The super blue blood moon has come and gone, and there won’t be another one for 20 years. But there are plenty of other natural phenomena you can see that occur often enough to plan a trip around.
A Tropical Permafrost Lake
Lake Waiau sits at about 13,000 feet of elevation near the summit of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii. It’s the only permafrost lake in the tropics, and though it shrank to about 2 percent of its previous size several years, it has made a comeback and can be reached by hike off the road to Mauna Kea’s summit. On the same island, you can also visit a Papakolea Beach, which features green sand thanks to a large supply of the mineral olivine. On clear days, you might also catch a glimpse of a green flash across the horizon just as the last rays of the sun go down, a special sight owing to the island’s latitude. Also on the Big Island, where Kilauea Volcano has been erupting continuously for 35 years, you can see thin strands of volcanic glass known as Pele’s hair, named after the goddess of fire.
Native to parts of the Philippines, Indonesia, and New Guinea, this multicolored tree is the only eucalyptus whose natural range extends into the Northern Hemisphere. The trees periodically shed bark, revealing a green inner bark, which changes color over time to blue, purple, orange and maroon. In their natural environments, which are rainy tropical forests, the trees can grow to be more than 200 feet tall. Though they have been imported to several U.S. states, rainbow eucalyptus are at their tallest and most colorful in their natural settings.
Go far enough north or south, and eventually, you’ll see brightly colored light particles dancing through Earth’s magnetic shield. The best time to see them, of course, is winter when the sky is dark most of the time. Closer to home, Alaska and northern Canada are great places to spot them, while Europe’s Nordic countries, especially Norway, Sweden, and Finland offer great vantage points. The southern version, Aurora Australis, is more difficult to spot because of the remoteness of Antarctica, but from New Zealand’s South Island, Tasmania and the island of South Georgia, the lights do make occasional appearances in the night sky.
Puerto Rico is home to three bioluminescent bays, which light up at night thanks to the presence of dinoflagellates in the water. There were fears that Hurricane Maria could have altered the shape of the bays enough to end the nightly show. Fortunately, that has not happened. The brightest of the three is Mosquito Bay off the island of Vieques, and all three are great for kayaking and are best seen during a new moon when the sky provides a dark backdrop.
Formed by an ancient volcanic eruption, the pillars of rock that form Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland’s County Antrim stand as sentinels along the coast overlooking the North Channel. Legend has it the giant Finn MacCool built the causeway to cross over to Scotland and fight a rival giant. The tallest columns are almost 40 feet high and the cliffs are nearly 100 feet thick in spots. After a visit, head just a few miles down the road to the Bushmills Distillery, where you can have a whiskey tasting and tell your own tales of fighting giants.
By Damien Martin
Much as we’d love to unless it’s a quick road trip, it’s difficult to take your four-legged friend on vacation with you. But there are lots of places you can go and make new furry friends, help them find forever homes and maybe even bring them home with you. Here are a few of our favorite programs.
The Kauai Humane Society allows visitors to “check out” dogs for day trips to dog-friendly beaches and hiking trails. You get a companion for the day, the dog gets a nice time out of the shelter and wears a vest labeled “adopt me” so local passers-by know he or she is in need of a permanent home. Even if they don’t get adopted that day, the dogs still get a chance to socialize, making them more prepared for a family. If you really make a strong connection, you can your new friend home. The society helps with the process and adopts an average of four dogs a month to visitors.
Turks and Caicos
Located in the popular Grace Bay area of Providenciales, Potcake Place strives to reduce the number of homeless dogs on the island. As there is no animal shelter in Turks and Caicos, volunteers keep the dogs in their own homes but allow visitors to take pups on beach trips. If there’s a good match, Potcake Place helps with the process of adoption and transporting the dogs to their new homes. The volunteers work with veterinarians to make sure the dogs have their vaccinations, and if necessary even accompany them on the trip to meet their families.
Territorio de Zaguates, “Land of the Strays,” is a shelter in the mountains near Heredia, about an hour outside San Jose. The shelter organizes walks of about 2 miles with its canine residents where visitors can get to know the dogs and help them get used to people and possibly even meet their new owners. The walks typically take place two weekends a month, though they are temporarily suspended and no schedule has been released for 2018, so make sure to check with Territorio de Zaguates before showing up.
This Virtuoso-preferred resort in Walland, Tenn., is home to several types of farm animals and breeds Lagotto Romagnolo dogs who specialize in truffle hunting. One weekend every February (this year it’s Feb. 2-4), guests are invited to bring their own Lagottos or enjoy time with the farm’s as they do what they love best, hunt for truffles. The celebration culminates in a feast showcasing the flavorful fungi in a variety of tasty dishes.
Inn by the Sea
A Virtuoso-preferred resort in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Inn by the Sea has invited guests to bring their pets for a long time. Now, it’s connecting dogs and families who didn’t arrive together but end up going home together. The inn fosters dogs from the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland and has helped dozens of dogs find their forever families. When you check in, you’ll be greeted by a pup manning the front desk, and if the fit is right, you might just end up with a great souvenir.
By Damien Martin
No doubt working with a travel advisor saves precious time both during the planning process and during your journey. But that’s hardly the extent of the value a DMC Travel Tailor advisor adds to your trip. In many cases, booking with us actually saves money in addition to providing you with amenities you can’t get on your own or through an online travel agency.
If you’ve worked with us before, you know about our affiliation with the Virtuoso network, which makes us preferred partners with the best hotels, tour operators and cruise lines in the world and provides exclusive benefits to our clients such as room upgrades, resort credits, and breakfast included when you stay at a Virtuoso hotel.
More than that, however, we cultivate strong relationships with our partners so that when we send our clients out into the world, we are placing you in the care of trusted friends. When our clients arrive, they are greeted as VIP guests and doted on by our partners. And if our clients do not receive exceptional service, we’ll hear the reason why and take steps to correct any issues while you’re in travel. Good luck getting that from an online travel agency.
The difference goes beyond Virtuoso, as we are members of just about every elite hotel amenity program there is. With Belmond’s Bellini Club, you’ll receive extra benefits on Belmond luxury trains and in their hotels. Membership in the Dorchester Collection’s Diamond Club gives our clients gives our clients guaranteed upgrades at such hotels and the Plaza Athénée in Paris, Hotel Eden in Rome and The Beverly Hills Hotel. As preferred partners of Fairmont and Four Seasons, our clients receive VIP treatment at some of the most exclusive hotels and resorts in the world.
Staying with such fine hotel chains as Mandarin Oriental, Jumeirah, Rosewood, Ritz-Carlton, Rocco Forte and Starwood, you’ll enjoy complimentary breakfast, credits for use in spas or restaurants along with upgraded rooms and personalized welcomes from management. The same goes for collections such as Small Luxury Hotels and the Relais & Chateaux network of properties famed for their culinary quality and unique charm.
You simply cannot reproduce the quality of experience that working with a DMC Travel Tailor advisor by booking on your own or through an online travel agency. Every step of the way, from planning to traveling to memorializing the trip of a lifetime, you are in good hands with real live people who are dedicated to making sure your experience is one you’ll want to relive over and over. With our help, you’ll be so thrilled with your vacation, you’ll already be thinking about your next one by the time you get home.
Happy new year! Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful 2018 full of great adventures. As always, travel is evolving to match the changing world. Here are a few destinations and experiences that will be popular in the coming year.
More and more travelers are focusing not so much on getting to a particular destination but a particular state of mind. Dozens of Virtuoso-preferred resorts and cruise lines are putting an emphasis on helping their guests restore mind, body and spirit. Using spa treatments, fitness activities, nutrition and education, these preferred partners enable travelers to achieve or restore balance in their lives and come home feeling refreshed and more connected to the world around them.
Another way to escape the every day and experience the beauty of the world is to go to remote places and challenge yourself. Whatever is on your bucket list: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, heli-skiing, tracking elusive wildlife or just getting away to the far corners of the earth, there is a Virtuoso-preferred partner specializing in that exact type of experience. If you really want to go to the middle of nowhere, that can be arranged too. Black Tomato offers a Get Lost experience, where travelers arrive at the airport without knowing where they are going, then dropped in a remote area and tasked with finding their way out. There is a team tracking your progress, and you have all the necessary supplies, so you’re in no danger of being stranded. But you’ll need to journey into yourself to find your way out.
Living like a local means immersing yourself in a destination, from where you eat, to where you shop to, increasingly, where you stay. Utilizing the vast resources of the Virtuoso network, you can have a home away from home knowing you’re staying somewhere that has been properly vetted and offers amenities such as housekeeping and a private chef if you’re so inclined. From a villa in Tuscany to an apartment in New York City, there is a place for you in more than 180 destinations worldwide.
From the otherworldly landscape of the Uyuni salt flat to hydrofoil cruises on Lake Titicaca, Bolivia has a lot to offer without the crowds you’ll find in its more trafficked South American neighbors. One of two landlocked countries on the continent (Paraguay is the other), Bolivia has unique geography, ranging from the Amazon basin to Andean highlands, and is full of Inca trails and ruins ripe for exploring. The silver mines of Potosi produced so much for the Spanish Empire that it was once the second largest city in the Americas, and the lagoons of the Salar de Uyuni are home to a wealth of unique flora and fauna and serve as a breeding ground for several species of flamingos.
Just like its counterpart the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland is full of natural beauty. It’s so alluring that is has served as a frequent filming location for Game of Thrones and the Star Wars franchise. Giant’s Causeway, made of thousands of interlocking basalt columns, is a unique geological site and right outside the town of Bushmills, home to one of Northern Ireland’s many whiskey distilleries. There is uncertainty about Northern Ireland’s future in the wake of the Brexit decision, but the country has come a long way since The Troubles and is asserting itself a top destination in its own right.
By Damien Martin
A new year means a new beginning. A chance to start fresh, when anything is possible and you don’t know exactly what adventures lie ahead. We all have our own traditions, and as long as you’re spending time with people you care about, there’s really no wrong way to ring in the new year. But some destinations put on a better show than others, and here are a few at the top of the list.
Featuring not one but two fireworks shows, Sydney Harbour provides an excellent venue for the celebration. The festivities kick off while the sun is still out, with a tug-boat water display followed by an air show. A cleansing ceremony honoring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures takes place around sunset, as flares and eucalyptus smoke fills the air. At 9 p.m., there is an 8-minute fireworks show that serves as both an appetizer for the main event and allows children who might not make it to midnight to celebrate. After that, a parade of elaborately lit boats fills the harbor, ushering in a dazzling fireworks display at the stroke of midnight that illuminates the water and iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.
If there’s anyone who knows fireworks, it’s the people of Hong Kong. The city celebrates just about everything with a dazzling display, and New Year’s Eve is no exception. Victoria Harbour serves as the setting for this party, which kicks off at 10 p.m. with a performance fusing theater, dance and circus elements. The countdown to midnight starts early, with pyrotechnic shooting stars lighting up the harbor every 15 minutes beginning at 11 p.m. leading up to fireworks being launched from barges and from the roofs of skyscrapers in a dazzling display stretching two-thirds of a mile along the waterfront.
Rio de Janeiro
Cariocas never turn down a chance to party, and the thousands of revelers flocking to Copacabana Beach on New Year’s Eve know how to do it right. Adorned in white for peace, green for luck, yellow for wealth, red for passion or purple for inspiration, they eat lentils for health and pork and fish for prosperity in the new year. And of course, seven raisins before midnight, storing the seeds in their wallets so they’ll always be full. They then send candles and flowers into Guanabara Bay in honor of the ancient water deity Iemanja before dancing the night away to live music as fireworks explode over the bay.
New York’s Times Square is still the most popular U.S. destination for New Year’s. But it’s not so pleasant lining up for hours in the cold for a short countdown. Better yet, head to South Beach and leave your coat and gloves at home. You’ll need feeling in your limbs to dance as much as the Magic City requires. A variety of DJs, salsa acts and of course Mr. 305 himself, Pitbull, will keep the party jumping long into the wee hours. Plus, it’ll be about 40 degrees warmer than New York.
As with the other entries on this list, Cape Town’s climate and waterfront setting make it a stellar option for ushering in the new year. Festivities actually begin Dec. 30 with the start of a three-day festival in the Durbanville Wine Valley full of food, music and, naturally, wine. At the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, the New Year’s Eve celebrations kick off at 7 p.m. in four activity zones representing earth, air, fire, and water. Everything converges at midnight with fireworks igniting over the water and Table Mountain, which is the perfect spot for a pre-party hike to work up an appetite for a wonderful dinner and maybe a sip or two of Champagne.
By Damien Martin