By Judy Newell
10 hidden places the world doesn’t know about
Looking for some new travel destinations in 2015? Check out these ideas.
Best hidden destination within the United States: North Dakota
North Dakota is a new “find” with wide open spaces, very few people, and lots of things to do like Wild West towns, old Norwegian pioneer settlements, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the northern Badlands, and the Lewis and Clark Trail of forts and museums along the Missouri River. Plus, there’s a surprisingly sophisticated food and bar scene in Bismarck.
Best hidden destination for history lovers: Leptis Magna
One thing that didn’t come out during the blanket press coverage of the Libya revolution was the fact that the North African nation has the absolute best Roman ruins anywhere outside of Rome itself. Go to Leptis Magna on the coast, 75 miles east of Tripoli. You’ll find stunning architecture that hardly anyone has visited in modern times.
Best hidden destination for snorkeling: Tuamotu Islands
The Tuamotu Islands of French Polynesia, about an hour’s flight north of Papeete, are unspoiled, uncrowded, and unpolluted. You can snorkel with tropical fish or sharks and manta rays in the coral atolls with lagoons in the middle, or “drift snorkel” through the lagoon passages on the turn of the tides.
Best hidden destination for family travel: Galapagos Islands
Not hidden per se, but it’s not the most obvious family vacation. Children love it, especially if you tour the islands by boat. In addition to getting up close and personal with animals that show no fear of humans, kids can also dive into lots of different watersports like snorkeling, sea kayaking, and Zodiac boats.
Best hidden destination for mountain lovers: The Pyrenees
The Pyrenees in southern France and northern Spain are everything people crave about the Alps with a fraction of the people. They have so much to offer, including incredible high-country national parks in Gavarnie, Ordesa, and Aiguestortes; hearty regional cuisine; the running of the bulls in Pamplona; and even duty-free shopping in tiny Andorra.
Best hidden destination for romance: Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s southern coast, especially on either side of the old city of Galle, has everything you need for a romantic getaway—including chic boutique hotels, uncrowded beaches, wildlife sanctuaries (wild elephants and leopards), ancient temples, and great food.
Best hidden destination for beaches: Mauritius
It’s a long haul from North America or Europe, but Mauritius is well worth the 24-hour trip for the palm-fringed beaches alone. Great hotels, marvelous mixed-bag cuisine (Indian, Chinese, African, French) that reflects the island’s diverse cultural heritage, adventurous volcanic mountains, quirky history, and very nice people who enjoy having visitors come to their tiny speck of land in the middle of nowhere.
Best hidden destination for culinary travel: Tokyo
A lot of people wouldn’t touch “street food” in Asia, but in super-clean Japan you have nothing to worry about. Especially good are the early-morning eateries of Tsukiji Fish Market where you can breakfast on fresh-off-the-boat sashimi and premium sake, and the ‘Yakatori Alley’ beneath the old brick railroad arches near the Ginza district.
Best hidden destination for adventure travel: Wrangell-Kluane Wilderness, Alaska and the Yukon
This is the world’s largest single protected area at 50 million square miles and it boasts the biggest concentration of super-high mountains and glaciers in North America. In addition to copious wildlife (bear, moose, caribou, mountain goats, whales, and timber wolves), the vast park offers all sorts of adventure possibilities—backcountry hiking, mountain climbing, whitewater rafting on huge inland rivers, or kayaking saltwater fjords. And best of all: adrenaline-pumping bush plane flights.
Best hidden destination for wildlife: Pantanal Wetlands
Everyone thinks the Amazon is the place to go in South America for wildlife, but the vegetation is too thick and the habitat destruction is too widespread now. With vast grasslands, animals are much easier to see and photograph in the Pantanal wetlands of southern Brazil. It’s the best place on the planet to see jaguars in the wild.
Deal of the Week
Two-for-one booking offer on new Botswana safari
Award-winning luxury safari outfitter Great Safaris debuted its new program, Royal Botswana Safari with Victoria Falls, on December 1. This impressive Premier Level itinerary offers 12 days of amazing safari adventures and incredible accommodations in “Old Africa’s Last Refuge” and at the famous “Smoke that Thunders.” The best part: Great Safaris is introducing this program with an unbeatable offer: book this tour through January 31, 2015, and receive two bookings for the price of one.
This unique special includes the internal Botswana bush plane airfares — from Kasane to the safari camps and on to Maun — and all meals and drinks on safari in Botswana are included. Travelers will enjoy daily game viewing activities, including nighttime game drives. Guests will commence this journey in the culturally rich city of Johannesburg then wing their way to Victoria Falls, known as the “Smoke that Thunders.” Enjoy a guided tour of the falls and the surrounding rainforest, and then relax on a sunset cruise along the mighty Zambezi River.
Continue to Chobe National Park in Botswana, known as “Old Africa’s Last Refuge.” With a small human population and the harsh Kalahari Desert blanketing half the country, Botswana is truly a “wild” safari destination and you encounter herds of buffalo, elephant, and zebra — favorite prey for hungry lions, cheetah, and leopards.
Then head out on early morning and evening game drives in Moremi Wildlife Reserve to see a wide range of creatures, including big cats, antelope, rhino, and buffalo. You’ll fly back to Johannesburg to shake off the bush dust and head home with unforgettable safari memories.
If you book the Royal Botswana Safari with Victoria Falls before January 31, 2015, you will receive the two-for-one booking special. The regular land program price is from $8,695 for travel January 1 to March 31, 2015 and from November 15 to December 23, 2015.
Judy Newell heads the travel company Perfect Journeys that specializes in custom-designed travel itineraries for couples, families and small groups of friends. Contact her for the latest specials on cruises, tours and hotels. Perfect Journeys, SMA cell: 415 111 8765;Vonage: 949 3900 3682; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or check out the website www.perfectjourneys.net where you can make live bookings.
Sources: Smarter Travel, Great Safaris