monarchs are everywhere now, spilling from trees—swooping, falling, shimmering. Waves of them pinwheel through the sky, climbing up into blue infinity, before falling back down to earth in a whoosh. The four of us stand in silence, faces tipped to the sky. I feel the same awe I’ve had in grand cathedrals.

Alejandro reads my thoughts. He leans over to whisper, “You sense God is in this place.”

On our descent to base camp, Gustavo grows somber. “We’ve seen fewer and fewer butterflies,” he says, echoing what scientists have discovered: Monarchs have suffered an 80 percent decline since 2000. Global warming, as well as the loss of milkweed (the monarch caterpillars’ only food), are to blame.

“We can’t control climate change, so we try to control the little we can,” Gustavo says.

 

 

He tells me that because the butterflies arrive in November, during the Day of the Dead celebration, many believe them to be souls of loved ones returning. I can’t ignore the subtext: If these butterflies disappear, part of this country’s soul will be lost, too.

Back at base camp, we return our horses to their hitching posts, then head back. For the first mile, the butterflies surf the jet-stream peeling off our van.

At home months later, I spot a flattened monarch on the pavement and stop to wonder what else was stamped out.

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If You Go

Our writer’s tour was arranged through the Hotel Rodavento. Tours can also be booked through Viator, starting at $60, or on arrival directly with park guides. Fees for guides and horses are 250 pesos per person (approximately $13 USD). Note that park guides tend to speak limited English, and package tours have translators. The entrance/parking fee is 70 pesos ($3.50 USD), which is included in pre-booked tours. Clean bathrooms are on site with paid access of 5 pesos ($0.25 USD). Gift shops and food vendors are also on the grounds. Sturdy walking or hiking shoes are recommended.

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SmarterTravel Spotlight: Nimmo Bay Resort, British Columbia

The wilderness lodge Nimmo Bay Resort offers all-inclusive stays of three, four, or seven nights throughout its May-through-October season. The rate includes accommodations, local and lodge-based activities, all meals, and access to resort amenities like its waterfall-adjacent hot tubs and daily yoga classes. Nimmo Bay Resort is a luxury resort, but it manages to create an environment in which luxury feels less like garden-variety exclusivity and more like the privilege of deep connection.

The Location

Nimmo Bay Resort kayaking

Nimmo Bay Resort offers some of the world’s most pristine natural beauty. Located deep in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia—the world’s largest unspoiled temperate rainforest—the resort is accessible only by seaplane, boat, or helicopter. The peaceful cluster of cottages along the water’s edge on a small, sheltered bay offers the feeling of having a national park all to yourself. Because you pretty much do, though you’ll share all this nature with an exciting variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, bears, dolphins, porpoises, whales, seals, and sea lions.

The Rooms

Nimmo Bay Resort cabins interior

The small resort has nine two-bedroom, one-bathroom cabins with living rooms and outdoor seating. The six intertidal cabins sit along the water’s edge, while the three forest cabins are tucked back into the trees next to the resort’s cascading waterfall. All cabins have ultra-comfortable pillow-top mattresses with Stonewashed linen cotton bedding, a constantly refreshing supply of house-made cookies, plus complimentary wines (mostly local British Columbia reds and whites), juice, beer, tea, and coffee. The cabins offer a beautiful and peaceful place to soak up the scenery.

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Dining

Nimmo Bay Resort culinary experience and dinner on beach

When you’re at Nimmo Bay Resort, there’s nowhere else to go, but the resort rises to the challenge by offering creative, hyperlocal, and sustainable meals that change each day. Often, on the first night, there will be an a la carte menu, followed by a tasting menu on the second night, and a family-style meal on the third. In addition to meals in the dining room, there are also picnics and other al fresco meals. Cocktail hour brings drinks made with tinctures from local plants and flowers and intriguing appetizers—think nootka-rose tinctures, cedar-infused rye, local halibut beignets, and duck rillette tempura.

Activities

Nimmo Bay Resort massage outdoors

During your stay, you’ll meet each morning and evening with your guest experience optimizer, who will ask you a series of questions meant to gauge your mood, energy level, and interests. The optimizer will then create a day for you that might include wildlife sightings, beach picnics, hiking, kayaking, forest bathing, whale watching, fishing, massage, or other activities. Adventure here is tailored to each guest on a daily basis. It creates a sense of expectation and mystery, but also a feeling that each day brings exactly what it should.

Price and How to Book: Per-person nightly rates at Nimmo Bay Resort start at about $1,500 CAD. To book, call 800-837-4354 or book online.

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Christine Sarkis visited Nimmo Bay Resort as a guest of the resort. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

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SmarterTravel Spotlight: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

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You’ve probably seen the jaw-dropping pictures of Lake Louise’s emerald waters on Instagram, and yes, it’s really worth visiting in person too. Between the lake itself, its national park location, and surrounding peaks and glacier, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and the Canadian Rockies deserve a spot on your bucket list.

Here’s why staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the best way to visit Lake Louise and what time of year is the best time to go if you want to avoid the crowds.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: The Location

You can’t get any closer to Lake Louise in Banff National Park than with a stay at the Fairmont Chateau. The hotel was first built as an attraction along the Canadian Pacific Railway for tourists to visit in the summer. Since its beginnings in the late 1800s, the property has welcomed royalty, celebrities, artists, filmmakers, world-famous skiers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

As part of the Canadian Pacific Hotels division, the property became a Fairmont in 1999. The property has a rich mountaineering history that’s seen through the design, service, and activity offerings at the hotel.

The Fairmont grounds directly abut the UNESCO World Heritage site, which means hotel guests don’t have the property to themselves. Busloads of tourists visit the lake every day, but that shouldn’t stop you from staying here. Tourists are allowed in parts of the hotel, but priority is given to hotel guests at the onsite dining options and the new spa.

In fact, staying at the hotel will give you time in the morning and evenings to enjoy the lake in a rare moment of solitude. Plus, not many tourists stay long enough to enjoy the dozens of hiking trails surrounding the lake and hotel. I recommend the Plain of Six Glaciers and Big Beehive hikes for intermediate hikers. You can also participate in outdoor actives via the Mountain Adventure Program.

Shoulder season (early spring and throughout the fall and early winter) are ideal times to visit for less expensive room rates and fewer crowds. I stayed at the property in mid-October and was able to enjoy the property without crowds for the better part of the day. Plus, you get to see the surrounding mountains with a dusting of snow contrasting the jagged granite peaks. It really is the best of both worlds.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: The Rooms

The rooms are updated, spacious, and decorated in traditional Fairmont style. I stayed in a suite room with views facing the lake. The suite was spacious, even by suite standards, and has plenty of space for a family. Since you visit for the view, I recommend spending extra on a lake view room. In total, there are 539 rooms at the chateau.

Fairmont Gold members receive an exclusive experience, with signature suite rooms on the seventh floor reserved only for Gold member guests. Other perks include arranging dinner reservations, transportation, and access to the private lounge. Gold members can head to the Fairmont Gold Lounge for a complimentary breakfast buffet and access to books, games, coffee, and tea, as well as an honor bar and complimentary cocktail canapes from 5 to 7 p.m. 

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Dining

The Fairmont Chateau has many dining options ranging from a gastropub and a breakfast buffet to fine dining overlooking the lake. Guests can also enjoy a 24-hour deli-style counter for quick meals and snacks. Restaurants include the Fairview (fine dining), Lakeview Lounge (lounge area serving tapas and cocktails), The Wallister Stube (European alpine inspired restaurant and wine bar), The Chateau Deli, Poppy Brasserie (breakfast style buffet restaurant), the Alpine Social (gastropub), and the seasonal Italian cuisine kitchen Lago (usually opened regularly during summer).

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Extras

Guests have access to all of the surrounding trails and equipment (for a fee; crampons are free for guests). There is also an adventure center, where guests can book guided hiking tours on trails around the lake. The entire staff is  friendly and helpful with activity recommendations. You also aren’t far from the small town of Lake Louise, but you really don’t need to leave the property to explore all the Canadian Rockies have to offer. Winter activities include ice skating, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. Summer activities include canoeing, hiking, horseback riding, and biking.

For skiers, some of the best Canadian Rockies skiing is only three miles away at The Lake Louise Ski Resort. The mountain is home to the Lake Louise World Cup every November and gives the area international fame in the skiing world. Free ski storage is also available at the hotel.

There is also a newly renovated spa and fitness center featuring a heated indoor pool, steam room, and complimentary fitness classes. The hotel is also well known for its all-inclusive wellness retreats offered in the shoulder season.

I recommend continuing on to Jasper National Park and staying at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, as well as a night at the Fairmont Springs Banff to complete your Canadian Rockies vacation. All three hotels are unique in that they’re located in national parks and each property works closely with the Canadian Park Services to uphold standards in nature preservation, sustainability, and respectful tourism.

For reference, Lake Louise is located about two hours from the Calgary International Airport, a 40-minute drive from the town of Banff, and about one hour from the entrance of Banff National Park. From the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to the Fairmont Jasper is about a three-hour drive.

Price and How to Book: Nightly rates start at $275 and can be booked on TripAdvisor or Fairmont’s website.

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Ashley Rossi stayed as a guest on behalf of the Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

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8 Best Mancations for Every Type of Guy

No offense guys, but many of you are tough to please when it comes to travel. While plenty of you are avid travelers, for the most part, women dominate travel decisions and planning. Whether you’re looking for a guy’s trip, bachelor party, solo getaway, or a father-son vacation, here are eight destinations where you can truly have a stress-free vacation.

San Diego, California

three men surfing in san diego california

Relax and unwind in California while avoiding the hassle of Los Angeles. San Diego makes for a great solo trip or bachelor party destination—with activities suiting both types of trips. La Jolla is a great surfing destination, while downtown San Diego is home to great nightlife. Go to a Padres game, play a round at world-famous Torrey Pines, take a craft brewery tour, enjoy rooftop bars in the Gaslamp Quarter—the activities are endless with year-round mild weather and fewer crowds than other popular California destinations.

Where to Stay: If you want to golf, stay at Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines for a guaranteed tee time at the legendary course every day. Or opt to stay closer to downtown at Hotel Indigo San Diego Gaslamp Quarter for a more urban experience.

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Rome, Italy

Outdoor view of the colosseum or coliseum, also known as flavian amphitheatre

For an incomparable European experience, look no further than Rome. From the ruins of the Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Circus Maximus to the lively nightlife, Rome is the perfect guys trip. You can also golf at the championship course, Parco di Roma Golf Club, with the St. Peter’s dome as your backdrop.

Where to Stay: The Rome Cavalieri offers pools, access to Parco di Roma Golf Club, gladiator training in the hotel’s private park, a central location, an Italian Super Car “experience day”, a private visit to the Vatican Gardens and Sistine Chapel, and its own art collection for the ultimate Roman experience.

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Phoenix, Arizona

Man holds a bike in the air phoenix arizona

Enjoy the desert heat in Phoenix poolside or on the golf course at any of the area’s 185 courses. Depending on the time of year, you can also catch a football game at the University of Phoenix Stadium or a baseball game at Chase Field. Take an ATV tour in the desert, river raft and fish outside of Scottsdale, or rent a boat on Tempe Town Lake (all within driving distance of Phoenix).

Where to Stay: The Arizona Biltmore boasts eight pools, private cabanas, bike rentals, desert jeep tours, Grand Canyon tours, and a championship golf course. You’ll have it all at this resort.

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Bali, Indonesia

tourists walk through the gate of a hindu temple in bali

If you’re willing to make the journey, Bali is the best Southeast Asian destination for a guys trip. You can surf at some of the world’s best beaches, relax at countless infinity pools, visit Hindu temples, and enjoy the beautiful landscape of the rice paddies and volcanoes. Once you’re there, everything is pretty inexpensive and the food, nightlife, and culture are well worth the flight.

Where to Stay: Conrad Bali is located on the coast of Nusa Dua at Tanjung Benoa and offers activity planning, golf, a beach coastline, a wellness studio, three restaurants, and multiple pools.

Maine

man hiking in the woods of main

If you’re looking to go off-the-grid, the Maine Huts & Trails is the perfect adventure trip. The hut-and-trail system is located in western Maine along trails marked by mountains, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. There are four hut stops—Stratton Brook, Flagstaff, Grand Falls, and Poplar—connected by paths accessible via foot or bike. From hiking and biking to fishing, canoeing, paddleboarding, and swimming, the options are endless. And if you’re looking for a winter trip, you can ski and snowshoe.

Where to Stay: Book your trip through Maine Huts & Trails, with rates at $90 per night, including three daily meals.

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Louisville, Kentucky

a bourbon flight in louisville kentucky

Take on the bourbon trail with your group of guy friends (and SmarterTravel’s handy five-day guide). From the bourbon to the food, Louisville makes for a great weekend or long-weekend destination. Check out the Louisville Slugger Museum and Muhammad Ali Center for some non-bourbon activities.

 Where to Stay: 21c Museum Hotel Louisville also doubles as a contemporary art museum, fulfilling your childhood dream of sleeping in a museum. They offer free tours, and a great view of downtown Louisville, all within a few blocks of 4th Street’s nightlife.

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Killarney, Ireland

view of canoes on lake in killarney ireland

You can have any type of vacation in Killarney. It’s a stop on the Ring of Kerry circuit, the start and endpoint for the Kerry Way walking trail, and home to the castles, lakes, and mountains found in Killarney National Park. It also offers access to renowned golf courses and a great culinary and pub scene.

Where to Stay: The Ross is located in the heart of the town center, close to the national park. They also offer an “Off the Beaten Track” guide and cater to whatever activity you decide to do: if you’re golfing, they will store your golf equipment and offer early breakfast, or if you’re hiking, they will reserve guides, pack a lunch, and give route recommendations.

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Lake Louise, Canada

man paddles on lake louise in canada

Located in Banff National Park, Lake Louise offers a variety of activities for your guys-only trip in Canada’s “Diamond in the Wilderness.” Come summertime, the area offers hiking, ATV excursions, canoeing, fishing, golfing, horseback riding, rock climbing, and white water rafting. And in the winter, the lake is home to some of the best downhill skiing areas anywhere. Year-round, you can opt for a helicopter tour, glacier walk, wildlife safari, skydiving, paragliding, cave tours, or grizzly bear tour. Make sure to also check out the town of Banff, about a 40-minute drive away for even more activities, bars, and fine dining.

Where to Stay: The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise will plan your entire trip through their concierge service so you can enjoy your vacation stress-free. Choose from their seasonal guides and make sure to take one of their GoPros with you to capture your adventures.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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20 Trips of a Lifetime to Take in 2020

Make 2020 your most adventurous year yet by signing up for one of these trips of a lifetime. Hike on drift ice in Japan, sail to one of the world’s most remote and beautiful UNESCO sites, cycle through the best of Jordan on your way to Petra: These journeys are unlike any trip you’ve ever taken before.

Ultimate Seychelles with Aldabra Atoll: Exodus Travels

saychelles aldabra atoll beach
Picture yourself winding your way through the exotic alleyways of Zanzibar’s Stone Town before boarding a small luxury cruise ship and sailing through the tropical archipelago of the Seychelles. Exodus Travels’ Ultimate Seychelles tour takes place aboard Ponant’s brand-new Le Bougainville ship, a gorgeous vessel with unique features such as the “Blue Eye,” an underwater lounge that allows you to see the wildlife that lives below.

This once-in-a-lifetime journey visits Aldabra Atoll, one of the most remote UNESCO World Heritage sites on the planet. Hidden away from the impact of humans, Aldabra has managed to sustain a population of 152,000 giant tortoises. This is the trip for wildlife enthusiasts: The clear waters of the Seychelles are home to 850 species of brilliantly colored fish that you’ll visit on snorkel and dive excursions.

East Greenland Arctic Safari: Natural Habitat Adventures

East greenland arctic safari: natural habitat adventures

Most tours of Greenland barely scratch the surface of this remote country, shuttling passengers on and off of cruise ships for limited excursions. To really immerse yourself in Greenland, join Natural Habitat Adventure’s East Greenland Arctic Safari, a nine-day adventure centered around Natural Habitat’s unique luxury base camp near the edge of the Greenland ice sheet. You’ll be in one of the world’s most remote locations (with a maximum of only 11 other travelers in your group), but still have access to hot showers and gourmet meals. You’ll spend your days exploring the surrounding water, meeting the local Inuit villagers, kayaking, and more.

Highlights of the Frozen Continent: Chimu Adventures

Rocky coastline overcrowded by gentoo pengins and glacier with icebergs in the background at neco bay, antarctic

Will 2020 be the year you finally check off your seventh continent? Chimu Adventures makes Antarctica more accessible with its surprisingly affordable Highlights of the Frozen Continent Cruise. On this 12-day trip you’ll set foot on the peninsula, delight in the company of hundreds of penguins, spot whales, and enjoy exploring relatively untouched territory.

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Galapagos Multisport with Quito: G Adventures

Galapagos multisport with quito: g adventures

Kayaking, snorkeling, biking, and surfing—you won’t be bored on G Adventures’ Galapagos Multisport trip (but you will have plenty of time to lounge on the beach if you choose). This adventure hits the highlights of Quito and the Galapagos, starting in Ecuador’s fun-filled capital before cruising between the islands of Santa Cruz, Floreana, and Isabela. You’ll make friends with giant tortoises, pay a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station, and hike up a volcano to the world’s second-largest crater.

Jordan Cycling Holiday: Saddle Skedaddle

Jordan cycling holiday: saddle skedaddle

Slow down and see the best of Jordan on Saddle Skeddaddle’s eight-day cycling trip. You’ll ride to popular spots such as Wadi Rum, Amman, and Petra, while also exploring secret spots like the Ajloun Forest Reserve and the Madaba Plateau. Your reward for all that riding? Soaks in the Dead Sea and traditional Bedouin feasts.

[st_related]Bike Safety Tips: How to Stay Safe and Comfortable While Riding[/st_related]

A Food and Wine Adventure Through Tuscany and Piedmont with America’s Test Kitchen: EF Go Ahead Tours

A food and wine adventure through tuscany piedmont with america’s test kitchen: ef go ahead tours

Foodies, this is the tour that you’ve been waiting for. EF Go Ahead Tours has teamed up with America’s Test Kitchen for a one-of-a-kind, food- and wine-fueled adventure through Italy’s best culinary regions. You’ll sample truffles at the Alba White Truffle Fair, taste wines from local vineyards, learn how to make pasta from a Bolognian chef, and get a true sample of Italian culture. We’re already salivating.

Druk Path Trek, Bhutan: Exodus Travels

places to visit in 2017 bhutan

The tiny country of Bhutan has exploded in popularity recently, but fortunately, the nation’s strict restrictions on tourism mean you’ll still have an authentic visit if you go. For a real adventure, sign on to Exodus Travels’ Druk Path Trek Tour, which combines an incredibly scenic multi-day hike from Paro to Thimpu with time spent exploring the culture of Bhutan’s cities and villages. Pick one of the departures that coincides with Bhutan’s festivals for an unforgettably colorful and fun experience.

[st_related]The Alchemy of Happiness: Discovering Magic in Bhutan[/st_related]

Kazakhstan Adventure: Intrepid Travel

Kazakhstan adventure: intrepid travel

Kazakhstan might just be the most unfamiliar place you’ve ever been. This far-flung country is home to a unique culture and landscape you won’t find anywhere else. Intrepid Travel’s Kazakhstan Adventure takes you to the former Soviet space port of Baikonur, along the Silk Road ruins of Sayram and Otrar, on hikes through Altyn-Emel National Park, and definitely out of your comfortable routine.

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Hokkaido Winter Tour: Oku Japan

Hokkaido winter tour: oku japan

The crowds will descend on Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Get off the tourist pack by visiting in winter, for Oku Japan’s Hokkaido Winter Tour. This self-guided adventure lets you set your own pace as you explore Hokkaido, Japan’s second-largest island. You’ll visit national parks, trek on drift ice, and snowshoe through UNESCO World Heritage nature reserves before unwinding in the country’s famous onsen hot springs at the end of each day.

Egypt Adventure: Intrepid Travel

Egypt adventure: intrepid travel

For less than $900 you could spend a week cruising the Nile on a traditional felucca, exploring the ancient pyramids, and tasting everything in sight at Cairo’s bazaars. Intrepid Travel’s Egypt Adventure tour is light on cost but heavy on action. You’ll travel by train, boat, and bus through Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan, experiencing Egypt’s famous hospitality.

[st_related]Top 10 Group Travel Survival Tips[/st_related]

Sailing Croatia: Dubrovnik to Split: G Adventures

Sailing croatia: dubrovnik to split: g adventures

Croatia’s coast is one of Europe’s most stunning. Explore it at a leisurely pace, sailing on a small yacht from Dubrovnik to Split, on G Adventures’ Croatia sailing tour. You’ll spend eight days aboard a small ship with just seven other travelers. When you’re not on the boat, you’ll be taking excursions to Mljet National Park, exploring Korcula (Marco Polo’s birthplace), tasting wine at local vineyards, and much more.

Canadian Rockies Hiking Plus: REI Adventures

Hikers enjoying scenic canadian rocky mountains view in jasper national park

The Canadian Rockies were practically designed for adventure. REI Adventures’ Canadian Rockies Hiking Plus action-packed trip begins in tourist hotspot Lake Louise but quickly gets you away from the crowd, as experienced guides lead you up hidden hiking trails. Each day will bring a new, exhilarating activity—like whitewater rafting in Yoho or hiking on the Columbia Icefield.

[st_related]14 Tips for Choosing the Right Group Tour[/st_related]

Cuba Multi-Adventure Tour: Backroads

 cuba multi-adventure tour by backroad

You can still visit Cuba legally, despite new restrictions. (Backroads’ Cuba Multi-Adventure Tour falls under the “Support for the Cuban People” category.) This trip offers a much deeper look at the country, getting you outside the main cities and into less touristy areas via bike rides and hikes. This tour is designed to help you connect with locals in a meaningful fashion, giving you the chance to take salsa classes, share meals, and engage with Cubans.

New Zealand: South Island Adventure: National Geographic Expeditions

Nature a at mount aspiring national park new zealand south island

New Zealand is famed for its Great Walks, a collection of stunning trails around the country. Hike three of them on National Geographic Expeditions’ South Island Adventure, a 12-day trip that showcases the highlights of the South Island. In addition to some epic trekking, you’ll get to sea kayak in Abel Tasman National Park, helicopter into Mount Aspiring National Park, and cruise around Milford Sound.

[st_related]10 Best Places to Go in New Zealand[/st_related]

Georgia: Walking in the Svaneti Mountains: Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel

Georgia: walking in the svaneti mountains: wild frontiers travel

Georgia is one of Europe’s trendiest destinations right now. This undiscovered gem has remained off of most tourists’ itineraries until recently, so you can still avoid the crowds and have an authentic adventure. Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel’s Georgia Walking Tour showcases the country’s wild side, with plenty of hikes in the Svaneti Mountains mixed with cultural experiences like a visit to the remote village of Adishi, home to just 12 families.

Alaska Rafting on the Tatshenshini River: OARS

Mountains of tatshenshini-alsek provincial park Grizzlies, wolves, and eagles are waiting to greet you (from a respectful distance) on OARS’ Alaska Rafting Tour. This incredible adventure traverses the Tatshenshini River through the  Tatshenshini-Alsek Wilderness Park. You’ll paddle past icebergs, frozen waterfalls, and amazing scenery on this 13-day journey.

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Rwanda Primate Adventure: Mountain Travel Sobek

Rwanda primate adventure: mountain travel sobek

Seeing mountain gorillas in the wild is a trip of a lifetime that you can make happen on Mountain Travel Sobek’s Rwanda Primate Adventure. With the guidance of expert rangers, you’ll track gorillas through Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, getting a rare chance to see these majestic creatures up close. You’ll also focus your search on another rare creature—the golden monkey.

Epic Outdoor Adventures in Slovenia: Exodus Travels

Epic outdoor adventures in slovenia: exodus travels

The title of the trip says it all: This vacation is all about epic outdoor adventures. Exodus Travels’ Slovenia adventure showcases this country’s extreme sports scene. You’ll paddleboard on Lake Bohinj, rappel down waterfalls in the Soca Valley, and zip-line over the Isonzo River, against the backdrop of some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe. There will also be plenty of time to bring your heart rate back down to normal, with more sedate adventures like dinner at a castle, a chocolate tasting, and a scenic train ride.

[st_related]Secret Europe: The 10 Least-Visited European Countries[/st_related]

Bike Tour: Connemara and the Aran Islands: Wilderness Ireland

Bike tour: connemara and the aran islands: wilderness ireland

Get all the benefits of a bike tour (a relaxed pace, exercise, and access to off-the-beaten-path scenery) without all the downsides (having to carry all your luggage, worries about bicycle breakdowns) on Wilderness Ireland’s Connemara and the Aran Islands bike tour. On two wheels, you’ll ride around the Aran Islands, through the Burren, and along the Wild Atlantic Way. Wilderness Ireland will guide you every pedal of the way (and transport all your stuff between each stop, so you can ride light).

Chile and Argentina: Solar Eclipse Adventure: Boundless Journeys

Chile and argentina: solar eclipse adventure: boundless journeys

Can you imagine anything more magical than witnessing a rare solar eclipse from the prime vantage point of Argentina’s Piedra del Aguila? On Boundless Journeys’ Chile and Argentina tour you’ll witness that phenomenon and much more. Think hiking through Patagonia, beer tasting at a local microbrewery, and dancing in Buenos Aires.

For more ideas, see The Top Travel Destinations for 2020.

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline.

Categories
Packing Travel Technology Travel Trends

7 Travel Electronics the Least Tech-Savvy Travelers Will Love

Not all travelers are packing high-tech travel electronics or plugging in every chance they get, but there are plenty of everyday items that travel better when they incorporate some technology. These travel electronics provide low-tech solutions to common travel challenges like staying in touch, easily sourcing potable water, and protecting your personal property while traveling.

These are the best travel electronics, ranging from those with charge-free simplicity to low-tech gadgets that require little to no tinkering.

RFID-Blocking Wallet or Purse

 rfid-blocking-wallets

Safeguard yourself from electronic pickpockets looking to lift personal data from chips inserted in passports, IDs, and credit cards. Simply put those important documents in RFID-blocking wallets like this spacious women’s leather clutch or this men’s passport wallet, which makes room for cash and cards, too.

Water-Filtering Bottle

 LifeStraw go water filter bottle

A low-tech solution to sourcing clean, potable water, a filtration water bottle means you can hydrate at just about any water source. The LifeStraw Water-Filtering Bottle claims to filter out 99.9 percent of water-borne bacteria, making even the grossest water drinkable. That includes water from questionable sources such as ponds and lakes when you’re camping, and tap water in destinations where you’d normally not drink from the faucet.

[st_related]12 Things You Should Never Pack[/st_related]

Universal Power Adapter

 BESTEK universal travel adapter 220v

It’s time to upgrade your universal power adapter. Today’s adapters simultaneously perform prong-adapting and power-converting duties, so your gadgets don’t get fried in nations with different voltages. Amazon’s most popular power adapter/converter is the Bestek Universal Power Adapter, which can charge seven items at once. 

Charging Phone Case

Lonlif battery case for iphone

You can map your destination, stay in touch with everyone, and keep your entertainment accessible while traveling—but you can only do that if your phone has battery life. The best way to keep your phone charged without having to carry all those cables is by popping your phone in a charging phone case. Make sure to get a charging phone case that fits your particular phone’s model, and one that’s waterproof, to boot.

[st_related]10 Waterproof Travel Tech Accessories That Could Save Your Next Trip[/st_related] 

E-Reader

amazon prime perks reading

Who has space to spare in their luggage when we’re all just trying to avoid paying bag fees? Lighten your load by trading in paperbacks for an e-reader. The latest iteration of the Amazon Kindle holds twice the amount of content, is waterproof, and starts at $129 (check for sales during the holiday shopping period).

Tracking Device

tile key finder

Ever get distracted by the sights and suddenly realize one of your valuables is gone? Quickly locate lost items with a tracking device like Tile. The tracking device will ring when in range of a member of the Tile community, and its location will be shown on the Tile app even if you’re out of range. Attach a tracking device to your luggage, camera, keys, phone, wallet, purse, or anything else you’d be hard-pressed to replace.

[st_related]How to Check for Hidden Cameras in Your Hotel Room[/st_related] 

Fitness Tracker

Use a fitness-tracking device such as the Fitbit to keep key health metrics such as heart rate, spent calories, and sleep patterns at your fingertips. Achieving weight-loss goals is easier thanks to fitness trackers that help you count steps while you’re on the road. Fitbit Pay on newer models also now offers the ability to pay on-the-go. If you’re willing to go a little more high-tech, Smartwatches can also be used as fitness trackers.

Travel in Comfortable Style

No matter where you’re headed on your next trip, comfort is key during travel. Show off your high-tech gear with a cozy yet fashionable style to pair.

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

More from SmarterTravel:

Patricia Magaña refuses to succumb to travel electronics like e-readers and instead makes room in her bag for a good book. Follow her on Instagram @PatiTravels.

Categories
Active Travel Fashion & Beauty

11 Best Travel-Friendly Boots for Fall

Even the most seasoned travelers find fall packing to be a challenge. Will there be a random hot day followed by a cold and rainy evening, or a frosty morning that gives way to a warm, breezy afternoon? A good traveler should always be prepared. After all, nothing puts a damper on walking around a new city like cold, wet feet. Here are eleven boots that are perfect for fall weather, plus are packed with travel-friendly features like secret pockets and sneaker technology.[st_content_ad]

Rothy’s The Chelsea

Rothy's the chelsea.

Cult-favorite travel shoe brand Rothy’s just expanded into the boots category: Their new Chelseas are perfect for fall. These stylish booties are made from repurposed water bottles, making them ultra-lightweight, sustainable, and machine washable. A back pull tab makes these easy to slide out of at airport security.

Baffin Packables Rain Boot

Baffin packables rain boot.

You don’t want to be stranded without rain boots if you’re headed somewhere with wet weather, but they sure do take up a lot of luggage room. Unlike most, these boots by Baffin take up almost no space because they roll up and store neatly into an included carry pouch. This brand beats out similar, cheaper styles thanks to the removable insole that make them comfortable for long walks.

[st_related]10 Walking Shoes You Won’t Be Ashamed to Wear in Public[/st_related]

FrancoSarto Happily Bootie

FrancoSarto happily bootie

FrancoSarto’s Happily Bootie are the must-have boots for any city breaks this fall. The classic leather style will pair with any outfit, while a shock-absorbing sole makes these comfortable to walk all day and all night in.

Vionic Bowery Chase Chukka Boot

Vionic bowery chase chukka boot

Vionic’s Bowery Chase Chukka boot will complete your travel wardrobe this fall. The leather upper works with jeans or a business look, while the weather-resistant upper protects you from rain or snow. You’ll walk confidently in these knowing that they’ve received the American Podiatric Medical Association’s Seal of Acceptance.

[st_related]7 Shoes That Are Good for Your Feet, According to Doctors[/st_related]

Journee Collection Pocket Boot

Journee collection pocket boot.

Who needs a purse when you’ve got the Journee Collection Pocket Boot? These over-the-knee boots have a hidden pocket inside that can hold your smartphone, cash, and credit cards, offering easy access for you—but not pickpockets.

Arcopedico L31D Tall Riding Boots

Arcopedico l31d tall riding boots.

Don’t weigh down your luggage with bulky boots—the Arcopedico L31D Riding Boots weigh just nine ounces. Even better? They’re machine washable, so you can just toss them in the washer after every trip. In between washes, the “Sansmell” deodorizing system is anti-microbial to keep your feet smelling fresh.

[st_related]14 Best Shoes to Wear in Europe[/st_related]

White Mountain Dalby Suede Bootie

White mountain dalby suede bootie.

Add a bit of height without the pain in White Mountain’s Dalby Suede Bootie. The stable, small stacked heel gives you a little lift to elevate your look. The almond-shaped toe and plush suede upper make these booties extra comfortable.

Aetrex Chelsea Riding Boot

Aetrex chelsea riding boot.

Riding boots are on-trend for fall, but cheaper pairs can be flimsy and unsupportive with no arch support. Not so with the Aetrex Chelsea Riding Boot, which features the “Aetrex Healthy Three” of arch support, memory foam cushioning, and anti-microbial technology. This trio will keep your foot properly aligned, unfatigued, and bacteria-free.

[st_related]8 Comfortable Ballet Flats You Can Actually Walk In[/st_related]

Red Wing Heritage Chelsea Boot

Red wing chelsea boot

Booties have become a fall style staple in the last few years, and they’re perfect for travel; they offer more warmth than flats but are easier to pack than tall boots. Red Wing Heritage’s Chelsea Boot has a classic and clean design that will look good with any outfit. A leather loop in the back makes these easy to pull on and off. These boots are ready for wet weather, thanks to an outsole with a Goodyear welt and Vibram mini-lug to keep you steady on your feet. Made from Red Wing Heritage’s signature premium leather, the Chelsea boots will mold to your feet as you wear them, making a custom fit.

Rockport Waterproof Storm Surge Toe Boot

Rockport waterproof storm surge toe boot.

If the forecast calls for wet weather, pack Rockport’s Storm Surge boots, which are small enough not to dominate a carry-on and comfortable enough to wear on the plane. These boots are constructed using a trademarked Hydro-Shield Waterproof process, which uses seam-sealing, waterproof insoles, and a waterproof outer to keep you completely dry.

[st_related]The 11 Best Waterproof Backpacks for Travel[/st_related]

DailyShoes Pocket Boots

DailyShoes pocket boots.

Pack these boots by DailyShoes and go purse-free, thanks to the secret wallet pocket that’s built in. This small zippered pouch can hold your cash, credit card, keys, and more. Plus, these comfortable walking boots come in colors to match any outfit.

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel believes a good pair of fall boots can make or break a trip. Follow her fashionable adventures on Instagram @travelwithcaroline.

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.

Categories
Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Beach Family Travel Food & Drink Island Weekend Getaways Women's Travel

Why Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit Is the New Cancun

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Throughout the 30-minute drive from Puerto Vallarta to the brightly colored surfer town of Sayulita, there was one thing, besides the ocean views, that remained constant: New construction. The region of Riviera Nayarit, which got its name from Mexico’s tourism board of the same name, has a “made up” label of sorts, created in hope of differentiating this section of Mexico’s Pacific coast from its more popular neighbor, Puerto Vallarta.

The new construction, however, is about the only thing in common between each of the 23 distinct communities on this stretch of coastline. A vacation to Riviera Nayarit means experiencing different cultures, beaches, and activities, depending on which part you stay in.

Later this year the Conrad Playa Mita hotel is opening, and renovations are finishing at the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita. Also new this year is the Marival Armony Punta de Mita. Come 2020, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts will open the Rosewood Mandarina. One&Only Mandarina Resort and One&Only Mandarina Private Homes will also open next year, at a location with breathtaking ocean views, cliffside bungalows, an ocean-fed pool, all on a long strip of a pristine and remote beach.

AMResorts’ Dreams Punta de Mita Resort & Spa and Secrets Punta de Mita Resort & Spa are also both slated to open in 2020. Coming in 2021 is Auberge Resorts Collection’s Susurros del Corazon. In 2022, a new development called Costa Canuva will open featuring a Fairmont and Ritz-Carlton Reserve.

And 2019 visitor numbers support the hotel expansion projects. According to the tourism board, the region saw a five-percent increase in North American travelers compared to last year, and the average occupancy rate was 82 percent in the southern part of the region: the Bay of Banderas.

Interested in seeing this up-and-coming slice of Mexico before the crowds arrive? Here are the best ways to experience Riviera Nayarit.

Best Places to Visit in Riviera Nayarit  

colorful banners in mexico town.

Puerto Vallarta, the closest airport, is only 15 minutes away from the start of the Riviera Nayarit. And the farthest part of the region where most tourists visit, San Blas, is about three hours away from Puerto Vallarta. Riviera Nayarit’s close proximity to Puerto Vallarta makes it accessible via many North American hubs: Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Diego, Toronto, and Calgary. And for those who want to explore more of Mexico, there’s a new toll road being developed between Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta which will be about a three-hour drive. Within the region, there are also new roads being constructed to connect the towns along the Bay of Banderas.

Here are the best places in Riviera Nayarit to visit, in order of closest to farthest from Puerto Vallarta and the airport:

  • Nuevo Vallarta: A community of all-inclusive and family-friendly resorts on the Bay of Banderas; many properties have beach access.
  • Punta de Mita: A luxury development area where celebrities vacation.
  • Sayulita: A surfer-town made (in)famous by the reality show Bachelor in Paradise. It’s about 30 minutes to this section of the region, and the town is a popular place for surfing, shopping, and hanging out by the beach. It’s also one of Mexico’s famed pueblos magicos, a government designation for culturally significant towns.
  • San Francisco (San Pancho): San Pancho is what Sayulita was 10 years ago before the crowds found it. The sleepy town—about 15-minutes north of Sayulita—has a new eco-boutique hotel, remote beaches, and local charm.
  • San Blas: This is the northern-most point of Riviera Nayarit and a popular area for bird-watching. Back in the late 1700s, this was the most important port on the coastline and you can learn about its history as a fishing village. 

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Getting off the Resort in Riviera Nayarit

hidden cave beach in mexico.

While many come to the area to enjoy time at resorts, the region offers plenty of activities to enjoy off-resort as well.

For nature and water lovers, there are islands and national parks; Isla Marietas is the most famous one for its “Hidden Beach”. There are also two biosphere reserves: Isla Jaguar-Marismas and Isla Isabel National Park. And no matter what area you stay in, you’ll have opportunities to deep-sea fish, jet-ski, kayak, scuba dive, paddleboard, and more. During May through September whale sharks are spotted throughout the area, and the whale-watching season for blue whales, orcas, humpbacks, sperm whales, and more begins mid-December and ends in May.

[st_related]Pueblos Magicos: 10 Secret Mexican Villages[/st_related] 

Birdwatching is a popular activity along the water, and there are also plenty of interior hiking trails and jungle walks to take that have gorgeous views of the coastline. It’s recommended to book an experience with a local guide, and you can learn more about Riviera Nayarit hikes here.

For culture visit the small towns along the coastline, like San Pancho. While perusing the towns, try a mezcal tasting class at a local mezcaleria like La Baba del Diablo. Isla de Mexcaltitan, which is often referred to as the “Venice of Nayarit” for its urban canals, is also a worthy day trip. And while resort dining is convenient and tasty, try at least one local meal off-site; the region is famous for pescado zarandeado (grilled fish) and aguachile (shrimp ceviche).

[st_related]10 Ways to Have an Authentic Trip to Mexico[/st_related]

Lastly, there’s plenty of golfing. The Punta Mita area especially is a popular vacation destination for golfers, home to two courses designed by famous golfer Jack Nicklaus. In total, the region has eight courses and is home to the only green in the world that’s on a natural island.

Best Hotels in Riviera Nayarit

stretch of beach on mexicos pacific coast.

From family-friendly properties to affordable hotels, there are plenty of hotels in Riviera Nayarit for every type of traveler.

All-Inclusive Resorts in Riviera Nayarit

All-inclusive resorts are the way to go if you want to check-in and forget about planning. The Nuevo Vallarta area and Punta Mita have concentrated sections of all-inclusive resorts. Here are three well-reviewed options:

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Luxury Hotels in Riviera Nayarit

Celebrities have flocked to the Punta Mita area of Riviera Nayarit for years. Here are two of the most famous luxury hotels:

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Boutique Hotels in Riviera Nayarit

Up-and-coming sections of the region are home to quaint, smaller, boutique hotels. Here are options in Sayulita and San Francisco:

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Family-Friendly Hotels in Riviera Nayarit

Riviera Nayarit is a haven for families on vacation. Here are three well-known, family-friendly hotels in the Nuevo Vallarta area:

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Affordable Hotels in Riviera Nayarit

Budget-conscious travelers will be happy to know that there are plenty of options for them as well; check out these three affordable hotels in the region:

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More from SmarterTravel:

What to Wear in Riviera Nayarit

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

Ashley Rossi was hosted by Riviera Nayarit. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Outdoors

12 Gorgeous Photos of America’s National Parks

Summer may be winding down, but it’s not too late to plan a trip to visit a national park. The National Park Service in the U.S. protects 61 located throughout the country. To help inspire that future trip, we’ve rounded up 12 gorgeous photos from some of our favorite national parks.

[st_related]10 Secret Spots in America’s Top National Parks[/st_related]

Arches National Park, Utah

First light on turret arch framed by north window

There are more than 2,000 stone arches in Arches National Park, guaranteeing there will be at least one free from tourists for your photos. One of the most famous, Delicate Arch, offers a three-mile trail hike and is the perfect spot for watching the sunset.

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Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia vs man. giant sequoias forest and the tourist with backpack looking up

California’s Sequoia National Park is best known for its enormous sequoia trees that can live 3,000 years. The General Sherman Tree is the largest tree in the world by volume and is a must-see on your tour through the forest.

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Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The grand prismatic spring, located in midway geyser basin

Yellowstone was the first national park, designated by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. A visit to Yellowstone should include the iconic Grand Prismatic Spring; it’s the largest hot spring in the U.S. and an unforgettable sight. The bands of color around the hot spring are caused by microbes that thrive in the hot water.

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Zion National Park, Utah

Morning fog on the towers of virgin zion national park

The Towers of the Virgin at sunrise is one of Zion National Park‘s most iconic scenes. For a less-crowded hike, take the moderate three-mile Watchman Trail and catch stunning views of Towers of the Virgin, West Temple, and the Altar of Sacrifice.

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Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Thors hammer bryce canyon national park

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is famous for its hoodoos—tall, thin rock formations shaped by weather and erosion. Tourists flock to Thor’s Hammer, one of the best-known hoodoos for its precarious shape.

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Great Basin National Park, Nevada

summit of wheeler peak, to the sage-covered foothills, great basin national park

Some of the oldest trees in the world are in Great Basin National Park. Walk among these bristlecone pines, some of which are 4,000 years old (or even older).  Explore the Wheeler Peak grove to see some of these ancient trees.

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Denali National Park, Alaska

A long exposure lets the camera capture movement of ribbons aurora in denali

The aurora borealis (Northern Lights) are spectacular in Denali National Park, and best seen from September to April. Several tour companies offer nighttime tours into the wilderness for Northern Lights viewing.

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Haleakala National Park, Hawaii

Sea of clouds with the bright sun on haleakala national park

Haleakala means “house of the sun.” Local myth tells how Maui the demigod imprisoned the sun at Haleakala to make the day longer. At Haleakala National Park, don’t miss Kalahaku Lookout for Instagram-worthy views of Haleakala’s crater floor.

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Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Rock layers ice cream rocks petrified forest

About two hours east of Flagstaff, Petrified Forest National Park is named after its large petrified wood formations. These fossilized logs and stumps have turned to quartz and appear like crystals and brightly colored gems. Not to be missed are the sandstone hoodoos known as Ice Cream Rocks.

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Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Couple hiking a dune ridge great sand dunes national park and preserve

For something different than most national parks, visit the massive sand dunes of Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. Some of the dunes sprawl across 30 square miles. Star Dune is the highest sand dune in North America and provides gorgeous views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

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Olympic National Park, Washington

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, Olympic National Park offers mountains, beaches, glaciers, and even rain forests. Spend a morning walking through the trails in Hoh and Quinault rain forests, and take in the beauty of moss-covered trees and bright green plants.

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Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Shenandoah national park, virginia

Hop in the car and take a scenic drive on Skyline Drive; the only road in Shenandoah National Park is 105 miles long and full of incredible vistas. Along the route, stop at some of the 70 overlooks to take in the spectacular view.

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What to Wear on Your Trip

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It’s been updated to reflect the most current information.

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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.

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