New UNESCO World Heritage Sites for 2019

Last week UNESCO announced its new World Heritage sites for 2019. This year, 29 cultural and natural wonders joined the list, and while they are obviously all worthy of special mention, we’re highlighting a few particularly significant sites that merit a visit.


The fortified Pink City serves as the capital of Rajasthan in India’s northwest. It was founded in 1727 specifically to be the center of and most opulent city in the “Land of Kings,” and Jaipur lives up to the challenge in every sense. As part of the Golden Triangle with New Delhi and Agra, Jaipur is home to the Jantar Mantar observatory, itself already on the UNESCO list for its huge sundial. Not far away is Amer Fort, a large palace complex with beautiful architecture. The city was painted pink in 1876 to welcome the future King Edward VII, and has been famous for its dazzling color since.


Iceland’s land of fire and ice is defined by the interplay between erupting volcanoes and the glaciers striding atop them. The resultant melting has created river systems that carve canyons into the terrain. The largest glacier in Europe is a great venue for hiking and boat tours on the adjacent Jökulsárlón lagoon, and the area is home to herds of wild reindeer and many bird species. The national park, established in 2008, covers 14 percent of the country’s landmass.

Frank Lloyd Wright architecture

Eight of Wright’s building designs in the U.S. comprise the World Heritage. The most famous examples of his revolutionary vision are Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pa., and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Wright’s “organic architecture” style pioneered open plans and the synergy of interiors and exteriors and harmony with natural surroundings. Wright’s pioneering use of steel and concrete set the tone for the buildings of the 20th century and inspired much of Europe’s modern architecture.


In the 7th and 6th centuries BC, this was the grandest city of the world and capital of the mighty Neo-Bablyonian Empire. Its hanging gardens were among the seven wonders of the ancient world, and the city captured the imagination of conquerors and peasants alike. The Persians took it over, followed by Alexander the Great. What remains of the ancient metropolis on site are the ruins of walls, gates, palaces and temples that offer glimpses into the glory of one of the world’s first great cities.

Paraty & Ilha Grande

South of Rio de Janeiro, the coastal city of Paraty and the island of Ilha Grande form a powerful 1-2 punch of cultural and ecological heritage. The Portuguese built the colonial town in the 17th century, and the surroundings forests are home to jaguars, peccaries and spider monkeys. Gold left for Europe from Paraty’s port. Ilha Grande has served as a leper colony and a prison, but its real claim to fame is its biodiversity. Sloths and howler monkeys roam the forests, while parrots and fruitcrows fill the skies, and Magellanic penguins, dolphins and whales teem the surrounding waters.

The Best of Canada

Later this week, we’ll celebrate our own independence and the establishment of our country as the United States of America. There will be fireworks and cookouts and, for the fortunate among us, a four-day weekend. July 1 is when our neighbors to the north celebrate Canada Day, marking the unification of different British colonies into the Dominion of Canada. We thought we’d mark the occasion by praising some of our favorite spots in the Great White North.

Lake Louise

A spectacular emerald color thanks to glacial and rock runoff, Lake Louise in Alberta is a picture-perfect sight to behold. You could spend hours just gazing from the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. At almost 6,000 feet of elevation with mountains and trails all around, it’s an outdoorsman’s paradise year-round. In winter, there’s world-class skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, dog-sledding and sleigh rides. In summer, there’s canoeing, hiking and horseback riding, plus the ski gondolas remain in operation to whisk visitors over alpine meadows and babbling brooks.


The host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics serves as a launching point for cruises to Alaska and for the Rocky Mountaineer, one of the great train rides in the world. Nearby Whistler is a world-class ski destination. With all that going for it, Vancouver wouldn’t need much more to be considered a great city. But Vancouver has a lot more going on. The 1,000-acre Stanley Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world and has views for miles. Granville Island’s food scene has the best from all the cultures that have come to call this international city home.


This Manitoba town is the Polar Bear Capital of the World and is also a great spot to see beluga whales and is a birder’s dream. If you’re lucky, you can even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Polar bear tours like the ones offered by Natural Habitat Adventures put you in the center of the action, visiting a den and watching the bears go about their daily routine from the comfort of the Polar Rover. There’s also ample opportunity to meet with First Nations cultures on the western shore of Hudson Bay and see an older way of life firsthand.


About as close to Europe as you can get without crossing the Atlantic, the French Canadian province features two great cities in Montreal and Quebec City, separated by 160 miles of the St. Lawrence River. The old cities call to mind the charms of Paris, and in between is Trois-Rivieres, one of the first European settlements in North America. There are few sites as striking as Quebec City during the “blue hour” when evening sets in or dawn is on its way and the indirect sunlight makes the sky a dreamy shade of dark blue.


Canada’s biggest city is a melting pot of cultures and sits just across Lake Ontario from Niagara Falls and Buffalo. At more than 1,800 feet, the CN Tower is the tallest free standing structure in the Western Hemisphere and offers panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscape. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can take a stroll on the EdgeWalk atop the 36 Restaurant. For a dose of culture, head over to the Royal Ontario Museum with its mix of Romanesque and modern styles. Sports fans can get their fix at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

New England Summer Getaways

The solstice has come, and it’s officially summer, and that means each weekend brings the chance to get out and explore New England in all its glory. Whether that means packing up the family car or chartering a helicopter with Wings Air for a really quick getaway, there’s so much to explore.

Rhode Island

Hit the beach in Newport and soak in the historic boutique Vanderbilt. Do the cliff walk, taking in majestic ocean views and just as majestic gilded age mansions. Take a tour of one or more of those mansions, such as The Breakers, The Elms or Chepstow. Go for a sail on Narragansett Bay. Once you’ve worked up an entire, enjoy some fresh seafood at one of many dockside eateries.


The Berkshires beckon, and so do the many arts programs that relocate from Boston in the summer. Permanent fixtures are the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. Historic properties such as the Wheatleigh and the Blantyre welcome guests to their lush grounds and sumptuously appointed rooms. If you just need a break from work week and the kids being out of school, Canyon Ranch in Lenox has an array of wellness programs to rejuvenate you.

New Hampshire

From your base at the Manor on Golden Pond, check out the beauty of Bretton Woods and hike to the top of Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast at 6,288 feet. Back at the Manor, Squam Lake and the White Mountains stretch out before you, inviting you to toss your cares away. It’s too late this year for Portsmouth’s annual chowder festival, which takes place the first weekend of June, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of chowder to chow down on.


Featuring Cadillac Mountain, one of the first places in the U.S. to see sunrise each morning, Acadia National Park covers several islands and is an excellent destination for birdwatchers and rewards hikers with stunning ocean views. The area was first inhabited by the Wabanaki people and later became the site of the first French missionary colony in America. To reduce summertime traffic congestion, the National Park Service is working on a new transportation plan to keep the park a beautiful and enjoyable destination.


Take a hike along the Appalachian Trail to the top of White Rocks Cliffs to soak in views of the mountains and the valleys below. Twin Farms in Barnard and the Pitcher Inn in Warren provide the perfect launching off points for hiking, biking, golf and just about any other outdoor adventure you can imagine. The picturesque towns will make you feel as though you’re walking through a painting, allowing you to relax and recharge in maximum comfort.

Top Ballooning Experiences

There are few experiences more romantic and breathtaking than gliding over a beautiful landscape in a hot air balloon. It’s just enough adventure without veering into the more heart-pumping extremes of hang-gliding or sky-diving. Any kind of thrill ride that allows you to drink Champagne during it is our kind of excursion. These are some of the best places to take part.


The annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta takes place in October and this year will feature 550 balloons. Dawn launches and twilight balloon glows take advantage of the crisp autumn weather and unveil the whole of the Rio Grande Valley as the changing light plays off the mountains and valleys. The highlight of the nine-day festival is the mass ascension, when all participating balloons take off at the same time, filling the sky as far as the eye can see.


Safari from a whole new perspective with a balloon ride over the Serengeti, where you can the large scale interaction of the whole ecosystem of animals from a bird’s eye view. Watch as predators lie in wait for their prey, which is constantly on the lookout to protect the herd. It’s like a game of chess with the ultimate stakes. The endless plains and Maasai villages dotting them are great as well.


Thousands of temples and pagodas built hundreds of years ago sit silently among the trees in the golden city of Bagan, which served as the capital of the first empire to unite the lands that became Myanmar. The Irrawaddy River snakes its way past the city, with islands galore breaking up the flow. It’s the only way to check out all the architecture without spending years trekking from temple to temple.


Those rolling hills look even better from a thousand feet up. The walls of medieval hilltop cities seem so easy to breach by just dropping in from above, and you’ll get a taste of just how many acres of vineyards and olive groves there are discover. The beauty of the region is timeless, and flights usually comes with prosecco, cheese and olive oil tastings. Hard to say no to that.


The Turkish region is littered with “fairy chimneys,” spire-like rock formations that jut out from the earth. Some even houses and churches carved into them. There are also orchards and vineyards to glide over. Cappadocia is so lovely that more than half a million people go ballooning there each year, accounting for most of the world’s annual rides.

New Rules for Cuba Travel

As you may have heard, the U.S. government issued new restrictions on travel to Cuba last week. They were effective immediately, with educational and recreational (“people to people”) itineraries no longer allowed. Cruise ships, recreational vessels and non-commercial aircraft originating from the U.S. may not go to Cuba.

If you are booked on a cruise that included Cuba in the itinerary, contact your travel advisor for details. Virtuoso-preferred cruise lines are initiating policies to make it up to guests who were looking forward to visiting the island. Land tours and flights booked through June 4 may be grandfathered in, but it best to confirm with your travel advisor, tour operator or airline.

So, is it still possible for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba under the new policy? The answer is yes, for religious travel, meeting and support for the Cuban people programs. You will need to travel with a licensed tour operator that has permits for these types of itineraries.

More than ever, it’s important to work with a trusted travel advisor who stays on top of the latest updates and knows which tour operators are still taking groups to Cuba. Even with the new restrictions, you can still go to Cuba. Contact Stefany at or (917) 653-9346 for assistance planning your trip safely and legally.