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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com or (917) 653-9346 for assistance planning your trip safely and legally.
Taking the whole family on a beach vacation this summer? Want an apartment in the big city for a long weekend? Why, you’ll need to book an Airbnb rental for that, right? Sure, if you want to run the risk of being secretly filmed by your host, as a woman in China discovered this month. Or if you’re OK with the possibility that your host might cancel your booking at the last minute for no reason or because of your race, as occurred with a Big Bear, Calif., rental. Or if you don’t mind that the place you’re renting might not have the proper insurance, safety measures or even be legally available for short-term rentals.
Or, you could utilize the vast resources of the Virtuoso network and stay at a place that has been properly vetted, offers services such as housekeeping and lets you enjoy your experience instead of worrying about what’s actually waiting for you when you arrive and potentially dealing with issues that turn your vacation into a big hassle.
Virtuoso-preferred partners offer a vast array of accommodations around the world. In addition to many Virtuoso-preferred hotels having private villas and apartments, there are several companies who specialize in just this sort of thing.
Villas of Distinction features properties all throughout the Caribbean, in several European countries, Hawaii, Colorado, Florida and so much more. You can filter the number of bedrooms you need, the type of experience and level of service you’re looking for, and special features such as beachfront or fully staffed until you’ve found the villa that is perfect for you and your crew.
Abercrombie & Kent doesn’t just do great tours, from magnificently crafted group and family journeys to completely customized private itineraries, the company also has alpine chalets and luxury villas from Andalucia to Umbria at the best addresses in Europe. So after you return from a day of breathtaking touring with your driver and guide, you can sit down to a gourmet meal prepared by a private chef. Sure beats rummaging through the fridge at an Airbnb.
It’s never too early to think about next ski season. You might need help finding a place that checks off all the items on your wish list. Ski-in/ski-out, hot tub, whatever the request, Alpine Adventures has the rental for you, from Vail to Verbier, Crested Butte to Courchevel and just about anywhere else skis and snowboards tear lines.
There are so many more choices, from the villa collections of Virtuoso-preferred wholesalers Travel Impressions and Classic Vacations to the beautiful villas along Lake Como available through the all-everything Italy specialists at IC Bellagio. Luxury retreats has 4,500 in 100 highly sought-after locations. Now aren’t you glad you don’t have to worry about an Airbnb host dropping by without
notice during your romantic dinner?
Travel is easier than ever before, and as a result, we are becoming incredibly well-traveled. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, working with a trusted advisor can open up new regions and territories you haven’t thought about to expand your horizons even further. Maybe you saw the major places on your visit trip or two to a country or region, and now you want to go even more in-depth. These places are for you.
Most of the major cities Down Under are located on the eastern and southern coasts. There’s a whole lot of Outback separating Adelaide in South Australia from Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Perth, the fourth-largest city in Australia with about 2 million inhabitants, is the gateway to the Margaret River wine region, succulent seafood and black truffles just as good as any you’ll find in Europe. These factors contribute to Perth having the most restaurants per capita of any Australian capital and a great bar scene.
You’ve gone on safari. You’ve climbed Kilimanjaro. You’ve even gone gorilla trekking. Well, Africa has a lot more to offer than that. The world’s fourth largest island, Madagascar lies east of Mozambique and is home to 5 percent of the world’s wildlife and vegetation. While the beaches are great, there is a diversity of terrain from rain forest to desert, and much of the flora and fauna are unique to the island. Of the more than 200 bird species, about half are found only on Madagascar, which has almost 20,000 plant species, including seven types of baobab tree. Lemurs leap from tree to tree, while chameleons cling to the branches, making for an entirely different kind of safari experience.
Who doesn’t love France? The glamor of Paris, the glitz of the Riviera, the chateaux in the Loire Valley, the beaches of Normandy, the wines of Bordeaux, the food in Lyon. When you think you’ve done it all in France, head to Brittany. Tucked in the northwest corner of the country, it’s one of the last bastions of Celtic culture. The region only came under the control of France in the 1500s and only fully integrated during the French Revolution. You’ll see street signs in Breton and French and experience an entirely different culture and cuisine.
Don’t get us wrong, we love a beach vacation as much as anyone. But with great food, great places and an exchange rate of nearly 20 pesos to the dollar, colonial Mexico is worth a visit. Mexico City is home to the world’s 11th- and 13th-ranked restaurants (plus another in the top 100) and the beautiful Soumaya Museum. San Miguel de Allende is an artist’s or art lover’s dream you should see before it gets too popular, and Puebla is culinary capital with a downtown that is one big World Heritage site. Queretaro’s baroque architecture is a thing of beauty, and Oaxaca preserves key components of pre-Spanish cultures.
Southeast Asia has become exceedingly popular. The beaches of Thailand are known the world over, and river cruises have introduced many people to the wonders of Vietnam and Cambodia. Erase modern borders, and you’ll see that Luang Prabang has all the charms of Chiang Mai without all the crowds. Laos contains elements of traditional Buddhist culture alongside traces of its French colonial past. As with the rest of Southeast Asia, the food scene is hard to beat. The night market in Luang Prabang and street food in Vientiane will have your mouth watering, and you can wash everything down with a Laotian mulberry tea.