Category Archives: experiential travel

Grab a BOGO Deal from TRIPS by Culture Trip During Holiday Sale

Vietnam is one of the destinations offered by Culture Trip © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

TRIPS by Culture Trip is offering a BOGO deal from Nov. 22-Dec. 3, 2021: book a spot on one of their trips and bring someone along for free to places like Scotland, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Italy, Nepal and 20 more destinations.

Travel must take place before May 31, 2022 (the Iceland itinerary in Jan. 2022 is excluded).  All trips available are on a first booked, first served basis. Space is limited and certain conditions apply.

TRIPS by Culture Trip are unique small-group adventures that help people experience extraordinary destinations in unexpected ways, together with other culturally curious travelers. Curated by travel experts and led by Local Insiders, the multi-day adventures offer itineraries that combine immersive activities, hyper-local experiences and unique places to stay. Thoughtfully planned with ample free time to unwind or explore, the itineraries offer the right balance of exploration, action, and relaxation.
 
Some of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that are part of TRIPS by Culture Trip and can be enjoyed with this Black Friday deal:

Welcome to the Jungle: Exploring Northern Thailand
10-day trip from $1,599* per person; based on departures 20 February and 14 April 2022
Watch the sunrise over the highest mountain in Thailand and feed elephants in a sanctuary during this 10-day adventure. Take in Chiang Mai, Pai and the Doi Inthanon National Park and float through a 5,466 ft. cave and watch the sunset over the scenic Pai Canyon. In between jungle trekking and waterfall swims, enjoy a slice of slow living at a geothermal hot springs and savor local Thai delicacies. This off-the-beaten-track journey will showcase an authentic side of the former Lanna Kingdom.

From the Amalfi Coast to Puglia: the Complete Southern Italy Tour
10-day trip from $2,029* per person; based on departures 2 April and 7 May 2022
Discover cliff top villages, secluded beaches and authentic Italian cuisine on this journey across southern Italy. Sample street food in Naples, cruise along the Amalfi Coast on a private boat tour, uncover the secrets of Altamura bread at Il Frantoio and explore the ancient hilltop town of Matera, featured in the latest James Bond movieRound off the trip by relaxing on the secluded beaches of Polignano a Mare and explore the Salento peninsula.

Riches and Ruins: Wine, Dine and Step Back in Time in Rural Georgia
9-day trip from $1,369* per person; based on departures 5 May 2022
Whether hiking in the Caucasus Mountains or whipping up a feast from a farmer’s market, this nine-day journey yields an immersive Georgian experience. Begin in the Old Quarter of Tbilisi and visit UNESCO World Heritage sites at nearby Mtskheta. See the ancient wine-making – and drinking – before exploring Lagodekhi National Park. The spectacular Truso Gorge, a hike up to Gergeti Church and a ramble beyond remote Juta village showcase the best of the High Caucasus. 

La Vida Local in Mexico City
5-day trip from $1,209* per person; based on departures 10 February, 17 March and 14 April 2022
Climb ancient temples in Teotihuacán, watch lucha libre wrestlers in action and toss back mezcal shots on a five-day trip to Mexico City. Stay at the artsy Cadillac Hotel near Roma, before hitting the streets on a walking tour of the Condesa district. Enjoy sizzling meat tacos in Roma, visit Frida Kahlo’s house, then sing with the mariachis floating along the Xochimilco canals.
 
TRIPS by Culture Trip offers over 30 itineraries in some of the world’s most captivating and off-the-grid places, with new itineraries added regularly. TRIPS range from four to 13 days, welcoming a maximum of up to 18 travelers aged 25 and over who can join solo or with friends. With a focus beyond mass-market offerings, the itineraries often put local people at the center and avoid areas of over-tourism as well as unethical activities or wildlife interactions that aren’t in the best interest of the animals.
 
TRIPS by Culture Trip offers its Ultimate COVID Booking Guarantee, so if COVID regulations change a customer’s plans, they can rebook for free (valid for bookings made by Nov. 30, 2021 for travel before Feb. 28, 2022). For bookings outside these dates, no change or cancellation fees are imposed and customers can get a full refund should they need to postpone or cancel a trip up to 30 days prior to departure. All trips have COVID safety measures in place.

Full terms and conditions can be found at:  https://theculturetrip.com/bookable/booking-terms-and-conditions/

To book a TRIPS by Culture Trip Black Friday deal visit culturetrip.com/trips or contact tripssupport@theculturetrip.com or +1 (678) 967-4965

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Global Scavenger Hunt Returns for 2022; Applications to Join now Being Accepted

Team Lazy Monday, Eric & Kathryn Verwillow of California, who would go on to win second place in the 2019 Global Scavenger Hunt, dash out of Petra, Jordan on to their next challenge © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

After a COVID-enforced two-year hiatus, the Global Scavenger Hunt is back in 2022 – an around-the-world travel adventure to crown the “World’s Greatest Travelers.”

Unlike the Amazing Race (which was inspired by the Global Scavenger Hunt), The Global Scavenger Hunt isn’t a race, but rather a contest to amass the most points by doing scavenges designed to immerse you into local culture, heritage and environment of the places you visit.

In the course of 23 days, the teams of two travel to 10 countries, not knowing your next destination until your team is given instructions to get to the airport. You have to figure out how to get around without the benefit of GPS, smartphones or computer. Paper maps are allowed, but asking locals for directions is preferred.

Trusting strangers in strange lands is the shibboleth, as the intrepid travelers circle the globe (which is why you can’t use your own GPS or smartphone). The event has touched down in 85 countries to date.

“We’re thrilled about the growing momentum for travel and are feeling so positive and excited about it, that we have scheduled the takeoff dates for our Spring 2022 event: Wheels up April 22 thru May 14,” writes Event Director Bill Chalmers, who calls himself the “ringmaster.”

“Our last event in 2019 was fully subscribed, and we are currently reserving spots for our 2022 adventure while holding on to our 2019 price structure on all deposits made before December 10th this year.”

(Full disclosure: I was on the 2019 Global Scavenger Hunt.)

The event, which will be the 16th Global Scavengee Hunt, pits savvy international travelers against each other by taking them on A Blind Date with the World, visiting ten secret destinations without any prior preparation, and then have them unravel a constant blitz of highly authentic, participatory and challenging culturally-oriented scavenges along the way.

For example: meditating with monks, training elephants, taking flamenco lessons, cooking local dishes with local chefs, searching out Lost Cities, cracking sacred temple mysteries, joining in local celebrations and learning local languages enough to decipher their scavenger hunt clues. 

The Global Scavenger Hunt is limited to a small group of world travelers. All travelers are interviewed for suitability and single travelers are welcome to apply (you will be paired up for a team).

For additional information visit GlobalScavengerHunt.com, or contact GreatEscape Adventures Inc., at +1.310.281.7809.

See our coverage of our experience on the 2019 Global Scavenger Hunt at goingplacesfarandnear.com

Global Scavenger Hunt: In the Scramble to be Crowned ‘World’s Best Travelers’ 

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Lindblad Expeditions Acquires Duvine Cycling, Off the Beaten Path Adventure Travel Companies

Lindblad Expeditions Holdings, a global provider of expedition cruises and adventure travel experiences has acquired majority stakes in DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co., a leading luxury cycling and adventure travel company, and Off the Beaten Path LLC, a leading active travel operator with a specialization in U.S. national parks. 

NEW YORK– Lindblad Expeditions Holdings, Inc, a global provider of expedition cruises and adventure travel experiences today announced that it has acquired majority stakes in DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co., a leading luxury cycling and adventure travel company, and Off the Beaten Path LLC, a leading active travel operator with a specialization in U.S. National Parks.  These acquisitions further broaden and deepen Lindblad’s platform of high-quality experiential product offerings in robust adventure travel sectors, including the rapidly growing cycling tourism and domestic expedition market.

Similar to the acquisition of Natural Habitat, Inc., Lindblad will leverage its experience and resources to accelerate the growth of these unique and profitable businesses and capitalize on the growing demand for authentic and immersive adventure travel. These best-in-class companies are also united by a focus on nature and sustainability, and will benefit from Lindblad’s and Natural Habitat’s scale, resources, marketing experience and conservation leadership. 

DuVine is an award-winning international luxury cycling and adventure company based in Somerville, Massachusetts focused on providing immersive cultural experiences across the globe through thoughtfully designed itineraries led by expert local guides.  DuVine’s trips include top-quality gear and support and are tailored to riders of all abilities with emphasis on exceptional food and wine experiences, along with boutique accommodations.  DuVine also currently runs a variety of extraordinary trips that combine sail and biking experiences, which will be further expanded as part of Lindblad.  Founded in 1996 by Andy Levine, DuVine’s diverse tour offerings include small group and private custom trips to destinations across Europe, the United States, Latin America, Asia and Africa.  Mr. Levine will retain an ownership interest in DuVine and will continue as President and Chief Executive Officer of the new Lindblad subsidiary.

Off the Beaten Path, based in Bozeman, Montana, offers active small-group and private custom journeys around the world, with a long-standing focus on U.S. National Parks and connecting the heart of the traveler with the soul of the place through localized, authentic experiences.  Founded in 1986, Off the Beaten Path’s small group product offerings include unique expeditions throughout the U.S, as well as trips across Europe, Africa, Australia, Central and South America and the South Pacific.  Cory Lawrence, Off the Beaten Path’s President and Chief Executive Officer, will retain an ownership interest in Off the Beaten Path and continue in this role for the new Lindblad subsidiary.

“Bringing DuVine and Off the Beaten Path into our portfolio of brands will allow us to better serve a broader based clientele that has a diverse set of travel interests”, stated Sven Lindblad, President and CEO of Lindblad Expeditions.  “The high level of quality and integrity of both these companies makes them perfect partners in our strategy of expanding our platform of experiential offerings.  Our proven ability to leverage our platform and effectively cross market creates the opportunity to accelerate growth across our entire portfolio, and we will continue to look for additional opportunities to broaden and deepen our adventure travel offerings, both organically and through acquisitions, to aggregate larger audiences and generate greater lifetime value from our loyal guests.” 

Ben Bressler, Founder and President of Natural Habitat is enthusiastic about the joining of forces. “DuVine offers invigorating experiences in nature for our more active guests, and Off the Beaten Path’s exceptional depth in creating custom U.S. national park adventures will appeal to Nat Hab travelers,” Bressler stated.  “These two companies provide Lindblad and Nat Hab guests a depth of choice for premium life-enhancing travel experiences within a family of complementary brands – all driven by protecting our planet and inspiring travelers.” 

Andy Levine, DuVine’s Founder and President, stated  “I have long admired Lindblad for their exceptional expeditions and commitment to responsible travel, a core value that has also guided DuVine’s philosophy. Our companies share not only a desire to sustain the world’s most compelling cultures and communities, but also the belief that authentic, deeply rooted experiences make travel more fulfilling. DuVine’s journeys offer a new perspective grounded in active travel, local flavor, and an appreciation of nature from the seat of a bicycle. I can’t wait to introduce the transformative power of bike travel to a greater audience of adventure seekers.”

Cory Lawrence, Off the Beaten Path’s President, stated “We couldn’t be more excited to join Lindblad Expeditions and Natural Habitat Adventures to further our mission to change peoples’ lives through exceptional travel experiences. With our unique style of travel, strong domestic presence, and small group and bespoke travel design offerings, we are well-positioned to have immediate impact on the newly expanded family of companies. Expanding awareness of Off the Beaten Path and its unique offerings by leveraging the reach and expertise of both Lindblad and Natural Habitat is a major opportunity for our company in its 35th year of operation. We are thrilled!”

Lindblad Expeditions Holdings, Inc. is an expedition travel company that focuses on ship-based voyages through its Lindblad Expeditions brand and on land-based travel through its subsidiaries, Natural Habitat Adventures, Off the Beaten Path and DuVine Cycling and Adventure.

Lindblad Expeditions works in partnership with National Geographic to inspire people to explore and care about the planet. The organizations work in tandem to produce innovative marine expedition programs and to promote conservation and sustainable tourism around the world. The partnership’s educationally oriented voyages allow guests to interact with and learn from leading scientists, naturalists and researchers while discovering stunning natural environments, above and below the sea, through state-of-the-art exploration tools.

Natural Habitat Adventures partners with the World Wildlife Fund to offer and promote conservation and sustainable travel that directly protects nature. Natural Habitat’s adventures include polar bear tours in Churchill, Canada, Alaskan grizzly bear adventures and African safaris.

DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co. designs and leads luxury bike tours in the world’s most amazing destinations, from Italy’s sun-bleached villages and the medieval towns of Provence to Portugal’s Douro Valley and the vineyards of Napa, California. Guests bike, eat, drink, and sleep their way through these regions and many more while sampling the finest cuisine, hotels, and wine. 

Off the Beaten Path is an outdoor, active travel company offering guided small group adventures and private custom journeys that connect travelers with the wild nature and authentic culture of their destinations.  Off the Beaten Path’s trips extend across the globe, with a focus on exceptional national park experiences in the Rocky Mountains, Desert Southwest, and Alaska.

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Adirondacks Covid Getaway Features Glass-blown Pumpkins in North Creek; ‘Glass Pumpkin Patch’ Weekend, Sept 25-27

While in North Creek (Gore Mt ski area) for an Adirondacks getaway, Marty takes a class with artist-in-residence glassblower Greg Tomb. Last day for classes this season is September 23, 2020. © Laurie Millman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Laurie Millman and Martin Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

For a COVID getaway, which we just did over Labor Day, enjoy fall foliage colors and no quarantining required (if you live in the Northeast) in New York State’s Adirondacks State Park. 

While in North Creek (Gore Mt ski area), visit and/or take a class with artist-in-residence glassblower extraordinaire, Greg Tomb — last day for classes this season is  September 23, 2020.

In cooperation with North Creek’s Tannery Pond Center, Tomb has made hundreds of colorful, glass-blown pumpkins that will be sold at the “Glass Pumpkin Patch” weekend, September 25-27, 2020, from 10am – 6pm daily. Each pumpkin has been hand-blown by Tomb, giving them their unique and distinctive sizes and designs (starting price of $35). A sizable percentage of all sales goes towards the arts and operations of North Creek’s Tannery Pond Center, North Creek, NY.

For more info, visit https://tannerypondcenter.org/event/fundraiser-glass-pumpkin-patch/).

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New Brunswick, Canada, Caters to the “Slow Travel” Mindset with New Experiences for 2020

The border to Canada may be temporarily closed to nonessential travel because of the coronavirus pandemic, but soon enough, people will be looking to escape. The Atlantic Province of New Brunswick, Canada want Americans to know about new experiences available that enable connections to nature, just north of the Maine border.

NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA – Rather than a vacation filled with manic sightseeing and stressful to-do lists, more and more travelers today are slowing down to immerse themselves in a destination. The Atlantic Canada province of New Brunswick, located just north of the Maine border, offers several new experiences that allow travelers to connect with the food, community, and environment at their own relaxed pace.

Here’s what’s new in 2020:

Wilderness Dining

Savour the Caves – On the ocean floor at low tide, a local chef will prepare seasonal cuisine while telling stories about the culture and history of the area. The experience takes place at St. Martins Sea Caves, a section of the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve and Stonehammer UNESCO Global Geopark. Available July 6 and 7, August 3 and 4, 2020, starting at $425 CAD per person.

Cielo Oyster Experiences – In an eco-friendly exploration of Bay Saint-Simon located on the northeastern Acadian peninsula, guests will maneuver standup paddleboards to harvest, shuck, and cook oysters, while learning how to pair them with local products. The experience is available from June 21 through September 25, starting at $85 per person. 

Explore By Foot

Nepisiguit Mi’gmaq Trail – The newly designated park offers a 90-mile hiking trail that follows the Nepisiguit River from the mountains of Mount Carleton Provincial Park in central New Brunswick to the ocean at Daly Point Nature Reserve in Bathurst, and is based on an ancient First Nations travel route. The park is open year-round, but ideal hiking conditions are available between June and October.

Wabanaki Tree Spirit Tour – Embark on a medicine walk through the old growth forest of Odell Park, joining Wabanaki medicine keepers to learn about the history of local plants and trees along with their use as Indigenous medicines, food and in ceremony. The tour is available year-round starting at $200 for four people. A lunch of Three Sisters Soup and Acorn Corn Bread, made with leached acorns and locally grown ancient flint corn, is available for an additional $25 per person after the tour.

Moncton Street Art Mural Walking Tour – The city of Moncton boasts over 32 large-scale contemporary murals from local and international artists, creating an outdoor gallery of street art. Travelers are guided by a curator to learn about these hidden gems on a 1.5-hour walking tour. Available on Saturdays and Sundays starting at $25 CAD per person.

Immersive History

Le Pays de la Sagouine – In a theatrical glimpse into Acadian history, actors and bilingual staff work and live in a 19th century town, allowing guests to visit and explore the music and food of the French settlers’ descendants that occupied the northeastern region of North America. Performances are available throughout 2020; find a full calendar at https://www.sagouine.com/en/.

Tours and Tea with Abigail – At the Historic McAdam Railway Station, guests step into the setting of the beloved children’s book Abigail Massey at McAdam Station, and sip tea with book series characters that are brought to life by costumed staff. Experience available by appointment, starting at $15 per person.

For more information on New Brunswick, visit https://www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/

This project has been made possible through funding provided by the Atlantic Canada Agreement on Tourism (ACAT). ACAT is a nine-member pan-Atlantic initiative comprising the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the four Atlantic Canada Tourism Industry Associations, and the four Provincial Departments responsible for tourism.

For more information on the four provinces, visit these websites or follow New Brunswick on social media:

Web: www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca

Instagram: @DestinationNB

Twitter: @SeeNewBrunswick

Facebook: @DestinationNB

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Been there. Done that. World’s Greatest Travelers List of 8 Epic Travel Adventures for 2020 (Also Known as: The 2020 Travel Bucket List for the Jaded Traveler)

Discovering a village on stilts on Inle Lake, Myanmar during the 2019 Global Scavenger Hunt. Where will they go this year? © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Bill Chalmers & Pamela L. Chalmers, GreatEscape Adventures


Los Angeles, USA – Getting a kick taking an adventure used to be easy: visit South Atlantic’s remote St Helena, scuba dive Mexico’s underground river Cenote, hike up Mount Etna. Been there. 

Nowadays, travelers looking for the next great adventure rush must: traverse Karakorum Highway, spend a night at Everest Base Camp, or swim with jellyfish in Palau. Done that.

But for those of us that: have zip-lined across the Grand Canyon, hiked Tasmania’s Overland Track, and are frankly sick of sand in every orifice after Burning Man. What’s next? 

You may be among the World’s Most Interesting People, but for jaded travelers who have supposedly done everything and have nothing left on their Bucket Lists, here’s your what’s next eight over-the-top adventures from The World’s Greatest Travelers.

1. A long way to go to maybe be eaten alive! But, head to Cape Town, South Africa and go cage diving with Great White sharks. Come face-to-face with the world’s meanest badest coldest predator along the shark-abundant shores of South Africa. You will be sunk in a cage and given a poker stick for protection. Chances are, you’ll be okay. You’ll probably even see whales and dolphins too—being the smart mammals, they are always interested in watching stupid human tricks. 

2. Take A Blind Date with the World – really! – by joining the 2020 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt. This real-life Amazing Race-like event is for savvy globetrotters who want to test their travel IQ in a competitive setting where they will circumnavigate the globe in 23-days visiting ten countries as a participant in the annual travel adventure competition that crowns The World’s Greatest Travelers. Not for anal Type-A planners though, because you won’t know which country you are going to until you actually get to the airport! It’s the ultimate magical mystery tour. Their 2020 event takes place between April 17 and May 9, 2020. Applications now being accepted. I dare you…

3. Bike from sea-to-sea across a country. No, not across Canada (9,525+ km), but the more manageable country of Nicaragua that is only 568 km (352 miles) from the Pacific Ocean’s San Juan del Sur to Pearl Lagoon on the Atlantic Ocean side. The amazing 13-day mountain bike expedition will take you to volcanos, colonial towns, national parks, rainforests and lakes, as you share the road with trucks, cows, horses, pigs, and chickens. Do it now before the Chinese slice the nation in two ala Panama!

4. For the culinary daredevil in you, while you are in the geographic neighborhood, take in the wild-west of food: a pop-up jungle-to-table extravaganza in the Bolivian Amazon basin along the Beni River. Once every few years, local “back to nature” chefs converge to prepare exotic semi-illegal outside the villages dishes like: crocodile fillets in a coca leaf broth, grilled giant tapir meat served with a cocktail of fermented kecho fruit and cacao beans with a spicy chili pepper twist, paiche (a really big fish—a carp really) served with figs and spicy-sweet beetle larvae. They might also conjure up a purplish fungue—that may or may not have hallucinogenic effects, along with steamed giant river turtles. Caiman sushi anyone?

5. I took this serendipity challenge last year and ended up in Madagascar—pre-plague outbreak. Take the 24-Hours to Anywhere Challenge: It is our belief that with today’s growth of regional air carriers that you can be anywhere in the world in 24-hours. So, pick a destination furthest away geographically from you and attempt to get there in 24-hours. On a bet, I recently went from the San Francisco Bay Area to Antananarivo, Madagascar—17,599 kilometers away! SFO to IST (12:55 hours), then IST-ADD (5:30 hours), followed by a flight between Ethiopia (ADD) and Madagascar (TNR) (4:50 hours). I got to Madagascar in 23 hours and 41 minutes—but I did do it on the night we changed clocks! Tip: Bring a really good multi-media playlist.

6. We humans have gazed in wonder at the night skies before words hit paper; and you don’t have to be an astrophysicist to wonder what’s up. Nigh-sky travel (aka astrotourism) are great adventures to take. We suggest two spellbinding panoramas to be found: 1) Head to the Canary Islands international observatory at Roque de los Muchachos on La Palma for some sensational light pollution-free heavenly viewing. Or 2) for some really deep dark-sky space stargazing at a gold-certified Dark Sky Reserve, head to NamibRand Nature Reserve in Namibia where you can sleep out under the cloudless skies of Africa for a look at infinity…or at least some amazing celestial sights. 

7. With age comes experience, and over the years we have suggested how to get higher highs: a lost weekend at an infamous Vegas dive bar, visiting a Bolivian pop-up cocaine bar, a Laotian opium den and how best to enjoy Peruvian ayahuasca. For this year’s vibe adventure, forget BC Bud, Emerald Triangle Kush and Colorado Wedding Cake, take a Jamaican Ganja tour. Turned up bright, the tour will take you and other like-minded and bud-tended friends to Rastafariland, with highlights including: Nine Mile, the boyhood home and final resting place of reggae superstar Bob Marley; Ocho Rios to relax and hike in nature; along with several plantations…aka ganja farms. Pick up is around noon, munchies and rum included, but hotel drop off time is vague. 

8. Give peace a chance: start travel podcasting and make some faux press credentials, then head to Damascus and interview the loneliest man in the world: Syria’s Minister of Tourism. From 8 million tourists and 40% growth in 2011, to the nasty civil and chemical war, mostly, behind us, Syria is open for business again. You can visit one or two restaurants still open and err, ruins. Their catch phrase: “Syria … come see for yourself“. We know the UN Weapons Inspectors did. A few travel-related glitches though: all legal border crossings are closed, no FAA-approved commercial flights into or out of Damascus, those beach-side cabanas along the Mediterranean beaches are now refugee tents, and crime might be down, but war crimes are up. Sure, it is dark tourism at its finest, but so too is visiting Venice and Barcelona these days. We double-dare you!

As for us, we’ll be going on the around-the-world event, The Global Scavenger Hunt…better destinations, better experiences and better food. Got any novel adventures to share?

The title of The World’s Greatest Travelers and free trip around the world to defend their titles in the 2021 event await the travelers worthy enough to win the 16th edition of the world travel championship. The date for the 23-day 2020 Global Scavenger Hunt is April 17-May 9, 2020. Event participation is open but limited; the $25,000 per team entry fee includes all international airfare, First Class hotels, 40% of meals, and special event travel gear. All travelers are interviewed for suitability and single travelers are welcome to apply. For additional information visit GlobalScavengerHunt.com, or contact GreatEscape Adventures Inc. at 310-281-7809. 

(See full coverage of the 2019 Global Scavenger Hunt at goingplacesfarandnear.com)

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From Australian Surfing to Tech-Free Tonga, Virtuoso Reveals Top 10 ‘Wanderlist’ Experiences for 2020

What could be more spectacular than traveling to the ancient city of Petra, Jordan by private jet © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NEW YORK– Virtuoso®’s selection of inspired experiences – deemed Wanderlist®-worthy thanks to their “trips of a lifetime” status – will have even the most seasoned traveler reaching for their passport. The 2020 Virtuoso Luxe Report, an annual survey of the global luxury travel network’s 20,000 travel advisors around the world, highlights insights and observations for travel in the year ahead. Acclaimed as a trend predictor, the Luxe Report captured advisor recommendations for the ten most unusual and exciting experiences for 2020.

Virtuoso’s must-have travel experiences are:

Surf Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach, whether a pro or first-timer. Bondi is just outside the city center and extremely popular with locals and visitors alike. Serious surfers hang out at the southern end of the beach, while novices occupy the northern stretch, where waves are often smaller.

Head to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics, taking place July 24 to August 9. Japan continues to trend in 2020, finding itself on two Luxe Report lists for global and emerging destinations. Beyond the Games, travelers will be enamored with Japan’s gorgeous scenery, dynamic cities, culinary delights and cultural heritage.

Witness the Great Migration in Tanzania and Kenya, where millions of zebras, wildebeest and antelope traverse the landscape in search of food and water while attempting to elude predators such as lions and crocodiles.

Live like a local for a month (or more) in Italy, the Luxe Report’s top global destination of 2020. As authenticity is one of the year’s top trends, travelers can immerse themselves in the lifestyle of this beloved country. Rent a villa. Find a favorite espresso or wine bar. Learn the language. Master the cuisine or just savor it.

Support the Bahamas after the devastating impact of Hurricane Dorian, which severely damaged Grand Bahama and Abaco islands in September. Tourism comprises 60 percent of the nation’s economy and revenues from visitors boost recovery efforts. Virtuoso’s nine resorts escaped with little to no damage; they are open and receiving guests.

Fly around the world via private jet, touching down at legendary destinations such as Easter Island, Petra, Jordan and the Taj Mahal. Country-hop in style on a specially outfitted jet while relaxing comfortably in a leather seat, with attentive on-board crew assisting with every need. Bypass commercial airports while avoiding jetlag … what could be better!

Explore the pristine landscape of Antarctica. The continent was voted the top adventure destination in the 2020 Luxe Report, proving that cold-weather spots are hot. As travelers seek out destinations with unspoiled scenic beauty. Travelers can kayak with humpback whales, watch penguins in their natural habitat and even take a dip in the frigid waters.

Sail through the Panama Canal, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This century-old engineering marvel is even more impressive up close on a full transit cruise, where the ship sails though the canal. It takes a day to traverse the 50 miles of locks as the ship makes its way from ocean to ocean.

Enjoy the slow-down trend of the year: rail travel. The majesty of the Canadian Rockies unfolds before passengers with a train journey aboard the incomparable Rocky Mountaineer. Gaze at panoramic surroundings through the glass-dome coaches, savor ­­local cuisine, and learn about natural and historic sites along the way through the stories of expert hosts.

Venture to an uninhabited island in Tonga for the ultimate unplugged escape. This Polynesian kingdom is comprised of 140 islands without residents as well as a wonderfully temperate climate and tropical scenery. Guest can soak up on the sun on a private beach, snorkel in crystal-clear waters and explore jungles – all in blissful solitude.

A Virtuoso travel advisor can book these must-have experiences or customize a journey to their client’s exact taste. They can also secure value-added benefits, VIP treatment and exclusive access. To find an advisor, visit www.virtuoso.com/travel-advisors.   

Virtuoso® is a leading international travel agency network specializing in luxury and experiential travel. This by-invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency partners with 20,000 elite travel advisors in 50 countries throughout North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East. Drawing upon its preferred relationships with over 1,800 of the world’s best hotels and resorts, cruise lines, airlines, tour companies and premier destinations, the network provides its upscale clientele with exclusive amenities, rare experiences and privileged access. More than (U.S.) $26.4 billion in annual travel sales makes Virtuoso a powerhouse in the luxury travel industry. For more information, visit www.virtuoso.com.

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Animal Lover? Golfer? Art Aficionado? Movie Buff? Give the Gift of Getting Away

Gift your adventure seeker the gift of a visit to India with andBeyond to explore the mountainous region of Ladakh and search for snow leopards

Stuck for a special gift for your animal-lover lover? Your art aficionado? Music buff or theater devotee? How about a snow leopard expedition for your adventure seeker? Think about giving the uniquely personal gift that keeps giving: the gift of a travel experience. The holidays is a time of wish fulfillment, so what better gift that tapping into that bucket list. Here are some ideas for the gift of getting away, no matter the time of year:

For the Animal-Lover

Winner: andBeyond Pangolin Adventure

Pangolins are mini (and adorable) dinosaur-like mammals. While not commonly known in the U.S., these native African anteaters are covered in keratin scales, which are highly valuable to poachers, making them the most trafficked mammal in the world. The species used to roam freely in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, but have been locally extinct for decades. andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve has committed to reintroducing the species to the area, and there are already three thriving in their new environment. Conservation-minded travelers can have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with these elusive creatures with andBeyond’s Pangolin Conservation Experience and assist in replacing tags and monitoring behavior. Rates from $3,504 per group (up to six people).

Runner-Up: Nayara’s Sloth Sanctuary

Ever wonder what it would be like to sleep all day? And all night? Of course you have. Humans are naturally lazy. But not as lazy as sloths. The slowest mammal on earth loves to hang around in Cecropia trees. Spot them in the wild at the new Nayara Tented Camp in Costa Rica, which opens December 20. As a part of Nayara’s commitment to reforestation, the acres surrounding the resort are being replanted with thousands of trees, including the Cecropia trees, so that the sloths can continue to thrive. Take a slow, leisurely stroll around the property to see these fabulous animals in in-action. Rates start from $1,200 per night.

For the Art Aficionado

Winner: La Reserve Paris

Mona-who? Been there, done that. The latest must-see at the Louvre celebrates much more than the Instagram overloaded Mona Lisa. Open through February 24, the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition honors the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance man’s death. Though almost sold out, guests of La Réserve Paris can skip the line by booking the Leonardo da Vinci package, including two VIP fast-track tickets to the exhibition and da Vinci inspired cocktails at Le Bar. Package rates start at $1,330.

Runner-Up: Belmond La Residencia

It’s P-art-y time in Mallorca! Deia, the hillside village on the island’s northwest coast, is an artsy town welcoming painters, sculptors and writers for inspiration. Among Mallorca’s most famous former residents is Joan Miró, and Belmond La Residencia is home to the largest exhibition of his paintings in a hotel anywhere in the world. Thirty-three of his original artworks will be on display in Café Miró, the hotel’s bistro, until September 2020. The hotel lawn is also one of Spain’s largest outdoor sculpture gardens, and it features Tete (1975), a Miró bronze head. After taking in the art, enjoy Belmond La Residencia’s “Tea with Miró,” which is inspired by the artist’s signature use of bold colors and abstract line drawings. The tea is served on an exclusive tea set made of La Cartujade Sevilla porcelain with a design based on Miró’s 1952 work, Sans titre. The setwill be available for purchase in the on-site boutique. Rates start at $470 per night.

Fore! The Golfer

Winner: Belmond Royal Scotsman

Hit the links with Belmond Royal Scotsman as the train travels through the heart of the Highlands from tee time to tee time. Golf enthusiasts can customize the two- to seven-night journeys by adding rounds at Scotland’s renowned courses such as Gleneagles, Royal Donorch Golf Club, Castle Stuart Golf Links and Kingbarns Golf Links. A veritable ‘country house on wheels,’ the Royal Scotsman will also make stops at local distilleries including Strathisla Distillery, the oldest working distillery in the Scottish Highlands. Journeys start at $3,158 per person for the two-night Taste of the Highlands itinerary.

Runner-Up: Dromoland

Enjoy a golf experience fit for a king at Ireland’s Dromoland Castle. Set on a 450-acre estate, the 15-century castle’s parkland course is the perfect place to hone golf skills. Take a lesson at The Academy, the on-site golf school helmed by a resident PGA pro. What’s more, Dromoland can coordinate private transfers and tee times at Ireland’s famed links courses, including nearby Lahinch, Ballybunion, Tralee and the new Adare Manor. Rates start at $355 per night. 

For the Adventure Seeker

Winner: andBeyond Snow Leopard Expedition

Known as ‘Little Tibet’ or the ‘Roof of the World’, the mountainous region of Ladakh is situated on the northern border of India and is home to the snow-capped Himalayas, cobalt lakes and an abundance of wildlife, including the elusive snow leopard. The species, listed as ‘vulnerable’ and rare to find, lives in this high-altitude cold desert environment and can be seen during winter months. Conservation-minded, experiential safari outfitter andBeyond offers travelers the opportunity to explore this wilderness with the region’s most experienced guides, offering the rare opportunity to meet a snow leopard, if luck strikes. The 12-day Snow Leopard Expedition sets off in small group set-departures in January, February and March 2020. Rates start from $6,891 per person, including a $200 donation to the Snow Leopard Conservancy.

Runner-Up: Ponant Emblematic Antarctica Cruise

Journey to the ends of the earth, but make it luxury. Swap icicles in your eyelashes for a champagne toast on an Antarctic iceberg with Ponant, the leader in polar cruising. Each trip to the southernmost continent challenges adventure seekers with the trip through the Drake Passage – the 600-mile stretch of ocean between South America and the Antarctic peninsula that boasts some of the roughest seas in the world. Keep an ear out as the captain will often stop and redirect the ship to point out passing whales, Gentoo and Adelie penguins, and crabeater seals. Once in Antarctica, expedition guides and naturalists will lead daily Zodiac excursions with visits to research stations and former whaling stations. Rates start from $13,310 per person for the 11-day / 10-night Emblematic Antarctica journey.

For the Theater Goer

Winner: Chatwal, New York

Do you like your theater with a little side of murder mystery? If so, you’ve come to the right place – The Chatwal, New York. Designed in 1905 by iconic American architect Stanford White – who was famously killed by his mistress’s husband atop Madison Square Garden – The Chatwal was once home to the prestigious Lambs, America’s first professional theatrical club. The Chatwal continues to play homage to its history as the epicenter of Broadway. A dedicated theater concierge can offer access to the most sought-after shows; and guests can enjoy a pre-theater dinner at Geoffrey Zakarian’s The Lambs Club at The Chatwal. Rates start at $595 per night based on double occupancy.

Runner-Up: Westbury

Theater buffs visiting The Westbury in Dublin can explore the history of Ireland’s stage with the complimentary Theatre Walking Tour every Thursday morning. The 90-minute stroll begins in the vibrant Georgian Quarter and brings guests to key sites around the city, including a behind-the-scenes look at the famed Abbey Theatre, which has nurtured the talents of Irish playwrights like William Butler Yeats. The tour also includes a lesson on ancient Irish storytelling at the Setanta Wall, and a look at the drama-inspired artwork within the National Gallery. Rates start at $277 per night.

For the Movie Buff

Winner: GoldenEye

The 25th James Bond movie, which will mark Daniel Craig’s final appearance as 007, is heading back to Jamaica. In celebration of the April 2020 release, movie buffs can retrace the island life of Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming. The author was a former British intelligence officer and discovered Jamaica during a WWII mission in 1942. Four years later, he purchased 15 acres of under-developed tropical land and named it GoldenEye to pay homage to his naval operation that first brought him to the island. He resided at GoldenEye every January and February for more than two decades and wrote a new Bond novel each winter for a total of 14 books. His beachfront bungalow, which is now called The Fleming Villa with five bedrooms, is part of the 52-acre GoldenEye resort. Fleming’s writing desk and sunken garden where he would entertain the likes of Noël Coward and Katherine Hepburn are available for guests to enjoy. Rates start at $6,365 per night.

Runner-Up: Park Hyatt Tokyo

Guests of Park Hyatt Tokyo can channel Bill Murray while sipping on a whisky flight in the hotel’s 52nd floor New York Bar. Famed as the location of Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation, the bar’s signature L.I.T cocktail with Japanese sake and peach liqueur can be enjoyed to the soundtrack of live jazz while overlooking the sparkling city skyline. Rates start at $600 per night.

For the Romantic Beach Bum

Winner: Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

“Love Island” – not just a reality show, but something that could actually be your reality. Give the gift of an ultimate couples’ vacation in the Maldives. When it debuted in July, Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi became the first luxury resort to open near the capital of Malé in the last decade. The journey to tranquility begins with a yacht ride from the airport to the resort. The 122 accommodations include 39 beach villas, each of which features a swimming pool and a private alcove on the beach with an outdoor hammock and two sunbeds. Surround yourself with sand and surf on a nearby sandbar, available for a wine pairing dinner or a yoga class. Rates start at $1,700 per night.

Runner-Up: Belmond Cap Juluca

Set on the white sands of Anguilla’s Maundays Bay, known as one of the most pristine beaches in the Caribbean, each room at Belmond Cap Juluca has its own private slice of sand complete with a dedicated beach butler. Guests of the newly renovated property can soak in the Caribbean sun and sway to live calypso and reggae at the Cap Shack, a laid-back beach bar with a vintage ’80s food truck serving up everything from fish tacos to rum punches and poke bowls. Rates start from $725 per night.

For the #InstagramFamous Friend

Winner: Dalloway Terrace

Off to Europe for the festive season? Why not hit two countries in one – visitors to The Bloomsbury in London will be treated to a Merry Swissmas celebration. The hotel’s heated, al fresco restaurant, Dalloway Terrace, has launched a collaboration with the alpine resort town of Gstaad. Stroll from Regent’s Park into snow-dusted pine garlands and frosty foliage. Gstaad’s Swiss traditions overwhelm the terrace, with bespoke “Scherenschnitte” (Swiss paper cuttings) on display around the restaurant. Guests can warm up with Foxford woolen blankets and warming cocktails like an alpine toddy – a hot toddy with a chamomile twist. Cocktails are delivered to the table with a Retro Viewer that allows guests to gaze upon the picturesque mountains of Gstaad between sips. Afternoon tea starts at $50 per person.

Runner-Up: Almanac Rooftop

360-degree views of Barcelona, check. Instagrammable décor, check. Craft cocktails, check. Almanac Barcelona’s Azimuth rooftop bar is open year-round, beckoning guests with its coral-hued, cocoon-like lounges and cozy blankets during the mild winter months. The city is known for its gin and tonics, with the clear liquid and fizzy bubbles the perfect accessory for an Instagrammable rooftop view. Almanac’s signature ‘Dealer’s Choice’ cocktail is elevated with dry sherry from Jerez, grapefruit bitters and artisanal tonic water. Rates start from $287 per night.

For the Foodie Focused

Winner: Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum in Napa

Give the gift of the CIA. No, not that CIA ­– the Culinary Institute of America at Copia in Napa Valley is the perfect place for travelers to the region to become immersed in the local food culture, with daily cooking classes and tastings from local wineries. Newly opened at the CIA, the Chuck Williams Culinary Art Museum features the 4,000-piece personal culinary collection ­– including rare special cookware, bread baking and culinary tools, appliances, and tableware – of the Williams-Sonoma founder. Admission to the museum is free. Class and tasting pricing varies with rates starting at $30.

Runner-Up: Shou Sugi Ban House

Get a taste for the flavors that put Noma in Copenhagen on the map! Chef Mads Refslund, formerly of the world’s best restaurant, now directs the food and beverage program at wabi sabi-inspired wellness retreat and destination spa Shou Sugi Ban House in the Hamptons. The plant-based menu is inspired by Nordic, Japanese and New England cuisines. Located in Water Mill, New York, adjacent to the Parrish Art Museum, the 13-room property incorporates many forms of wellness in its multi-day retreats, which include spa and healing arts treatments, workshops, meditation and movement. Rates start at $550 per person.  

P.S. Don’t forget the most important carry-on items when traveling: chocolate and a face mask. La Maison du Chocolat’s Bars Unhinged ($14) are the perfect plane-size snack (think mini deconstructed chocolate bars). Guinot’s Newhite Instant Brightening Mask ($77, set of seven) is a travel-size sheet mask that removes those post-flight dark circles and creates a glow in 10 quick minutes.

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Luxury Gold’s ‘Once-in-a-Lifetime’ Journey to Nepal and Bhutan; Discount for Booking by Dec. 18

Luxury Gold guests can take a gentle hike to the Taskshang Monastery in Bhutan

With its ancient cultures, mountainous backdrops, and oasis of tranquility, Nepal and Bhutan each hold a wealth of centuries-old stupas and temples. Recently described as a “once in a lifetime journey” by the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) and AFAR Magazine ambassador, Luxury Gold’s Magnificent Nepal and Bhutan journey is nothing short of an “A-list” bucket-list experience ifor travelers seeking authenticity, exploration and cultural immersion.

“I was met with this sort of awe each moment of my journey with Luxury Gold, as our Traveling Concierge kept my journal occupied, and my camera at the ready,” said AFAR Magazine ambassador, Ryan Neal Cordwell, in his recent USTOA blog. “It isn’t only the absorption of undiluted insight, but the ability to participate interactively, that stamps this page of the world with gold.”

Luxury Gold’s dedicated and knowledgeable Traveling Concierges, VIP treatment, delectable dining, and immersive, local experiences bring together the true beauty of this enchanting region.

Just a few exceptional highlights of Luxury Gold’s culturally enriching 10-day journey to Nepal and Bhutan: 

As a VIP experience in Kathmandu, meet with the monks of Boudhanath stupa for a private puja (blessing) ceremony. Hear traditional chanting, drumming and tales of the monks lives inside the temple. You’ll be cherished by this visit by being blessed by the monks. Later, meet a local pottery craftsman who will explain the traditions and processes of their works, before guiding you to try for yourself. 

While in Paro, choose a private traditional mask dance and cultural show or learn about the passion the Bhutanese have for the national sport of archery, attending a range to interact with the locals. You can also join a gentle hike to Taktshang Monastery known as the Tiger’s Nest

In Thimphu, you’re invited into the home of a local family for a delicious home-cooked meal of typical regional fare. Visit the National Memorial Chorten, dedicated to world peace, along with Tasichho Dzong, known as the fortress of the glorious religion. Visit the bustling market, an opportunity to mix with the locals. 

In Punakha, stay at the luxurious Dhensa Boutique Resort, which sits in lush Punakha Valley and offers spectacular views. Visit the winter residence of the monk body that is also the capital of Bhutan – Punakha Dzong and can walk to Chimi Lhakhang temple and admire the magnificent views over the Losesa Valley. 

At the Dochula Pass, participate in a prayer flag hoisting ceremony, an integral part of Bhutanese landscape. It is believed that when prayer flags flutter, they carry a blessing to everyone around. 

Luxury Gold is bringing back the golden era of travel with the launch of their worldwide collection by offering a 10% Early Payment Discount if you book and pay in full by December 18, 2019.

For reservations, contact your local Travel Advisor, call 1-888-428-1503, or visit www.luxurygold.com.

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Smart Lemur Highlights 5 Exotic Places to Experience Christmas Holidays

Christmas Island

In December, natural phenomena, perfect weather and local Christmas traditions make such exotic locales as Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Svalbard, Christmas and Galápagos islands some of the most marvelous destinations for travel.

Smart Lemur, a website specializing in “authentic travel” experiences, is highlighting these five unexpected Christmas destinations, explaining what makes them so special during the holiday season: 

Sri Lanka, South Asia

December in Sri Lanka, an island country surrounded by the Indian Ocean, is the most pleasant time – sunny and not overcrowded with tourists. The average daily temperature for this month is 27°C.

Visitors spending Christmas here enjoy the best tea and cinnamon in the world, exchange presents on the sandy beaches, drink from coconuts and watch wild elephants. Seeing these giants from close up in their natural habitat is one of the unique attractions in Sri Lanka.

Those eager to have more traditional holiday activities, are welcome to visit the capital Colombo, offering festive markets, special dinners, live music events and dance performances.

Mauritius, Indian Ocean

Mauritius, also called the pearl of the Indian Ocean, is a tiny island full of lavish nature, ranging from crystal-clear waters and coloured layers of sand to tropical forests and lively underwater world.

During December, air temperature is likely to reach 29°C, and travellers get to enjoy up to nine daily hours of sunshine. Lovely fuss, preparations, and Christmas songs in such weather allow visitors to experience celebrating Christmas in shorts and flip-flops.

Winter season is the time of abundant tropical fruits and splendid flame trees blooming in bright red fiery flowers. Fresh mangoes, pineapples, litchis (Lychee), Longan (Dragon Eye Fruit) and watermelons grow all around the island.

The most prominent attraction in Mauritius is swimming alongside dolphins.

Svalbard, Norway

Svalbard is one of the northernmost settlements in the world, luring travellers who dream of Arctic Christmas.

From mid-November to late January, this Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean enters into a mystical dark season known as Polar Night. During this period, the sun is hidden from the horizon and everything is pitch-dark around the clock.

Furthermore, winter is the time to hunt the Northern Lights. Svalbard is the only permanently inhabited place on Earth where visitors can experience dayside Northern Lights.

Christmas Island, Australia

Christmas Island is in the Indian Ocean, 1,550km north-west from the Australian mainland.

Apart from its obvious affiliation to Christmas after being named so on December 25th in 1643, the island is rich in spectacular nature.

It is the only place on Earth to witness one of the most incredible natural processes – an annual red crab migration. Bright-coloured crabs from all over the island start marching towards the ocean, all at the same time. And it usually occurs in December.

Furthermore, with 40 seabirds per capita, Christmas Island is a regional leader in this metric. Nature lovers can meet endemic species, such as the Christmas Island frigatebird and the elegant white-tailed tropicbird.

Despite the natural wonders and sandy beaches, the destination is still under the radar, receiving just 2000 visitors a year.

Galápagos Islands, Ecuado

The Galápagos Islands is a volcanic archipelago, famous for its diverse wildlife and jaw-dropping scenery.

December is a warm and dry season with air temperature reaching 27°C. Visitors get a chance to see rare animals like marine iguanas, sea turtles, flamingos, Masked Boobies and White-cheeked Pintails, which tend to stay away during other months.

Ecuador’s rich Christmas traditions make tourists feel part of a big family. The locals sing carols and celebrate with delicious meals like roasted turkey.

Smart Lemur is a website created by a group of travel enthusiasts who are passionate about unique and authentic travel experiences. Visit www.smartlemur.com

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