The famed Galapagos Islands of Ecuador are truly a sight to behold. Home to a number of rare plants and animals that live nowhere else on the planet, the islands were declared a World Heritage site in 1978 and a Biosphere Reserve in 1985. It was here after witnessing the amazing behaviours of such unworldly creatures as the salt-snorting iguanas, giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies that Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution by natural section. There are nineteen islands in total but only a select few are accessible for tourists. The main ones include Santa Cruz, Isabella, San Cristobal, Fernandina and Santiago.
For New Years this past year, I hopped on board the Ocean Diamond ice breaker for a ten-day cruise heading to Antarctica – home of no polar bears (in case you were unsure) – and to say it was epic would be an understatement. Hopping on board at Ushuaia in Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego province was a last minute decision that turned out to be the most amazing decision ever. Like all the best travel adventures, the journey was almost as exciting as the destination was amazing, so if you have the time, money and opportunity, you should definitely put this one on your ‘bucket list’. I can’t recommend it enough.
Panama City is a vibrant city of bold contrasts. A place where tradition meets modernity, where ruins stand amidst skyscrapers and where there exists a convergence of old and new side-by-side. New constructions are popping up everywhere while old ones are being renovated, both witness to the country’s ever-expanding economic growth. This small country, the last stop on the Central American trail, is definitely worth more than just a quick glimpse on the way to somewhere else. Located on the doorstep of South America, Panama has throughout its history seen – and continues to see – the passage and settlement of a variety of different cultures. Omnipresent skyscrapers dominate the skyline and historic buildings are cherished. As a result, Panama City is a colorful collage of old and new world charm, a city full of diversity with a variety of things to see and do.
I was a woman on a mission when I set out on my Peruvian Amazon riverboat adventure with International Expeditions. Like most of my fellow passengers, this was a bucket-list destination, one that promised to be significant and momentous. My objective was to learn firsthand about this unique environment and its diverse wildlife, as well as about the people who inhabit its lush and verdant rainforests. I had another goal, though. I wanted to see an Anaconda, up close and personal. The Amazon is the Anaconda’s home and I knew this trip represented the best opportunity for me to finally come eye-to-eye with this storied reptile, not to mention the endless creatures I would find along the way.
Present day Ukraine is located on some of the most sought after and fought over territory in the world, its fertile lands making it perfect for surviving and thriving and its location making it a coveted and strategic point bridging continents. The country has been invaded at different periods by the Mongols from the east, the Ottomans and Tatars from the south, the Russians and Lithuanians from the north and the Poles and Austria-Hungarians from the west. Whole or parts of Ukrainian territory have also passed through the hands of Moldavians, Romanians, Germans, Bessarabians and the Soviets. Today’s invaders are more of the touristy type, with visitors coming to see – among other things – the wide variety of different fortresses and castles left behind by history itself. From the Genoese Fortress in Sudak, Crimea to the Palanok Castle in Mukacheve near where Ukraine meets Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, these fortresses and castles are as diverse as the nations that created – and conquered – them.
The bats just may be the first clue that Austin is not your typical Texas town. With more than a million Mexican free tailed bats in residence, the city is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. Every spring, they migrate north from Mexico to Austin, where they give birth and stay through the summer and into early fall. Their favorite hangout is under the Congress Avenue Bridge in the city’s downtown sector. Around sunset, the bats emerge like a black cloud from the bridge’s crevices, blanketing the sky and creating one of the most spectacular and unusual tourist attractions in Texas. It’s a truly unique event that even lifelong residents continue to regard as special no matter how many times they’ve witnessed it.
The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is one of the many things that make the two Koreas – North and South – famous. Riddled with land mines, the 4km-wide DMZ cuts across the Korean Peninsula along the 38th parallel and runs 250km from coast to coast. Despite being one of the most militarized borders in the world, the DMZ is a major tourist attraction for visitors to South Korea and while you can’t go into it, you can most certainly go under it! Tours to the DMZ include visits to tunnels that the North Koreans dug a number of times over the decades since the Korean War unofficially ended in an attempt to get to Seoul.
The word ‘bugaboo’ actually means a hoax in Old English. Legend has it that when folks came up these mountains looking for gold, they found only fool’s gold so they called the area the Bugaboos and the name stuck. Running closely parallel with the Canadian Rockies, this little-known, vast wilderness is home to sprawling glaciers, hidden meadows carpeted with wildflowers, sparkling cobalt lakes, dense forests and jagged crags. Older than the Rockies by a couple of hundred million years but equal to them in height and majestic quality, the Columbia ranges attract few visitors compared to their better known cousins. Their relative inaccessibility makes them difficult to get to, especially up into the most resplendent altitudes. Only the hearty and determined are able to make the arduous trek. With the help of a helicopter, however, anyone can experience them.
When I first heard about mud volcanoes, I struggled to imagine what they could look like and how and why they exist. It was easy enough to search out information on the Internet, but even after checking it out that way I honestly didn’t know what to think. In the end, I simply had to make the trip to Qobustan to find out more and - more imoprtantly - see them for myself. Located about an hour south of Azerbaijan's bustling, modern capital of Baku, Qobustan is mostly famous for being a UNESCO world heritage site thanks to its place in world history as once-home to an ancient civilization, as evidenced by 3,000-year-old petroglyphs. The region is also home to almost half of all of the world’s mud volcanoes.
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