Mapping summer vacations that don't suck.
If you're not quite ready for your summer vacation to end and you've got $60,000 burning a hole in your pocket, the professional travel planners at ekoVenture are ready to take you on a two-month adventure across Antarctica. The trip has a difficulty level of "strenuous" and the comfort level is rated as "bare bones," or, in other words: awesome.
If that last part doesn't give you an adequate sense of what you're in for, the trip overview begins with the following: "this unique expedition has the goal of arriving to the south pole unsupported, which means without any help or food caches from its beginning to its completion." On one hand, arriving at the south pole sounds mind-blowingly incredible. On the other hand, aren't "food caches" traditionally helpful things? Why would anyone want to give up on something with a name like "food caches"?
If you're very rich, very bored, and have a very deep need to one-up your shark diving and sandboarding friends, space tourism company Space Adventures will train you, put you on the back of a Russian rocket, and shoot you into outer space. They've been doing it for over a decade and they've become pretty good at it, sending several tourists into orbit to the tune of over $170 million.
The company offers all kinds of packages, from a lunar mission and orbital spaceflights to zero gravity walks on the International Space Station. This is usually where we'd give you the pricing for each separate package, but after the first dozen or so million dollars we lose track. Suffice it to say that the lunar mission, which takes tourists around but not onto the surface of the moon, clocks in at a cool $100 million. No one has taken them up on the offer yet so there's still a chance for you to become the world's first private lunar explorer.
Apparently the Earthrise as seen from the dark side of the Moon is quite stunning this time of year. Or any time of year.
Summer-Vacations-With-An-Edge / Active Travel / Desert Travel / Peru Travel / Green Travel / → All Tags
It turns out that the highest sand dune in the world is Peru's Cerro Blanco, which rises more than 2,000m above the ground and more or less resembles a mountain. It also turns out that if you want to sandboard down the side of it, Peru Adventure Tours is more than willing to put together a package for you, drive you out there in a sand buggy, and watch as you indulge in one of the world's most extreme sports.
Sandboarding is an all-season sport, one of the upshots of basing an activity out of a desert. Sandboarders either stand on snowboard-like boards or lie down on mats for "trayboarding," and try to pull off the same tricks that snowboarders do. That means catching air, doing tricks, and carving up the ground. Instead of kicking up snow, though, these athletes shred grainy sand. And instead of getting to ride sky lifts up picturesque mountains, they have to access some of the most unforgiving environments in the world.
If so, UnrealDive has an extreme summer vacation for you. The South African expeditions company offers a series of one day outings and extended shark diving expeditions for adrenaline junkies and ecotourists alike. Great Whites are surface feeders so simple boat watching is always an option, but UnrealDive puts customers inside cages for eye-to-eye viewing.
The company boasts a 12 year track record without a single incident; no small achievement given that South Africa has some of the densest shark waters on the planet.
There's only a few weekends left in the summer and if you're still looking to get away, why not try something different than partying til you puke with your friends at the shore? Why not try a Summer Vacation With an Edge? For the rest of the month we'll be rounding up some summer vacations that won't suck, starting with kiteboarding off Lameque Island in New Brunswick, Canada.
Unless you're a professional kiteboarding, you're gonna need some training, not to mention equipment. The Club Wind & Kite school, headed by its founder and owner, Eric Girard, has put together a 7-day ABC kiteboarding package that includes training, lodging and some other activities like kayaking and bicycling. The 7-day package is $899 CAD and of course, doesn't include airfare. If you want to save some money the package will be discounted 20 percent off from September 5-26.
The summer months don't exactly scream skiing and mountaineering, but if you head to the Andes Mountains in Chile that's exactly what the summer is all about. Just wait until you get back home and tell all you friends about the world-class ski trip you took over Labor Day Weekend.
ChileMontaña offers a tour of Portillo, El Arpa, La Parva and Valle Nevado over a week. You'll start off in Santiago and you'll return there at the end of your summer/winter vacation. Each ski area offers something different--huge mountain peaks, steep and deep terrain and even a 3,000-foot decent at El Arpa.
The trip offers opportunities for both skiers and snowboarders alike. You'll spend your evenings in high-end accommodations, and cultural interaction and cuisine are also on the agenda. The tour will set you back $2,800 per person, but that price does cover pretty much everything including airport transfers, dinner and lift tickets. All you need to do is get your flight and pack a pair or two of skis.
If you've been paying attention to the news you may have noticed that there's been a sharp increase in the amount of tornadoes in the US this year. Just yesterday, another storm pounded a town near the Canadian border in North Dakota, damaging about 15 homes. Blame it on global climate change, chalk it up to coincidence or do something about it--and go check it out yourself!
Ever wished for divine intervention amidst a particularly hard climb? Such invocation isn't required to hike a new path following the footsteps of Jesus Christ in Israel; on holy land all bets are off.
The 65-kilometer Jesus Trail in northern Israel takes hikers to New Testament landmarks from Nazareth to the Mount of the Beatitudes and the Jordan River over four hot days. What gives this the edge is not only the desert heat but also the schlepping: Organizers suggest carrying 5 liters of water per person, per day.
Follow the Jesus Trail by yourself with GPS directions or use one of the suggested tour guides.
· Suggested Itinerary [Jesus Trail]
· Windsurfing Where Jesus Walked [Forbes]
· Swimsuit Issue Travel: Is '08 The Year For Israel? [Jaunted]
· Summer Vacations with an Edge coverage [Jaunted]
[Photo: B & R Folsom]
Walk in Dian Fossey's footsteps and see your genetic descendants up close: Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is one of only five international parks where you can see mountain gorillas up close. If you manage to snag one of the coveted park passes--40 are given out each day--you could be within Frisbee-throwing distance of the mighty quadrupeds.
Tourism in Rwanda is on the upswing despite several years of civil war and internecine conflict with surrounding countries. We might have been skeptical when Travel + Leisure turned the spotlight on the country in 2005, but these enormous and fascinating creatures deserve a closer look.
Don't bring ketchup to this sauce show: Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs may get all the glory when it comes to competitive eating for its Fourth of July contest, but in order to get to New York City you'll have to out-eat your neighborhood at one of several qualifying events. (It's like "American Idol" for the stomach!)
Bragging rights come easier at one of many other events sponsored by the International Federation of Competitive Eating, like the Chinook Winds World Rib Eating Championship held in Oregon on July 13.
In rib-eating contests, contestants are judged by the amount of meat consumed in pounds when their pile of bones is accounted for. Nathan's defending champ Joey Chestnut will be there to strap on an industrial-sized bib. (Prepare yourself: He ate 8.4 pounds of meat at the contest in 2006).
Even if you don't win, you can still chow down at the Smokin' at the Ocean event at Chinook Winds all weekend.
Summer-Vacations-With-An-Edge / Active Travel / Outdoor Travel / Summer Travel / Canoing / → All Tags
In these days of rampant global warming, the edgiest thing may be to head north and shun rising temps: Canoeing in the Quetico, Canada's side of Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area, is often chilly even at the height of summer. Luckily, the wildlife doesn't seem to mind.
You'll paddle alongside loons and moose instead of motorboats, which are banned in most areas of the park. Many of the park's lakes and rivers are not accessible by road, and carry-ins are tightly controlled to keep the backwoods pristine.
Shop around for an outfitter who has experience in getting the right permits to make sure no one bothers you as you live your voyageur dreams.
The advent of summer weather may be an inspiration to you to take up a new exercise routine, either to fit into that bathing suit or to get some fresh air. But no novice runner should start with the Green Mountain Relay, a 200-mile race that goes over the hills and through the woods of Vermont.
It's designed for a team, but the high-altitude course, above, is still no slouch, even if you have the maximum competition allowance of 12 runners. (That's still more than a half marathon per person, albeit over two days.)
It's too late to sign up for this year's Green Mountain Rally, but if you hang out in Bennington this weekend cheering on the racers (and buying them pasta dinners), maybe you'll get some tips for 2009?