When we think travel, we most often think summer vacations. However, there are a myriad of gems to discover around the world during the cold winter months. Check out our top five unforgettable destinations for you to escape to when you’re seeking a winter adventure.
1. Vietnam - Sailing a Junk in Halong Bay
Halong Bay is just a 3.5-hour drive from Hanoi, but it may as well be a time machine. Soak in the breathtaking views of about 1,960 islands and islets as you sail a junk (yes, a junk) across Halong Bay. These ancient Chinese sailing vessels are still widely used today, making you feel like you’re in another century as you traverse the bay surrounded by limestone pillars poking through the blue water. With 450 different mollusks, 200 different species of fish, and 160 species of coral, Halong Bay is full of surprises for all ages.
You’ll want to explore the vast and mysterious Tien Ong Cave, located on one of the many islets in this World Heritage locale. A layer of emerald green moss covers its cave door, which gives way to a limestone cornucopia of stalactites and stalagmites. Keep an eye out for formations that look like creatures and humans. Even more fascinating is the cave’s stone artifact assemblages from HoaBinh culture that date back to 10000-2000 BCE.
The next memorable stop you’ll want to make is the Cua Van fishing village, a town of more than 130 floating homes, including a school and medical facility, anchored in the bay’s sheltered coves. The children here most likely learned to swim before they could even walk. The site of them paddling about in their small bamboo basket boats will bring a smile to your face. Your adventure isn’t complete without a hike to the top of Ti Top Island for the best view of the bay.
2. Sydney – A city with a splash
Sydney is a city on many people’s bucket lists because, well, everything is grander in Sydney! From the gleaming, white Opera House on the city’s famous skyline, to its glorious parks, rambunctious nightlife, and expansive museums — Sydney offers excitement on a magnificent scale. Aussies take their fun seriously and are quite forthright when it comes to living life to the fullest. That goes double for Sydney. Are you ready for the challenge?
For starters, you should tour Sydney’s historic Rocks precinct, site of the city’s convict-built beginnings. See their cottages and pubs, before visiting the Australia’s first church, the Observatory, the Circular Quay and into the magnificent Botanical Gardens.
Next, visit Rushcutters Bay where you can dine at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, site of the world-renowned Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. After rubbing elbows with Sydney’s upper-crust denizens, see where they live and tour the eye-popping homes in Darling Point. Loosen your collars and strip down to your bathers (ha!) at world-famous Bondi Beach, where Australia’s beautiful people frolic in the sun and surfers rule the waves. You can meander down the esplanade, relish an ice-cream cone, and watch the blokes and Sheilas try to stay on their surfboards. Perhaps you could even try your stab at surfing with a lesson.
A relaxing yacht ride around Sydney Harbour is a must-do with one of the most picturesque views in the world. Disembark at Darling Harbour and you’ll find plenty of fine dining establishments to satisfy your palette. With a city as lively as Syndey, you won’t run out of things to do.
3. India – Open Jeep Tiger Safari
For all the trials and travails facing the world’s tiger population, it’s gratifying to know that there are sanctuaries where they are protected and allowed to grow. Even better, there are exotic locations such as Northern India’s Ranthambhore National Park where travelers can see them in the wild. Talk about an adrenaline rush!
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of top spots in India including Mumbai, Jaipur, Hawa Mahal - the Palace of Winds and India’s capital of Delhi.
But few adventures can match driving on safari in an open jeep into the tiger’s terrain. 243 square miles of tiger terrain!
Ranthambhor National Park is a network of lakes, rivers, and deep crags. At the top of the park, 700 feet in elevation, is the 10th century Ranthambhore Fort, which once served as the private hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur. Today, it’s ruled by the great, striped cats. In addition to tigers, you may even see deer, wild boar, crocodiles, gazelle, monkeys, mongoose, peacocks and other birds. Going to the local zoo may never be the same after you experience Ranthambhor.
What about lodging? After your safari, you may choose to stay at the Sher Bagh luxury camp, neighboring the tiger reserve. You’ll feel like you’re living in the 1920’s in the hand-stitched tents that conjure up the imagination of what life must have been like on safari in the days of the Raj. Inside, your quarters are furnished with Edwardian furniture and the well-appointed, lavish bathing quarters are praised as “hedonist delights.”
4. Peru - Climb the Inca Trail and Wander the Mighty Amazon
Peru is all about getting your feet dirty and exploring trails and then being rewarded by a relaxing float on water. Sounds good, right?
The vast Inca Trail totals 24,000 miles, extending from Quito, Ecuador; down to Santiago, Chile; and east to Mendoza, Argentina. But the real plum is the Inca Trail trek from the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba River to Machu Picchu, the mysterious 15th-century Inca ruins perched 7,970 feet above sea level. And it’s absolutely amazing.
You’ll forget about having sore climbing feet when you see the gorgeous mountain scenery, lush cloud forest, subtropical jungle and the remnants of the ancient Inca: their paving stones, ruins, and tunnels.
Prepare for breathtaking climbs over mountaintops, including the 13,773-foot high Warmiwanusca (Dead Woman's Pass), with a crescendo to your trek at the steps to Intipunku, and satisfying a bucket-list experience by seeing Machu Picchu scattered atop a peak.
Following the trek, you’ll be ready to kick up your feet and float down the Amazon. Rising in the Peruvian Andes and winding its way east over the northern half of South America to the Atlantic, the Amazon serves as the lifeblood of the world’s largest rainforest, and it’s 65 miles longer than the Nile.
The Amazon is a birders paradise, where you’ll see hundreds of bird species as well as caimans, tamarins, dolphins, monkeys and sloths. You can fish for (not swim with, ha!) piranhas, and experience the glorious flooded “Mirrored Forest” of Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. Do this with a team of expert naturalists and your experience will be so much better. You can even interact with the native ribereños on visits to villages at the river’s edge.
5. South Africa - Visit Gorah Elephant Camp
The only way people could make this adventure any more exciting is if they could talk with the animals. Tick one off your bucket list at Gorah Elephant Camp in South Africa. Gorah captures the colonial flavor and wild safari sights of another age and is often described as an “Out of Africa” movie experience come to life.
The exclusive safari lodge of Gorah is the only private concession and camp located in the middle of the famous Addo Elephant National Park, home to the densest population of elephants on earth. When the original elephant section of the park was established in 1931, only 11 elephants remained in the area. Today, the park serves as a sanctuary to more than 450 elephants, Cape buffalos, lions, black rhinos, black-backed jackals, and antelopes.
You’ll have plenty to do as you spend your days on game drives, viewing the animals in their natural grassland habitat, and learning from your guide about the area’s history and the park’s current preservation efforts. There’s also a large variety of birds, so bring your birding books, and take care not to step on the flightless dung beetles, since they can be found among…well, you know.
Gorah’s accommodations are anything but rustic. From enjoying coffee in your luxury tent’s canopy bed to watching the elephants stroll by while sipping afternoon tea on the Colonial manor house’s veranda, you’ll find yourself living a five-star, storybook vacation. In the evenings you can gather at the manor house for an upscale dining experience paired with excellent wines and decadent desserts. Naturally, drinks by the fire before retiring provides the capper to a perfect day on the preserve.
If any of these locations are on your bucket list, consider making your travel more personal by using a private guide. With family-owned and run AutoVenture, travelers are escorted by their own English-speaking, local private guide and chauffeur, all in the comfort of a luxurious car. Your private guide will help you discover little-known villages and historic towns at your own pace, and you’ll learn the interesting tidbits, history, and local lore that only a native would know. What better way to experience the country's past and present, as well as its culture and customs?
To learn more AutoVenture's custom itineraries in any of these locations, or any of our discriminating tours in over 30 countries worldwide, contact your travel agent or visit AutoVenture.com.
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