Once the festivities of the holidays quieten down, January can feel like a somber time of year with inclement weather and a few months to wait before the first signs of spring begin to show. Escaping to a sunny destination is the perfect answer if you want to avoid the January blues.
While the landscape of travel is still not quite back to normal, there are still opportunities for those seeking a last-minute luxury getaway this winter. Here are 6 destinations to add to your radar for this January.
Dutch Caribbean Islands
Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire are tropical havens with beautiful beaches, incredible food, and boutique resorts. Weather is mild and pleasant in the Caribbean during this part of the year while the risk of hurricanes is low. At present, it is possible to visit the Dutch Caribbean islands subject to pre and post-arrival testing but quarantine is not required.
Perfect for wildlife fans, the South American country is the setting of the Galápagos Islands, home to over 2,000 species of endemic wildlife ranging from iguanas, seals, and birdlife. Back on dry land, the small yet diverse Ecuador is blessed with historic cities and regions bestowed with waterfalls and volcanic scenery. December through April is the best time to visit Ecuador and vaccinated travelers are exempt from testing.
As 2021 draws to a close, it’s time to plan ahead and start compiling your wishlist for where to travel in the new year. Get inspired with my guide to the best places to travel in 2022.
Somewhat overshadowed by its neighbors, Portugal is slowly but surely capturing the attention of travelers hungry for a different perspective of Southern Europe. The culture of Portugal blends festivals, folk music, and rustic villages with an artistic spirit. My insider tip is to anchor your itinerary around the country’s premier wine region, the Douro Valley, which fuses together the best of Portugal. You can always extend your trip to Portugal with a visit to the subtropical island of Madeira, a mere 90-minute flight from Lisbon.
Best time to travel: Anytime.
Particularly for West Coast residents, Hawaii is one of our most easily accessible vacation destinations. When choosing your island it can be easy to default to the volcanic Big Island or the buzzing resort of Waikiki. However, if you’re contemplating traveling to Hawaii next year, consider getting off the beaten track. Connect with local fables on Lanai or tackle the Road to Hana (Hana Highway) on Maui, which also happens to be the most luxurious island within the archipelago.
Best time to travel: March to October.
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? As next week brings the Thanksgiving holiday, we reflect on what we are thankful for this year. It has been another year in a pandemic, but there are still many things to be thankful for. Here are the five things I am thankful for this year.
1. I am thankful for spending time with my father. Some of you may know that my father has an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease, which has been very challenging for him and my stepmother to deal with, but they are navigating their way through. I have been doing my best to spend time with them each week to have as many laughs as possible and create memories that we will cherish forever.
2. I am thankful to be enjoying my girls growing up. My oldest will be going off to college next fall, and it is incredible to be going through the college visiting and application process. I am very fortunate that Montana is a driven, dedicated student who knows what she wants to do when she goes off to college (nursing is her passion). Then my youngest daughter Sierra is now a freshman and doing amazing in school. She has found a love of running and did great in the first cross country season and is now looking forward to winter track. I feel fortunate that the pandemic slowed my business down to a point where I spent quality time with my girls and realized that this is a blessing to be present and do things together before they grow up and create their own amazing futures.
Antarctica is the final frontier in travel and the ultimate bucket list destination for many intrepid explorers. Despite its remote setting, traveling to the South Pole is a possibility that might be easier than you think. Here are 7 things to know before you travel to Antarctica.
1. The best way to visit our southernmost continent is as part of a live-aboard cruise. Expedition vessels typically depart from and conclude at Ushuaia, Argentina. You will need to factor in your flight to the relevant meeting point on top of your cruise package. Alternatively, you can fly from Punta Arenas, Chile, to King George Island and start your exploration from there.
2. Polar routes navigate you through dramatic stretches of open water before you are invited to disembark and explore the scenery, nature, and communities of the polar region. South Georgia is the location of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave as well as remarkable flora that blooms during the summer months. Both South Georgia and the Falkland Islands beam a spotlight on the biological diversity, with an abundance of penguins, albatross, seals, and birdlife. The South Shetland Island comprises a cluster of research stations and museums as well as the volcanic Deception Island and Penguin Island, a hit with fans of the waddling birds!
3. Antarctic cruises include a crossing of the Drake Passage, rumored to be the roughest stretch of sea on the planet. This is due to the convergence of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Seas. While you might want to keep a seasickness remedy to hand, modern expedition vessels are equipped with stabilizing technology to keep the queasiness at bay.
With its beguiling ancient ruins, mysterious customs, and exotic souks and bazaars, few countries can contend with Egypt. When vacationing in the land of the pharaohs, hopping aboard a cruise of the Nile is the most practical and luxurious way to encounter the history of the region and create lasting memories.
Flowing northwards through 11 North African countries before meeting the Mediterranean Sea, the Nile provides irrigation water, food, and transport. A cruise will introduce you to Egypt’s past while gleaning insight into contemporary society. This is what you can look forward to on your trip.
Treasures of the Nile River
A typical Nile cruise itinerary will take you from Cairo in the north as far as Luxor, some 400 miles (644 km) south of the Egyptian capital. During the trip, you will visit the iconic valleys, pyramids, and temples of Egypt.
The Giza Plateau at the site of the old capital of Memphis is where you’ll clap eyes upon the Great Sphinx of Giza and the three Pyramids of Giza. The oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the pyramids were constructed between 2589 and 2504 BC. In a further testament to the Egyptians unique beliefs in the afterlife, you will roam the Valley of the Kings where pharaohs were laid to rest and the Valley of the Queens, the burial grounds of the wives.
Weave your way through the 28 columns that form the Great Colonnade Hall of the Luxor Temple, once the largest and most significant religious center in ancient Egypt. Another highlight of Luxor is the chance to learn about the historic art of papyrus making in the city’s museums. Traveling the Nile River as part of a cruise will include the expertise of a guide who specializes in Egyptology to make sense of the legendary landmarks.
Copenhagen is one of the absolute most amiable cities in the world. It's full of vibrancy wherever you go. While it is possible to see a lot that the capital city offers in just a day or so, you won't want the time you have to spend there to be so fleeting. Once you get wrapped up in the city's charm, history, and culture, you may never want to leave. So to make sure you take in all that you can during your visit, here is a list of the top experiences you shouldn't miss out on.
1. Tivoli Gardens. This exciting theme park is fun for all ages.
2. Nyhavn. Don't miss the chance to see the bright and colorful 17th-century homes along the waterfront.
3. Nationalmuseet. Get lost in Copenhagen's National Museum viewing all of the artifacts.
4. The Little Mermaid Statue. This statue was created in 1913 by sculptor Edvard Eriksen as a tribute to Hans Christian Andersen.
5. Strøget. Explore this .69 mile shopping area designated to pedestrians.
6. Rent a Bike. Riding bicycles is a common form of transportation for locals and tourists getting around the city.
7. Christiansborg Palace. The gold details and meticulous architecture of this palace will leave you awe-struck.
8. Christiania. This historic region is full of art, culture, friendly locals, music venues, and organic shops.
Flowing from China through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam before eventually pouring itself into the South China Sea, the Mekong River offers a wealth of opportunities to travelers. Traversing a total length of around 2,700 miles (4,350 km), the river is the sixth-longest in Asia and the 12th largest on the planet.
It is possible to take day trips along the Mekong but the best way to fully immerse yourself in the culture of the river is with a live-aboard experience. The most rewarding cruises connect you with major landmarks in Southeast Asia as well as taking you deep into the heart of the local communities. Here are the highlights of what you can expect from your Mekong River cruise.
Southeast Asia is brimming with Buddhist pagodas that grant insight into the region’s spiritual beliefs. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang sits directly on the riverside and is richly occupied with gilded temples. Rent a bicycle to explore this peaceful city or wander on foot. Luang Prabang is also the setting for the daily alms-giving ceremony in which Laotian monks receive food parcels in a daily sunrise ritual. While Siem Reap doesn’t sit directly on the river, you can expect most cruise providers to schedule a stop in the town where you can access the mighty Angkor Wat temple complex.
The diverse island city of Singapore is full of hidden gems. There are countless things to explore, whether it's in nature or the concrete jungle. There's a reason nearly 20 million tourists visit Singapore each year. To make your next vacation to Singapore a bit more fantastic, here are ten hidden gems you must check out.
1. Orchard Road
Stroll down Singapore's fashion street, Orchard Road. Here is where you'll find luxurious boutiques, shopping malls, fabulous restaurants, and hotels. Orchard Road is a great place to enjoy a delicious lunch and a little shopping.
2. Ride a Bumboat Downtown
The view you'll get of downtown Singapore from the bumboat is perhaps the best. You can take it for a quick ride or take it easy on the 40-minute tour.
3. Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade
This walkway by the bay is nearly 2.2 miles long. As you take this stroll, there are enchanting sights through including views of glamorous skyscrapers, unique structures, art, and of course, the bay. Take advantage of the breeze shelters, mist sprays, and fans along the waterfront if it's too hot.
4. Sands Skypark
Head to the observation area atop the ship-shaped deck at Sands Skypark for the most magnificent view of downtown Singapore.
5. Gardens by the Bay
This modernized garden is undoubtedly one to behold. This outdoor nursery sits on about 250 acres and was designed during an international design competition.
Forming a bridge between the European and African continents, the island nation of Malta is rich with Mediterranean culture, history, and natural sights. With over 300 days of sunshine each year and mild temperatures even during the winter months, Malta is a sound choice for a winter sun destination. While you can undoubtedly fill a week in Malta, my recommendation is to visit the island as a side trip from Italy.
Located 58 miles (93 km) from mainland Italy, Malta is easily accessible thanks to its international airport which is well connected to European, North African, and Middle Eastern destinations. As travelers from the US will need to transfer via an Italian airport, this is why planning a vacation to both countries is an attractive idea. Alternatively, you can travel to Malta from Sicily via ferry. Crossings take between 2 and 7 hours subject to your route you will need to factor additional time into your travel schedule.
Where to stay in Malta
Rather than one island, Malta is an archipelago. Malta, Gozo, and Comino are the largest islands. Malta’s main island is tiny; spanning 95 square miles (246 square kilometers) it takes less than an hour to drive from one end to the other. You can access Gozo and Comino via a 25-minute boat crossing from Cirkewwa.
Beyond the eclectic capital of Lisbon, Portugal offers its visitors a wealth of nature, quaint rural villages, and even the world’s oldest demarcated wine region. One of the best places to experience all four is the Douro Valley.
Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Douro Valley is named for the Douro River which flows from the Portuguese city of Porto across the northern stretches of the country before passing over the Spanish border. The waterway measures 557 miles (897 kilometers) and sits at an altitude of 2,157 meters (7,077 feet).
What to see in the Douro Valley
The Douro Valley is one of Portugal’s leading viticulture destinations which makes the region a hit with wine enthusiasts. Rising at both sides of the river you will see terraced vineyards that yield grapes for the production of Port wine (vinho do Porto). As a demarcated region, the area is defined by strict boundaries.
Wineries and vineyards, or quintas, welcome tourists and there are a variety of wine tours available that enrich you with knowledge about the Portuguese wine industry while you sip velvety Port. One of the best times to visit the Douro Valley is during the annual harvest that falls during mid-late September.
When you think of the ultimate luxury vacation or honeymoon destinations, there is no doubt that the Maldives jumps to the top of the list. While the main appeal of the archipelagic state is to lay back on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and indulge in some rest and relaxation at your chosen paradise resort, the country still offers the potential to have an active, cultural, and immersive experience.
Diving & Snorkeling
Blessed with the warm, shallow, and calm waters of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a prime diving and snorkeling destination. If you are not a qualified Open Water diver then you can opt to get certified during your vacation or book a discovery dive. Even if diving is not for you, the snorkeling conditions are phenomenal.
One of the country’s premier destinations for getting in the water is the Baa Atoll, a recognized UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. This is where you can glide among one of the largest collections of coral reefs in the Indian Ocean alongside the manta rays who travel here to feast on the plankton. If you would rather swim with whale sharks, then you can book an excursion to the Dhigurah and Dhangethi islands which are the base of the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme. Although these marine giants reach lengths of 40 feet (12 meters) they are harmless.
For the final installment of my series about traveling in Croatia, let’s turn our attention to the country’s gastronomy. Croatia is still a relatively new international destination and it is unusual to find Croatian cuisine outside the Balkan region. My guide is going to help you navigate what to eat and how to experience the food scene in Croatia.
Croatian dishes that you must try
As you travel along the Croatian coast, you are likely to encounter seafood dishes such as black risotto (crni rižo). The rice is tinted with squid ink and cooked with fresh shellfish, garlic, and a dash of red wine.
Peka is a unique dish that you can only find in Croatia and neighboring nations. Meat or seafood (octopus is typical), potatoes, and vegetables are mixed with spices in a special tray topped with a domed lid before being slow-cooked over embers for a couple of hours. Some chefs will stir a splash of cognac or brandy into the mix halfway through.
Štrukli is a pastry filled with cottage cheese and sour cream that has its origins in Slovenia. Modern chefs create their own signature versions paired with such delicacies as truffles or berries.
St. Petersburg is the second-biggest city in the country of Russia. With that being said, there isn’t a shortage of things to do and see in this city full of rich history, beautiful architecture, luscious gardens, Russian art, and stunning views overlooking the Baltic Sea. So take a look at these ten unforgettable adventures in the city.
1. Hermitage Museum
As one of the oldest museums in the world, you must visit the Hermitage Museum. Situated in the Winter Palace of Empress Catherine, this museum contains more than 1,500 breathtaking rooms. Wandering around, you will see the works of some of the most magnificent artists of all time, including Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, Monet, Thomas Couture, and more.
2. Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
This is the site where Alexander II of Russia was assassinated on March 13, 1881. It is one of St. Petersburg’s most ideal places to visit. With unbelievable multi-colored mosaics and a vibrantly colored, palace-like design, you can’t miss out on the opportunity to visit this beautiful museum.
3. Peterhof Palace
Constructed by Tsar Peter, this palace was an attempt to exceed the Palace of Versailles created by Louis XIV of France. Outside of the Peterhof Palace, you will get to walk through charming water gardens filled with luscious greenery and gold statues. Inside the palace, you will find gold detailing, chandeliers, and sightly artworks.
4. Peter and Paul Fortress
Playing a significant role in the Russian revolution and being the very spot that St. Petersburg was founded, make sure you visit the Peter and Paul Fortress. Take a tour of the fortress for some incredible views of the Winter Palace and River Neva.
Situated just over 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) off the coast of Ecuador, the remote setting of the Galápagos Islands makes them one of the most coveted travel destinations in South America. If you are considering adding this wildlife-rich archipelago to your bucket list, here are 10 things to know before you travel to the Galápagos Islands.
1. The Galápagos Islands were one of the first of the 12 sites to make the original UNESCO World Heritage Site list when it was first drawn up in 1978. They also sparked the beginning of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection.
2. Around 2,000 species of wildlife found in the Galápagos Islands are endemic which means this is the only place on the planet you can observe them in their natural habitat. Such include the Galápagos fur seal, the Galápagos land iguana, the Galápagos sea lion, the Galápagos land tortoise, and the marine iguana.
Other species that you are likely to see include blue-footed boobies, penguins, marine iguanas, giant tortoises, hammerhead sharks, manta rays, and flamingos.
3. The Galápagos Islands comprises 127 isles and islets of which only four are inhabited. Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal each offer a roster of luxury hotels, guest houses, and eco-lodges.
4. There are several ways to visit the Galápagos Islands. You may opt to either join a liveaboard cruise or base yourself on one of the inhabited islands and plan day trips and excursions from there.
It has been a while since my last update on the travel situation. Now that over half the population in the US is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, it’s time to check in on the current state of international travel.
If you intend on making plans to travel then you must check each country’s entry requirements even once you are fully vaccinated. Many governments still require that a negative COVID-19 test is presented by those who are double jabbed. Others still impose quarantine upon arrival. Rules and regulations continue to change frequently but here is an update on the latest developments.
Where can US citizens travel right now?
As of 9 August, Canada opened its borders to US citizens who are vaccinated with one of the approved vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, or AstraZeneca). Note that passengers are deemed fully vaccinated once 14 days have elapsed from the second shot.
Mexico remains one of the most accessible destinations for US travelers who are not yet vaccinated. Nor is a negative COVID-19 test required when arriving via airplane. Land borders remain closed to all but essential travel.
The Caribbean islands each have their own rules in place. Jamaica accepts unvaccinated travelers providing they produce a negative coronavirus test. Barbados is the same but visitors must also undertake a five-day quarantine in an approved hotel upon arrival. Fully vaccinated travelers may visit St.Lucia without the need to quarantine but unvaccinated arrivals with a negative coronavirus test are required to quarantine for 14 days.
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