Dream Destinations Around the World
The smartest ways to see seven wonders of the modern world.
What you'll find in this story: Dream vacations, International travel information, Victoria Falls tips, Grand Canyon travel, Great Wall of China details, Galapagos Islands travel, Stonehenge information
We all have a list of the iconic places and adventures we hope to experience someday. Isn't it time to turn those daydreams into reality?
"Mountain Lying Down" is what the Paiute tribe called it. Teddy Roosevelt said it's "the one great sight every American should see." At 5,000 feet deep, an average of 10 miles across, and millennia in the making, the Grand Canyon is the earth's most famous scar.
Getting there Phoenix and Las Vegas are less than five hours away by car. You can drive right up and gaze out over the rim, but some of the best experiences require months, even years, of planning. Camping permits (summer only) tend to sell out four months in advance, while bunks at Phantom Ranch, an eight-mile hike to the canyon floor, get snagged a year ahead (888/297-2757, grandcanyonlodges.com, $27). The same goes for guided rafting trips: A six-night trip through the entire canyon with meals and gear starts at $1,575 (800/525-0924, canyoneers.com).
You made it Admission for a vehicle and its passengers costs $20 for a week (928/638-7888, nps.gov/grca). In peak months, you must use free shuttles to get around many areas. Stay at the Maswik Lodge, a quarter mile from the canyon's edge (grandcanyonlodges.com, $67). Or go for a log cabin at the quieter North Rim, which 90 percent of the park's 4 million annual visitors ignore (open mid-May to mid-October, grandcanyonnorthrim.com, from $92). An even smaller group--about 25,000 a year--makes the trek to Havasu Canyon, in the Havasupai Indian Reservation (928/448-2121, havasupaitribe.com, $20 entrance fee per person). Havasu Canyon's turquoise waters shoot out over three towering waterfalls. Supai, the reservation's only town, provides a base, with a café, store, camping ($10 per person), and a basic lodge ($80).
Who knew? Campsites, bunks at Phantom Ranch, and spots on white-water trips can open up at the last minute, even in summer. For camping inside the canyon, show up at the Backcountry Information Center (across from the Maswik Lodge) before 8 a.m. and get on the waiting list. If you have no luck, repeat the next day. (By the third day, you should have a camping permit; find a campsite or hotel on top of the canyon or just outside the park while you're on the list.) Phantom Ranch also has cancellations, but don't just hike down and hope that something is available. Call two days before you arrive to see if anything has opened up. Scoring a last-minute seat on a rafting trip is a crapshoot, but it can work. There are 16 river outfitters officially approved by the park service, and you'll have to contact them one at a time (nps.gov/grca/river). For all of these possibilities, the smaller your group, the better your chances.
Is it a prehistoric astronomical tool? The burial ground of chieftains and kings? A site for human sacrifices to vengeful pagan gods?
Stonehenge is a peerless monument to 1,500 years of backbreaking dedication. Yet the exact purpose of these circles of massive rocks--which were dragged hundreds of miles here between 3,500 and 5,000 years ago--remains a mystery.
Getting there Guided day tours from London start at $90 from Stonehenge Tour Company (011-44/700-078-1016, stonehengetours.com). But Stonehenge's location, in Wiltshire, is an easy 80 miles from London if you want to go it alone. Rent a car from $60 a day (EasyCar, 0906-333-3333 in the U.K., easycar.com). If you'd rather not drive, there's hourly rail service from Waterloo to Salisbury (90 minutes each way, $43). From there, a 10-mile taxi ride to Stonehenge costs roughly $30; the bus (route 3) is $11.
You made it Visiting hours are longest in the late spring and summer (9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.) and general access costs $10. Stonehenge consists of a number of ditches, banks, and stones arranged in concentric circles. Ropes went up around the inner circle in 1978, keeping visitors about 10 feet away. Splurge on a helicopter tour and you'll also get spectacular views of Old Sarum Castle and Salisbury Cathedral, a medieval jewel (WesseXplore, 011-44/172-232-6304, dmac.co.uk/wessexplore, half hour from $150). Stonehenge, which draws 850,000 visitors annually from around the world, is the centerpiece of a Wiltshire landscape studded with archaeological finds documenting 10,000 years of human history. The remains of Durrington Walls, Vespasian's Camp, the 1.8-mile-long parallel banks of the Cursus, as well as some 350 Neolithic and Bronze Age burial mounds are among the attractions. Don't miss Avebury, 25 miles from Stonehenge. It has its own group of impressive earthworks and megalithic monuments. In fact, the entire town--pub and all--sits within an ancient stone circle.