A guest post by Ellen Barone
There’s nothing like a new year to get you dreaming about the Next Big Adventure. From emerging destinations to new ideas for old favorites, here are five suggestions to help you adventure beyond the ordinary in 2012.
1. THE GALAPAGOS, ECUADOR – Once upon a time the Galapagos archipelago was a cruise-only destination. But for those who prefer terra firma, there are some exciting new land-based alternatives. Red Mangrove Galapagos & Ecuador Lodges, for example, offer visitors a different way to discover the islands from the comfort of a network of upscale waterfront lodges situated on Santa Cruz, Isabela and Floreana islands. But don’t worry. You’ll still get up-close-and-personal with the islands’ legendary wildlife. Their lodge-to-lodge adventure tours include an abundance of both on shore activities and off shore opportunities to meet the neighbors.
IF YOU GO:
Red Mangrove Galapagos & Ecuador Lodges offer 3, 5, 6 and 8-day full-adventure, soft-adventure, and pre/post cruise Galapagos tours and Galapagos diving options. (www.redmangrove.com; 888 254 3190; from $898 US per person).
2. VENICE, ITALY – The canals of Venice are among the world’s most famous waterways and the storied city is hardly off the beaten path. Like many travelers, I’d been there. Thought I’d done that. But ever since a friend shared her experience of exploring Venice’s historic canals by kayak, I’ve found myself day dreaming about paddling past glistening 17th-century palaces, exploring sleepy side channels, slipping through the morning mist, and gliding down the Grand Canal at sunset.
IF YOU GO:
Venice Kayak offers a variety of half-day, full-day and multi-day guided kayaking tours in and around Venice. (www.venicekayak.com; +39 346 477 1327, from €120)
3. NICARAGUA – For decades Costa Rica has been the obvious choice for adventure travel in Central America. But just over the border lies lesser-known Nicaragua, where you can hike up steaming volcanoes, zip-line through tropical forests filled with parrots, toucans, and monkeys, surf Pacific waves, swim in picturesque crater lakes, and kayak among las Isletas, a chain of 365 small islands in Lake Nicaragua, Latin America’s second largest lake. With fewer visitors, a rich colonial and indigenous history, burgeoning tourism infrastructure, and an ever-increasing selection of unique and eco-friendly accommodations, Nicaragua is an ideal destination for adventurous travelers eager to discover the benefits of getting there before the masses.
IF YOU GO:
Adventure Expeditions offers 7,8 and 9-day tour packages including luxury and eco certified accommodations, daily adventures, expert guide services, airport transfers, transportation within Nicaragua, and most meals. (www.adventureexpeditions.net; 866 431 3094; from $1,295 US).
4. THE CANADIAN ROCKIES – Often misperceived as a place where bus tours and grannies go, this stunning region of snow-capped peaks, evergreen forests and glistening glacial lakes is so much more than a pretty view. For adventurous free spirits seeking vast, unspoiled, and raw wilderness, this mountain playground is pure natural nirvana. From multi-day cycle touring and white water rafting trips to hot-springs and heli-hiking, a trip to the Canadian Rockies, with it’s glorious high altitude weather, is guaranteed to get your heart pumping.
IF YOU GO:
Whether you’re a rank beginner or seasoned mountain veteran, CMH Summer Adventures offer once-in-a-lifetime helicopter adventures including skiing, hiking, walking, mountaineering, and via ferrata. (www.cmhsummer.com; 800 661 0252/ from $1,780 CDN).
5. CHIAPAS, MEXICO – Tell people you’re headed to Mexico and you’ll likely be warned to be careful, to reconsider, or even encouraged not to go at all. However, after months of living and working in Mexico recently, I am happy to report that the country remains a warm, welcoming, and, with the exception of a few cartel hotspots, a safe place to visit. Journey beyond the headlines to Chiapas, a region that is still largely unknown to travellers. Rich with Maya culture, colonial-era hill towns, vast canyons, and raging rivers, visitors can hike to hidden waterfalls, explore ancient Maya ruins, kayak through Pacific coast mangroves teaming with crocodiles, ospreys and herons, and savor some of the most flavorful cuisine on the planet.
IF YOU GO:
Austin Lehman Adventures’ Chiapas based Rainforest to Ruins adventure offers 8-days of hiking, biking and touring the heart and soul of Mexico's exotic last frontier. (www.austinlehman.com; 800 575 1540; custom planning and pricing).
Ellen Barone is a freelance photojournalist specializing in travel. For the latest travel news, tips, and reviews, visit her website at EllenBarone.com.