Dream Destinations Around the World

The smartest ways to see seven wonders of the modern world.

Who knew? A $500 million refurbishment of Stonehenge is currently under way, including a new visitors center slated to open in 2006. (Check out the progress of architectural firm Denton Corker Marshall's eco-fabulous building and its state-of-the-art exhibitions at thestonehengeproject.org.) But the development isn't without controversy. Although no one is lobbying for a return to the days when tourists could rent hammers from a nearby blacksmith to chip off a souvenir, many weekend pagans and modern druids are upset about restricted access to the site. They're somewhat mollified by the Stone Circle Access policy, which allows small groups of people to enter the inner circle before or after regular visiting hours ($22). Permission is required in advance but, depending on the season, can be granted quickly. For dates, times, and an application (which asks that you "please give full details of ceremony proposed and equipment to be used"), call 011-44/198-062-6267 or log on to english-heritage.org.uk/stonehenge.

Victoria Falls

Over a mile wide, the falls spew up to 144 million gallons of water per minute. And the plume of spray is visible 30 miles away.

The roaring Zambezi River plummets from a dry savanna plateau 350 feet into Batoka Gorge, a lush, palm-packed ravine that forms a natural border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Getting there Flights to Livingstone International Airport in Zambia (the gateway for Victoria Falls) are only available from Johannesburg, South Africa; British Airways flies thrice weekly (from $290 round trip), and Nationwide Airlines operates daily service (from $190 round trip). 2Afrika (2afrika.com) has a package priced from $465 that includes air from Jo'burg, two nights with breakfasts at the Zambezi Sun (where rooms are usually more than $200), unlimited entrance to view the falls, and a half-day cruise on the Zambezi River aboard the African Queen, a triple-decker catamaran. Another popular option is to combine a safari at the Chobe or Okavango game regions in Botswana, or the Luangwa or Kafue reserves in Zambia, with a day trip to Victoria Falls. Ask at your game lodge for a guide/driver who knows the roads and border protocol (about $100 per person).

You Made It The entrance fee at Victoria Falls National Park starts at $15. Bring a change of shirt in case of spontaneous rainfall or a windblown blast of waterfall spray. The steep paths and metal bridges are slippery, so wear shoes with good treads. Don't be afraid of the baboons throughout the park--they're tame--but do keep any food hidden while on park paths unless you seek a very close encounter. For excitement, the bungee jump off of the Victoria Falls Bridge offers 340 feet of free fall (Zambezi Safari & Travel Co., zambezi.co.uk, single jump $75, tandem $105); or go white-water rafting--choose the Low Water option, which offers the best glimpses of the falls--on the grade V Batoka Rapids (Safari Par Excellence, safpar.com, full-day trip from $95). For something more civilized, take afternoon tea on the veranda at the Royal Livingstone Hotel (from $16), a short walk from the park entrance.

Who knew? If you hire a driver, make sure he has third-party insurance--you're not allowed to cross the borders without it. Inspect his credentials closely; expired licenses can cause hours of delays and inflate the cost of the trip. Always carry U.S. dollars--they're widely accepted and preferred--but beware of scams. If you secured a visa prior to arrival (capitolvisa.com/tourist/zambia.htm), you shouldn't have to pay anything at the borders. If you're buying a visa on the spot, it should cost no more than $40.

Galápagos Islands

Each of the 13 major islands is a unique habitat overflowing with creatures that evolved independently--and spectacularly.

Charles Darwin didn't discover the Galápagos, a volcanic archipelago 600 miles west of Ecuador, but when he honed his evolutionary theory after an 1835 visit, he gave the world the insight necessary to appreciate it.

Getting there All-inclusive guided cruises are the way to go, but packages booked from home tend to be overpriced ($4,000 without airfare is common). G.A.P Adventures, a trustworthy operator based in Toronto, runs an eight-day trip that includes meals, air from Quito to the islands, a cabin aboard a 16-passenger ship, and two nights in a Quito hotel for $1,395 (800/465-5600, gapadventures.com). You'll find even lower prices by booking last-minute at one of the travel agents in Quito's New Town (fly to Quito from Miami for about $400 on American Airlines). In January, Safari Tours (Foch E5-39 at Av. Juan Leon Mera, 011-593/2-255-2505, safari.com.ec) sold weeklong trips on the Sulidae for $560, while American dealers charged up to $1,089 for the same cruise. If you're worried about your boat, do some research at the South American Explorers club in Quito (samexplo.org). The $50 membership grants access to a library full of honest reviews. With the cruise squared away, fly to the Galápagos on Tame for $389 round trip (tame.com.ec). Cruise prices don't cover the $100 entry fee (cash only; $20 bills work best).

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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