Travel Expressions Ltd.'s Blog

Epic New Routes Add 650 Miles for Cyclists to Explore the USA
New bicycle routes across the U.S. have added 650 miles of possibilities for people who love to see the world on two wheels.

The Adventure Cycling Association, the largest cycling membership organization in North America, has revealed three new cycling routes along historic Route 66 in Oklahoma, through Minnesota’s 10,000 Lakes, and along the Delaware River. The new routes in Oklahoma and Delaware are the first U.S. Bicycle Routes in those states, while the new route in Minnesota is its fourth.
 
The new additions and other realignments add more than 650 miles to the official U.S. Bicycle Route System, improve route connectivity, and the possibilities for cycling adventures.
 
The U.S. Bicycle Route System now has an incredible 18,534 miles of routes in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
It’s a developing national network of officially designated, numbered, and signed routes that use existing roads, trails, and other facilities for bike travel. The U.S. Bicycle Route (USBR) System is planned to grow to 50,000 miles of routes and open new opportunities for cross-country travel, regional touring for visitors, and also commuting by bike for locals. It benefits local communities by providing new routes, enhancing cycling safety, and increasing tourism.
 
Here’s what’s new:
 

Oklahoma

 
USBR 66 is 429 miles long, and boasts the most rideable miles of Historic Route 66, America’s “Mother Road.”
 
USBR 66 crosses Oklahoma from the Kansas border in its northeast corner to the Texas Panhandle on the west. Following Historic Route 66, it travels through Tulsa and Oklahoma City, and passes landmarks like the world’s largest concrete totem pole near Chelsea, the Round Barn in Arcadia, the historic Bridgeport Bridge from “The Grapes of Wrath,” and Lucille’s Service Station in Weatherford along the way.

Along USBR 66 in Oklahoma - Beth Pickard
 

Minnesota

 
USBR 20 is 188 miles long, and offers miles of off-road riding past several of the state’s 10,000 lakes.
 
From the west bank of the Mississippi River in St. Cloud, USBR 20 travels northwest, joining the Lake Wobegon Regional Trail to Osakis, then the Central Lakes State Trail to Fergus Falls, passing numerous towns and several of the state’s 10,000 lakes along the way. The route leaves Fergus Falls on a section of the North Country Trail and continues to Maplewood State Park before merging with the Heart of the Lakes Trail. After Pelican Rapids, it reaches Moorhead, the Red River and the North Dakota border on roads and trails.
 

Delaware

 
USBR 201 is 37 miles long and takes in historic sites and Delaware River views.
 
The new USBR 201 begins at the Pennsylvania border and parallels the Delaware River, joining the Northern Delaware Greenway and linking Bellevue State Park to Brandywine Park as it enters Wilmington. After crossing the center of the city, it follows the Jack A. Markell Trail to historic New Castle and, again, the Delaware River, where there are views of waterfowl, ships, and the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Turning west, the route continues through Newark neighborhoods and past the University of Delaware campus to its end at the Maryland border.
 
Your expert travel advisor can help you plan a cycling trip in the U.S. or many other countries around the world, with ground support, outstanding accommodations to comfort your hardworking body, and dining that fuels your trip and celebrates the locations you’re admiring on your two-wheeled journey.
 

Start Your Cycling Trip!

 
Images courtesy of the Adventure Cycling Association.
Top image: Along USBR 20 in Minnesota - Kvidt Creative-Explore Alexandria Tourism

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First-Ever, Statewide Waterfall Trail in the U.S. Opens Just in Time for Summer
Kick off summer on a quest. For the very first time, a statewide trail helps active travelers get off the beaten path, connecting them to over two dozen waterfalls across the most scenic parts of West Viriginia.

The 29 waterfalls of the official West Virginia Waterfall Trail are just a ‘drop in the bucket’ of the more than 200 waterfalls found in picturesque places around the state.

Chasing Waterfalls in America’s Newest National Park

Included on the trail are six waterfalls in America's 63rd – and newest - national park, the New River Gorge National Park & Preserve. These breathtaking cascades can be found within secluded coves, such as Turkey Creek Falls, or can be enjoyed at the end of a scenic trail, such as Glade Creek Falls, or hidden gems like Finn's falls. As travelers continue to flock to the national park, the falls along the West Virginia Waterfall Trail highlight must-visit spots to add to an East Coast summer nature trip.
 
The novelty of the new park and its falls is in addition to well-known cascades along the West Virginia Waterfall Tails like Blackwater (pictured) and Sandstone, as well as lesser-known waterfalls like Drawdy in Boone County. Some, like Cathedral, tower above the valley floor, while others span wide rivers.

As more and more of us show an interest in spending our leisure and travel time outdoors, the launch of the first-ever waterfall trail couldn’t come at a better time – in addition to its debut at the beginning of the summer and along with the state’s landmark new national park and nature preserve.

'Breathtaking waterfalls are everywhere in our 1.5 million acres of parks and public lands, making this trail a must-experience activity for adventure-seekers this summer,' said West Virginia’s Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby on the occasion of the waterfall trail inauguration in June, 2022.

The state dubs itself ‘an outdoor oasis in the heart of the East Coast,’ and just in 2022, the state has been recognized by a number of prestigious publications for its magnificent scenic beauty and outdoor recreation. Among its natural wonders, the rushing waterfalls found across the state create the perfect backdrop for soft adventure that’s accessible to almost everyone, young and young at heart, and at multiple levels of fitness.

West Virginia’s connecting its natural wonders via new technology. Travelers on a waterfall quest in the state can go to WVtourism.com/waterfalls and register to have the West Virginia Waterfall Trail passport delivered straight to your smartphone. As travelers explore each of the more than two dozen waterfalls featured on the trail, they can stamp their passports by checking in at each location.

The state’s Department of Tourism is even rewarding waterfall chasers with exclusive gear along the way in the trail’s inaugural season:
  • Check in at three or more waterfalls and receive a custom sticker.
  • Check in at 10 or more waterfalls and receive an aluminum water bottle.
  • Check in at 20 or more waterfalls and receive a waterfall wanderer t-shirt.
 
'From simple boardwalks to hilly treks, we want to make your efforts to experience our falls worth every mile,' said Ruby. 'While out and about on the West Virginia Waterfall Trail, be sure to post photos of your explorations on social media using #AlmostHeaven.'
 
Go for the falls, stay for West Virginia’s other stunning attractions. In addition to its majestic mountains and rolling hills, West Virginia is full of rich historic sites, enchanting art galleries, charming towns and what state officials call “an immense sense of belonging found only in these heaven-like landscapes.”

 

Start Your Nature Trip!

 


The ‘Mega-Moon’ and More Romance Travel Trends Every Couple Needs to Know
With so many celebrations put on ‘hold’ over the last couple of years, we knew when people started getting together to mark life’s great milestones again, it was going to be big.

How big?

Well, according to a new survey conducted by an online travel company, destination weddings and honeymoons are going ‘mega.’

The survey of American couples found that a whopping 97% - nearly all – honeymoon plans over the last two-plus years were affected by the pandemic.  Plans were either downsized, or canceled altogether.

And those couples are having a celebration comeback!  Almost 5 million weddings are expected to be celebrated in 2022 -2023, and happy couples are revisiting their plans  - upwards.
You may be surprised at some of the latest destination wedding / honeymoon trends shaped by two years without travel!   And it’s not just newlyweds. Some of these trends spill over to couples who are already together, and looking to rekindle that spark on a romantic trip together.

Trips, Not Toasters

More than ever before, couples are prizing experiences over an excess of stuff.  Now, a big majority – 65% - of couples are adding a honeymoon fund to their wedding registries. Instead of a complete table service at home, they want to dine in exotic locales together. 

‘Double-Moons’

Why stop at one honeymoon? An incredible 83% of couples now say they are planning multiple honeymoons. That could mean a mini-escape immediately after saying ‘I do,’ followed by a longer, more lavish trip later.

‘Redo-Moons’

Then there’s the clear pandemic trend – the do-over. Over half of couples revealed they were not completely satisfied by a honeymoon they did take during the pandemic.  A lot of couples took shorter trips, closer to home, rather than their dream, celebratory trips, and now they want the chance to make their honeymoon travel dreams come true.

‘Mega-Moons’

Go big, or stay home. Well, most couples did the ‘staying home’ part during the pandemic. Now they’re going big. Over half  - 53% - of couples say they’re going to splash out on their honeymoons, spending more than they had originally budgeted. That’s because now, almost two-thirds say they now want their honeymoon to be a bucket-list trip in luxurious surroundings.

The epic honeymoon today can take different shapes for different couples. Beach and tropical destinations are no longer the first choice of today’s couples.  About the same amount of couples are also interested in multi-destination trips, urban escapes or even national park trips.   Less than half say they’re interested in an all-inclusive resort – but the majority are looking for ‘pampering’ and romantic activities together like hot air balloon rides, sunset boat trips, and soft adventures.

Top Ten Honeymoon Destinations for 2022 - 2023

Move over, traditional island beach destinations! Today’s couples are all over the map when it comes to planning the ultimate honeymoon. 

Only one Caribbean island and one exotic tropical island destination made the top ten list of honeymoon destinations this year. St. Lucia and its twin Pitons are number 7 on the list, and the legendary coral islands of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean made the list at number 10.

Two hot-weather U.S. destinations made the list, including the tropical appeal of Florida, and the mystique of Los Angeles, at numbers 4 and 5 respectively.

The exotic, high-end urban destination of Dubai was the surprising second-most popular honeymoon destination this year.

Europe is made for romance, and honeymooning couples still favor the City of Love, Paris, the number 3 most popular honeymooning destination in the first post-pandemic travel year, as well as the Mediterranean pleasures of Spain (6) and Italy (7).  But the Nordic island of Iceland, with its surreal volcanoes, glaciers, and hotsprings, is an unexpected number 9 on the top ten list.

And the English-speaking U.K. – coming off the Queen’s history-making Platinum Jubilee celebrations, full of fun pubs, castles and stately homes, picturesque tiny villages and familiar cultural appeal, tops the list of 2022-23 honeymoon destinations.

Start Your Romantic Trip!


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New Ways to Celebrate the Start of Summer at the "World's Most Photogenic Beach"
A recent survey of the most popular hashtags in travel photo posts in social media wasn’t a scientific study. But it did generate a clear winner of the title “World’s Most Photogenic Beach.”

That honor went to the seven miles of shorelines and sparkling waters of South Florida’s legendary Miami Beach. If it’s been a while since you indulged in the surfside views and epic lifestyle of one of America’s most famous beaches and beach towns, here are some experiences that can give you new ways to enjoy Miami Beach.

And just in time for the unofficial start of the summer season – with family-friendly ideas, too. 

Seaside

Air & Sea Show: Late May’s unique annual event, dubbed “the Greatest Show Above the Earth,” showcases the men, women, technology and equipment in motion from all five branches of the U.S. military, as well as police and emergency responders. Over two days, you’ll get a rush of adrenaline watching offshore powerboat racing exhibitions, extreme water sports, and more – all with sweeping ocean views from the shores of Miami Beach.

Fishing Charters: Find a little adventure of your own through some of Miami Beach’s world-class offshore, deep sea or wreck fishing just off its shores. Experienced anglers and novice fishers just starting to get a taste for man vs. fish challenges will find an active, educational, and customized day – or half-day – at sea.

Luxury Yacht Charters: Maybe you don’t need your day on the water to have a goal like a big catch. Singles, couples, friends and families can all enjoy a day on the water ‘living the life’ on a luxury yacht. Custom charter itineraries can include a tour of the shore’s gorgeous architecture and celebrity home views, an afternoon learning the ropes on how to operate a water vessel, culinary experiences catered by local private chefs and active water sports like kayaking, paddleboarding and jet skiing.
 
Salt Float Bath Therapy: You can even get the benefits of salt water while on land. The Carillon Miami Wellness Resort lets you float your stress away in a weightless saltwater bath that incorporates 800 pounds of healthy bath salts. The experience helps release natural endorphins, relieve muscle pain, calm anxieties and stimulate blood flow. Who doesn’t need some of that? Plus the stellar ocean views poolside while you relax following your salt water spa experience.

 

Open-Air Design 'Museum'


You may already know about Miami Beach’s globally-recognized collection of design genres including art deco, Mediterranean revival, MiMo and the Miami Beach school of architecture. The city keeps adding to its unique design history in its tropical vacation lifestyle.

Signature Lifeguard Stands:
Recently, the reinvented Miami Beach’s signature lifeguard stands by William Lane (pictured, top) have been newly-recognized as iconic landmarks and symbols of the design-centric, urban beach destination.
 
After Hurricane Andrew destroyed several of the lifeguard stands dotting Miami Beach in the 1990’s, the city called upon designer William Lane to create replacements. Almost immediately, the five lifeguard stands, which the designer said were “influenced not only by Miami’s midcentury and art deco architecture but also by its Caribbean culture and the use of vibrant colors derived from the natural beauty of the tropics” became symbols of the community’s renaissance. Decades later, he was asked to revitalize more of Miami Beach’s seven-miles of sand and sea with new, eye-catching lifeguard towers. You won’t want to miss even one.
 
Get more of a design fix at some new or newly-renovated Miami Beach hotel properties, and design tours, too.
 
The Shelbourne South Beach dates back to the 1940's, exuding timeless luxury, elegance and original Art Deco design. As a stylish playground, guests can expect a dose of oceanside glamour with pops of color and interesting angles to enjoy, even from the hotel’s pool and diving platform. 
 
While Miami Beach is known for incredible Art Deco style, Mediterranean Revival is not to be missed. From superstar couture designer Gianni Versace's masterpiece on Ocean Drive to restaurants and storefronts featuring handmade tile and metal intricacies, travelers can get a taste of another of the city’s distinct design flavors during a walking tour curated by The Miami Design Preservation League. It showcases the architecture made popular on Miami Beach in the 1920's and 1930's. 
 
And, no day is complete on Miami Beach without a classic cocktail in stylish surroundings. Design-lovers can check out the new Lapidus Bar at The Ritz-Carlton South Beach. The beachside hotel was built in the 50’s by iconic architect Morris Lapidus, known as the pioneer of Miami Modern style. Evoking the glamorous, Rat-Pack feel of the era, the bar is located in the hotel's lobby and is part of a spectacular $90 million renovation, bringing the design elements of the past together with iconic, Ritz-Carlton five-star service.
 

Start Your Miami Beach Trip!







You’ve heard of wine caves - how about wine caving?

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE to learn more about this new, and one-of-a-kind experience on an Avalon Waterways river cruise on the Rhone River in the south of France that combines adventure - with the exquisite wines of the region.

Lynn Elmhirst, producer and host of BestTrip TV, was one of the first guests to experience the new 'Active & Discovery' excursion that meant donning a caving suit, helmet, headlamp and a little bit of bravery to descend into caves near Avignon, France.

At the bottom of literally hundreds of stairsteps – 55 meters / 180 feet down into the earth, unfolds a 60 km / 40 mile network of caves that inhabitants of the region were using even tens of thousands of years ago.

Today, in addition to spectacular spelunking – that’s just a fancy word for caving – sights like sci-fi worthy formations, reflective pools and cathedral-like spaces, local winemakers have an ageing cave, where they are experimenting with how cave-aged wines differ from those aged above ground.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime wine tasting and caving experience, and the latest in Avalon Waterways’ Active & Discovery river cruise shore excursions.

And after three glasses of wine and a climb up hundreds of stairs back to the surface, you might be grateful for the helmet! :-)

Start your Wine Tasting Adventure River Cruise!



Heartstopping Acrobatics and Spectacular Seaside Settings at Cliff Diving World Series
Aquatic athletes free-falling from nearly a hundred feet in the air, with only 3 seconds to perform up to 5 precise and artistic somersaults as they hurtle towards the water below. All against breathtakingly dramatic scenery.

The Cliff Diving World Series serves up a double travel thrill: adrenaline-pumping feats of human athletic and performance skill - set against a backdrop of epic historic, urban and natural seaside locations whose sheer heights and seas below are captivating. 

Origins of Cliff Diving and the Cliff Diving World Series

Cliff diving originated hundreds of years ago in Hawaii. Daredevil athletes competing in today’s Cliff Diving World Series vie for the King Kahekili trophy. It’s named after the Hawaiian chief who first leaped from the island’s sacred cliffs in the 1700’s.

For over a decade, there’s been an elite event that pays tribute to King Kahekili’s daring athletic legacy. The Cliff Diving World Series as ‘pure extreme sport.’ Just man – or woman – versus gravity, with a body of water below. A dozen male and a dozen female competitors compete at each of the 8 stops on the global map of cliff diving venues, accumulating points along the way.

At the end of each season, a champion in each category is awarded a trophy in King Kahekili’s name.

Go Jump off a Cliff

It’s easier said than done! Part art, part athleticism, all adrenaline go into every cliff dive.

Height, speed and g-force, as well as aerial awareness, timing and physical strength all play a huge role in creating the most perfect, aesthetic and, of course, safe dives. The divers can launch from different stances and include pikes, tucks, somersaults and twists on the way down to impress the judges.
 
Here are some more ‘fast facts’ about cliff diving:

  • Rotation speed - 2.4 rotations per second
  • Time in the air - 2.6 seconds
  • Speed at water entry - Up to 50 mph
  • Deceleration on water impact - 10 G
 

Takes Your Breath Away

It’s one thing to watch Olympic diving into an indoor pool. Cliff diving takes it to the extreme – with winds, sun shining off the water, even the uneven appearance of the water surface in waves below - all acting like performance wild cards.
In addition to the uncontrolled environment – is the sheer (literally!) beauty of cliff diving locations, from their Hawaiian roots to their modern-day versions.

The Cliff Diving World Series is hosted in breathtaking waterside locations where athletes launch from rock formations, historic bridges, landmark buildings or beside waterfalls.
 
The inaugural competition was staged in La Rochelle, France in 2009, and since then, the cliff diving elite of the world have tested their mettle and displayed their athleticism and diving style epic locations in Hawaii, Thailand and the Philippines and urban centres like Dubai, Bilbao and Cartagena.
 
Both fresh and salt, warm and cold water will do, and 2022 will see dramatic dives in capitals like Paris, Oslo, and Sydney, as well as the Old Bridge of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina (above), Polignano a Mare, Italy, Sisikon on the shore of Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne, and Boston.
 
Of course, for those of us whose dives are limited to jumping off docks, or a pleasure boat, or the marina of a small cruise ship for a fun little dip, the thrill of the Cliff Diving World Series is to be watching these daredevils of the air and sea from the shore.
 
That makes a holiday to one of the Cliff Diving World Series locations the perfect blend of excitement of the spectacular, unique, natural extreme sport, with local, seaside lifestyles that come so naturally to these cliff diving destinations.
 
Find out more about the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series and its current season of dates and locations here, and ask us how you can…

 

StartYourTrip!



Top Image: The cliffs of Islet Franca do Campo, Azores, Portugal, one site of the Cliff Diving World Series







You’ll Love This New Generation of Private Island Resorts
There’s a new generation of private islands. One that creates an environment for guests to vacation their way to becoming their best selves.

Scratch any impressions you have of private islands inhabited by music moguls jet-skiing with nude models, royalty sneaking around with other people’s spouses, or tech billionaires popping magnums of champagne.

The new private island experience isn’t just about seclusion away from prying eyes. 

It’s about the ultimate spirit of togetherness with a group of people you value most in the world – having the uplifting and inspiring shared experience of a customized vacation that provides all the means for you to leave better than when you arrived. 

Imagine having an entire island all to yourself for a family gathering, the ultimate destination wedding, vow renewal, reunion, or team-building exercise.

The new type of private island is exclusive, but at the same time also more easily sourced and booked than ever before. Your trusted travel advisor can help you craft an end-to-end private island retreat that will transform your idea of a tropical vacation.

Here’s one of our favorite examples of private islands that’s breaking the mould and redefining what a private island vacation can mean. 


The Aerial BVI

This 43-acre private island destination in the British Virgin Islands is nestled among fourteen surrounding islands, with both stunning sunrises and sunsets.

The new approach to the private island experience comes from its most recent owner, a self-made young woman entrepreneur. Her vision is to “provide guests with the space to find their center again, eat healing food, reconnect to nature and loved ones, and discover what matters most.”


Like the best of private island experiences, guests enjoy the services of a full staff of chefs, hosts, activities managers, housekeeping and watersports teams, boat captains, island concierge and everything needed to fulfil your every need – whether you know you need it or not.

Spectacular Tropical Island Home Away From Home

The Aerial welcomes 26 guests in five residences with names that channel the owner’s aspirations for those coming to the island: Unity House, Faith House, Serenity House, and the Love and Grace Villas.

Rooms in each residence are unique, and as you might expect, they flow into their island surroundings allowing guests to feel part of the natural environment, with island and ocean views dominating sightlines.


Rooms are outfitted in different ways to feed different guest needs ranging from relaxation to reflection, to romance to writing to simply engaging with the outdoors: relaxing daybeds, serene “focus spaces” with writer’s desks for those who want to journal their journeys, private, cliffside balconies, chair swings, outdoor showers or soaking tubs, romantic stargazing decks, and balconies overlooking the infinity pool, to name a few.



Healing Cuisine

The Aerial challenges its guests to think outside the box of private chefs and indulgent dishes.

Its dining, while delicious and satisfying, is about providing “healing,” cuisine that helps guests to “think their best, feel their best, create at their best and connect to the planet in a beautiful and sustainable way.”

The private island resort sources ingredients from local providers in the British Virgin Islands in what it says is a true producer-to-table experience. Food that can’t be bought locally is sustainably sourced. There’s still comfort and fun at the table, though – the resort even has a wood burning pizza oven.


Private Island, Private Beach… and Beyond

 
On a private island, the world – or at least the island- is your oyster. The white sand beach is reserved for you and your private party. But The Aerial, in keeping with its personal, physical and spiritual growth mission, has its own distinct twist on private island activities.

Of course you expect the luxuries of a spa and healing center on the beach, an infinity pool, multiple bars including a beach bar, ping-pong, a yacht, Hobie Cats and a full complement of watersports, and even a recording studio. A wood burning fire pit on the beach? Check.


Those in search of self-improvement and relaxation can participate in yoga in inspired places, guided meditation and writing. Get your blood pumping hiking miles of island-wide trails. Reflect on our place in the universe stargazing.

There’s memory-making fun for families and adults trying to rediscover their inner child. A fleet of pastel-colored, electric Mini Mokes. On the beach: a tribal gym set, giant Jenga and giant Connect 4 and movies and bonfires on the beach.


And beyond your wildest dreams! “Indy’s Redemption Ranch” on the island is home to rescued former race horses, miniature ponies, and even a handful of zebras. Riding on the beach and hand feeding the herd is just the beginning. Swimming with the ponies and guided equine therapy take ranch-on-the-beach to a whole different level.


The Aerial replaces traditional concepts of private island resorts with conscious travel that reconnects you and your select group of guests with the wonders of Nature, and gives you the inspired spaces, seclusion, and activities to discover your very best life.
 

Start Your Private Island Trip!


The Very First National Park Turns 150
 It’s not just the first national park in the U.S. It’s the first national park in the world. In March, 1872, American president Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the establishment of Yellowstone National Park to preserve and protect some of the country’s most emblematic scenery and wildlife for future generations.

That first national park represented the start of the entire U.S. National Park system. Today, the National Park Service manages 85 million acres of land, comprising 63 National Parks and over 400 National Park sites.

But Yellowstone’s 2 million-plus acres remain a standout among America’s most spectacular natural and historic treasures even 150 years later.

Yellowstone National Park is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, said to be one of the last – and largest – and nearly intact - ecosystems in the world. 

The park has the most active and intact collections of “geothermal features” on the planet. It’s comprised of 10,000 hydrothermal sites plus half of the active geysers in the entire world, including the famous geyser Old Faithful. While not the tallest geyser in Yellowstone or even the one that erupts the longest, it has the distinction of being the most predictable, erupting every 44 minutes to two hours.

The geysers alone make Yellowstone incredible. But the park also has two dozen entries on the National Register of Historic Places. And other majestic natural features, plus a very famous and note-worthy inhabitant.

Early techniques of park management involved eliminating nearly all natural predator animals in Yellowstone, permitted hunting bison to the extent that less than two dozen of the massive, essential herbivores remained, and introduced non-local fish species that decimated native fish.

Better knowledge and practices mean that today, the Park is, according to the National Park Service, “the healthiest it has been in over a century.” Yellowstone has seen the return of predators like wolves, grizzly bears, and native fish.
But the bison may be Yellowstone’s most symbolic success story.

Although near extinction at the turn of the 20th century, the largest land animal in North America is now over 5000 strong in the park. After the US Army beefed up its protection of bison from poaching a century ago, and bison from private herds were sourced to help boost the herd in Yellowstone, the park has become the only place in mainland USA to have a continuous, free-ranging bison herd since prehistoric times.

Many of Yellowstone’s greatest features and successes have connections to Native American Tribes. Before any human of European heritage set eyes on its wonders, let alone designated it a U.S. National Park, Native Americans lived, used the thermal waters for faith and medicinal practices, hunted, fished, gathered plant life, and even quarried obsidian stone for 10,000 years in the parklands.

Over two dozen tribes have connections to the millions of acres of Yellowstone, as it’s located where the Great Plains, Great Basin and Columbia Plateau meet on lands straddling what are now the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
And for its 150th anniversary, America’s largest national park will commemorate and share the land’s Indigenous history and values.

In the summer of 2022, Yellowstone Old Faithful Lodge will host Native American public art installations, a Marketplace featuring work from tribal artists, and the “Historic Yellow Bus” will tour the Old Faithful district.

Tribes are also planning a gathering in celebration on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming in June, and in August, Teepee Village will be erected by several tribes near Roosevelt Arch.


Park superintendent Cam Sholly says the Village and other 150th anniversary commemorations, “will be an opportunity for multiple tribal nations to be here on the landscape in the park, directly interfacing with visitors and talking about and educating visitors about their culture and their heritage.”

Additional park anniversary activities include horse club rides and parades, groundbreaking ceremonies, ribbon cuttings, inter‐tribal bimonthly virtual video series gatherings, family‐friendly Old Faithful sponsored experiments, and social media events that will engage travelers both near and far.

This may be the perfect year to acquaint or reacquaint yourself and your family with the groundbreaking Park or any national park in this historic year. Escorted tours, epic trains, historic lodges and outdoor experiences are all part of National Park travel.

Start Your National Park Trip!





Now You Can Get Married in Antarctica
February has been an even more romantic month than usual this year. Not only did countless couples celebrate their love in dream destinations on Valentine’s Day – one couple became the first to be united in matrimony on the White Continent.

On an Atlas Ocean Voyage to Antarctica – that even departed on February 14,, 2022 – Valentine’s Day! Bride Courtnie Dodson and Groom Brody Vermillion exchanged vows on Danko Island during a 15-minute ceremony, officiated by British Antarctic Territory-registered Marriage Officer Bryan Clark.

The ceremony was witnessed by eight additional cruise guests – plus some curious penguins who appeared to follow the tuxedo dress code for the wedding!

In fact, that first-ever wedding on the 7th continent was one of four extraordinary weddings and three vow renewal ceremonies during the nine-night cruise to the Antarctic on the luxury expedition cruise line’s first ship World Navigator. 

Atlas Ocean Voyages bills its destination wedding program “Happy Ever Atlas.” It was complimentary for guests who registered for the wedding or vow renewal program in advance.

The weddings weren’t just ceremonial – they were the first legal weddings on the continent. Each couple received an official U.K. wedding license, which is also recognized in many other countries, including the U.S.


World Navigator hosted a ship-wide wedding reception, as well as held separate bachelorette and bachelor group-parties, for an unforgettable wedding week for the couples. The cruise destination wedding program also included a wedding cake, photos, gift bag, custom wedding announcements and Thank You cards. 

Now the ‘ice is broken’ so to speak, we’re sure many other couples will start thinking about the ultimate destination wedding.

A small, luxury expedition cruise might be tailor made for a one-of-a-kind destination wedding. The World Navigator’s size – only 98 suites, solo suites and staterooms – makes for an intimate luxe-adventure. Especially the adventure of starting your new life together!


World Navigator will cruise the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and Iceland, Greenland and The Arctic in summer 2022; Central and South America in the autumn; and return to Antarctica for her winter 2022-23 season.


The ship’s small size allows it to reach smaller, authentic and exclusive locales where larger ships cannot sail. A second, sister ship to the World Navigator, World Traveller, launches in November 2022. Three additional sister ships, World Seeker, World Adventurer and World Discoverer, join the fleet through 2024.

Giving couples looking for the most unique, out-of-the-way or exotic wedding or vow renewal destination a world of options.

Congratulations to the first Antarctic newlyweds!
 

Start Your Milestone Trip!

 
Images courtesy Atlas Ocean Voyages







A New, Underwater "Ocean Highway" for Galapagos
At 2021’s Climate summit in Glasgow, something pretty extraordinary for one of the natural world’s greatest treasures happened. Neighboring countries Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama got together and agreed to create an ‘ocean highway’ to allow threatened marine species in and around the richly and uniquely biodiverse Galapagos Islands to safely travel to the territories they need to survive.
 
The Galapagos Islands famously inspired the pivotal works about evolution of species by Charles Darwin. The Islands are part of Ecuador, and that country has now got the ambitious project underway. Not with ‘shovels in the earth’ like a launch ceremony for a human transportation route.

 
Rather, Ecuador has expanded the Galapagos marine reserve. It’s already one of the largest in the world at over 53-thousand square miles. Its expansion by another 23-thousand square miles will bring it up to over 75-thousand square miles of conservation – an area three times the size of Belize! protected from industrial fishing and other harmful human activities.
 
The new reserve has the fitting name of Hermandad or 'Brotherhood.'
 
'There are places that have made a mark on the history of humanity, and today, we have the honor of being in one of those places,' Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso said at the official signing. 'These islands that welcome us have taught us many things about ourselves. So, instead of acting as the absolute masters of these lands and seas, shouldn't we act as their protectors?'
 
Environmentalists say the reserve will help protect at least five of the region’s most threatened marine species, including hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, millions of sea turtles and rays and other species that migrate between the Galapagos and Costa Rica’s Pacific Cocos Island.
 
That’s just the first step down this underwater ‘road.’ The ultimate goal is to connect the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites via a protected ‘ocean highway.’ 
 
The Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor, running through Ecuadorian, Colombian, Panamanian and Costa Rican waters will exclude harmful human activity to permit sea creatures the safe spaces and distances they need to thrive, anchored at both ends by already-protected island territories.
 
Humans will still be allowed entry to the growing ‘underwater highway’ marine zone between Galapagos and Costa Rica’s Cocos Island.

 
There’s more interest than ever in travel to the Galapagos Islands, as post-pandemic pent-up travel appetites are inspiring people to book their bucket list trips. This natural wonder of the world, famous for pristine land-and seascapes, and close encounters with one-of-a-kind creatures like giant tortoises, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, and more, ranks high on the list of once-in-a-lifetime, transformational trips.
 
Responsible tourism through respected and local operators will help maintain critical awareness and financial incentives for the continued protection of one of the most audacious – and hopeful – marine conservation projects of our time.
 

Start Your Bucket List Trip!







Why Taking an Alaska Cruise is 'For the Birds'
Bears and whales and other marine mammals are high on everyone’s list for wildlife sightings in Alaska. But we think any trip to America’s Last Frontier is, well, ‘for the birds.’

With more coastline than the rest of the United States combined, as well as parks bigger than some countries, Alaska’s natural treasures include abundant populations of some of the continent’s most interesting, colorful, and majestic birds. 

You may think, in northern climes, the bird population doesn’t stack up against tropical feathered friends. But in fact, there are birds in Alaska in every color of the rainbow, including vivid blues, reds, oranges and greens.

And in every size, from a flame-colored hummingbird only a couple of inches long… to a regal eagle with a nearly seven-foot wingspan!

Pack your binoculars on your next trip to Alaska and watch for these avian residents of Alaska.

Bald Eagle

If you were asked to name a bird in Alaska, your answer would likely be ‘Bald Eagle,’ a bird that symbolizes not only America, but the wilderness frontiers Alaska is famous for. More bald eagles – an estimated 30,000 - live in Alaska than the rest of the U.S. combined.
 
 
America’s national bird is unmistakeable. It’s an immense and heavy raptor: 3 feet long with a wingspan that can reach 7.5 feet! Its dark body, with white head, sharp, hooked yellow beak and matching legs is dramatic, and distinguishes it from other birds of prey.
 
It’s easy to spot bald eagles in Alaska. They’re found all along the coast, where they hunt for fish and sometimes small mammals. They have an eery screeching cry, so you can often hear them before you see them. And bald eagles mate for life, building large, treetop stick nests to raise their young.
 

Rufous Hummingbird

At the absolute other end of the size scale, a bird that hovers around three inches long, and barely tips the scales at under 2-tenths of an ounce. Where bald eagles soar and dive and strike, Rufous Hummingbirds dart and hover with great speed and manoeuvrability.

 
The Rufous Hummingbird’s name gives its plumage away, since the word means ‘reddish’. But that name undersells these tiny birds, which are brilliant orange on their backs and bellies, with red throats and black wings, a combination that makes bird watchers describe rufous hummingbirds as “glowing like a bed of coals.”
 
Do you think hummingbirds stick to purely warmer climes? These hummingbirds take annual, record-breaking migrations. While they fly vast distances to Florida, Mexico or even Panama to winter, the longest hummingbird migration on record, Rufous Hummingbirds live in southern Alaska during the prime tourist season. Small flying insects and nectar from flowers that bloom in Alaska’s short season, like its famous ‘fireweed,’ sustain these unique tiny birds in the north.
 

Willow Ptarmigan

 The state bird of Alaska isn’t the showy bald eagle. It’s the modest, chicken-like willow ptarmigan, part of the pheasant family, and they’re called grouse in the British Isles. Like grouse in the U.K., they are a game bird, with the widest range in Alaska.
 
As do their cousins the chickens, willow ptarmigans forage on the ground, eating on tree buds and insects in forests and moorlands in northern climes.

 
These large ground birds are the largest of three ‘Arctic’ grouse in Alaska. Willow ptarmigan are fully white when young, and darker, mottled browns when older, with a dashing red brow and distinctive feathered feet which help it travel along frozen ground.
 

Murre

Common murres are abundant in the Gulf of Alaska. They look like penguins, with tuxedo coloring and upright stance, but of course, penguins are only found at the South Pole, not in the north.

Murres, unlike penguins, can fly – up to 125 miles from their nests high on cliffs of rocky shorelines to find food for their chicks. They can also dive up to 600 feet for small fish. Remarkably, when chicks are ready to fledge, their father swims below them at the base of the cliff and calls to them. Chicks hurl themselves 800-1000 feet off the cliff and swim to their father, who stays with his chicks, caring for and feeding them for a month or two.

After breeding season, murres are seen in large groups called a ‘bazaar’ or a ‘fragrance’ on top or flying across open ocean.

 

Tufted Puffin

Who can resist a smile when you spot a tufted puffin? Nicknamed ‘sea parrots’, their black bodies and white faces with yellow plumes set off their most eye-catching feature: an oversized red and orange bill.
 
These stocky, awkward seabirds are almost comical in appearance, easily spotted in flocks flapping short wings and flying just above the water line. Their wings are adapted best to swimming underwater, where they catch fish and often snag multiple fish cross-wise in their beaks.
 

Puffins are abundant in Alaska, and favorite image for souvenirs from America’s 49th state.
 

START YOUR BIRDWATCHING TRIP!




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Hike Europe's Most Famous Ancient Trail During This Jubilee Year
Only once or maybe twice a decade, the Camino de Santiago becomes an even more remarkable hiking journey through Spain.

Pilgrims and tourists have been hiking the “Way of St. James,” as it translates, since the 9th century. It’s a 500-mile (800 km) route across northern Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, the spiritual home of the apostle James who preached in Spain, became its patron saint, and whose remains were returned here and enshrined.

The route of St. James’ final, return journey to Spain became a pilgrimage, one that continues to this day.

Spiritual and religious devotees walking the route today are joined by those taking the “Way of St. James” as a journey of self-discovery, to achieve a personal challenge, or to explore this unique cultural experience and northern Spanish countryside actively on foot or by bicycle.
 

Jubilee Years on the Camino de Santiago

 
And if your trip coincides with a Jacobean (from “James”) Holy Year, the experience will be all the more exceptional. The “Xacobeo Holy Year” occurs when the festival of St. James, which takes place annually on July 25th, falls on a Sunday. That means the special celebrations of Jubilee Year happen once or twice a decade.
 
Due to the pandemic, the Holy Year 2021 was extended for the first time over two years. Already, special festivities have begun for its second half. “Light up the Xacobeo” is an initiative where more than a hundred monuments and landmark buildings throughout Spain are illuminated to honor the special pilgrimage year. Half of those are along the actual Camino de Santiago. 

 (Illuminations at the terminus, at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, courtesy of the Tourist Board of Spain)

They include a wayfinding arrow, pointing the way to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the terminus of the Way and a long pilgrimage. They mirror the wayfinding signs that are used to mark the actual route still today.
 
This year’s Xacobeo Holy Year has gone global. Recognizing how communities and the world have come together even more during pandemic times, “Light up the Xacobeo” illuminations and wayfinding have spread beyond Spain’s borders.
 
Here, for example, is Notre-Dame Cathedral in Ottawa, Canada, illuminated for the Holy Year Jubilee – wayfinding arrow guiding pilgrims and seekers towards Spain.

(Photo courtesy of the Tourist Board of Spain in Canada)

In addition to special, wayfinding illuminations, the Way of St. James in Spain this Jubilee year will be celebrated by events including concerts, art exhibitions, films, conferences and educational activities for all ages.

Centuries-Old Traditions


That’s in addition to all the traditions of the Way of St. James, not just wayfinding markers that range from the humble to the spectacular illuminations of the Jubilee year.


Scallops are the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. The shellfish is plentiful on the beaches of the region, and originally the shells may have been practical for pilgrims to scoop shared food and water, as well as become a souvenir of the life-changing journey. 

Pilgrims still wear a shell to show they are on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. And scallop shell markers, including brass shells inlaid in cobblestone paths, or stylized sideways shells, often gold on a blue background on signposts or buildings still mark the path through towns and countryside. 


Most pilgrims then and now buy and carry the credencial. In days of yore, it provided access free accommodations and support for pilgrims along the Way. It’s also like a passport, an official record of your journey. You get an official St. James stamp in each town you eat, or official stay along the way, and presented at the Pilgrim's Office once you reach Santiago, proves that you have completed the official route and qualify for a 'compostela' – a certificate of completion.

A Pilgrim's Mass is held in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela twice daily, and pilgrims who received their compostela the day before have their countries and where they started their journeys announced during Mass.

Pilgrimages had trickled down to only a few hundred travelers along the Camino de Santiago by the 1980's. Then, in 1987, it was declared the first European Cultural Route and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Modern pilgrims and secular active travelers re-discovered the appeal of the historic route.  

These days, 300,000 or more people make the trip every year on foot, by bicycle or horseback, and in escorted tours by vehicle that stop at highlights along the way. During Jubilee years, that number swells.

The trip on foot from the Spanish border nowadays takes about a month. Not everyone who walks on the Camino receives a compostela, but you can still earn one without a month-long commitment. 

To qualify, you must make the pilgrimage for religious or spiritual reasons, even if they are your own spirituality and inner quest, do the last 100 km (approx 60 miles) on foot or horseback, or the last 200 km (approx 120 miles) by bicycle, AND you still need to collect a certain number of stamps in your credencial which you present at the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago de Compostela.

The next Jubilee Year for the Camino de Santiago isn't until 2027, so don’t wait to experience this uplifting, unique experience.
 
As the Tourist Board of Spain says: Just walk. Buen Camino.
 

 

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Top image courtesy of the Tourist Board of Spain.

Unless noted, other images: Getty

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The Good Travel News We All Need at the End of 2021: Elephants Return to Conservation Area and Eco-lodge in Cambodia
Anantara, the luxury hospitality company that connects travellers to the indigenous, grounds guests in authentic luxury, with over 40 hotels and resorts located in Asia, the Middle East and Europe, has had success this year hosting other types of guests – the pachyderm kind.

The company’s charitable foundation, the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) works in partnership with local communities on environmental, social and cultural conservation.
 
As a result of one of those partnered programs, The Cardamom Tented Camp in Cambodia recently recorded the return of a small herd of wild elephants to its conservation area, after elephants had been absent for over five years from the region.
 
As they are in neighboring Thailand, elephants are a beloved – even sacred – and culturally significant creature in Cambodia, even as their wild populations are threatened by development and the industrialization of processes that used to use working elephants.
 
In a piece of rare, happy news coming from travel during the pandemic, forest rangers in the conservation area in Cambodia discovered and photographed elephant footprints and droppings. The evidence of elephant inhabitants occurred inside the nearly 45,000-acre forest concession, which the camp protects with help from The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF).


Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic Anantara guests, via the GTAEF, continued to support the ongoing maintenance of the camp and its team of rangers despite borders being closed to tourism. Anantara Angkor Resort in Siem Reap also donated supplies directly to the eco lodge throughout the past year. 

GTAEF wildlife experts estimate that a herd of nine elephants, consisting of four adult females, their calves, and one young adult elephant, make up the new herd in the conservation area. Members of the herd have also been captured on motion-sensored cameras nearby. The organization hopes the elephants will make themselves at home in the safety and security of the conservation area.


There’s more good news besides. The Lodge manager, who is also a wildlife photographer and conservationist, reports the return of a group of 15-18 otters to the Preak Tachan river beside the camp. This species of otter is native to Cambodia and is one of three species that are globally threatened and at risk of extinction due to human activities. So their appearance is hoped will allow Cambodia to play a role in the global conservation of otters.


The Cardamom Tented Camp, is located in Southern Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountain range. It’s a non-profit eco lodge resting within 18,000 hectares of pristine land, and opened in late 2017. Proceeds from the camp are used to fund rangers that patrol the concession, protecting against deforestation and illegal poaching. Since funding began, the protected haven and wildlife in it have thrived. That’s as development has continued in the region. 

Guests often see otters, macaque monkeys, kingfishers and hornbills from their boat when they travel to the camp, which is only accessible by river. The camp offers multiple hiking trails for adventurous guests to join the rangers on guided wildlife and bird spotting hikes through up to 5 miles of forest before returning via kayak with rest stops at the main ranger station in each direction.


In October, Cardamom Tented Camp was included in the Green Destinations’ Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories in the world. In 2019 the camp won the PATA Gold Award for Ecotourism and was a top three finalist in the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. In the same year, it was listed in National Geographic UK’s invitation-only listing of top 36 eco-hotels around the world that are leading by example.
 
At the end of 2021, Cardamom Tented Camp is once again open and operating with a unique business model. Part of the income from the lodge’s operation goes towards the funding of 12 forest rangers who protect the area from loggers, poachers and river sandbank dredgers.
 
Fully vaccinated travellers can now enter Cambodia and it has nearly 90% of its population fully vaccinated, one of the highest rates in Asia. The ideal time to visit this idyllic corner of the world is between December to April as the southwest Cambodia region near the Thai border enjoys blue skies and rain free days.

Talk to your travel advisor about planning a visit that supports the wilderness and wildlife of South-East Asia.
 

Start Your Trip!


Images courtesy Anantara Hotels & Resorts, Cardamom Tented Camp and The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF).

Celebrate the Festive Season - or Make a Gift of the Holidays at Four Seasons Across North America
There’s only one holiday season, but the luxury lifestyles of one of many Four Seasons hotels or resorts is just around the corner - either a drive or a short-haul flight - from many of us, and our loved ones.

Treating ourselves during the festive season, or giving our loved ones the gift of a recognized luxury travel brand experience in your hometown or at a favorite destination - will help make this holiday special and memorable.

Here are some suggestions to help you get into the Christmas spirit - or capture the holiday magic for your loved ones.

Your expert travel advisor can help you create the perfect luxury travel experience or give the perfect gift, from wellness, culinary, and family festive experiences.


Surround Yourself with Christmas Cheer


Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort gets into the Christmas spirit with a chocolate and gingerbread display created by its award-winning chef. Even a Christmas Grinch can’t help but smile at the charming life-size gingerbread house, with candy canes, lollipops, Santa and more, Plus - it’s the perfect holiday photo backdrop for your social media holiday post. You can enjoy festive treats including holiday gelato flavours such as chocolate peppermint, while the little ones try their hands at cookie decorating.

At Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia, the holiday display takes the form of a modern arctic wonderland. A large, mirrored polar bear flanked by custom made flocked trees and poinsettias adorned with snow. The holiday magic extends to the ground floor's reflective Christmas tree and the fifth floor's life-size reindeer, creating a majestic holiday scene and the perfect backdrop for holiday photos.

Make a List, Check it Twice… then get some Help


Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street, Boston’s Wellness Floor has curated a holiday gift guide featuring bespoke experiences and products for mindful giving. You can fill your loved ones’ stockings with certificates for a side-by-side couples massage or Cryotherapy Energy facial and gifts such as candles, cashmere loungewear and beautiful Italian leather handbags. Maybe slip one treat in there for yourself for your next visit to Boston, too.

Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC’s Holiday Market is a goldmine of the gifts and culinary works of local artisans as well as the Hotel's craftspeople including their pastry chef’s gourmet hot chocolate bar. And you can shop for your loved ones surrounded by live music entertainment, light and snow displays. You can feel even better about holiday gift giving this seasons as a portion of the proceeds from every sale is donated to Children's National Hospital.

Culinary Christmas - and the Whole Holiday Season


Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel is ringing in the holidays in style. A series of prix fixe menus for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, along with a New Year's Day Brunch let you leave all the work to the hotel chefs - and you can choose to indulge fully with options like caviar, a seafood platter, and Bloody Mary and bottomless champagne bar. The restaurant, which overlooks the famed Rodeo Drive, will also be offering a special holiday afternoon tea, complete with delicate and elegant Italian desserts by its chef.

The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler’s popular Vintage Camper is back for the winter, serving up decadent hot chocolate and cook-your-own s'mores. Guests can enjoy a Tipsy Snowman, the Resort's playful signature hot chocolate, or wind down with a complimentary wine tasting offered every evening featuring a selection of local British Columbia wines.

Hands-on Holiday Experiences



At Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley, a limited-time winter wonderland pop-up reimagines an alpine village. Rustic wooden chalets take center stage, while 'snowfall,' fireside movies, an après-ski menu including s'mores and hot cocktails create an inviting experience on the outdoor terrace. The village includes a sweet shoppe, Instagrammable life-sized snow globe and more.

Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina’s #FSWAYFINDERS program is a weekly series featuring art, culture, history, and in-depth workshops that make the holidays in Hawaii come alive. A curated group of artisans and crafters offers intimate and engaging learning opportunities including ukulele lessons, coconut hat weaving, lei making, evening stargazing and hula workshops with all proceeds going to the artisans themselves.

Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire keeps the holidays active, with horseback riding across the 500 acres of parkland, the ultimate treetop challenge, a relaxing ride on a traditional horse-drawn carriage or a unique bird-watching experience on a wildlife walk.


Restoring from Stresses of the Holiday Season


Four Seasons Hotel Austin’s The Spa has two festive ways to treat winter-ravaged skin and stressed-out bodies. Picture yourself or a loves one enjoying a Peppermint Facial or a Fire & Ice Massage. Up the ante with an after-hours private booking that allows for full access of the entire spa complete with the hotel’s margarita cart.

Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas uses locally sourced materials in its seasonal relaxation treatment. The Cranberry Pomegranate Body Treatment features a wrap, head massage, and full body scrub and leaves you feeling restored for another day of gaming, entertainment, and super-sized shopping of Sin City.

Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole is celebrating the winter solstice with restorative yoga and intention setting sessions. Guests can enjoy a complimentary restorative yoga session and wassail, the traditional warming drink you sing about in Christmas carols.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North is also commemorating the winter solstice with guided meditation, sound healing and intention setting on the longest night of the year.

#HappyHolidays




Images courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts







The Most "Amazing Journeys" in 2022, According to National Geographic's Experts Looking at travel through five lenses: nature, adventure, sustainability, culture and history, and family, NatGeo’s experts have narrowed a world of travel riches into a list of 25 can’t-miss journeys next year. read more
World First UNESCO Trail Connects 13 Sites in Scotland 13 diverse sites with natural and cultural significance, including World Heritage Sites, Biospheres, Global Geoparks and Creative Cities now form a dedicated digital trail. read more
Malama Hawaii Program: Giving Back on a Trip to Paradise
The Hawaiian Islands may draw you to their other-worldly tropical beauty, South-Pacific culture and warm welcome, legendary beaches and seaside lifestyle.

But the most memorable trip to Hawaii may be the one that gives back.

The Malama Hawaii Program connects visitors to activities that make a difference to the islands’ land, ocean, wildlife, forests, fishponds, and communities. Malama means 'give back' and it puts you in a position to become part of Hawaii, leave it an even better place… and have vacation memories of a lifetime.

It’s about building real relationships between people and place, and enriching your life as well as the destination you visit.

The Malama Hawaii Program has brought together a number of hotels and resorts, tour companies, and local volunteer organizations in a collaboration for the good the Hawaii that everyone loves. 

Volunteer projects range from reforestation and tree planting to self-directed beach cleanups, ocean reef preservation, and even creating Hawaiian quilts for kupuna (elders).

Visitors gain a more enriching travel experience through their positive impact, and may also qualify for perks like discounts or even a free night’s stay at a participating hotel or resort by participating in its dedicated volunteer activity.

There are opportunities to Malama on at least four of Hawaii’s visitable islands.

Oahu


In Oahu, check in with the community group Malama Maunalua to participate in a volunteer activity allowing them to malama aina. Volunteers will learn about ecological issues affecting Maunalua Bay and participate in removing three types of invasive algae threatening marine sanctuaries in the bay’s nearshore waters.

Get hands-on during an immersive, volunteer workday with eco-nonprofit Papahana Kualoa. You’ll sink your feet into the satisfyingly muddy earth of its loi kalo (irrigated taro terraces) to do the good work of helping plant or harvest kalo, a staple crop of the Native Hawaiian diet.


Maui


Don’t miss the ocean conservation activities at the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation. Visitors in the foundation’s Coastal Marine Debris Monitoring Program head out to Maui’s scenic coastline areas to collect and track debris. Data recorded by the foundation helps to mitigate and prevent shoreline and marine life damage.

You can also participate in the critical environmental work of removing invasive species from Maui’s protected lands, by volunteering to help with restoration and conservation projects of the nonprofit Hawaii Land Trust, which does vital stewardship work contributing to wildlife protection efforts at the island’s Waihee Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge.

Island of Hawaii


Visitors can volunteer to help restore and replant a 275-acre lowland dry forest preserve, surrounded by nature at the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative. You may be able to be part of building trails, tree planting, clearing invasive plant life and more, all while taking in the sights and sounds of the preserve’s tranquil landscape.

Adventure seekers interested in mountain hiking and volunteer work are encouraged to look into the workdays of Uluhao o Hualalai for a private eco-tour traversing the mature koa and ohia forests of 8,271-foot Hualalai volcano. In addition to hiking to one of the volcano’s many craters and learning about the cultural significance of the surrounding landscape, visitors are also invited to participate in the group’s reforestation efforts by planting native trees.


Kauai


You can spend a part of your vacation experiencing Kauai’s verdant and vibrant forest areas with the Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project, and participate in a remote video review to help identify the island’s protected birds and their activity and patterns. You can also join a virtual seminar to learn more about the native forest birds and the eco-project’s conservation efforts. Held monthly, the project’s Forest Fridays virtual series focus on the protection of the threatened native iiwi bird and three federally endangered native bird species — the puaiohi, akikiki, and akekee — with a goal of facilitating recovery of their populations in the wild. Visitors can also view prior series segments via the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project’s YouTube channel.


Ask your trusted travel advisor how you can Malama on your next trip to Hawaii.

#StartYourTrip!


Images: Hawaii Tourism Authority/ Heather Goodman
Rick Barboza of Papahana Kuaola and volunteers harvest kalo taro



This Entire Caribbean Island is now a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
This small French Caribbean island is known as the Isle of Flowers, the Rum Capital of the World, and now, its land mass, along with the marine zone around it, has become an over 12-million acre globally recognized eco-reserve.

Martinique has been inducted into UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program, so now over 5% of the Earth’s landmass is recognized for conservation of biodiversity, environmental education research, and sustainable development. The organization describes Martinique as “the 12th biosphere reserve along the volcanic arc of the Caribbean, one of the world’s 35 biodiversity hotspots. Its richness is unique, as it includes many endemic species living in rare and endangered habitats.”

It adds how remarkable the French Caribbean island’s geology is, featuring the 4,583-foot Mount Pelée volcano (pictured above), sleeping ‘mornes’ (or small mountains) and a coastline of bays and coves. The rainforest covering the island’s foothills and the mangroves along its coastline demonstrate its vital role as part of an ecological corridor between the Americas.


The UNESCO Biosphere recognition also comes in part as acknowledgment of the island’s commitment to sustainable economic and social development while preserving their local natural and cultural wealth, which is a key element required for UNESCO recognition.

Fewer than 400,000 people live in Martinique, and most are involved in food production or tourism.
 
With all the infrastructure as an overseas region of France, Martinique’s unspoiled beaches, volcanic peaks, rainforests, waterfalls, streams, and other natural wonders are unparalleled in the Caribbean, giving visitors the best of both worlds, and making it the perfect destination for nature lovers.

Two-thirds of Martnique is protected parkland. Its warm, humid climate nurtures a vast array of vivid tropical blooms, as well as a hundred species of orchids, leading to its nickname as the Isle of Flowers.


Rainforest trees also abound. Mahogany, magnolias, and bamboo all tower as tall as more than 10 people, and yet are still dwarfed by Martinique’s yellow mangroves, chestnuts, and white palm trees, sea grapes, and manchineel trees.
 
An incredible 80+ miles of well-maintained hiking trails of differing levels take active visitors through beaches, bays, and mountain rainforests, through nature reserves and past lighthouses, up Mount Pelée volcano, and across coastal paths.


You can also experience Martinique’s extraordinary natural wonders by horseback, mountain bike, kayaking or canoeing excursion. For even more adrenaline, try canyoning, where you climb to the top of a waterfall, look down into the mists of the tumbling waters—and take an incredible leap into the void below. Or get a taste of its world-famous surfing scene.
 
There’s much more to Martinique than its magnificent tropical eco-experiences. You’ll use Euro as the local currency, and hear French spoken as the official language, but then Martinique’s unique qualities takeover, including Afro-Caribbean Creole character, cuisine, musical heritage, art, culture, everyday language and identity.

Start Your Trip!


Images courtesy of Martinique Tourism: https://us.martinique.org/

Sloths Named the New National Animal of this Central American Country
Slow-moving, sweet-faced and gentle sloths have taken the world by storm, becoming one of the most beloved creatures in popular culture in the last few years.

Formerly a synonym for laziness, sloths have become cultural darlings, with their famously adorable countenances that always seem to be smiling sweetly, 270-degree, slow head rotations, ability to hold their breath underwater for over half an hour, and a digestive system that takes days to process food. Sloth encounters have famously turned celebrities to tears, and have become among the top requested travel experiences.

Now, two of the six types of sloths in the world today have become national symbols of Costa Rica: the Two-Toed Sloth and the Three-Toed Brown Sloth. The country made the announcement ahead of world-wide International Sloth Day on October 20th.

 
According to The Costa Rica News, while signing the new law, Costa Rica’s president proclaimed, “I celebrate the new national symbol: the sloth, the friendly and peaceful animal that is an international benchmark for animal protection.”
 
Another official explained the move “sends a clear message to our society and the entire world, that our social pact with the environment is not reduced to the simple protection of large areas of land, but also shelters the species that live there.” Nearly 30% of the country is protected as a nature park or reserve.
 
Now, areas around known sloth habitats will be protected, and traffic slowed to reduce harm to the adorable, slow-moving creatures who are not able to walk, but pull themselves in slow-motion across the ground.
 
The country’s residents see a connection between the sloth’s easy-going, relaxed lifestyle, spending most of its time swinging gently from tree limbs, to the peaceful, Costa Rican ‘Pura Vida’ mindset which focuses on a living life with little stress and instead, enriching the mind, body and soul. 
 
Even prior to its adoption as national animal, sloths were already among the best-known animals that visitors from North America look forward to spotting on a visit to Costa Rica.

Responsible Sloth Spotting in Costa Rica


Of the six sloth species in the world, Costa Rica is home to two unendangered subspecies – the Two-Toed Sloth and Three-Toed Brown Sloth, which are both typically spotted in tree canopies around the country.
 
While sloths can be spotted all throughout Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio National Park, Limón, Monteverde, the Osa Peninsula, Arenal, and Tortuguero are great places to start.
 
But spotting a sloth in the wild can be a challenge. Although they have few natural defenses, sloths can be hard to spot as their fur blends in well with the branches they hang from.