Côte d’Or, Burgundy, France
Photograph by Günter Gräfenhain, SIME
Best Vantage on Vintage France
With vineyards first planted by ancient Romans, the Côte d’Or—the most revered winemaking area in Burgundy (Bourgogne)—draws wine pilgrims from around the globe. Natives here insist there’s no place in France with wine traditions more deeply rooted, more consciously cherished. They have something else to be proud of: In July 2015, UNESCO inscribed the region on its World Heritage List. Plans for a new wine center, the Cité des Vins de Bourgogne, will further celebrate this hallowed terroir.
A far cry from Bordeaux’s flat landscape, historically dominated by aristocratic families, the fabled chalk slopes of the Côte d’Or form a snaking ribbon of land in some places no more than a third of a mile wide. This labyrinthine wine terrain about three hours’ drive southeast of Paris is owned by hundreds of farmers, many of them descendants of peasant families and some with just three rows of vines in a field the size of a bowling alley.
Rent a bicycle to taste your way along the Route des Grands Crus, which includes oenophile-magnet vineyards in Puligny-Montrachet. At neighborhood haunt La Grilladine, in the medieval town of Beaune, pair the beef bourguignonne with one of the local vieilles vignes (wine from old vines). End the day at Hôtel Le Cep, in Beaune’s historic heart. Third-generation family owner Jean-Claude Bernard sets the tone, worldly yet down-to-earth. Which is to say, Burgundian to the core. —Liz Beatty
When to Go: July for the Beaune International Festival of Baroque Opera; October and November for harvest festivals and fall foliage
How to Get Around: From Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport, take a direct TGV high-speed train to Dijon or to Beaune (summer only). From Dijon, you can take a walk lasting several days (depending on the amount of wine consumed) or rent a car to follow the 37-mile Route des Grands Crus south to Santenay. In Beaune, the better option is renting a bike (March through November) to pedal the Voie des Vignes (Vineyard Way) vélo (bike) route to Santenay.
Where to Stay: After touring the vineyards, relax by the heated outdoor pool or in the sauna at Le Clos de la Challangette in Beaune. The unconventional property has two guesthouses with five rooms, two apartments, and two replica wooden Gypsy caravans with curved ceilings, a bedroom, and a bathroom.
What to Eat or Drink: In Gevrey-Chambertin, world-famous for its Grand Cru vineyards, stop for lunch or dinner at cozy Bistrot Lucien in the hotel La Rôtisserie du Chambertin. Pair an earthy village Pinot Noir with a traditional dish such as the jambon persillé (ham, parsley, and jelly) terrine, snails, or beef bourguignonne.
What to Buy: Fromagerie Gaugry in Brochon is one of the only dairies still producing authentic raw milk Époisses cheese. The washed-rind soft cheese originated in Burgundy in the 16th century and is available to sample and buy in the dairy’s shop. Other Gaugry cheeses are sold in the shop, along with regional products such as Dijon mustard and gingerbread. While at the dairy, watch the cheesemakers at work. Closed Sundays.
What to Watch Before You Go: The award-winning documentary A Year in Burgundy (Kino Lorber films, 2013) is a season-by-season look at the lives of seven Burgundian winemaking families.
Cultural Tip: Basic French dining etiquette includes keeping both wrists on the table, speaking softly in restaurants, and not taking a second helping from the cheese platter.
Fun Fact: The iconic U.S. car brand Chevrolet has roots in the Côte d’Or. Louis Joseph Chevrolet, the race-car driver who designed the first Chevrolet for General Motors, moved to Beaune as a child. During his teen years in Burgundy, he worked as a wine-cellar guide, and built, sold, repaired, and raced bicycles.
Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil
Photograph by Adam Hester, Getty Images
Its Nickname? “Bride of the Sun”
In Brazil, where idyllic beach escapes come a dime a dozen, the northeastern state of Rio Grande do Norte is ready to reveal that it’s more than another sun-and-surf getaway.
Famed for nonstop sands, sea salt products, and the world’s largest cashew tree, this region known as Brazil’s elbow is where the Atlantic seaboard makes a sensual swerve. The state capital, Natal, three hours by air north of Rio de Janeiro, reigns over a coastline that racks up some 233 days of sunshine a year. Recently, the state’s arid interior region, the historically poor sertão, has been seeing unprecedented love and investment from both the public and private sectors. The sertão is rich in local culture (clay figurines, woven palm mats) and cuisine (sun-dried beef, cassava fries). It also is the cradle of forró, a rambunctious musical blend of accordion, triangle, and zabumba drums that sends couples twirling much as it did during World War II, when the area housed U.S. troops who used the state as a “Trampoline to Victory” in North Africa. To this day, Rio Grande do Norte is one of the most welcoming, and sun-splashed, places in Brazil. —Michael Sommers
When to Go: Year round. The first weekend in December is Carnatal, Brazil’s largest off-season Carnival. Christmas through mid-March is high season.
How to Get Around: Driving is the most convenient way to travel in Natal, the capital city, and around the state. Rent a car at Natal’s new international airport, which opened in 2014, or at your hotel. To ride along the northern beaches and over the dunes, hire a registered bugueiro—buggy driver—through your hotel.
Where to Stay: The oceanfront Serhs Natal Grand Hotel at Ponta Negra Beach is designed for families. The sprawling resort has 396 rooms and suites, multiple pools, and organized sports and kids’ activities. There’s far less hubbub at Kaná Pousada de Charme, an eight-room bed-and-breakfast that welcomes guests ages 14 and up. From the inn, it’s about a five-minute walk to Pirangi do Norte Beach.
What to Eat or Drink: The Public Market in Redinha Beach is the place to try ginga com tapioca: deep-fried and coconut-crusted manjuba (anchovy) kabobs served with tapioca. Beach bars up and down the coast serve plates of fried manjuba and fresh camarões (shrimp). Arguably some of the most inventive shrimp creations—including au gratin, grilled, risotto, and in a pie—are on the menu at Camarões Potiguar, the hippest member of Natal’s four-restaurant Camarões chain.
What to Buy: Regional handicrafts to look for include delicate bilro (bobbin) lace items, such as table linens, accessories, and pillow shams, and sand-art bottles—mini-masterpieces “painted” by meticulously pouring sand into glass containers and positioning it with sticks.
What to Read Before You Go: Translated from Portuguese, the Machado de Assis Prize-winning novel Nowhere People (And Other Stories, 2014) by Paulo Scott shines a rare literary spotlight on Brazil’s indigenous Guaraní people.
Helpful Links: Visit Brazil
Fun Fact: Pirangi do Norte is home to o maior cajueiro do mundo (literal translation: “the world’s largest cashew tree”), a ginormous tangle of tentacle-like greenery covering nearly two acres. A genetic mutation causes the tree’s low-hanging branches to take root and sprout new life when they touch the ground. Since being planted in 1888, the Pirangi tree has been creeping out, not up.
Photograph by Pietro Canali, SIME
Because Life Is Shorts
“I love you! God loves you!” repeats Johnny Barnes, a 92-year-old Bermudian who waves at passing scooters and cars each weekday morning at a roundabout in Bermuda’s capital of Hamilton.
“We may seem very proper,” says taxi driver Larry Rogers, “but we are also an eccentric island.” Indeed, scratch the immaculately gardened surface of this British overseas territory, and you’ll find a place brimming with personality. Every year, participants in the Non-Mariners’ Race vie to construct the shoddiest vessels to see who sinks fastest; descendants of Native Americans proudly hold powwows; and policemen and businessmen insist on wearing knee-high socks with their shorts, no matter what the rest of the world may think.
You can beat the crowd headed to Bermuda for 2017’s America’s Cup by going now, and don’t forget to say hello to Johnny. —Chaney Kwak
When to Go: March and April for whale-watching; May through September for beaches and festivals; November through April for lower rates and fewer tourists (April through November is peak cruise ship season)
How to Get Around: Ride the pink and blue Bermuda Breeze buses and the public SeaExpress ferries. Tourists can’t rent cars, but motorized scooters and hybrid electric bikes or mountain bikes are available.
Where to Stay:Cambridge Beaches Resort and Spa is Bermuda’s first and most famous cottage colony. Founded in 1923, the resort has four private pink-sand beaches and 87 luxurious rooms and suites in its classic pink cottages (including a restored 17th-century sea captain’s home). Guests ages 13 and up are welcome.
What to Eat or Drink: Spiny lobster season (September through March) is Bermuda’s culinary equivalent to Christmas morning. In season, try the clawless (the meat is in the tail) spiny lobster either stuffed or served in creamy tomato sauce at Wahoo’s Bistro and Patio in St. George’s. The rest of the year, order the signature wahoo (mild white fish) grilled, beer-battered, on salads, or in tacos and chowder.
What to Watch Before You Go: Based on the best-selling novel by Peter Benchley, the 1977 underwater thriller The Deep (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2003) is set in Bermuda and includes several scenes shot on the island.
Cultural Tip: The unwritten island dress code is a more formal take on casual (e.g., no swim attire beyond the pool or beach and collared shirts instead of T-shirts). When in doubt, wear a pair of TABS (The Authentic Bermuda Shorts).
Helpful Links: Bermuda Tourism
Fun Fact: Submerged off the coast of Bermuda are over 300 shipwrecks, including a Confederate blockade-runner. The side-paddle-wheel steamer was built in England and smuggled guns and other supplies into Wilmington, North Carolina. In 1864, she hit a reef and sank near the island’s south shore. Today, divers who visit the site can see the steamer’s two paddle wheels: one standing upright and the other lying on the ocean floor.
Photograph by Ingolf Pompe, Aurora Photos
Blue or Not, It Blows Our Minds
Flowing almost 1,800 miles from the Black Forest to the Black Sea, the Danube River has been the main thoroughfare through central and eastern Europe for millennia. Herodotus called it the “greatest of all rivers” 2,500 years ago, and it still may be. Winding through ten countries, it’s like a medieval version of Route 66, except your stops will be at 13th-century Gothic churches rather than diners, and you’ll be treated to views of Transylvania instead of tumbleweeds.
Imagine the spires of the palace-bedecked capitals of Vienna and Budapest slowly rising above the trees as your boat glides around a bend. Then picture docking beside Old World towns such as Regensburg, Germany, orphaned by the modern highway system but enjoying a tourism rebirth via the burgeoning number of Danube River vessels.
Back in 1933, as he sat beside the Danube, famed travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor wrote: “I lay deep in one of those protracted moments of rapture that scatter this journey like asterisks. A little more, I felt, and I would have gone up like a rocket.” Cruise along this legendary river, and you may feel the same. —Bill Fink
When to Go: Year-round; mid-November through December for Christmas markets in cities such as Nuremberg, Regensburg, and Vienna; November and December, and March and April for lower rates
How to Get Around: Upper Danube cruises typically sail between Nuremberg, Germany, and Budapest, Hungary, passing through Austria’s Wachau Valley and Bratislava, Slovakia. Whether you cruise eastbound or westbound, the major stops are the same. Lower Danube cruises commonly sail east from Budapest to the Black Sea, passing through Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. River cruising specialists such as Viking River Cruises, Tauck River Cruising, and Avalon Waterways offer a variety of Danube itineraries.
Where to Stay: River cruising is all about the views. Luxury cruises typically offer only outside-facing cabins and suites. Expand the view by choosing a suite with a French balcony and floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors. Noise can be a factor when docked in bigger cities such as Vienna and Budapest. For a better night’s sleep, request a quieter waterside cabin.
What to Eat or Drink: Rates typically include all onboard meals. Menus regularly feature Danube River specialties such as Viennese gabelbissen (potato salad topped with egg or pickled herring), Hungarian goulash (meat and vegetable stew seasoned with paprika), and German Wiener schnitzel. Experience Viennese kaffeehaus culture in the Old World salon of the Demel, an elegant 18th-century confectionery bakery and coffeehouse. The Demel is the place to try the Sacher torte (known here as the Demel torte), Vienna’s signature chocolate and nougat cake.
What to Buy: Save Vienna’s pedestrian Kärntner Strasse (the main tourist retail hub) for people-watching. Shop instead in the village-like Spittelberg, the revitalized Biedermeier district pedestrian zone with cobblestone streets and secluded courtyards. Local finds here include Das Goldene Wiener Herz (“the golden Viennese heart”), which features designer porcelain mugs and glasses decorated with creative interpretations of classic Vienna images, all in real gold.
What to Read Before You Go: Translated from Italian, Danube: A Sentimental Journey From the Source to the Black Sea (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; reprint edition, 2008) by Claudio Magris is a Black Forest-to-Black Sea portrait of Danube River people, places, and history.
Fun Fact: “The Blue Danube,” composed in 1866 by Vienna native son Johann Strauss II, is widely considered one of the all-time favorite waltzes. While the soulful tune is well known around the world, only people who have seen the Danube realize that the river’s waters appear more brown than blue.
Photograph by Johnny Haglund, Getty Images
Next Great Adventure
The last remaining Himalayan Buddhist kingdom, Bhutan is distant by most standards. Flying in requires a plane nimble enough to navigate around mountain peaks and land in Paro Valley, the main tourist hub, where the number of hotels has tripled over the past decade as the once isolated country opens to more visitors. Then there is eastern Bhutan. This far-flung region remains largely unexplored by tourists. But the arduous two-day journey there by 4×4 delivers many rewards.
“You are the first foreigner we have seen in 22 years,” exclaims a surprised monk welcoming an American trekker to his mist-shrouded outpost near Mongar. In Lhuntse village, women display their vibrantly hued silk wares to Bhutanese traders, who travel here from the capital city of Thimphu in search of precious kushutara textiles. Family homestays fill in for hotels, offering travelers a place to sleep and dine on traditional dishes, including ema datshi, spicy chilies and cheese, often served with red rice. This is Bhutan at its most welcoming—the perfect adventure combination. —Costas Christ
When to Go: Spring (March through May) and fall (September through November) for eastern Bhutan’s major religious festivals, including the Gomphu Kora Festival in March and Monggar Tshechu in November.
How to Get Around: All travel into and around Bhutan must be arranged through licensed Bhutanese tour operators or their international partners. Tours include all transportation within Bhutan and a licensed guide who accompanies you throughout the trip. Getting from Paro International Airport in western Bhutan to “eastern circuit” destinations (including Mongar, Lhuntse, Trashiyangtse, Trashigang, and Samdrup Jongkhar) requires at least a two-day drive along the East-West Highway, the country’s main road.
Where to Stay: Accommodations available to foreign tourists include traditional homestays (no electricity or running water), rustic guesthouses, modern hotels, and tents for trekking groups. Opened in 2008, the Wangchuk Hotel Mongar regularly hosts tour groups visiting eastern Bhutan. All 32 rooms have an attached bath, cable TV, and Mongar Valley views.
What to Eat or Drink: Bhutanese cuisine is all about the chilies. Whether red, green, fresh, dried, crushed, powdered, or turned to paste, the fiery pepper is an essential ingredient in most recipes. The national dish, ema datshi, is a spicy stew of chilies and cheese ladled over red rice.
What to Buy: Khoma, a remote village in northeastern Bhutan’s Lhuentse district, is known for its intricately woven kishuthara (silk brocade) fabric. The complex silk-on-silk art form is passed down from mother to daughter (only women weave in Bhutan) in Khoma, where weaving is the primary source of income. Textile Tour itineraries offered by Access Bhutan Tours and Treks and other operators include visiting the village to watch the weavers and shop for brightly colored scarves, kiras (traditional Bhutanese ankle-length dresses), and other handwoven items.
What to Read Before You Go: Under the Holy Lake: A Memoir of Eastern Bhutan (University of Alberta Press, 2004) is the true adventure story of a young Canadian who spent two years teaching—and learning—in a remote Himalayan valley.
Cultural Tip: Always ask your guide before taking any photos or video inside any dzong (fortress), monastery, temple, or other religious institution. Interior photography is not permitted at some sites.
Fun Fact: Bhutan’s bustling capital city, Thimphu, has paved roads, sidewalks, streetlights, and motorists but no traffic signals. Instead, pagoda-style wooden booths sit in the middle of major intersections. Each booth is manned by a white-gloved police officer, who employs theatrical hand gestures to keep the traffic flowing smoothly.
Capability Brown’s Gardens, Britain
Photograph by Jason Hawkes, Corbis
To the Manor Born
With a sculptor’s discerning eye, the 18th-century landscape designer Lancelot Brown transformed Britain’s grand country estates forever. Brown reshaped formal gardens into rolling green parklands across the length and breadth of the country. His habit of telling patrons that their grounds had great “capabilities” is said to have earned him the nickname Capability Brown.
The tercentenary, in 2016, of Brown’s birth (in 1716) offers a compelling reason to visit his landscapes now. Filled with sparkling lakes, softly sloping lawns, winding paths, and carefully framed views, Brown’s gardens are as ingrained in the British psyche as the novels of Jane Austen.
In fact, filmmakers often set her stories in Brown landscapes, such as those at Chatsworth House and Burghley House (both appear in the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice).
But Stowe estate, in Buckinghamshire, where Brown became head gardener for Lord Cobham in 1741, is where the seeds were sown for his vision of natural perfection. You can glimpse Brown’s developing talent in its undulating Grecian Valley.
“Capability Brown accentuates the positives of topography,” says historic landscapes consultant Kate Felus. His design “is sculpture, like walking through a Henry Moore.” —Juliana Gilling
When to Go: May through June for the wildflowers and greenery; July and August for the clear skies (though always be prepared for some rain) and warm temperatures; September and October for fall foliage
How to Get Around: Driving is the best way to see multiple landscapes attributed to Capability Brown. Rent a car at your arrival airport, and use an interactive map to plan a self-drive route. Stowe is 90 minutes northwest of London via the M40 motorway.
Where to Stay: The Gothic Temple was built at Stowe the same year (1741) that Capability Brown signed on as head gardener. All rooms are circular, and the two bedrooms, which sleep four total, are in the turrets. Hartwell House and Spa, a National Trust property near Aylesbury, has 30 rooms and suites in the main house and 16 in the adjacent Hartwell Court. This Buckinghamshire manor (where exiled King of France Louis XVIII lived for five years) is near several Capability Brown gardens.
What to Eat or Drink: Indulging in a cream tea (scones, clotted cream, jam, and a cup of tea) is a proper English way to end any day spent walking in gardens. The traditional treat is served in restaurants or small cafés at many National Trust properties (including Petworth House and Park in West Sussex) landscaped by Capability Brown.
What to Buy: Commissioned for the tercentenary, The World of Capability Brown: Monarch of the Landscape (National Trust/Pavilion, 2016) by Dr. Sarah Rutherford will be available in April 2016. Pick up the book at the Stowe gardens gift shop, which also stocks bottles of New Inn Restoration Ale. Sales of the Chiltern Brewery special label help support Stowe gardens’ restoration efforts.
What to Read Before You Go: Capability Brown and the Eighteenth-Century English Landscape (The History Press; reprint edition, 2014), by architect and landscape designer Roger Turner, includes the original plans, detailed descriptions, and photos of 15 Capability Brown landscapes.
Cultural Tip: When visiting any Capability Brown garden, remember this phrase: “Forget flowers and think trees.” Brown’s natural landscape designs feature vast, undulating parkland and mature trees (not formal flower beds) to create views on a monumental scale.
Fun Fact: Stowe was the first English garden to have an illustrated guidebook and map for tourists. Published in 1744, the garden guide was sold at the estate’s New Inn. Back then, senior staff would show tourists around the gardens when the family was away, expecting a tip for their efforts.
Photograph by Tom Manley, Demotix/Corbis
Amped Up With the Arts
If Edinburgh is the blue-blooded aunt at Scotland’s tea party, then Glasgow, just 45 miles to the west, is the T-shirt-clad cousin kicking over the kettle on the way out.
A wealthy shipbuilding and trade hub on the River Clyde since the 15th century, Scotland’s largest city fell into dereliction, earning a rough-and-tumble reputation that stuck to soot-covered buildings well into the 1980s. Now scrubbed up and gleaming, Glasgow flexes cultural muscle, artfully burnishing its industrial cityscape.
Scotland’s self-proclaimed Year of Innovation, Architecture, and Design kicks off in January, with Glaswegians proudly puffing their chests. The Turner Prize, Britain’s most esteemed contemporary art exhibition and award, is in Scotland for the first time, culminating on January 17 at Tramway, Glasgow’s former streetcar terminus.
But it is music that really pumps Glasgow’s cultural heart. From the bagpiper busking top-20 tunes along Buchanan Street to the crooner wooing crowds at storied clubs like King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow’s sound track is unrivaled.
“To describe a typical Glasgow musician is quite difficult to do,” says Stirling Gorman, who performs with his brother, Cha, in their band, King of Birds. “It’s really a Glasgow swagger that ties us together like twine.” —Kimberley Lovato
When to Go: March through May for the spring flowers; June to August for outdoor festivals and up to 17 hours of daylight; the New Year brings the Hogmanay and Burns Night festivals.
How to Get Around: From Glasgow Airport, take the First 500 Glasgow Shuttle to the city center. Walk and ride the subway to get around downtown and the West End. Use buses and trains to connect to outlying areas.
Where to Stay: Two buzzy, boutique options close to Glasgow Central train station are the 72-room Malmaison Glasgow and the 30-room Grasshoppers Hotel Glasgow. Malmaison, housed in a converted Greek Orthodox church (with a modern wing attached), is home to Scottish superchef Martin Wishart’s new brasserie, The Honours. At Grasshoppers, rates include sweet amenities like complimentary cupcakes and ice cream.
What to Eat or Drink: At Cail Bruich in the West End, the six-course tasting menu is worth the splurge (starting at about $75 per person). Selections are seasonally fresh, local, and homemade and could include savory smoked cheese gougères (pastry puffs) and mackerel prepared with plum, cucumber, elderflower, and buttermilk.
What to Buy: Get interior design inspiration at Timorous Beasties, the internationally acclaimed studio founded in 1990 by Glasgow School of Art alumni. Browse the collections of edgy textiles (such as iguana fabric, surreal Chic Blotch wallpaper, and Union Jackass lampshades). Smaller gift items include ceramic mugs and pillows.
What to Watch Before You Go: Glasgow native Peter Mullan won the Cannes best actor award for his title role in My Name Is Joe (Lionsgate, 1998), a gritty drama set and filmed in one of Glasgow’s poorest neighborhoods.
Fun Fact: One theory about the derivation of the name “Glasgow” is that it’s an anglicized version of the Gaelic descriptor glas cu (translated as “dear green place”). The city has 90 gardens and parks, including Victoria Park, where you can see remnants of an ancient swamp forest. The site, called Fossil Grove, protects 11 fossilized tree stumps estimated to be about 330 million years old.
Photograph by Kathleen Wasselle Croft
The Inuit of Greenland call it sila, the immense natural world experienced with all five senses. It is the whispering wind that shapes the surface of the snow, the crisp inhale of Arctic air, the coarse touch of rocky shores.
“We know we can’t control nature; we can only be close to it,” says Greenlander Jane Petersen.
Kalaallit Nunaat, as Greenland is called by indigenous Inuit, is the great frontier of the north, a vast, stone-faced giant capped by an ice sheet more than twice the size of Texas. Aquamarine rivers squiggle across its white void, feeding a thousand thundering waterfalls that flow into enormous fjords. The qajaq (kayak) allows close sightings of spouting whales—and, if you’re lucky enough to be on a small ship that can access remote habitats, Greenland may be the best place in the world to see polar bears in the wild.
Circumpolar athletes will gather in the capital, Nuuk, for the 2016 Arctic Winter Games, the largest international event ever hosted in the country. Along with skiing and ice hockey, participants will compete in ancient games such as the finger pull and kneel jump.
“We understand that we are only borrowing this land,” says Petersen. “That is why we love sharing it with others.” —Andrew Evans
When to Go: June to August for the midnight sun, mild weather, and hiking and boating; September to April for the aurora borealis and snow sports; March 6 to 11 for the Arctic Winter Games
How to Get Around: Kangerlussuaq Airport in western Greenland is the main entry point for international visitors. There are no road or railway systems connecting towns. Longer trips are by air and sea (April to December). Local travel is typically by small boat, car, and, in winter, by snowmobile or dogsled. The capital, Nuuk, does have a city bus system.
Where to Stay: Perched seaside within walking distance of Nuuk city center, Inuk Hostels ticks three big boxes: convenient location, front-row views of Nuuk fjord, and the opportunity to experience traditional Greenlandic culture. There are four wooden cabins (28 beds total) with common rooms and small kitchens. Meals aren’t included, but the café does serve local fare such as reindeer and Arctic char. Optional activities include Inuit storytelling sessions.
Where to Eat or Drink: Restaurant Ulo at the Hotel Arctic in Ilulissat specializes in fresh-from-the-fjords-and-fells cuisine. Seawater from adjacent Disko Bay is regularly used to prepare bread, vegetables, and fish. Other local staples include seaweed, musk ox, Greenland halibut, and Greenlandic herbs (like sheep sorrel and knotted pearlwort). June to September, book a bayside table to watch the icebergs float by at the Monday Greenlandic evening buffet.
What to Buy: A tupilak (soul of the ancestor) is the Inuit version of a voodoo doll. Before choosing one to take home, learn more about these Greenlandic talismans at the Nuuk Art Museum. Traditional tupilaks were sculpted into tiny creatures inspired by Inuit mythology. Souvenir figurines range from ghoulish to impish and are made of antlers, wood, stone, animal bone, or soapstone.
Cultural Tip: Some of the most common, and useful, Greenlandic expressions are unspoken. Wide eyes, a slight head tilt up, and raised eyebrows means “Good day.” “No” involves varying degrees of nose wrinkling, while “yes” requires lifting the eyebrows, puckering the lips, and loudly sucking in air.
What to Read Before You Go: Part travelogue, part ethnological study, part adventure story, Gretel Ehrlich’s This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland (Vintage, 2003) details her travels across the high Arctic by dogsled, plane, and small boat.
Helpful Links: Greenland Tourism
Fun Fact: Greenland’s original wooden buildings (built in the 1700s from prefabricated timber kits shipped from Scandinavia) were painted rainbow-bright hues for function, not fashion. Exterior colors signaled what took place inside, such as yellow for hospitals, black for police stations, and blue for fish-processing houses.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Photograph by Toshi Sasaki, Getty Images
100 Years of Earth, Wind, and—Most of All—Fire
Vast flows of solidified lava sprawl across Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, a blackened, primordial calling card from the park’s most illustrious resident, the Hawaiian fire goddess Pele. Said to dwell in Kilauea, one of two volcanoes here that are among the world’s most active, Pele has been a busy lady. Since 1986, hundreds of acres of new land have been created by molten rock welling up from deep inside Earth and spilling, hissing and steaming, into the Pacific Ocean.
“Lots of visitors come for the lava,” says Clarence “Aku” Hauanio, the third of four generations of his family to have worked at the 520-square-mile Big Island park, which celebrates its centennial in 2016. “But there is so much more—the coast, the rain forest, the thousands of petroglyphs made by ancient Hawaiians, all the different plants and animals found nowhere else but Hawaii. You could work here for 29 years, like me, and still see something new every day.” —Christopher Hall
When to Go: Mid-March through May, and September and October for lower rates and lighter crowds; expect some rain any day.
How to Get Around: The national park is located on the east side of the island, about 30 miles southwest of Hilo International Airport. Rent a car at the airport to tour the park’s two scenic routes: Crater Rim Drive and Chain of Craters Road. Or book a guided tour like Hawaii Forest and Trail‘s Volcano by Air and Land experience. The ten-hour excursions include hikes in the park and a helicopter ride.
Where to Stay: Sleep in the park at the 33-room Volcano House, built in 1941 (and completely renovated in 2012-13) at the rim of Kilauea Caldera. Book early to snag one of the coveted Crater View rooms. Rates include use of cruiser bikes (first come, first served), guided walking tours in the park, and unobstructed Halema’uma’u Crater vistas from the glassed-in porch.
Where to Eat or Drink: On the drive from Kailua-Kona to the park, stop at Punalu’u Bake Shop and Visitor Center for Hawaii Island-grown Ka’u coffee and fresh Hawaiian sweetbread (offered in traditional, taro, guava, and other flavors) or malasadas (light and sugary Portuguese-style donuts).
What to Buy: At the Volcano Art Center Gallery located near the Kilauea Visitor Center, every handcrafted piece for sale “interprets the park through art.” The selection typically includes ceramics, glass sculptures, jewelry, baskets, fiber arts, and furniture. In Volcano Village, clay masks inspired by the Hawaiian rain forest and other originals by local artists are displayed at Volcano Garden Arts.
What to Read Before You Go: Explore the Geology of Kilauea Volcano (Hawaii Pacific Parks, 2015), the newly revised field guide by U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist Richard Hazlett, includes expert tips on what to look for when visiting Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
Fun Fact: When Hawaii National Park was established in 1916, the only areas protected on Hawaii Island were the summits of Kilauea and Mauna Loa. (Maui’s Haleakala was included, as well, and became a separate park in 1961.) Today, the park spans 333,086 acres of Hawaii Island and includes seven ecological zones: seacoast, lowland, mid-elevation woodland, rain forest, upland forest, subalpine, and alpine.
Photograph by Menno Boermans, Aurora Photos
Those in the know choose the isle of Hokkaido for a ski experience found nowhere else. Japan‘s northernmost island—surrounded by misty seas and chilled by nearby Siberia—is blessed in winter with almost daily snowfalls, accumulating on some mountains to an extraordinary 63 feet. The yuki (snow) comes down very dry and light, creating a powder Valhalla for skiers and snowboarders.
Niseko, on the southwest corner of Hokkaido, may be the most popular of the resorts, but Kiroro, a two-hour drive from Sapporo’s Chitose Airport, is the real find. Here, youngsters play and learn in the Annie Kids Ski Academy, while ambitious free-riding skiers make endless fresh tracks on Nagamine and Asari peaks. More adventurous skiers hike to the summit of nearby Yoichidake volcano on a two-hour guided backcountry tour that leads to mystical views and even more pristine off-piste terrain.
Back down in the valley, it’s time for après-ski, with a visit to Shinrin no Yu Onsen-Kiroro Resort’s natural hot baths—followed by exquisite sushi or yakitori dishes in one of the resort restaurants, along with a tipple of locally distilled Yoichi whiskey.
Then allow the day’s experiences to center you in the here and now as the snowflakes outside fall with the calm of zen. —Menno Boermans
When to Go: Late November through early April or May (varies by resort) for skiing and other winter activities
How to Get Around: For Niseko ski areas, take an express shuttle bus from New Chitose Airport to a designated stop at your resort (advance reservations required). Or take a train from the Japan Rail airport station to Niseko (or to Otaru for Kiroro resorts). For unlimited Japan Rail travel within the district, buy a Hokkaido Rail Pass at any major Hokkaido train station.
Where to Stay: Several mountain resort hotels are scheduled to reopen under new brands for the 2016 ski season. Close to the lifts at the Kiroro Resort, the former Mountain Hotel is now the Sheraton Hokkaido Kiroro Resort. And the former Piano Hotel, located a shuttle bus ride from the lifts, is now the Kiroro, part of the upscale Starwoods Tribute Portfolio collection. The 282-room luxury hotel is located at the base of the mountain and near an outdoor onsen (hot springs pool).
What to Eat or Drink: Hokkaido’s signature snack is Rokkatei‘s Marusei butter sand, a sandwich cookie stuffed with a raisin-dotted butter cream. The treats aren’t widely available outside of Hokkaido, and a new ice cream version (Marusei ice sand) is sold only at the Rokkatei Sapporo Honten near the Sapporo train station.
What to Buy: Hand-carved wooden bears, bamboo mukkuri (mouth harps), and other traditional crafts of the Ainu, Japan’s indigenous people and the first to inhabit Hokkaido, are typically sold in a few shops near the Shiraoi Ainu Museum (at Shiraoi station, about one hour and 15 minutes south of Sapporo on the Hokuto Line). Designed as a replica Ainu village, the complex includes a museum building, five thatched houses (some fringed with hanging salmon), and a pen housing snowy white Hokkaido, or Ainu, hunting dogs.
What to Read Before You Go: A photo of a sheep in Hokkaido sets in motion the surreal journey at the center of Haruki Murakami’s best-selling A Wild Sheep Chase (Vintage, 2002), in which the hero is led to the snowy mountains of northern Japan.
Fun Fact: To help guide winter drivers in whiteout conditions, Hokkaido’s highways are equipped with candy cane-striped arrows suspended from posts. The posts are set up at intervals along the side of the highway, and the arrows point down to mark the edge of the road. The reflective red stripes serve as beacons for motorists in a blinding snowstorm but regularly baffle first-time visitors.
New York City
Photograph by Randy Duchaine, Alamy Stock Photo
Start Spreading the News About This Famous Skyline
If you think you know America’s most visited city, you may want to take a second look. Over the past year, the tallest office building (One World Trade Center) and tallest residential building (432 Park Avenue) in the Western Hemisphere have topped out, at 1,776 feet and 1,396 feet respectively, part of a crop of bold new skyscrapers that are transforming the celebrated New York skyline. Public spaces, too, have been revitalized, from the waterfronts of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn to the High Line and the new Whitney Museum on the west side. The view from One World Trade Center’s 102nd floor observatory? Stunning. The view from a helicopter? Utterly surprising, revealing hidden nooks, rooftop gardens, and everyday activity made novel with a different perspective. The gray-brown metropolis becomes quilted with white in winter; in spring, pockets of color bloom. You almost can hear Frank Sinatra belting out, “I’ll make a brand-new start of it, in old New York.” —George Steinmetz
When to Go: Year-round
How to Get Around: Use the free NY Waterway mobile app to buy an all-day pass ($12 on weekdays, $18 on weekends) on the East River Ferry. Riding the ferry from Midtown south to lower Manhattan (with stops in Queens and Brooklyn) is one of the best and cheapest ways to see the skyline. For aerial sightseeing tours, contact Liberty Helicopters or New York Helicopter.
Where to Stay: For a room with a Manhattan skyline view, head across the East River to Long Island City in Queens and the 14-story Z Hotel. All 100 rooms face Manhattan. Best bet: Ask for a mid-tower floor (six to eight) to minimize noise from the streets below and the rooftop bar above.
What to Eat or Drink: Take the elevator to the top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza for Sunday brunch at the iconic Rainbow Room. It’s pricey ($95 plus drinks), but the 65th-floor vistas—north over Central Park and south toward the Empire State Building—are unbeatable. Wear your Sunday best (jackets for men), and make reservations.
What to Buy: Purchase advance tickets to visit One World Observatory, located on floors 100 to 102 of One World Trade Center. Standard admission ($32 for adults, $26 for children) is for a specific time and date. Add on the One World Explorer iPad option ($15) for an interactive, virtual helicopter tour of the skyline.
What to Read Before You Go: The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper (Penguin Books; reprint edition, 2013) by Kate Ascher uses simple diagrams, illustrations, and non-technical text to explain how the world’s tallest buildings are designed, built, and maintained.
Fun Fact: The southwestern tip of Manhattan is home to the world’s only Skyscraper Museum. The small, nonprofit museum chronicles New York’s vertical history from the 1870s to the present. Among the permanent exhibits are miniature, hand-carved wooden models of Manhattan and the History of Height mural, depicting the monumental rise of buildings from the 481-foot Great Pyramid of Giza to the 2,717-foot Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Photograph by Beverly Joubert, National Geographic Creative
All Hail This African Queen
In a part of the world not given to small gestures and bland landscapes, Botswana‘s Okavango Delta still manages to leap out at a person as a singularly unlikely miracle. A massive fan of water that gets its start in rivers percolating out of the deciduous forests of Angola’s highlands, the delta evaporates 200 miles later in the sands of the Kalahari Desert. This wilderness is one of the last places to see the Big Five of the traditional African safari: elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros. It so nearly wasn’t.
By the 1900s, European and American hunters had killed almost all of the area’s elephants, without which crucial channels in the delta silt up. But in the decades that followed, conservationists reversed the near collapse of this exquisitely balanced ecosystem and, in June 2014, UNESCO designated it a World Heritage site. Still, the designation will be meaningless unless the Angolan and Namibian governments also ensure that the rivers feeding the delta are protected.
The romantic intimacy of the delta is best explored in a guided mokoro (dugout canoe). Experienced this way, the Okavango is Venice with wildlife. The flash of a malachite kingfisher, the mocking shout of hippos, the cry of a hadada ibis—each is a reminder that without wilderness we are diminished, lonelier. We humans are a part of, not apart from, our rich, rare, and fragile world. —Alexandra Fuller
When to Go: June to August (high-water season) for mokoro and boat safaris; May to October for clear skies and ample water levels; year-round for dry (land-based) safaris and wet (water-based but not flood dependent) safaris
How to Get Around: Maun International Airport is the main visitor gateway to the Okavango Delta. Fly-in safaris from Maun to lodges and camps within the delta are the best way to travel. Tour operators specializing in Okavango Delta excursions include Belmond Safaris, Great Plains Conservation, and Wilderness Safaris.
Where to Stay: To maximize game-viewing opportunities, plan an itinerary including overnights at two or more safari lodges in different parts of the delta. See hippos, elephants, and other big game from your room at the Belmond Khwai River Lodge, bordering the Moremi Game Reserve. The lodge’s 14 luxury rooms and private suite with plunge pool are elevated on timber platforms overlooking the Khwai River floodplains. Wilderness Safari’s Jacana Camp sits on an island surrounded by seasonally flooded plains and swamps. There are five guest tents, including one family tent, on raised wooden stands. Water activities include mokoro and boating excursions and catch-and-release fishing.
What to Eat or Drink: Safari camp rates include all meals. Luxury lodge cuisine is more likely to be international than local, except for the ubiquitous cans of St. Louis, Botswana’s low-alcohol beer. Homegrown specialties to look for on a menu include roasted morama beans and mopane worms (a blue-and-green caterpillar) served boiled or deep-fried as a snack.
What to Read Before You Go: The updated and expanded edition of Okavango: Africa’s Last Eden (Taschen, 2013) by celebrated nature photographer Frans Lanting includes dozens of previously unpublished images of Okavango Delta wetlands and wildlife.
Fun Fact: The amount of water in the Okavango Delta varies widely depending on the season. When the floodwaters recede (typically November until April), only about 3,700 to nearly 5,000 square miles of the delta are covered with water. By July and August, when water levels are at or near peak, more than 9,800 square miles of the delta are submerged.
Photograph by Design Pics Inc, National Geographic Creative
An Island for Every Taste
In every family, there’s always an odd one out—and in the clan of Asia-Pacific nations, that member would be the Philippines. This nation of 7,107 islands (about 2,000 inhabited) began as a loose grouping of Indo-Malay tribes, which endured nearly 400 years of Spanish rule, then 48 years as a U.S. territory. Today the Philippines is a mix of tribal pride, Catholic fervor, American pop-culture savvy, and tropical affability.
Most visitors don’t linger in the muggy, traffic-clogged capital, Manila, but you should explore at least one of the Spanish churches in the old, walled center of Intramuros and stroll around Manila Bay at sunset.
Then head to some of the thousands of beaches, from the pink sands of Great Santa Cruz Island to the black sands of Albay. Divers off Palawan, Apo, and Siargao islands delight in hundreds of coral and fish species. On the southern isle of Mindanao, more than 1,300 land species—including the endangered Philippine eagle—reside in Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, which recently joined northern Luzon’s rice terraces as a World Heritage site.
If the Philippines is that quirky member of the family, it also is the one that always invites you over for dinner, a uniquely Filipino fusion experience that intermingles salty, sour, and savory flavors. —Erik R. Trinidad
When to Go: November to February (during dry season)
How to Get Around: Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila is the main international gateway. From a separate terminal, Philippine Airlines provides connections to popular tourist destinations such as Bohol, Boracay, and Cebu. The main modes of ground transportation are “jeepneys” (shared, open-air shuttles built from vintage U.S. Army jeeps), motorized tricycles, multicabs (shared minivans), and buses. The most convenient way to island hop is by ferry; Super Cat, a high-speed catamaran; or bancas, traditional outrigger boats.
Where to Stay: Play and stay in, on, and above the water at Apulit Island, one of four El Nido Resort properties in northern Palawan. Guests arrive by boat and stay in traditional Filipino cottages (50 total) set on stilts above the water. Optional activities include reef snorkeling, cave diving, kayaking, and rappelling.
What to Eat or Drink: Manila’s Midnight Mercato Centrale is a Filipino foodie’s dream. Every Friday and Saturday night (6 p.m. to 3 a.m.) in the BGC (Bonifacio Global City), market vendors prepare a dizzying array of street foods. Try the Filipino-style bagnet (pork belly) strips, lengua (beef tongue) burritos, and lechon liempo (slow-roasted pork belly).
What to Buy: The Igorot ethnic groups, or Cordillerans, of northern Luzon are known for their carving, brass and iron metalwork, and weaving. In the mountain resort town of Baguio, you can find carved bulul (rice gods) and woven rattan baskets and pasiking (native backpacks) in the Baguio City Public Market.
What to Read Before You Go: When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe (Penguin Books; reissue edition, 2003) is a simple, moving novel set in Japanese-occupied Manila near the end of World War II. It’s infused with Filipino traditions, legends, and history.
Cultural Tip: The equivalent of “How are you?” in Filipino culture is “Kumain ka na ba?” (Tagalog for “Have you eaten?”)
Fun Fact: With its green meadows and steep cliffs towering over the sea, Racuh a Payaman on Batan Island appears to have been plucked from the Scottish Highlands and plunked in the northernmost province of the Philippines. The lush grasses are communal pastureland where horses, cattle, and water buffalo roam. This home-on-the-range setting is why Racuh a Payaman often is referred to as “Marlboro country” or “the Marlboro hills.”
Masurian Lake District, Poland
Photograph by spreephoto.de, Getty Images
Classic European Countryside
If you join some merry campers at a bonfire in Poland‘s Masurian woods, sooner or later you’ll hear them break into a popular sailing tune that celebrates the Masurian Lakes region.
“The song lists the many treasures we cherish here,” says Maciej Milosz, who co-owns a boat rental company, “including lots of fish to catch, wild mushrooms to eat, and unimaginably vast forests.”
Stretching across northeastern Poland 125 miles north of the capital, Warsaw, the Masurian Lake District claims some 2,000 lakes, many connected by rivers and canals. Always popular with Polish vacationers, the region remains a quintessential example of the simple pleasures of traditional country life.
In summer months Masuria’s lakes ripple with sails, while the red-roofed resort towns of Giz˙ycko and Mikołajki teem with boaters and bathers. If you prefer solitude, head over to Nidzkie or Łuknajno Lakes, nature reserves free of motorboats, where you easily will find a quiet waterside spot. Don’t count on being alone, however. The lakes’ navy blue waters attract diving cormorants, mute swans, and clamoring storks, while deer, moose, wolves, wild boars, and the elusive lynx roam the Pisz Forest, a remnant of a pristine wilderness that once covered much of northern Poland. It all adds up to even more to sing about.
When to Go: June to August for water sports and festivals; September and October for hiking and fall foliage
How to Get Around: Charter a boat in Giżycko, the district’s largest sailing hub, to cruise the lakes at your own pace. Le Boat offers self-driven and captained trips aboard two- and three-cabin cruisers. Itineraries range from three to 14 nights, and no boating license is required.
Where to Stay: Ask for a lake-facing room at the stately Hotel Zamek Ryn, the restored (and supposedly haunted) Teutonic Knights’ castle in Ryn. The massive, four-wing fortress, rebuilt following an 1881 fire, sits between Rynskie and Ołów Lakes. Walk to the town beach or swim in the guest-only pool, tucked away in the castle’s underground vaults.
What to Eat or Drink: Local specialties include sielawa (vendace), a delicate whitefish served smoked or grilled in most restaurants. The culinary pride of Giżycko (located between Kisajno and Niegocin Lakes) is sękacz, a knotted, sweet cake shaped like a spinal column and baked on spit.
What to Buy: The white storks commonly seen roosting in local villages have inspired a variety of souvenirs. Small shops and stands often carry folk-art stork sculptures—some are plump birds that resemble turkeys made out of pinecones, yarn, and bark.
What to Watch Before You Go: Roman Polanski’s 1962 directorial debut Knife in the Water (The Criterion Collection) (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2010) is a superb thriller filmed almost entirely on a 35-foot yacht sailing the waters of the Masurian Lake District.
Cultural Tip: When canoeing or sailing on the lakes, greet passing boaters with a friendly “Ahoy.”
Helpful Link: Poland Travel
Fun Fact: During April and May, wild mute swans nest at Lake Łuknajno, a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The large waterfowl (wingspans can top eight feet wide) and more than 95 other bird species, including white-tailed eagles, can be seen all summer from the reserve’s observation towers.
Photograph by David Doubilet, National Geographic Creative
Beauty and the Bounty
Nothing could keep Sherla Mathurin away from her native Seychelles for long, not even the opulence of Bahrain. The former private chef to a Bahrain royal now leads cooking classes in her homeland, using hand-selected spices, line-fished snapper, and octopus speared that same morning to create aromatic creole curries and seafood salads. Seychelles clearly has its own wealth.
Located 1,100 miles off Kenya’s east coast, in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles archipelago of 115 islands dishes up vistas so lush that they can stop a queen in her tracks. During a 1972 visit, Queen Elizabeth II halted her convoy at Mission Lodge, along the Sans Souci mountain road on the main island of Mahé, for an impromptu afternoon English tea with a view.
Six fiercely guarded marine national parks provide havens for endangered hawksbill turtles, spinner dolphins, and more than a thousand types of fish. You’ll find Seychelles blue pigeons and other endemic species in the World Heritage Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, on Praslin island, which looks like something out of Jurassic World. Among its large-leafed palm trees rise endemic coco-de-mer trees, which produce fruits that encase the largest seeds in the plant world. As in the garden of Eden, Seychelles flaunts its beauty with abandon. —Lola Akinmade
When to Go: March through May, and September through November for diving; April through October for bird-watching; May through September for hiking and surfing; year-round for sailing and snorkeling
How to Get Around: Mahé, Seychelles’ largest island, is the gateway for international visitors. From here, travel to Praslin and La Digue, the other two main Inner Islands, by fast ferry or Air Seychelles shuttle (between Mahé and Praslin only). On Mahé and Praslin, rent a car—drive on the left—or use public buses and taxis. Rent bikes on Praslin and La Digue. To reach the smaller Inner Islands and the remote Outer Islands, arrange transportation through your hotel, or use charter or scenic flight (helicopter and plane) services.
Where to Stay: The new H Resort Beau Vallon Beach, which opened in August 2015, is less than 10 miles from Seychelles International Airport. The 100 suites and villas have varying views and amenities. Choose a villa for the private pool. A short helicopter ride northwest of Mahé is the exclusive North Island (nightly rates from $3,400 a person). The private hideaway is paradise found: 11 handcrafted, luxury villas; three beaches; and a conservation program responsible for, among other successes, reintroducing the Aldabra giant tortoise and other endemic fauna and flora.
What to Eat or Drink: Seychellois Creole cuisine is an intoxicating blend of African, Chinese, English, Indian, and French cooking styles and flavors. Staples include breadfruit, a soccer-ball-size superfruit; grilled fish; rice; and coconut. Try popular dishes such as tamarind, a beanlike fruit with a sweet-and-sour pulp; chatini (chutney); coconut fish curry; breadfruit pudding; and grilled fish or octopus coated with ginger, garlic, and crushed chilies.
What to Read Before You Go: French and British colonialism, slavery, and superstitions are key themes of Helen Benedict’s The Edge of Eden (Soho Press; reprint edition, 2010), a moving novel about an affluent British family who relocated to Seychelles in 1960.
Fun Fact: Aldabra Atoll, a group of four large coral islands in Seychelles, is home to the world’s largest population of Aldabra giant tortoises. Over 100,000 of the tortoises live on the atoll, which is their only remaining habitat. A male Aldabra tortoise can weigh up to 550 pounds and have a shell measuring up to four feet long.
Tangier and Smith Islands, Chesapeake Bay
Photograph by Jim Lo Scalzo, epa/Corbis
Historic—and Endangered—Communities of a Bygone America
Both Smith Island, Maryland, and Tangier Island, Virginia, were first mapped by Captain John Smith in 1608. Welsh and English settlers mainly took to Smith, while natives from England’s West Country favored Tangier. Residents of both islands retain unique “relic dialects,” passed down from their ancestors and preserved by isolation. Watermen here have lived off the bay’s oysters, crabs, and fish for almost 200 years. Their family names resound throughout the islands: Evans and Tyler on Smith; Parks, Pruitt, and Crockett on Tangier.
Life here is slower and quieter than on the mainland. Even with regular ferries, these are secluded places: few stores, almost no cars, and no bars (both Tangier and Smith are dry). The islanders constitute a tough and independent lot: Tangier folks refused to join the Confederacy over slavery, while Rhodes Point village, on Smith Island, was once known as “Rogues Point” for area pirates who operated from there.
Visitors can explore on foot, by bike (rentals are available on-island), and by boat. Both islands offer overnight accommodations in a few B&Bs—and take pride in distinct local fare. Smith Island Cake, a towering layered confection, is Maryland’s official dessert, while Tangier justly claims to be “the soft-shell crab capital” of the nation.
With their low-lying shores yielding to erosion and storm surges, these two marshy “islands out of time” may be running out of time. Yet islanders are fighting to hang on, holding fast as long as they can to their thin and vulnerable homes. —Stephen Blakely
When to Go: Mid-May through September for soft-shell crab season and daily ferry service
How to Get Around: Take a ferry to get to either island, and charter a ride to travel between the two. In the off-season, October through April, ferries are available but less frequent.
Smith ferries leave from Crisfield, Maryland, and go either to Ewell, one of two villages on the northern part of the island, or Tylerton, on the southern end. In Ewell, walk or rent a golf cart or bike. From here, it’s about two miles to the neighboring village, Rhodes Point. Tylerton is separated from the rest of the island by Tyler Creek.
To reach Tangier, take a ferry from Crisfield, or from Onancock or Reedville, Virginia. The island is easy to navigate on foot, or you can rent a golf cart or bike at Four Brothers Crab House & Ice Cream Deck.
Where to Stay:The Smith Island Inn in Ewell is a comfy and quaint bed-and-breakfast with three guest rooms. Rates include use of bikes, canoes, and kayaks. On Tangier, the Bay View Inn has two guest rooms in the historic main house, built in 1904, plus two small cottages and seven motel rooms. Rates include daily made-to-order breakfasts and golf-cart transfers from and to the ferry.
What to Eat or Drink: At Fisherman’s Corner, try soft-shell blue crab, prepared Tangier-style (dusted with seasoned breading and fried), in a white-bread sandwich or as an entrée. If soft shells aren’t in season, order Uncle Frank’s Fried Crab Cakes: two fresh, lump Chesapeake Bay blue-crab-meat patties pan-fried to a golden brown.
What to Buy: At Smith Island Baking Company, try a slice of original-recipe Smith Island Cake—a melt-in-your-mouth, ten-layer tower built with moist yellow cake and fudge frosting. Buy a whole cake at the bakery to take with you or to have shipped via FedEx.
What to Watch Before You Go: The short, documentary-style video “A Waterman’s Life” (National Geographic, 2005) was shot on location in the waters off Tangier Island and is narrated by Tangier’s waterman mayor, James Eskridge, Jr.
Cultural Tip: Islanders live with one foot in the water. Follow their lead by hiring someone to take you out on a boat, renting a kayak, or taking a waterman’s tour with a Tangier captain.
Did You Know? During the War of 1812, Tangier Island was a safe haven for nearly 1,000 escaped slaves. Since the island was controlled by Britain, which had outlawed slavery in its territories, slaves who made it to Tangier became free subjects of the British Empire. When the British evacuated the island in 1815, the former slaves moved to colonies in Canada and the Caribbean.
Photograph by Sandy Huffaker, Corbis
Coolest Border Crossing
Consider this tale of two cities, separated by the busiest land-border crossing in the Western Hemisphere. On one side is San Diego, with 70 miles of sandy shores, a pioneering zoo, Tony-winning theater scene, and Southern California climate. On the other side, some 17 miles south, is Tijuana, a Mexican city defined for decades by drug traffickers.
However, just as San Diego has upped its cosmopolitan bona fides, Tijuana, with almost as big a population, is turning over a new leaf. Drugs still flow north, but cartel violence has subsided and tourism is on the rise. San Diego has noticed: The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego exhibits such south-of-the-border painters as Alvaro Blancarte and sells out two field trips a year to Tijuana’s art studios and galleries. The New York Times has feted Tijuanero chef Javier Plascencia’s “Baja-Med” menu at Misión 19. In July, Plascencia opened Bracero Cocina de Raiz in San Diego’s Little Italy.
“Crossing the border completely changes your mind-set,” says Plascencia, who traverses this new frontier several times weekly to oversee his kitchens. “It’s such a privilege that we can live in these two cultures at once.” —David Swanson
When to Go: Year-round, except for mid-May through early July (to avoid what’s known as June Gloom—overcast, cool, and generally gloomy weather)
How to Get Around: Ride the San Diego Trolley blue line from downtown San Diego to the last stop in San Ysidro (one-way fare is $2.50). Walk across the pedestrian bridge leading to the Tijuana border-crossing station (passport required). On the Mexican side, follow the elevated crosswalk over the highway. From here, walk or take one of the registered red-and-black taxis to Avenida Revolución, Tijuana’s main street.
Where to Stay: The Lafayette Hotel Swim Club and Bungalows in San Diego is a retro-chic reinvention of a 1940s Hollywood hideaway (Bob Hope was a frequent guest, and Johnny Weissmuller—the classic Tarzan—designed the pool). Of the 131 rooms and suites, the eight bungalows offer the most privacy, and the Suze Suites (with a bunk bed and chalkboard wall in one sleeping area) are a best bet for families.
What to Eat or Drink: Bring cash and join the line outside Las Cuatro Milpas in San Diego for home-style Mexican food (such as hand-rolled pork tacos and chorizo with eggs). Since 1933, the same family has run the hole-in-the-wall cafeteria, a landmark in the city’s Barrio Logan neighborhood. Open Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
What to Buy: Make Good in San Diego’s South Park neighborhood exclusively carries items made by San Diego and Tijuana regional artists. The rotating selection can include one-of-a-kind jewelry, hand-bound notebooks, and cutting boards made from locally sourced surplus wood.
What to Read Before You Go:Sunshine Noir II: Writing From San Diego and Tijuana (City Works Press, 2015) is an anthology of contemporary San Diego nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and photography.
Cultural Tip: To see Tijuana more like a (decidedly hip) local, book a four-, six-, or eight-hour private tour with Turista Libre. Tours meet on the U.S. side of the pedestrian border crossing and include round-trip border transportation in a school bus and a Tijuana-based guide.
Fun Fact: When the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 suspended immigration from China into the United States, many Chinese chose to settle along the border in Mexico. Baja’s capital city, Mexicali, in particular, is known for its Chinese-Mexican cultural heritage and distinctive Mexicali-Chinese cuisine. At the dozens of Chinese restaurants in town, recipes regularly incorporate local ingredients such as avocado, chilies, jicama, and taco beef.
South Georgia Island
Photograph by Frans Lanting, National Geographic Creative
Wild Kingdom in the South Atlantic
On a rocky beach, hundreds of thousands of noisy king penguins gather in a mosaic of black-and-white dots across grassy tussocks. Among them, fur seal pups bark, two-ton elephant seals galumph into the surf, and albatrosses patrol the air past slate gray cliffs and glaciers edging into the ocean.
Welcome to South Georgia Island, a hundred-mile-long expanse of peaks rising out of the South Atlantic 1,300 miles east of Ushuaia, Argentina. “It’s complete sensory overload,” says Eric Wehrmeister, a Lindblad videographer on the National Geographic Explorer, one of the few passenger ships that visit this remote isle. South Georgia was the promised land for shipwrecked explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew, who, a hundred years ago, sailed 800 miles across one of Earth’s most inhospitable seas in a lifeboat to get help here.
This British Overseas Territory is still reachable only by ship, and the five-day cruise from Ushuaia is strenuous, with summer temperatures in the 20s F. But brave it and you’ll see mountains no human has climbed, rare whales—such as fin-blue hybrids—and inquisitive waist-high penguins in one of the only places that remain as wild as they were when explorers like Shackleton were still filling in blank spots on the map. —Kate Siber
When to Go: October to March (austral spring and summer)
How to Get Around: A limited number of tour operators, including National Geographic Expeditions and Quark Expeditions, offer multi-week trips to South Georgia, the Falkland Islands, and Antarctica. Travel is by small, ice-class expedition ships. Depending on weather and sea conditions, activities could include Zodiac (inflatable landing craft) excursions, sea kayaking, and hiking.
Where to Stay: There are no overnight accommodations on South Georgia. Passengers sleep aboard the ship. Cabins and amenities vary by vessel. The National GeographicExplorer has 81 cabins, each with outside views and private bathrooms. Quark’s Antarctic fleet includes the Ocean Diamond, a super-yacht with 101 exterior-view cabins and suites.
What to Eat or Drink: Expedition rates typically include daily meals aboard ship. For a precruise meal in Ushuaia, take a cab up the mountain to Chez Manu. The 15-minute ride is well worth the panoramic Ushuaia Bay and Andes views and Chez Manu’s French-inspired cuisine. Menu items feature local ingredients such as king crab and Patagonian lamb.
What to Read Before You Go: The Information for Visitors to South Georgia 2015/16 booklet (Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands, 2015) details the strict guidelines that tourists must observe to ensure the protection of South Georgia’s unique flora, fauna, and cultural heritage.
Helpful Links: Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands and South Georgia Museum
Did You Know? By 1912, there were seven whaling stations on South Georgia, establishing the island as the “southern capital of whaling.” The early whaling workforce included a sizable contingent of South African Zulus, many of whom had worked at whaling stations in Natal and Angola. Other laborers of African descent included stowaways from Cape Verde. The story of South Georgia’s African connection is told in a new exhibit at the South Georgia Museum.
Post Courtesy of National Geographic