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Exotic Escapes

April 18, 2012

Your Daily Dose of Armchair Daydreaming from the Shores of the Caribbean Sea



By awayblog
04/18/2012

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Tulum-mexico-march-contest-winner
Tulum and the Caribbean Sea on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico (Rich Baum)

Believed by archaeologists to be a Mayan fort constructed to guard the coastline, Tulum's perch overlooking the Caribbean Sea along Mexico's easterly Yucatan Peninsula is certainly more than just eye candy. But for today's invading hordes—tourists flocking to the popular beach resorts of Cancun, the Riviera Maya, and Cozumel to the north—this may just be one of the region's defining photo ops. Snapped by Away.com reader Rich Baum of Fair Oaks, California, this evocative composition scooped the prize in our March call for your most inspirational Caribbean photographs. Thanks to everyone who shared their amazing pictures of beaches, sunsets, volcanic peaks, wildlife, and more from throughout the Caribbean region's medley of islands and mainland outposts.

Got a once-in-a-lifetime photo that captures your most inspirational national-park experience? Share it in our April photo contest for your chance to win over $1,000 in prizes, including fabulous outdoor gear and two nights at Zion National Park Lodge.

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Caribbean Travel · Exotic Escapes · Travel Photography

April 11, 2012

Q&A with the Father-Son Duo at Karell Travel Group



By Lacy Morris
04/11/2012

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Lioni n the Okavango Delta,Botswana(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
A lion in the Okavango Delta, Botswana (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Acquired in 1991 by Norman Pieters and his wife Kathy, the family-owned business of Karell Travel Group is named after the original two owners who were close friends with the Pieters. After Norman took over the company, he promised that he would never change the name and would use the original logo in all advertising materials. That same level of commitment and honesty continues 21 years later, as Karell is known for its high level of individual attention and orchestrating completely customized trips.

A year after Norman acquired the business, hard financial times hit when Hurricane Andrew swept through the Gulf Coast, leaving wreckage and a grim economic future for businesses that were in its path, including the Miami-based Karell Travel Group. A reinvention was in order, so Norman altered his business to specialize in one area: African travel. This was a novel idea at the time, but it worked, and today the company flourishes. Norman has been named for the fifth-consecutive year to Travel + Leisure magazine's A-List of the world's best travel agents, only two of which go to those in the business of safaris.

Continue reading "Q&A with the Father-Son Duo at Karell Travel Group" »

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · Exotic Escapes · Trip Ideas

March 16, 2012

Rugged Luxury: The World's Most Remote Luxury Lodges



By BootsnAll
03/16/2012

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MP
Sanctuary Lodge at Machu Picchu, Peru

There are luxury hotels all over the world, and they all provide some variety of over-the-top amenities to make guests feel eminently comfortable—but perhaps the best way to demonstrate luxury is to contrast it with rugged surroundings.

Here are seven luxury hotels and resorts in rugged and often remote locations, where you'll be no less pampered, but where you may need to watch out for wild animals prowling the grounds at night.

Phinda & Beyond Private Game Reserve—South Africa
There's no denying the luxury of a stay at Phinda, regularly called Africa's top luxury safari, where guests choose from six different lodge areas set beautifully among nearly 59,000 acres of wilderness. Each guest gets an entire lodge building to themselves, there's no end to the gourmet food available, and all of the Big Five are found at this African safari reserve. Just note that you'll need a staff chaperone to walk around after dark in order to avoid the animals that lurk unseen.

Sanctuary Lodge—Machu Picchu, Peru
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is on many a bucket list, but if you'd like a slightly more luxurious route to the same iconic view, you can book a stay at the Sanctuary Lodge. It's the only hotel anywhere near Machu Picchu, and guests get to experience the World Heritage Site when it's not overrun by day-trippers, and of course everything from the suites to the restaurants to the spa services is top-notch (not to mention eco-friendly).

Continue reading "Rugged Luxury: The World's Most Remote Luxury Lodges" »

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Related Topics: Exotic Escapes · Places to Stay · Trip Ideas

December 14, 2011

2012 International Hotspots: Life List Locales for the New Year



By awayblog
12/14/2011

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Ice berg of arch and row of houses,Greenland(Top Photo Group,Thinkstock)
Greenland coastal homes as an iceberg floats by (Top Photo Group/Thinkstock)

They're melting and sinking. They're booming—or busting. They're jaw-droppingly scenic and cosmopolitan. One thing that's clear about our nods for the best travel destinations of 2012 is that they're changing, and fast, which means the coming year is perfect for a trip of a lifetime. Now that we've spun the globe and picked our top spots, it's your turn to make it happen—and, of course, to let us know which ones we missed.

Greenland
Thanks to climate change, this enormous country (which has a human population of 57,000 and a sled-dog population of 30,000) might soon become too hot for its own good—in more ways than one. Rumor has it that Greenland could be sitting on some 47 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. Temps are trending five degrees above normal. And the number of people visiting on cruise ships has doubled since 2004. Yes, it might be year-round Northern Lights. It might be restaurants reachable only by helicopter. Or the world's biggest and least-visited protected park. Our bet? Greenland is starting to live up to its unlikely name, and people want to catch it while it's still under ice.

Weekend Guide: Defying Expectations in Greenland

Maldives
This tiny archipelago of 1,200 islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean is the epitome of paradise: coral reefs, constant sunshine, bathwater lagoons, and opulent resorts going up as fast as couples can say "I do." It's also the lowest country on the planet, with an average elevation of five feet above sea level and a high point of seven feet, seven inches. Think about the threat of sea level rise, then do the math: You can tell your grandchildren that you saw a disappearing nation way back in 2012.

Away.com's Maldives Travel Guide

Burma
Once virtually ostracized and still a land of red flags (in the form of tyrannical rule), this magical country is open for business. In fact, our own State Department says, "After a long period of isolation, Burma has started to encourage tourism." There is much to take in, and it all has the feel of olden-day adventure travel: thousands of stupas, golden pagodas, floating gardens, creaky river steamers, and fortune tellers. Whether travel will help locals or pad the pockets of corrupt generals remains to be seen. The wonder of Burma, however, is ever clear.

A Country in Photos: Burma

Continue reading "2012 International Hotspots: Life List Locales for the New Year" »

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Related Topics: Exotic Escapes · Top 10 Lists · Travel Trends · Trip Ideas

November 14, 2011

The Best Places to Get Naked on the Road


A Google search on "nude travel" nets over 100 million results. That's a lot of flesh, so to speak, and while I'd rather not spend too long contemplating visions of sunburned boomers drinking mai-tais and comparing depleted 401k's, it did make me ponder the best possibilities for unpacking your birthday suit while traveling.

Dive Right In: Kurokawamachi, Japan

Kurokawa-onsen-japan_DavidMcKelvey-Flickr
Onsen in Kurokawa, Kumamoto (david McKelvey/Flickr)

The venerable Japanese onsen—literally, "hot bath"—is the perfect place to wallow in the refinement of Japanese life. Traditionally fed by hot natural springs, the best of these baths are located in some beautiful outdoor spot framed by a babbling brook and rustling mountain foliage, so harmonious that you'll barely notice the exposed male and female flesh around you. Join families, couples, and travelers as they soothe away the aches of their day; some of the more famous baths in Japan even include simian bathers, though my favorites are adjacent to tiny ryokan in the picture-postcard town of Kurokawa, a traditional onsen resort on the slopes of still-smoking Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture.

Continue reading "The Best Places to Get Naked on the Road" »

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Beach Vacation · Exotic Escapes · Trip Ideas

November 10, 2011

Win a Pair of Round-Trip Tickets in Our Dream Destination Photo Contest



By awayblog
11/10/2011

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Cook-islands-dream-destination-photo-contest

Do you have a photograph that captures your love of travel in a single moment? A scene of a treasured place where the promise of that dream vacation transformed into the trip of a lifetime? We want to hear from you! Introducing Away.com’s Dream Destination Photo Contest, a month-long effort to find the most inspirational travel photograph from among our world-roving readers. The winning entry will win two round-trip tickets with a value of $550 each, courtesy of Orbitz.com. What are you waiting for? Start combing through your desktop photo archives to find that killer shot (to get your creative juices flowing, here are some picks from among Away.com’s staff).

Click here to read more about the contest and submit your entry!

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Related Topics: Away.com News · Exotic Escapes · Free Stuff

October 21, 2011

Go on Safari...Without Going to Africa



By Kate Chandler
10/21/2011

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Safari
Safari (Photodisc)

Ah, safaris. They're the stuff of legendary trips to the far-off grasslands of Kenya or Tanzania. Where the Big 5 rule the roost and everyone wears too much khaki. But you don't have to spend thousands on a trip to Africa to go on safari. There are lots of options here in North America.

1. Safari West, Santa Rosa, California
Get a taste of Africa in the heart of California’s wine country at Safari West. Six-hundred animals, including giraffes, gazelles, and zebras inhabit the preserve. Go for the day, or spend the night in a luxury tent to get the full effect. Fun packages, like “Wine, Wheels, and Warthogs,” offer unique getaway ideas.

2. La Paz, Baja
This safari is of the under-water sort. And, sure, you can pay a fortune for an all-inclusive trip to Baja to see the famous resident whale sharks and giant pacific mantas, but the budget-oriented DIYers out there will be pleased to know that local dive shops, like Desea Adventures, offer two-tank dive packages starting at $130. Snorkeling with sea lions is an option for non-divers.

3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
The greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is without a doubt one of the world’s most precious resources for geology and ecology, not to mention recreation. Wildlife management is a hot topic in these parts, and on most tours you’ll not only get to see wolves, moose, and bison, to name a few, but you’ll get an insider’s take on the area’s most important, and often controversial, issues. Many outfitters offer trips. 

4. Mexico Monarch Butterfly Trail
Mexico has much more to be proud of than spring break beaches and clichéd telenovelas. An all-inclusive trip, such as this one with G Adventures, will open your eyes to a new side of Mexico’s cities and countryside. Plus, the Monarch migration is nothing short of a miracle, as it takes several generations of butterflies to complete a single migration. The peak months for this trip are January, February, and March. 

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Related Topics: Exotic Escapes · National Parks · Trip Ideas

March 04, 2011

Behind the Faces: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition 2011 Travel Locations



By Lacy Morris
03/04/2011

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Sports-illustrated-swimsuit-edition

It's OK to Judge this Book by Its Cover: Hamosa Beach, Maui (Chris Cheadle)

Each year, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition hits newsstands with a thud, its photogenic content radiating beauty and emptying our checkbooks. And I'm not talking about the women (though they are beautiful). From the low-lying Maldives and the eco-chic digs in Nicaragua to the down-home charm of our own BBQ-centric Memphis, SI's gang has traveled to some of the most picturesque locales in the world to capture that perfect shot. This year was no different, with even a cold-weather backdrop making the cut for a second year in a row. Take a closer look at the 2011 destinations and get inspired for your next cashing in of saved vacation days. Now if only we were all six-foot models or world-renowned photographers and could get paid to travel...

Peter Island, British Virgin Islands
Like most private islands, Peters offers a limited amount of accommodation. Only 55 rooms occupy this 1,800-acre dreamland, where pampering is the name of the game. It's as if the pearly gates swing open and God himself reaches down from heaven to massage your beach-weary muscles... and that will be $200, please. If you have the cash (and you most likely do if you are considering staying here), book the Falcon's Nest, the bee's-knees of this exquisitely lavish island. Perched at the utmost point (so that you can look down upon the cheapskate minions below), this rentable estate has more rooms than most of our houses do. Amenities set amongst the three separate residences: six suites, seven bathrooms, three half-baths, two kitchens, a master suite with its own foyer, infinity-edge pool, and media room. And with all of this to keep up with, no one would expect you to do it alone. After handing over the plastic, your own personal staff comes to greet you, including a chef, housekeeper, and a chauffeur-driven vehicle.

Photo Gallery: British Virgin Islands

Laguna Beach, California
Made (even more) famous with those über-popular high schoolers on the hit MTV show Laguna Beach (if you don't know what I'm talking about just ask the next person you see wearing a Bieber shirt, and if you don't know who Bieber is, just give up), this sunny, laidback town has green hillsides charging up behind an idyllic coast where sand and surf are king. With a hip, downtown scene and sunsets just as majestic as they are frequent, it's no wonder artsy types flock here. An hour's drive from L.A., Laguna Beach was the only continental U.S.-based destination on the SI list this year.

Laguna Beach Travel Guide

Continue reading "Behind the Faces: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition 2011 Travel Locations" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Exotic Escapes · Travel Trends · Trip Ideas

August 19, 2010

Do the Great Barrier Reef in Style


Great Barrier Reef(Jeff Hunter,Photogs Choice,Getty)
Great Barrier Reef divers (Jeff Hunter)

If the Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, then spending the night on a boat above it should be the eighth. Unlike other live-aboard experiences being offered up and down Northeastern Australia, Fantasea Adventure Cruising is less about how many dives you can log a day and more about having a good time. The docked pontoon is located 45 miles off the coast of Queensland and sleeps a maximum of six guests. Every Reef Sleep booking comes with your own host who is on hand to prepare your first-class meals and to organize activities (snorkeling, scuba diving, or extras like helicopter rides and massages). The Fantasea is also open every morning to a boatload of day-trip guests shuttled from shore to the pontoon, where they can explore the reef and enjoy the submarine viewing station, waterslide, and buffet meal. But when the boat pulls out after lunch, the only people left are the overnight guests.

My husband and I did this during our travels through Australia, and because of the unseasonal weather we had the place to ourselves, with the exception of the staff. One staff member was a 27-year-old American who had been living in Australia for the past six years, the last three working as Fantasea's onboard marine biologist. We asked Dominique about her experience and what it was like living and working Down Under.

What brought you to Australia?
I came here for school. I'm originally from Tucson, Arizona, but I did my post grad and two masters (one in ecotourism and the other in marine biology) nearby in Townsville at James Cook University.

Continue reading "Do the Great Barrier Reef in Style" »

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Related Topics: Exotic Escapes · Scuba & Snorkeling

July 22, 2010

Eco-Friendly Adventure in Puerto Rico



By Guest Blogger
07/22/2010

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Ty - The Beast Zipline
The Beat Zipline (Ty Stevens)

Welcome to the Toro Verde Adventure Park & Eco Resort, a 100-acre jungle oasis located in the heart of Puerto Rico. It's the ultimate playground, offering hours of mountain biking, rock climbing, and zip-line adventures with lush jungle landscapes as the backdrop.

Adrenaline junkies can fly on more than 20 canopy zip-lines (with more to come) that range from 100 to 3,000-plus feet in length, and are up to 800 meters high. My favorite fix is "The Beast," touted as the second longest zip-line in the world with average break neck speeds of 50-plus mph. Imagine ripping through the sky in a prone "superman"-style harness. Below on the forest floor is a network of world-class mountain-bike trails linking miles of varied jungle terrain.

The park itself is being developed in three phases, with a projected 316 acres at completion. With phase one complete, phase two promises "more fully sustainable, and primarily natural-surface mountain-bike trails," says seven-time world champion mountain biker and trail designer Marla Streb of Streb Trail Productions. Marla has turned her passion for trails, mountain biking, and land preservation into a full-time pursuit and is responsible for many sustainable development and education projects in several regions of Central America. Her philosophy is to "use, not abuse," expressing the importance of enjoying and interacting with these natural wonders without leaving behind our mark. The idea behind this project, she says, is to work with world-class athletes to design world-class trails, with a variety of options that appeal to beginner and advanced riders and hikers alike.

Continue reading "Eco-Friendly Adventure in Puerto Rico" »

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Related Topics: Caribbean Travel · Eco-Tourism · Exotic Escapes
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