Category Archives: Nature Travel

Summer is a Five Sensory Season in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Just off the Bonavista Peninsula, be amazed by the spectacle of whale species like humpbacks, sperm, orcas, and more feeding, migrating and playing on Sea of Whales Adventures whale watching boat tours (Photo: Destination Canada)

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador  – From the rolling waves lapping off the coastline to the colorful clotheslines dancing in the ocean breeze, Newfoundland and Labrador is home to the slow way of life, especially when the seasons change. As spring rolls into summer, regular visitors to the province return, including the whales, birds and icebergs that heighten all senses. Visitors can experience the first sunrise in North America, witness the migration and play of whale species that return to the shores each year, and taste food foraged from land and sea. For relaxation, guests can soak in the bounty of the ocean in a bath with seaweed gathered off the coast of Grates Cove, go for a cold-water dip in the many outdoor locations including the North Atlantic Ocean, or sit and listen to the push and pull of the beach rocks as they roll with the waves.  

Sea of Whales Adventures 

The Atlantic Ocean surrounding Newfoundland and Labrador boasts as many as 22 diverse whale species. Just off the Bonavista Peninsula, travelers will smell the ocean breeze and be humbled by the spectacle of whale species like humpbacks, sperm, orcas, and more feeding, migrating, and playing on Sea of Whales Adventures whale watching boat tours. Family owned and operated since 2009, Sea of Whales Adventures offers three-hour whale watching tours daily from May 15 to October 14 and two-hour tours daily from June 15 to September 3. The two-hour tour rates start at $90 CAD for adults and $60 CAD for children, while the three-hour tour rates start at $110 CAD for adults and $80 for children.  

Preserving the Dark Sky 

Terra Nova National Park, the first designated Dark Sky Preserve in the province, allows travelers to gaze into the cosmos untouched by light pollution. Under the Dark Sky Preserve Program, the park is committed to protecting and improving nocturnal ecology by adjusting, retrofitting, or eliminating light fixtures while delivering new educational and interpretive programs on astronomy and various dark sky themes. The most popular viewing locations include Sandy Pond, rated to have the darkest skies in the park, Ochre Hill, historically used as a fire-watch station, Blue Hill, the highest point in the park putting guests among the stars, and Visitor Centre, with the starlit sky reflected across the water. New in 2024, UNESCO World Heritage Site Gros Morne National Park is applying to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for designation as a Dark Sky Preserve, offering visitors even more unaltered space to bask in the celestial views. 

Wild Island Kitchen 

Open year round, Wild Island Kitchen offers travelers the chance to dine aside breathtaking seascapes listening to the crashing waves while wild and sustainably caught seafood is cooked over an open fire. The locally owned tour and culinary group provides menus that change daily based on what is foraged and discovered each day, with guides teaching guests how to cook and prepare the cuisine. The “From Sea to Plate” Tour features sustainable, high-quality seafood cooked with water from the sea and cooked over an open fire, and guests can expect four to five courses over a three-hour period. For a shorter, one-hour experience, visitors can book the “Mug-Up” Tour which typically departs at 10 a.m. and includes a trip down the cove for a cup of tea or coffee and an interpretative food journey inspired by traditional coastal delights. Tour rates start at $175 CAD, but guests are encouraged to email [email protected] for specific pricing per tour. Pre-booking is required for both culinary experiences. 

Grates Cove Seaweed Baths 

In the northernmost part of Newfoundland and Labrador, weary travelers can soak in a seaweed bath at Grates Cave Co. Known for its healing and rejuvenating properties, seaweed is harvested off the coast of Grates Cove and transformed into 7 Fathoms skincare, producing a high-quality, highly bioactive brown seaweed extract suited for personal care. Grates Cove Co. uses the product, densely packed with essential nutrients and minerals, for the fresh seaweed baths in the comfort of the bathhouse overlooking the North Atlantic. The bathhouse is bookable from Monday to Sunday for two-hour time slots from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2-4 p.m., and 5-7 p.m., and the price per couple is $110 CAD + HST (Harmonized Sales Tax). 

Maxxim Vacations New Tour 

From September 22 to 28, 2024, Maxxim Vacations will host the small group vacation “Newfoundland Through a Mindful Lens,” including a five-day, six-night itinerary designed to inspire travelers with a renewed sense of self and perspective. The tour is hosted by certified mindfulness guide Dr. Brian Dower, a Newfoundland native and retired chiropractor who regularly prescribed mindfulness training to his patients dealing with stress. Dr. Brian will introduce various mindfulness techniques and skills in focused tutorial sessions and then guide participants through opportunities to put the tools into practice. Guests will take hikes along breathtaking ocean trails, join foraging expeditions, and dine on specially prepared meals by award-winning chefs. The tour starts at $4,828 CAD plus taxes and includes six nights of accommodation at select hotels and inns, daily instructional mindfulness sessions with Dr. Brian, guided walks and hikes in St. John’s and Port Rexton, meals including daily breakfast, lunch, and select dinners, five-day ground transportation, a scenic driving tour of St. John’s and the Bonavista Peninsula, a mindful movement session, and more. 

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

Newfoundland and Labrador  

Web: www.newfoundlandlabrador.com  

Instagram:  @newfoundlandlabrador  

Twitter: @NLtweets  

Facebook:  @NewfoundlandLabradorTourism 

Prince Edward Island  

Web: www.tourismpei.com  

Instagram: @tourismpei   

Twitter: @tourismpei  

Facebook: @tourismpei 

Nova Scotia   

Web: www.novascotia.com  

Instagram: @VisitNovaScotia  

Twitter: @VisitNovaScotia  

Facebook: @NovaScotia 

New Brunswick  

Web: www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca   

Instagram: @DestinationNB  

Facebook: @ExploreNB  

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Vacations Offering Unexpected Ways to Explore Nature’s Top Lava Volcanic Destinations

These vacations offer unexpected ways to explore nature’s top magma shows 

Iceland is one of the most volcanically active areas on the planet. Volcanic activity is a fact of life in Iceland where people have learned to live with the drawbacks and the advantages. After all, that constant geological activity is the reason the island has so much natural beauty to see from geothermal pools to incredible mountains. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Iceland  

Iceland is one of the most volcanically active areas on the planet, with 130 volcanoes. Last week the fifth eruption since December at the Sundhnjukar mountain ridge sent lava 150 feet into the air, but locals and tourists stayed safe while flights continued to operate. Volcanic activity is a fact of life in Iceland, where people have learned to live with the drawbacks and the advantages. After all, that constant geological activity is the reason the island has so much natural beauty to see from geothermal pools to incredible mountains. 

The unexpected way to observe Iceland’s volcanoesby sea. 

The land of fire and ice and the midnight sun is an island, so the best way to experience it is to sail around it. Small ship line Windstar Cruises circumnavigates Iceland on a 7-dayAround Iceland cruise with just 312 guests on board, visiting five towns on the island in addition to the capital of Reykjavik. These small towns are easy to explore and have opportunities for scenic outdoor adventures (like treks to waterfalls). And the bonus of being on a ship if/when a volcano erupts nearby? You sail somewhere else. 

Mount Etna in Sicily 

Mount Etna is one of Europe’s most active volcanoes, recently making headlines for puffing volcanic vortex rings into the sky. You can hike up the slopes of this volcano, or observe it easily from a distance, Aperol spritz in hand.  

The unexpected way to view Mount Etna: on a bike. 

VBT offers Sicilian guided biking tours, with additional highlights like biking past volcanic coastlines, staying in an 18th century palace, and joining Sicilian truffle hunters on a search for the culinary prize

Kīlauea and Mauna Loa in Hawaii 

Kīlauea and Mauna Loa are two of the world’s most active volcanoes and are located in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii (aka the Big Island). There are 150 miles of trails within the park through craters and lava tubes, making up-close volcanic exploration possible. 

The unexpected way to engage with Hawaii’s volcanoes: on a multi-island itinerary. 

Holiday Vacations offers a Hawaii Four Island Holiday that spends time in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park but also includes inter-island flights and accommodations on Kauai, Maui, and Oahu, with their own volcanoes to explore as well. 

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming 

Yellowstone is a volcano, and the magma chamber under the park influences its natural features including all those famous geysers and hot springs. In fact, the park has the world’s largest collection of hydrothermal features with more than 500 geysers – that’s half of the world’s total.

The unexpected way to experience it: by snowcoach. 

Winter is the park’s quietest season, but it’s one of the best times to visit. The park’s interior is accessible only by commercial over-snow transportation, and Yellowstone’s snowcoaches are essentially the ultimate 21st-century (heated) sleigh. Some of the best geyser viewing and photography opportunities arise in the dead of winter, when the snow-white landscape provides the contrast that makes thermal wonders appear even more dramatic. Stay at one of the resort’s wintertime lodges to fully experience the winter magic. 

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GeoCultura Unveils Cultural, Geological Summer Tours in Ireland

GeoCultura’s summer tours to Ireland experience the Wild Atlantic Way, exploring the geological and historical stories while focusing on the Dingle Peninsula and the iconic Ring of Kerry.

GeoCultura, a leading provider of immersive travel experiences, introduces two new captivating tours for summer 2024 that promise a deep dive into Ireland’s fascinating landscapes, blending discovery and immersion led by local experts in geology, history, and culture.

South-West Ireland – Dingle Peninsula and Ring of Kerry Tour, July 9-14: Embark on a six-day exploration along the Wild Atlantic Way of southwest Ireland, beginning in Cork and venturing through the Dingle and Iveragh Peninsulas. This journey unveils the rich tapestry of Irish history, folklore, and deep-time geological features shaping the present landscape.

Highlights:

Experience the Wild Atlantic Way, exploring the southwest coast’s coastal gems and cultural offerings.

Immerse in the landscapes, deep-time history, and folklore of southwest Ireland.

Unravel geological and historical stories while focusing on the Dingle Peninsula and the iconic Ring of Kerry.

Expert guides lead participants to dramatic coastlines, mountains, castles, and harbors, revealing the layers of history embedded in the rocks and landscapes.

Enjoy authentic encounters with traditional Ireland, from meeting native speakers to experiencing folk music and savoring top Irish cuisine.

Stay in charming country retreats and coastal hotels, offering comfort and character.

The tour commences at Ballymaloe House, outside Cork, concluding in the center of Cork (or Cork airport).

Overview: Embark on a six-day, five-night journey through southwest Ireland’s history and culture, starting in Cork and uncovering natural wonders in the Dingle and Iveragh Peninsulas. Gain new insights from expert tour leaders, exploring the geological mysteries behind Ireland’s landmarks.

Discover how natural and human forces have shaped the Irish landscape, visiting castles, cliffs, towns, and towers. Take to the sea for a new perspective on the coastline and hear tales of resilience on remote islands. Learn how southwest Ireland has evolved from deep time to its historical traditions, native language, and music.

See Ireland’s most spectacular sights, including the Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, Blasket Islands, and Inch Beach. Stay in highly-rated accommodations, including a country house and a hilltop manor in County Kerry.

Pricing: $4,125 pp for the five-night tour, Single Supplement for solo travelers $530 

https://www.geoculturaworld.com/tours/37-south-west-ireland-dingle-peninsula-and-ring-of-kerry-tour

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way: Galway Bay to Cliffs of Moher, September 1-7, 2024: The seven-day journey from Dublin to County Clare, explore the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark. Stay at the Wild Honey Inn, nestled in the Burren Geopark, and discover the natural wonders that define this iconic region.

Highlights:

Explore Ireland’s deep-time origins with expert guides behind West Ireland’s famous landmarks.

Delve into the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark, exploring its highest point and intricate cave systems.

Uncover human stories as you sail to an Iron Age fort on the Aran Islands and recognize landscapes featured in Hollywood movies.

End each day at The Wild Honey Inn with comfortable accommodations and delicious meals using locally sourced produce.

Enjoy Irish hospitality with pub visits and music sessions.

Overview: Embark on a seven-day, six-night tour starting in Dublin and venturing to the Burren and Cliffs of Moher. Relax at the Wild Honey Inn, a Michelin-starred haven within the Burren Geopark, and explore the surrounding wonders.

Expert Tour Leaders and local guides explain the region’s unique rocky landscape, its karst ‘pavements,’ and intriguing cave systems. Visit landmarks such as Dun Aonghasa, Poulnabrone Dolmen, and the towering Cliffs of Moher. Experience early medieval forts, hidden churches, coastal villages, and market towns set to the soundtrack of traditional Irish music.

Price: $4,500 for the seven-day, six-night tour. Single supplement for solo travelers:  $745.  

https://www.geoculturaworld.com/tours/35-ireland-s-wild-atlantic-way-galway-bay-to-cliffs-of-moher

GeoCultura’s 2024 tours offer an immersive experience led by knowledgeable guides, providing a voyage of understanding, connection, and appreciation. Tours range from three to seven days and can be fully guided, partially guided, or self-guided for those seeking a more personalized experience.

GeoCultura’s small group tours range from two to nine days, blending earth science with local history and regional guides to explore the world’s most important landscapes. The tours aim to immerse participants in local culture, cuisine, and natural wonders. 

More information at www.geoculturaworld.com, phone 713 400 6326.

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Explore the Cosmos at Death Valley Dark Sky Festival, March 1-3

Join scientists and park rangers to learn about the cosmos and how Death Valley National Park has been used as an analog for the exploration of distant worlds during the Death Valley Dark Sky Festival March 1-3, 2024. (Photo courtesy: Xanterra Travel Collection) 

There’s no better place to explore the wonders of space than from one of the darkest locations in the United States. Join scientists and park rangers to learn about the cosmos and how Death Valley National Park has been used as an analog for the exploration of distant worlds during the Death Valley Dark Sky Festival March 1-3, 2024.  
 
Death Valley National Park is one of only eight (8) designated “gold tier” International Dark Sky Parks in the country where stargazers can see the Milky Way with the naked eye (something that’s not possible from most people’s homes due to light pollution). The National Park Service, alongside the Oasis at Death Valley, has taken measures to greatly minimize light pollution in the area so no special telescopes are needed (though they are recommended for an otherworldly experience).
 
Accommodations and restaurants are extremely limited in the park. Not only does The Oasis at Death Valley offer two properties with modern luxury and family-friendly accommodations, but it’s also ideally positioned with clear nights the norm, a lack of settled land, and the exterior lights of the resort dim by design. Ideal for stargazing, yes, but also for travelers in search of astronomical sights – constellations, planets, deep-sky objects, celestial events like lunar eclipses and meteor showers, and even actual galaxies like the increasingly hard-to-spot Milky Way.
 
The Death Valley Dark Sky Festival is a collaboration between Death Valley National Park, non-profit Death Valley Natural History AssociationNASA‘s Goddard Space Flight Center, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and California Institute of Technology. All Death Valley Dark Sky Festival programs are free and open to the public. Some of the programs are specifically targeted for families with children. For a full list of programs and lodging options visit the park’s website at nps.gov/deva.
 
Located 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 295 miles northeast of Los Angeles, The Oasis at Death Valley is distant enough from the major cities in the Southwest to provide unobstructed views of the night’s sky, yet close enough for city dwellers to escape for the weekend. Guests can reserve a private stargazing party to create the ultimate night sky experience. In addition, Furnace Creek Stables on property offers a moonlight tour which is a unique way to stargaze.

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Nature Lovers Converge on Southwest Illinois’ Great Rivers and Routes Region for Eagle Season

A mature Bald Eagle dropping down to start a fishing run at L&D #14, LeClaire IA.

As cold descends upon the Midwest, Southwest Illinois, the Great Rivers & Routes region draws nature-lovers from all over the country to catch awe-inspiring eagle sightings along the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River for what is the largest concentration of bald eagles in the country.

This January, thousands (of humans) will flock to the Great River Road to get a glimpse of the winged beasts. Adult eagles have a 7-8′ wingspan and love fishing in the Mississippi, providing hours of free entertainment.

Eagle Season

View a majestic American Bald Eagle up close at the Alton Eagle Ice Festival on January 6. Head to FLOCK Food Truck Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a free Eagle Meet & Greet and a chance to get your picture taken with America’s national animal!

The Eagle Ice Festival will also include: eagle-watching shuttle tours (departing from the Alton Visitor’s Center); food trucks; drinks available from the FLOCK bar; DJ tunes; live ice carvers from Ice Visions; Eagle Fest Beer from Old Bakery Beer Company; fire pits with s’mores kits for sale; and face painting for kids.

The National Great Rivers Museum will also be offering a number of free family-friendly activities on January 6. Stop by the theater for talks by eagle experts and to watch eagle film showings. Look through spotting scopes for a chance to view an eagle nest. Make and take your own eagle craft — an eagle head wrap!

Those seeking to see more beautiful birds of prey can stop by the Audubon Center at Riverlands across the Mississippi from Alton to view birds like eagles and owls on live display from the TreeHouse Wildlife Center. Enjoy guided bird hikes, eagle crafts and firepits with s’mores kits available on January 6.

The Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower will be open all day on January 6 for tours to see American Bald Eagles from 50, 100 and 150 feet high. There will also be a Birds of Winter educational session featuring local raptors from TreeHouse Wildlife Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is required for Tower tours but the Birds of Winter exhibit is free.

Check out these other activities:

The Great Rivers and Routes region is the only place where the Mother Road of Route 66 meets the Great River Road. The region celebrates three of the nation’s great rivers (the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois) alongside famous roads, history and small town charm.

Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau,  certified by the Illinois Office of Tourism, is a destination marketing organization which represents Madison, Macoupin, Montgomery, Jersey, Calhoun and Greene counties, and the City of East St. Louis in St. Clair County in southwest Illinois. Founded in 1985 as the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, the bureau transitioned to Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau in 2018 as the size and scope of the organization grew.

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US Tour Operators Mark World Wildlife Day

US Tour Operators Association marked World Wildlife Day on March 3, 2022 by spotlighting programs from its tour operator members that focus on wildlife education and appreciation. Here, Gullfoss Waterfall, visited on Great Value Vacations’ Iceland Escape: Golden Circle and Whale Watching tour © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NEW YORK – The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) marked World Wildlife Day on March 3, 2022 by spotlighting programs from its tour operator members that focus on wildlife education and appreciation. From observing endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda to trekking through the rainforest of Bako National Park in Malaysia, each tour program offers up-close-and-personal experiences with abundant opportunities for natural and cultural immersion in each destination. 

“As USTOA turns 50 this year, our tour operator members are looking ’50 years forward’ to provide sustainable and responsible travel experiences,” said Terry Dale, president and CEO. “World Wildlife Day is an ideal way to raise awareness of the fragile flora and fauna that populates our planet, and that our members take great care to preserve and protect.”

Here’s just a sample of programs to inspire travelers in 2022:

Tauck offers a thirteen-day Kenya & Tanzania: A Classic Safari 2022 tour to those yearning for outdoor adventure. This itinerary takes a group of no more than 30 Tauck travelers to visit Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, and the Willian Holden Wildlife Education Center to observe the flora and fauna of Kenya and Tanzania.  Travelers will end their trip activities by floating in a hot air balloon over Masai Mara. Departures are available between May and December 2022 with prices starting at $10,890 for two people. www.tauck.com

Travelers will enjoy excursions to Thingvellir National Park, the mesmerizing Gullfoss Waterfall, and the Geysir geothermal area on a four-to-six-day Iceland Escape: Golden Circle and Whale Watching tour with Great Value Vacations. This itinerary includes traveling to Reykjavik, the northernmost capital of the world, to go whale watching, observe sea birds and other sea life, climb the famous Hallgrímskirkja Church, and more. Departures are available between April 2022 and December 2022 with prices starting at $1,153 per person. www.greatvaluevacations.com   

Travelers will have the opportunity to explore one of the last truly wild places on the planet on a ten-day Wild Sarawak tour with Intrepid Travel. The itinerary includes exploring Southeast Asia’s labyrinthian caves in Mulu National Park, searching for monkeys through the rainforest and jungle stream of Bako National Park, trekking through the jungle of Labuan Island and more. Departures are available between April and December 2022 with prices starting at $1,620 per person. www.intrepidtravel.com   

Abercrombie & Kent offers a five-day Tailor Made Uganda: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest itinerary jam-packed with mountain hikes through Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, trekking through the park’s dense vegetation to observe the endangered mountain gorilla, and more. Departures are available between March and October 2022 with prices starting at $3,995 per person. www.abercrombiekent.com  

Find all itineraries offered by USTOA tour operators at https://ustoa.travelstride.com/trip-list/wildlife

Representing nearly $19 billion in revenue, the member companies of U.S. Tour Operators Association provide tours, packages and custom arrangements that allow 9.8 million travelers annually unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value, and freedom to enjoy destinations and experiences across the entire globe. Each member company has met the travel industry’s highest standards, including participation in the USTOA’s Travelers Assistance Program, which protects consumer payments up to $1 million if the company goes out of business.  As a voice for the tour operator industry for 50 years, USTOA also provides education and assistance for consumers and travel agents. 

For more information, visit www.ustoa.com.   

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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 [email protected] or +1 (678) 967-4965

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NYS Opens First Nature Trail in US Designed for Autism Spectrum at Letchworth State Park

First Trail in U.S. Designed Specifically for Autism Spectrum Disorder Communities and Families

Project Supported By More Than $3.3 Million in Private Funds

The nation’s first nature trail specifically designed to address the sensory needs of those with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities is open at Letchworth State Park in western New York State © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The nation’s first nature trail specifically designed to address the sensory needs of those with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities is open at Letchworth State Park in western New York State. Supported by more than $3.3 million in private fundraising, the new Autism Nature Trail is a one-mile hiking loop that includes eight marked sensory stations, each designed to address a different sensory experience in a safe and supportive environment.

“New York State is leading the nation in creating this public trail purposefully designed to bring the benefits of the outdoors to those on the autism disorder spectrum and their families,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “State Parks should be accessible to everyone, and this is a welcoming and inclusive place for an underserved community.”

Activities along the Autism Nature Trail support and encourage sensory perception and integration, while also providing enjoyable activities for visitors of all abilities and ages. The stations engage each visitor’s senses, using nature and natural materials as the tools for skill-building. The trail is set up to allow for safe social distancing and planned interaction.

Sensory stations and other features of Autism Nature Trail include:

  • Sensory Station, where a collection of leaves, moss, fossils, animal fur, acorns and other objects are to be touched, handled, and even smelled;
  • Sunshine Slope, a gentle maze in an opening that includes a viewing platform, three cuddle swings, and an “Alone Zone;”
  • Music Circle, where a variety of nature-inspired musical instruments encourage creativity, either alone or with others;
  • Curiosity Corner, an open space with a gliding seat, ant-shaped boulders, and access to a shortcut back to the beginning of the trail;
  • Reflection Knoll, a quiet point halfway on the trail under a canopy of trees, with etchings of woodland creatures hidden in the boulders;
  • Meadow Run and Climb, a place with paths to run, jump and balance along serpentine berms and an obstacle course;
  • Design Zone, where visitors can manipulate materials from along the trail into patterns and structures;
  • Playful Path, a place of twisting paths with different surfaces including coarse gravel, log rounds, and sand;
  • The Nook, an area of carefully spaced seating set under a natural canopy;
  • The Celebration Station, as the final stop on the trail, this area has a place for visitors to express themselves through writing and drawing about their experiences on the trail.

Located near the park’s Humphrey Nature Center with parking, restrooms and Wi-Fi, the ADA-compliant trail was designed with input from Dr. Temple Grandin, a cattle industry expert who was diagnosed with autism in 1950 at the age of two and is now one of the world’s most well-known advocates for the autistic community.

Support and programming for the trail comes from the nearby Perry Central School District in Wyoming County and Rochester’s Camp Puzzle Peace, an Adirondack summer camp for families living with developmental disabilities. Fundraising for the trail is being managed on behalf of State Parks by the Natural Heritage Trust. The trust is a not-for-profit charitable corporation that receives and administers gifts, grants, and contributions to support public programs for parks, recreation, cultural, land and water conservation and historic preservation purposes.

Last month, Autism Nature Trail supporters marked the sudden loss of one of the project’s most devoted early advocates, ANT co-founder Susan Herrnstein. Her family has requested that any donations in her memory be made to the Autism Nature Trail through the Natural Heritage Trust.

Fundraising will continue to support visitor programming for the Autism Nature Trail. So far, more than 650 separate donations have been made to the project, reflecting more than 430 individual donors, 50 corporate donors, 25 community groups, and 15 foundations.

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “The public-private partnership that envisioned and accomplished this innovative project shows what the power of collaboration and commitment can achieve. State Parks values our dedicated staff and partners who have put in countless hours and is grateful for the generous financial support provided by so many donors.”

“Our hope is that the Autism Nature Trail will become an exemplar, widely replicated, taking from what we learned in the seven-year process of creating a first-of-its-kind experience in nature,” Loren Penman, an Autism Nature Trail co-founder and member of the Genesee Regional Park Commission, said. “While others retrofit public places to make them accessible, we have created an accessible place and made it public–and that has made all the difference.”

Gail Servanti, an Autism Nature Trail co-founder and member of the Genesee Regional Park Commission, said, “This is our dream come true and I eagerly await the positive impact a walk on the Autism Nature Trail will have on individuals and families of all abilities.”

“Camp Puzzle Peace was founded out of a desire to share a love of nature and to allow all families to experience the joy of the outdoors in a meaningful way,” Camp Puzzle Peace Executive Director Jen Hackett said. “We are very proud to partner with New York State to expand our purpose by providing programming on the Autism Nature Trail for all families, regardless of ability or diagnosis.”

Perry School District Superintendent Daryl McLaughlin said, “The eyes of the world are on this project.  Everything we are doing has never been done before.  This project represents what is possible when individuals, groups, and municipalities engage with one another to advance a cause.  The Autism Nature Trail will be a powerful instructional space where cutting-edge learning and teaching will occur for all individuals.  This project also will be a paradigm shift for economic development.”

About 1 in 54 children in the U.S. have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and often has a tremendous impact on parents, siblings, and members of the extended family.

Statistics show that young people with autism spend disproportionate amounts of time indoors, often finding comfort in digital activities which results in social isolation. This disconnectedness not only affects individuals with ASD but also can affect caregivers and entire families, who can sometimes feel uncomfortable in outside settings.

For more information on the Autism Nature Trail, visit: https://autismnaturetrail.com/.

Visited by nearly one million people annually, Letchworth State Park covers more than 14,000 acres and is one of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern U.S. In 2015, readers of USA Today voted it the best state park in the United States. Surrounded by lush forests, the Genesee River roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs as high as 600 feet in some places. The park features 66 miles of hiking trails, as well as trails for horseback riding, biking, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. Letchworth offers nature, history and performing arts programs, as well as guided walks, tours, a summer lecture series, whitewater rafting, kayaking, a pool for swimming and hot air ballooning.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails, and boat launches, which were visited by a record 78 million people in 2020. A recent university study found that spending by State Parks and its visitors supports $5 billion in output and sales, 54,000 private-sector jobs and more than $2.8 billion in additional state GDP. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518.474.0456. Also, connect with us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

See: DRIVEABLE ADVENTURES: HIKING/CAMPING IN THE ‘GRAND CANYON OF THE EAST’ – NY’S LETCHWORTH STATE PARK

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View the Aurora Borealis from a Pair of Glass-Topped ‘Igloo Cabins’ in Finnish Lapland

Wow House “igloo” is lodging for a new Stars of Scandinavia tour from Off the Map which features exceptional viewing of the Aurora Borealis (photo by Tundrea)

The new Stars of Scandinavia tour from Off the Map Travel takes visitors to two locations in Finland known for exceptional Aurora viewing. The six-day tour features accommodations in new luxurious igloo-style, glass-roofed cabins with a striking presence against the Finnish tundra. Guests can lie on the luxe queen-sized beds in comfort and warmth while experiencing the magic of the Northern Lights overhead. Rooms have been specially outfitted with low-level red lighting to enable guests’ eyes to adjust to the night sky.

The program begins in Tromso, Norway and travels first to Kilpisjärvi, Finland where the new two-story Wow House “igloo” cabins face North for optimal viewing of the Northern Lights. Just 30 miles from the Arctic Ocean, Kilpisjärvi has virtually no light pollution with a population of a little over 100 residents.

The second stop travels south to Rovaniemi, Finland, the capital of Lapland, located right on the Arctic Circle. Here the Lappish Kammi Suites have been ecologically designed to provide both clear viewing of the Aurora and sustainable accommodations. The igloo design extends to full glass domes over the bedroom on the mezzanine level for clear viewing of the night sky.

Daytime activities offer a range of Lapland adventure with dogsledding, a fat bike tour over the frozen tundra, and snowmobiling to the border point of Norway-Finland-Sweden to meet reindeer and indigenous people in an exploration of Sami culture.

The six-day/five-night “Stars of Scandinavia” tour is priced starting at £179 5 ($2454 USD per person at the time of writing), based on double occupancy, including some meals, all transfers, four-star accommodations in Tromso, four nights in luxury glass-roofed “igloos,” and all activities. Airfare is additional. The tour is available from December 2021 through March 2021.

The new concept was developed by travel experts at Off the Map Travel who recognized a desire for visitors to experience an exciting, socially distanced holiday. “With two top locations for viewing the Northern Lights, plus a range of outdoor activities, we can offer a trip that’s both fulfilling and safe,” notes Jonny Cooper, founder of Off the Map Travel. “The snowy magic of Lapland makes for a special winter experience,” he added.

The team at Off the Map Travel works with experiences and destinations that allow people to explore hidden wonders of our planet. Specializing in Soft Adventure, Off the Map Travel creates tailor-made holiday itineraries offering authentic experiences not offered by many larger travel companies.

For more information on Off the Map Travel itineraries visit www.offthemap.travel; call +44 (0) 800 566 8901; email [email protected]  or join in the conversation on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube or Pinterest.

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Insight Vacations Offers Discount on Summer Tours to Iceland, USA, National Parks

On Insight Vacations’ Iceland tour, see luminous blue icebergs and the setting for the James Bond film ‘Die Another Day’ at Lake Jokulsarlon. Insight is offering 20 percent off select Iceland and USA tours for a limited period. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York, N.Y.– April 27, 2021:  Insight Vacations, a leader in premium guided journeys, is offering U.S. travelers the chance to book last-minute domestic and international getaways that are open for travel with a special 10-day sale on select tours.

From April 27 to May 6, guests can save up to 20 percent on trips this summer to Iceland and the USA departing between May and August.

On all Insight journeys, guests will travel in relaxed style, stay at premium, hand-picked hotels in the best locations, taste delicious, authentic cuisine and explore a variety of cultures with local experiences unavailable to most travelers.

“With travel starting to reopen domestically and internationally, we are excited to get our guests back on the road again,” said Guy Young president of Insight Vacations.  “Being part of a family-owned and run business for the past 100 years, the well-being of our guests and team has always been our top priority, and when clients are ready to travel again, we will have implemented various new protocols so they can travel and relax in style.”

Now’s the time to live your stylish life on a remarkable journey, as we venture to some of the most iconic and remarkable destinations. Several Insight journeys include new MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences with our not-for-profit partner,TreadRight, that are designed to uplift local communities and ensure Insight’s travels are used as a force for good while supporting the United Nations’ Global Goas

Insight Vacations has taken enhanced measures to ensure the wellbeing of its guests.  These include:  Small Group Departures with a maximum of 24 guests and Small Private Groups allowing guests to travel privately on any existing journey with as little as 12 guests; a new Well-being Director who will provide assistance during guests’ travels; new well-being protocols and hygiene standards developed with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the World Health Organization (WHO); and the Peace of Mind Promise, offering guests the assurance they can book with confidence. 

Here are several itineraries to choose from:

Natural Wonders of Iceland – 9 Days

You’ll experience a world of natural phenomena, with gushing waterfalls, volcanoes and stunning landscapes at every turn. In Hellisheidi, guests will visit Iceland’s newest geothermal heat and electric power station, Hellisheidavirkjun, the second largest of its kind in the world. A new MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience, they’ll learn why Hellisheidavirkjun is a world leader in the utilization of geothermal energy. Guests can explore Reykjavik with Insight Choice, choosing between visiting the mineral-rich waters of the Blue lagoon, or discovering Reykjavik’s top sights on a walking tour with a Local Expert. At Lake Jokulsarlon, clients will see its luminous blue icebergs and the setting for the James Bond film ‘Die Another Day’, and in Skaftafell, they’ll visit the amazing alpine setting of the National Park and experience the might of Vatnajökull – Europe’s largest glacier. Clients will explore many other natural wonders such as Gullfoss’s two-tiered waterfall, the hot springs at GeysirSnæfellsjökull National Park’s most famous volcano, and the scenic mountain passes of Almannaskard and the Mödrudal Desert.

Jewels of Alaska –7 Days

This remarkable escape to Alaska explores sweeping landscapes, calving glaciers and spectacular national parks. Guests will embark on the world-famous Alaskan Railroad train for an unforgettable journey over swift-rushing streams and through majestic mountains. They’ll explore the iconic Denali National Park, which is abundant in wildlife and breath-taking views. Guests will delight in a special Insight Experience of meeting the champion dog team of four-time Iditarod winner, Martin Buser, learning about the challenges of competing in the 1,049-mile dogsled race and enjoying lunch at his home. In Talkeetna, they’ll enjoy an included Jet Boat Tour up the Chulitna River and visit a Trappers Cabin. While in Anchorage, guests will join Local Experts in an exclusive presentation on making Eskimo ice cream at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. To end the journey on a scenic note, guests will board the 26 Glacier Cruise in Whittier for a 100-mile boat tour of Prince William Sound and into the College Fjord, afterwards enjoying a Deliciously Authentic Dining experience, joining the Captain in the wheelhouse for an included lunch.

Enchanting Canyonlands -7 Days

This all-American journey introduces you to America’s West in complete style. For a Unique Insight Experience,  guests will join Local Expert, Canyon Tim, for an informative talk about the wonders of the Grand Canyon, teaching about the origins of the five-million-year-old canyon, its rock formation and impact now. They’ll journey on through the barren beauty of the desert to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, where they’ll board all-terrain vehicles with open sides to explore the valley with a Navajo guide. They’ll enjoy Deliciously Authentic Dining while mingling over a delightful Welcome Dinner at Hotel Valley Ho’s renowned Zuzu Restaurant in Scottsdale, named for the beloved matriarch of the family that owns the property.

Wonders of the American West – 10 Days

This comprehensive exploration of the American West visits breathtaking natural wonders and captivating landscapes made famous by classic Western movies. Starting with the glamor of Las Vegas, guests will feel like royalty at the renowned Cesar’s Palace enjoying the iconic Las Vegas strip nightlife. For a Unique Insight Experience, guests will explore Monument Valley with a Navajo guide, boarding an all-terrain vehicle for a private tour through the mythical formation of the Navajo Tribal Park. Along the way they’ll discover the majestic Grand Canyon, the ancient pueblo cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, the sandstone cliffs of Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park’s most scenic canyons in the United States on a private Zion Canyon Shuttle. hand-picked hotel in the heart of the destination, guests will stay at the historic Bryce Canyon National Park Lodge, offering unrivaled access to breathtaking views, world-class hiking trails, and just steps from the Bryce Amphitheater of ancient rock formations.

For reservations call Insight Vacations at 1-800-582-8380 or visit www.insightvacations.com

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