Top 5 Extraordinary Culinary Experiences with Luxury Gold

By Chelsea Todaro of Luxury Gold

If you’re traveling with Luxury Gold, expect unforgettable delicious high-end dining. You may find yourself indulging in Michelin-star fare one evening and then diving into the street food scene the following day on a foodie tour. From private cooking classes with culinary masters to marvelous lunches at vineyards, dining is a highlight of the journey, rather than just a standard mealtime.

Food is a huge part of travel, and you’ll truly discover the culture of a destination through Luxury Gold’s carefully selected dining experiences. In addition to renowned Michelin-star restaurants, you’ll also visit fine-dining restaurants acclaimed by other leading industry guides such as Zagat, AAA Diamond and Forbes.

Prepare for the meal of a lifetime with Luxury Gold’s top 5 extraordinary dining experiences below.

Exclusive Views of the Gulf of Naples at Michelin-Starred Mammà

Mammà

Italy is known for its exceptional cuisine, and you will not be disappointed on Luxury Gold’s Ultimate Italy. While visiting the gorgeous Isle of Capri, you’ll take in beautiful, exclusive views of the Gulf of Naples from the privileged perch of Michelin-starred Mammà for lunch. You’ll indulge in a delectable meal of Mediterranean flavors in perfect Caprese style, created with passion from fresh, local produce by chef Salvatore La Ragione.Mammà is in the heart of Capri Island, an iconic spot from Dolce Vita, and is just steps from the famous square.

Tour the Best Bites in Paris from a French Food Connoisseur

Maison Prévôt

While exploring one of the most iconic food capitals of the world, you’ll join a passionate food connoisseur for a small-group gourmet foodie walk through the streets of Paris on Luxury Gold’s French Vogue. You’ll visit a variety of patisseries, boulangeries and chocolatiers, taste delicious specialties and meet passionate foodies along the way. After visiting Paris, enjoy a high-end lunch at the Michelin-starred Maison Prévôt, nestled in the heart of Provence. This restaurant embraces contemporary, gourmet cuisine and follows the changing of the seasons with locally sourced ingredients.

A Taste of Modern Cuisine at Cusco’s Top Restaurant

MAP Cafe

While exploring Peruvian culture on Luxury Gold’s Treasures of the Incas, you’ll enjoy an intimate candlelight dinner at MAP Cafe in Cusco, one of the city’s most prominent restaurants. MAP is situated on the lively, modern courtyard of the Museum of Pre-Colombian Art. This small, glass-enclosed, elegant café delivers contemporary Peruvian haute cuisine with an artistic dining experience, and candlelit for a dazzling evening ambiance.

Dine at Renowned 1135 in Jaipur, Enjoy High Tea in the City Palace

1135 AD

In India, there are two unforgettable VIP culinary experiences on Luxury Gold’s Essence of India. While visiting Jaipur, you’ll dine at the historic Amer Palace on centuries-old recipes, once made exclusively for royalty. Condé Nast consistently names 1135 AD in their top restaurants of India, and the tantalizing dishes on offer make you realize why. In addition to having dinner at this one-of-a-kind restaurant, you’ll also get to savor a locally inspired high tea in a private living room of the Maharaja, within the Jaipur City Palace. You’ll explore rooms that are not open to other visitors and see the spectacular crystal table handcrafted by renowned artisan René Lalique.

Enjoy Colonial-Style Tea in Egypt’s Famous Historic Hotel

The Old Cataract Hotel

Discovering the ancient lands of Egypt calls for a relaxing afternoon tea, British style. On Luxury Gold’s Elegance of the Nile, you’ll enjoy a British past time in Aswan with a colonial-style afternoon tea at sunset in the elegant Victorian surroundings of The Old Cataract Hotel. Thi9s hotel was famously visited frequently by Agatha Christie and Winston Churchill. You’ll enjoy gorgeous views of the Nile River and Elephantine Island as the hotel sits on a pink granite cliff.  To end the day on a high note, you’ll enjoy dinner on your luxurious river cruise ship, The River Tosca, accompanied by a Nubian folklore show and live music. The River Tosca presents world-class cuisine made from fresh ingredients, locally sourced from Egypt.

Luxury Gold sets an unmatched standard with its worldwide collection of award-winning small group luxury journeys. Guided by a Travelling Concierge, guests can indulge in the ultimate guided vacation, discovering exclusive VIP Experiences and savoring exceptional dining on every curated itinerary. They will stay at magnificent hotels and travel in absolute comfort, with their Well-Being Director who is always a step ahead to ensure the places visited, adhere to the high standards of excellence. As the global leader in luxury travel with expertise accumulated over 101 years, Luxury Gold epitomizes extraordinary exploration to some of the world’s most spectacular destinations. To find out more, please visit www.luxurygold.com.  


Exploring Irish Heritage

By Noreen Bowden of CIE Tours

A trip to Ireland can be an emotional homecoming for Irish-Americans, as they return to the land of their ancestors. Check out three museums and an online resource that can help unlock visitors’ family history and heritage.

Ireland’s tragic history and long legacy of emigration hold special meaning for tens of millions of Americans who can trace their ancestry back to the Emerald Isle. And for many Irish-Americans, a trip to Ireland is a kind of homecoming. Visiting the places that tell the stories of those who left their ancestral homeland can help unlock family history – and there are many museums in Ireland dedicated to revealing the experience of those who left. Here are a few of our favorites – these are all great places for exploring heritage, but there’s plenty to intrigue even those without an Irish branch in their family tree:

EPIC the Irish Emigration Museum

EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin is a shiny, high-tech wonderland – the first all-digital museum in the world. But don’t be fooled by the slick technology: this museum has a lot of heart. EPIC is all about stories – of the 10 million Irish people who left, where they went, and what happened to them. Twenty galleries detail the history, heritage, and culture of the Irish diaspora. It’s a wonderful introduction to the vast global scale of Ireland’s descendants.

See emigrant letters, experience Irish music and dance, meet the outlaws in the Rogue’s Gallery, hear the words of some of the world’s most famous authors in the Whispering Library. Visitors can even begin exploring their own history with a consultation with a professional genealogist.

The museum is located near Dublin’s docklands–steps away from the Jeannie Johnston, a replica ship similar to those that carried millions of starving Irish refugees fleeing famine in the 19th century (and also worth a visit).

For more information visit EPICchq.com

Dunbrody Famine Ship

The Dunbrody Famine Ship in New Ross, County Wexford is a faithful reproduction of an 1840s emigrant vessel that carried weary and hungry refugees fleeing Ireland’s Famine. The Famine was caused by a potato blight that killed the staple crop of the impoverished tenant farmers. From 1845 to 1852, 1 million people died and 1.5 million emigrated. As people fled throughout the world, the Irish Diaspora took on new dimensions.

The Dunbrody was launched as a cargo ship in 1845 but was quickly refitted, going on to carry thousands of desperate tenant farmers to Canada, most in overcrowded steerage. While many of the millions who crossed the ocean in that era died, the captains of the Dunbrody kept the mortality rate with good care of their passengers. Visitors to the Dunbrody learn the story of famine emigration  from the perspective of those who left, as they cross from the quayside of New Ross on the long journey to the Arrivals Hall in North America. 

The Dunbrody’s port location was the departure point for an ancestor of John F Kennedy, who visited there in 1963 in an emotional homecoming. The ship sits beside the Irish-America Hall of Fame.

Learn more at Dunbrody.com.

Cobh Heritage Center

The pretty little port town of Cobh – named in 2019 as one of the 25 most beautiful towns in Europe by Condé Nast Traveler – was the departure point for millions of emigrants over the centuries. The Cobh Heritage Center tells their stories – for many, their last glimpse of Ireland was of this harbor.  

Cobh’s role in emigrant history starts in the 1600s, when Irish people left for British overseas colonies like Virginia, New England, Barbados, Jamaica, and Montserrat. Then between 1848 to 1950, nearly half of the 6 million people who left Ireland departed from Cobh.

Cobh Heritage Center showcases many facets of emigrant history. Explore life on board a so-called “coffin ship” and a ship bringing convicts to Australia. Exhibits detail the lives of seventeenth-century local man Francis Barret, famed pirate Anne Bonney, smuggler Robert Davies, and more. Learn about Annie Moore, who departed the port in 1891 and became the first emigrant to be processed at the newly opened Ellis Island in New York – she’s memorialized with a statue at the entrance to the museum. The center also tells the story of the Titanic – Cobh was its last port of call for the ill-fated ship.

Learn more at CobhHeritage.com

IrelandXO.com: an online heritage resource

Those with Irish heritage who are planning a trip might be interested in an additional resource before they go: Ireland Reaching Out, a nonprofit group comprised of volunteers who seek to connect Ireland’s millions of descendants with the communities their ancestors departed from. Their many resources, including genealogy message boards, connection stories, and ancestor chronicles are available at IrelandXO.com.

Travel with CIE Tours, the premier tour operator into Ireland – offering dozens of expertly crafted vacations to Ireland to suit every travel style and taste, from the camaraderie of coach tours and custom group travel to a variety of independent adventures, small group tours and personalized private driver experiences.  See CIETours.com for more information.

Noreen Bowden, the Content Manager at CIE Tours, writes extensively about the Irish diaspora; she has worked in Ireland and the US in positions aimed at strengthening links between Ireland and the Irish abroad.


Living the Outdoor Life in Finland 

By Mila Kickert, Product Manager Northern/Central Europe, Avanti Destinations

Nature is practically the national religion of Finland. 

If you don’t know this sparsely populated, little-touristed Nordic country that sits between Sweden and Russia, you owe it to yourself to get familiar with it, especially if you love nature.  There is no other place like it. 

No matter what the season, Finland gives you plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities: hiking, trekking, biking, cross country skiing, ice skating, whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, Husky and reindeer sledding, snowshoeing, fishing, bear-watching, and picking wild mushrooms and berries while strolling through its nearly 50 million acres of forests. Since we’re talking numbers – there are more than 180,000 lakes in Finland. “Land of 1,000 Lakes” is an understatement. 

You’ll be happy to know that most Finns speakexcellent English – because who in the world is going to learn to speak Finnish? It’s a complex language completely unrelated to any other, except Estonian and Hungarian. With so many Finns speaking English – and eager to practice – it’s easy for Americans to get around.  Finland also has an excellent road system if you want to rent a car, as well as a great public transportation system and good air connections between destinations. Keep in mind that if you rent a car, gas is quite expensive compared to the US –  like most other countries. 

Because of its extreme northern latitude, you can also experience two natural phenomena in Finland. Between October and March, when the days are short and the nights are long, you can see the Northern Lights or aurora borealis, that spectacular kinetic light show dancing in the night sky. In the late spring through the summer, you have the wonderful long days of the Midnight Sun, when the darkest it gets in the middle of the night is like twilight. For two months in the far north, enjoy “White Nights” when the sun does not set at all. 

The only thing as sacred to Finns as being active outdoors is relaxing from all that exertion in a real Finnish sauna – which usually involves several dips in rivers, lakes or the sea in water that can be quite – shall we say, invigorating? In the winter, Finns cut holes in the ice to take a quick swim after a sauna. I personally am sold on saunas, and saunayoga – the best way to relax after hiking, skiing or kayaking or whatever you want to put your body through. 

For those seeking some adventure, one of my favorite places is Lapland – specifically Ruka and Kuusamo, near Oulanka National Park. When I visited in February we “hunted” for the Northern Lights by snowshoe one evening, by a sled pulled by huskies the next.  During the day, we went cross country skiing, and successfully tried ice fishing.  On a subsequent trip during June, there were so many things to do: we canoed, went whitewater rafting, rode fat-tire bikes on forest trails, fished for brown trout in a nearby river, patiently watched for bears, and picked wild berries – blueberries, lingonberries and 

Ah – heaven. No wonder Finland has been named the happiest country in the world for the past four years! 

Since 1981, Avanti Destinations has been selling independent travel products and custom-crafted vacations in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Central and South America. The Portland, Oregon-based wholesale tour operator offers a wide range of FIT components to travel agents only, including air, rail, rental cars, hotels, sightseeing/attractions, transfers, and hard-to-find experiential travel options.  Avanti specializes in hand-picked, locally-owned hotels in both large and small cities and in connecting all the pieces of complex, multi-destination itineraries. The company also creates complete packages for custom groups of 15-100 passengers.  

For more information: https://book.avantidestinations.com  


Exploring Iceland’s Golden Circle

By YMT Vacations

Iceland’s Golden Circle is one of the world’s most impressive day trips. The route from Reyjkavic to Iceland’s three biggest attractions highlights the dramatic natural beauty of the rugged island nation, connecting geysers, waterfalls, and the collision point of two vast continents. With countless sightseeing opportunities and dining options along the way, the Golden Circle has something for everyone.

What Is the Golden Circle?

The Golden Circle is an extremely popular daytrip from Reyjkavik. The 190-mile scenic route to three of Iceland’s most iconic attractions is most often travelled clockwise, stopping at Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and then the Gullfoss Waterfall. Almost 2 million people toured the Golden Circle in 2019. The majority of visitors come during the relatively dry summer, when temperatures hover just above 50℉. Tours of the Golden Circle last all day, and include sites beyond just the main three.

Can’t-Miss Attractions

The official Golden Circle route is made up of just these three stops, which are easily accessible and spectacularly beautiful. They’re essential for a reason.

Thingvellir National Park

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is in the rift valley where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. It is one of few places on earth where tectonic plates are visible above ground. This is also where Iceland’s early settlers created the world’s first parliament in the year 930. Snap a gorgeous picture at Öxarárfos Falls, or at a viewing area where both plates are visible at once.

Geysir Geothermal Area

See hot springs, gurgling mud pots, and the natural spectacle of geysers. You’re virtually guaranteed to witness Strokkur Geyser erupt, as it has been shooting superheated, highly pressurized water up to 130-feet in the air every ten minutes since 1963. A short walk to the peak of nearby Mt. Laugarfjall provides incredible views and photo opportunities of the geothermal area to one side, and the sprawling Haukadalur Valley to the other.

Gullfoss Waterfall

The glacial water of Gullfoss Waterfall thunders more than 100 feet down two spectacular drops. When the sun is out, the water itself can light up in a dazzling shade of gold, appropriate given Gullfoss’ literal translation of “Golden Waterfall.”

Other Must-See Stops

Hot springs, colorful craters, and miles of idyllic countryside line the route of the Golden Circle, and shouldn’t be missed.

Secret Lagoon

The Secret Lagoon is the country’s oldest geothermal swimming pool. Dating back to 1891, the warm, healing waters come from nearby hot springs and Litli Geyser, which erupts several times an hour to the delight of bathing guests. Come here to relax like a true Icelander.

Kerid Crater

Kerid Craster is a volcanic caldera made up of red and orange lava rocks with a bright blue lake in its center. A magnificent contrast in colors, the stunning oval-shaped natural feature was formed nearly 7,000 years ago.

Where to Eat on the Golden Circle?

All this sightseeing is bound to work up your appetite. Thankfully, there are plenty of stops you can make on the road. For breakfast before leaving Reykjavik, stop by the brightly colored Braud & Co., and order one of their world-famous cinnamon buns. In between Thingvellir and Geysir, the Efstidalur Farm’s restaurant is a welcome sight. Family run, the centuries-old farm grows and raises much of what they serve guests, including the fresh cream that makes Efstidalur’s ice cream such a treat.

Take a Guided Golden Circle Tour

If the magnificent Golden Circle, a highlight of the perfectly named “Land of Fire and Ice” appeals to you, we suggest taking a guided tour with YMT Vacations. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the sites of the Golden Circle, as well as black sand beaches, a geothermal greenhouse and horse farm, the Reyjkanes Peninsula, and more on Enchanting Iceland. We will take care of all the details, leaving you free to enjoy a dream Icelandic vacation.

YMT Vacations has been providing affordable guided tours for mature travelers since 1967. Our guided cruise and land tours, to destinations around the globe, are designed with value in mind. By thoughtfully bringing together each separate element of your vacation, we can guarantee you the best price and an easy, worry-free trip. Visit ymtvacations.com to learn more!


Best Wildlife Experiences with African Travel, Inc. That Go Beyond Your Big Five Bucket List

By Chelsea Todaro of African Travel

Wildlife in Africa is so vast and plentiful, it’s sometimes hard to choose where you can find the best animal encounters. 

Whether it’s the big five, exotic birds, desert roamers, or aquatic life you’re searching for, an African safari will deliver for any wildlife preference. You can still enjoy sundowners, culinary delights and other luxury experiences while on safari, but there’s also extraordinary wildlife encounters that will check off your big five bucket list and also contribute to sustainability.  

African Travel Inc.’s safari experts curate wildlife experiences tailored to any traveler’s desires, and do so sustainably with their not-for-profit partner, TreadRight Foundation.  

Below, African Travel Inc. breaks down the top wildlife safari experiences in Africa. 

Help Save Rhinos in South Africa 

At Shamwari Game Reserve you’ll learn about the important conservation work done to help save rhinos and big cat species. Shamwari is one of the largest conservation initiatives in Southern Africa, and every guest participates in the conservation story – whether it is a through a donation made for each guests’ visit or their own experience with the animals. Learn about the balance between wildlife and plant life from the rangers or meet the veterinarians and ecologists at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. If conservation is your passion, consider a two-week volunteer program with the Shamwari Conservation Experience. 

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See the Greatest Show on Earth from Your Treehouse Balcony 

In Tanzania, the Great Migration is a must-see as millions of Wildebeest, zebras and gazelles– to name a few–come together for the largest animal migration in the world. If you’re staying in the Serengeti, you can have your own private showing from your treehouse balcony at Tarangire Treetops. These luxury elevated suites are perched on platforms in the branches of age-old Baobab and Marula trees. It makes for some of the best panoramic wildlife viewing from a high altitude!  

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Close Encounters with Gorillas and Chimpanzees 

To discover Rwandan wildlife, get your outdoor gear and camera ready as you hike into the rainforest mountains in search of the magnificent, and critically endangered, Silver Back Mountain Gorilla. Any fatigue from your mountain trek at Volanoes National Park will fade away with your first close glimpse of the gorillas while they forage and move through the forest. While visiting Nyungwe National Park, expert rangers will guide you during a chimpanzee trek deep in the rainforest. You’ll observe them playing wild and free, hooting and dashing through the trees—this is their home after all!  

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Take Wildlife Photography Lessons in Botswana 

Botswana offers one of the most diverse game-viewing in Africa with land and water safaris. At Botswana’s new Xigera Safari Lodge, travelers can relax for a night in the new Baobab treehouse experience and join the lodge’s wildlife photography expert Mike Myers on a private safari perfecting their photography skills. You’ll spot wildlife all over from the Okavango Delta’s diverse ecosystems—ranging from hippos, crocodiles, lions, leopards, elephants, wild dogs and a myriad of birds. Designed to frame the breathtaking floodplains and riverine forests, the Xigera’s spacious suites look out onto lily-filled lagoons, providing a front-row seat to the theatre of the African bush.  

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Take a River Cruise at the Mighty Victoria Falls 

Victoria Falls is hailed as one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders and attracts many wildlife species to its large water source. Sail upstream the Zambezi River on a sunset dinner cruise for a wildlife photographer paradise. Use binoculars to zoom in on the hippos cavorting in the river and look out for the elephants as they make their way to the riverbank for their last drink before settling down for the night.  

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Discover Pristine, Desert-Adapted Wildlife and Track Black Rhinos 

On Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, you can discover desert-adapted animals that live in this harsh environment, like the unique lions, and the conservation efforts to try and ensure their survival. You’ll also see one of the greatest concentrations of desert elephant, along with Hartmann’s zebra, oryx, giraffe, springbok, and even lion and brown hyenas. Dramaland is recognized for having the largest free-roaming black rhino population in Africa. Enjoy the thrill of tracking these rhinos with expert rangers and learn about the work being done by Save the Rhino Trust. 

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Chelsea Todaro is a Communications Specialist and Writer for The Travel Corporation, where she promotes family-owned travel brands across the globe. She graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a B.A. in Journalism and Multimedia Studies. Chelsea Todaro is also an opinion columnist for CEO World Magazine. Follow her on LinkedIn. 

About African Travel, Inc. - ”We Know Africa” 
African Travel, Inc. is the longest established luxury safari operator based in the US focused exclusively on the African continent. With a team across North America and in Africa, the luxury safari operator creates unforgettable tailor-made journeys. Each trip also has a positive impact on the people, place and wildlife through their #AfricanTravelCares program and partnership with The TreadRight Foundation. African Travel is one of the most awarded safari companies, including a Travel +Leisure 2020 Top 10 World’s Best Safari Outfitter, and a proud member of The Travel Corporation (TTC), a family-owned company with more than 100 years of expertise in luxury travel. 


A Guide to 7 of Colorado’s Top National Parks and Monuments

By Katie of Trafalgar

Colorado’s national parks and monuments are home to the state’s greatest treasures. You’ll find everything here from dinosaur bones and ancient ruins, to stunning scenery ranging from snowy mountains and river gorges, to rocky canyons and golden sand dunes. Whether you want to go hiking, kayaking, sandboarding, stargazing, or wildlife spotting, the Centennial State is the ultimate American adventure. Planning a trip? Read our guide to seven of the best national parks and monuments in Colorado – and be sure to add some to your bucket list.

Rocky Mountain National Park

1. Rocky Mountain National Park

As one of the world’s most extraordinary landscapes, the Rocky Mountains National Parks is regularly hailed as one of Colorado’s top national parks. It’s filled with snowy peaks soaring more than 12,000 feet high, alpine lakes and waterfalls, and gorgeous meadows dotted with moose, elk, bighorn sheep and more. If you can tear your eyes away from the views, you’ll also find campgrounds, fishing spots and 350 miles of scenic trails ranging from short walks to multi-day treks. The central area of Beaver Meadows and Moraine Park are great places to start your Rocky Mountains adventure. And be sure to take a drive along the Trail Ridge Road, a spectacular scenic byway crossing the continental divide, famed as the highest continuous paved highway in the USA. 

GET INSPIRED BY: Welcome to Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park

2. Mesa Verde National Park

If you’re looking for the best national parks in Colorado, you can’t go past Mesa Verde. Set in the stunning Four Corners area of Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park offers both natural beauty and fascinating history. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, here you can trace the ancient footsteps of the Ancestral Puebloans who carved cliff dwellings out of the sandstone canyon walls. The park is home to some of the country’s most well-preserved archaeological sites, including more than 4,000 ruins dating back hundreds of years. Drive along the Mesa Loop Road to see the amazing carved dwellings or walk the Petroglyph Point Trail for stunning views and the best rock art in the park. You can also take a ranger-led tour to see more impressive archaeological sites, including the Balcony House with 40 preserved rooms and Cliff Palace, with 150 rooms and 23 kivas. 

Colorado National Monument

3. Colorado National Monument

The Colorado National Monument protects one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the US. Set in the northeast of the Colorado Plateau, you’ll come face to face with sheer-walled canyons plunging as deep as 500 feet, and granite rock monoliths towering to 450 feet. It’s all red rock and green juniper forests, and as you gaze out over this mesmerising landscape, you might even spot soaring eagles, mountain lions and bighorn sheep. You won’t want to blink as you drive the 23-mile Rim Rock Drive along the spectacular plateau lined with spectacular views. Or get on solid ground with the 14 hiking trails in the Colorado National Monument, including the popular Serpent’s Trail, a zigzagging trail that takes you along the original dirt road into the monument in just 2.5 miles.

RELATED CONTENT: Hit 10,000 steps a day on these 7 iconic USA National Park hikes

Dinosaur National Monument

4. Dinosaur National Monument

Ever wanted to see a dinosaur? You’ll find them in Colorado’s national parks. Well, the bones at least. The Dinosaur National Monument is one of the few places where you can see and touch massive dinosaur bones sticking out of the rocks where they were found, and even see ancient petroglyphs. But dinosaurs aren’t the only attraction here. You can hike along miles of trails, and go swimming, fishing and boating around the gorgeous area where the Yampa and Green rivers meet. Take a drive along Harpers Corner Road for mesmerising views over the rivers, or grab a raft and float along while admiring the ancient canyon walls and spotting elk on the riverbanks. Dinosaur National Monument is even an International Dark Sky Park, and astronomy lovers flock here for stargazing and night hikes in summer.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Preserve

5. Great Sand Dunes National Park Preserve

With 149,000 acres of sand dunes, forest and wetlands, and home to the tallest dunes in the country towering 750 feet high, the Great Sand Dunes National Park Preserve is one epic sandbox. While the incredible scenery provides plenty of photo opportunities, this is also one of the most fun national parks to visit in Colorado, with outdoor adventures like sandboarding, sand sledding and four wheeling. Start at the fantastic Visitor Centre to see the exhibits and short film about the park or meet a Park Ranger to uncover the secrets of this unique natural phenomenon formed more than a million years ago. If you want to go climbing or sandboarding, make your way to High Dune and Star Dune, or head to the 22-mile Medano Pass Road for a four-wheeling experience across sandy creeks. After the spring snowmelt, the Medano Creek is also great for swimming, sunbathing and relaxing after your ride down the sand dunes.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

6. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
It may not get the hype of the Rocky Mountains, but this national park is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. The park surrounds a 53-mile gorge plunging 2,700 feet into the earth, with the marbled rock walls carved out by the Gunnison River. The deepest points of the canyon barely receive sunlight, and it’s a mesmerising experience to stare into the dark depths. For the best views of the gorge, head to Devil’s Lookout and Dragon Point. You can also walk the Chasm View nature trail on the north rim or stop at the viewpoints along the South Rim Drive, where you’ll also see the striped Painted Wall. Besides the scenery, there’s also plenty of wildlife including golden eagles, elk and mule deer, a railroad museum that tells the story of the railroads that used to cross this gorge. It’s even an International Dark Sky Park with sky parties and astronomy festivals in summer. 

RELATED CONTENT: What to pack for a trip through America’s great national parks

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

7. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
If you want to get closer to Colorado’s prehistoric life, the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is the place to be. You’ll find thousands of fossils dating back millions of years, including plants and insects, and huge petrified redwood stumps up to 14 feet wide, which are best seen along the 1.1-mile Petrified Forest Loop. Other hiking trails reveal the natural beauty of the park, with alpine forests, granite outcrops and lush meadows spread across 6,000 acres. You can even explore the pioneer history of the area, with a fantastic museum and an early homestead that shows what life was like during Colorado’s settlement. For the perfect mix of history and nature, this has got to be on your Colorado bucket list. 

Are you dreaming of visiting Colorado’s national parks and monuments? Guided touring company Trafalgar Tours offer incredible travel experiences to many of America’s great National Parks. Visit their website or get in touch to start planning your next vacation today.

Katie is a regular contributing writer for Trafalgar’s The Real Word blog, based in sunny Perth, Australia. She lives for and writes about all things travel, culture, food and nature, and loves to inspire people to discover the world through her travel blogs.


A Guide to Sunny SouthWest Germany

By Terry Dale, President & CEO of USTOA

Hohenzollern castle / TMBW, Gregor Lengle

With ancient art caves, rolling green valleys, and vibrant cities, the lively region of SouthWest Germany offers a varied treasure trove of experiences for visitors.  There is a wealth of luxury, culinary, and wellness opportunities for travelers who want to visit the sunny side of Germany. Here are some top tips and trips to keep top of mind for your next European vacation.

Kurhaus in Baden-Baden © TMBW, Mende

WHAT TO DO

SouthWest Germany is renowned for its Black Forest and Black Forest Highlands, where picturesque farms, villages, and vineyards dot the wide-open valleys and mountains. Crystal clear lakes and vineyards can be passed by bike, hike, or car. On the border of the Black Forest sits Baden-Baden, a spa town with traditional 19th century baths. The region’s capital city of Stuttgart is home to wineries, artists, and attracts car-lovers for its world-renowned Porsche and Mercedes-Benz Museums.

Hiking at the Swabian Alb © TMBW, Gregor Lengler

HOW TO GET THERE

Located in the heart of Europe, it is easily accessible. Rail is the convenient alternative to flying and is often the quickest way of getting around Europe and SouthWest Germany. By air, travelers can fly into Stuttgart Airport, Frankfurt Airport, Munich Airport, Zurich Airport, and Basel Airport. SouthWest Germany has an excellent network of highways if travelers prefer a car. River cruises also often make stops in the region.

Typical Christmas treats at the Christmas market © trickytine/Christine Garcia Urbina

WHEN TO GO

SouthWest Germany is a four-season destination with a pleasant and mild climate year-round. For spring, explore the blooming countryside and its forests and lakes. Summer is for watersports like tubing and paddle boarding, as well as city festivals. Fall foliage offers scenic hikes and cycling. During the winter, Christmas markets are a popular attraction.   

Porsche Museum, Photo Courtesy of Tauck

INSPIRED TO TRAVEL?

Call your travel advisor or find a new one at www.ustoa.com/travel-advisor-directory and ask them about SouthWest Germany.

Trips from USTOA tour operators include:

  • Collette’s Classic Christmas Markets includes a winter excursion to the scenic Black Forest before visiting the Christmas markets of Würzburg. The nine-day tour is available in November and December 2021 starting at $1,849 per person.
  • Grand Circle Travel’s Romance of the Rhine & Mosel is a 16-day river cruise of the Rhine and Mosel rivers with excursions to the Black Forest Open Air Museum via Strasbourg, and a cuckoo clock presentation. Departures are available from April to October starting at $4,495 per person.
  • CroisiEurope River Cruises offers a Bountiful Christmas in Alsace and The Black Forest with a four-day cruise along the Rhine to explore the Black Forest and Christmas traditions. Sailings are available in November and December of 2021 and 2022, starting at $736 per person.
  • Tauck takes travelers to The Rhine and Moselle on a 15-day river cruise to experience Heidelberg Castle, visit the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, and an optional excursion to the spa town of Baden-Baden. Departures are available October 2021 and April, May, August through October 2022m starting at $7,590 per person.
  • SITA Tours’ 12-day Germany’s Southern Highlights  is a river cruise that includes visits to Baden-Baden’s thermal baths, the Black Forest, and more. Departures are available throughout 2021 and 2022 starting at $5,875 per person.
Cuckoo Clocks of SouthWest Germany, Photo Courtesy of Grand Circle Travel

ARE YOU A TRAVEL ADVISOR?

SouthWest Germany is offering a complimentary Going Cuckoo specialist program filled with interactive quizzes, games, and videos to become an expert on the region. Travel advisors will learn what to pack, when to go, where to stay, and what to do while visiting the region so that they can become a go-to agent for SouthWest Germany vacations.

Find more information about SouthWest Germany at www.tourism-bw.com.

Travel advisors can register for the training by visiting www.going-cuckoo.com


Travel Expert Terry Dale Chronicles His Trip to Turkey

What it’s really like to travel internationally in the age of COVID-19

By Terry Dale, President & CEO of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA)

If there is one lesson I learned from my recent travels to Turkey, it’s that the value of tour operators has increased tenfold. Even though I’ve spent countless hours in airports and traveled to more countries than I can remember, I still experienced a wave of anxiety when I thought of traveling during the age of COVID-19. Between negative tests, quarantine requirements, and travel restrictions, it’s nearly impossible to manage it independently while trying to enjoy your travels.  

While I successfully produced a negative COVID test in time for my departure flight out of Fort Lauderdale, others were not so lucky. I took the trip to Turkey because I had the honor of speaking at a travel conference in Istanbul. But on the opening night of the event, nearly 15 attendees were missing because they did not fulfill all the testing requirements to fly.

Each country has its own protocols that need to be followed, and it’s constantly evolving. With the ever-changing landscape of travel requirements and lockdowns, this is a challenge for airline employees, travelers, and destinations alike.

Surprisingly, I was not asked to show my test results at any of the airports in route to Turkey, even though they were requested while flying back to the U.S. It was clear that a global health credential system would be so useful for travel, so that each visitor and employee know exactly what is going on. It’s 2021, paper CDC cards with the dates of vaccines and written confirmation of test results seem primitive!  

One observation was that every airport I visited was bustling with people wearing masks and social distancing. The pent-up demand for travel is real and immediate.

As for Turkey itself, the weather was rainy and grey, but the people brightened the destination each day. At a small, vibrant and colorful restaurant in Istanbul, the waiter treated us like royalty. The meal served left my stomach full of chicken kababs, hummus, and olives, and even though I don’t know much about Turkish food, I know it was delicious.

A river cruise of the Bohasmas is a must-do while in Istanbul. In the quick trip up the narrow straight, visitors can gaze at Asia on one side and Europe on the other. The two major continents come together where you stand, and it is stunning.

Terry Dale of USTOA (left) with the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mehmet Ersoy (right)

Turkey is ready to be open for business. At every hotel, the sanitization protocols were thoughtful and professional to make sure travelers feel safe. There’s a natural culture of service and hospitality that makes everyone feel welcome. Plus, there’s great value for American travelers given the exchange rate. After meeting with the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mehmet Ersoy, I felt confident that Turkey is going to bounce back quickly.

It was a learning experience to make the trip as a vaccinated business traveler. If it were a vacation or personal adventure, it would have been much more manageable and relaxing using a tour operator or one of our travel advisor partners.

In closing, I was grateful for the opportunity to meet some incredible people (see below) and experience the thrill of travel once again.


Why the Green Season is Great in Africa

By Lion World Travel

We are letting you in on a safari secret – the Green Season! If you have no idea what the Green Season is, that is ok, Lion World Travel will fill you in. Suffice to say, if you have been wanting to get the best value in luxury safaris, the Green Season is the answer you seek. 

What is the Green Season? 

The Green Season is also known as the wet season, or rainy season, in Africa. Its timing varies from East Africa to Southern Africa, and it can be the best time to take a safari.  

When is the Green Season? 

In East Africa (including Kenya and Tanzania), you have the short rains that often start in November, and then the long rains that usually start in April.  

In Southern Africa (including Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe), the Green Season can run from about December to March. Of course, anything to do with weather is unpredictable, and the timing of the rains fluctuates every year.  

You may think that these warm, rainy months would be an unfavorable time of year for travelers to go on safari. However, many safari connoisseurs will argue that traveling during the Green Season perhaps the best times to visit. Want to know why? 

Baby Zebra by Kate Berg 

“Having been to Africa during both High Season and Green Season, I can say they are equally amazing in different ways. They each have their own charm. It is less expensive during the Green Season; it is less crowded and best of all, there are lots of baby animals.” - Lucille Sive, CEO Africa Division, The Travel Corporation 

Top Reasons to Travel to Africa during the Green Season 

#1 – All the Baby Animals 

Without a doubt, this is a huge reward for visiting during the Green Season. The rains signal to the animals that food will soon be in abundance. This means it is the best time to have babies, so the wide-open plains of Kenya and Tanzania are filled with adorable cubs, pups, calves, foals and fawns.  

This abundance also draws in the predators, such as lions, who follow the large herds of zebras and wildebeest in search of their own meals. It is a time of abundance for all animals. If someone is particularly keen on seeing the big cats of Africa on their safari, there is a good chance of seeing the “thrill of a chase” during the Green Season in East Africa.  

Similarly, the Green Season is a great time in southern African countries to spot babies, from giraffes to buffalo to zebra, it is their natural cycle to give birth during times of plenty and forthcoming rains are a time to celebrate for all in the animal kingdom. 

#2 – Fewer People 

Amazingly, with the arrival of new animals, there are fewer travelers. While Africa is known for its wide-open wild spaces any time of year, during the Green Season travelers often feel like they have access to their own personal wildlife paradise. In East Africa, for example, it is possible to be out driving on safari for a couple of hours before coming across another safari vehicle. 

At Elewana Serengeti Migration Camp – No Crowds, Except the Animals! 
#3 – It is Turning Green 

Arriving on safari when the Green Season is underway means being blessed with a more colorful safari experience. Some, or most, of the classically dry scrublands and grasses will have come to life and turned green. For photographers, this can make for some more lively, high contrast images. 

Kudu in Chobe National Park, during the Green Season by Red Hunt

“On one trip to Africa I visited Tanzania and Botswana at the start of their Green Seasons. In the Serengeti, we were surrounded by zebra and wildebeest as far as we could see, and not another safari vehicle in sight, it felt truly special! What I noticed most on that trip were the colors coming to life. It wasn’t all dry and dusty like on my previous trip. Vegetation was coming to life, the smells were different, and it really made photography more exciting. The kudu photo above was one of my favorite shots taken during that Green Season trip.” - Red Hunt, VP Marketing, Lion World Travel 

#4 – Stretch Your Dollars Further 

At Lion World Travel we are all about Affordable Luxury, and the Green Season enables everyone to get a little extra value for their money. During peak season, prices are at their highest. During low season, you will get a better value. If your or your clients are flexible on timing for a safari, planning a safari for the start or end of the Green Season can mean being rewarded with the combination of optimal wildlife viewing and lower prices. 

#5 – The Migration is Always in Motion 

Did you know that the migration in East Africa never stops? Since the seasonal rains vary, the enormous herds of zebra and wildebeest are always on the move. So, no matter what season, if someone is planning to visit both the Serengeti in Tanzania and Maasai Mara in Kenya, they will likely witness the greatest migration on earth. 

#6 – Perfect Timing with Holidays 

With the Green Season covering the coldest months of the year for Americans, anyone yearning for more warmth should consider a Green Season safari. The timing is perfect to escape for part of winter. As vacation days can be limited, having the Green Season cover popular holidays from Thanksgiving through to spring break, means travelers, including families, have lots of opportunities to turn holiday time into safari time. 

With great rates, fewer travelers, and cute baby animals to see, who wouldn’t want to visit Africa on a safari during the Green Season? 

For more than 56 years, Lion World Travel has been focused on offering the best Affordable Luxury Safaris. Making safari dreams come true during the Green Season, or any season, Lion World can work with you and your clients to create a custom safari experience for any budget. Our travelers have come to expect exceptional wildlife encounters, five-star service, and the best safari experiences. Visit lionworldtravel.com to see our full selection of African Safaris. 


A Taste of Southern Cooking

Hospitality on a Plate

By Cindy Clarke, senior travel writer for Tauck

Culturally diverse with a storied history that speaks volumes about the people who created it, southern cooking is best described as “hospitality on a plate” alluding to the abundance of comfort food you’ll find on menus in Savannah and Charleston. Think shrimp and grits, an iconic dish in the coastal Carolinas and Georgia, buttermilk biscuits smothered in gravy, she-crab soup and fried chicken that only southern cooks have mastered, cornbread, collard greens and crustaceans perfectly prepared, and you’ll be in the right food aisle. And forget counting calories. We’re talking pure indulgence here, with taste trumping will power in every bite.

Aptly nicknamed the “Hostess City,” it is no surprise that Savannah is home to some of the South’s best dining experiences, with recipes passed down and refined through the generations. Dressed in American history and draped in Spanish moss, Savannah is awash in cobblestone charms, antebellum mansions and gardens full and fragrant that make the city eye candy all by itself. Art, in all its incarnations, enhances the cultural feast showcased here.

You can stroll down streets your eyes walked first in films like Forest Gump or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. You can wander in wonder in museums, cemeteries and squares – 22 of them – dating back centuries, and you can ride trolleys and horse-drawn carriages past stately homes, parks and landmarks that chronicle the city’s storied past from the Revolutionary and Civil wars. And while you’ll cover a lot of ground – and history – during your explorations, you won’t go hungry.

Parties are a favorite pastime in Savannah, both inside gracious dining rooms and outdoors in springtime gardens abloom with flowering azaleas. Brunch and picnic menus typically boast sweet succulent oysters, locally harvested, and roasted to perfection. Savannah red rice, fried chicken, ham sweet potato biscuits and jalapeno cornbread often follow, with traditional favorites like Georgia peach cobbler with blueberries, peach ice cream and pecan praline bars sweetening the line up. Evening menus may include old-time favorites like Corn Pudding, Rice and Peas, Fried Green Tomatoes, Jumbo Lump Crabmeat and Beef Tenderloin with Madeira Sauce, all Savannah staples you may find at a number of great eateries all over the city.

Local seasonal ingredients reflect Charleston’s “sense of place” in the Lowcountry, where the roots of southern cooking run deep and the fertile fields, forests and waterways that surround the city provide ample sustenance all year long. Its food heritage reflects the cultural influences of its residents, African slaves and their Gullah descendants, French Hugenots and English aristocracy from centuries past, and culinary stars and rising chefs from around the world today. Award-winning restaurants, housed in historic homes and repurposed buildings, have creatively blended lowcountry cooking with high-brow haute cuisine to tempt taste buds with the complexity of flavors and spices that make this multicultural city one of the top food destinations in America – and the “#1 Top City in the US in 2020” by the readers of Travel + Leisure.  

The irresistible allure of Charleston, palmetto-lined streets, ballast-stone alleys, rainbow row houses, grand mansions and carriage rides, inevitably whets your appetite for discovery in more ways than one. So while you’re here soak up the tales of the town with its golden rice, a mainstay from its colonial day economy; a bowl of gumbo, a.k.a. okra soup to the folks who live here; fresh from the sea oysters, served raw, stewed and steamed; and its signature she-crab soup, created in a private home when dining in was in fashion. Then raise a timeless toast to its culturally infused cuisine with the city’s magnificent Madeira wines, long aged and locally produced, as you drink in history with every sip.

Founded in 1925, Tauck is a world leader in upscale guided travel, with more than 150 land tours, safaris, river cruises and small ship ocean cruises to 70+ countries and all seven continents. In each of the last 23 years, Tauck has been honored in Travel + Leisure magazine’s annual “World’s Best Awards” celebrating the very best in luxury tours, cruises, hotels and more. Tauck resumed operating its Southern Charms – Savannah, Hilton Head & Charleston itinerary in March 2021.