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North America Outdoors

13 National Parks Worth Visiting

With travel put on hold indefinitely due to COVID-19, National Parks have been the perfect refuge for local road trips. These are a few of the 62 National Parks worth making the trek for, and to help temporarily fulfill our wanderlust.

Arches

When you think of a landscape in the American Southwest, Moab, Utah, easily fills that image. With over 2,000 arches to explore, this sandstone saturated setting is an adventurer’s dream. Delicate Arch, Balanced Rock, Double Arch, and Park Avenue are just a few of the many recommended sights that will awe you in the desert.

Badlands



It might feel like you landed on a different planet when visiting Badlands National Park in South Dakota. The built-in walking paths spill out into expansive contours of unique rock formations. Take in the impressive spires and spend the day feeling out of this world. There’s a good chance you might even run into Bighorn Sheep, but hopefully from a distance.

Bryce Canyon


Walking among the hoodoos on the Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail is a surreal experience. You will be thrust into the thick depths of the orange canyon, all while taking in the up close and mesmerizing perspectives of the crusted compositions. It all culminates to a jaw-dropping view of Thor’s hammer.

Canyonlands


It’s all about the dramatic views. “Island in the Sky” is a very suitable name for an area of this park. Overlooks will have you peering into the cores of craters that look like huge imprints left behind from something extraterrestrial. For one of the most epic settings in the National Park System, make sure to take in the scene of Mesa Arch, an easy 0.7 mile trail.

Grand Canyon

When you ask someone where they want to travel, one of the answers will likely be, “The Grand Canyon.” As you amble towards one of the rims, you will take in one of the most monumental panoramas you’ll ever see. The first thing one does when seeing the Grand Canyon is to simply stare and marvel at this wonder. Take things to the next level with a rafting trip on the Colorado River.

Grand Teton


If you are seeking solitude and yearning for the mountains, Grand Teton might be the perfect escape. The Teton mountain range naturally shows off its snow-capped stunning beauty via mirror reflections in its many majestic lakes. Close to Jackson Hole and adjacent to Yellowstone, it’s a park for all seasons but is particularly striking in the Fall. You might even experience a chance encounter with a moose, and where better to do that than in Moose, WY, where the Tetons are located.

Joshua Tree


These famous trees dot the desert landscape in southern California. It gets hot in this arid climate so it’s always most pleasant to visit in the winter, or spring, which is a notably great time to wander about as wild flowers are in full bloom. The Cholla Cactus Garden makes for a memorable sunset site while Barker Dam, Skull Rock, and Wall Street Mill are other hotspots to uncover.

Rocky Mountain


The Rockies are a quick ride from Denver, and makes a perfect day trip. There are bounds of nature sights, impressive lakes, and mountains to seek out. Elk will be plentiful and like to take their time crossing the streets in nearby Estes Park. It starts snowing early in Colorado so if you don’t feel like snowshoeing on the sometimes ice-covered trails, it’s recommended to visit before winter arrives.

Sequoia


Easily accessible from Los Angeles or San Francisco, this is where to go if you want to be wowed by huge trees. The impressive giant Redwoods will make one feel teeny-tiny when taking in the scope of their size. If a change of scenery from trees is needed, there are endless meadows to discover. Home to the world’s largest tree by volume, this is where the famous General Sherman tree lives. Crescent Meadow, Tokopah Falls, and the Congress Trail, are other must-see spots.

Shenandoah


One of the only accessible National Parks to east coasters, Shenandoah is an underrated gem. Popular with those who live in Washington, DC, a drive on Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge mountains is a necessity when visiting this park. It’s also perfect for leaf peeping, where one can enjoy the changing autumn colors. From easy to challenging, there are some great hiking options. Old Rag is the summit to ascend, which at 10.2 miles, will take a full day. Stony Man and Dark Hollow Falls are easier ones to climb, and should be added to your list.

Yellowstone


There’s a reason why Yellowstone became the first National Park in 1872. It’s beauty, diversity, and vast landscapes easily makes this park a one-of-a-kind experience. Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful might be famous geysers, but there are 500 hot springs in total. Waterfalls and wildlife are in abundance and the best spot to get your bison fix (from a distance) is in Hayden Valley.

Yosemite




In the land of waterfalls, there seems to be an impressive one in every direction. Some of the most famous viewpoints in the National Park System call Yosemite home such as Tunnel View, and Glacier Point. There’s a lot of ground and distance to cover in this park so a few days spent exploring is recommended, especially if you want to see past Yosemite Valley in the picturesque but less busy area of Tuolumne Meadows, and the many alpine lakes peppered throughout the park.

Zion


Visiting Zion feels like you were suddenly transported back in time to the Mesozoic Era. The spectacular overlooks commonly have astounding canyons that include varied red sedimentary rocks. Less commonly known, are the ample water features ranging from waterfalls, rivers, and creeks. This is a park for thrill-seekers as the two most popular hikes are Angel’s Landing and The Narrows, though there really is something for everyone.

There are so many amazing National Parks that are worth your time and these are just a few that will impress and bring some much-needed solace to your inner travel itch. With Fall quickly approaching and leaves soon to change, it’s the perfect time to jump in the car, hit the road, and surround yourself in nature amongst sensational surroundings.

Advice Outdoors Travel Planning

Conscious Travel: 8 Tips for a Sustainable Vacation

Regardless of our personal opinions, one thing remains an irrefutable fact: our planet is facing an ecological crisis. The environmental changes we witness everyday are increasingly serious and some of them are irreversible. Still, we can try to help the environment with small, but meaningful actions. One of them is sustainable travel. It’s an expanding territory that has grown alongside our own consciousness about the world that surrounds us and awareness of our intrinsically wasteful society. Sustainable travel, in its essence, means being aware of and try to minimize the impact tourism has on the environment and local communities. Here are eight ideas to help you make an informed decision when you go on vacation, keeping in mind you’ll be using your leisure time to contribute to sustainability.

E.R.I.E: Ecological, Responsible, Impactful, Ethical

Four simple words to guide you as a conscious traveler. Ecological is as simple as enjoying the environment in its natural form with activities such as camping. Being responsible just means you have to be aware of how your individual actions can impact local communities. “Impactful comes down to spending your pocket money on helping locals, as opposed to adhere to regular mass consumerism. Ethical refers to your moral duties to respect the environment, animals and communities,” explains Fiona Hill, a lifestyle blogger.

Keep It Local

It’s common knowledge that tourism makes up a huge part of many different economies. However, in order to ensure you are financially contributing to the local communities themselves, it is important to choose local products and activities. Avoid gift shops and their mass market production by choosing local keepsakes instead. A local business will most likely invest its profit back into their community, which is the opposite of what worldwide-known franchise chains do.

Avoid Over-tourism

Popular destinations such as Amsterdam, Venice, Barcelona and Paris might seem like a good vacation option. The history and aesthetics of those places are a no-brainer. However, they do tend to be overcrowded, punching a big hole in sustainability. There are so many other destinations that would benefit from your contribution to their underrated economy. Not to mention that it will be less stressful for you if you’re not constantly surrounded by massive crowds of tourists! “Why not choose the Portuguese islands of Azores or Madeira? Or perhaps explore the Greek paradise that is the Skyros Island? You’d be surprised with the range of alternatives available instead of your standard vacation destination,” says Silvia Olive, a travel blogger.

Alternative Accommodation

Avoid hotels! They are some of the greatest culprits in damaging the environment, with outrageous amounts of food waste, toiletry bottles thrown away without being fully used and AC units on full blast.

Choose hostels, locally owned hotels that don’t belong to international chains, or guest houses.

Say No to Cruise Ships!

Cruise ships are a big no-no in terms of sustainable travel. They are horrendous for the environment and don’t benefit local communities whatsoever when they dock. They pollute the oceans, damaging marine life and they don’t avoid plastic waste and fish consumption.

Pack Light

There are several benefits in packing lightly for your travels. If you choose carry-on luggage with only essentials, planes will carry less weight and consume less fuel. Also, with less luggage to transport, you can opt out of getting a cab from the airport to your chosen accommodation and use public transportation instead. Don’t pack wasteful items like plastic bags, containers or bottles!

No Clue Left Behind

Wherever you choose to travel, ensure you don’t remove objects from their original environment. Don’t litter! Reduce your waste by recycling and packing reusable items. You can always find local recycling points when on vacation.

Choose Mass Transportation

Take small steps to contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions. Choose shared services like Uber and local transport as opposed to taxis. You can also explore cities by walking or being part of bike share programs.

It’s becoming more and more important for us to be conscious about our decisions. We are all part of this planet and have our roles to play, small as they may be. Even when you’re having fun in your vacation, you can make small alterations that will help the environment, as well as creating new experiences for yourself.

 

Asia Giving Back Outdoors

Ethical Tourism for the Animal Lover

The thing we love most about traveling in a foreign place is the hours stretch out, time seems to slow down, stress fades away, and you feel like a kid again experiencing new things every day. You seem to remember every moment, smell, and taste. You pay attention to more and your soul is awakened!

Our most recent travels took us to Phuket, Thailand. This is the perfect destination to soak in the crystal blue water, burn your tongue on authentic street food, drink Chang beers while songs from the 90’s blare in the background, watch elephants roam free at the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, get slobbery kisses from rescue dogs at Soi Dog Foundation, and dance your heart away in the back of a crowded club while the sun comes up.

Ethical Tourism for the Animal LoverWhile Phuket is a relaxing paradise, it is also host to many tourist traps. The walls and back seats of tourist agencies and taxis are plastered with photos of people cuddling sedated tigers and riding on elephants. Travelers visit these places, which claim to be ethical, though their practices are far from. Thankfully, with the help of the internet and social media more people are becoming educated about the proper treatment of animals and ethical tourism.

Phuket Elephant Sanctuary

Ethical Tourism for the Animal LoverWe had the pleasure of spending the day at the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, which is the first ethical sanctuary in Phuket. These rescued elephants roam on their own agenda, enjoy their newfound freedom, socialize with each other, and bathe freely in fresh water. Visitors are encouraged to observe from a distance and at the end of the tour we were given the opportunity to feed these gentle giants.

The cruel practice of conditioning the elephants who perform goes largely unseen by tourists. This brutal process is known as ‘crushing the spirit’. The elephants are kept in a tiny pen to prevent movement, with their legs tied tightly. They can be severely beaten with sharp objects, screamed at, and starved of food and water. Although many elephants spend their entire lives in captivity, an increasing number are being cared for by organizations that allow them to live in natural, big, open spaces with other elephants and with proper food and veterinary care. Ethical tourism is the only way forward for these captive creatures.

How do you know you are visiting an ethical sanctuary for elephants? Here are some tips!

Ethical Tourism for the Animal Lover1. A real sanctuary will limit contact with the elephants, with visitors observing them from a distance the majority of the time.

2. Avoid anywhere offering riding or allowing bathing sessions with elephants. It’s not natural for an elephant to be in the water all day with lots of people climbing all over them.

3. Looking on review sites and images online before visiting elephant camps.

4. Avoid any places that are using bull-hooks or chains, or lacking basic provisions

of water, food and shade.

5. Avoid any place that has elephants performing tricks.

Watching elephants getting to be elephants was an incredible moment that we will cherish forever.

Soi Dog Foundation

Ethical Tourism for the Animal LoverAnother common sight in Thailand are the many dogs and cats roaming the streets. We have always been passionate about dogs and cats, helping any way we can, and treating them with love and affection. Unfortunately, many people do not share these sentiments, which leads to neglect, abuse, and torture by the hands of humans.

Thankfully, organizations like the Soi Dog Foundation in Phuket, Thailand exist.

Soi Dog welcomes volunteers from all over the world as they play a hugely important role in the socialization of the animals in their care, in preparation of them becoming adoptable. They offer different volunteer programs which is worth checking out! We learned all about the facility, the dog meat trade, and of course got smothered in puppy kisses and kitty cuddles.

Ethical Tourism for the Animal LoverThe foundation works to improve the welfare of dogs and cats in Asia. Not only do they campaign for animal welfare by working with the Asia Canine Protection Alliance, but they are actively fighting the Asian dog meat trade. The images of these suffering dogs were heartbreaking, but it gave us peace of mind knowing places like Soi Dog foundation are fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves and promoting ethical tourism.

We all have different customs, beliefs, and religions, but we all bleed red. It is the cruelty, torture, and the unnecessary pain inflicted on any animal that needs to stop because all lives matter. Animals are sentient beings able to experience emotions such as fear, pain, joy, and contentment. There are documented stories of animals doing things that we find extraordinary, but it just comes naturally to them. Elephants guarding people who need help, humpback whales protecting seals from killer whales, and dogs knowing when their human companions are sad. Empathy is an emotion we share with animals, and we all need to do our part in making an effort to treat all living things with kindness. We can easily do this by making sure that we participate in ethical tourism.

Compassion can guide us to acts of kindness, and who doesn’t want to live in a kind world?

 

Europe Outdoors

5 Winter Hotspots in Switzerland

A trip to Switzerland in winter is an incredible experience from spectacular alpine views to Christmas markets and fondue feasts. Explore the enchanting Old Towns and experience the Swiss train journeys that run through a winter wonderland from city to city. The soaring peaks of the Alps offer world-class skiing and other thrilling winter sports. Plan your itinerary around these five winter hotspots in Switzerland.

1. Zurich

Although much of the Zurich’s ancient Old Town has been lovingly preserved to resonate with pre-medieval history, the city embraces the contemporary with cultural centres in converted old factories and a riveting nightlife. Plan your trip to coincide with all the wonderful Christmas markets around the city open during the Advent period. Stroll the stalls and enjoy mulled wine with all the excited shoppers. Don a pair of skates and hit the ice on a temporary skating rink set up in the middle of the market or leave the city for authentic ice skating on a frozen natural lake. A ride on the Fondue Tram is a must-do. The tram leaves Bellevue and zips past the city’s most scenic sights while you’re served a savory cheese fondue and desserts.

2. Zermatt

The quaint mountain town of Zermatt is a popular ski resort in winter. Sitting at an elevation of around 1600 kilometers, the town is within view of the famed pyramid-shaped Matterhorn peak. Hotels, restaurants, and fashionable boutiques line the main street for a vibrant après-ski scene. The winter season brings the opening of public ice skating rinks in a car-free destination, and snowboarders and freestylers practice at Snowpark Zermatt aside hopeful Olympians. Skiiers can hone their skills on around 360 meters of pistes and make a possible crossover into some of Northern Italy’s ski regions from the Matterhorn glacier’s Theodul Pass.

3. Lucerne

The cozy and compact city of Lucerne is situated on the magnificent Lake Lucerne and surrounded by towering snow-capped peaks including Mount Titlis and Mount Pilatus. The River Reuss winds through the colorful façades of Old Town where you can have hot chocolate or mulled wine in a picture-postcard setting at a riverside café. The 14th-century Chapel Bridge crosses the River Reuss diagonally at the Water Tower to the north bank where you’ll find accommodations and restaurants. Visit the south bank to marvel at the Jesuit Church of Saint Francis Xavier with its iconic twin onion domes and marble stucco interior.

4. St Moritz

For a winter getaway filled with luxury, place the alpine village of St. Moritz at the top of your winter hotspot list. Located in the stunning Engadin Valley, the town has twice hosted the Winter Olympics with its famed bobsled run of all-natural ice and Olympic outdoor skating rink. For the unusual, you’ll want to experience White Turf horse racing, cricket, and polo on the frozen lakes. The areas of Corviglia, Diavolezza, and Corvatsch are the scene of pristine cross country ski trails. The après-ski lifestyle here is quite glamorous, so don’t be surprised to see a celebrity or two in town.

5. Swiss Mountains

Winter sports and the Swiss Mountains are practically inseparable and include an array of thrilling activities including skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, ski gliding, snowshoeing, and more. Tourists and winter sports enthusiasts cram the resorts throughout the season for fun in a picture-perfect setting surrounded by the Alps. You’ll find a variety of resorts from cozy and affordable to posh and pricey. Some of the most popular are in St. Moritz, Zermatt, Davos, and Verbier. The resorts provide great facilities like cable cars and chair lifts. And if you’re new to skiing, no worries, you’ll find several ski schools throughout Switzerland.

Advice Luxury Outdoors

5 Beautiful Islands You Must Visit In 2020

If you are already planning your holiday for 2020 – then you will definitely want to look into some of the most beautiful islands you can choose as your destination.  We have done all of the work for you – so you can have some great ideas for your next trip.  

Seychelles

The Seychelles almost need no introduction.  Although there are seasons – generally you can experience great weather all year round.  One of its most attractive qualities is that the beaches are literally unspoiled – with blinding white sands and clear blue seas.  If you are a bit of an adventure seeker – you may also like some of the hikes you can take advantage of at the Seychelles. There are different trails for novices and more experienced hikers.  For those of you who are nature lovers – you will also get to experience some endangered species such as Aldabra giant tortoises.

There are 65 different endangered species that are home to the Seychelles.  If you are planning on a holiday later on in the year – you will definitely want to go the Creole Festival where there is a fantastic party atmosphere. If you are looking for looking for ultimate luxury – you can even rent your own private island.  

Mykonos

Despite its reputation – Mykonos isn’t only a place where you can enjoy a party atmosphere – it’s also a fantastic destination as a family holiday.  They have various beaches with golden sands that fit into any criteria. There are beaches to go to for DJ’s and parties – and quieter options for families. It’s also home to some amazing accommodation.  There are fantastic Mykonos luxury villas you can rent out that have epic views.

If you are going to stay in the island – we would recommend you definitely check out some of the Mykonos luxury villas instead of a hotel.  One of the things you will notice in Mykonos is that it is full of whitewashed houses which makes for a beautiful setting, and if you are a foodie – you will most definitely want to taste some of their local culinary delights such as baklava or amygdalota.  

Hawaii

Hawaii is on most people’s bucket list and is perfect for a romantic break away.  Much like The Seychelles – Hawaii has some of the beautiful beaches in the world. The waterfalls are also a sight for sore eyes.  The beautiful rainforests will have you feeling as if you are in an enchanted island. Maui is definitely best for that. Adrenaline junkies will love the activities that are on offer at Hawaii.  There are lots of water sports to enjoy such as scuba diving, snorkelling, surfing and more.  You can even go on an underwater cruise.

Hawaii is also home to Haleakala, which is one of the most famous volcanoes in the world, based in Maui.  If it is a romantic vacation, you are looking to enjoy – then you will love the scenery. As well as the lush beaches, you will find spectacular sunsets and sunrises that look as if they have come straight out of a postcard.  

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Capri

If you haven’t been to Capri – it should definitely be on your list of destinations for 2020.  There is so much to enjoy including the world famous Piazetta.  Here you will find different cafes that are open for early risers to enjoy an early morning cappuccino – to those of you who would like a late-night glass of wine. 

If you really want to experience the island of Capri, you should do you can do so by boat. You could spend a few hours exploring their coves and grottos and experience something a little different.  There are also regular boat tours that you can enjoy to take you around the island. You can indulge in some fantastic food dishes when you head to Capri. There is of course the caprese salad that contains, mozzarella, basil leaves, tomatoes and olive oil which can be fond pretty much everywhere you go.  The home of pizza also isn’t too far away. In fact, it’s an hour away in Naples. There is also lots of nightlife in Naples. Dinner time is normally around 10pm – and you will find that some of the nightclubs don’t even open until 12am. Most people who stay in Capri tend to have a bit of a disco nap during the day so they can stay out later at night.  If you love your wine, then Capri should also be on your list of destinations. Sit back, relax and enjoy a Chianti.  

The Most Picturesque Hotels In Italy

If you want to make your next holiday a bit more special – then make sure you research these fabulous islands for a trip of a lifetime.

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