The weekly photo sharing event #FriFotos is starting the new year with a great theme – NEW. There are so many different photos I could share along these lines, but I wanted most to share with everyone some of my favorite places to visit around the world that may not be as well known as London or Paris, but which are no less enjoyable to explore. This is a random list in random order based only on my feelings, but I hope you like it and find some new destinations to discover in 2015.
Maui certainly isn’t off the beaten path, but parts of this beautiful Hawaiian island are. The Pīpīwai trail, located just 12 miles from the heavenly town of Hana, is a 4-mile hike through the jungle. Full of lush rainforests, stunning waterfalls and a veritable cathedral of bamboo trees, the hike was a special one not just for the beautiful scenery but because I was alone. Unlike the busy beaches, few tourists visit this lonely section of the island allowing me several hours of beautiful introspection; easily one of the highlights of my trip.
Known locally as the residence of early conservationist Grey Owl, today Kingsmere Lake is a remote but peaceful enclave tucked away deep in the woods of Saskatchewan. To get there involves driving through vast prairies and national park lands, boating up rivers and finally portaging to the lake itself. That’s right, you have to actually carry your boat to the lake. But it’s worth it, to be on a massive lake with nary a soul on it and to enjoy nature as it should be, peacefully and beautifully – it’s the experience that visitors to Canada crave and this is one of the best places to find it.
Separating Namibia and Botswana is a unique place along the Chobe River where your safari dreams all come true. Getting there isn’t easy and involves a couple of flights, overland transportation, a few runabout boats and crossing several immigration checkpoints, but it’s all worth it. The Zambezi Queen is a luxury boat permanently moored in this far away spit of river, but from the boat you will see some of Africa’s most beautiful creatures converge. Herds of elephants, hippos alongside the banks, crocodiles and thousands of birds, most of which I never learned the names for. It’s one of my favorite travel memories and should be on everyone’s travel bucket lists.
Located near Milan and Bergamo in Northern Italy, I was surprised by this small, planned city in nearly every way. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, industrialists around the world created what became known as ‘company towns.’ These small communities centered around a particular company gave workers everything they needed, from housing to stores and even cemeteries. Many of these towns were nothing but a way for the company owners to further control their workers, keeping them under their proverbial heels, but some became enlightened examples of proper labor management. Crespi d’Adda is one such enlightened community and instead of seeking to subjugate their employees, the town was created to provide them with a better quality of life. While the company has long since shuttered, people still call this town home and walking through the planned community it’s easy to imagine the well-ordered life that once existed here.
It doesn’t get more off the beaten path than Antarctica, but a trip down to the bottom of the world is well worth the effort, especially for visits to places like Deception Island. The bay of the island is actually part of an active volcano, which is what makes the waters so unusually warm and is probably one of the reasons why it has served as bases for whalers and sealers through the decades. Today those bases are abandoned, but all of the buildings, belongings and even a cemetery remain in place, an eerie reminder of how hard life is in this extreme part of the world.
Australia can be strange at times, but I think that’s why I love it so very much. Tucked away in the middle of massive Western Australia is an evolutionary wonder, one of the few living examples of stromatolites in the world. Billions of years ago the ancestors of these rock-like organisms paved the way for life on the planet, and so it was with a certain amount of awe and respect that I trekked out to find them for myself. Close to nothing, getting there can be a chore but the views of this most unusual sight more than make up for that long drive through the empty desert.
Taroko Gorge National Park, located in the center of Taiwan, is one of the world’s great natural treasures and yet few people outside of Taiwan have actually heard of it. It’s only a matter of time before this changes though because the unique combination of ice-blue waters, massive white marble boulders and breathtaking mountain vistas make Taroko a place unlike any other. Taiwan has had a violent geological past, and these powerful forces have played out in the now serene river and mountains that make the island nation a mystical place to visit. Walking along the trail, I couldn’t help but stare down at the rushing river flagged by pure marble boulders; as if a Roman coliseum had fallen into its depths. I began to understand the Taiwanese appreciation for the power of nature, the moments of solitude it affords and how nature can replenish us in both body and soul.
Again, this is another place well known within the country, but I don’t think that the Overberg is all that well known outside of South Africa. A country full of beautiful landscapes, this may be one of my favorites. The Overberg is part of South Africa’s Western Cape and lies just an hour or so from the great magnet of the south, Cape Town. There’s a lot to do and see in this small region, from 4×4 treks into the fynbos covered hills to a picnic along the beautiful beaches. Close to Stellenbosch and other wine areas, it’s a great day trip or even a place to call your home-base as you explore one of South Africa’s great natural treasures.
Located along the massive Danube River, Passau in Germany actually sits at the confluence of three rivers. It’s also an extremely easy city to explore on foot and fits the bill for what we all think cute European towns should look like. While I’m sure it’s great to visit at almost any time of year, I was there around the Christmas holiday and the city was alive with activity. The Christmas market in front of the cathedral and the shops all welcoming in yuletide shoppers added to my own enjoyment of the season. Add in the best lebkuchen or gingerbread I’ve ever had, and it was a winning combination.
Located about 48 kilometers from the nearest town, Brooks (population 13,000), and close to any number of small villages, Dinosaur Provincial Park is not a place one chances upon. This UNESCO World Heritage Site may not be an urban site, but that is part of its charm. Calling the Canadian Badlands home, the Park includes nearly 20,000 acres of stunning badlands terrain, hiding just beneath the soil those oh so famous dinosaurs. For me it was nice to visit such a remote location, to get away from the hustle and bustle and to be forced into a state of focus; focus on the park itself and the overall experience. There’s a lot to be said for that and personally it made my time there all the more richer.