Travel Digest – September 2012

BHUTAN

Ahh … who doesn’t dream of visiting magical Bhutan? Fuel your dreams even more by visiting www.amankora.com and learning more about the Aman Resort group’s lodges situated across five valleys in the Kingdom.

CHILE – EASTER ISLAND

It is unlikely that, hitherto, anyone setting off to explore unique Easter Island would expect to find luxury accommodation.  Not any more, apparently, as luxury has arrived on the island in the shape of Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa.  Located in the island’s capital – Hanga Roa – the resort offers 75rooms decorated in eco-friendly style with views over the Pacific, yet it is only a kilometre from the airport.  Check it out if Chile and Easter Island are in your plans. www.hangaroa.cl

COSTA RICA

We’ve mentioned Canadian-owned Junglavista (that Costa Rican treehouse accommodation) in our pages before and this summer the property – and its two-for-one summer special – was featured in Zoomer Magazine.   And during the summer, owners Paul and Jeanne were in Toronto to participate in two charity auctions for a week’s stay at Junglavista.  They also report they are busy with additions (WiFi etc.) and renovations and are already taking bookings for 2013.  Take a look at www.junglavista.com

ISRAEL 

Just like the Grand Canyon in the U.S, the Ramon Crater is an amazing marvel of nature. It is a geologist’s dream, stargazer’s paradise and must-see attraction for any nature-loving tourist.  And the One Family Fund is inviting Canadians to join them on a unique hiking adventure through this lively desert region, while helping victims of terror in Israel.

Although it is often referred to as a crater, this demonstration of nature’s immense power and beauty is really a makhtesh, the largest of its kind in the world. A makhtesh is a valley bounded by sheer walls and drained by a single riverbed. Makhtesh Ramon, forty kilometres long and up to eight kilometres wide was created by climatic changes, which unearthed rock dating from as far back as 220 million years. The Ramon area is home to many animals including the Nubian Ibex, leopard, striped hyena, sand fox, Dorcas gazelle and the fat desert rat. A variety of flora has also acclimatized to the arid conditions, such as Atlantic pistachio trees, buckthorn, globe daisies and tulips.

The 2012 One Family Cross Israel Hike (21 – 15 October) takes participants on a five-day adventurous hike through the rugged mountainous terrain of the Negev and Ramon Crater regions to experience the breathtaking Ramon Crater, Tzin Valley and scenic oases. Hikers enjoy a diverse and exciting array of evening activities; some Israeli culture with three nights in Kibbutzim; and the opportunity to connect with victims of terror in a uniquely personal way.

In order to help One Family provide direct medical, financial, emotional and psychological aid to Israel’s thousands of victims of terrorism and their families, hikers are asked to raise a minimum $2,500 in donations to One Family Fund Canada. For more information, or to register for this exciting once-in-a-lifetime adventure, visit http://onefamilyfundhike.com.

Pam Albert founded One Family Fund Canada in 2004, after traveling to Israel in search of a charity about which she could be passionate. When she discovered One Family and what they did, she found her match. Most important to her was that One Family not only supported the victim of terror, but also helped the family, as a whole. By working with all members, One Family is able to help return the families to independent, functioning units. One Family works with victims of terror in Israel, no matter their denomination or religion.

For more information about the programmes run by One Family and the people helped by the organization, please visit: www.onefamilyfund.ca.

MEXICO

For something completely different when you next visit Mexico, take a look at Endémico at www.grupohabita.mx. These 20 cabins are staggered among boulders on a secluded hill in the wine-growing region of Valle de Guadalupe, under two hours’ drive from San Diego, California. The above website also lists other properties in the Grupo Habita portfolio.

PORTUGAL – THE AZORES  

Azores Tourism is luring visitors with a list of “10 Reasons to Visit”: A World Apart, Feel the Old World, Breathtaking Landscapes, A Paradise for Exciting Outdoor Adventures, Nine Islands to Explore, Sustainable Practices, Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Rich Gastronomy and Varied Accommodation.  Tempted?  Take a closer look at www.visitazores.com.

SWITZERLAND

This is old news now, but this beautiful region of Switzerland will always warrant a visit.  The famous Jungfrau Railway was one hundred years old on 1 August this year.  To celebrate, 48 flares were lit on the north walls of the Eiger and Munch mountains, showing the route of this historic railway.   Yes, it was one hundred years ago that Italian construction workers set off a huge charge of dynamite and succeeded in breaking through to the Jungfraujoch and Europe’s highest-altitude railway station was officially opened on 1 August 1912.  Today about 750,000 people visit this station every year and in March this year a 250-metre-long round tour attraction was opened, illustrating in artistic fashion the history of the Jungfrau Railway and the development of tourism in Switzerland.  www.jungfrau.ch/en/tourism/places-to-visit/.

And more rail news from Switzerland: Rail Europe is offering a two-for-one fall special on Swiss Rail Passes for travel between 1 September and 30 November.  The offer covers 1st and 2nd class travel on a Swiss Saver Pass for four consecutive days (prices from $396 and $248 for two respectively), and the one-month Swiss Saver Flexi Pass (from $279 in 2nd class and $445 in 1st class).  Passes offer unlimited travel on all trains, boats and postal buses through the Swiss Travel System and includes a Museum Pass offering free admission to more than 400 attractions. www.raileurope.ca

U.S.A.

The French Quarter of New Orleans, which did not suffer too badly under Hurricane Katrina, is lively and welcoming visitors.  If you’d like to stay somewhere unique on your visit, check out the secluded cottages offered by the New Orleans Hotel Collection Group at www.auduboncottages.com.  These seven cottages have been newly renovated and include a private shared saltwater pool, said to be the oldest in New Orleans.  Plan to live for a while in a private French Quarter residence rather than a hotel.