New York’s Canal System Opens for Season; Opportunities Abound to Explore Historic Waterways

Exploring the Erie Canal on one of Mid-Lakes Navigation's self-skippered Lockmaster canalboats © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Exploring the Erie Canal on one of Mid-Lakes Navigation’s self-skippered Lockmaster canalboats © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York State’s Canal system has just opened for the 192nd consecutive season of navigation. The April 27 opening date marks the earliest start to the navigation season since 1982 thanks to a mild winter which allowed staff to complete maintenance projects, and opening preparations, ahead of schedule. The Canal system includes the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca Canals in upstate New York.

“New York’s Canal system is an engineering marvel of epic proportions and its construction demonstrated the sort of vision, determination and boldness that define us as New Yorkers,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “Nearly two centuries after its completion, the Canal system continues to be an important tourist destination, while also playing a vital role supporting industries throughout Upstate New York.”

The Erie Canal represents one of the most significant engineering achievements in New York’s history and along with its adjoining canals, it continues to play a pivotal role in supporting the state’s economy. According to a 2014 report, the system generates nearly $380 million in tourism spending annually across upstate New York, and more than $6.2 billion from non-tourism uses such as agricultural irrigation, commercial shipping, and renewable power generated at 27 hydroelectric facilities located along the Canal. The report also determined that the Canals support 26,472 jobs, $1.6 billion in personal income, and $702 million in tax revenue, both directly and indirectly.

The Canal system plays host to several special events each season, including races, festivals, and other recreational activities which can be found by visiting the Canal’s Calendar of Events. New Yorkers are strongly encouraged to take part in these events that last throughout the duration of the navigation season.

Twenty-four hour service is available to commercial vessels such as tour boats, tugboats, charter boats, cruise ships, and hire-boats operating on the Canal system. Registered commercial operators should call (518) 471-5016 during regular business hours and (518) 499-1700 after hours to make arrangements for lock and lift bridge service outside of the Canal’s regular operating schedule.

“Each year, our iconic Canal system draws scores of visitors from all over the world to travel along America’s most storied manmade waterway and to enjoy walking, biking, and fishing along its banks. It is a historical marvel that has consistently fueled New York’s economy through recreation and tourism, and I look forward to seeing what this year’s Canal navigation season adds to that already-rich history,” New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said,

The Canal navigation season is scheduled to end on November 20, weather permitting.

Self-Skipper a Canalboat

A fabulous way to experience the Erie Canal is to rent an easy-to-operate Lockmaster canalboat and really explore at your own pace. Mid-Lakes Navigation has a full fleet of boats – completely outfitted with galleys and showers and even bikes and BBQ gear – that range in size. You are given a complete orientation on how to drive the boat and navigate through the locks (the most fun) and the boats have excellent radio controls (which you need that to get the lift operators to raise the bridges). You feel like a real explorer.

This year, they have added a new boat, the Harriet H. Wiles, which offers a/c, a queen-size bed in master suite, large master bath, flat screen TV/DVD player, microwave and coffee maker among its amenities.

Mid-Lakes also offers Cruise and Dine programs on its own boats on the Erie Canal and on Skaneateles Lake.

Contact Mid-Lakes Navigation, 11 Jordan St., Skaneateles, NY 13152-0061, 800-545-4318, www.midlakesnav.com, info@midlakesnav.com.

See:

Journey by boat and bike along the Erie Canal: Macedon-Fairport-Pittsford and slideshow

Erie Canal journey by boat, bike: Exploring canaltowns from Pittsford to Albion and slideshow

Erie Canal journey: Albion-Medina bikeride is most scenic, illuminating and slideshow

Erie Canal journey by boat and bike: Palmyra, ‘Queen of Canal Towns’ and slideshow

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For Mothers Day, Give the Gift of Travel: Here are 8 ‘Bucket List’ Adventures Sure to Thrill

This Mother’s Day, you can fulfill a bucket list wish of giving the gift of travel to Iceland, Land of Fire and Ice © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
This Mother’s Day, you can fulfill a bucket list wish of giving the gift of travel to Iceland, Land of Fire and Ice © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This Mother’s Day, spice things up by giving her the gift of travel. Travel expert Adam York has selected eight bucket list adventures that span the spectrum of Moms, but are sure to make this the most epic Mother’s Day ever.

  1. Nicaragua Escape– Retreat to a tranquil hideaway overlooking the white sands beaches of the Pacific Ocean at Aqua Wellness Resort. Mom will enjoy two days in charming Granada City where she will kayak, volcano hike, and zip-line, before heading to her exceptional beachfront retreat. She will relax, play, and decompress in a beautiful rainforest setting.
  2. Alaska Northern Lights – Join Gondwana EcoTours on a Northern Lights tour of Alaska. Mom will get a dose of local culture by day, and by night have the opportunity to photograph the Aurora Borealis under the massive Alaskan sky! She will zip between snow-covered trees on the back of a dog-sled, soak in the mineral-rich waters of geothermal hot springs, walk through the frozen art of an ice-sculpture museum, and sip martinis out of glasses made of ice.
  3. Argentina Wine + Photo Adventure– Mom will join renowned Argentine photographer, teacher, and documentary filmmaker, Ossian Lindholm, on the first-ever photography + high-altitude wine tour of Northwest Argentina. This is a magical journey that is perfect for photographers and wine lovers of all levels. Mom will be immersed in the region’s geography, wildlife, cuisine, and culture.
  4. Barge Cruise through France– Fine wines, delicious cuisine, and a leisurely approach to the enjoyment of each day await Mom on a barge cruise down France’s picturesque waterways. From the rolling vineyards of Burgundy to the tree-lined Canal du Midi in the Languedoc region, Frontiers International Travel’s selection of handpicked vessels provide a range of options suitable for anyone in search of a unique holiday with like-minded people.
  5. Moscow, the Golden Ring and St. Petersburg– Mom will discover where Russian art, architecture and culture began. In between the urban centers of Moscow and St. Petersburg, she’ll experience the Russian countryside. The oldest and loveliest churches in Russia, Sergiev Posad’s wooden crafts, and Fedoskino’s glowing lacquer boxes all put a shine on Russia’s Golden Ring that Mom will never forget.  
  6. Cycle Villages of Provence – Take Mom on Ride & Seek’s Provence cycling tour through the most beautiful villages of France as ordained by the group Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. This tour emphasizes authentic cuisine and local wines. There is a wonderful correlation between fine wine growing areas and world-class cycling.
  7. Dude Ranch Retreat– The 25,000 acre Red Reflet Ranch in Ten Sleep, Wyoming is both working ranch and luxury resort. Mom will hike, ride horses, skeet shoot, fly fish, mountain bike, dine on gourmet food, and play cowgirl on this fun-filled getaway.  From cattle drives to branding, the true western lifestyle thrives at Red Reflet.
  8. Diamond Circle Tour of Iceland– The land of fire and ice, active volcanoes and glaciers! Countless geysers, hot pots, and fumaroles dot the landscape. These unique features create a landscape filled with incredible waterfalls, lakes, mountains and stories of trolls and elves. On this six-day trip, Mom will travel by 4WD car from Reykjavik through the Skagafjordur Region to see the highlights of the Diamond Circle in the north, and return to Reykjavik by plane.

 

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Celebrate National Bike Month This May with Amgen Cyclists, Beach Cruising and Mountain Biking in Morro Bay CA

The quaint seaside town of Morro Bay, CA is a perfect place to celebrate National Bike Month. Download the Morro Bay Bike Map and you are on your way (PRNewsFoto/Morro Bay Tourism Bureau)
The quaint seaside town of Morro Bay, CA is a perfect place to celebrate National Bike Month. Download the Morro Bay Bike Map and you are on your way (PRNewsFoto/Morro Bay Tourism Bureau)

May is National Bike Month, and the quaint seaside town of Morro Bay, CA is a perfect place to celebrate! This bicycle friendly town, honored as such by the League of American Bicyclists, offers year round cycling, mountain biking and beach cruising in an absolutely gorgeous seaside setting. Amgen Tour of California agrees that Morro Bay is a perfect stop for cyclists on Highway 1 and chose the quaint town for stage 4 of this year’s Tour de France-style cycling road race on May 18. If you want to see just how beautiful the terrain is, check out this fun video of biking around Morro Bay, including great footage of the new Morro Bay Bike Park. The BMX-style bike park, the only official course of its kind in San Luis Obispo County, is open from sunrise to sunset and is free to riders of all ages.

Morro Bay makes it easy for cyclers to get around town, offering a detailed Bike Route Map that highlights the towns many bicycle friendly trails. Begin your cycling adventure in downtown and ride to Morro Bay State Park and Marina on the Back Bay. From there, travel to North Morro Bay over the newly opened Morro Creek Trail Bridge through Cloisters Park, and down to the Embarcadero where you can ride the Harbor Walk path out to the iconic Morro Rock. From the Rock, pedal down onto the beach and enjoy miles of bike friendly paths along the gorgeous Pacific shoreline. Didn’t bring your bicycle with you? Not to worry. Surreys, bicycles and beachcombers are available for rent at Farmer’s Kites and Surreys located on the Embarcadero.

“Morro Bay is recognized as a Bicycle Friendly town and we are so proud of the miles of beaches, paths, trails and bridges we have that connect the entire town, and showcase all there is to see and do here,” explains Brent Haugen, Morro Bay Tourism Bureau Executive Director. “And now this May the Amgen Tour of California is going to put an international spotlight on Morro Bay, showing the breathtaking beauty found biking, cycling and beach cruising right here in Morro Bay. We couldn’t be happier!”

Plan your trip to Morro Bay now and celebrate National Bike Month in style by visiting www.morrobay.org.

 

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Wildland Adventures Introduces 3 New Tours to Myanmar for 2016

This mystery realm known as Myanmar (Burma) is a must-visit-now destination, says Kurt Kutay, founder and owner of Wildland Adventures.
This mystery realm known as Myanmar (Burma) is a must-visit-now destination, says Kurt Kutay, founder and owner of Wildland Adventures.

SEATTLE, WA– Myanmar today is a most curious place. Driving through the countryside visitors see farmers working their water buffalo in fields nestled beneath hills covered in pagodas and experience first-hand day in and day out the effects of Buddhism that permeate this long hidden culture.

This mystery realm known as Myanmar (Burma) is a must-visit-now destination, says Kurt Kutay, founder and owner of Wildland Adventures. He gives three reasons. First, decades of self-imposed isolationism stalled globalization, thus preserving here a throwback Asia. Second, Myanmar has transformed itself to a democratically elected and installed government and now welcomes the outside world. Third, Myanmar is one of the safest countries in the world to travel to now and exemplifies a peaceful and friendly population.

Known for blazing new trails in adventure travel, Wildland Adventures (http://www.wildland.com/) is introducing three new itineraries that explore Myanmar in 2016. In keeping with a 30-year custom of exploring worlds afar in style, these tours delve deeper into daily life and sacred sites than simply posing at a monument. In line with Wildland’s founding ethos three decades ago, the company supports community based projects across the country that are run by locals from among its 135 eclectic ethnic groups creating intimate interactions for their travelers with the Burmese people.

“While visiting iconic sites we take roads less traveled to meet local people, hear their personal stories, and see how we can help them improve their lives after the military junta. For example, we bike between the colonial-era hill town of Kalaw and Inle Lake. We experience the drama that is Bagan on foot and from the air,” Kutay explains.  “Whether chatting with a local Shan farmer in Northern Shan state, or with villagers in the countryside in Yandabo on the banks of the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady), or with an Intha woman showing how to make traditional foods in her house on stilts on the lake, it’s always about making a connection and understanding Myanmar by getting to know its people.”

Kutay promises that his guests will be stunned by the time capsule they explore as they stroll through Shan and Kayin villages, bike around Mandalay, tour a pottery-makers’ village, awaken to the sounds and scents of local markets coming to life, bathe elephants in the river, gaze in awe at the fabled temple field of Bagan, and circumnavigate on foot the 2,500-year-old Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon (Rangoon) with Buddhist pilgrims.

Here are sketches of Wildland’s three new trips to Myanmar

Mystical Myanmar is a 13-day journey from $4,415 per person, double, that discovers Myanmar’s mystical depths revealed in timeless rural life where few travelers venture. On this easy active adventure guests walk amongst hill tribe villages, kayak on Inle Lake, cycle down rural roads, trek through the jungle to an elephant conservation sanctuary and venture into the mountainous states of Mon and Kayin to overnight in Hpa An village. Combining the iconic sites with the unknown, guests explore the vast complex of temples at Bagan and visit three of Myanmar’s most sacred sites: Golden Rock Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, Shwedagon Pagoda and Mahamuni.

Myanmar: Highlights of a Golden Land is a 15-day journey from $4,650 per person, double. Unique to this tour, at the conclusion of an active pursuit of Myanmar’s cultural classics, guests unwind for a day and overnight at Ngapali Beach, a resort situated in a fishing village on the Bay of Bengal. Here guests will be loathe to leave a country that has imbedded memories of a hot air balloon adventure over the Bagan temples, bicycle rides through small villages, riding the rails across the countryside and boating along waterways, sipping tea with the Palaung on tea plantations in Shan State, and marveling at the white and gold of temples shimmering in the dusky light.

Myanmar Family Adventure is a 10-day journey from $3,440 per person, double. Picture the kids bathing elephants, on bicycle rides, soaring in a hot air balloon adventure, taking a jeep safari to discover hidden temples straight out of Indiana Jones, walking through dense jungles to tribal villages and always meeting families and hearing their stories.

In addition to helping support local guides and community-based tourism services like boutique hoteliers and local restaurant entrepreneurs who interface with Wildland’s guests, the company contributes to building much-needed water wells in the dry zone. Through the generous contributions from previous travelers, three wells (and counting) have already been built in these remote villages just since the start of 2015. See: http://www.wildland.com/destinations/asia/myanmar-(-burma-)/givingback.aspx

Rated by National Geographic Adventure as the #1 Best ‘Doitall’ Outfitter on Earth and Fodor’s as one of the Worlds Best Tour Specialists, Wildland Adventures offers more than 150 unique itineraries on 6 continents in 38 countries.

For more information Wildland Adventures’ worldwide programs, availability and reservations call 1-800-345-4453, email info@wildland.com, or visit http://www.wildland.com/.
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BikeTours Launches ‘Gold Star Tour Collection’: 16 ‘stellar experiences, exceptional values’

Biking on the Danube Bike Trail, one of 16 “stellar experiences at exceptional value” in BikeTour.com’s Gold Star Tour Collection © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Biking on the Danube Bike Trail, one of 16 “stellar experiences at exceptional value” in BikeTour.com’s Gold Star Tour Collection © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

CHATTANOOGA, TN– BikeTours.com has announced its new “Gold Star Tour Collection” to highlight its top picks for bicycle tours around the world that stand out for their exceptional experiences and value.

The Collection features 16 cycling vacations across the globe, from popular bike tour destinations in Europe like Croatia and Spain to off­the­beaten path locales such as Burma/Myanmar. Tours were carefully selected from more than 450 tours the company offers in 70 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas.

“These tours are our gold standard ­ the best of the best,” said Jim Johnson, president and founder of BikeTours.com. “These trips have been carefully selected after years of partnership with local operators for their superior quality of service, unique experiences afforded to the traveler, and exceptional value.”

Picks for Every Level of Bike Traveler 

The collection is divided into categories for three types of travelers: leisurely, novice, and experienced.

For example, tours for novices include the perennial European favorite, the “Danube Bike Path (Service Plus),” which features easy cycling on a dedicated bike path and lots of client services like a GPS console and cell phone rental. “Cotswolds and Stonehenge” was selected for well­-designed, off­-the-­beaten-­path routes, as well as its exceptional client service and iconic itinerary.

For leisure cyclists, “Cycling and Cooking in Tuscany” made the list thanks to its unique focus on Tuscan culinary arts (including multiple cooking classes and tastings and range of dining experiences), high­ quality rental bikes, and outstanding traveler feedback. “Wine and Bike in Hungary’s Balaton Uplands” was chosen for its wonderful and friendly local guides who offer an inside experience into Hungary.

Picks for more experienced cyclists include “Tastes and Trails of Scotland,” a mountain bike tour that takes riders to some of the most remote corners of the west coast in Scotland and “Chile’s Lake and Volcano District,” which features food, culture, and great service in South America.

See the complete Gold Star Tour Collection https://www.biketours.com/gold-star-collection

BikeTours.com represents more than 100 local tour companies worldwide. A team of tour advisers helps travelers choose, plan, book, and go on the tour of their dreams. Learn more at www.biketours.com877.462.2423.

 

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Champion Jen Hudak to Lead Chasing Epic’s Women-Only Park City Mountain Bike Tour

Chasing Epic, a trailblazing mountain bike company, is  inviting intermediate and experienced female riders on three remaining dedicated, all-inclusive, all-women weekends.
Chasing Epic, a trailblazing mountain bike company, is inviting intermediate and experienced female riders on three remaining dedicated, all-inclusive, all-women weekends.

BOULDER, CO– One of many things that sets trailblazing mountain bike company Chasing Epic apart are trip leaders chosen from the best racers, riders and overall outdoor athletes in the United States to show mountain bike guests the best trails in the West. Now Chasing Epic is welcoming Jen Hudak, a former two-time World Champion and five-time X-Games medalist skier as a new trip leader for a Sept. 16-19, 2016, Women Only 4-day trip in Park City, UT.

Jen Hudak, a former two-time World Champion and five-time X-Games medalist skier, will be the trip leader for Chasing epic’s Sept. 16-19, 2016, Women Only 4-day mountain biking trip in Park City, UT.
Jen Hudak, a former two-time World Champion and five-time X-Games medalist skier, will be the trip leader for Chasing epic’s Sept. 16-19, 2016, Women Only 4-day mountain biking trip in Park City, UT.

Now retired from skiing, Jen has transitioned into competitive mountain biking, already placing on the podium in such prestigious events like the Downieville Classic, Scott Enduro Cup, and the Sundance Utah Downhill Series. She is also racing competitively on the 2016 North American Enduro Tour.

When not sharing her passion for the mountains with others through coaching, organizing group rides and writing on her blog, http://jenhudak.com/, she works in marketing in Park City and mentors young girls’ mountain biking through the Little Bellas program. She has also coached multiple women-only camps over the last several years.

Chasing Epic, the company that is changing how vacationing mountain bikers experience the best trails in the Western US, thinks it’s high time for women to have their own dedicated weekend mountain bike adventures.

Chasing Epic invites intermediate and experienced female riders on three remaining dedicated, all-inclusive, all-women weekends. In addition to the September program in Utah which Jen will be leading, the others include an outing in Fruita Oct. 21-23 and Crested Butte, CO on Aug. 12-15. Female participants just need to be reasonably experienced and pack a helmet, shoes and appetite for epic single track adventure. See: http://chasingepicmtb.com/women-only/

“Chasing Epic is excited to offer multiple Women-Only trips throughout the year that are led by women, for women. We work with an elite roster of accomplished, fun-loving and inspiring female guides to bring you a long weekend of instruction and classic mountain biking,” said Steve Mokan, the company’s founder and owner. He is a long-time Colorado mountain biker and a veteran of the adventure sports world. “We’ll be riding some of the most incredible trails, both known and off the radar in these two iconic destinations.”

He suggests that three-and four-day mountain bike outings over long weekends that mix up riding, hiking and team building surrounded by beautiful scenery are the new way to ride and vacation at the same time.

Strategically, Chasing Epic’s trips don’t force out the inner cave girl around a tented campsite. Instead comfortable lodging accommodations are selected to represent the character of the location being explored and also for the comfort, privacy and intimacy they provide.

Chasing Epic trips are all-inclusive and rates include accommodations, hearty meals, high-end demo bikes (an all-carbon demo bike fleet includes Ibis Mojo HD3s, Ibis Ripley LS 29ers, and Niner Jet 9 29ers), local guides conversant with the terrain, customized eight-week pre-trip training programs, best-in-class ride nutrition, shuttles and lift tickets, gratuities and a dedicated on-site trip leader to help control gear mashers.

Women’s only trips begin at $1,250 per person double for a four-day outing and $950 per person double for a three day trip.

On the premise that “the less you suffer on the climbs, the more you’ll enjoy the descents,” Mokan has engaged coaching platform companies Training Peaks and Through the Wall Training to customize individualized training programs (valued at up to $400) for eight weeks prior to departure.

He emphasizes that custom trips can be designed to a specific group’s abilities and desires. “At Chasing Epic, we pride ourselves on putting together itineraries of only the best trail systems in each location. You’ll be on uncrowded singletrack from start to finish.”

Chasing Epic is a new adventure travel company (founded in 2016) that aims to raise the bar and set new standards in the mountain bike community. The focus is on offering experienced intermediate to advanced-level mountain bikers fully all-inclusive, locally guided mountain bike trips where everybody wants to ride — the Western US – and when everybody has time – over long weekends. Guests just need to be fit and pack a helmet, shoes and appetite for epic single track action.  Each tour includes lodging, meals, high-end bikes, local guides, customized eight-week training programs, best-in-class ride nutrition, shuttles, lift tickets, gratuities and a dedicated on-site trip leader.

For reservations and information visit http://chasingepicmtb.com/ or email steve@chasingepicmtb.com or phone 303.949.3933.
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Self-Guided Cycling Vacations Offer Excellent Value But Buyer Beware, says Bike Tour Pioneer

Bike tour pioneer Loren Siekman of Pure Adventures offers tips on choosing a self-guided cycling vacation.
Bike tour pioneer Loren Siekman of Pure Adventures offers tips on choosing a self-guided cycling vacation.

SCOTTSDALE, AZ –Bike tour pioneer Loren Siekman of Pure Adventures claims to have been the first to introduce the concept of self-guided cycling vacation in 1994, in response to a growing demand from North American travelers for independent yet professionally supported active travel.

Since then, he says, the marketplace has been crowded with competitors, many of whom offer packages that are deficient in one way or another. While, according to Siekman, competition creates awareness, all offers are not created equal, underscores the founder and owner of Pure Adventures.

“The result for the consumer can be disappointing, at a minimum,” says Siekman, “We started in the 1990s with a Euro model tour and adapted it for the North American traveler.  We added more support like arrival orientations, raised the quality of hotels, built easy-to-understand navigation tools, included local experiences and significantly raised the quality of equipment. We tell customers that our self-guided tours are just like a guided trip in terms of quality and services but without the hassle of fixed travel dates, minimum group participation or strange trip mates to put up with. Our clients are always connected to us remotely, even though there’s no guide and sag vehicle on the horizon.”

Pure Adventures’ original version of self-guided is about half the cost of a guided trip, averaging $1,400 per person for a seven-night trip. A typical guided European cycling trip starts at 2,800.

But it’s buyer beware when looking at the preponderance of self-guided programs out there, advises Siekman.

“For example, in Europe, many local outfitters like to set fixed departure dates to maximize group numbers and lower their costs for luggage handling. Sometimes luggage transfers aren’t even included in trip prices. Navigation tools also vary from company to company from non-existent to high tech,” adds Siekman.

Questions that he suggests should be asked include; “How thoroughly researched are opportunities for cultural experiences? What is the quality of lodging and what meals are included?  How new are the bikes and equipment and what are the qualifications of the people maintaining them?”

Pure Adventures recommends that consumers create their own matrix of inclusions and then do a comparison study. To consider are:

  • Freedom to choose travel dates and customize the itinerary to their needs
  • Local support – what is it, who is it, and what can be expected?  Meet and greet, telephone support throughout the trip, transportation if needed, arrival and departure transfers, any back stop for bad weather, sickness, or other unforeseen circumstances like mechanical breakdowns?
  • Rental equipment and navigation tools – what is included, or how much extra is it and what support is provided?  What technology is available and how tech savvy must the user be to easily utilize it?
  • Lodging – an important area of scrutiny; be sure to look at ratings and seasonality, room category, group discounts, meals on site and what level menu, three course or five course?
  • Responsive – in the off season it’s easy to get email responses or phone calls, but what about when it is high season?  Is there a dedicated agent assigned and available to accommodate your needs and time restraints?
  • Language, insurance, licenses, recourse, payment conditions, and so on.

“Our self-guided biking and hiking tours are truly the best value, situated between a fully supported and date-limited guided trip and a do-it-yourself option. On our trips, you travel on your own terms with all the help and support needed letting you focus on what matters most – enjoying your vacation,” Siekman goes on to explain.  “Our company never cancels on its clients and can put trips together at the 11th hour in most of our destinations.”

Self-Guided Cycling Tours in North America include California, Colorado, and Arizona and just new in 2016 is Quebec. Pure Adventures also offers self-guided programs in 16 different countries throughout Europe.

The Beginner’s Guide to Self-Guided Cycling Adventure Holidays, a new e-book by Pure Adventures’ founder Loren Siekman, explores the reasons behind the growth in self-guided cycling, the differences behind different types of cycling holidays and how to choose a self-guided holiday tour operator (including a list of where to research tour companies). Short and to the point, this free e-book is an unbiased starting point for cyclists who have been on guided tours and feel ready for a more adventurous holiday experience.

For more information on all of Pure Adventures guided, self-guided and supported, self-directed tours, call: 800-960-2221 or 480-905-1235, Email: info@pure-adventures.com, or visit online: http://pure-adventures.com.

About Pure Adventures
Pure Adventures was created to meet North America’s growing demand for high-quality, self-guided cycling tours. Pure Adventures leverages and utilizes local expertise for route development, sites to see, people to meet, where to eat, and shop and experience life as a local would. Pure Adventures award-winning tours are competitively priced and meticulously planned with substantial behind-the-scene support creating a unique combination that makes a bicycle adventure more easily accessible to today’s active traveler.

This company pioneered self-guided tours in Europe in 1994. Tours span Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, and Switzerland. Twenty programs are available in the American West.

Pure Adventures was recently recognized with a Best of Travel 2015 award by OUTSIDE Magazine for their California tours that elevated that state to the top destination in the category of Best Road Biking.

  

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Iceland’s Secret Solstice Festival Announces World’s Most Expensive Festival Ticket: A Cool $1 Million

The ultimate festival experience is Reykjavík, Iceland’s Secret Solstice Festival, held over the summer solstice with almost round-the-clock sunlight.
The ultimate festival experience is Reykjavík, Iceland’s Secret Solstice Festival, held over the summer solstice with almost round-the-clock sunlight.

The ultimate festival experience, Reykjavík, Iceland’s Secret Solstice Festival, held over the summer solstice with almost round-the-clock sunlight, made headlines in 2015 for offering up a $200,000 festival ticket for only two people – at the time, the most expensive festival ticket on Earth. Obviously intent on outdoing themselves, they’ve gone all-out in 2016 with a festival ticket that’s now on sale for the princely sum of $1 million USD. And no, that’s not a typo. (Keep reading to learn how you can get much more affordable access pass.)

For the $1 million, you get a return flight in a private business jet from anywhere on the planet for you and five other guests, 24/7 access to two private luxury cars (including drivers and security) for a week in Iceland, two private concerts by prominent Icelandic musicians, helicopter transfers, complete access to the main Secret Solstice 2016 event, a private aerial tour of Iceland, access to the world’s first (and already sold out) concert inside the dormant magma chamber of a volcano, access to the world’s only party inside a glacier, private access to Iceland’s world-famous Blue Lagoon reserved for only your travel party, and so much more.

The international music festival is already boasting some world-class names on their general bill, though there will be two performances that only the purchaser of this ultra-premium ticket will be able to attend.

Part of the million-dollar ticket are two private performances during the buyer’s time in Iceland, by two different prominent Icelandic acts. Although both artist’s names are yet to be announced, one will entail an intimate show at the Reykjavík residence in which the guests will be staying, the other being a special show in the middle of an Icelandic lava field, of course with helicopter transfers to the location.

The festival states more will be announced before the event, though here is what’s currently listed as being included in the world’s most expensive festival ticket:

  • Private chartered business jet (Gulfstream G300 or similar) return to Iceland from any destination on Earth for 6 people
  • 24/7 access to two luxury cars, personal drivers, and private security for the entire week in Iceland
  • Luxury 6-room villa for 7 nights in the center of Reykjavík over the Secret Solstice 2016 festival week
  • Exclusive admittance to Secret Solstice 2016, including chaperoned access to off-limits areas of the festival site where possible
  • Access to the sold out Secret Solstice presents Inside The Volcano event, the world’s first concert inside a volcano over the Secret Solstice 2016 weekend, including helicopter transfers from Reykjavík
  • Private viewing areas for all major acts at Secret Solstice 2016, where possible
  • Access to the private VIP artists bar on the festival site, only accessible by main stage artists and super-VIP guests
  • The world famous Blue Lagoon reserved privately for an evening for the ticket purchasers and their invited guests, plus helicopter transfers for the ticketholders to the Blue Lagoon from Reykjavík
  • Access to the sold out Secret Solstice presents Inside The Glacier event, the world’s only event inside Langjökull glacier, including. helicopter transfers from Reykjavík
  • Access to the Secret Lagoon party in a 120+ year-old geothermal lagoon (Iceland’s oldest), including helicopter transfers from Reykjavík
  • Access to Secret Solstice 2016’s Midnight Sun Boat Party
  • Private concert outside Reykjavík by prominent Icelandic act in a lava field, including helicopter transfers to the location
  • Private show at the guests’ holiday residence in Iceland by prominent Icelandic act
  • Private half-day Icelandic nature helicopter tour, to experience Iceland’s incredible natural sights from the air, with champagne lunch at a geothermal hotspot
  • Personal engraved and framed memorial ticket for each guest, made from Icelandic lava rock
  • 24/7 access to personal assistants during your stay in Iceland
  • Private Icelandic dining experience with a prominent Icelandic chef personal chef at your holiday residence on a chosen night during your stay
  • Private Icelandic food experiences on site at Secret Solstice 2016 on request
  • Introductions where possible to Secret Solstice 2016 artists
  • All food/drinks at Secret Solstice 2016, including hyper-premium drinks
  • Private whale & dolphin watching tour
  • Private airplane day tour over Iceland’s south coast, including Vatnajökull glacier and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
  • Midnight sun glacier walk on top of a glacier in Iceland with the sun still up after midnight, including helicopter transfers from Reykjavík, and a private glacier snowmobile experience
  • Private tours of any additional Icelandic holiday/tourist experiences where possible, with time permitting

Despite the extraordinary nature of the million dollar festival ticket Secret Solstice is offering, the event itself is already extremely special. Held over the summer solstice weekend in Iceland, the sun never fully sets over the entire event weekend, due to Iceland’s close proximity to the Arctic Circle. The incredible never-ending daylight has already resulted in the four-day event being called the most unique festival on Earth by several media outlets.

Of course, more reasonably-priced tickets are on sale for people with more modest budgets, starting at 24,900 Icelandic krona (approx. £143/$202/€177) for a full festival pass, or 34,900 Icelandic krona (approx. £200/$283/€249) for a VIP pass to the entire event.

Full details on the world’s most expensive festival ticket can be found at secretsolstice.is.

Secret Solstice 3 Day Passes, VIP, Camping and special side event tickets are on sale now at secretsolstice.is, while supplies last!

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OARS 2016 California Whitewater Forecast: Best in Five Years

Thanks to a good snowpack, California whitewater forecast is looking like an outstanding season—the best in five years.
Thanks to a good snowpack, California whitewater forecast is looking like an outstanding season—the best in five years.

Angels Camp, Calif. — It’s been five years since river guides have seen a solid snowpack in California and there has been any kind of buzz about whitewater rafting. But based on the most recent snow survey, and just one year after the driest winter ever recorded in California history, O.A.R.S. is excited to release the best California whitewater forecast in five years.

“There’s no doubt that this will be the best season we’ve seen since 2010 and 2011,” O.A.R.S.’ California Manager and longtime river guide, Chris Moore, said. “We’re especially excited about the opportunity to run the North Fork of the Stanislaus and the North Fork of the American rivers this year, as well as high-water on the Tuolumne. It’s going to be the experience of a lifetime.”

The April 1 surveys reported near normal snowpack totals in the Northern and Central Sierra, a remarkable improvement from the last four years. Statewide, the Department of Water Resources reported that water content of the mountain snowpack is at 87 percent of the historical average—and anything above 85 percent snowpack in the Sierra amounts to outstanding whitewater rafting. To put that in perspective, last year’s statewide snowpack water content was only 5 percent of the historical April 1 average.

WHAT TO EXPECT THIS YEAR ON CALIFORNIA’S SIGNATURE WHITEWATER RIVERS:

  • In early April, whitewater enthusiasts will be watching the flow gauges, hoping for a rare opportunity to raft the coveted North Fork of the Stanislaus River into Calaveras Big Trees State Park. This Class IV+ river is one of the most exciting rafting trips in the state, but it’s only available while the low-elevation snow is melting in early spring. Press ready photos here.
  • The emerald-green Class IV North Fork of the American River near Auburn—one of the classic free-flowing Sierra runs—is expected to have good flows through April and possibly into May. Press ready photos here.
  • Another free-flowing spring run, the Merced River outside of Yosemite offers Class III-IV roller coaster thrills and is expected to run through mid-June this year. At high water, the Merced serves up 10-foot waves, rivaling the Grand Canyon, and boatloads of fun.
  • Expect elevated flows on the Tuolumne River near Yosemite at least through the end of May with reliable water all summer long on this iconic Class IV river. With 18 miles of nearly continuous whitewater running through a pristine wilderness canyon and 1-, 2-, and 3-day options available, “The T” is a must-do California rafting trip. Press ready photos here.
  • On the South Fork of the American near Sacramento, California’s most popular whitewater rafting river, upstream reservoirs are at capacity and forecasters anticipate good flows at least 6 days per week through Labor Day with up to 4 days per week in September. A great river for families with kids as young as 7-years-old, but expect higher flows and increased minimum age requirements on the South Fork through Memorial Day, as this is a completely different river at higher flows and a guaranteed thrill ride. Press ready photos here.
  • The dam-released Class IV Middle Fork of the American River near Auburn should be in play 6 or 7 days per week from Memorial Day through Labor Day with a more limited schedule through the end of September. The Middle Fork’s notorious Tunnel Chute Rapid, is a must-do this year.

 

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Travel Companies Join White House Effort To Fight Wildlife Trafficking

Natural Habitat Adventures joined other founding members of the US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance for meetings at the White House to share commitments and discuss how to work with the Obama Administration to communicate the seriousness of the wildlife trafficking crisis, change consumer buying behavior and reduce demand for illegal wildlife products in the U.S.
Natural Habitat Adventures joined other founding members of the US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance for meetings at the White House to share commitments and discuss how to work with the Obama Administration to communicate the seriousness of the wildlife trafficking crisis, change consumer buying behavior and reduce demand for illegal wildlife products in the U.S.

BOULDER, CO— Natural Habitat Adventures joined other founding members of the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance for meetings at the White House on April 4 to share commitments and discuss how to work with the Obama Administration to communicate the seriousness of the wildlife trafficking crisis, change consumer buying behavior and reduce demand for illegal wildlife products in the U.S.

Hosted by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell along with representatives of the White House and State Department, the gathering included nonprofit leaders such as WWF President Carter Roberts, as well as corporate executives from Google, eBay, Etsy, Discovery Communications, Tiffany & Co., Ralph Lauren, Royal Caribbean, Jet Blue, the Adventure Travel Trade Association and others.

Wildlife trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar industry centered on the killing of endangered and threatened species to produce illegal products made from ivory, snake skins, furs and other animal parts. Demand from American businesses and consumers has a tremendous influence on whether lions, elephants, pangolins and other at-risk species will become extinct within our lifetime.

“Frankly, I didn’t realize we still had an illegal wildlife trade problem here in the U.S. — this common misperception was a recurrent theme at the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance’s White House gathering,” said Nat Hab’s Ted Martens, Vice President for Marketing and Sustainability.
While many people are familiar with the poaching epidemic in Africa, the perception is that the demand for products such as elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn is limited to the Asian market.  What most people don’t realize is that the United States is second in demand for illegal wildlife products after China.

A 2013 visit to East Africa brought the issue of wildlife crime to the center of President Obama’s priorities.  Through an Executive Order, Obama called on government, nonprofits and the private sector to mobilize behind a joint effort to save at-risk species around the world.  The outcome was the creation of the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance — a broad coalition effort to stop the demand for illegal wildlife products and choke off the supply chains traffickers rely on for access to the U.S. market.

Convened by WWF, National Geographic and other prominent nonprofits that have been active on this issue, the Alliance partners with leading companies in industries where wildlife traffickers try to sell their goods, including jewelry, apparel, e-commerce, and tourism.  Natural Habitat Adventures is proud to be a member of the distinctive group of industry leaders committed to reversing this trend.

“The unique challenge within the tourism industry is that travelers are participating in the black market unknowingly — they are fueling demand for illegal products without realizing that is what they are purchasing. Given the opportunity to choose to buy a souvenir made from an endangered species or one made from a sustainable material, I am confident that 100 percent of our travelers would choose the sustainable material,” explains Martens.

To address this issue, Nat Hab has been working in partnership with WWF to develop educational materials for travelers to guide them when purchasing souvenirs during their travels.  These resources are being integrated into pre-trip materials and distributed to Nat Hab Expedition Leaders to help guide traveler purchasing behaviors during their travels.  Additionally, Nat Hab is working with the Adventure Travel Trade Association to raise awareness of these issues and share best practices with others in the industry.

To learn more about the efforts of the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance to combat the illegal wildlife trade, visit www.uswta.org.

Natural Habitat Adventures is a world leader in responsible adventure travel and nature-based ecotourism. Since its founding in 1985, the company has offered eco-conscious expeditions and wildlife-focused small-group tours to the planet’s most remarkable nature destinations. Inspired and created from years of scouring the planet for the singular and extraordinary, Nat Hab’s itineraries are artfully crafted experiences that are far from “typical.” Trips are guided by professional naturalist Expedition Leaders, and Nat Hab enjoys a longstanding reputation for hiring some of the world’s best guides. Conservation is at the forefront of everything NHA does, and its philosophy is simple: tourism must work with and benefit local communities, which will in turn find value in protecting natural resources and wildlife. NHA is proud to be the travel partner of World Wildlife Fund, sharing a mutual commitment to travel as a means of helping to protect the world’s wondrous natural places.  Nat Hab has donated more than $2 million to WWF and will continue to donate 1% of gross sales plus $100,000 annual through 2018 in support of WWF’s mission.

 

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