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5 Secret Restaurants in Barcelona

By Katherine Cancila
April 18, 2011
La Plata
Galilea Nin
We spotlight tapas bars—each in a neighborhood you’ll want to visit anyway—that are the rare local secret.

Beautiful and crazy as it is, Barcelona really is a city you can swallow in small bites. That's true in the most literal sense when you consider its loud and lively tapas bars, which range from rustic spots with sawdusty floors to clean-lined spaces starring globally trained chefs. The bars themselves offer their own tasting menu to the city. More casual than sit-down restaurants, they embody the mashed-up nature of Barcelona's culture. They're trendy yet traditional, Spanish and Catalan, guarded but gregarious. Pull up a stool in your average tapas bar and you're likely to find yourself between a punky teenager and an octogenarian in tweed. And the food: aioli-drenched fried potatoes, ultra-fresh cod, extra-large goose eggs. It's all so good, you'll find yourself thinking one thing: Where next?

ELS TRES PORQUETS — Poblenou

With its chalkboard menu and upright barrels that serve as tables, Els Tres Porquets comes off as just one more classic tapas bar. But the black-and-white tiled space has a surprising take on standard fare; fresh mushrooms, goose eggs, tomatoes, and strawberries are on rotating display, depending on the season. The trio behind Els Tres Porquets clearly adore food—whether it's cured ham from Extremadura or the season's first peaches—and their enthusiasm is contagious. Young, dark-haired Xavi Jovells, whose parents also own a restaurant nearby in the Poblenou neighborhood, has been known to march up to customers and offer them prized bites, such as the first slices of a fragrant jamón iberico. Chef Daniel Chavez, who trained at restaurants in New York City and Paris, has a knack for putting a global spin on traditional Catalan dishes, a talent that appeals to the predominantly younger audience drawn to Els Tres Porquets, whose name means "the Three Little Pigs" in Catalan. Sure, the menu has familiar dishes like tuna belly, but instead of being preserved, Els Tres Porquets' version comes fresh and in a flavorful sauce made of honey, soy sauce, and ginger. You've never tasted anything like it. Rambla del Poblenou, 165, 011-34/93-300-8750, open Mon.-–Sat. noon to midnight. Closed Sundays.

BEST DISH Revuelto de setas. Galician potatoes, extra-large goose eggs, morels, and a local mushroom called rossinyol are cooked in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt for a hearty, soulful rendition of scrambled eggs. $22.

NEIGHBORHOOD 101 This traditionally industrial, working-class neighborhood, about a 30-minute train ride from the city center, languished in obscurity until a few years ago. These days, artists are converting warehouses into lofts and galleries, and the neighborhood has begun to welcome cutting-edge musical acts. Rambla del Poblenou, the broad, pedestrian artery, has a handful of sidewalk cafés and leads directly to the beach. Get there Take Metro Line 4 (yellow line) from Plaça Catalunya to Poblenou, about 30 minutes.


BAR MUTEixample

A new crop of upscale tapas bars has popped up in recent years, many of them concentrated in the elegant, leafy Eixample district. Five-year-old Bar Mut, just off the bustling Avinguda Diagonal, leads the pack with an airy, brasserie-like space that's as lovely in the afternoon, when it's flooded with sunlight, as it is at midnight, when couples nudge closer together and the sous chef starts packing up for the night. A favorite among Barcelona's acclaimed chefs, Bar Mut's menu includes many small plates typical of the region, but 33-year-old chef Albert Mendiola also serves seasonal specialties. Mendiola likes to experiment with unusual combinations, like a stack of crisp potato gallettes layered with roasted artichoke puree and sea urchin. There's an exposed prep kitchen in the bar itself, but Mendiola is usually at work in the larger basement-level kitchen, directing his three-person team or adding the finishing touches to plates that are as beautifully composed as they are delicious. The lofty ceiling and wine-bottle-lined walls make a charming backdrop for crowd-pleasers such as steamed cockles with olive oil and chives, or braised oxtail with mashed potatoes. The clientele consists mostly of arty Barcelonans, but travelers have started to take note, too, which means that snagging a seat during prime hours can be tricky. Make sure to explore the impressive wine-by-the-glass list (most cost about $5), which in addition to expected Spanish whites and reds includes rarer options from Italy and France. Carrer de Pau Claris, 192, 011-34/93-217-4338, open Mon.-–Sat. 12:30 p.m. to midnight and Sun. 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight.

BEST DISH Montadito de foie. Foie gras and caramelized onions sit atop a crusty piece of bread. With the honey and balsamic reduction at the base, it adds up to an incredible interplay of sweet and savory flavors and an explosion of textures. $6.

NEIGHBORHOOD 101 A large swath of the city created in the late 19th century, the Eixample (ay-shomp-la), which means "expansion" in Catalan, is known for its wide, tree-lined avenues and unparalleled art nouveau architecture, including Antonio Gaudí's Sagrada Família. It's also one of the best places in the city for overall feasting, with options ranging from casual Basque tapas bars to Michelin-starred restaurants. Get there Take Metro Line 3 (green line) from Plaça Catalunya to Diagonal, about five minutes.

 

BAR TOMÁS — Sarrià

Of all the iconic Spanish tapas, none is more beloved than patatas bravas, or fried potato wedges. They're served at just about every restaurant in town, but bravas aficionados know that at Bar Tomás, the humble dish is elevated to the sublime. Despite the lack of ambience (fluorescent lighting, napkin-littered floor) and the unlikely residential location, you'll find the tables almost always filled with parents and kids, teenagers fresh off their mopeds, and quickly consumed plates of hot spuds swimming in garlicky aioli and fiery hot sauce. Ice-cold beer, which tempers the hot sauce, flows freely, too, contributing to the boisterous mood. Nothing much changes at 92-year-old Bar Tomás, and that includes the staff. Quique (kee-kay), a hulking waiter who's worked here for nearly 20 years, barks orders at the younger waiters behind the bar, and Antonio, the reticent, mustachioed owner, can be found collecting money at the cash register near the entrance. Antonio is tight-lipped about the recipes for the bar's famously addictive aioli and hot sauce, sharing only that he always uses small red-skinned potatoes and that they're fried in olive oil, as you might expect. Major de Sarrià, 49, 011-34/93-203-1077, open Mon., Tues., and Thurs.-Sun. 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Wednesdays.

BEST DISH Patatas bravas. Order a doble mixta, so your potatoes come doused in plenty of aioli and hot sauce, and eat them like the locals do—with a stubby toothpick. $3.

NEIGHBORHOOD 101 Tiny, cottage-like homes and bougainvillea-draped balconies characterize this picturesque neighborhood that was once its own country village. A stroll down Major de Sarrià—a winding pedestrian walkway lined with all manner of boutiques, cafés, and pastry shops—offers a glimpse into the lives of the young professionals and families that live here today. Get there Take the FGC (Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya) train line from Plaça Catalunya to Sarrià, about 15 minutes.


LA PLATA — Barri Gòtic

There are only four kinds of tapas at this shoe-box-size bar on the corner of a dark, narrow street, and Pepe, the squat, middle-age waiter behind the counter, doesn't really want to talk you through the choices. Still, Pepe's surliness isn't scaring anyone away. On most summer evenings, you can count on people spilling out of the open doorway. Better to come in the afternoon, when only a few old-timers will be there, arguing over soccer or politics, exactly as they've been doing since La Plata first opened 65 years ago. If you're lucky, you'll catch them drinking wine or beer from a porrón, a traditional glass pitcher shaped like an oil can. It's passed around and each person aims a stream of liquid into his mouth (without the glass touching his lips). Nostalgia rules here: An old-fashioned wooden icebox keeps beer bottles cold, wine is drawn out of dusty-looking barrels, and smoke-stained black-and-white photographs dot the walls. La Plata's owner, Anna, whose parents opened the restaurant, says the menu has hardly changed over the years. Its quartet of simple dishes—small fried fish, tomato-and-onion salad, cured anchovies, and pork sausage—are so familiar to the bar's patrons by now that you won't find a single printed menu in sight. Carrer de la Mercè, 28, 011-34/93-315-1009, open Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Closed Sundays.

BEST DISH Pescadito. The fish on offer (sardines, anchovies, or mackerel) varies depending on the season, but all are tossed in flour then fried briefly in olive oil for a distinctly Spanish take on seafood. If the fish is small enough, go right ahead and pop the whole thing—head, tail, and all—in your mouth. $3.50.

NEIGHBORHOOD 101 One of the most visually spectacular areas of Barcelona, the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) is a tangle of labyrinthine streets and medieval plazas; throughout, the buildings are steeped in history. The neighborhood sits above the city's first Roman settlement and some of the ruins are intact, so it's a great spot for exploring. Get there Walk from the Plaça Catalunya down the Rambla and take a left on Carrer de la Canuda, about five minutes.


LA COVA FUMADA — Barceloneta

It doesn't get any cozier than La Cova Fumada, a family-run, no-frills spot right off Plaça Poeta Boscà in the city's old fishermen's quarter. La Cova's worn, unmarked façade makes it easy to miss, but inside the arched doorway families and old friends swap stories around eight marble tables with just-caught fish sizzling in cast-iron pans. On most days, brothers Josep and Magi Solé take orders, fill carafes of house wine, and chat with regulars while their 74-year-old mother, Palmira, oversees the preparation of the deeply flavorful Catalan comfort food that emerges from the exposed kitchen in the corner. Because the always-packed restaurant, whose name means "the smoky cave," closes at 3:20 p.m. on the dot on weekdays (and not a minute later), it's best to arrive by noon. You'll want to order a bomba, a hefty potato croquette that comes dabbed with aioli and a house-made cayenne-pepper hot sauce. Josep will probably take your order with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, and he'll insist that the toasty, crusted bomba was invented by his grandmother, Maria Pla, the original owner, about 65 years ago. Regardless of its provenance, you'll crave another one, but be selective in your excess—everything on offer (griddled seafood tossed with olive oil and parsley, garbanzo beans sautéed with blood sausage and pine nuts) is worthy of seconds. Carrer del Baluard, 56, 011-34/93-221-4061, open Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m. to 3:20 p.m., Thurs. and Fri. 6 p.m. to 8:20 p.m., and Sat. 9 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. Closed Sundays.

BEST DISH Bacalao. A large, perfectly cooked fillet of cod blanketed by a warm, onion-studded tomato sauce that's both sweet and smoky. Order a plate of toasted country bread to soak up any remaining sauce. $7.25.

NEIGHBORHOOD 101 Since the 18th century, Barceloneta, a casual, beachside spot right on the Mediterranean, has been home to the city's fishermen and dockworkers; today, Barcelonans come here to sprawl on the beach and eat paella along the boardwalk. Happily, this sweet little neighborhood, with its colorful laundry flapping in the breeze and old folks trudging toward the sea, still feels like a throwback to another time. Get there Take Metro Line 4 (yellow line) from Plaça Catalunya to Barceloneta, about 15 minutes.

 

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The Ultimate Guide to Travel Apps

From booking flights to reserving a table to finding a clean bathroom, travel apps have the potential to make any vacation easier and more affordable—but with hundreds of thousands of options out there, it's hard to distinguish the essential downloads from the clutter. Not to worry. We've scoured the market and tested hundreds of travel apps to come up with the ultimate tool kit for the vacation-bound. Best of all, we're not stopping here. We'll be relentlessly evaluating the new arrivals across platforms (iPhone, iPad, Android, and BlackBerry) and regularly updating this list with our favorite travel apps—leaving you the time to, well, actually travel.   AIR TRAVEL FIND A FLIGHT Kayak's website set the standard for streamlined searching, and its app delivers the same ease of use on the go. Simply enter your destination and travel dates, and the app spits back options sorted by price, time, or airline; a single click takes you to the corresponding booking site. Free. Download it: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad. TRACK YOUR ITINERARY Forget paging through printouts of confirmation codes and terminal info. The TripIt travel app culls flight numbers, gate information, and even loyalty-program account numbers from e-mail receipts you forward. From these, it assembles a master trip itinerary you can access from anywhere. Free. Download it: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad. MAKE THE MOST OF A LAYOVER Consider it Yelp for airports. GateGuru's app contains searchable directories for 98 U.S. airports (124 airports overall) and more than 25 international hubs. They take the guesswork out of finding an ATM, a decent cup of coffee, or a 10-minute massage station—wherever you happen to be delayed. Some locations even have user reviews, rankings, and photos. Free. Download it: iPhone/iPad. CRAFT A CONTINGENCY PLAN For the frequent flier who has no time for snafus, FlightTrack Pro is an essential aid. In addition to storing and tracking your flights, FlightTrack Pro pulls vital info like gate changes and weather reports for 5,000 airports and 1,400 airlines. If your flight is canceled or delayed, it's easy to search for other connections while you're standing in line for the gate agent or even from 30,000 feet—you can access the app's route-maps feature offline when you're in the air. iPhone, iPad (FlightTrack Pro), $10; Android, Blackberry (FlightTrack), $5. Download it: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad. KILL TIME ON THE FLIGHT The perfect nervous-passenger distraction, Flight Control HD for iPad gives folks something to focus on while surviving a long-haul flight: an air-traffic-control strategy game that lets you manage planes' flight patterns by dragging them along the touch screen. If only getting to your real-world destination were so easy. iPhone (Flight Control), $1; Android, BlackBerry (Flight Control), $3; iPad (Flight Control HD), $5. Download it: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad.   LODGING COMPARISON SHOP With thousands of user-generated reviews of hotels, restaurants, and attractions worldwide, TripAdvisor has long been a mother lode of unvarnished assessments. What it hasn't been is a model of simplicity. The travel app cuts through the clutter, bringing just the facts—er, opinions—filtered by price or neighborhood, to the fore. Free. Download it: Android, iPhone/iPad. SCORE A CHEAP ROOM If landing a rock-bottom rate ranks higher than remaining in complete control over where you stay, roll the dice with Priceline Hotel Negotiator app. You choose a preferred star rating and an ideal price (recent successful bids in the area are listed as a guide), and the tool will lock in a room that meets your criteria. Bonus: The app uses GPS, which is priceless for lining up convenient last-minute accommodations for unexpected overnighters. Free. Download it: Android, iPhone/iPad. GET A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW You've probably already used Google Earth's satellite images to zoom in on your childhood home or your current residence—in almost scary detail—but the intuitive app also serves as an easy way to suss out a hotel's rooftop pool deck or the size and location of various parking lots at a big museum or other attraction. Free. Download it: Android , iPhone/iPad.   CRUISING FIND THE RIGHT SHIP With more than 12,000 itineraries on 20 cruise lines, the new Cruise Finder app by iCruise.com has one of the largest listings databases out there—plus plenty of other features to smooth your sailings. Want to preview your digs? Check out the detailed cabin photos and deck plans. Need help locating the port on departure day? The travel app provides step-by-step directions from your front door. Free, requires Wi-Fi (Cruise ships usually charge for Wi-Fi on board—expect to pay around 75¢ a minute). Download it: iPhone/iPad. SET A BUDGET It's easy to lose track of all the scattershot incidental costs that add up over the course of a cruise. Typing daily expenses like tips, excursions, and that round of karaoke-lounge mai tais into the Cruise Card Control app each night helps ward off any sail's-end surprises at the purser's desk. Bonus: The app's running tally doesn't require Wi-Fi, so you can watch your spending without going overboard on data fees. $1. Download it: iPhone/iPad. GET ADVICE FROM FELLOW CRUISERS The social-network-style Always Be Cruising app provides an instant entry point into the passionate community of die-hard cruisers: After creating a profile and sharing your itinerary, you can connect with other passengers—past, present, or future—and get advice on anything from where to book the best deal to which buffet to avoid to which cruise director doles out the most upgrades. Free, requires Wi-Fi (cruise ships usually charge for Wi-Fi on board—expect to pay around 75¢ a minute). Download it: iPhone/iPad. MANAGE YOUR TIME The vast range of activities found on today's mega-ships can be overwhelming—Waterslides! Rock climbing! Casinos!—but Ship Mate makes managing your time a painless proposition. Set up a daily schedule (for Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Princess, Celebrity, Holland America, Costa, or MSC cruises—plus Disney Cruises on the Android version), peruse deck maps, and plan excursions using the app's guides, which include prices for each outing. $2 each. Download it: Android, iPhone/iPad.   ROAD TRIPS KEEP THE KIDS ENTERTAINED When I Spy has lost its appeal half an hour into the drive, enlist RoadTripBingo to entertain your junior crew through even the dullest stretches of highway. There are thousands of 25-square grids to play, with targets both ordinary (a hotel) and more obscure (a cactus). Even kids too young to grasp the game will get a kick out of tapping the icons and shaking the screen clear. Android, $1; iPhone, iPad, $2. Download it: Android , iPhone/iPad. CHART YOUR COURSE It was only a matter of time before Google took its ubiquitous map technology to the next level with a full-fledged GPS service. Google Maps Navigation bundles all the best features of its popular mapping site—such as satellite images, street views, and traffic news—with voice search, step-by-step audio directions, and speedy rerouting options after a wrong turn. Garmin, you've been warned. Free. Download it: Android . TAKE A DETOUR What better place to stretch your legs than at the home of the World's Largest Rubber Band Ball? Roadside America pinpoints wacky pit stops from coast to coast in six separate regional editions, with real-time GPS suggestions for a worthy detour near you. Buy only the area you need, or upgrade for access to all 6,000-plus oddities. $3 per region ($6 more for all six). Download it: iPhone/iPad. FILL UP FOR LESS With gas prices soaring yet again, it's no wonder that GasBook's service-station directory is consistently among the highest-rated travel apps. The tool uses GPS to map nearby stations and frequently updates standard prices with user-submitted data. You can also search by fuel grade or brand and bookmark your favorite local locations for everyday fill-ups. $1. Download it: iPhone/iPad.   ON THE GROUND LOOK LIKE A LOCAL Because some things just require visuals, Howcast's user-generated video tutorials cover everything from taxi strategies in New York City to the proper consumption of soba in Japan to nude-beach etiquette. (Then again, maybe some things don't belong in a video.) The short clips load quickly and particularly shine on the larger-format iPad. Free. Download it: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad. SURVIVE WITHOUT A PLAN So the museum you planned to visit was closed, and now you've got a free afternoon on your hands. Goby has you covered: The app searches events and activities near you—live-music shows, family-friendly outings, and outdoorsy pursuits—and plots them on a map with details and photos. Free. Download it: Android, iPhone/iPad . SKIP THE LINES The new Undercover Tourist app made for savvy Walt Disney World–goers delivers accurate wait times for every ride in the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. At day's end, a built-in GPS helps you navigate right back to your car. $4. Download it: iPhone/iPad. EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS Lonely Planet has created the perfect pairing of inspiration and information. First, flip through the colorful, photo-heavy 1000 Ultimate Experiences iPad app for thumbnail takes on some of the world's most intriguing destinations. Then use the brand's dedicated guides (for over 75 cities) to hunt for specifics, like how to get a bus pass for the MUNI in San Francisco or when to catch the ferry for a visit to Alcatraz. 1000 Ultimate Experiences $5, city guides $6. Download it: iPad (The 1000 Ultimate Experiences); iPhone/iPad (city guides). FIND A PLACE TO "GO" Like it or not, Starbucks outposts have unofficially replaced service stations as America's favorite rest stops. Fortunately for travelers, both are mapped on the SitOrSquat app. More than 99,000 restrooms are represented (concentrated in larger cities in the U.S. and Europe), with details like hours, changing-table availability, and, of course, a "sit" or "squat" recommendation. Free. Download it: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad. MASTER PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION Whether you're in Tunis or Tokyo, the best way to feel like a local is to travel like one. The AllSubway HD app, loaded with zoomable subway maps of 137 cities across six continents, lets you puzzle out your public-transportation possibilities wherever you are (yes, even underground—no Wi-Fi needed). Updates are free as new cities are added, and even more features come into play when you're online: The app links to each subway's website so you can bone up on fares, schedules, and service changes in advance. $1. Download it: iPad/iPhone.   FAMILY TRAVEL DON'T FORGET THE DIAPERS Why is it that the tiniest travelers require the most baggage? Baby Pack & Go supplies packing lists that you can customize for each child. It also sends reminders to ensure globe-trotting doesn't disrupt baby's routine: Ding! It's lunchtime. Ding! Naptime. $1. Download it: iPhone. BRING STORYTIME ON THE ROAD Dr. Seuss goes digital with iPhone- and iPad-ready versions of his best-selling stories. Let The Lorax app be your on-the-road babysitter: It reads the story aloud, and when you tap an illustration, the machine will speak its name ("Trees." "Grass." "Pond."). $5. Download it: Android, iPhone/iPad. COLOR WITHOUT CRAYONS The ultimate airplane toy for antsy tots, Dora the Explorer Coloring Adventures is a virtual coloring and sticker book for kids ages two to six, with five scenes they can infinitely redesign. Here's to no more stray crayons under the seat! $5. Download it: iPad. SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM First, give yourself some elbow room. Then fire up Scoops, a highly addictive game even a technophobe could master. Your only goal is to position a virtual ice cream cone under colorful scoops that fall from the sky, using the phone's motion-sensitive accelerometer to direct the cone with a tilt of the wrist. Free. Download it: iPhone/iPad.   DINING SNIFF OUT CRITICS' FAVORITES If you're more interested in getting a recommendation on the spot, download Urbanspoon. The app makes a game of finding a restaurant: Search options are displayed slot-machine style, with neighborhood, cuisine, and price as the categories. Refresh with a simple shake of the device, or click off for critics' reviews and some menus. Free. Download it: Android, iPhone/iPad. MAKE RESERVATIONS Instead of calling 12 restaurants to find one that can seat your party of four, let OpenTable do the work. Search more than 15,000 restaurants in Canada, the U.K., Mexico, and the U.S. by the number of diners and your desired reservation time, and then sort by cuisine, price range, and neighborhood. And in about five taps—voilá!—you've got a reservation. Free. Download it: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad. SIP SMARTER With more than 1 million bottles of wine from Chile to Cali cataloged, the Cor.kz app is like a pocket sommelier. Search by region or varietal, peruse an exhaustive glossary, or scan a bottle's bar code with your smartphone to call up expert ratings and tasting notes. $4. Download it: Android, iPhone/iPad . AVOID MENU MISTRANSLATIONS Foreign phrases can be unforgiving—and that's where On The Menu comes in. A database of more than 1,400 terms from all over the globe allows users to solve culinary conundrums with a quick Google-style search. Bagna cauda? That would be Italian for anchovy fondue. $2. Download it: iPhone/iPad. RUB ELBOWS WITH REGULARS It's no easy feat to cut through the restaurant-of-the-moment hype in an unfamiliar city, which is where the no-holds-barred user reviews on Yelp's app come in. Using your GPS-mapped location, the app reveals the highest-rated places near you, as determined by the people who know best. Search thousands of dining options in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Ireland by price, neighborhood, or the handy "what's open now." Free. Download it: Android, Blackberry, iPhone/iPad. ASK THE EXPERTS Crowd-sourced restaurant reviews on Urbanspoon or Yelp can be telling, but you never really know who's behind them. The owner's mom? A foodie fussbudget? LocalEats relies on (relatively) objective parties-food bloggers, newspaper dining critics, alt-weekly columnists-to compile its top-100 lists in America's 50 largest cities. Locally owned spots are in, national chains are out, ensuring you'll find an authentic meal-without too much legwork. Android, iPhone/iPad, $1; BlackBerry, $3. Download it: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad. CHECK DINER REVIEWS Globe-trotting gourmands have long relied on Zagat's city guides for quick takes on a restaurant's food, decor, service, and cost. The robust Zagat To Go app pairs more than 40,000 reviews across 100-plus cities worldwide with handy tools like GPS-enabled searching, concierge-style recommendations, and an instant online reservation tool. New reviews are added and updated weekly, making that onetime $10 price tag easier to swallow. Android, iPhone/iPad, $10; BlackBerry, $20. Download it: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad. FIND A RESTAURANT WITH CHARACTER Feeding your family at a big theme park presents a small world of challenges—inflated prices, painful wait times, cookie-cutter meals tailored to pint-size appetites. The Disney World Dining app alleviates some of the angst. Users can browse photos and full menus for over 150 dining spots in more than 20 Disney parks and hotels. Bonus: A GPS-powered "Near Me" tool minimizes the distance between the first hunger pang and that must-have plate of Mickey-shaped waffles. $2. Download it: iPhone/iPad. EXCHANGE AND TRANSLATION PAY THE RIGHT PRICE There are dozens of free currency-converter apps, but Oanda Currency Converter stands above them all for its reliability and depth of data. To calculate exchanges between more than 190 currencies, the app pulls from inter-bank market rates—what banks use when trading money. For even greater accuracy, the app also adjusts results to reflect the specific transaction type (credit card or cash) you select. Free. Download it: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad. SPEAK LIKE A LOCAL Foreign-language mix-ups can make for some serious travel stress. The app iTranslate—basically a digital phrase book—comes to the rescue. It includes 52 languages and translates faster than you can say, "Huh?" Just type in the perplexing phrase and iTranslate displays it back in your language of choice. (The app requires Internet access, but you can store key phrases for future Wi-Fi-free reference.) Free. Download it: Android, iPhone/iPad. SNAG THE CORRECT SIZE Clothing size is unreliable from label to label—and country to country. Now men and women can shop with confidence by using Convert Clothes. When you roll a dial to pick your U.S. size in four categories (clothes, shoes, pants, and bra), the app's simple interface spits out the corresponding numbers for eight countries, including Japan and France. Whether anything will actually fit is another story. Free. Download it: iPhone/iPad. CONVERT ANY MEASUREMENT Traveling can seem like one long equation, from figuring out temperature (Celsius?) to assessing how much gas is left in your tank (liters?). Conversion-catchall Convertbot does the math for you. Spin a wheel to select one of 20 categories—time, speed, even data download size—then type in the amount. The app instantly converts the figure into the desired unit of measure. You'll never go over the baggage limit in a foreign country again. $2. Download it: iPhone/iPad. MAKE SENSE OF YOUR MONEY For up-to-the-minute currency conversions, try Quid Universal Currency Converter. It lists more than 190 exchange rates, updated with every tap of the refresh button. Tip: Turn off the auto-update feature while you're abroad to avoid sky-high roaming charges. $1. Download it: iPhone/iPad. FIND THE PERFECT PHRASE Overcome awkward lost-in-translation moments with World Nomads. The 25-language translator apps cover keywords such as please and thank you, numbers up to 10, and a few phrases useful for other travel conundrums (our favorite: "Those drugs aren't mine!") in easy-to-scan categories like Introductions and Travel Health. Most phrases have audio clips. Free. Download it: iPhone/iPad (downloadable in 25 languages, including French, Spanish, German, and Italian).   PHOTOS AND VIDEOS EDIT IMAGES A few tweaks can turn even the most drab camera-phone images into frame-worthy photographs. Use Photogene to add backgrounds and colorful borders, crop out unflattering details, or just remove red-eye from that otherwise-flawless family portrait in front of the Eiffel Tower. iPhone, $2; iPad, $3. Download it: iPhone, iPad. ORGANIZE AND SHARE With Photobucket, you can sort your vacation photos before you've even boarded the flight home. Geo-tag the images you want to keep, drop them into folders, or find favorites using the key-word search—and save yourself one item on that just-back to-do list. Free. Download it: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad. INCORPORATE SOUND These days, the old vacation postcard doesn't quite cut it. Fotobabble lets you express a more unique sentiment: Just snap a photo, record your own audio message (up to one minute long), and send the file to a friend's e-mail account. Free. Download it: iPhone/iPad. ADD A RETRO FEEL Looking to enhance your images with a little old-school flair? Hipstamatic, an app based on the discontinued 1982 camera of the same name, has nine options that add artful blurring, fading, and flashes to your photos to create that vintage-snapshot look. $2. Download it: iPhone. SHED SOME LIGHT For all their strengths, many older-generation iPhones lack one important element: a flash. The Camera Flash+ app solves that problem, with a self-adjusting burst of light that allows users to take vivid, point-and-shoot-quality photos long after the sun has set. Free. Download it: iPhone. TAKE THE LONG VIEW Some scenes are simply too majestic to capture on one screen. Enter Pano, which stitches together up to 16 separate shots to take in, say, a 360-degree view of the Grand Canyon. A built-in guide helps you line up each frame, and the app will hold your place if a call interrupts your shoot. $2. Download it: iPhone/iPad . SEND A PERSONALIZED POSTCARD Nothing says "Wish you were here" like a good old-fashioned postcard—with your face smack in the center. For about $1.50 per note, HazelMail turns your photo into an actual paper card complete with a custom message and then stamps it and sends it off within about two business days, saving you the trouble of hunting down a local post office. Free. Download it: BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad. DOCUMENT YOUR ADVENTURES It may have been invented for students, but Facebook's ubiquitous app has become an invaluable tool for all kinds of folks. Travelers can share crazy vacation moments on the spot, either in the live feed of status updates or in a mobile gallery where they can instantly dump cell phone pictures. Free. Download it: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad.

World's Most Beautiful Churches

Whether or not you're religious, there's no denying that churches are among man's most spectacular creations. From a modern glass-and-pine place of worship deep in the Arkansas countryside to a wooden stave church dating back to the Middle Ages in Norway, we scoured the globe to identify the most breathtaking churches in the world. SEE THE CHURCHES! Borgund Stave Church Laerdal, Norway The country best known for fjords and otherworldly Arctic landscapes is also the only place in Northern Europe with Middle Ages–era wooden churches that are still intact. Norway has 28 in all—each attractive in its own right—but the loveliest of them is the Borgund Stave Church in western Norway, which dates to 1180. Named for the vertical wooden boards (called staves) from which they are built, stave churches are famous for their nail-less construction of interlocking notches and grooves. The result often looks like an upside down Viking ship. The Borgund is a wonderful example of stave architecture, with four carved dragonheads sprouting from its rooftop gables—like something you'd see in the Far East—and steeply pitched rooftops that mirror the dramatic plunges of the surrounding mountains. Apart from a row of benches, a simple altar, and a cupboard for storing religious vessels, there's not much to see inside the church, but the fantastical exterior is well worth a look.How to go: Laerdal is 183 miles—and an easy four-hour drive—northwest of Oslo, Norway's capital city. There is an entry fee of 70 Norwegian kroners (about $13) for adults. Church of Hallgrímur Reykjavík, Iceland No matter where you are in Iceland's capital city, chances are you'll be able to spot the towering steeple of this most unusual concrete structure. At 244 feet tall, the Church of Hallgrímur—or Hallgrímskirkja, as locals call it—is the tallest building in Reykjavík and the largest church in all of Iceland. Viewed head on, Hallgrímur resembles a jagged arrowhead or spaceship, erupting from the ground. The design is meant to conjure the rugged mountains, volcanic basalt, and glacial landscapes of Iceland's supernatural scenery. Hallgrímur was under construction for over 30 years and finally completed in 1974, inspiring much controversy along the way thanks to its radical form. And while the architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, did not live to see the church's completion, he'd surely be honored by its presence on nearly every Reykjavík postcard. For a small fee, you can ride an elevator up into the steeple for fabulous views across the capital and out to the Atlantic (rides are 500 Icelandic króna—or about $4.40—per person). The minimalist interior is in keeping with the church's Lutheran heritage, save for one bold element: an enormous organ with some 5,000 pipes that tower up to 50 feet high. How to go: Hallgrímur is centrally located downtown in Reykjavík. There is a suggested donation of 50 kr (about 44¢) for entry. La Sagrada Família Barcelona, Spain This gorgeously macabre Gothic cathedral, designed in the 1880s by celebrated Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, is Barcelona's most famous tourist site. La Sagrada Família is constructed of stones and rocks, and the jumbled way they're pieced together resembles a melting house of wax or mineral deposits inside a psychedelic, stalagmite-rich cave. Situated at the end of a bustling city street lined with cafés and shops, the towering cathedral appears to have been plucked from a fantasy animation flick, with its cavern-like nooks and crannies, decorated with gargoyles and monsters and columns that completely ignore the right-angle-to-the-floor norm. Gaudí worked on the project for some 40 years but died before construction was completed. He's buried in a crypt beneath the nave. It's easy to imagine the eccentric artist overseeing the ongoing work of his masterpiece. Construction on the cathedral, including the east-facing main face, is scheduled to continue for another 20 to 30 years.How to go: La Sagrada Família is located in the Barcelona neighborhood of Eixample, in the center of city. There is an entry fee of €12.50 (about $18) per person. Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe Chapel Aiguilhe, near Le Puy-en-Velay, France The approach to this sky-grazing church is as breathtaking as the views from the top. To reach Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe Chapel, which is set atop a 269-foot-high volcanic peak near the village of Le Puy-en-Velay in Auvergne, France, visitors must walk up 268 stone steps carved into the church's needle-like rocky mount. The odd geological formation is actually a basalt volcanic plug, formed when lava hardens inside the vent of an active volcano. Thanks to its sheer geological curiosity, the site was considered sacred long before the church was built in 962 A.D. The climb to the top is well worth it: The church is a Medieval classic, its façade dominated by multicolor stonework and Islamic-influenced tiled mosaics. While fairly plain, the interior is interesting, too, and noteworthy for its uneven flooring (due to the nature of its rocky foundation), frescoes, and cave-like atmosphere. Legend has it that Joan of Arc's mother made a pilgrimage here in the early 15th century to pray for her daughter.How to go: Le Puy-en-Velay is in south-central France, a four-and-a-half-hour train ride from Paris on France's national train line (prices vary). Admission is €3 (about $4.30) per person Duomo di Milano Milan, Italy Much has been written about the Duomo di Milano—one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world—but Mark Twain, perhaps, described the marble church's beauty best, in his 1869 classic The Innocents Abroad: "A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems in the soft moonlight only a fairy delusion of frostwork that might vanish with a breath!" Most of that airy appeal is conveyed in the church's exterior—135 elegant spires and 3,400 intricate statues grace the building. In true Gothic style, the ambience of the interior is rather dark thanks to the stained-glass windows and heavy stone columns. Not to be missed is a schlep up the stairs (or catch a lift up on the elevator) to access the rooftop terraces. Here, surrounded by the cathedral's eerie marble towers, you can see across Milan, all the way out to the peaks of the Alps.How to go: Set in Milan's city center, the Duomo di Milano has free admission but charges for access to the roof. To ride the elevator, it is €10 (about $14) per person; to climb the stairs is €8 (about $11) per person. Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood Saint Petersburg, Russia This onion-domed, rainbow-hued, riverside behemoth in Saint Petersburg isn't quite as famous as its similar-looking cousin, St. Basil's Cathedral, in Moscow—but the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood has a much more storied history. It was built on the site where Czar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. Construction began just a few years later, in 1883, and was funded almost entirely by the imperial family. Then, in the 1930s, the Bolsheviks shuttered it and reportedly used it as a storage facility for potatoes in World War II. The church only reopened in 1997, after 27 years of restoration. Thought to house the world's largest collection of mosaics within a church, the interior is covered from floor to ceiling with intricate tile work depicting biblical scenes. And while no regular services are held here, the site does lure pilgrims of the art variety from the world over who come to stare, slack-jawed, at the more than 75,000 square feet of mosaic marvels.How to go: The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood is in the center of Saint Petersburg, just steps from Nevsky Prospekt, its main thoroughfare. Visitors are charged 200 rubles (about $7) for admission. Las Lajas Sanctuary Ipiales,Colombia Deep in the mountains of southwestern Colombia, this church sits at the end of a bridge that stretches over a dramatic gorge—cloaked in lush trees and the occasional veil of a waterfall—over the rushing muddy waters of the Guaitara River. Its name, Las Lajas, refers to the flat rocks found in the surrounding Andes, with which the church was built, and the stones seem to glow against the backdrop of the steamy mountains. Its precarious placement is no accident—it was built here as a tribute to Mother Mary. In 1754, a woman and her deaf-mute daughter were walking in the area when they got caught in a storm and took shelter in a nearby cave. Sometime that night, the Virgin Mary allegedly revealed herself to the daughter—and she began to speak for the very first time. Soon after, a chapel was erected here to honor her. The Gothic Revival–style Lajas Sanctuary was later built, between 1916 and 1949, to replace the 19th-century chapel. The pilgrims who continue to arrive to this day from Colombia, Ecuador, and beyond often leave behind personal plaques, which you'll see lining the cliff walls, to thank the Virgin for miracles.How to go: Las Lajas is just outside the small city of Ipiales, near the border of Colombia and Ecuador. From Ipiales, it's best to take a taxi from the city-center bus station to reach the church; expect to pay about $2 for the taxi one way. Admission is free. Ely Cathedral Ely, England You might recognize Ely Cathedral from the big screen. In the 2010 movie The King's Speech, the inside of the cathedral was transformed into the interior of Westminster Abbey to such effect that we awarded the film our own Budget Travel Oscar for inspiring a desire to travel to England. The church has also had cameos in 2008's The Other Boleyn Girl and the 1998 film Elizabeth. The history of the Ely Cathedral is fascinating enough for Hollywood in its own right. The foundations for this spectacular stone church, set amid poppy fields in the countryside outside of Cambridge, were laid by Benedictine monks in the 11th century. But for hundreds of years prior, the site lured religious pilgrims to visit the shrine of Etheldreda, a Saxon princess who left her husband to pursue a religious life. Etheldreda established a monastery here in the 7th century and is said to have planted a staff in the ground that then blossomed into a tree overnight—a miracle that led people to believe she was a saint. For hundreds of years after, pilgrims made their way to a shrine to Etheldreda inside the cathedral; a plaque now marks where the shrine once stood. Today, the church is best known as a shining example of Norman architecture, marking the Romanesque style's arrival in Britain (the cathedral's nave and south transept are considered perfect Norman examples).How to go: Ely is an hour's train ride north of London (£23.50 or about $38.25). Admission for adults, including a guided ground-floor tour, is about $9.30. Church of the Assumption Lake Bled, Slovenia Unless you're a fit swimmer (and don't mind cold water), you'll have to hire a local pletna boat to make the short crossing to the Church of the Assumption, perched on a fairy-tale island in the middle of Lake Bled in northwest Slovenia. The first masonry church on the island was constructed in 1142, though the structure you admire today was built in the 17th century following an earthquake that destroyed the prior incarnation. The popular mountain resort town is surrounded by scenic Alps and has long lured tourists, visiting dignitaries, and world leaders (none other than Marshal Tito had his private retreat here during Yugoslavian times). During the summer months, in particular, a steady stream of lovebirds flock to the island church to say their vows in the idyllic setting (from afar, the church appears to float in the lake). Local tradition dictates that grooms must carry their brides-to-be up the 98 steps from the boat dock to the church—if they fail, locals say, then they aren't yet fit for marriage. To improve your own luck, whether you're married or single, you can follow the locals' lead and ring the church's bell before boarding your boat back to town.How to go: Lake Bled is a one-hour train ride northwest of Slovenia's capital, Ljubljana (€4.80 or about $6.90). To reach the island church, arrange a pletna ride with the boatmen stationed at both the Health Park and the Rowing Center in town. For about $17 per person, you get a pleasant boat ride and half-hour stop on the island. Church admission is free. Thorncrown Chapel Eureka Springs, Arkansas Deep in the Ozark Mountains, near the community of Eureka Springs (one of the coolest small towns in America according to Budget Travel's 2011 poll), lies Thorncrown Chapel. The church is so far off the beaten path that even the best new GPS devices don't quite get the coordinates right—but it's worth seeking out. The stunning pinewood structure seems to be built almost entirely of glass (425 windows stand in for walls), which brilliantly illuminates the interior with natural light and seems to pull the surrounding forest right inside the church. In fact, many call Thorncrown a "forest within a forest." It was built by the Frank Lloyd Wright–trained architect E. Fay Jones in 1980. Jones himself liked to call his creation "Ozark Gothic" because he based the design and use of natural light on the classic Gothic Sainte-Chapelle, in Paris. Still, he seemed to have the Eureka Springs area in mind, as well: Jones used only local pine, and in pieces no larger than what could be carried through the woods by two men, all in an effort to preserve the church's natural setting.How to go: Thorncrown Chapel is about a mile-and-a-half west of Eureka Springs, on Highway 62 West. As stated, neither GPS nor Google Maps correctly show the chapel's location, but the Thorncrown's website has an accurate map. There is no admission fee.

10 Natural Wonders to See Before They Disappear

You've heard the grim timelines: if warming continues, the Great Barrier Reef will be bleached by 2030; glaciers in the Swiss Alps, on Mt. Kilimanjaro, and in Glacier National Park will disappear in under 40 years; and Arctic ice melt will leave the North Pole bare and polar bears extinct. The immediacy of these timelines prompts flocks of curious eco-tourists to travel to environmentally fragile areas. Tourism is both bane and boon: it can add strain to already distressed areas, but it can also provide income, which in turn can help preserve these wonders. In time for Earth Day, we spotlight 10 areas under threat—some lesser known than others—that can still be visited responsibly.  Should you decide to plan a journey, we've recommended our favorite tour operator for each destination. In some cases the price tag may be higher than your average vacation, but consider it an investment in Mother Earth.   1. BELIZE BARRIER REEF One of the most diverse reef ecosystems in the world is home to whale sharks, rays, and manatees, as well as sturgeon, conch and spiny lobsters. The Threat: Like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Belize Barrier Reef leads a tenuous existence. A section of the nearly 700-mile-long Mesoamerican Reef that reaches from Mexico to Honduras, the Belize reef suffered a severe bleaching in 1998, with a loss of 50 percent of its coral in many areas, including much of its distinctive staghorn coral. Since the bleaching, its decline has continued, due to global warming of the world's seas, agricultural pollution, development, and increasing tourism, which has given rise to more coastal development and an invasion of cruise ships. Get There: Go with Journeys International, founded by former conservation workers, on an 8-day "Cayo and the Caye" journeyinto Belize's rainforest that includes kayaking into river caves, a side trip Guatemala, a visit to the Mayan ruins at Tikal, and, finally, a three-day-stay on an island in the reef (from $2,825 per person, excluding airfare).   2. THE CONGO BASIN Tropical rainforests like the Congo Basin produce 40 percent of the world's oxygen and serve as a vital source of food, medicine and minerals. The Threat: At more than 1.3 million square miles, the Congo Basin has the world's second-largest rainforest, after the Amazon's. According to the UN up to two-thirds of the forest and its unique plants and wildlife could be lost by 2040 unless more effective measures are taken to protect it. Extending across six nations, ten million acres of forest is degraded each year due to mining, illegal logging, farming, ranching, and guerilla warfare. Roads cut by loggers and miners have also enabled poachers and bushmeat hunters to prey on endangered animals like mountain gorillas, forest elephants, bonobos, and okapis. As the forest shrinks, less carbon dioxide is absorbed, and rain decreases, adding to climate change. Get There: Gabon, to the west of the Congo, is considered safe for travel, and tour operator Responsible Travel will pair you with local guides who work with the Wildlife Conservation Fund on an 8-day journey to view elephants, chimpanzees, and gorillas in the wilds of Loango National Park (from $3,430 per person, excluding airfare). 3. THE DEAD SEA It's the lowest spot on earth (1,312 feet below sea level), has 10 times more saline than seawater (so humans float like corks), and is believed to contain therapeutic minerals. The Threat: In the last four decades, the Dead Sea has shrunk by a third and sunk 80 feet—13 inches per year!—stranding formerly seaside resorts and restaurants nearly a mile from shore. The Jordan River is the lake's sole source, and as surrounding countries increasingly tap its waters, little reaches the Dead Sea, which could disappear within 50 years. Further pressure is put on the sea by the cosmetic companies and potash producers who drain it for minerals. One proposed solution is the controversial Red-Dead Canal, channeling water 112 miles from the Red Sea, but its environmental impact could be negative (some worry that it would increase seismic activity in the region). Get There: The Rift Valley on Jordan's side of the Dead Sea is a contrast of sand, red rocks and canyons, with reserves protecting endangered Nubian ibexes, oryxes, and gazelles.  Gap Adventures offers an 8-day journey combining a Dead Sea visit with a stop at Wadi Rum, the 6th-century Nabatean ruins at Petra, and an overnight in a Bedouin tent (from $1,099 per person, excluding airfare).   4. THE EVERGLADES This 2.5 million–acre wetland encompasses cypress swamps, mangroves, sawgrass and pine savannahs. It's the only place in the world where crocodiles and alligators share territory. The Threat: A host of dangers are putting this fragile wetland at risk: pollution from farms, invasive species, and encroaching development, not to mention the fact that 60 percent of the region's water is being diverted to nearby cities and farms. As a result, The Everglades is now half the size it was in 1900. Worse, this is the sole habitat of the Florida panther, and there are less than 100 of the creatures left in the wild. These big cats may be completely lost within the next 40 years as their habitat disappears (they're not alone, either—at least 20 species in the Everglades are endangered, including turtles, manatees, and wading birds). Get There: Founded by a former government biologist, Environmental Adventure Company offers intensive 5-day ecotours of The Everglades, starting with two days in the Florida Keys, entering The Everglades by Zodiac inflatable boat, then hiking and touring the waterways by boat (from $1,995 per person, excluding airfare).   5. MADAGASCAR More than 80 percent of Madagascar's flora and fauna are found nowhere else on Earth, thanks to millions of years of isolation in the Indian Ocean off of Africa. The Threat: If nothing is done to save the world's fourth-largest island, its forests will be gone in 35 years (once 120,000 square miles, they're now down to 20,000), and their unique inhabitants along with them. Forest ecosystems are being destroyed by logging, burning for subsistence farms, and poaching. The 20 species of lemurs for which Madagascar is renowned are in danger of disappearing. Though there are game reserves, they're not large (occupying only five percent of the island), nor are they contiguous, thus failing to provide corridors for the animals to travel through. Some of Madagascar's endemic species have never even been recorded, and will likely be lost before they can be studied. Get There: Winner of the Responsible Tourism Award from Conservation International and USAID in 2008, Eastern Tours offers day-tours of the forested east coast ($100 and under). Or go over the top on a once-in-a-lifetime trip with the World Wildlife Fund's official travel provider, Natural Habitat Adventures, on a 14-day in-depth tour of Madagascar (from $10,895 per person, excluding airfare).   6. THE MALDIVES The nation is rich in coral reefs and endangered fish—like the giant Napolean wrasse, leopard shark, and some 250 manta rays (most with wingspans of 10 feet). The Threat: Few scientists hold out much hope for the Maldives—the world's lowest nation—if global warming continues to melt the ice caps and raise sea levels. Its 1,190 small islands and atolls (200 of which are inhabited) scattered across the Indian Ocean rise a mere eight feet above sea level. In 2008, the President of the Maldives announced the government would start buying land in other countries, including India, for future homes for citizens displaced by rising waters. In 2009, he held a cabinet meeting underwater to stress the islands' vulnerability. Get There: Visit the beaches, towns, and fishing villages of the Maldives on a 7-day cruise with Gap Adventures (from $1,349 per person).   7. THE POLES The natural phenomena here are unique and inspiring: towering icebergs, Aurora Borealis, and majestic animals (penguins, polar bears, whales). The Threat: The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the world's largest non-profit ocean research group, has predicted that 80 percent of the emperor penguin population of Antarctica will be lost, and the rest in danger of extinction, if global warming continues. In the Arctic, the polar bear is also endangered by the steady loss of sea ice (which has decreased 3 percent per decade since the 1970s). As sea ice disappears at the poles, so do entire ecosystems: the phytoplankton that grows under ice sheets feeds zooplankton and small crustaceans like krill, which are on the food chain for fish, seals, whales, polar bears and penguins. Studies predict that with continued warming, within 20-40 years, no ice will form in Antarctica. Get There: Tour the arctic with Trans Arctic Circle Treks, or cruise the Antarctic with Adventure Life. Arctic Trek offers a 4-day Arctic Circle tour including Prudhoe Bay, then over the Atigun Pass into open arctic tundra ($1,638, excluding airfare). Adventure Life has a 10-day cruise through the Drake Passage and along the Antarctic Peninsula on a former oceanographic research vessel. The trip includes viewing many species of penguins, whales and icebergs by Zodiac, and a visit to a scientific station (from $5,290 per person for shared cabins, excluding airfare).   8. RAJASTHAN, RANTHAMBORE One of the best places in the world to see tigers. The Threat: The world's population of wild tigers has fallen to as few as 3,200, more than half of which live in India. If extreme efforts are not undertaken, the big cat may be extinct within our lifetime—possibly in as soon as a dozen years. (Compare this number to the 100,000 tigers that lived in India in 1900 and you can see just how drastically things have changed in the past two centuries.) Their habitats have been reduced 93 percent, and though there are reserves across Asia, most are small and have no corridors between them for the normally far-roaming felines. It's estimated that a tiger a day is killed for use in Chinese traditional medicine. Get There: Visit Ranthambore with Indian tour operator Travel Wisely, which also organizes visits to see tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park and Kanha Tiger Reserve. You can take a full 14-day tour including the parks, Agra (and the Taj Mahal), and New Delhi, or select portions (from $85/day per person).   9. THE TAHUAMANÚ RAINFOREST Parrots and macaws feed off of the world's largest salt lick. They share this pristine wonderland with endangered creatures like giant armadillos, ocelots, jaguars, and giant otters. The Threat: This magnificent rain forest in Peru's Madre de Dios region holds some of the last old-growth stands of mahogany in South America. But illegal logging is depleting the rainforest—and the U.S. is responsible for buying 80 percent of the mahogany. A single tree can create as much as $1 million worth of furniture. Loggers build roads, allowing farmers and hunters to enter, further crowding the indigenous people and destroying the delicate ecosystem. In nearby areas, gold mining has released mercury into the air and water. Get There: Visit Tahuamanú with Treks and Hiking Peru, a small Peruvian eco-hiking company headquartered in Cusco that leads five- to six-day visits including the macaw clay lick and journeys upriver to view spider monkeys, deer and birds (from $500 per person, excluding airfare, minimum of four people; all trips are 20 percent off in July 2011).   10. THE YANGTZE RIVER BASIN Exotic creatures like giant pandas, dwarf blue sheep, Yangtze finless porpoises, and Siberian cranes call this region home—along with some 400 million people. The Threat: It's too early to know the exact impact of the creation of China's massive, $24 billion Three Gorges Dam, but many, including the Chinese government, have acknowledged that the Yangtze Basin region is in danger of losing its most distinctive marine and animal life. Deforestation has occurred from clearing land for displaced farmers, and the reservoir has flooded villages, farms, factories, and mines, adding to the Yangtze River's existing pollution from shipping, industry, agriculture and raw sewage. Landslides have also happened, and seismologists wonder if the water pressure above two fault lines might result in a disastrous earthquake. Get There: The Chinese government maintains 50 reserves in an effort to save the giant pandas from extinction, aided by World Wildlife Fund. Go in search of them in the wild on Terra Incognita Ecotours' 12-day journey tracking wild panda in Foping National Nature Preserve, along with a Xi'An city tour, and a visit to the terra cotta warriors (from $5,999 per person, excluding airfare).   SEE MORE POPULAR CONTENT: 26 Magnificent Photos of Glaciers How to Haggle Like an Expert 10 Smallest Bars in the World How to Score Tickets to the 2012 Summer Olympics 10 of Our Favorite Girlfriend Getaways  

Latest Turnaround: Andersonville, Chicago

THE PIE’S THE LIMITWith only 14 seats in the house, the competition for a spot at Nick Lessins’s 3-year-old Great Lake pizza is stiff—even more so since GQ magazine called his mortadella-sausage pie one of the nation’s best in 2009. Still, the wait is justified: Lessins updates the menu daily and personally assembles each pie with ingredients made on-site. 1477 W. Balmoral Ave., 773/334-9270, mortadella pie from $22. TAKING THEIR SWEET TIMEAt Flourish Bakery, it takes 72 hours to make a loaf of sourdough bread. That is not a typo. Ehsan Ganji, the high-profile new baker fresh from New York City hotspots Balthazar and Bouley, insists on using a slow-acting natural yeast that needs a full weekend to ferment. It’s worth the wait, as are Ganji’s top-notch baguettes, croissants, and more decadent indulgences (hello, peanut-butter-stuffed chocolate cupcake). 1138 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., flourishbakerycafe.com, sourdough loaf $4.50. HOUSEWARES WITH STYLEAndersonville is hardly hurting for decor stores, but Roost has the most kitchen cred. Owner Daniel Malone designed several Chicago restaurants (and even managed some) before he opened his vintage-meets-modern housewares shop in 2008. Local restaurateurs make up Malone’s most devoted clientele, turning to him for handpicked light fixtures, retro china, and rustic furniture. 5634 N. Clark St., roostchicago.com, dessert plate $3. SPLIT DECISIONAt 7-month-old Acre, two distinct dining experiences coexist beneath a single pressed-tin ceiling. In the dining room, all wainscoting and watercolors, upscale comfort food (linguine with poached duck egg, pork-confit pierogi) is the rule. Meanwhile, the low-key taproom turns out elevated pub snacks (mac ’n’ cheese with house-cured bacon) and a menu of more than 100 beers. 5308 N. Clark St., acrerestaurant.com, mac ’n’ cheese $7. HIGH SPIRITSKoval Distillery opened in 2008, but its production process dates back four decades. Cofounder Robert Birnecker employs techniques passed down to him by his Austrian grandfather to brew organic, small-batch rye (right), whiskey, and vodka, along with an exotic honey-chrysanthemum liqueur. 5121 N. Ravenswood Ave., koval-distillery.com, tasting tour $10. MORNING GLORYM. Henrietta, the 8-month-old offshoot of local standby M. Henry, does a brunch that will transport you—and not only because the place takes its design cues from French country houses. The menu skips across continents, from a chorizo-and-salsa-verde scramble to a “rustic peasant quiche” (made with Gruyère and asparagus) to refined takes on American classics: blackberry pan-cakes layered with vanilla mascarpone cream and topped with a brown-sugar-and-oat crust. 1133 W. Granville Ave., mhenrietta.com, pancakes $9.25. A LATE SHIFTThis North Clark Street spot has always catered to a late-night crowd—it’s just swapped beers and bar stools for local Metropolis coffee and board games. Owned by a former bar manager, the year-and-a-half-old Winston’s Café is still the only java joint in the nabe that stays open until 1 a.m. 5001 N. Clark St., 773/728-0050, coffee $2.

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