7 trips for 7 travelers
Where’s the best place to escape another year’s grind and remember that a whole world is still out there?
A mountain. A beach. A Greek idyll. Only you know who you are and what suits you.
But we’ve got a decent idea. Or seven.
What follows are seven trips for seven traveler types, all of whom deserve an adventure this year -- and a friendly 2012 reminder to not forget the sunscreen.
1. The outdoorist: Mount Whitney, California, United States
You want to clamber up a “highest” mountain somewhere. Gotcha.
But, let’s be honest, it’s not gonna be Everest or even Kilimanjaro in this lifetime.
Consider 4,421-meter Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in America’s lower 48 states, and reputedly the highest walk-up summit on the globe.
It’s doable for just about any weekend peak-bagger in decent shape with enough foresight to apply six months ahead for a summer climbing permit.
Looming in central California’s Eastern Sierra about 320 kilometers north of Los Angeles, Mount Whitney welcomes about 20,000 summit pushers a year.
Not all make it to the top, but the vast majority come during the mountain’s short climbing window between June and August when the 18-kilometer Whitney Trail -- the most accessible route up -- isn’t caked in snow and ice.
What’s the payoff along the way? An Ansel Adams-worthy canvas of granite peaks, glistening streams, wildflowers and waterfalls. Waiting at the top is an eternal view of California’s Owens Valley and those equally eternal bragging rights.
2. The beach baron: Boracay, Philippines
Yes, it’s Top 10 Beach time again! Once the weather turns nasty in the northern climes, out come those annual lists grading every strip of sand between Malibu and Mauritius.
The world is filled with ranked beaches, but one worth putting on the radar is Boracay, a resort-studded speck of an isle about 320 kilometers south of Manila, which placed second in 2011’s TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Beach Awards.
Less then 10 kilometers long, Boracay’s powdery shores are complemented by enough top resorts, full-service spas, kite-surfing rental shops and full-body beach massage touts to keep everyone happy.
Summer 2011 reports of a giant development involving four new hotels and additional tourism projects on Boracay will no doubt draw an even larger wave of beach aficionados.
That makes 2012 the year to get there before they do.
Read more on CNNGo: 15 ways to see the world on water
3. The wildlife lover: Pantanal, Brazil
Pandas, whale sharks, gorillas, white rhinos. The odds of glimpsing any endangered species in the wild are shrinking fast. So are their natural habitats, with a few hopeful exceptions.
Take the Pantanal, southwestern Brazil’s vast tropical outback, which recently garnered a spot on CBS’s "60 Minutes" as one of the last remaining reliable places to spot giant anteaters, giant otters, hyacinth macaws and -- one of the world’s most elusive and threatened charismatic mega-fauna -- jaguars.
Your best chance of spotting one, or many, is likely in the Pantanal.
“So far, we’ve had multiple jaguar sightings on every trip, including several indescribable ‘wow’ moments,” says Ged Caddick, a veteran naturalist and founder of Terra Incognita Ecotours, which runs a variety of wildlife journeys around the world, including a nine-day Pantanal tour: South American Savannah: Jaguars, Tapirs, Macaws and More.
Nearly half of the tour is based on a river bank at a Jaguar Research Camp in a remote state park where guests cruise up and down with their zoom lenses waiting for those "wow" moments: like a life-and-death wrestling match between a jaguar and an three-meter caiman.
“That one happened about 50 meters from our boats,” says Gaddick.
4. The eternal honeymooner: Santorini, Greece
Is it a good time to be planning that dream honeymoon to Greece -- a beautiful country in its third year of economic crisis and which is now on the brink of punishing debt restructure?
“Greek tourism is actually not doing as badly as you might think,” The Guardian recently noted. This in spite of the fact that “according to credit ratings agencies, Greece is a worse economic bet than either Pakistan or Ecuador.”
Bottom line: if there’s a safe, romantic haven hiding out in any country this financially bungled, it has to be Greece’s eternal newlywed-magnet isle, Santorini.
With stark volcanic cliffs and strings of whitewashed villages, the pride of the Cyclades may have actually been buoyed by the falling euro, with reports of “banner years” in 2010 and 2011 -- and promising signs in 2012.
Couples who are rightfully drawn to Santorini are a world apart from all that. They’re too busy escaping on cruises to the neighboring islet of Thirasia (population 270) where a quiet cliff-top taverna has a glass of ouzo and plate of fava beans with their name on it.
Or basking in hot mud springs on the nearby “Burnt Islands” of Palaia Kameni and Nea Kemeni.
Or parking in the seaside town of Oia for one of the world’s most life-affirming sunsets, joined by other starry-eyed couples who haven’t encountered a business section in days.
Read more on CNNGo: 10 best ways to spend Christmas 2011
5. The coffee whisperer: Blue Mountains, Jamaica
If you’re in some global-franchised espresso line back home, you’re settling for second best.
Savoring a sunrise and local joe in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains is the world’s most honest caffeine buzz.
Blue Mountain Coffee -- Jamaica’s magic bean -- is commonly hailed the finest, scarcest premium coffee in the world.
It can be tough to find a genuine cup of this full-bodied wunderbrew even in Jamaica, unless you go straight to its source in the island’s rugged east end -- about as removed from Jamaica’s beach traffic as you can get.
The Blue Mountain Coffee crawl begins at Craighton Estate, a historic, 18-hectare plantation only 30 minutes' winding drive from Kingston. The tour begins with a cup of just-brewed 100 percent Blue Mountain Coffee on the estate’s grand Victorian balcony and continues with a trip through the property’s aromatic grounds.
The place to savor the bold Blue Mountains is Strawberry Hill, a mountain retreat with private luxury villas and gardens covered with coffee bushes, mango trees, bamboo and tropical flowers.
6. The cultural anthropologist: Pyongyang … and beyond
Tired of vacations filled with the usual hedonism and frivolous poolside chat? Yearning for a real getaway where you can form your own firsthand, sociopolitical opinion about how economic globalization affects industry and local communities?
Taking a trip with Global Exchange is like hanging out in a National Geographic special.
The U.S.-based human rights organization leads hundreds of short-term “Reality Tours” around the world, all geared toward getting travelers in touch with the planet at the grassroots level.
Enlightening trips to more than 30 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America explore a range of local topics from health and the environment to education and civil rights.
One of the org’s headliner tours this spring -- North Korea: Beyond the Bamboo Curtain -- coincides with a Presidential Centennial Celebration and aims to put a human face on one of the world’s most commonly dehumanized nations.
Read more on CNNGo: The world's most expensive cities for expats
7. Big eater: Sardinia, Italy
“Agritourism” may sound like a new travel buzzword, but the concept has been big in Italy for decades -- particularly in rolling country steeped in local, agrarian tradition, like Umbria, Tuscany and (our favorite, further out) Sardinia -- one of the country’s most rustic corners.
Hundreds of rural properties throughout Sardinia’s four provinces open their farmhouse doors to travelers craving an authentic taste of outer-Italian-isle-style farm life.
Accommodations vary from simple farms in the Barbagia to Costa Smeralda agri-villas with vegetarian cuisine and relaxation classes.
Agrarian activities run the gamut. Some farms offer horseback tours and guided hikes. Others operate more like moderately priced bed-and-breakfasts.
Few hosts expect that their guests will actually be interested in putting in a day’s work behind the plow -- the dude ranch concept barely translates in Sardinia.
Regional agriturismo offices can provide further information.
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