Dream Trips 2004
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you choose? We've figured out the smartest, cheapest ways to experience seven of the world's wonders. It's time to stop dreaming and start exploring.
WHO KNEW? Lenin's body in the mausoleum is dabbed with embalming fluid twice a week. Every year and a half, the entire corpse is bathed and decked out in a new suit. The so-called Lenin Laboratory, which is in charge of the former leader's upkeep, has become quite adept at preserving the human body. A recent client was Kim Il Sung, father of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il, whose embalming was rumored to have cost $1 million. You don't need to have Communist ties for its services, however. The laboratory will actually immortalize anyone who's willing to shell out $300,000. --Brad Tuttle
You can't get more remote than The Ice (as scientists call it), the coldest and windiest of the continents, where 90 percent of our planet's freshwater supply is locked up in deep freeze. Although it was hypothesized to exist by the ancient Greeks, humans didn't set foot there until the 1800s. It seems like the least likely tourist destination, but nowadays up to 15,000 travelers a year sail to the fringes of the elusive Seventh Continent so that they can take in its primordial beauty-and brag about it for a lifetime.
GETTING THERE: Because of Antarctica's unpredictable weather, scheduled plane service is nearly impossible, so tourists visit the continent via ship. The season blips by between December and March, which means the few available ships book up fast. Some tour operators charge $20,000-especially for longer cruises departing from Australia or New Zealand-but it's simple to find a run under $4,000 leaving from Ushuaia, at the tip of Argentina (about a $350 round-trip flight from Buenos Aires, which is itself about $600 from Miami). Because it's convenient to the spindly Antarctic Peninsula, Ushuaia is base to many 100-passenger vessels, primarily Russian-built icebreakers, promising professional lecturers and landfalls by Zodiac dinghy. Ten-night departures sell for under $4,000 through U.S.-based Adventure Center (800/228-8747, adventurecenter.com). That includes all meals but means sharing a triple cabin; reserving a double adds about $800 to the bill. Some trips don't actually make landfall, so scrutinize the itinerary before you sign on. You might want to find a cruise through the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (iaato.org), whose members adhere to stringent environmental guidelines.
YOU MADE IT: You won't need any cash on the cruises because they're essentially all-inclusive-residual stuff like your bar tab is settled at the end by credit card. But be sure you have seasick patches and pills since you'll be crossing the nasty Drake Passage, where swells can top 60 feet. Layers of synthetic-fiber clothing are recommended instead of cotton and wool, which tend to trap moisture and keep you colder. And since there are no stores in Antarctica, bring more film than you think you'll ever need. And then pack even more-those penguins are photogenic.
WHO KNEW? Book a trip that stops at one of the scientific outposts, such as the Ukranian-run Vernadsky Research Station. You can get a mock Antarctica stamp in your passport and have a drink and play pool with the scientists who live there year-round. --Matthew Link
Graceland Memphis, Tennessee
The King is rock-and-roll royalty, and Graceland is America's Versailles. Priscilla Presley threw open the wrought-iron, musical-staff gates of Elvis's 14-acre estate to the public in 1982, and it has since become one of the nation's most-visited homes, a holy-pilgrimage site for 600,000 fans annually, and for the unenlightened, a curiosity of American kitsch.
GETTING THERE: Low-cost carrier AirTran serves Memphis, and Graceland is barely four miles west of the runway. A direct taxi costs just $10. Taxis downtown run $25, or hop on the $15 airport shuttle. Sun Studio, where Elvis once crooned alongside Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis, runs a free shuttle bus (800/441-6249) that stops hourly at the blues clubs on Beale Street, Stax Records, Sun Records, Heartbreak Hotel, and Graceland.
YOU MADE IT: The 90-minute tour ($18) of the home's perfectly preserved '70s decor covers the Jungle Room (with built-in fountain and shag carpeting), the bedroom Elvis kept for his mama, and a vintage kitchen where he scarfed peanut butter and banana sandwiches and fried pickle chips. Outbuildings house guitars, press clippings, rhinestone-slathered jumpsuits, video snippets, and endless walls of gold records. The tour ends by the pool, at Presley's Meditation Garden grave. Additional tickets get you in to see the original pink Cadillac and other Presley cars ($8), his customized jets ($7), and the "Sincerely Elvis" collection of personal items ($6). Graceland is closed Tuesdays from November to February (800/238-2000, elvis.com).