Certainly the highlight of an amazing two weeks in Turkey. Cappadocia is a magical place and we heard the best way to experience it is in a hot air balloon.
It starts around 4:30am, before the first call prayer, when the company picks you up from your hotel and drives to you the lift-off spot. We arrived half awake as they were just starting to fill the balloons with the initial helping of hot air. Right before the balloon is full, they call you over one by one to the basket and position you to balance the load.
And then you're off. We started behind a hill that borders a major valley and our first goal was to clear the hill.
In a hot air balloon, the pilot can only control the height of the balloon--he has no control over lateral direction. A skilled navigator understands the wind patterns and is so familiar with the territory that they know just how the air blows. Lucky our pilot was...
South Haven, Michigan, is an ideal summer vacation spot. This quaint little town has several public beaches, a busy marina, and several charming B&B's. It's only a short drive from Chicago or Detroit and a great place to spend the weekend.
Paradise Island is one of the many excursions you can enjoy while visiting the north coast of Dominican Republic. The day begins with being driven out to a beach near Monti Cristi and dropped off. From there you are taken by speed boat to Paradise Island. Paradise Island is a sand bar about two miles off the coast that is surrounded by crystal clear water, perfect white sand, and excellent snorkeling reefs. On the island there are a few huts to put your things in and the locals provide some pineapple and coconut to snack on. After a few hours of island bliss, you are whisked back to shore, but not before being taken through a some gorgeously tangled mangrove trees half submerged in the sea. After an awesome Dominican lunch (included) in a local restaurant, you are then taken to a cigar factory to watch some dudes hand roll cigars made from tobacco grown right in their own backyard....
I left tropical Southeast Asia for Japan in the dead of winter for one reason - to see snow monkeys. I'd always seen pictures like the one above, of zen macaques in steaming hot springs surrounded by snow, and had no idea how accessible they were but was determined to find them. Turns out, it's just an hour bullet train to Nagano from Tokyo, and then another train to Yudanaka, a sleepy winter wonderland offering onsen galore... and the Jigokudani Snow Monkey park!
A morning encounter with these primates, the only ones other than humans known to thrive in a snowy environment, is not to be missed. While the adults soak in the springs, appearing to follow a strict code of conduct surrounding this activity - much like their local human counterparts do! - the mischievous youngsters practice acrobatics and start snowball fights.
I am glad I didn't read too much about Fushimi Inari before my visit. Had I understood just how vast it was, I may not have undertaken the climb all the way to the top and felt lost among the endless torii gates. Had I known there were several thousand of those gates, I may not have endeavored to count them all on my way back down. I made it to 1,941.
I was not sure what to expect when I visited the city of Seville. It was supposed to be a side trip for my vacation, a short train ride from Madrid. But what I didn't realize when I went there, the city was celebrating their annual La Feria Sevilla and it turned out to be one of the better decisions I made on my travels. A week when the whole city celebrated made the whole city very colorful and alive. Girls were wearing their traditional dresses and dancing flamenco. Guys on their traditional suits. It was just lovely. Everyone was so beautiful.
Even if you're not staying at the Pelican Eyes resort is San Juan del Sur, it's a nice place to have a few drinks and gaze out over the town.
I never felt such good vibes as I did in El Bolson/Lago Puelo. One of the best places I have ever been. Days spent hiking in the mountains, drinking craft beers and hanging in the park, eating at the artisans market, or chillin' at Lago Puelo. Days finished with a late night traditional Argentinan parilla(bbq|) and malbec and live music. There are few places in my mind that could be more perfect : )
There's no other day hike in all of New Zealand that is as diverse as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The terrain is so unique, the location was used to portray "Mt Doom" in the Lord of the Rings films.
The nearly 20 kilometer trail winds into high altitude through the dormant crater of a volcano and down the steep slope of another. As the path winds back down into the forest, it passes by three emerald lakes, made green thanks to minerals and chemicals present in volcanic environments.
Our hike occurred on a day of variable weather. The morning began with sun, but moments of thick cloud cover would obscure the trail enough that the path was barely visible only meters in front of our toes. As we approached the Emerald lakes, the clouds were the thickest we'd seen. But just as quickly as they arrived, they parted in time for us to glimpse the vibrant green pools that lay before us.
A Beautiful sunset from the Jeeva Klui resort on Lombok. A view over the infiniti pool out to the Lombok Straight towards Bali.
Diamond Beach (playa diamante) in Cabrera, Dominican Republic is paradise on earth. You are able to walk out into the water 200ft before it even gets above your knees. A natural hot spring runs beneath the cove and warms the sand under your feet. Pull up a chair underneath an almond tree and just gaze into the crystal clear blue water as Fran Cisco, the little restaurant owner, brings you a Carona with a lime. This is a great beach for kids as the water is not very deep and the sand is perfect. You can also go snorkeling if you wade out far enough. Overall, this beach is relaxing. It's very secluded and peaceful. Awesome spot to spend the day.