Minutes after we departed, our balloon climbed to an altitude where we could view the ever-expansive Namib Sand Sea. Our pilot, Dennis, was the son of the founder of Namib Sky Balloons and had grown up on farm we flew over moments after our departure. This view extends north to Conical Hill and the Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in the distance.
We spent an hour in the air taking in the views of the sand and the mystical "fairy circles" that pepper the grass plains of the NamibRand. The formation of these circles is still a mystery and several theories exist.
After landing on the grasslands we were whisked away to a wonderful breakfast on the edge of the dunes. We drank champagne and toasted to the memorable last several hours.
If I had a private jet
This is where I store all my travel dreams. Till I get to the private jet, I'll keep coming back here.
to make the sunset at the famous U Bein bridge near Mandalay got us there just in time. And boy was it worth the effort. Not only this beauty but a fabulous temple on the river nearby was lit in brilliant shades of gold and orange. Literally thousands of photographs later, Myanmar is still my favorite country visited. DO Inle Lake area, Do the Irawaddy River (the Road to Mandalay of Kipling fame and the eponymous boat trip by Orient Express.) Visit the Plains of Bagan, for thousands of temples, and Yangon for Shwedagon Temple complex... everything here is astounding. Visit the markets (many to choose from) meet the people (warm friendly open buddhists) and play with the kids (they are everywhere.)
we arrived on a day with a dusting of snow but the ferry man was still willing to row us over to the island in the middle of Lake Bled. Happy to have the fare, he broke a sweat as we huddled together for warmth. Slovenia is an undiscovered gem- Ljubljana is stunningly beautiful and virtually the entire old city has been made into pedestrian only streets. Visit the market, eat in a river side cafe, but be sure to get outside the city as well - the countryside offers much and can easily be done in day trips from LJU. The Slovenians joke that if you play the accordian in their country you invade a neighbor because Slovenia is so small. "Good things come in small packages" has never been more true!
For ten days, traveling across the Samburu and Masai Mara regions of Kenya, our tribe of nine women melded into a herd of forty elephants while they played, ate, scratched and trumpeted; became one with a pride of 12 lion during a light rain shower; migrated with thousands of wildebeest and zebra on their instinctual drive to green grass; caressed dik-dik, giraffe, and elephants; and rode camels as if we belonged to the Toureg tribe on a desert trek. See full story and itinerary at AfricaInside.org
There I was, stuck between a rock and a hard place. I wanted to swim in the ocean, to cleanse myself of my misgivings in the salty sea, but I also wanted to lounge in the infinity pool, sip a fruity cocktail (without being judged), and swim a few laps without fear of being drowned by an octopus. One of the great conundrums of our time.
I decided that I would get crazy and do both. In the ocean I was pounded against the rocks by the angry surf (I may have misjudged its power), but I did manage to have my carcass hauled out of the water by the legendary stick fishermen of the Southern Coast, so I consider it a win.
I spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool at the Frangipani Tree, one of the most remarkable hotels I have ever visited. The pool and the setting on the southern coast alone make it a place worth checking out - the immaculate, open concept villas, outdoor infinity...
The seven-room Tcherassi Hotel and Spa is an ode to modernism set in a renovated 250-year-old mansion. Colombian-born fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi named each room after a fancy fabric (the trilevel penthouse is called the Gazar). After a chocolate-particle scrub at the spa, head to the rooftop Aquabar for a champagne-and-cognac Silvia Royale cocktail beneath the stars. —Milena Damjanov
From $432. Calle del Sargento Mayor N 6-21, 57/5-664-4445, tcherassihotels.com. Image courtesy of Tcherassi Hotel. This appeared in the March/April 2011 issue.
The charming colonial town of Paraty is a must-see destination in Brazil...
Luxurious boutique hotel, Pousada Da Ouro, (http://pousadaouro.com.br/eng/home.html)
is the perfect transition from rough and tumble Rio to languid luxury in Paraty. The grounds and staff effortlessly take care of anything and everything you could possibly desire.
Boutiques... Stolling along the cobblestones, you'll find the most amazing boutiques with tasteful (i.e. not cheap and tacky) handicrafts, cozy cafes, and candlelit seafood restaurants. Without a doubt, the best MOQUECA DE CAMARAO around is at ARPOADOR restaurant. If you don't know what this is, then you are in for a treat. Just order it. You'll thank me.
And lastly, Cachaca. If you've had a Caipirinha, then you're already familiar with this sweet, seductive substance, whether you know it or not. And in Paraty, you have to stop at the
At the mouth of the Douro River, the medieval city of Porto, Portugal, is undergoing an architectural renaissance. Old World icons, such as the baroque Torre dos Clérigos bell tower that helped the city earn UNESCO status in 1996, contrast with contemporary buildings by Pritzker Prize–winning architects Álvaro Siza Vieira and Eduardo Souto de Moura. New boutiques are transforming historic streets, and upscale hotels are bringing former palaces and row houses back to life.
This appeared in the January/February 2012 issue. Photo by Oliver Strewe/Lonely Planet Images.
I love the wines of Mendoza, Argentina, but I wanted to marry the wines of Catena Zapata when I had the chance to drink them whilst overlooking the green vineyards back dropped by the soaring, snow capped Andes peaks. The wines of Catena are mostly big reds made from Malbec or Cabernet and they make some Chardonnay and Savignon Blanc as well. The winery is fashioned after a stepped Maya pyramid and is furnished with state of the art equipment. Wine tours last about an hour and a half and finish at the tasting room, where you can purchase bottles of wine. Catena Zapata and the rest of the Mendoza region wineries are only open by appointment, so be sure to have a day's worth of wine tours booked in advance for your itinerary. Be sure not to skip over the city of Mendoza as there are many wine tasting rooms featuring wines from the region and selling limited releases and other rarities...
This is what I think of when travel comes to mind. I think untrammeled territory, wide open country, bits and pieces of the world I've never seen before, people doing things I didn't know they still do or ever did, and a big, booming landscape.
Lake Maninjau ticked off every box on my list time and again. We went on quite the harrowing bike ride around the lake (it was supposed to take half a day, but lasted roughly ten hours), but we had plenty of time to pick rice with locals, sample fresh cinnamon bark, and try our hand at fishing from a canoe. I found out that I am a terrible canoe fisherman, but my new friend didn't really mind. He thought it was funny that I could hardly balance myself on the felled timber, never mind his tiny skiff.
If you visit Maninjau, I highly recommend that you rent a bike or a scooter and get lost on the western shore. It was a fantastic experience, and...
Each of the seven suites at a new retreat in Windhoek, Namibia, is inspired by a different region of the country. Landscape photography and lights fashioned from woven baskets decorate the Erongo suite (shown). From $243. This appeared in the September, 2012 issue.
Beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema are justifiably famous, but city insiders head southwest to Prainha for some of the area’s best surf and views. Join locals at Restaurante Bira for fish stewed in coconut milk or for an after-surf caipirinha while watching the waves. 55/(0) 21-2410-8304. This appeared in the September, 2012 issue.
For some, Angkor Wat epitomizes the Cambodian travel experience. The ancient ruins at Angkor stand as one of mankind's greatest engineering achievements, best experienced as day breaks - so long as you beat the tourist hordes to a good spot across the lake.
While watching a bull meet its grisly end is not everyone's idea of a pleasant afternoon, the costumes and fanfare accompanying a bullfight are worth the price of the ticket. This bullfight in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, MX featured a column of young men dressed as matadors who taunted the bull till it charged, slamming the first young man back into his colleagues who absorbed the blow. In a classic macho fashion, the front guy, only marginally wounded, was met with a standing ovation for his bravery. A woman in a silky red dress danced with a marvelously well trained horse. A parade featured the Queen and her entourage in their finery followed by the exquisitely adorned matadors, all accepting roses tossed from the stands. After the bullfight was cancelled due to rain, the ring was opened to the spectators to "play" with a young bull. One man, so drunk he could barely stand,...
Certain things in life are simply impossible to adequately capture in a mere photograph. Iguazú Falls is definitely one of them, and above is my best effort to convey the epic expanse of 'The Devil's Throat.' Situated on the border of Brazil and Argentina, the falls are the watery dividing line between the two countries at this exact point. I accessed the falls from the Argentinian side, via Iguazú National Park and took a mini train (the Rainforest Ecological Train to be exact), some trails, and more than a few catwalks to reach this particular vantage point. Unlike some falls in the US and Canada, in the southern hemisphere you can get dangerously close to the roaring waters of these grand spectacles. The sound is deafening, the spray is enticing, and the visuals are simply amazing. As I stood there, trying to take it all in, all I could do was feel my heart pounding as I stared...
People gathered at Oia an hour before sunset to find a perfect spot for watching the most romantic moment on the island. After the sun finally sets, you will hear a round of applause from different direction around you, just like after a good show.
Waking up to sip locally grown coffee and fresh orange juice. Early morning at finca was hedonistic yet very serene experience. This gem of a place is a coffee estate located beneath the Volcáno Barú.
Salinas Grande. After going up and over the mountain pass from Quebrada de Humahuaca, you drive through the clouds, then drop down to the salt flats. Eerie. Zero humidity. Intense sun. Your own mirage.
The little city of Banos is situated on the side of volcano Tungurahua and has gorgeous waterfalls like this one, the Pailon del Diablo or Devil's Cauldron. To get up this high the trail first drops about 1000 feet into the valley and then climbs via stairs and ladders until it ends inside the waterfall under a sheltered rock overhang with millions of gallons of water thundering around. It's quite wet and the "trail" turns into a crawl space at certain points but the view is astonishing.
Five open-plan huts sit on the shores of a private island, deep in the wildlife-rich wetlands of Lake Baringo. In the morning, after a breakfast of fresh fruit, take a canoe out to spot hippos and some 450 species of birds. Doubles from $690, Samatian Island, Lake Baringo, 254/(0) 72-723-2445, samatianislandlodge.com.
Photo courtesy of the Safari & Conservation Company/Flickr. This appeared in the July/August 2012 issue. Read Matt Gross’s feature on running in Kenya.
Shot at Artist's Palette, Death Valley. It was 110 degrees mid-day with sun bearing down on us, and we were in full motorcycle gear so we couldn't stop too long or us along with our bikes would over heat, but the sight of these mountains was too good to not stop and snap a few images before continuing the ride. The colors are caused by the oxidation of different metals (red, pink and yellow is from iron salts, green is from decomposing tuff-derived mica, and manganese produces the purple). One of many places on a 1,400 mile motorcycle ride taken in May.
El Nido, Palawan, Philippines: A close friend of mine, a surfer dude, once told me, "You can always tell where you are in the world by the color of the ocean." In the Philippines, the waters are a deep, aquamarine. So clear, you can see all the way to the bottom. We packed our own lunch and spent a day kayaking. We were all alone on this island - I wanted to put a flag in it and claim it as mine!
After a morning snorkeling tour in northern Palawan, our boat passed a tiny, deserted island called Isla Walang Lang-aw. My husband and I asked our guide if it was possible to explore it. He smiled and nodded as he passed our snorkels and fins. We excitedly swam ashore and spent the next half hour alone on our island oasis, exploring its secret cave and playing on the beach.
about 250 miles from Manilla, 3 mile long Pamalican island lies in crystal clear water and warm trade winds. one of the greatest places I've stayed for sure. each bungalow is like a small house on the beach or atop the tree canopy. every bungalow has its' own golf cart so you can explore the small private island, drive to your massage, go to the clubhouse for fresh lobster or a daiquiri, or just drive to get lost on one of the many white sand beaches... amazing diving, snorkeling, sailing hobie cats included~. you will feel like you are the only guests on the island. while I was there we helped put any sea turtles into sea as they hatched on the protected birth zone. after you arrive by a short flight from Manilla, villas will run $800 to $ 4500 usd.... but be prepared to be pampered! This backpacker was in heaven!!!!! luckily it was for work so I didn't have to worry about the...
Seeing the Victoria Falls is truly amazing. I've been lucky enough to view the falls from both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides, and I have to say that I am partial to the Zim side. Better value for money, unique lodges and camps and better views even when the water levels are low in the dry season (August onward). Check out Elephant Camp and Ilala Lodge.
I feel like I'm betraying a well-guarded secret by telling people about this secluded slice of paradise, but it's bound to be discovered sooner or later. Malapascua, a tiny little island off of Cebu's northern tip in The Philippines, is known as one of the best dive destinations in the world - it's the only place on earth where you can swim with thresher sharks - and also plays host to one of the prettiest little beaches in the world, a grotto on the western part of the island that offers sensational sunset views and a chance to watch the fishermen do their thing against a setting sun.
It really was good and well worth the hour-long wait. Lombardis is always pretty packed, but its got a great atmosphere to wait around in. The powdery crust, cooked to perfection, fine tomatoes, and delicious cheese...its my kind of pizza, and seems to be just about everyone else's too.