10 Best Journeys for 2013…in no particular order
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust
What is your deeper purpose for travel? Reconnect with family? Explore new cultures and build bridges to better understanding? Grow intellectually? Discover something new about yourself?
Being in the travel industry we have the privilege of coming in contact with some extraordinary and unusual trips. These are a few that I thought merited mention because they have either an exceptional cultural or natural experience. There are more journeys that I felt should have made the list, (Cuba and Myanmar come to mind which I had highlighted in last weeks Journeys Magazine) but I didn’t want the list to get too long. What I have chosen reflects my personal taste in travel. I would love to hear your ideas about what has made a trip you have taken a “journey of a lifetime.” Contact me at Blair@WorldCruisesandTravel.com.
We turn vacations into journeys that are remembered for a lifetime.
| 1. Japan Golden Week Festivals
Explore the rich and diverse culture of Japan during Golden Week, a festival that combines four of Japan’s most significant holidays, including Constitution Day, Greenery Day and Children’s Day. In Aomori, the Hirosaka Castle comes alive during the spring with more than 2,500 cherry trees. With a moat and five illustrious gates, the castle is situated on 121 acres of pristinely manicured land. In Hakata the famous Dontaku Festival features thousands of people dressed as folkloric Japanese gods while parade floats make their way down the streets, intricately decorated with the region’s beautiful flowers.
When to go: April 29 – May 5, 2013
Best way to experience: Sun Princess Sailing r.t. Tokyo 4/27/2013 – Princess cruise passengers will be able to enjoy the national celebration of Golden Week along with two days for the renowned Dontaku Festival in Hakata. Prices starting at $1774 per person.
Fun fact: The name Dontaku is derived from the Dutch word Zondag, or Sunday.
Helpful link: http://www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/JICC/japan-info.html2. Turkey
Spanning two continents, Europe and Asia, Turkey allures with images of sultans, magic carpets and mosques. Turkey is a democratic republic with a diverse cultural heritage and is one of the oldest permanently settled regions in the world. Istanbul, once known as Constantinople, is the largest city in Turkey and straddles the Bosphorus—one of the world’s busiest and most beautiful waterways.
When to go: May through September
The best way to experience: Gate 1 Discovery Tours with 10-18 people in a group allow you to get to know the locals. See cave dwellings while taking a boat ride on the fabled Euphrates. Share tea with a family in Harran in their bee-hive house,a conical mud hut designed to keep residents cool in this warm region. Be mesmerized and learn about Whirling Dervishes. View of the famous “fairy chimneys,” conical tufa-rock formations of Cappadocia where early Christians dug entire cities underground to escape persecution. Peruse the endless byways of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, a maze of 61 covered streets and 3,000 shops. 13 nights. Prices from $4029 per person and include international air and 2 intra-Turkey flights.
Fun fact: The Grand Baazar in Istanbul is thought to be the oldest shopping mall in the world whose structure originates in the 15th century.
Helpful link: http://www.tourismturkeysite.com/default.asp?Col=1&bg1=home&bg2=home
Experience an enchanting land of geological extremes on a circumnavigation of Iceland. Encounter vast volcanic landscapes and the world’s youngest island, walk on lava fields and ice sheets, and feel the spray of gushing hot springs and cascading waterfalls. Cruise among magnificent icebergs in Jokulsarlon, and spend a day on the Arctic Circle spotting rich bird life. Kayak into fjords and serene bays, and go hiking on spectacular and remote stretches of the coast.
When to go: July
The best way to experience: Lindblad Expeditions. Explore Europe’s largest icecap and discover the lava-sculpted landscapes of the Westman islands. Soak in hot springs, and see boiling mud pots and thundering Godafoss waterfall. Go whale-watching and spot bird life on the shores of Iceland and its surrounding isles. Paddle a kayak and take a Zodiac foray in the serene bays. July 10, 2013; 10 days from $7990 per person with a National Geographic photographer onboard to help you capture once in a lifetime photos.
Fun fact: Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle
Helpful link: http://www.iceland.is
4. Mexico Monarch Butterfly Trail
Watching thousands of monarch butterflies surround you, treading off the beaten track on horseback to small towns, gawking at impressive architecture in Morelia’s city centre, sampling Mexico City’s vibrant nightlife.
When to go: January and February
The best way to experience: G Adventures. Step off the beaten path, embrace the unexpected and immerse yourself in the extraordinary. Award-winning trips embrace authentic accommodation and local transportation to bring you face to face with the world’s most fascinating cultures, customs and awe-inspiring wildlife. From the historic streets of Mexico City, you’ll travel through stunning national parks, colonial towns and beautiful countryside as you follow the migration of the monarch butterfly. Wander through flutters of butterflies in the reserves of El Rosario and Sierra Chincua. Off the beaten path, this quirky adventure will give you a unique insight into the people and ‘mariposas’ of Mexico. From $1249 per person for 9 nights.
Fun fact: Each one of the Monarch’s four wings has about 1.4 million scales. Every scale is filled with air to provide buoyancy and make it easier to fly.
Helpful link: 1 minute video at El Rosario reserve
5. Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
Watch thousands of brilliantly painted and feather-plumed samba dancers sway to the beat of drums and music down the parade route of the sambadrone. It’s the world’s biggest party, and you have to see it to believe it! See, breathe, sense and live it with us.
When to go: February
The best way to experience: Azamara Club Cruises, Azamara Quest. 12 nights beginning January 31, 2013. Buenos Aires to Rio with 2 full days in Rio. Carnival tickets additional including r.t. transportation and security. Prices starting at $3749 per person.
Fun fact: The birthplace of the Samba, one of the many purposes of the Rio carnival parade is for samba schools to compete with fellow rival (they are called co-sisters) samba-schools. The competition is the climax of the whole carnival festival in the city. The first records of Carnival festivities in Rio de Janeiro date back to 1723.
Helpful link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_Carnival
6. Ken Burns Event, New Orleans, Jazz!
Explore the past, present and future of jazz in New Orleans with Ken Burns. Private performances by Ellis Marsalis and Donald Harrison, a private Preservation Hall performance, a private jazz-filled gala dinner cruise aboard the Steamboat Natchez, plus an opportunity to meet filmmaker Ken Burns.
When to go: March 6-10, 2013
The only way to experience: Tauck Tours from $3690 per person for 5 days
Fun fact: Ken Burns is an American director and producer of documentary films, known for his style of using archival footage and photographs. Burns’ documentaries have been nominated for two Academy Awards, and have won Emmy Awards, among other honors. Burns’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Burns was 3 and died when he was 11, a circumstance that he said helped shape his career; he credited his father-in-law, a psychologist, with a signal insight: “He told me that my whole work was an attempt to make people long gone come back alive.
Helpful link: http://www.pbs.org/kenburns
7. See mountain gorillas in the wild
Follow in the footsteps of late activist Dian Fossey and observe the shy “Gorillas in the Mist” on this extraordinary journey into Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains and Parc National Des Volcans. From your ecolodge, with panoramic views of the park’s lakes and volcanoes, trek with expert trackers to view the habituated mountain gorilla families. Experience a profound intimacy and connection to the magnificent mountain gorillas as you observe them tenderly interact with their families.
When to go: year round
Best way to experience: Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda by African Travel Inc. From $3195 per person
Fun fact: Newborn gorillas are weak and tiny, weighing in at about 4 pounds. Their movements are as awkward as those of human infants, but their development is roughly twice as fast.
Helpful link: http://gorillafund.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=769&gclid=CIf54MSwu7QCFQf0nAodKXcAlQ
8. Stay in a romantic villa in Tuscany built in the 1500′s
Elegant and luminous apartment on the second floor of a historical building provided with an elevator, in the heart of Siena’s pedestrian zone. The building dates back to the year 1500 and is protected by the “Belle Arti”.
Private entrance is into a hallway, which is the nucleus of the apartment. Across the hall is a sliding door that opens into the spacious, modern kitchen that is fully equipped with gas range, electric oven, dishwasher, washing machine, fridge with freezer, and American coffee machine. To the right of the hall is a corridor that leads down two steps into the beautiful living/dining room with window overlooking the Piazza del Campo.
When to go: year round
Best way to experience: I Rozzi by Travel Impressions. Pricing from $166 – $233 per night
Fun fact: Tuscany is one of twenty regions in Italy. The region is located in the central, western part of the country, north of Rome and south of Genoa. It is bounded by the Apennine Mountains to the North and East, the Apuan Alps on the northwest and by the Tyrrhenian Sea on the West.
Helpful link: http://villas.travimp.com/servlet/Search
From the big-city bustle of Kuala Lumpur to the serene tranquility of Borneo’s rainforest, Malaysia is the definition of contrast. Meet the ‘old man of the forest’—the orangutan—while exploring the rainforest and get to know the delights of modern-day Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Explore Melaka’s historic canal-side lanes by bicycle and the lush rainforest along the Kinabatangan River and in the Danum Valley by boat and on foot.
When to go: Year round
Best way to experience: G Adventures Malaysia and Borneo Adventure. Meeting the ‘old man of the forest’ at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Heading into the rainforest in search of exceptional wildlife, Stepping back into history in Melaka’s colourful and historic lanes, Seeking out delicacies in the neighbourhoods and markets of Kuala Lumpur and Singapor. 12 days from $4599 per person.
Fun Fact: The name “orangutan” translates into English as “man of the forest”. It comes from Malay and Bahasa Indonesian orang (man) and hutan (forest).
Helpful link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borneo
10. European river cruises for wine lovers
For an unforgettable experience aboard specially themed “In Celebration of Wine” cruises. Experience Europe’s most acclaimed wine regions along the Seine, Douro, Rhone, Rhine, Mosel and Danube rivers. These 7-night itineraries feature wine-oriented shore excursions and onboard lectures and tastings from renowned wine experts from top U.S. wineries.
When to go: Late March, early April, late October and early November
Best way to experience: Ama Waterways, seven different itineraries. Features wine lectures by renowned experts / Fine dining with paired wines / Excursions to historic vineyards & cellars / Wine tastings & evening wine events / Staterooms with French balconies and/or step-out balconies / Complimentary in-room Internet & Wi-Fi / Free-flowing wine, beer & soft drinks with dinner / Complimentary shore excursions & bicycles. Prices start at $2399 per person.
Fun fact: In ancient Greece, a person hosting the party would drink the wine first just to make sure it was not poisoned. It was here that the popular phrase “drinking to one’s health” arose.
Helpful link: http://guides.wsj.com/wine/category/wine-tips-and-tricks