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10 Best Places to Go in New Zealand

For many travelers, New Zealand is both a dream destination and a once-in-a-lifetime place to visit. If you’re planning your first trip to New Zealand, or if you’re planning a return trip to see more of this beautiful and wild country, you may want to know which places in New Zealand are at the top of the must-see list. Here are our picks for the 10 best places to go in New Zealand.

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Bay of Islands

Bay of islands new zealand

The Bay of Islands is one of the best places to go in New Zealand for fishing, sailing, and other watersports. The Bay of Islands is about three hours by car from Auckland. This gorgeous region is made up of 144 islands between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula.

What’s there to do in the Bay of Islands? Get on or in the water! Try scuba diving with Paihia Dive‘s intro-to-diving course. You will be ferried far out into the bay to explore a whole new underwater world.

[st_content_ad]Or get up close and personal with the marine life in the Bay of Islands on a Fullers GreatSights Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise. On a good day, you’ll see both whales and dolphins on this cruise.

The cruise will take you to one of the Bay of Islands’ most famous sights, the Hole in the Rock. You can sail through this unique opening in a rock formation when the tide is right.

Where to stay: Spend a night at the historic Duke of Marlborough Hotel, which has the distinction of holding the oldest pub license in New Zealand and is located on a peninsula that sticks straight out into the middle of the bay.

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Milford Sound, New Zealand

Fiordland

Rudyard Kipling called Milford Sound the “eighth wonder of the world,” and if you visit this region of New Zealand, you’ll see why. Formed by glaciers during the Ice Age, the landscape around Milford Sound still bears evidence of its creation in the form of epic scenery: Cliffs rise from fjords crowned by mountains and waterfalls.

The best way to see Milford Sound is via boat. Take a sightseeing cruise on the fjord to see waterfalls and wildlife such as dolphins and penguins. Or navigate the waters under your own steam on a kayaking tour.

Once you’ve experienced the water from the surface, go underneath with a visit to the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory. This is the only floating, underwater observatory in New Zealand, and visitors can go more than 30 feet deep (while staying dry) and get 360 degrees of the underwater environment.

Where to stay: There are not a lot of places to stay close to the Sound, but if you’d rather not drive the three and a half hours from Queenstown, consider The Milford Sound Lodge. The lodge offers several packages for hiking and boat tours, and there really is no beating this spot in terms of access to the Sound.

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Auckland, New Zealand

As both the largest city in New Zealand and its international air travel hub, Auckland is one of the best places to go in New Zealand. Many international flights arrive in New Zealand through Auckland Airport, which makes it an ideal city from which to start your exploration of New Zealand.

Spend at least a day or two in Auckland to get over your long flight and explore the vibrant metropolis before venturing farther afield in New Zealand. Here are our suggestions for what to see and do in Auckland:

  • Get some culture by visiting one of the many museums in Auckland, such as the Auckland Art Gallery. This is the largest art institution in New Zealand, featuring more than 15,000 works of historic, modern, and contemporary art.
  • If the weather is nice, take a stroll through the 185-acre Auckland Domain park. If you’re visiting on a Saturday, include a stop at the nearby Parnell Farmers’ Market, which sells fresh produce in the morning.
  • Auckland is also home to a host of multicultural bars and restaurants serving up all types of cuisine, so be sure to dine in downtown Auckland (and go out for a cocktail or two to check out the nightlife).
  • If you’re looking for adventure activities in Auckland, consider the Auckland Bridge Climb. And if you’re really brave, try the Auckland Bridge bungee jump.
  • If you’re looking for guided trips in Auckland, book an Auckland City Tour or an America’s Cup sailing experience on Waitemata Harbour.

Where to stay: No matter where you stay in Auckland, you will be close to something interesting. Try the accommodations at CityLife Auckland, which is within walking distance of several Auckland highlights like the harbor, both North and Princes Wharf, and the SkyTower.

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Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Just a little more than 30 minutes by boat from downtown Auckland is Waiheke Island, one of the best places to go in New Zealand for wine lovers. For a small island in the middle of Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke Island sure is home to a lot of vineyards. To sample as many of them as you can on your visit to Waiheke Island, you’ll want to find someone else to drive. Our pick is Waiheke Island Wine Tours, whose expert local guides will shuttle you around to three vineyards to sample 14 different wines.

All that wine from the vineyards of Waiheke Island will make you hungry. When it’s time to eat, book your lunch or dinner at the Mudbrick Vineyard Restaurant, a gorgeous eatery with sprawling views of the vineyard and the sea. For a really special meal, book the Mudbrick Vineyard Restaurant’s tasting menu, a seven-course event with wine pairings.

Of course, there’s more to do on Waiheke Island than just drink wine! Waiheke Island is also famous for its vibrant art community, beaches, forests, and olive groves. We recommend booking a culture tour, scenic flight, or hiking trip while you’re there to really see why Waiheke Island is one of the best places to go in New Zealand.

Where to stay: It’s definitely worth staying overnight on Waiheke Island, too. Choose the Delamore Lodge, one of the best-reviewed Waiheke Island hotels on Tripadvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company). The hotel also offers some great packages featuring everything from wine and food to spa treatments for couples.

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Christchurch, New Zealand

Aerial view of the christchurch gondola and lyttelton port from hills in new zealand

Despite being rocked by four large earthquakes between September 2010 and December 2011, Christchurch has made a true comeback. Visitors to Christchurch will see evidence of the city’s rebirth everywhere, including new buildings made out of old shipping containers and other unique materials like the Cardboard Cathedral.

Of course, many of Christchurch’s original attractions are still standing. One of the best places to visit is the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, a sprawling network of conservatories, walking tracks, and horticultural displays. The gardens also feature some of the largest, tallest, and oldest trees in New Zealand.

Take in the new and the old of Christchurch from above with a journey on the Christchurch Gondola. This cable car lifts you on a scenic ride to the top of Mt. Cavendish.

Where to stay: Pick Heritage Christchurch for its central location and status as a World Luxury Hotel. It might cost a little extra, but it will be worth it.

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Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown from the skyline luge at sunrise

Located on the southwest side of the South Island, Queenstown has a well-deserved reputation as the adventure capital of New Zealand. During the winter and spring months (June to October), Queenstown is known for world-class skiing. Of course, there’s plenty to do in Queenstown year-round. Adventure activities such as bungee jumping, skydiving, jet boating, and river rafting will let you experience the region from dizzying heights and at breathtaking speeds.

Queenstown is also home to the world’s highest cliff jump, the Shotover Canyon Swing, where you can hurl yourself off a cliff in a number of different ways—including backward or tied to a chair.

If you haven’t lost your appetite (or your lunch) on these adrenaline-pumping activities, enjoy the dining scene in Queenstown—it’s one of the best in New Zealand. As locals and tour guides alike will tell you, one of the best places to eat in Queenstown is Fergburger, which CNN says “may be the best burger joint on the planet.”

Where to stay: Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel is located on the edge of town, giving easy access to the restaurants and other shops but also letting you sleep in relative peace away from the hub of activity.

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Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, New Zealand

Whakarewarewa geyser at te pui thermal park in geothermal valley of rotorua

No list of the best places to go in New Zealand would be complete without mentioning Te Puia, the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute located in Rotorua’s Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley. At this Maori heritage center, you can get an authentic “steambox” meal prepared using ancient geothermal cooking techniques. You’ll also experience a Maori welcome ceremony and traditional song and dance performance.

The Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley is also home to a number of active geysers, including Pohutu, the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere. Mud pools are another natural attraction in the geothermal valley: These boiling pools reach temperatures of more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Where to stay: The Aura Accommodation in nearby Rotorua is located on the coast of Lake Rotorua. The entire facility is powered by geothermal heat to give you a better appreciation for the valley.

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Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand

Waitomo glowworm caves

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves, naturally illuminated by thousands of glowworms, are among the most unique places to go in New Zealand—and a visit to the caves is one experience you’ll be hard-pressed to duplicate anywhere else. You can take a boat ride through the caves to learn about the history and science behind the phenomenon.

Or, if you really want a unique adventure, try black-water rafting with The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company, which will float you on an inner tube down a subterranean stream. It will be pitch-dark (except for the glowworms), and you’ll get to do everything from jumping off waterfalls to rappelling down cave walls. Choose your own adventure when you book the tour.

There are other (non-glowworm) caves in Waitomo, too. Aranui Cave features ancient cave decorations; Ruakuri Cave has an awesome spiral entrance and unique limestone formations—and, okay, more glowworms, but in this cave, you can do a walking tour rather than a water-based excursion.

Where to stay: The Waitomo Caves Hotel is minutes from the famous glowworm caves. It offers a spa as well as cave tour reservations through its website.

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Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Franz josef glacier

You can hike an actual glacier in New Zealand. The Franz Josef Glacier plays host to both guided walks and jaw-dropping helicopter tours. Tours offer everything from ice climbing to a more relaxed hike on the 6.8-mile-long glacier.

Won’t you be freezing on top of a giant glacier? Nope! The Franz Josef Glacier receives a lot of sunlight, and temperatures on the ice are usually only a few degrees colder than in the nearby town.

Cap off a day touring the Franz Josef Glacier with a soak in the Glacier Hot Pools. The pools are fed by the waters from the Franz Josef Glacier, and you can use one of the three warm pools or get a private pool.

Where to stay: Franz Josef is a small enough town that precise location won’t make too much of a difference (you’ll be close to everything no matter where you are). Consider the Aspen Court Franz Josef, which has received some of the best ratings in the area.

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Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

mount cook new zealand.

See New Zealand’s highest mountains and longest glacier in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking here, no matter what your skill level. For experienced climbers, there are 23 peaks over 9,800 feet. For those looking for something a little more low-key, there are lots of walks along paved trails or boardwalks that still offer spectacular views.

Make sure you stay past sunset for a visit to the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, where light pollution is strictly controlled for amazing stargazing opportunities.

Where to stay: Located inside the national park, The Hermitage Hotel will put you close to everything you want to see and do. Splurge on a room with a view of Mt. Cook—it’s worth it.

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What to Pack on Your Trip

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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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Active Travel Adventure Travel Fashion & Beauty Outdoors Packing

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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Active Travel Outdoors

A Snowcat Taco Truck and 8 Other Amazing Ski Resort Amenities

A roving taco truck that brings food to you, a gondola that serves up fondue, and a stair-replacing slide—is this a ski fever dream? These amazing ski resort amenities (and more) are reality at mountains around the world.

Taco Beast, Steamboat, Colorado

Steamboat ski resort tacos

You’re skiing at Steamboat when you start to get hungry, but the powder’s good and you don’t want to stop to eat. Then, like magic, through a flurry of snow, a tricked-out snowcat appears in front of you and it’s bearing tacos. No, it’s not some kind of mountain mirage; it’s the Taco Beast, and it’s real. This snowcat turned food truck roams Steamboat’s slopes from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Thursday through Monday, serving up four different kinds of tacos, a salsa bar, esquites, and drinks. To track down the truck, follow @TacoBeastSBT on Twitter.

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A Slide to the Bathroom, Meribel, France

A Slide to the Bathroom, Meribel, France

Why are bathrooms at ski resorts always downstairs? Having to clomp down flights of stairs in your ski boots is the worst, especially on tired legs. The famous apres-ski bar Rond Point Meribel at Meribel ski resort has a genius solution to this problem: a slide that goes down to the bathroom, eliminating the need for stairs. The only flaw in this beautiful plan—there’s no gravity-reversing slide to take you back up, so you’ll have to tackle the climb.

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Ski-in, Ski-Out Distillery, Park City Mountain, Utah

High West Distillery

Need to warm up from the inside? Ski right into High West Distillery, the world’s first ski-in, ski-out gastropub distillery. Here, you can grab a glass of house-made whiskey (with plenty of varieties including a double rye) that will leave you feeling nice and toasty before you head back out onto the slopes. Just don’t have too many, lest you fall off the chairlift.

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Heli-Fondue, Panorama, Canada

heliskiing followed bu heli-fondue

You may have had fondue before, and you may have even had it atop a snow-covered mountain (where it tastes at least 50 percent better). But have you taken a helicopter to have fondue on top of an empty mountain after hours? Sign up for Panorama’s Heli-Fondue to experience it. If you have nine friends that are up for the adventure, the price is shockingly cheap—just around $45 per person. The total cost is $1,200 CAD (approximately $906 USD at the time of writing) and includes a helicopter ride for up to 10 people, cheese fondue, and chocolate fondue for dessert.

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Ice Bar, Crested Butte, Colorado

Uley’s Cabin Lunch and Outdoor Bar at Crested Butte

You came here for the snow, so why leave it to go inside for a cocktail? Uley’s Cabin Lunch and Outdoor Bar at Crested Butte is located at the bottom of a run, so you can ski right up, down your drink, and keep on going. The outdoor bar is made of ice, so you won’t run the risk of having your drink get cold.

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Gondola Fondue, Vaujany, France

Gondola Fondue, Vaujany, France

How amazing would it be if, at the end of a long lift line, you stepped into a gondola and were offered hot, gooey fondue? At Vaujany in France, this dream almost comes true—sadly, the gondola fondue isn’t available during ski hours, but you can reserve this after-hours experience throughout the winter season. The gondolas get kitted out with tables and stocked with fondue, Champagne, and green Chartreuse for riders to enjoy while the gondola traverses the mountain.

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Heated Gondola Seats, Vail, Colorado

gondola in vail colorado

Vail’s luxury gondola might be nicer than your hotel room, but unfortunately, you’re not allowed to sleep there. Inside, heated seats warm you up in between runs, and free Wi-Fi means you can look up a trail map or post a smug Instagram about your 7.5-minute ride.

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J.E. Henry Railroad, Loon, New Hampshire

J.E. Henry Railroad, Loon, New Hampshire

Sure, you could ski or walk between the Octagon Lodge and the Governor Adams Lodge at Loon Mountain, or you could take a train. This wood-fired, steam-powered engine runs 600 feet back and forth each winter, shuttling skiers in a unique fashion.

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

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Weekend Getaways

Killington and Pico: Two Mountains, One Weekend

The forecast called for a complete washout—record-breaking warm temperatures in January and non-stop rain all weekend. Reservations were already made, so we hopped in the car anyway and headed north to Vermont on Friday night.

The destination? Killington and Pico, Vermont’s second and fifth tallest ski mountains. The plan? Ski both in just one weekend.

We checked into The Killington Grand Hotel, which is an easy walk from the slopes at Killington. This sprawling hotel has firepits, hot tubs, a heated pool, a spa, and everything you need to relax after a day on the mountain—plus a complimentary shuttle to take you to the nearby access road, which is lined with lively bars and restaurants.

You don’t need to leave the hotel to find great food—Preston’s, The Killington Grand Hotel’s on-site restaurant, is a member of the Vermont Farm to Plate network and utilizes local ingredients in its cuisine.

After dinner, we headed up to our room and watched the groomers on the mountain from our balcony, sending up our best snow dance (or at least anti-rain dance) to Mother Nature.

Against all the forecasts, Saturday morning dawned dry and warm. Thanks to the tireless work of the snowmakers earlier in the week, there was still plenty of snow on the slopes, even as the temperatures crept above 50 degrees. Killington is nicknamed “The Beast of the East”, and it’s easy to see why—this massive mountain has the highest vertical drop in New England (just over 3,000) and some of the most trails around (155), almost all of which were open that Saturday.

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The Saturday felt like a mid-week ski day—the forecast had scared away the crowds, and we skied right onto every single lift without having to wait in line, something that’s unheard of for a Saturday in January. The trails were empty, so we took our time on each descent, reveling in the quiet open spaces.

 

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Skiing in New England, I’m used to having to take frequent breaks inside to warm up in between runs and lift rides; but on this magical weekend, we only felt compelled to stop when we were too hungry to keep going. We skied down Needle’s Eye Run and right up to the Jerk Jamaican Mountain Grill, where we sat outside with our food and enjoyed the sunshine before getting right back on the lift—a definite treat in January.

After lunch, we headed back out to the slopes and kept going until last chair, after which we watched the sunset over drinks outside at the Umbrella Bar at the base of the mountain.

One quick and free shuttle ride down the street, and we were at the famous Wobbly Barn, a local steakhouse with a legendary nightlife. A great live music scene here will get you on your feet, no matter how tired your legs are from skiing.

The next morning made the forecasters look even more foolish, as it was another dry start to the day. We packed up the car for a quick 10-minute drive down the street to check out Pico Mountain. If you have a Killington lift ticket, you can ski at Pico for free.

Pico Mountain is more old-school and family-friendly than Killington. All of the trails lead down to the same single base area, so you’ll never get lost and find yourself on the opposite side of the mountain.

There are fewer trails (57) here than at Killington, but also smaller crowds, as this mountain is more of a secret than “the Beast,” but there’s enough terrain here to satisfy beginners and experts alike.

After a solid half day of skiing, the anticipated rain finally came, and we took refuge in the old-fashioned lodge by the real wood-burning fireplace.

If you’re planning a Vermont ski weekend this winter, combining a trip to Killington and Pico will let you experience both sides of New England skiing—from the big, flashy, and new Killington to the quiet, laid-back, and traditional Pico.

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Caroline Morse Teel was hosted by Killington. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from the mountain. 

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Family Travel Outdoors Weekend Getaways

Here’s When Fall Foliage Colors Are Predicted to Peak in Your State

Autumn is many travelers’ favorite season of the year. Moderate temperatures, fun seasonal activities, pumpkin-flavored everything, and, of course, the foliage that makes fall a great season for road trips and weekend getaways. But, timing these excursions to coincide with “peak” fall foliage is always tricky, and this year looks to be trending later than usual in some areas, as well as short-lived for some others.

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AccuWeather says warm late-summer temperatures seem likely to delay foliage displays in the Northeast, one of the most popular destinations for leaf-peepers, and that the colors will be short-lived. Midwestern states will have more vibrant and long-lasting colors, according to Accuweather. And as for the mid-Atlantic, the Tennessee Valley to the Southeast will also be delayed thanks to warm early-fall temperatures.

Noting that “warm weather is predicted to stick around across much of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic this September,” AccuWeather foresees a “delayed foliage season in the Northeast–though, generally, a vibrant display is predicted, thanks in part to dryness anticipated before the turn of the leaves.” The same is true of the mid-Atlantic, and AccuWeather also predicts a “spotty” season in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s whats likely to happen in your neck of the woods:

Accuweather fall foliage map 2019.

The official foliage forecast from NewEngland.com echoes this prediction, saying that conditions this year are signaling “colors will come in a bit later than the historical average.” The site also offers a foliage prediction map for planning purposes. Late September to mid-October seem to encapsulate peak time, depending on the area you’re looking to visit.

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Outdoors Packing Sustainable Travel Travel Technology

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.

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

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

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

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

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Hiking Essentials: Footwear

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

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

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Hiking Essentials: Clothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hiking Essentials: Miscellaneous

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

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

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

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The 24 Most Beautiful Places in Canada

[st_content_ad]The Great White North is blessed with endless beauty. It comes in many varieties, from unspoiled wilderness to urban splendor. But the following 24 places take the prize for being the most beautiful places in Canada, with at least one stunning destination in each province and territory.

Alberta

Banff National Park

 

lake louise banff national park.

Perhaps the most obvious place to start when discussing the most beautiful places in Canada is Banff National Park and its magnificent Lake Louise. Take the gondola up Sulphur Mountain for an incredible view of some of the world’s most dramatic mountain scenery, then explore the park’s stunning waterfalls, forests, and glacier lakes, including vibrant Lake Louise, an unlike-anywhere-else oasis in the Canadian Rockies.

Where to stay: Elegant Mount Royal Hotel has a Banff-themed library, rooftop hot tubs, a lobby museum, and modern decor that echoes the destination.

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Jasper National Park

glacier skywalk jasper national park.

Jasper is the Canadian Rockies’ biggest national park, and it’s packed with snow-covered peaks, translucent lakes, roaring waterfalls, inspiring highways, and large populations of wildlife including moose, caribou, wolves, and grizzlies. Step out onto the kilometer-long, 918-foot-high, glass-floored Columbia Icefield Skywalk—if you dare.

Where to stay: Airy Glacier View Lodge opened in summer 2019 and offers tours of the Athabasca Glacier, tall windows with views of icefields and steep mountains, gourmet dinners, and live musical performances every evening.

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Abraham Lake

Abraham lake clearwater county alberta canada.

When considering beautiful places to visit in Canada, don’t overlook Abraham Lake, on the Kootenay Plains’ North Saskatchewan River. Peer into its crystalline surface to see eerie methane bubble formations trapped in frozen bright blue water. These underwater oval towers of gas turn the manmade reservoir into a bucket-list destination for any Instagrammer worth his or her salt.

Where to stay: It may be about 80 miles from Abraham Lake, but the epic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is worth the drive. This gilded resort showcases one of the prettiest places in Canada by way of lovely accommodations right on Lake Louise. Guests get to borrow bikes and canoes for free.

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British Columbia

Victoria

butchart gardens victoria in spring.

Victoria is British Columbia’s fairy tale-like capital—easily one of the most beautiful cities in Canada—and Butchart Gardens is the jewel in its flowery crown. Besides touring these enchanting gardens, things to do in Victoria include visiting the expansive Royal BC Museum, strolling salty Fisherman’s Wharf, and exploring idyllic Beacon Hill Park.

Where to stay: Victoria’s stately Fairmont Empress is famous for many things, its classic afternoon tea chief among them. Service and accommodations are as regal as you’d expect.

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Vancouver Seawall

Vancouver seawall in fall british columbia canada

The 17-mile Vancouver Seawall allows for one of the most exhilarating bike rides you’ll ever take. Ride (or walk) the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path for wide, glittering views of the Pacific and plenty of entry points into dynamic Stanley Park. Stop to enjoy the beaches and other fun surprises along the way. While in Vancouver, you may as well visit a couple more of the prettiest places in Canada: the immersive Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and 4,100-foot-high Grouse Mountain.

Where to stay: At the impressive Fairmont Waterfront, service is so bespoke that even your shampoo bottle is personalized with your name on it.

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Whistler

whistler in winter.

If you’re aiming to see the most beautiful places in Canada, you could do far worse than Whistler in winter. It’s got sheer white mountain peaks, world-class skiing and snowboarding, an inviting apres-ski village, zip-lines through snow-covered trees, and fantastic places to eat and sleep.

Where to stay: For magical views, book Nita Lake Lodge, which has luxurious guest rooms, a spa, three restaurants, and a shuttle that takes you to the base of Whistler Mountain.

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Glacier National Park

glacier national park canada.

Amid the massive Canadian Rockies is Canada’s own Glacier National Park and its jaw-dropping beauty. The namesake geographical features take the form of icefields, waterfalls, and brightly hued lakes, making for some of the most resplendent natural scenery on Earth.

Where to stay: In the park, you can camp, use an RV, or book a hut or cabin. There are no hotels in Canada’s Glacier National Park, although the town of Revelstoke is nearby, and its Poppi’s Guesthouse hostel gets high marks for coziness, friendliness, and affordability.

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Great Bear Rainforest

black bear in great rainforest canada

Into wildlife adventures? The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the best places in Canada to see grizzly bears catching salmon in wild rivers, whales breaching, eagles soaring, and wolves roaming. In Klemtu on the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, you’ll find mossy forests, untamed fjords, and natural hot springs. As the name implies, ursines frolic everywhere, including the rare white “spirit bear.”

Where to stay: The indigenous-owned Spirit Bear Lodge offers exclusive access to wildlife-viewing areas and cultural sites within the Kitasoo Xai’xais territory. Accommodations are homey and dinners communal.

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Yoho National Park

yoho national park british columbia canada

The Kootenay Rockies’ Yoho National Park is named for the Cree word meaning “awe,” and it’s easy to see why—its imagery seems out of a movie. You’ll see intense blues and greens, dramatic peaks, the immense Takakkaw Falls, and gem-colored Emerald Lake, making this park one of the most beautiful places in Canada. Hiking trails and scenic drives let you take in the full force of this stunning wilderness. Don’t miss Yoho’s Burgess Shale, a paleontological jackpot containing 500-million-year-old fossils of more than 120 types of marine animals.

Where to stay: The historic, cabin-style Emerald Lake Lodge has balconies and wood-burning fireplaces right on the shores of the famous lake, amid towering mountains.

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Manitoba

Cape Churchill

polar bears in churchill manitoba canada.

Cape Churchill, Manitoba, is the polar bear capital of the world. If your idea of impressive scenery involves endless stretches of ice and dozens of polar bears striding across it, head up to the Arctic to experience one of the most beautiful places in Canada. In October and November, Hudson Bay freezes over and thousands of polar bears migrate to its ice, although climate change is already taking effect. Local tour guides in tundra rovers get you up close to see the endangered white creatures.

Where to stay: At Churchill’s Lazy Bear Lodge, accommodations are simple but comfortable. It’s a rustic log cabin with a huge stone fireplace and a location that’s walking distance from town. The lodge’s beluga whale tour is highly recommended.

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[st_related]Churchill Polar Bears and Winter Fun in Manitoba[/st_related]

New Brunswick

Fundy National Park

waterfall in fundy national park.

Fundy National Park, on the Bay of Fundy, has the world’s highest and lowest tides. This means that you can walk out onto the ocean floor during low tide, then kayak alongside landforms like the must-see Hopewell Rocks when the Atlantic refloods the bay. Elsewhere in the park, hike through the Acadian Forest to see dozens of lovely waterfalls, explore sea caves, attend festivals and outdoor concerts, or drive Fundy Trail Parkway to see some of the prettiest places in Canada.

Where to stay: Fundy National Park has three hip campgrounds, as well as Fundy Highlands Motel, which offers simple, comfortable, dog-friendly chalets right on the bay.

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Newfoundland and Labrador

Gros Morne National Park

gros morne national park newfoundland labrador canada.

The iconic image of Gros Morne National Park is Western Brook Pond, whose name makes it sound small. It’s actually a massive freshwater fjord around which dramatic cliffs plunge into a glacier-formed gorge. Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is also home to the Tablelands, a geological rarity where earthquakes have forced the earth’s mantle up for all to see. There’s also Green Point—sheer cliffs full of ancient sea fossils—as well as waterfalls, dwarf forests, moose and caribou, and Gros Morne Mountain, which is among the planet’s oldest peaks.

Where to stay: Neddies Harbour Inn, a boutique property in the national park, provides unbeatable views over the Bonne Bay fjord, as well as a peaceful atmosphere and an excellent restaurant.

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Nova Scotia

Cabot Trail

cape breton drive canada.

Nova Scotia’s 185-mile Cabot Trail loops around Cape Breton Island, making for one of North America’s most memorable drives. In addition to providing gorgeous coastal views, the highway takes you to small fishing villages, the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, golf courses, museums, galleries, and artisan boutiques. It also passes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where moose, bears, and eagles roam, and where autumn’s vivid colors secure Cabot Trail’s spot among the prettiest places in Canada.

Where to stay: Keltic Lodge is a historic, well-appointed resort right on the Atlantic in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Amenities include in-room fireplaces, verandahs, a golf course, a heated swimming pool, and a satisfying restaurant.

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Ontario

Niagara Falls

horseshoe bay niagara falls canada.

Niagara Falls isn’t just one of the most beautiful places in Canada—it’s one of the most beautiful places in the whole world. And though Americans tend to think of it as a U.S. attraction (of course), the Canadian view of the famous falls is actually even better. Come in summer to be treated to nightly fireworks over the mist.

Where to stay: The city around Niagara Falls is pretty touristy, so it’s worth the effort to drive about 13 miles north to a charming little town called Niagara-on-the-Lake and its elegant Charles Hotel, where guest rooms have fireplaces, private verandahs gaze over Lake Ontario, gardens bloom with flowers, and service is superlative.

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CN Tower

CN tower ontario canada.

Those in search of Canadian urban wonders can look no further than the CN Tower, the defining feature of Toronto‘s skyline, punctuating postcards all over Ontario. The tower’s observation deck has glass floors, its 360 Restaurant rotates, and its heart-pounding EdgeWalk lets you strap in and hang off a five-foot-wide ledge more than 1,000 feet high. This iconic structure is prettiest when it illuminates after dark.

Where to stay: The Shangri-La Hotel, set in in a 66-floor glass-encased skyscraper, epitomizes modern luxury with its artistic decor, high-tech amenities, and hammam-inspired spa. And it’s within easy distance of the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada.

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Prince Edward County

winery prince edward county canada.

Prince Edward County, a detached peninsula on Lake Ontario’s north shore, is ideal for both beach lovers and oenophiles. The region’s limestone bedrock makes for great wine grapes, which is why there are more than 40 vineyards here. There are also expansive fields of sunflowers and lavender, more than a dozen breweries, some 450 farms, and plenty of talented chefs who put all this local bounty to good use. PEC was relatively unknown until recently, when it gained something of a buzz among urbanites, artists, gourmands, and hipsters.

Where to stay: The colorful Drake Motor Inn opened in spring 2019, full of whimsy and modernized nostalgia. Its 12 rooms are all retro-chic, and the entire property pays playful tribute to the bygone days of road travel.

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Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island National Park

winter waves prince edward island canada

Prince Edward Island National Park is easily one of the most beautiful places in Canada, especially its windswept Greenwich section. Visitors can explore red sand beaches, wavy dunes, mystical forests, boardwalk trails, and the idyllic places that formed the setting for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.

Where to stay: Dalvay by the Sea, a national historic site on the north shore, was built in 1895 in Queen Anne Revival style. Its 25 rooms—each one unique—remain furnished in antiques from that ornate era.

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Victoria-by-the-Sea

victoria by the sea lighthouse prince edward island canada.

Victoria-by-the-Sea is a storybook village full of small-town seaside charm, including a photogenic lighthouse, red sand beaches, and artisan shops and galleries. Historically known for its fishermen, it’s now more populated by artists and creatives who leave an inspired mark on their lovely municipality.

Where to stay: The historic Orient Hotel is an inviting bed and breakfast that provides wonderful views of the water from almost every guest room.

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Quebec

Old Montreal

old montreal city street quebec canada.

Montreal is one of the most beautiful cities in Canada—and one of the most interesting, too, what with its amalgam of European and North American culture and engaging attractions like Olympic Park’s Biodome and Botanical Garden. The prettiest part of the city, however, is Old Montreal, founded as a French colony in 1642, with intricate architecture to match. If you ever feel like going to Europe without crossing the Atlantic, visit Old Montreal’s resplendent Notre-Dame Basilica, browse its stately Bonsecours Market, gawk at its colonial-era mansions, and watch the St. Lawrence River’s dynamic Old Port at work.

Where to stay: The newish Four Seasons Montreal puts forth its brand’s usual level of service and comfort—which is to say, it’s an excellent place to stay. Adding to the appeal is its central location in the Golden Square Mile, its fine cuisine, and its proximity to high-end shopping at Holt Renfrew Ogilvy.

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Quebec City

quebec city sunset quebec canada

Ask Canadians which is the most beautiful city in Canada, and most will respond the same way: Quebec City. It’s hard to overstate how magical this French-speaking town is—its fairy-tale charm pervades every cobblestone street. Quebec City, the only fortified city north of Mexico, is also blessed with colonial-era architecture, the bustling St. Lawrence River, and a rich, palpable history. It boasts four distinct seasons, each more beautiful than the next. Just outside of town, Montmorency Falls is almost 100 feet taller than any of Niagara’s three falls, making for a truly underrated natural wonder.

Where to stay: The Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is the world’s most photographed hotel for good reason: Its legendary castle-on-a-hill look makes it an icon of Old Quebec. The elegance continues inside, in terms of both decor and hospitality par excellence.

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Saskatchewan

Grasslands National Park

grasslands national park saskatchewan canada

Saskatchewan’s Grasslands National Park is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Canada, but in a bit of an unexpected sense: The grandness here isn’t so much village charm or even distinctive nature attractions. It’s more the vast golden prairies, the open country, the huge skies, and the roaming herds of bison that provide their own type of wild gorgeousness. One great way to take it all in is via a brand-new scenic road called the Badlands Parkway. Perk up your Instagram feed with photos of the park’s iconic red Adirondack chairs, or scour the hoodoo spires for dinosaur fossils.

Where to stay: Sky Story Bed & Breakfast in nearby Val Marie earns high marks for its warm hospitality, delicious breakfasts, and friendly cats.

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Northwest Territories

Great Slave Lake

aurora borealis great slave lake canada

If seeing the northern lights is on your bucket list, plan to visit Yellowknife and Great Slave Lake, in the Northwest Territories. In winter, this remote Arctic region transforms into one of the most beautiful places in Canada, thanks to its position north of the 60th parallel, placing it firmly inside the aurora oval. This, plus a flat landscape far from the ocean, makes Yellowknife one of the world’s best places to see nature’s most spectacular light show. Prepare to see deep, glowing greens and purples dominating the skies over North America’s deepest lake.

Where to stay: Blachford Lake Lodge is an eco-conscious wilderness resort where you can see the auroras from your bed, the hot tub, or the dining room. You can also take igloo-building workshops.

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Nunavut

Baffin Island

mount thor auyuittuq national park aunavut baffin island.

Baffin Island, above the Arctic Circle, is Canada’s largest island—it’s bigger than Great Britain. But it’s among the prettiest places in Canada because of Auyuittuq National Park, where icy fjords and glaciers dominate the landscape with their intense blues and bright whites. This surreal expanse of tundra is home to wildlife like you’ve never seen: narwhal, ringed seals, snow geese, Arctic foxes, caribou, and, yes, polar bears.

Where to stay: The Discovery Hotel is a boutique property with modern rooms and refined Arctic cuisine.

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Yukon

Whitehorse Region

white pass yukon route railroad.

The Yukon is full of beautiful places to visit in Canada, and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad is a thrilling way to take them in. This scenic narrow-gauge railway was built in the late 1800s for the Klondike Gold Rush. Today, it still connects Skagway, Alaska, to Whitehorse, Yukon’s capital city. The memorable ride takes passengers, many of them on shore excursions from Alaska cruises, into wide expanses of rugged scenery, over and through impossible bridges and tunnels, and past wildflower-packed meadows, waterfalls, and glaciers at a speed that allows appreciation for the sheer magnitude of it all.

Where to stay: Northern Lights Resort & Spa, true to its name, is well positioned to see the winter aurora borealis. Book a glass chalet or a log cabin and enjoy this much-loved B&B’s saunas, warm hospitality, and highly personalized service.

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What to Wear on Your Canadian Adventure

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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Follow Avital Andrews on Twitter @avitalb or on Facebook.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Abraham Lake was 50 miles from Lake Louise, rather than 80 miles. It has been corrected.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Experiential Travel Group Travel Health & Wellness Outdoors Solo Travel Sustainable Travel Travel Trends Women's Travel

REI Launches New Under-35 Millennial Trips

It’s no secret that millennial travel is a huge trend, with many group tour operators offering special budget-conscious trips, or ones with age limits. REI is the latest to join game, with nine new tour offerings across four different geographical areas.

For now, REI is focusing on a few bucket-list-worthy adventure trips. From Colombia off-the-beaten-path (think Medellin, not Cartagena) to camping in the Sonoran Desert, the trips are focused on “prioritizing experiences over things.” All of the options have an emphasis on local and active travel.

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Each trip is crafted with the millennial mindset. “Our team has taken great care to design highly active itineraries with the right balance of downtime, and most importantly that facilitate a community for younger travelers to travel deeply and responsibly with their peers,” said Justin Wood, senior manager of adventure travel at REI, in a press release.

Budget and value are front of mind, with trips offering modest accommodations, cheap meals, and no hidden fees. Prices start at $850 for REI members. And if saving money is on your mind, REI is expanding its used gear and rental programs, so you can save more by renting your active gear through the company’s retail locations.

For fun, I asked some of my SmarterTravel millennial-aged colleagues their thoughts on the matter: Nevin Spearman, who hasn’t been on an organized group tour before says he’d consider an REI trip and, “I like the active offerings, and some in the U.S. mean cheaper airfare.” His top pick is the Great Smoky Mountains – Hops, Hikes & Rapids itinerary.

Cara Sweeney, who has been on an organized group tour with her family about 10 years ago says she’d consider an REI trip and, “[the options] seem really unique and awesome. I would likely want to encourage a friend or two to attend the same trip as me.” Her trip of choice is also the Great Smoky Mountains – Hops, Hikes & Rapids itinerary.

Why the 35 age limit? According to the press release, 20 percent of REI members are in the 21 to 35 age range, but REI’s website says, “we won’t card you.” So if you have the mindset of millennial and these trips are attractive to you, you’ll probably fit right in.

two men white water rafting

Find more information on REI’s Under-35 adventures here, and below.

REI Under 35 Trips:

Latin America

  • Colombia Explorer – Medellin, Lost City Trek, Tayrona Beaches | Under 35
  • Peru Multisport – Machu Picchu to Rainbow Mountain | Under 35

North America

  • Sonoran Desert Stars – Hike, Camp, MTB, Repeat | Under 35
  • Backpacking Joshua Tree | Under 35
  • Great Smoky Mountains – Hops, Hikes & Rapids | Under 35
  • Wild Whistler Backpacking | Under 35

Europe

  • Amalfi Coast & Sicily – Hike, Eat, Summit | Under 35
  • Greek Islands Wanderer – Hike, Feast, Explore | Under 35

Asia

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10 Incredible European Tours for 2019

Have you booked your 2019 European vacation yet? If you haven’t, it’s not too late. Whether you’re into history, hiking, or Harry Potter, this list of the best European tours offers unique adventures across the continent.

All of the following European tours for 2019 still had spots available at the time of publication, but could sell out at any time—so book soon if you’re interested.

Visit Hogwarts on a Harry Potter Tour of England and Scotland

alnwick castle

This seven-night European tour from Great Value Vacations is a must for all Potterheads. It starts in London, where you’ll take a walking tour of locations used in the Harry Potter films, from Diagon Alley to the Ministry of Magic. You’ll also tour the Warner Bros. studio to see props, costumes, and sets. A day trip to Oxford lets you explore more filming sites on your own before you’re off to Edinburgh, where you can visit the cafes where J.K. Rowling wrote the books and then tour Alnwick Castle—which you’ll recognize as Hogwarts. Departure dates for this tour are available from April through October 2019.

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Taste Your Way Through Turkey

istanbul sweets

From delicately spiced kebabs to the famous Turkish delight, Turkey is known for its tempting cuisine—and you can try it straight from the source on this nine-night Real Food Adventure from Intrepid Travel. It starts and ends in Istanbul, where you’ll sample street food and visit a spice market. From there you’ll travel to Bodrum to visit a local winemaker, pick your own produce, and learn to make gozleme (a savory flatbread). A highlight of the trip is three days in Goreme, where you’ll take an Anatolian cooking class and ride in a hot air balloon over an otherworldly landscape filled with whimsically shaped rock formations. Departure dates for this trip run from April through September 2019.

Follow in the Footsteps of Great Composers in Austria and the Czech Republic

mozart statue vienna

Road Scholar’s 14-night Great Composers of Europe itinerary is a memorable, immersive experience for culturally curious music lovers. Highlights include a private piano performance in Mozart’s Vienna apartment; visits to grand concert halls; and lectures on the lives of Mozart, Schubert, Mahler, and others. The itinerary includes stops in Eisenstadt (where Haydn lived for many years) and Salzburg (the birthplace of Mozart) before ending in Prague, home to the Museum of Antonin Dvorak. This trip departs on select 2019 dates between May and November.

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Indulge Body and Soul on a Wellness Trip to Iceland

woman blue lagoon iceland

Need a restorative getaway? Consider this six-night wellness-focused trip to Iceland with G Adventures. Do yoga on a black sand beach, turn your focus inward during guided meditation sessions, and let the therapeutic hot spring waters of the Blue Lagoon relax away every ache and pain. In between wellness activities you can enjoy adventures such as whale watching, hiking on a glacier, and making rye bread in a geothermal bakery. This trip begins and ends in Reykjavik, and departs on select dates between May and September 2019.

Get Off the Beaten Path in Poland

gdansk street sunset

Looking for picturesque medieval towns, stately castles, and fascinating history—without massive crowds? Head to Poland. The 10-night Best of Poland tour from Trafalgar gives you an excellent sampler of what the country has to offer, including a visit to the world’s largest castle near Gdansk. Memorable experiences include dinner with a local family in the Polish Highlands and a chance to bake your own traditional gingerbread. The itinerary also includes a haunting visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp. This trip departs on select dates between May and September 2019.

Live Like a Local in France

aix-en-provence church

For travelers seeking a more immersive experience than a one-week vacation can give you, Smithsonian Journeys is offering the chance to live for three weeks in an apartment in the sun-soaked French city of Aix-en-Provence. The program includes a mix of free time and organized tour experiences to places like the Luberon Valley and Avignon, a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can also choose one or more enrichment tracks focused on French language lessons, cooking classes, or arts and culture. This trip is available in May or September 2019.

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Look for Brown Bears in Romania

brown bear in romania

Europe isn’t known as a hotbed for wildlife, but this seven-night trip from Exodus Travels takes you to a place in the Carpathian Mountains where you can still spot brown bears. The itinerary includes a visit to a bear sanctuary as well as an evening spent watching for bears from a forest hide. During the rest of your vacation, you’ll tour Bran Castle (also known as Dracula’s castle), hike along pristine alpine trails, and go bird watching outside the medieval town of Brasov. This trip departs between May and October 2019.

Bike the Back Roads of Sicily

siracusa alleyway sicily

Soak up the sights, sounds, and orange-blossom scents of Sicily on a five-night biking trip with Backroads. You’ll discover ancient cave dwellings, taste fresh olive oil on a working farm, and tour the Baroque towns of the Val di Noto, a World Heritage site. And because you’re cycling at least 13 miles every day, you can sample all the pasta and gelato you want without guilt. (If that amount of cycling sounds like a lot, give yourself a boost by opting for an electric-assist bike, included with the price of your tour.) This trip departs between April and October 2019.

Discover Traditional Christmas Markets in Germany

frankfurt christmas market

There’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit than by taking a Classic Christmas Markets river cruise with Uniworld. During this seven-night trip, you’ll warm yourself with mulled wine as you wander along cobblestoned streets through festive markets selling homemade treats and artisan crafts. Stops include the fairy-tale village of Rothenberg, Wurzburg with its stunning Baroque-era palace, and Nuremberg, famous for gingerbread and Germany’s largest Christmas market. This trip departs on three different dates in December 2019.

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Hike the Unspoiled Julian Alps

hikers in julian alps

Combine an exhilarating physical challenge with jaw-dropping mountain views on this eight-night hiking trip with National Geographic Expeditions. The trip starts and ends in the charming small city of Ljubljana, Slovenia, with stops in the cozy village of Kranjska Gora and in picture-perfect Bled, where a medieval castle looms over a pristine mountain lake. Dramatic mountain hiking trails take you across the border into Italy and Austria at various points during the trip. You’ll eat well the whole way, with cheeses from local cheesemongers and dinner at the countryside villa of Chef Ana Ros. This trip departs in June, August, and September 2019.

For more ideas, see Top Travel Destinations for 2019.

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

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America’s 10 Best Small Ski Resorts

Shorter lift lines, a friendlier feel, and less expensive tickets—there’s a lot to love about smaller ski areas. Here are the 10 best small ski resorts in the U.S.

Grand Targhee, Wyoming

Grand targhee ski resort in wyoming

Thanks to Grand Targhee’s location west of the Tetons, this ski area averages a massive 500+ inches of snowfall a year. Although there are just five lifts, you’ll rarely wait in line here, as the crowds tend to pass over Grand Targhee in favor of the more famous Jackson Hole (which is only about an hour away).

Where to stay: The Grand Targhee Ski Resort has plenty of housing options, from ski-in-ski-out rooms to two-bedroom suites.

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Magic Mountain, Vermont

Magic mountain ski resort in vermont, usa

Magic Mountain may be small, but the terrain here is mighty. The ski area was founded in 1960 by a Swiss ski instructor who wanted to create “a little corner of Switzerland” in Vermont. Today, Magic Mountain is home to some of the most challenging terrain in the east (including plenty of glades), plus numerous easy and intermediate trails for beginners. Despite a recent $1.5 million investment in snowmaking and lift improvement at Magic Mountain, peak-price tickets are still just $74 for a full day of skiing.

Where to stay: The affordable Upper Pass Lodge is located right next to Magic Mountain’s parking lot.

Mt. Abram, Maine

Mt. abram ski resort in maine, usa

With lift tickets regularly exceeding $100 at many resorts, a day on the slopes can be an expensive proposition. Not so at Maine’s Mt. Abram, where weekend tickets cost $49 for a full day or $39 for a half day. Headed up on a Thursday or Friday? You can snag lift tickets for a bargain $29, which gets you access to five lifts and 54 trails.

Where to stay: There’s no on-mountain lodging at Mt. Abram, but the charming Bethel Hill Bed and Breakfast is just down the road.

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Big Powderhorn, Michigan

Big powderhorn ski resort in michigan, usa

Michigan doesn’t immediately spring to mind as a ski destination, but the state is actually home to 37 areas where you can hit the slopes. Big Powderhorn’s Upper Peninsula location means this small ski resort is blessed with 17 feet of average natural snowfall. At the base, a Bavarian-style village offers plenty of apres-ski dining and drinking options, plus a free shuttle bus to and from the mountain.

Where to stay: Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort has some great ski-and-stay deals if you book your lodging and lift tickets at the same time.

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Whaleback Mountain, New Hampshire

Whaleback mountain ski resort in new hampshire, united states

A locally owned, nonprofit ski mountain is a rare thing to find, but Whaleback Mountain is one. Owned and operated by the Upper Valley Snow Sports Foundation, the resort aims to preserve the mountain and keep it affordable and accessible for the nearby community. Come here on a Friday evening for night skiing and a family-style dinner for just $32 total (or $28 for kids).

Where to stay: Historic Shaker Farm Bed and Breakfast is a quick drive away, and offers beautiful Mascoma Lake views for apres-ski.

Silverton Mountain, Colorado

Silverton mountain ski resort in colorado, usa

There’s only one lift at Silverton Mountain, but you can also opt for a helicopter ride to the top. (Prices start at $179 for one heli-drop, or book six runs for $1,190.) This ungroomed and unmarked mountain is for advanced and expert skiers only, which keeps down the number of visitors. In fact, Silverton Mountain boasts that it gets more snowfall per year (400 inches) than visitors per day.

Where to stay: The closest town to the mountain is the former mining town of Silverton, Colorado. Stay at The Avon, which has been around since the early 1900s and is lovingly preserved.

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Solitude Mountain, Utah

Solitude mountain ski resort in utah, usa

The aptly named Solitude Mountain lets the masses go to nearby mega-resorts Alta and Snowbird, and keeps its similar snow conditions (over 500 annual inches of snow on average) on the quiet side. Just eight lifts serve 80 runs and three different bowls, so you’ll be able to find some empty slopes no matter when you visit.

Where to stay:  The Creekside Condominiums are slopeside condos that even have a rooftop hot tub for apres-ski muscle soothing.

Bolton Valley, Vermont
Bolton valley ski resort in vermont, usa

Family-owned Bolton Valley has something for everyone. Six lifts serve 71 downhill trails that are well divided for different abilities (34 percent easier, 38 percent more difficult, and 28 percent most difficult). Not interested in downhill? There are also over 62 miles of backcountry, Nordic skiing, and snowshoeing trails here.

Where to stay: The Inn at Bolton Valley is by far the most convenient option. You can ski in and out, and also easily walk to plenty of dining options.

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Sunlight Mountain, Colorado

Sunlight mountain ski resort in colorado, usa

Sunlight Mountain recently made headlines for having America’s most expensive lift ticket. Priced at $700, the Sunny 700 includes not only a one-day lift pass but also a hot springs day pass and a pair of hand-crafted Sunny 700 skis. Fortunately, a regular one-day lift pass at Sunlight Mountain costs just $65, which is very affordable for Colorado. But you should still splurge on that hot springs pass: Sunlight Mountain is home to the world’s largest hot springs pool, which feels amazing after a long day on the slopes.

Where to stay: Liquor lovers should book a room at the nearby Distillery Inn, a luxury hotel within a working distillery.

Diamond Peak, Nevada

Diamond peak ski resort in nevada usa

Lake Tahoe has a glitzy reputation, but Diamond Peak Ski Resort keeps things a little more low-key. This community-owned resort may have only a few lifts, but the mountain has a serious vertical drop (1,840 feet). The panoramic views of Lake Tahoe from the summit can’t be beat either. Take the leisurely way down on Diamond Peak’s longest run, which clocks in at a leg-testing 2.5 miles.

Where to stay: The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe runs a free ski shuttle to and from the mountain, so you don’t have to fight for parking.

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Caroline Morse Teel has a goal to ski all the best small ski resorts in New England. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for ski and travel photos from around the world. 

 

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Adventure Travel Outdoors Weekend Getaways

How to Do a Weekend in the White Mountains, New Hampshire

Nestled on the banks of beautiful Iona Lake in New Hampshire, Huttopia White Mountains has it all—a beach, forest, nearby mountains, and easy access to North Conway or Boston.

How to Do a Weekend in the White Mountains, New Hampshire

White mountains

Hotels:
Huttopia White Mountains, the ultimate glamping destination, opened in 2017. The seasonal property is open from May to October, and offers four levels of accommodations, ranging from basic tents to the Chalets (wood cabins with two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a wood stove). I stayed in a Trapper’s Tent, a large tent that sleeps up to five people. The Trapper’s Tents have two separate sleeping areas (one with a double bed and one with a double bed and lofted single bed), a kitchen, and a real bathroom with a shower.

The campgrounds feature a heated pool, playground, and a private beach. Each campsite is equipped with a picnic table and firepit.

Friday:
After checking in to Huttopia, head directly to the property’s retro Airstream trailer, which is equipped with a real pizza oven, churning out delicious pizzas with every topping imaginable. Pair it with beer or wine from the bar, and relax on the terrace while you dine. Treat yourself to ice cream at the end of the meal before heading back to your tent for the night.

Saturday:
Huttopia is a French-Canadian founded company, and it shows—the Airstream also serves up authentic French crepes, which make for a great breakfast in the morning. Their coffee is sourced from a local roaster, and is miles above and beyond what you’d expect to find at campground—don’t miss out on the espresso!

Once you’re adequately nourished and caffeinated, it’s time to explore the White Mountains. Mount Whiteface and Passaconaway are a short drive down the road. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can tackle both summits in one 11-mile loop.

After, head back to Huttopia to soak your tired muscles in the heated pool.

Cook dinner over your private firepit—if you’ve forgotten your s’mores supplies, Huttopia has a general store with everything you need.

Sunday:
Rent a canoe or SUP from Huttopia’s private beach and head out to explore the pristine lake. If you’re visiting in the fall, it may not be swimming weather, but the foliage around the lake is unbeatable.

Dining:
Huttopia’s Airstream trailer
Hobbs Tavern
Batter Up Bakery

Attractions:
Mount Whiteface
Mount Passaconaway
White Mountain National Forest

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline was hosted by Huttopia White Mountains. Follow Caroline’s adventures around New England and the world on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline .

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Bhutan for Beginners: A First-Time Trekker Tackles the Famed Druk Path

Bhutan for beginners

When I was a kid, I dropped out of the Girl Scouts for the sole reason that I did not want any part of the camping trips. Cookies, I was on board with. Sleeping in a tent, no running water for days at a time, and exposure to bugs and dirt, not so much. Many years later, I’ve grown to love the outdoors, but in a playing outside all day, sleeping indoors at night kind of way.
So when I had the chance to join Exodus Travels’ Land of the Thunder Dragon Tour, a 12-day journey that would involve five days of trekking Bhutan’s Druk Path, I decided it was time to face my fears. The beauty of the Druk Path is that it is away from cities and towns, so there was no hotel option—it would be four nights of camping or nothing. Could this trekking first-timer survive five straight nights of hiking and four nights in a tent, by herself? I was about to travel over 7,000 miles to find out.

I spent the next few month Googling camping tips and dangerous bugs that live in Bhutan, vacuum packed my sleeping bag into my suitcase, stocked up on hand sanitizer, and got on the plane. The trip started off with a few blissful nights in comfortable hotels in Nepal and Bhutan, and then it was time for our “warm-up hike,” a seven-mile hike to and from the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery, which is impressively built on the side of a cliff. The views and altitude (and perhaps a lack of hiking training) took my breath away. At the end of that day, I was very glad to return to my hotel for a nice hot shower, and somewhat more nervous for the trek ahead.

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At dinner the night before the start of the hike, our Exodus guide, Norbu, promised us that our experience would be more “glamping” than camping. “Glamping” at 14,000 feet? I was skeptical. Glamping, I had done, and it usually involved hot water and plush bedding. I didn’t anticipate any of that waiting at the top of the mountain. Norbu outlined the hiking for each day, promising us some easier days and some harder days. This was coming from a man who had completed Bhutan’s infamous Snowman Trek, a 29-day hike that’s one of the world’s most difficult. (More people successfully summit Mt. Everest every year than complete the Snowman.) I questioned his definition of “easy.”

The next day, I bid a fearful goodbye to my beautiful hotel bed, took an extra-long hot shower, and headed out into the wilderness.

Our van drove us part way up a long dirt road before abruptly stopping. Goodbye civilization, it was time for the hike to begin. Fortunately, my daypack was light. The rest of my gear, along with the gear of the 15 other people in my group, was being ferried up to camp by a team of 25 horses. We steadily climbed uphill for hours as the dirt road gave way to a lush green forest. Just as I started to get tired, a welcome oasis emerged in the distance—a large tent with a cushioned carpet for relaxing. This was our lunch tent, and I settled in and was greeted with hot coffee and tea, followed by a buffet of local Bhutanese dishes served on real dishes with real silverware.
Bhutan is the only country in the world to be carbon negative, and I was happy to see how eco-friendly and low-impact this Exodus trip was. Exodus lives by the motto: “ban the bottle,” committing to reducing plastic waste on all its trips by encouraging clients to bring their own reusable plastic water bottles, and by providing sanitary drinking water (boiled and then filtered) at every meal and throughout the day to reduce the massive piles of plastic water bottles that tourists contribute to.

After lunch, we had less than two hours of hiking to reach our camp, and I was nervous as we crested the last hill about the conditions we’d find there. But thanks to a team of nine camp staff, “glamping” was indeed what we had on the Druk Path. I arrived to a hiker’s paradise: roomy tents carpeted with woven rugs, topped with plush sleeping mats, and even full-sized, non-inflatable, pillows. Actual pillows at 14,000 feet? That’s luxury.

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Warm water and soap waited at a central hand-washing station, and camp chairs were ready to hold my tired body. I sat in comfort and snacked on hot popcorn drizzled with honey, cakes, and tea while watching the mist roll in over the monastery towering above us.

Energized by the snacks, our group took a short hike from camp up a ridgeline to a spot with panoramic valley views. The sun shone down in beams from the clouds and it felt like the perfect evening. Then it was a quick walk back down to camp where we were rewarded with dinner. Over the course of the next five days it was impressive to see what the trekking team had brought up the trail with them. This included: an entire pumpkin, a roast chicken, a whole watermelon, and ingredients to make a spun sugar cake. I couldn’t have created the gourmet dinners they made in my own kitchen, so I was very impressed they were doing it in the wild. It became a running joke among my group that this would be the only hiking trip you’d actually gain weight from, thanks to all the great food.

At bedtime, we were given hot water bottles to keep cozy, and soon fell into the natural rhythm of sleeping when it was dark and waking with the sun—an incredible reset. Without electricity or cell service, there was no temptation to stay up staring at screens, and I fell asleep easily. There were no honking cars or city noises to wake me up, although I did wake up once or twice to a horse grazing outside my tent—a much more charming way to be awoken.

Waking up to birds singing as the sun rose over our lakeside campsite made me realize what this whole camping thing was about. Aside from our group and the horses grazing lazily in the fields, there wasn’t a soul in sight, just miles of pristine nature. Who needed running water when you had endless views?

Two adorable camp dogs joined our trek on the second day. According to the camp crew, the dogs are given the leftover food, so the same dogs always follow the camp along the hike, as they know they’ll be getting good meals out of it. These were the happiest, most relaxed dogs I’d ever seen—they never begged or barked, just joyfully bounded along the trail beside us every day. If you ever need hiking motivation, I suggest bringing a cute dog along to help you power through.

On our third day, our weather luck ran out and it poured rain all day. We determinedly marched along the trail, arriving at camp hours ahead of schedule, since no one wanted to linger in the cold downpour. There, we were greeted by warm noodle soup and hot chocolate, dry tents all set up, and a heated communal tent to warm up and dry off. Our spirits were instantly lifted. Even in the worst weather, camping isn’t so bad when there’s a space heater and good food involved.

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The trek wound its way from Paro to Thimpu, up along high ridge lines and down past mirror-like lakes. The clouds finally cleared and we suddenly we saw what had been hiding behind the clouds this whole time. The snowy peaks of the Himalayan Mountains sprawled before us, mountains so high that they blended in with the clouds. Bhutan is home to the tallest unclimbed mountains in the world—the Bhutanese believe that the peaks are sacred and so no one is allowed on them. In this world where every last corner seems to have been explored and neatly mapped, it’s wondrous to know that some things that are so majestic and visible remain an untouched mystery.

Along the trail, we never saw any buildings beyond one lone monastery—everything was left as open, preserved land. Environmental conservation is one of Bhutan’s four pillars of Gross National Happiness, and the country’s constitution dictates that a minimum of 60 percent of its land must be preserved under forest cover.

On our last day, we climbed our way up a steep trail and Norbu pointed out a large clearing many miles away. “That’s where we camped our second night. And to the left, that’s the monastery we slept below on the first day.” Our entire trek unfurled behind us. It looked impossibly far away. I was filled with a deep sense of accomplishment that I had traveled so far on my own two feet. And most importantly, I had survived camping all on my own (well, on my own except for the nine crew and 25 horses that helped me along the way). If I’d known camping could be like this, maybe I’d have made it to Girl Scout’s graduation.

More from SmarterTravel:

• The Alchemy of Happiness: Discovering Magic in Bhutan
• Happiness is Bhutan
• The Ultimate Camping Packing List: 29 Essentials

Caroline Morse Teel was hosted by Exodus Travels on their Land of the Thunder Dragon Tour. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline to see her photos from the adventure.

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The Alchemy of Happiness: Discovering Magic in Bhutan

The alchemy of happiness

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10 Best Things to Do in Hawaii

Writer Paul Theroux famously said that Hawaii is not a state of mind but a state of grace. I’m inclined to agree. From its natural wonders immense in size to its sheer breadth of things to do, there’s a reason that the Aloha State is often the trip of a lifetime, a destination that tops bucket lists and inspires exhaustive research. I’ve done some of the heavy lifting. Here is my list of the 10 best things to do in Hawaii.

Sail the Napali Coast, Kauai

napali coast boat ride

Native islanders say the Napali Coast nourishes the soul. This 17-mile stretch of rain-carved cliffs and emerald valleys is punctuated by thin, ribbonlike waterfalls, secret beaches, and sea caves teeming with aquatic life. Hike the spectacular Kalalau Trail or access the cliffs by sea. Imagine standing on the deck of a catamaran beneath 4,000-foot cliffs to soak in mana, or spiritual power, before sliding into the water for snorkeling among green sea turtles and schools of eel and angelfish. When the trade winds are smooth, expect your catamaran to cruise around or even through the sea caves, its sails flapping the mast and spinner dolphins leaping at its stern.

How to Do It: Take a five-hour sailing and snorkeling cruise, or get up even earlier for a full-day adventure.

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Explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island

The mutable Big Island is still molding itself: Its coastlines continually expand and erode, its mountains come alive, and its topography undergoes perpetual sculpture in a medium of fire and lava. Witness firsthand the birth of a new landscape at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where volcanoes Kilauea (one of the world’s most active) and Mauna Loa (one of the world’s most massive) alter the world in which we live. Eruptions and earthquakes closed the park for several months in 2018, but select hiking trails and scenic are now open again for visitors to learn about this fascinating ecosystem.

How to Do It: Before your arrival, visit the park’s website to find the latest information on safety, educational programs, closures, and trail options.

Visit Pearl Harbor, Oahu

Each year, nearly 2 million people visit this memorial, officially part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. This solemn, gently sloping structure, accessible only by boat, straddles the sunken USS Arizona and memorializes those who were killed in the Pearl Harbor attacks on December 7, 1941. According to Alfred Preis, the memorial’s architect, “The structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, express[ing] initial defeat and ultimate victory.” Each rising end is a testament to the optimism during times of peace. Eerily—but beautifully—the sunken ship’s oil can still be seen bubbling up from the wreckage and pooling in concentric rainbows on the water’s surface.

How to Do It: Visiting the memorial is free, though a timed entry ticket is required. Many travelers choose to visit Pearl Harbor as part of a half-day tour from Honolulu.

Land a Helicopter at Jurassic Falls, Kauai

Imagine sitting in a helicopter that is swooping and darting through the green-velvet valleys of Kauai. Just below you, a flock of plump jewel-toned birds descends to the trees. The seemingly impenetrable jungle parts suddenly like stage curtains to reveal the falls from Jurassic Park, 400 feet high and spraying the windshield of the helicopter like rain. Now imagine the epic John Williams score playing in your headset. You land in the thick of the jungle, and your pilot guides you along a misty path to the remarkable and completely remote falls, the rushing water making the only sound in a humanless world.

How to Do It: Only one tour provider is cleared to land a copter here: Island Helicopters. During its 75- to 80-minute aerial tour, you’ll land at Manawaiopuna (the falls’ official name) before lifting off on a full circuit of Kauai, including Waimea Canyon and the center of Mt. Waialeale. Dinosaur sightings not guaranteed.

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Drive the Road to Hana, Maui

There’s road tripping, and then there’s road tripping on this 50-mile highway that unfurls like ribbon through the taro patches and coastlines of Maui. A two-hour journey (or three or four, depending on how many times you pull over to admire the view) brings you to the peaceful, tiny town of Hana, which offers a taste of a historical Hawaiian settlement—complete with its original general store and courthouse—alongside the natural wonders for which Maui is famous. Step into the water at gray-sand, half-moon-shaped Hamoa Beach, and then stay the night in one of the 1940s cottages at luxe Travaasa Hana.

How to Do It: If you want to travel independently, buy an audio guide and navigate the Road to Hana at your own pace. (Pro tip: Gas is expensive in starting-point Paia, so fill up elsewhere before beginning the journey.) If you’d rather have someone else behind the wheel, consider a full-day tour that hits all the gorgeous highlights.

Try New Flavors, Oahu

Oahu is the very belly of the on-the-rise food-and-wine culture in Hawaii, a place where outsiders’ experiences of “local eats” were once limited to Spam and imported pineapple. These days, Honolulu plays host to the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival—where local chefs highlight the state’s bounty of produce, beef, and seafood—as well as a slate of Zagat-approved eateries.

Of course, visitors can’t step foot on this island without sinking their teeth into one of Oahu’s sweetest imports, a fluffy malasada. The yeasty Portuguese donuts rolled in sugar were traditionally served on Shrove Tuesday but are now available year-round (somewhat misleadingly masquerading as breakfast food). Leonard’s Bakery has been churning out malasadas under its hot-pink awnings since 1952, stuffing the deep-fried confections with haupia, Hawaiian coconut custard. Grab a few to go and follow up with a brisk calorie-killing walk along the beach. Other homegrown favorites include poke, lau lau pork, and, to cool off, shave ice with azuki beans and sweetened condensed milk.

How to Do It: Discover our 10 favorite places to try Hawaiian food in Honolulu, or take a Honolulu food tour on foot or by bike.

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Attend an Old Lahaina Luau, Maui

A Hawaiian vacation is hardly complete without a luau, and the Old Lahaina Luau on Maui is oft considered the most authentic of the bunch. Since 1986, the Old Lahaina, with its backdrop of flickering torches, coconut palms, and crashing waves, has presented its luau to an adoring public of visitors and kama’aina (Hawaiian residents) alike. An aloha greeting with a cocktail and a colorful lei kicks off the evening, followed by craft-making workshops and the unearthing of the kalua pig from its imu, or underground oven. At sunset, the evening’s entertainment begins: a lineup of traditional Hawaiian music and expressive hula dancing that outlines the islands’ history, from the earliest Polynesian settlers through the arrival of the missionaries.

How to Do It: Make reservations on the Old Lahaina Luau website or through SmarterTravel’s sister site, Viator. You can choose either table-and-chair seating or a spot on a cushion around a low table.

Have an Adventure at Kualoa Ranch, Oahu

kualoa ranch

Away from the heavily trafficked resorts and shopping malls of Waikiki, the 4,000-some acres of Kualoa Ranch spread from mountain to valley to ocean, with Mokoli’i Island (Chinaman’s Hat) resting on a shelf of distant horizon. The working cattle ranch is a sort of all-inclusive Hawaiian experience, but with few touristy trappings. Knowledgeable guides lead a series of tours—by boat, on horseback, and in various vehicles—focusing on different aspects of this former sugar plantation’s history. Explore the lush Hakipu’u and Ka’a’awa valleys and the latter’s famous filming sites (Jurassic Park, Lost, and Hawaii Five-O all were shot here) and set sail on an ancient Hawaiian fishpond. Then trek to a secret beach with wide-angle views of sacred Mokoli’i to see how Hawaii’s landscape has evolved through innumerable eras, ancient and modern.

How to Do It: Book tours on Kualoa Ranch’s website or try a package of adventures with transport from Honolulu.

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Stargaze on Mauna Kea, Big Island

Amateur astronomers, rejoice. Fourteen thousand feet up the dormant volcano of Mauna Kea, beneath a bowl-shaped ceiling of sky, sits one of the best places on Earth for inspecting the heavens: the massive Mauna Kea Observatory. Here, high altitude, low humidity, and dark skies create perfect stargazing conditions. Acclimatize at the informative Mauna Kea visitors’ center at 9,200 feet before taking a four-wheel-drive vehicle to the summit, where freezing temperatures and high winds cool sunburnt skin. Then scan the night sky: Guides will help you identify clusters of major constellations and other celestial bodies. While you likely won’t be able to peer inside the Observatory itself, tour providers can furnish you with equipment of your own.

How to Do It: Mauna Kea Summit Adventures leads the way, providing trekkers with portable telescopes, Arctic-style parkas, a full meal, and hot cocoa. You can book a similar experience on Viator.

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Hike to Kaihalulu (Red Sand Beach), Maui

maui red sand beach

Kaihalulu means “roaring sea” in Hawaiian, but the wild, rolling waves are just one feature of this magical crescent-shaped beach. Almost Martian in appearance, the sand is rich in iron, while the sheer cliffs that abut the beach are uniquely striated with red and russet strokes (the result of an eroding cinder-cone volcano). The red sand leads to relatively choppy waters, so visitors are cautioned against swimming or diving. However, a thrilling hike and the otherworldly setting more than make up for the lack of aquatic activities, and the peace and quiet of a people-free spot can be stunning. (If you should stumble upon another soul, don’t be surprised to find your fellow suntanner in the buff; clothing is decidedly optional at this secret beach.)

How to Do It: A short trek is required to reach Kaihalulu. Find directions and tips on MauiGuidebook.com. The hike can be slippery and slow-going, but sights along the way (the trail passes an ancient Japanese cemetery) are worth it.

[st_content_ad]So that’s my list, readers. But tell me—what are your favorite things to do in Hawaii?

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[viator_tour destination=”278″ type=”3-mod”]

Editor’s Note: This story was first written in 2014. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

 

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11 Beautiful English Villages to Discover Before the Crowds Do

You’ve toured the museums of London, paid tribute to the Beatles in Liverpool, and walked the hallowed halls of Oxford’s famous university—but if major cities are all you’ve seen of England, you’re missing out. For a slower pace of life and an up-close glimpse of rural life, you’ll want to visit the following English villages that haven’t yet been spoiled by tourism.

From fishing hamlets in Cornwall to traditional market towns in North Yorkshire, these are some of the most beautiful villages in England, featuring cobblestone streets, quaint churches, and cozy pubs—but not motorcoaches and crowds.

Painswick, Gloucestershire

[st_content_ad]The Cotswolds region is ground zero for picture-perfect English villages, but some of them feel overly touristy. That’s not a problem in Painswick, a quiet hilltop village with charming narrow streets and relatively few international visitors. Don’t miss a stop in the colorful Painswick Rococo Garden, originally designed in the 1740s. There are also plenty of lovely walks in the area.

Where to stay: Located in the heart of the village with rooms overlooking the Cotswold hills, The Painswick is the most elegant spot in town.

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Polperro, Cornwall

Polperro england

Once a fishing village (and shelter for smugglers), Polperro is now a popular summer holiday spot—but it’s maintained its unspoiled charm. Walk the footpaths along the coast on either side of the harbor to soak up the salt air and discover uncrowded beaches, or stay in town to explore its art galleries and shops. You’ll find tasty, fresh seafood on menus around town.

Where to stay: With just 12 rooms, Penryn House is a cozy lodging spot within walking distance of Polperro’s pubs, shops, and restaurants.

Kettlewell, North Yorkshire

Kettlewell england

Kettlewell is an ideal base for walking and hiking in Yorkshire Dales National Park, but it’s also a beautiful village in its own right, with welcoming pubs and quaint stone cottages. The most popular time to visit is in August for the annual Scarecrow Festival, when the community comes together to hunt for whimsically themed scarecrows hidden around town.

Where to stay: The Pennycroft Guest House draws raves from past guests for its comfy beds and warm hospitality.

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Rye, East Sussex

Rye england

With its quiet cobblestone streets and well-preserved medieval and Tudor buildings, Rye is the type of English village where it feels like time simply stopped centuries ago. One of the greatest pleasures in Rye is simply walking around and taking photos, but you can also visit a 13th-century castle and browse local art galleries. Don’t miss a stop in St. Mary’s Parish Church, where you can climb the tower for views over the surrounding countryside.

Where to stay: Individually designed rooms at The George in Rye feature quirky touches like antique mirrors, built-in bookshelves, and colorful vintage wallpaper. The hotel has been in its current High Street location since 1719.

Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire

Robin hoods bay england

If you love wandering on foot, you’ll appreciate this beautiful English village overlooking the North Sea. Leave your vehicle in the parking lot at the top of the main street and head downhill to stroll along the coastal path, rummage through shops and galleries, or visit the clean sandy beach—where you might even find a fossil or two. You can also learn about the town’s seafaring and smuggling history at the Robin Hood’s Bay Museum. Despite the name, Robin Hood’s Bay has no known affiliation with the famous outlaw, and the origins of the moniker remain a local mystery.

Where to stay: The Raven House Bed & Breakfast offers a comfortable home away from home with sweeping sea views and homemade breakfast.

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Stamford, Lincolnshire

Stamford england

If this elegant Georgian town looks familiar, it might be because it was used as a filming set for the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley. You can easily spend a day wandering among its well-preserved churches, shops, and pubs, which overlook the Welland River. Also worth seeing is Burghley House, a grand Elizabethan estate just a few minutes’ drive from downtown.

Where to stay: The William Cecil at Stamford is located on the grounds of the Burghley Estate but still within easy walking distance of Stamford’s main attractions.

Turville, Buckinghamshire

Turville england

With just 100 inhabitants, the tiny English village of Turville offers a quiet break from the London crowds. It’s less than 90 minutes from the English capital, and worth a quick detour en route to Oxford. Stroll up to Cobstone Windmill for views of the village; have lunch at The Bull and Butcher, a traditional pub; and visit St. Mary the Virgin Church, which served as the featured church in the 1990s British sitcom The Vicar of Dibley.

Where to stay: Turville is so small that it doesn’t have any hotels of its own, but you can stay overnight just a few miles away at the Row Barge Inn, a traditional B&B in Henley-on-Thames.

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Helmsley, North Yorkshire

Helmsley england

This beautiful English village features historic stone buildings, a peaceful walled garden, and a square where you can check out a traditional market every Friday—all in the shadow of medieval castle ruins. Love wildlife? Pay a visit to the National Centre for Birds of Prey, where you can have hands-on experiences with hawks, falcons, and owls. Also nearby are the rolling hills of North York Moors National Park.

Where to stay: The 45-room Black Swan Hotel has been hosting travelers for more than 500 years. Rooms have garden or market square views.

Hawkshead, Cumbria

Hawkshead england

It’s almost impossible to find hidden gems in England’s popular Lake District, but Hawkshead hasn’t yet been spoiled by the tourist hordes. Because cars aren’t allowed within the village, visitors can enjoy its whitewashed buildings, cobblestone streets, and medieval square the same way locals have for centuries. Stop by the grammar school where poet William Wordsworth studied, and see drawings by children’s author Beatrix Potter at the gallery named after her in town.

Where to stay: A flower-filled courtyard welcomes you into Ivy Guest House, a Georgian building with a half-dozen cozy rooms. The hosts serve a full English breakfast each morning.

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Beaulieu, Hampshire

Beaulieu england

A cluster of historic buildings overlooking the scenic Beaulieu River, this beautiful English village dates back to the 13th century. The area’s main attraction is the Beaulieu Estate, home to the National Motor Museum, a collection of nearly 285 classic vehicles. Also on the estate grounds are the Palace House (a Victorian mansion) and Beaulieu Abbey. But you’ll want to leave plenty of time to stroll the streets of the village, browse its shops, and wander along its riverside path.

Where to stay: The Montagu Arms Hotel oozes with Old World charm, from its classic English gardens to its conservatory serving afternoon tea. Upgraded rooms include lavish four-poster beds.

Mousehole, Cornwall

Mousehole england

Just a few miles down the coast from the better-known town of Penzance, Mousehole (pronounced “Mowzel”) is one of Cornwall’s prettiest seaside villages, with stone buildings overlooking a harbor filled with sailboats and fishing boats. The most popular times to visit are summer, when you can relax on the sandy beach, and the period from mid-December through early January, when the harbor is decked out in twinkling holiday lights.

Where to stay: Thanks to its bustling pub and convenient location, The Ship Inn is the center of the action in Mousehole. Many of its eight rooms overlook the harbor.

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