Monument Valley in the Four Corners area is great for hiking and just taking in the beauty of the west as it must have been! It was also the setting for more Western movies than any other location. You can watch some of the old westerns filmed here online. Start out with "John Ford's American West"
How you get there (to Yosemite) is important. If you have the time and some patience come by way of Maripossa. Entering from the south west. Follow route 41 north. As you wind your way towards the park the mountains are beautiful. But really "you ain't seen nuttin yet". There's a tunnel you will drive through. As you exit it turn left into the parking lot and walk to the edge. Just trust me, the miles you have travelled to get there will be forgoten. Make sure you have your camera, and good luck not looking like a total goof as your jaw hits the pavement "not literally please".
Sit there, try to grasp for the words to describe this vision. Good luck with that one, i couldn't. Make reservations well in advance to stay at Camp Curry and leave nothing in your car with an aroma. BEARS! If you really want to splurge. Stay at the Ahwahnee hotel on the valley floor and ask Kathy the Concierge for the best views and hikes. Tell her Matt say's "hey". Enjoy, slow down get out there, walk, climb or sit and watch the Merced river race away through the valley. Trust me you will never see the world the same. The place stays with you. Peace, Matt.
250km north of the Arctic Circle, Abisko Mountain Station is an up-market hostel with fantastic food, a glorious location and comfortable, reasonably priced accommodation (including a self-caterring option). It's a short walk to the 20 minute chair lift to the Aurora Sky Station near the top of Mt Nuolja, the driest spot in Sweden and one of the world's best places to see the Aurora Borealis. There's a good chance you'll have a 360 degree show right over your head. One legend has it that the shimmering lights are swans frozen to the sky, struggling to break free. Duck into the sky station cafe every so often for a warm up by the wood stove, hot chocolate and the aurora exhibition. There are guided tours and it's possible to stay up there overnight. By day there are many cross-country ski trails, as well as snow shoeing, ice climbing and the chance to learn about Sami culture and the local flora and fauna.
Details of Abisko Mountain Station on www.abisko.nu/vinter/englishpages/index.asp
www.auroraskystation.se/ for the Aurora Sky Station.
There is a dedicated railway station, 19 hours from Stockholm or one hour from Kiruna.
Google map: tinyurl.com/ylks5b4
Yosemite National Park is a fitness resort with unlimited use for people of all age groups. We are ramblers and often find the States poor for trails but the High Sierra Hiking Guide edition for Yosemite offered us some great walks and hints for comfort. White water rafting outside of the park on the river Merced was great as we stopped to swim and dive off rocks (not certain this would fit EU rules)! Many rock climbers could be seen climbing anything and everything up to El Capitan some 3,593 ft up. Accommodation and food in the park is basic (plan ahead). Why look for a gym when the whole park is a sports ground on offer 24 hrs a day 365 days a year.
Set on a rocky outcrop above a watering hole used by passing zebras, warthogs and elephants, tshukudu is luxury in paradise.
Individual wooden lodges (there are six) with sunken baths overlooking the view through floor to ceiling windows. My husband and I spent the first three days of our honeymoon here. Two jeep safaris each morning and evening and very knowledgable guides, we saw lions walk past the front of our jeep less than 10 feet away. But the best thing was the food - six courses introduced to you each evening by the chef with wine chosen for the occasion. Your guide ate with you so you could discuss what had been seen that day. Best. Holiday. Ever.
We were looking for something a little more unconvential than a Kruger safari but which still allowed us total emersion into the South African countryside: Thendele is just the ticket. Nestled in the folds of the Drakensburg Mountains, Thendele Camp sits in an awe-inspiring position overlooking the towering expanse of the Amphitheatre. Nature at its best and most dramatic.
The camp consists of several thatched huts, basic but clean and comfortable. We took the self-catering option, so you really are your own boss. There is a small store on the site but really you need to bring most of your provisions with you. It is not the easiest place to get to and after passing the toll barrier into The Royal Natal National Park, the camp is literally the end of the road! But it is well worth the adventure!
The area is a showcase for the diversity of South Africa's landscape; the numerous hiking trails lead you through cascading waterfalls; lush green hillsides and scarred rockfaces. Just as varied is the wildlife; home to the bearded vulture and black eagle, boks and baboons. Which leads me on to the only danger of a stay at Thendele- the baboons. They have 007 stealth and will take any opportunity to investigate your belongings. So ensure all doors and windows are carefully closed!
Thendele offers seclusion and excitment: a natural high!
For those staying in Johannesburg, and want to get away from the malls and the bustle of the city then in easy driving distance are two great places. If wildlife is what you want to see and Kruger is too far away, then head to the Pilanesberg game reserve. You can see all of the 'Big Five' there, and is located in the fantastic crater of a former volcano. It is quite a distance for one night, so visitors could go to Sun City, which is very close to the game reserve.
The other place near Johannesburg is Magaliesberg, which has a wide array of things to do.
Green spaces, clean air, tranquility and not a sky scraper in sight - surely we're not talking about Mumbai (Bombay)?
Located in the northern end of the crowded, over-populated, polluted island city of Mumbai is the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. A 104 sq km island of greenery in the urban jungle. Instead of being harassed by street vendors you get monkeys chasing after you for a snack or spotted deer obstructing your path.
Deep within the park are the Kanheri Buddhists caves which were carved out by Buddhists monks between the 6th and 11th century AD. The near absence of visitors allows you to take your time and comfortably view the detailed rock carvings of Buddha.
You can easily find the national park and the caves in the northern suburb of Borivali - about 90 mins drive from south Mumbai or you can organise a private pick up and a tour with reality tours which'll cost you Rs 4000.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park is in the suburb or Borivali. Bombay's roads can be a minefield for visitors - take a taxi or even better take a private tour with Reality tourshttp://www.realitytoursandtravel.com/
Google map: tinyurl.com/y9vmesj
I have visited the Kruger park over 15 times with my family over recent years. Tom Kelly's overview of the Kruger gives the impression that it's hard to eat cheaply there - but the Kruger is a great pace for a budget family holiday. You can stay in cheap accommodation at most rest camps (usually fixed safari tents for two or four or budget huts for two-six which are spotlessly clean and have comfortable beds and a wash basin). In addition to more expensive restaurants, all the rest camps have cheap cafes and shops selling food so you can eat well indoors or have a BBQ (braai) under the stars for next to nothing. In general, most of the wildlife tends to congregate in the Southern area of the park (from Skukuza down to Crocodile Bridge and across to Malelane)so this is the area I would most recommend - but the Northern areas of the park have fewer tourists and thus are more peaceful.
Arribes del Duero. Natural Park.
The big granite rocky walls as banks of Duero river are an inmense stunning natural park. It is placed between Spain and Portugal, near to Zamora and Salamanca in Spain.
The town named Aldeadávila de la Ribera is situated very near to the rocky banks. These wall banks reach up to 400 metres high.
An extraordinary mild clima, at this northern place, where vegetal species such orange tree, lemon tree and olive tree grown around the bushes.
The landscape is a sparsely populated area where birdwatching people can really enjoy the visit.
The scenic has so striking beauty you'll never forget this trip.
You shouldn't miss the Pozo de los Humos waterfall, where water is going down from 200 metres.
You can take acommodation in La Casona de los Arribes, a big house for let, specially by little groups of people, with a big patio, and even a winter swimming-pool.
If not, you can stay in a warm, cosy, cheap, but not-less-special and excellent rural hotel named La Jara at Aldeadávila too.
There are lots of rural hostel and houses for letting.
You should arrive to Salamanca from Madrid by train or car. At Salamanca, you should rent a car to go Vitigudino by the road CL-517, go along and to reach to Aldeadávila de la Ribera by north through the way SA- 314.
Google map: tinyurl.com/ygcnmec
Monfrague National Park is a paradise for birdwatchers. It is the perfect location for those searching out Spain's stunning scenery, environmental and cultural heritage.
In Monfrague you can walk, watch and delight yourself in the scenic views, climb to the tower of an ancient castle or have a tasty non-expensive meal in the Park.
The park is only 200 kilometers from the highway from Madrid and also can be accesible by train.
Monfrague station. Train Madrid- Badajoz or Train MAdrid-Lisbon.
By car from Madrid to Navalmoral de la Mata and then the highway to Plasencia,where is the nearest access from Madrid.
Google map: tinyurl.com/yf2pjrb
I know you can only take a 10kg bag plus handbag on the six-seater planes (my stuff wasn't weighed), but be aware that anything you need to buy in Canaima i.e. booze is amazingly expensive. Beers 10Bs a can. I paid 80Bs for two rum & cokes...
Do a bit of research into where you will be staying in Canaima. There are a couple of very swish places with fantastic views, but the rest are more basic. I overheard some European people in a group who were very unhappy with their accommodation taking into account the price they had paid."This is just NOT good enough..."
If you go up to stay at Angel Falls expect things to be basic. There will be food and "some" water. Take any booze but also take some extra water for cleaning your teeth etc. Don't forget the guide companies have to lug the stuff up there.
(Ear plugs are a must... snorers...)
I also recommend taking the tractor & trailer option on the way up; the walk is a bit of a slog. In the canoe our guide allowed us to spend some of the trip sitting on our life-jackets, but other groups were not allowed to, the nearly three hours sitting on a small hard wooden bench is not much fun... Shoes get wet...
I went to Canaima in August 2009. There were lots of mozzies. We didn't have to portage on the river trip up to Angel Falls but the boat was bottoming a lot. I can imagine that in drier times of the year there would be considerable scrambling up through the rocks. I was told that earlier in the year tourists were arriving with no idea that due to the lack of river flow it was impossible to get up to Angel Falls. The locals in Canaima had to put up with a lot of criticism when, in their opinions, the European travel agents should have been informing their clients.
We arrived in the afternoon and trekked up to the viewpoint (me 50 mins, my wife 1.30 hrs) - sunny and clear. The next morning the falls were covered in mist... tough on the group that had stayed the night with the plan to trek up then.
Of the gift shops the one nearest the airport was the most reasonably priced.
All in all we had a great visit. We had a great time.
Living in London it's not often you get to drive on the open road. Well, on a recent trip to Northern California, starting in San Francisco I got to do just that. After spending a few days in San Francisco with the girlfriend we rented a car and took 80 East towards Lake Tahoe which is one of the most gorgeous drives I've ever done. And when your destination is Lake Tahoe you really can't get a better package. Spending some time in Lake Tahoe, and a few nights camping was great. But we were soon on our way again down to Yosemite NP. Another breathtaking location in Nor Cal which is full of wildlife and picturesque views. Yosemite Valley is an obvious highlight. We were happy to get back to San Fran, it was a long 10 days. San Francisco remains one of my favourite cities - absolutely beautiful, even if the weather can be a bit odd sometimes!
If you are looking to experience Costa Rica's rainforest, but like to be away from hordes of tourist, this may be your place.
Set just outside Braulio Carrillo National Park getting there is part of the adventure. A very easy bus ride to Horquetas followed by a two hour jumpy tractor ride and another two hour walk through the forest.
Their accommodation goes from extremely basic, in the Casa de Guias, set 200 metres in the middle of the forest, with no electricity to a much more comfortable Lodge.
The walks around, guided by bilingual locals, or volunteers, are through some deep jungle and are everything you would ever should expect in this environment. You will hear a lot of noises, and you may see some birds, and your guide may find some snakes, monkeys, frogs or pacas. However, always remember animals are and should be shy of humans.
This is not Manuel Antonio, a tiny park where animals can't hide, this is proper jungle, but still showers, great food, beer, and some card games after trekking for a day... and if you are brave you can swim in the cold waters of the waterfall.
This is my account of the day: adegreeaday.blogspot.com/2009/08/rara-avis-spiders-and-other-thrills.html
Two of Nicaragua’s finest natural features are within easy reach of the travellers hub of Granada. Volcan Masaya National Park is home to two volcanoes with five craters, one of which is still active and emits dramatic but noxious clouds of steam. The remaining craters provide safe walking and bird watching territory and grant amazing views over the park. Laguna Apoyo, meaning ‘healthy water’, is a beautiful and quiet spot for swimming and walks on the surrounding paths. We had lunch at one of the simple local restaurants on the shoreline to a soundtrack of howler monkeys eerie calls.
Volcan Masaya is 20k north of Granada and Laguna Apoyo just 4k north, both along the main road to Managua. If possible hire a taxi as these are both rather remote. You can take a bus headed to Managua and look out for the signs at the turn offs but be prepared for a wait for a local bus or a long walk.
I booked a wildlife holiday in Uganda through Prana Holidays. (I use them for all my travels). It was a great 10 days and the highlight was the trek to see the mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. I was forewarned that it was hard work and that it may be useful to pre-arrange a porter to help with my luggage. Being a normal bloke, I decided not to do this as I could manage. If I ever do this again (which I hope I get the chance too) I will definately get a porter. The ones on our trek were amazing, only young but so fit and strong as well as helpful. Not just carrying bags with camera's etc but actually encouraging and at times pushing people up slippery slopes. It would have saved me a bucket full of sweat and made an amazing experience even better.
Uganda Wildlife Authority - www.uwa.or.ug/bwindi.html
Prana Holidays Uganda Trip - www.pranaholidays.com/discovery-adventure-holidays/uganda-gorillas-in-the-mist/
This area has a great vibe: very laidback and friendly and a wonderful collection of beaches from calm snorkelling beaches to great surfing spots. Superb choice of accommodations and restaurants too. The website www.PuertoViejoSatellite.com has the most comprehensive information source for the area with info on transport, hotel, activity and more.
As highlighted in the Observer article '25 ways to do Wales in style' these wonderful holiday cottages offer a truly "home from home" experience within easy reach of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
Bookings: +44 1834 871 627
Just a couple of bumpy, hot and dusty hours from San Pedro Sula you can arrive on the football pitch of Buenos Aires, the centre of village life in most Central American villages.
Buenos Aires is the first village you reach in the Merendon Mountains, a cool, misty range covered with primary and secondary growth cloudforest. The village smells of woodsmoke, hot corn and sweet coffee. Stock up in the local shops, and try Waldina's famous fried chicken at the Tucan.
The village boasts spectacular views over the valley and a lovely, very basic eco lodge, where you will wake up to the sounds of bird song and coffee pickers singing on their way to work and little else.
From here, arrange a guided tour of Cusuco National Park. On the way up to the park (a steep climb) you will most likely be invited in for a strong, painfully sweet cup of local coffee.
Quite suddenly, the pine forest gives way to giant ferns. Here are toucans, tapirs, jaguars and howler monkeys. You can swim in (some) waterfalls, and spot orchids and hummingbirds.
Here you are a world away from both the humid bustle of San Pedro Sula and also from the Central American tourist trail. You are immersed in everyday latin american village life and the cool, silent word of a spectacular cloudforest that sees surprisingly few visitors a year.
Hitch a ride on a local truck from Cofradía (they leave the main square almost every day at around 2pm). When in Buenos Aires, stay in the eco-lodge. the local Patronato head (Miguel Mejia) can give you information on how to visit the park and get yourself a local guide. Basic facilities are available at the base camp, from which you can explore the forest (take a guide!)
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