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A San Francisco–based traveler flew his wheels to France and fulfilled his racing fantasy.

San Francisco–based traveler Roger Tanaka and his fiancée flew their wheels to France, where Trek Travel helped the hardcore cyclists fulfill their racing fantasy.   

I have competed in triathlons—including three Ironmans—so I wasn’t super nervous going into Trek Travel’s nine-day Classic Climbs of the Tour last July. Trek does a great job prescreening travelers for the trip: Many of the riders had done several century [100-mile] rides and no one was a novice. Still, I’m not the best cyclist. I knew I’d be in the slower group, unlike my fiancée, Anna, who rides fast and is always way ahead.

Our trip started just after the Tour de France, which meant we were cycling the same mountains that famous cyclists such as Chris Froome had ridden two weeks earlier. We cycled up Mont Ventoux, an iconic, windswept mountain in Provence. We saw the spot where Froome had crashed and then ran on foot to finish the last couple hundred meters of the stage.

Then there was Alpe d’Huez. It’s probably one of the most famous climbs in the world. It’s not steep, but it has something like 21 switchbacks. The best part of riding it: going back to the States and knowing that everyone—in the cycling world at least—knows what it is. I picked up a jersey with the Alpe d’Huez symbol—a marmot—and when I ride Mount Diablo in Northern California, people always comment on it.

Alpe d’Huez isn’t the worst climb, though; it’s just the most famous. Col du Galibier is the worst. That’s where the weather is especially unpredictable. All of a sudden, there’s a cloud overhead and it’s pouring. That’s what happened to us on Galibier. Plus, the pass is long—20 miles up, 20 miles down—and steeper at the top than Alpe d’Huez.

The best part of the trip was the group energy. There were some diehard guys who were really into the Tour. They knew all the climbs and who had dropped out where, so it was interesting to hear from them. But it was especially fun, after a long day’s ride, to gather for food, drinks, and stories. You get a group of cyclists together with wine, beer, and food—lots of food—and you’ll always have a good time. —as told to Sarah Purkrabek

Make your dream come true: Trek Travel’s Classic Climbs of the Tour package starts at $4,999 per person. For more info, visit trektravel.com.

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52 Outdoor Adventure Ideas
No matter if you're a hiker, a biker, or a walker, we've got your ideal outdoor expedition.
Collected by Allison Murray, AFAR Contributor
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    Khangsar, Nepal
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    Nepal’s 1,050-mile Great Himalaya Trail traverses a sacred wilderness of alpine meadows and snow leopards. Outfitter World Expeditions leads 152-day treks, or tackle sections such as the icy Makalu segment, with views of Mount Everest. $28,959; sections starting at $3,190. worldexpeditions.com —Rebecca Dalzell From the July/August 2017 Issue
    By Afar Magazine, AFAR Staff
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    Erbil, Iraq
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    Go off-piste in northern Iraq on a 10-day ski trip. Starting in historic Erbil, ply backcountry trails near Mount Halgurd, Iraq’s highest peak, then meet with a local Nordic club to explore Penjwen, on the Iranian border. The Kurds are famously warm, so don’t be surprised to find yourself sharing cake with Peshmerga soldiers. $2,450. anotherworldadventures.com —Rebecca Dalzell From the July/August 2017 Issue
    By Afar Magazine, AFAR Staff
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    Nor Lípez, Bolivia
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    Experience rugged gaucho culture on a 14-day Ride Andes horseback tour from Argentina to Chile. The 127-mile route passes through Patagonian steppe and Valdivian rain forest; horses swim the Puelo River to reach Ventisqueros Valley and its hanging glacier. From $5,910. rideandes.com —Rebecca Dalzell From the July/August 2017 Issue
    By Afar Magazine, AFAR Staff
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    Boseong Gun, South Korea
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    South Korea. To the world it is bright neon lights, fuel-efficient cars, genetic research and kimchi. The Land of the Morning Calm is deservedly lauded as a spreading ground for future tech and well known as the K-pop powerhouse, though Seoul is furiously rebranding as a design-centric, green-focused hub to East Asia. But what of the Korea that existed before and beyond the glass and granite of modernity? How much of it remains? The emerald carpets of the Boseong Tea Fields offer a glimpse of what Korea was before it became an Asian power, and is a relaxing respite from the chaos of the city centers.
    By Flash Parker, AFAR Ambassador
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    Zurich, Switzerland
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    While visiting Zurich, some friends took me to Üetliberg, which was, quite literally, a winter wonderland. Walking the trails amidst the beautiful icy trees was surreal. It was freezing, but we didn’t mind – the coffee awaiting us at the lodge at the top of the mountain gave us a nice respite from the chill. You can see more photos on my blog at http://stevecookmedia.com/uetliberg/.
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    Denizli Merkez, Turkey
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    Cleopatra bathed in the Antique Pool at Hierapolis--before a great earthquake knocked several pillars into the pool. Fed by natural spring, the warm water is said to have healing qualities. My kids and I enjoyed the bubbles; they stick to skin and give the water a sharp taste. After trekking through many ancient cities, these columns were far more fascinating to me underwater. We trekked up the travertines of Pamukkale, hiked the ancient sites of Hierapolis (which include a large amphitheater and a Martyrium where St. Phillip is said to have been martyred and later buried--and an interesting octagonal structure was built). We ended the day swimming in the Antique Pool--a relaxing way to end the sun-infused, hike-filled day. The crowds in the pool were thinner by that hour, too. We hiked down the hill, again past the beautiful white travertines, as yummy yellow light disappeared behind the mountain.
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    Moscow, Idaho
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    The Palouse Scenic Byway is 208 miles of unique rolling hills of agricultural landscapes. The winding roads of Eastern Washington and Western Idaho have a surprise around every curve and over every hill that will delight the eye with the natural beauty of the area. This rural area has many photographic opportunities, giant old barns with their spines broken, homes in ruins of a bygone era leaves one wondering what their personal historical stories have to tell.
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    Hwange, Zimbabwe
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    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.
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    Tutume, Botswana
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    Quad biking in the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana is available from the Uncharted Africa camps - Jack's Camp, San Camp and Camp Kalahari. I stayed at Camp Kalahari (the most affordable of the three) and really enjoyed it's simplicity and charm. Fly into Maun and book a scheduled flight or a charter to the camps. Quad biking is seasonal and cannot be guaranteed.
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    Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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    Amsterdam might be the perfect urban destination for a toddler. A new park every day. This was taken at Westerpark, but by far the best locals-only park was Flevopark. It's a long ride from the center, but totally tranquil on a Sunday afternoon. Even the kids seemed to be relaxed.
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    San Ysidro, New Mexico
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    I love mountain biking! I am basically obsessed with the activity, have been racing for half my life, and spend the majority of my disposable income on bike related activities. I would do it every single day if I could and at times I do. There are a lot of places in the United States that get a lot of hype for mountain biking like Fruita, Colorado and Moab, Utah, and I love visiting these places, but if you live in the south then I would recommend stopping over in Albuquerque, New Mexico on your way out west. Yes, there are some great things about the ABQ besides "Breaking Bad"! Just outside of Albuquerque is one of the coolest trails I have ever ridden called White Mesa. They call it White Mesa because of the gypsum that makes up most of the trail system. And gypsum makes for a great surface for single-track! Get ready to shred! It is also a paleontological experience because of the dinosaur bones sticking out of the eroded rocks here. There is also an amazing sinkhole at the top of one of the largest climbs on the trail. This place is hella cool! The geology here is amazing and the desert sky always sets a dramatic backdrop. The trail is single-speed friendly and the climate is great year-round! Although the trail is primarily geared towards mounting biking, hiking and horseback riding is welcomed here too. Don't forget your mountain bike on your next trip to ABQ!
    By Rey Madolora, AFAR Local Expert
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    Hua Hin, Thailand
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    On a writing assignment to Hua Hin, Thailand, we discovered this wooden walkway built by the Parks Department that allows visitors to do a one-km circuit through the mangrove forest in the area. Located only 30 kilometres south of Hua Hin, at the mouth of the Pranburi River into the Gulf of Thailand, the forest covers an area of 3.17 km² and is said to be the largest mangrove forest in Thailand. Here a couple of nature trails allow visitors a glimpse of the wealth of life sustained by them. The beach route takes you along a path through the sea pine trees running alongside the water’s edge. But the most popular one starts in front of the visitors’ centre. Large crab sculptures flank a sturdy raised wooden walkway that trails one-kilometre deep into the vegetation. Along the way signboards point out the different types of flora and fauna. Expect to see kingfisher birds, egrets, red claw crabs, mudskippers, white claw fiddler crabs, mud lobsters, and the Merder’s Mangrove Crab that is commonly used in the popular Thai papaya salad, somtam. One sign informs that more than 82 species of fish and 12 kinds of shrimp move through mangrove roots during high tide. At a point the walkway ascends allowing a bird’s eye view of the vegetation with hills in the distance. You can also add to your experience by taking a long-tail boat for a trip around the mangroves and up the Pranburi River.
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    Jargalant, Mongolia
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    There aren't that many rivers in Mongolia but for some odd reason, every one of the handful of bridges we came across were crooked and in all the wrong directions. For some other odd reason, although every bridge was wide enough for us to drive over, we had to cross on foot to get the other side. We couldn't help but laugh under the circumstances! All in a week's journey across the Mongolia steppes!
    By Julee K., AFAR Local Expert
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    Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
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    Every serious skier dreams about gliding down virgin powder snow and unblemished mountain sides, and depending on snow fall, Switzerland has ample opportunity for just that. Mürren is blessed with hike-friendly mountains and powder-packed bowls which maintain fresh snow days after a big fall. A cable car up to Schilthorn’s peak opens up various opportunities for challenging off-piste skiing, although a guide is recommended. Resorts at Verbier and Grindelwald are among the most popular for off-piste skiing and also offer expert guides on powder skiing such as Verbier’s Powder and Freeride camps, or PowderZone—a three-day powder skiing course exclusive to Grindelwald.
    By Simon Willis, AFAR Local Expert
  • 15 / 52
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    Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
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    Lake Tekapo is a sweet little slice of heaven, and a paradise you'll have all to your own, should you visit outside the high season. The glacial waters running out of the Southern Alps are every bit as mesmerizing as they are refreshing - which is good, since I was knee-deep in the frigid water for half on hour while working on this image. It was nice to have a distraction. I made this image with the help of a dirty black sock - I held the sock over the top half of the frame, where the sun was brightest, allowing me to capture an even exposure throughout. Cheapest piece of gear I've ever bought.
    By Flash Parker, AFAR Ambassador
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    Fall City, Washington
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    Just 25 miles east of Seattle, in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, is Snoqualmie Falls. Winter and spring are the best times to see the thundering 268-ft waterfall; summer brings sun (believe it or not), but less rain and snowmelt. Although the hiking path down to the base of the falls is currently closed (scheduled to re-open in 2013), the view from the top is well worth the drive out of Seattle...and depending on the wind, you're just as likely to get wet from the spray up there... (In the Coast Salish language, 'snoqualmie' means 'moon;' the mist from the falls was believed to connect heaven and earth.) For directions from Seattle: http://www.snoqualmiefalls.com/directions/ For more information about the Lodge/spa located on the cliff just above the waterfall: http://www.salishlodge.com
    By Joseph Cyr, AFAR Local Expert
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    Brasilia, Brazil
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    An hour outside of Brasilia, we found ourselves surrounded in tough, scrubby land. A friend at a nearby nature reserve took us on a long hike down the path of a waterfall, which pooled in various places and formed a sort of natural waterslide.
  • 18 / 52
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    Save Place
    Halong Bay is a breathtakingly beautiful bay in the Gulf of Tonkin, comprised of densely concentrated zone of stone islands. The only way to see it all is to take a leisurely boat ride around the bay (a day trip or an overnight stay) soaking up the spectacular scenery, exploring the grottoes and caves, and just enjoying what seemed like nature’s work of art. http://0dysseusjournal.blogspot.com/2012/01/vietnam-natures-work-of-art.html
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    Hopkins, Belize
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    Hopkins Village is a coastal escape with a perfect balance of culture, and a local and international dining scene, and some of the best accommodation options in the country. Once a remote Garifuna fishing village, Hopkins has become a full-fledged tourist destination without losing its local flavor. You’ll find yourself immersed in the Garifuna way of life, laid-back during the day and alive at night. The village’s main stretch of beach is one of the safest in Belize, even if the sea isn’t that typical turquoise hue. Inland, you'll find a host of activities ranging from Garifuna drumming classes at Lebeha Drumming Center, cooking classes at Palmento Grove Cultural Lodge, or hiking at nearby Bocawina National Park. Nights bring options for drinks and dining—try a Garifuna restaurant, but also treat yourself to al fresco gourmet meals at Chef Rob’s. Weekly drumming nights are popular on the beach but so is gazing at the stars from your hammock.
    By Lebawit Lily Girma, AFAR Local Expert
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    Sacha Lodge Boat Dock, Ecuador
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    Walk the plank at Sacha Lodge in Ecuadorian jungle in Cocoa.
  • 21 / 52
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    Maun, Botswana
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    While traveling through Botswana, one may experience feelings of lightness, or even the sensation of floating through air. My ride down the Okavango Delta was no different. Which way is up? Who cares, I'm in another world.
  • 22 / 52
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    Arth, Switzerland
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    Took a day trip to Rigi-Kulm, a "Pre-Alp" near Luzern, Switzerland. Apparently you know when it's a good day to be on the mountains when there is a layer of mist in the lower elevations.
    By AFAR Traveler
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    Ma'an Governorate, Jordan
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    A couple days after seeing the Pyramids we came to Petra and were completely blown away. The walk through the canyon only builds up the excitement and then the Treasury appears immediately in front of you. The Pyramids might have been one of the Seven Wonders of the World but whoever came up with that list did not come here.
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    Stuben Am Arlberg Hotel Post, Austria
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    Where art meets the slopes: I almost skied into this life size, solid cast iron sculpture. Antony Gormley's Horizon Field consists of 100 figures of the human body spread over an area of 150km² in the High Alps of Vorarlberg. Horizon Field is the first art project of its kind in the mountains, and the largest landscape intervention in Austria to date, forming a horizontal line at exactly 2,039m above sea level. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horizon_Field
    By Nina Dietzel, AFAR Ambassador
  • 25 / 52
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    Moss Beach, California
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    At any time of day this forest feels enchanted. As you walk along, what are now, well marked paths there are phases of to this coastal journey. Depicted is the cypress forest which leads north to the tide pools and south to Three Palm, which needs no explanation once you are there. What may feel like a secret, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is a sanctuary for lots of wild life. It has be available to cinematographers for films such as Memoirs of A Geisha. My best friends parents even got married in this forest in 1985. What is not obvious from this photograph is that the seaside cliff is yards away. At points along the trails there is access down to the beach but at other spots please believe the signage when it tells you to "stay back from the cliff". Whatever the occasion is that finally brings you to this hidden treasure, please be respectful to the land and animals because this is my hometown and where I have left my heart.
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    Vancouver, Canada
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    The Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, in northern Vancouver, is one of Lynn Valley's best-kept secrets. The 50 meter high bridge stretches across a beautiful canyon with waterfalls and deep pools below. The best part is, it's free of charge. Crossing the bridge is always an exciting experience, it bounces up and down and sways from side to side with every step. The bridge is quite narrow, and crossing becomes a little nerve-racking when there are several others trying to cross at the same time. The view from the middle of the bridge is breathtaking!
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    Perito Moreno, Santa Cruz, Argentina
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    Trekking along the glacier. This water tastes fresh.
    By Amelie
  • 28 / 52
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    Swakopmund, Namibia
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    It was our last day in Namibia and we decided to sign up for a sandboarding lesson in Swakopmund. Our two guides took us out to the desert where, after a strenuous hike up the dune, we strapped on snowboards and helmets and rode down the orange sand. The thrill was over in less than two minutes, at which point we had to climb back up to the top of the dune and do it all over again. But what an adrenaline rush it was! The guides, who had never seen snow, killed it doing jumps and tricks on their boards. They were so cool they ended up inviting us to have a drink with them at a bar with them in their township. We played pool, had some local drinks and made new friends. A highlight of our trip.
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    Karas, Namibia
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    The Namib Desert is quite possibly one of the most stunning places in the world. The pockets of green bushes that grow out of the vivid orange sand look almost surreal. To avoid the crowds, we set out to Sossusvlei well before sunrise and made it there by around 7am. The sky was the bluest I'd ever seen, the sand a bright orange. With temperatures already hovering around 97F, we climbed one beautiful dune after another. After a little rest at the top of one, I gave in to my impulse of taking my shoes off to feel the cool sand then ran down to the bottom. What an adrenaline rush!
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    Waitomo, New Zealand
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    I’m not afraid of heights, but I’ll admit that peering over the ledge into the 100-metre (about 330 feet) decent awaiting me sends me into a bit of a panic attack. I can’t see the bottom of the cave, as a thick layer of mist fills the gaping shaft. Our guide assures me that I can’t fall; that the rope attached to my waist will allow me to control the speed of my decent…but my mind is screaming at me “Are you crazy?! You’re going to die!” It takes everything in me to slide off the ledge and allow myself to hang mid-air over the void. It takes 30 minutes to reach the bottom of the cave, and once we arrive, I am surrounded by pre-historic rock formations with plants jutting through the crevices and an understanding of how very small I am in this world. Our guide leads us through various sections of the cave. Sometimes we climb, sometimes we crawl, and other times we tip-toe across small ledges, hooking ourselves to the carabineers as we go. About half way through our exploration, our guide tells us to turn off our flashlights and look up. As we do,the ceiling of the cave begins to glow, covered by hundreds of glow worms. This is truly a whole other world beneath our own. This adventure took place in the Waitomo Caves on New Zealand’s north island. We did the 'Lost World Challenge' through ‘Waitomo Adventures’ company. Their website is www.waitomo.co.nz Enjoy the rush!
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    Haleiwa, Hawaii
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    Beautiful warm surf at chuns reef on north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. Tasty waves for longboard and short. Can get big winter, so be careful.. park right across from beach, lock up, don't leave valuables. surf with sea turtles until sun goes down. rent board if you need in haleiwa town and eat fish tacos at nearby sharks cove food truck.... respect locals and enjoy the surf!!
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    Death Valley, California
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    hiking through mesquite dunes in death valley is an amazing communion with mother nature. One knows civilization is directly south once out in the middle if dunes, but the feeling of being completely lost is overwhelming among the high dunes and far horizons...
  • 33 / 52
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    San Francisco, California
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    There is no better adrenaline rush than surfing Ocean Beach in San Francisco at low tide. The sun and the sets marching in will keep you buzzing long after your ripping' rides! Even if you don't surf, the four mile strip of beach will keep you occupied.
  • 34 / 52
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    Baja California, Mexico
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    canyon de Guadalupe in baja Mexico. few hours south of Mexicali is a remote canyon with natural hot springs and simple palapas for camping. find it and enjoy!
  • 35 / 52
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    Sokcho Si, South Korea
    Save Place
    While hiking to the summit of Ulsanbawi, in Seoraksan National Park, I spotted a group of adventurous climbers attempting the tame the landscape. Wanting a break we sat for a while as the climbers dangled above hikers below. There are a number of tour operators that offer services from Seoul and many other surrounding areas. There are also trains and buses from Sokcho Station that can get you to the National Park for a more reasonable price than what you might pay as part of a group or packaged tour. Sokcho, Gangwon-do, South Korea
    By Colin Roohan, AFAR Ambassador
  • 36 / 52
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    Yosemite National Park, California
    Save Place
    Yosemite is a only a few hours from San Francisco, but it seems like worlds away while you are standing up near My Hoffman and looking down at the immense granite landscape. It truly feels as if you are on top of the world..... Once in the park, get out of the crowds and head up Tioga Pass toward the east end of the park. A two lane road, which is only open in spring and summer, winds through some beautiful, pristine forest and leads all the wat to Eastern entrance and passage to Mono Lake. after a little over an hour from the start of Tioga Pass you 'll come to a pull out for May Lake. Park the car, hike in about 30 mins to this gorgeous high altitude lake of a deep blue color. You can fish, camp relax. You do have to be aware of bears and treat your food accordingly with the bear boxes. At the lake begins the trailhead to Mt Hoffman above the lake at over 10,ooo ft and 360 degree views of the whole Sierra Nevada range. Its about 1.5 to 2.5 hours to the top depending on your experience. Once there, the reward is amazing. A ton of marmots are running around looking at you with little old men faces....... The photo is of a buddy, on one of the crags 5 mins opposite Mt. Hoffman. A great view and backcountry escape.....
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    Honolulu, Hawaii
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    When you think of tropical islands, cocoa often comes to mind. But have you ever tried Koko, as in "Koko Crater"? This former Army outpost on Oahu just east of Honolulu is 1048 steps of vertical torture. It opened just a few years ago to the public and is very popular with runners, hikers, and those who want to enjoy a 360-degree view of the island. But the only way to the top is to take those 1048 steps. While I made it up in about 20 minutes, some athletic folks do it three or more times in a row every day. Not even Steve McGarrett and Lori of Hawaii Five-O made it to the top in a recent show! When you get up there, make sure to hydrate. Perhaps some ice-cold cocoa milk would suit your taste.
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    Coron, Philippines
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    The Palawan archipelago in the Philippines is a tropical paradise known for its natural beauty and limestone cliffs. One of my favorite experiences was the afternoon we hired a banka to explore the northern part of the province. After visiting some great snorkeling reefs, we passed a tiny, deserted island called Isla Walang Lang-aw. My husband and I asked our guide if it was possible to visit it. He smiled and nodded as he passed us a pair of snorkels and fins. We excitedly swam ashore pretending to be castaways. We spent the next half hour alone on the island island, exploring its rocky cove and lounging on the beach to take in the fantastic views of the neighboring islands.
    By Lara Dalinsky, AFAR Local Expert
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    Ayers Rock, Australia
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    Ayers Rock – known as Uluru to the Anangu Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory – is perhaps the most well-known symbol of Central Australia, though there are no photos, no stories, no tales of wonder that can prepare you for seeing the Rock beset by the sun in the early morning hours. A UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the Anangu's most sacred places, Uluru (Ayers Rock) has a certain aura about it that's difficult to quantify.   Uluru (Ayers Rock) rises from the red sand of the Outback like a stoic sentinel, and at more than 863 meters tall, lords over the whole of the desert. The island mountain first saw human beings more than 10,000 years ago, and is now visited by more than 400,000 people each year; balancing public interest and cultural beliefs is an issue that the traditional stewards of the region and the Australian government have been facing together for more than a quarter of a century, since October 26, 1985, when the government returned care of Ayers Rock to the Pitjantjatjara people.   Flash Parker traveled to Australia’s Northern Territory courtesy of Tourism Northern Territory and Goway Travel. His highlights are part of AFAR's partnership with the United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA), whose members provide travelers with unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value and freedom to enjoy destinations across the entire globe. See more about Flash’s trip at the USTOA blog - http://ustoa.com/blog/category/afar/
    By Flash Parker, AFAR Ambassador
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    Aguas Calientes, Peru
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    This month marks the hundred-year-anniversary of the "re-discovery" of this Inca citadel by Hiram Bingham. Machu Picchu deserves its clichés--'place of a lifetime,' 'bucket-list destination'...'mystical'...'amazing'... Sometimes, it's okay to simply stick with others' adjectives; the thesaurus isn't always a good thing. You're not necessarily an 'unoriginal tourist' just because you agree with scores of published accounts that describe a site the same way. The distinctive trapezoidal windows of Inca construction almost always frame compelling views--the magic of stone. You're in the heart of the Andes; for a moment, stop seeking words. Drink in the view.
    By Joseph Cyr, AFAR Local Expert
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    Burney, California
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    only 4 hours up north of san francisco is Burney Falls State Park. The 129 ft falls is a beautiful Oasis set among pristine forest area. There are campgrounds not far from the falls and you can catch Rainbow Trout in the picturesque river..... The hike down to the falls are about 30 mins down a series of easy switchbacks, and the falls seem almost fake, they are so nice. This shot was a long exposure on a tripod at dawn....
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    Fajardo, Puerto Rico
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    I had no real expectations, high or low, regarding Puerto Rico when I visited last year. Now I recommend the territory to friends, family, likable co-workers, and friendly strangers. The beaches are beautifully tranquil, the fishing wore out my arms for days, and the bioluminescent bay kayaking was like a visit to another planet.
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    Khumjung, Nepal
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    Going to Mount Everest is an experience that will leave you in awe of how big everything is in the Himalaya. Sleeping at 16,000+ feet is without a doubt a highlight not to be missed when in Tibet. Make sure you are reasonably fit and spend many nights along the way to help acclimatize to the altitude. Bring a hat and gloves, as your fingers will stop working in short order when it's cold.
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    Acapulco, Mexico
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    There are several of these cliff-diving shows a day (unfortunately I can't remember the name of the cove, but say 'cliff divers' in Acapulco and everyone knows what you're talking about). To call them 'shows' is a bit belittling, though. They dive into the water from where you're standing and then scale the cliff-side from the water up. A few of them prayed at a little make-shift church on the top before diving. It was interesting to see them analyze each coming wave, and time their dives accordingly.
    By Kareem Yasin, AFAR Contributor
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    Isiolo, Kenya
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    My colleagues and I at e2 education & environment (www.e2education.org) booked a stay at Bush Adventures (http://www.bush-adventures.com) to augment research for our distance learning program, The Mizizi Project. We went in wanting a rich educational experience and emerged not just informed, but fuller in the heart and soul from the incredible warmth of the community. The whole affair was nothing short of luminous. Liz Titone www.e2education.org
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    Trongsa, Bhutan
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    After hiking for six hours in a remote area of Bhutan, I was dragging. When this elderly woman in rubber boots charged past me and speedwalked up the rocky hill, I took the challenge and forged ahead. I never did catch up to her.
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    Kyoto, Japan
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    In western Kyoto, there is a very large forest of bamboo. As you can see in the photo, the shoots grow very tall, making those who stroll by look quite small. I'm sure there are times when this road is crowded, but when we were there, people were few and far between. My only regret was not understanding that this forest would be the only one we saw. I wish I had taken more photos. Bamboo grows extremely fast, which is why it is the fastest renewable plant product that I know. It is not a tree, it is a grass. Some forests have grown to 20 to 30 feet in a growing season of four months. Just Google Arashiyama bamboo forest and you will see more photos and more data about this location and how to get there. The walk through this forest was most peaceful.
    By Jack MacDonough, AFAR Local Expert
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    The Antarctic weather was unpredictable and often inhospitable throughout our 1-week expedition cruise. Dramamine came in really handy the last day as we sailed the Gerlach Straight. I popped them like candy before cautiously eating dinner. Just a third of our 42 shipmates were at the tables; most took just one bite of their delicious Argentine steak before calling it an early night. But just the day before, the sun was beaming, water was glassy smooth, and I comfortably shed my upper layers down to a tank top during a hike to a viewpoint over Paradise Bay. Our captain joined us and mentioned that it was the most beautiful day he’d seen in at least 10 years. It was a beauty so vast and still, that the exuberant sense of joy of that moment felt deeply imprinted within me.
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    Yosemite National Park, California
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    “We wanted to go to Yosemite, but didn’t have time.” I’ve heard this refrain from several San Francisco visitors and they all have said it with regret. Yes, the reverent national park is outside of a short-drive comfort zone – it’s more of a weekend adventure than a wine country day trip. But with a little stamina and the right timing, a trip to Yosemite can be done in a weekend from San Francisco. The weekend won’t be all rush-rush or budget breaking either. You can do this weekend getaway and see monumental sights like Half Dome, take relaxing walks and hikes, and get a taste of camping at Curry Village. Read more at: http://takeyourbigtrip.com/2011/10/yosemite-national-park-weekend-getaway-san-francisco/
    By Kristin Zibell, AFAR Local Expert
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    Saint Jean De Luz, France
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    A short drive from the somewhat more crowded beaches and pinxto stands of San Sebastian, Spain, the twin towns of St Jean de Luz and Biarritz in France are worth the drive (and the $20 Euros in highway tolls!). The water is too rough for children, but it was a much better beach for sunning and reading. And watching the surfers is always a treat. Go.
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    Must, Mongolia
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    Picture of me crossing a river in the Altai Mountains in western Mongolia during a 2-week horse trek. The experience was incredible! As this is one of several journeys to Mongolia.
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    Hanalei, Hawaii
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    It is easy to get into the flow here, especially with a day trip down the Wailua River on Kauai's north shore. I booked a day trip with Kayak Kauai for a guided tour to the Secret Waterfall (known to locals as Uluwehi Falls). We launched in Kapa’a and stroked steadily along a wide dark green river inland, away from the demanding Pacific. The landscape was flat at first, and then riversides rose into black rock and tree-covered cliffs. Read more about getting into the flow in Kauai at: http://takeyourbigtrip.com/2012/02/26/kauai-flow-visit-hawaiis-relaxing-island/
    By Kristin Zibell, AFAR Local Expert

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