10 Tourist-Free Adventure Destinations
This article was written by Mary Mazzoni and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.
Sick of overcrowded streets, congested bus rides and suffocating travel groups? You’re not alone. One of the top trends in travel this decade is the quest for the untouched—those pristine, less-traveled destinations you can explore without bumping into selfie-takers at every turn.
Luckily for us, the folks at the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) know a thing or two about traveling off the beaten path. To bring you the tourist-free experience you crave, we asked experts at the recent AdventureElevate conference in Colorado to share some of their favorite secret spots. Read on to get the skinny on these exotic locales before the crowds show up.
For untouched culture: Tolar, Argentina
This small town of less than 300 people is a favorite of Veronica Lampon of Say Hueque. Although her firm is the No. 1 tour operator in Argentina, it only sells around one trip a year to this unexplored location—so you’re sure to get a pristine adventure experience.
Located in the deserts of Northern Argentina, Tolar boasts beautiful mountains, rendered in technicolor thanks to mineral deposits, and a unique cultural experience that can’t be beat. The remote location was heavily influenced by the Incas, and it remains untainted by waves of tourists. “You can still get a lot of that culture from 200 years ago,” Lampon told us. “It’s an amazing experience.”
For watersport: Rio Cangrejal, Honduras
Situated in Northern Honduras, the Rio Cangrejal is “one of the great whitewater rafting and kayaking rivers in Central America,” said Mark Willuhn of the Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance.
Using a coastal town like La Ceiba as your base, you can easily explore the Rio Cangrejal region and all it has to offer. After you give kayaking and rafting a try, head to the nearby Pico Bonito National Park to check out untouched rain forests without bumping elbows with other travelers. Or, peep exotic sea life on a snorkeling adventure on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef along the Honduran Bay Islands.
In your backyard: Point Reyes National Seahore, California
Although it’s only an hour from San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore remains “very much a hidden secret,” said Christina Tunnah of travel insurance operator World Nomads. “It’s a jewel in that part of California that is still thankfully very pristine and still very rugged at the same time.”
At Point Reyes, around 240 miles of trail beckons hikers, bikers and horseback riders to explore the protected countryside. On your travels, be sure to check out the historic lighthouse and the many wildlife viewing areas, such as the tule elk range or the Elephant Seal Overlook. Visit from January through April, and you may also catch a glimpse of the annual gray whale migration from one of the park beaches or headlands.
Adventure made easy: Town-hopping in Alaska
Visiting Alaska is a surefire way to get off the beaten path, but it can seem daunting to pick a locale amidst its 660,000 square miles of terrain. We caught up with Jack Bonney of Visit Anchorage for a local’s perspective.
His tips: Start and finish your trip in Anchorage for seamless airport access, then use the railroad system to explore Alaska’s backcountry. Kick off your adventure in Seward, a small fishing town that’s about a three-hour train ride from Anchorage. Explore the untouched seaside village, and take a quick boat trip to Kenai Fjords National Park which is home to 38 stunning glaciers and some of the most breathtaking views in Alaska.
For an even more off-grid experience, hop back on the Alaska Railroad to Spencer Glacier. “When the train pulls away, the people who got off the train with you are the only ones who are going to be out there,” Bonney said with a smile. Enjoy float tours, hiking and camping at one of the most spectacular glaciers in Alaska before the easy train trip back to Anchorage. Adventure and convenience? Sign us up!
Soft adventure paradise: Amalfi Coast, Italy
Looking for an offbeat trip but aren’t quite ready for sub-zero camping or remote hiking tours? Don’t worry. You can have the best of both worlds on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, said Tom De Napoli of Diamante Eco Adventure Park in Costa Rica.
A less-traveled destination that’s far from rugged, the Amalfi Coast is home to pristine beaches and stunning hillside towns. Take a relaxing bike or scooter ride, or simply enjoy the scenery in this quirky destination that’s perfect for families and low-impact travelers.
For unmatched diversity: Azores
Although it’s a perennial editor’s favorite for top 10 lists, this autonomous region of Portugal remains a relatively unknown destination for North American travelers.
A mere four-hour flight from Boston, the nine islands of the Azores each offer their own distinct landscape—ensuring something for everyone and banishing boredom for good. Explore the red deserts of Santa Maria, the lush mountain peaks of Sao Jorge, or the semi-submersed caves and stunning seaside vistas of Pico and Faial. Seriously, there’s so much more than we could ever list here. Check out their website to learn more.
For ancient history: Sierra de San Francisco, Baja California
It’s truly a trip of a lifetime, but expect a bit of a trek to get there: Visitors hike in on foot, using mules to carry their belongings, and are unlikely to run into anyone outside of their small tour group. Visited by only around 300 travelers a year, the site features remarkably well-preserved rock paintings from as far back as 100 B.C.
Spot some wildlife: Pantanal, Brazil
“Honestly, the Pantanal is the most underrated destination,” said George Duffy of Adventure Engine. Or, as Lonely Planet puts it, “The Amazon gets the press coverage, but the Pantanal is a better place to see wildlife.”
Tour the lush rain forests of the region, and you’re sure to see exotic native creatures maxin’ and relaxin’ without fear of tourist crowds. For sea life, head to Bonito for stunning freshwater snorkeling in warm, crystal-blue waters.
Boozy adventure: Isle of Harris, Scotland
The mostly untouched Isle of Harris is home to some of the best beaches in Scotland—not to mention the most remote whiskey distillery in the world, set to open later this year. Tour the distillery and even reserve one of its first barrels, which you can pick up in 10 years after it’s finished aging.
On your visit, take in the island’s lush landscapes and stunning beaches on a cycling and hiking tour courtesy of Wilderness Scotland.
The offbeat Eurotrip: Macedonia
This landlocked Balkan nation, bordered by Albania and Greece, is the perfect place to “see authentic Europe that really hasn’t been disrupted by tourism,” advised Kathy Kramer of Firefly Journeys.
In Macedonia, check out rolling countrysides, stunning mountain vistas and picturesque villages—without a tour bus in sight. Link up with Macedonia Experience for hiking and biking tours with expert guides to make sure you don’t miss a beat.
Best Things To Do In Berlin, Maryland, One of America's Coolest Small Towns
Located just a 15-minute drive from Assateague Island and Ocean City on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Berlin, Maryland, had the honor of winning last year's coveted “America’s Coolest Small Town" title. I had such a great time visiting this summer and couldn't wait to share this video from my trip with all of you! If you're planning to visit and see it for yourself this summer, here are five ways to make the most of your trip to this artsy, quaint, and historic part of the east coast. Get to know the locals Learning about a place from the people who live there is the best way to truly get a sense of that destination. Whether you speak to someone in a store or restaurant for travel advice or chat up the locals on a bench, you’re sure to learn something new. Never skimp on desserts Berlin has a town dessert that you don’t want to miss: the peach dumpling. The are was once home to one of the largest peach orchards in the country, and this dessert certainly pays tribute to those roots. Stop by Baked Dessert Café to get a sugar rush from this sweet treat that consists of peach slices sautéed in butter, brown sugar, and spices encased in a buttery puff pastry. The best part: It’s topped with homemade caramel sauce. Yum! Embrace your artsy side From galleries to glass blowing, there are plenty of great ways to get artsy in Berlin. Make a plan to meet Jeffrey Auxer and learn the art of glass blowing at his studio and gallery just off Main Street. Whether you create an ornament or your own special home décor souvenir, you’ll have a keepsake with true meaning and the knowledge that you challenged yourself (or your kids) to learn something new. Head to the local watering hole Pay a visit to Burley Oak Brewery, a sustainable brewery that guests can tour. Sip on inventive brews like the Dirty Blonde—a Belgian inspired ale made with yeast from a Trappist Monastery—the Tart Attack, or Hand Made Root Beer in the lively taproom. Plus, the beer tastes better when you know that just by drinking it, you’re supporting local farmers and small businesses, so give yourself a pat on the back as you toast Berlin. Window shop on Main Street Did you know the 1999 movie “Runaway Bride” with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere was filmed along Berlin’s charming Main Street? Take a stroll down the main drag to look for antiques, unique gift items, or just window shop and soak in this small town’s ambience. Looking for more things to do around the Berlin area? Ocean City is just a 15-minute drive away. Also within a 15-minute drive of Berlin is scenic Assateague Island, a great place to spend the day or take the family on good old fashioned camping trip. Of course, no camping trip is complete with out s'mores. Here's how to make them perfectly.
Group Tours Are a Beautiful Way to See the World
Whether you're planning a family reunion, girlfriend getaway, or just happen to have a bunch of friends and relations itching to hit the road, we love group travel. It's a way of reconnecting with the people close to you while you simultaneously connect with a new environment and culture, new tastes and sights. Sure, seeing St. Peter's basilica for the first time is a thrill whenever you manage to get there. But seeing it through grandpa's eyes? Or watching two of your best friends stagger up the dizzying steps to the dome's top? Those are connections you'll never forget. We especially love the tour packages for groups of eight or more offered by Globus Journeys. It's an amazing way to enjoy guided tours, great accommodations, and the insider access that Globus's expert-planned itineraries are known for. If you're ready to jump on the potential savings of the historically low euro, Globus's itineraries include group tours to Italy, Ireland, Spain, England, France, Portugal, and include multi-country packages in Europe. Globus also has group tours to China, Japan, Costa Rica, and Africa. Globus has a well-earned reputation for assembling itineraries planned by local experts, which means you're in good hands when it comes to what to see, when to see it, where to eat, and more. When you know you're getting a good deal (package tours typically deliver big savings over an a la carte booking approach) and all your logistics are worked out in advance, you can get down to the important business of connecting and reconnecting that group travel is all about.
Going Beyond The Beach In Grenada
In the Caribbean, clear turquoise water and soft white sand are a dime a dozen. The sensory appeal of Grenada's magnificent beaches is undeniable, but savvy visitors venture beyond the sun, sand, and sea. This compact island pleases with a trifecta of adventure, activities, and nature. The best part: its manageable size makes it easy to cover a lot of ground in a short time frame. Nicknamed the Spice Island, locally grown nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon gently perfume the sea air. Island cooks utilize these aromatics in scrumptious ways, so prepare your palate for culinary magic. The tourist footprint is relatively light, so expect to be embraced by locals. Ripe for development, now is the time to explore Grenada's unspoiled flora and fauna. Here are 10 ways to go beyond the beach in Grenada. Explore Grand Etang National Park and Rainforest Preserve Nestled in the heart of Grenada's lush interior lies Grand Etang, an unblemished rainforest and wildlife sanctuary. A cobalt blue lake is its sparkling showpiece. Be on the lookout for exotic birds and playful Mona monkeys as you hike the winding trails. Try a guided tubing tour down the river Grenada Adventure Tours offers thrill-seekers tubing excursions down the Balthazar River. Spin, swirl, and slide as the current carries you along. The shady vegetation and cool water are just right on a steamy day, plus, you'll be outfitted with a life jacket, helmet, and professional guide the entire length of the trip. Check out the Belmont Estate Belmont Estate is a locavore's wonderland. Visitors to this 300-year-old plantation get a first-hand glimpse of how passionate Grenadians are about preserving their traditional agricultural practices. 400 acres of gardens and rolling hills produce a bounty of tropical fruits and organic vegetables. A herd of goats provide milk for the cheeses that are served in the open-air restaurant. Chocolate is produced on the estate, so you'll commune with Willy Wonka as you observe the bean-to-bar method. Go behind the scenes at a rum distillery River Antoine Rum Distillery is the oldest functioning water-propelled distillery in the entire Caribbean and the rum is made in much the same manner that it was 200 years ago. Watch the process and sample away. You may purchase the potent spirit in the shop, but note that much of it has such high alcohol content that it's considered too flammable to bring home on the plane. Visit a nutmeg factory It's not called the spice island for nothing. An assortment of fragrant spices flourish here, but none is more globally prized than nutmeg. At the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station, visitors join an informative tour, observing the various stages of the grading and classification process. Best of all, the tour only costs a buck. Don't forget fish Friday Each Friday night, the village of Gouyave is transformed into an open-air eatery that draws islanders and visitors alike to its famed Fish Friday where dozens of vendors cook just-caught seafood over open fires. Homegrown spices add gentle complexity to even ordinary dishes. Epicureans who crave the taste of the sea combined with authentic local color won't want to miss a single bite. Spend time exploring Market Square Everyone needs to eat to live, but Grenada appeals to those who live to eat. St. George is the bustling capital city and its market is a feast for the senses. They say that anything can grow in Grenada's rich volcanic soil and a stroll around the market confirms this. Papaya, mango, breadfruit, and leafy green callaloo are top produce picks. The assortment of spices is outstanding and the intoxicating smells may put your taste buds into overdrive. Go back in time at the island's historic Forts Grenada's complex history has seen its share of bloodshed and includes a U.S. military invasion in the 1980s. While it is extremely safe today, its strategic location means it is loaded with venerable military fortifications and visiting one of them is an essential element in understanding the island's past. Hilltop Fort Frederick commands a panoramic view while imposing Fort George is equally stately. Visit the world's first underwater sculpture park If the natural splendor of a coral reef isn't enough for you, grab your snorkel mask and head to Grenada's Underwater Sculpture Park. Sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor's artistic gem explores the relationship between art and the environment. This manmade wonder is located in fairly shallow waters, so even novices can sneak a peak. See wonderful waterfalls There are many spots to refresh under the cascade of cool water. Popular waterfalls include three-tiered Concord Falls and Annandale Falls, easy to reach via paved trail. Where to stay Sandals La Source is an all-inclusive resort located on stunning Pink Gin Beach. It's a two-minute ride from the airport, so you can be on the beach within minutes of clearing customs. Besides locally inspired cuisine and top-shelf alcohol, all non-motorized water sports are included in your rate—divers will appreciate this policy, as Grenada is every bit as breathtaking below the water as above it. Experts consider it one of the top wreck dive sites in the world with over 20 shipwrecks. Best times to visit Grenadians know how to party, or "lime" in local speak so try and plan your visit to coincide with one of the island's numerous festivals. The premier event is Carnival aka Spicemas, held each August. In the spring, Chocolate Fest pays homage to this country's favorite confection. If you're lucky enough to visit in winter, get better acquainted with this country's seafaring traditions during the Grenada Sailing Festival. This article was written by Allison Tibaldi, a native New Yorker who has lived in Rome, Tuscany, Melbourne, Toronto, and Los Angeles. She is fluent in Italian and Spanish and laughably adequate in French. When she's not traveling, she's scouring NYC for delectable eats. As a freelance travel writer, she focuses on family, culinary, and car-free travel. She's also a senior travel writer at offMetro.com.
The world's best airports
The word airport can prompt all kinds of reactions: horror at the thought of using the airport bathroom, anger at the gate change that caused you to miss your connection, and on occasion, even joy at having a smooth, stress-free experience. Earlier this year, The World Airport Awards were announced, aiming to recognize the best airports. For the seventh year in a row, Hong Kong was named the World’s Best Airport. Munich was named Europe’s winner, while San Francisco came in first in North America. Singapore’s airport won top ranks in the categories of best duty free shopping, best airport dining and best leisure amenities. But Skytrax's survey wasn't the perfect one for discovering the opinions of American budget travelers. The awards are given every year by the British aviation research group Skytrax. They're based on surveys of more than 8.2 million passengers worldwide. Airlines are rated for terminal cleanliness, staff efficiency, security processing, walking distances, and features like shopping and dining. But the survey is disproportionately filled out by business travelers, which might skew the results somewhat. At This Just In, we’ve asked you about your favorite airports before, and more than 50 of you responded. So I thought it may be interesting to compare what you said with the survey results. There were a few favorite airports that appeared in both the survey results and in your own comments, like Singapore and Munich. And then there were also some of our hometown airports that offer a sense of place and distinct character. Here are a few of your favorites: Sarasota-Bradenton: "The water walls, plants, and aquariums add much class and make it so unlike an airport. No endless shuttles here — just sun and palms." Minneapolis-Saint Paul: "In addition to being a pleasant airport, you can catch an inexpensive light rail train right at the airport. In one direction is a beautiful park and the other is the Mall of America." Singapore: "It has indoor gardens, a free movie theater with comfortable seats, a barber shop, a hotel, scores of shops and 300 free internet kiosks." Munich: "Clean, modern, open, easy connections to rail, well-marked and friendly staff." Portland, Ore.: "You know that you are in the Pacific Northwest as you walk around. Large floor to ceiling windows look out towards the Willamette River and woodsy scenery. Also, there is a playroom for kids where they can crawl and play on a huge airplane."