Chiloe Island, Chile
Rotorua, New Zealand
Chiloe Island, Chile
Rotorua, New Zealand
You’ll soon be able to journey right into space to get up close and personal with the stars. But not all of us have that kind of cash just lying around. Despite the rampant light pollution, there are still places here on earth that are great for taking a break to marvel at the night sky. Here are a few of those spots, as designated by the International Dark-Sky Association.
Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park, New Zealand
The park, in combination with the Mackenzie Basin on the South Island, is an international dark sky reserve and has had outdoor lighting controls in place since the 1980s. With 23 peaks around 10,000 feet or higher and city lights a long way off, the reserve is a popular stargazing spot and seeks to honor the traditional role of the stars in navigation and folklore in Maori culture.
The Ring of Kerry makes for a fabulous drive full of natural wonders in the daytime. When night falls and the daytrippers are gone, a different but just as spectacular scene plays out overhead. It’s no wonder neolithic monuments tracking the movements of heavenly bodies dot the Iveragh Peninsula. On clear nights, visitors can see the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxy with the naked eye.
Ramon Crater, Israel
Situated in the Negev Desert, the crater is actually a geological feature unique to Israel and the Sinai Peninsula called a makhtesh formed by erosion. The desert landscape has proved much more difficult to settle than the densely packed north of Israel, and neighboring communities have made a commitment to preserving the light conditions to promote astrotourism. Interpretive programs and stargazing tours are offered on site.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
At the confluence of the Mojave and Colorado deserts, the park is just far enough away from the bright lights of Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego to put on an outstanding nighttime show. Each November, Joshua Tree is home to the Night Sky Festival. The event this year features an astrophotography workshop and astronomy sessions. At the Star Party on Nov. 10, astronomers will tell the stories of the sky while onlookers can see for themselves through the 20 telescopes on hand.
Elqui Valley, Chile
At the southern edge of the Atacama Desert, about 250 miles north of Santiago is the Gabriela Mistral Dark Sky Sanctuary. It was the first — the total is now four — place to be designated as a dark sky sanctuary. Several observatories line the mountainous terrain, where outside light is kept to a minimum and certain areas are at times off-limits to the public. The sanctuary not only preserves some 90,000 acres for celestial study, but it is also home to several threatened and endangered species.
Not every island is a sand-and-sun beach destination where you go to crack open a good book, sip a tropical drink and forget about the worries of home for a few days. Some are full of wildlife and culture and things you can’t find anywhere else. Maybe they’re a little bit out there. Maybe they’re cold or the beaches aren’t anything to write home about. But they’re worth exploring. This week, we visit a few of them.
It’s been in the air — and in your Facebook timeline with all the posts about pumpkin spice — for weeks. But with the equinox coming Saturday, it will be official: It’s autumn. Soon, fall foliage will abound. Here are some of the best places in the country to go leafing.
New England & Canada
This is a classic, from Maine’s Acadia National Park to the Green Mountains of Vermont. Instead of sharing the highways with the thousands of others who had the same idea, consider a fall foliage cruise. You’ll visit ports such as Bar Harbor, Halifax, and Quebec City without having to fight traffic every step of the way and repacking every day, all the while being delivered into the heart of colorful, charming, picture-perfect towns.
The colors come in toward the end of September and beginning of October, starting with blackgum and sweetgum trees, casting reds, yellows, purples and oranges. The peak of the season occurs about a month later, and in between, there are hickories projecting brilliant yellow leaves, sassafras in every color and more than 50 varieties of oak ranging from orange to deep red. On the drive through the rolling Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, you’re surrounded by color as far as the eye can see.
The aspens of Colorado have already begun to turn a striking golden yellow in higher elevations and will be peaking in a couple of weeks. Working their way down, the leaves will start to drop off the trees on higher slopes while they begin changing color at lower elevations, lasting until early November. Farther north in the Tetons and Yellowstone, orange, yellow and red will swarm the forests, making for a stark contrast against snowcapped slate-colored peaks. Aspens, cottonwoods, and maples combine for a dazzling array that’s hard to beat.
The Pacific Northwest
The length of the season depends on how much rain falls, but as long as they last, the fall colors are spectacular. Trails throughout Washington and Oregon erupt in beautiful, deep reds, oranges and yellows, including the Skyline Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, where bushes and shrubs shine in front of tall evergreens and the backdrop of the 14,410-foot Rainier. Silver Falls State Park in Oregon’s Willamette Valley sports colorful trees along a river teeming with spawning salmon and waterfalls galore.
Though the summer lasts a little longer down south, there are plenty of places to spot brilliant leaves in perfect weather during the autumn. From the Natchez Parkway spanning Mississippi and Tennessee all the way down to Florida’s Three Rivers State Park near the Georgia border, there is brilliance on display. The Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina light up with dogwood, birch and many other trees changing color across a variety of elevations. Not to be missed is Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley National Park.
All autumn long, there are spectacular foliage trips right in your backyard.
It might not be that big, tucked on the side of Spain on the western edge of Europe, but Portugal is the hottest destination going this year. Combine the capital of Lisbon — think a European San Francisco — with second city Porto and the beach-laden Algarve region with the diverse islands of Madeira and the Azores, and Portugal becomes a lot bigger than you might have previously imagined. That was one takeaway from Virtuoso Travel Week this month in Las Vegas, where more than 6,000 attendees from 100 countries shared the latest and greatest in the travel industry.
Another important trend is the rise of sustainability. From resorts such as The Brando in French Polynesia, where 95 percent of the energy used is renewable. Buildings made from local, renewable and recycled material blend with their natural surroundings and even waste is turned into compost that is used in organic gardens. The resort’s conservation program focuses on fish and sea turtle replenishment as well as atoll conservation. Seawater air conditioning and coconut oil biofuel help power the resort while getting it closer to carbon neutrality.
Kevin Molony, president of New Orleans-based Royal Insider is working to preserve the culture in and around the city his family first came to in the 1720s by showing clients the authenticities of life for those who call the Big Easy home, far from the tourist haze of Bourbon Street. That could mean hanging behind the scenes with a Mardi Gras crew to see how much blood, sweat, and tears go into preparing not just afloat but a celebration of heritage or dining in a historic home with a meal prepared by the city’s top chefs.
With the launch of www.galapagos.com, www.safaritours.com and www.visibleasia.com, Big Five Tours & Expeditions, ranks countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia based on the sustainability of tourism there, and works in the destinations it services to improve those scores. As Lesa Bain of Lindblad Expeditions succinctly put it in her acceptance speech for Virtuoso’s Sustainable Tourism Leadership award, “Sustainability rocks!”
All told, more than 40,000 meetings took place over the course of a week between travel advisors and suppliers, resulting in an exchange of information that will benefit our travelers. Looking for a great meal? Meadowood Napa Valley’s The Restaurant, winner of Best Dining Experience, has you covered. A nice drink? The Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel in London was voted Best Bar. As for any other experience you can imagine, drop us a line at email@example.com.