Forget the slush and snow--warm up at these hot spots.
If you want to look hip in five years, book a trip to Cape Verde now so you can say you visited before anyone else knew about it. The chain of volcanic islands sits off the west coast of Africa, and with its tropical climate, long stretches of beaches and turquoise waters, it's amazing that it hasn't yet met the same fate as the tourist-clogged Canaries.
It will soon, though. Its government says it expects tourism to increase by about 400% over the next decade.
If you can swing a vacation in March, it's a perfect time to visit Cape Verde because it's the start of festival season. Carnival kicked off Sunday in Mindelo with parades featuring kings, queens, ballerinas, witches, punks and other characters, according to the Afrol News. Similar events will continue throughout the month.
On Monday we covered a grapey getaway in South Africa. Another great place to go vineyard hopping this time of year is in the mountainous Mendoza province of Argentina, the fifth largest producer of wine in the world.
Postales del Plata offers packages ranging from weekend jaunts to ten-day wine safaris, including bookings at country lodges surrounded by grape-producing fields. In case you're not ready to travel now, return for winter wine tastings and some of the best skiing in the Southern Hemisphere.
We'd recommend heading to Muratie Wine Estate at the base of the Simonsberg in Stellanbosch. March 1 brings their "Great Muratie Port Stomp" where for 40 Rand (about $5) you can go and stomp the new port grapes, reserve your own bottle of port, picnic on the lawns of this historic homestead and listen to the sounds of Jannie "Hanepoot" van Tonder's great 18-piece band playing a South African jazz program.
Stay on-site in one of the estate's two guesthouses or stay in Camps Beach, minutes from Cape Town with the same laid-back vibe at The Bay Hotel. It's got amazing views of Table Mountain, the ocean and is backed by the Twelve Apostles. Rooms are chic and minimalist with neutral decor. Be sure to do it up as The Bay's where all the beautiful locals come to congregate.
[Photo: :: Rick ::]
So, we're officially tired of winter. It was fun while it lasted, but we're ready to go to El Salvador and surf. Sounds fun, right?
Now our little fantasy springs from a trip we once took to Playa El Cuco. While we spent the night in a fairly shabby guesthouse, we shoulda booked at Las Flores Surf Club.
This ridiculously tricked out boutique property has more amenities than some Manhattan hotels, including three boats to take you out to the best waves, wherever they may be. (Something tells us they have brew-stocked coolers on board.)
If you're gonna get into surfing, we can't think of a better place. But if you'd rather just kick it on the beach, that's cool too. Current temperature at Las Flores? 89 degrees.
Ever since French President Nicolas Sarkozy publicly frolicked on the beach with former super model (and the object of all men's affections in the early 1990s) Carla Bruni, we have been super jealous.
No, not of Carla Bruni but rather because it's "balmy weather" over in Egypt right now. During the day, temps are hitting 78 degrees.
Luxor depends on tourism to keep its economy afloat. And while it's been getting good tourism numbers, we read somewhere that more people actually visit the Luxor Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas than the original Luxor. Sad but can you blame them? Drinking, dancing and gambling, versus ancient dead people? Hmm....
Anyways, we would be more than happy to help out Luxor by taking a trip over there. Now does Ryanair fly there?
Looks like we're not the only country gearing up for some pretty historic national elections. In November 2008, the Republic of Maldives will be conducting its first-ever presidential vote under a multi-candidate, multi-party system. Yay, democracy! What better way to show support for the political process--and contribute to the Maldives flourishing tourism sector--than by booking a getaway to the tiny Southeast Asian nation?
The country is comprised of more than 1,100 islands--and there are private resorts on 44 of them. These destination hotels are all seriously luxe, and set up as five-star retreats for the romantically inclined and seriously stressed-out. Shoestring travelers won't find many low-budget dives this far out.
If we had our druthers--and perhaps, sugar daddies--we'd stay at the Conrad Maldives Rangali, which spans two islands via a walkway surrounded by a blue lagoon. The property features 50 villas built on stilts over the ocean (nearly all come with private butlers) and 21 new Spa Water Villas (each featuring its own private mini-gym and treatment room).
In case the sea view from our room isn't satisfying enough, the spa has three glass-floored villas offering a direct view down to the coral reef below. Plus, the resort boasts the world's only all-glass undersea restaurant, above, where you can watch all manner of marine life float by as you tuck into grilled snapper.
Summer in Brazil can mean crowds, lines and swarms of tourists on the most popular beaches. But on Fernando de Noronha, a tiny little island just 200 miles off the country's northeastern coast all you'll find is a pristine summertime paradise. Why's that? The government only allows 240 visitors onto the island at one time, to preserve its extensive sanctuaries and white sand beaches.
Head there next month and join fellow tree-hugging types at the annual "Day of the Tree," where the entire place participates in a seedling planting campaign. It's not all utopia on the island. Visitors pay an "environmental tax," and access to the spot can be challenging. There are two flights from Recife and Natal on local airlines and you can charter a boat to get there from the mainland.
Once you get there, don't expect mega-resorts. You'll stay at a local family-owned pousada where you'll be expected to hang out with the kids at the dinnertable, but you'll get lots of local knowledge in exchange. Pousada Ze Maria is centrally located and fairly advanced with both room and apartment options where you can relax in a solar powered whirlpool, or while away under the cashew nut tree by the pool.
[Photo: Ze Eduardo]
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The area around Lima, Peru is just hitting its peak summer season now. But don't get overwhelmed by the bustle of the city. Get to some of the amazing towns further afield, like Lunahuana, south of Lima.
February brings the laid-back festival of grapes and wine, where the local harvest is celebrated extensively. Lunahuana makes some of the best pisco around and is a pretty peaceful agricultural town--but there's a nice dash of adventure sports to keep things interesting. The Cañete River makes a great spot for kayaking, fishing, hunting and hiking.
Since the snow is melting in the Andes, river rafting is a big draw this time of year. Ask around for local tour operators or go with Rio Cañete Expediciones, Lonely Planet's favorite outfitter.
[Photo: Rio Cañete Expediciones]
Didn't score enough vacation days to plan a full-scale safari to South Africa this winter? No worries. You can still get your fill of adventure--and a glimpse of some pretty exotic four-legged locals--by visiting Cuixmala, an eco-resort spread out over 25,000 acres of wilderness reserve on Mexico's Pacific coast.
Formerly a private residence, the open plan of the boutique property--just three villas, nine casitas and a main house--encourages guests to get pretty friendly with nature. Outdoor dining and entertainment areas offer unfettered views of beaches, lagoons, fruit groves and rivers. Meals are completely customized and prepared upon request using organic ingredients produced at local nurseries.
And of course, there are the critters: the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve protects more than 1200 species of plants, 270 types of birds and 72 types of mammals. During your stay, you can ride on horseback to check out the zebras, antelopes and wild boar that live within the reserve, sail to the nearby private islands to snorkel or spot birds and crocodiles on a lagoon cruise.
No, its not exactly the same as tracking the big five in Africa--but at least you don't have to wear one of those dorky pith helmets.
Singapore might be the land of no spitting, but at least it's in the middle of a permanent summer. And while Singapore city itself is mostly shopping, shopping and a bit of eating between shopping, you can get away to Sentosa Island if you need a bit more of a holiday feel.
Sentosa Island, just a short hop across the harbor from Singapore itself, is home to all kinds of attractions, including Underwater World (and the overrated Dolphin Lagoon), restaurants, rides and resorts.
With yet another large resort on the way--set to open in 2010 and draw some 15 million visitors a year--another access route to the island is necessary. That means doubling the size of the current bridge joining Sentosa to the mainland. If they add any more lanes, it'll stop being an island.
[Photo: Storm Crypt]
As the snow falls in our 'hood, we're day dreaming of summer. Heading to the Galapagos in Ecuador, for the annual celebration of "Galapagos Days" is current obsession. Each island has its own parades and all out revelry the second week of February every year.
This month also brings lots of cool things to see there in the animal arena. Marine iguanas and flamingos begin to nest, and white-cheeked pintails start breeding. How would we see it all? Probably on a 7 day cruise on the M/S Alta, a three-masted schooner that has old-world charm and comes with all meals and your very own naturalist aboard for the trip.
True, lots of tourism to the islands has consequences, but if you do your trip right, you'll be able to enjoy the natural wonders without damaging 'em.
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Forget "Victoria Falls." Zambia's Toka Leya tribe calls the falls Mosi oa Tunya, "The Smoke That Thunders," and it's a spot-on description of the rumbling mist created by the world's largest waterfall. Every February, at the height of the wet season, the tribe gathers in the fog to offer sacrifices--and you can join 'em.
To view the falls on foot, trek the well-marked, paved paths through the rainforest, catching glimpses of the cascade through the trees. At the Knife Edge Bridge, you won't be able to see much, but the cool spray from the pounding waters offers some relief from the heat.
For another perspective, you can see Victoria Falls from above. It isn't hard to find a pilot in the area to take you out for a flight, zipping through the gorges and marveling at the sheer size of the falls. United Air Charter is one local outfit you can try.
If seeing it from the sky is too wimpy, you can always try bungee jumping. These
crazies adventure lovers are jumping from 365 feet above the Zambezi River.