Where to Vacation?
Go Big or Stay Home!
by Amy Lignor
We speak about luxury vacations, budget vacations, vacations that are fun for the kids, and many more areas of travel at this time of year. But there is also a category that many do not touch upon because they “assume” it is far too difficult for those on a budget to be able to enjoy these jaw-dropping wonders. However, whether you are a backpacker looking to “become a journeyman” and all you need is the price of the plane ticket; or one that is saving up for that “ultimate trip,” these are locations where either can go to create memories that will be among the greatest and grandest of their entire lives.
Let us start with the island of Kauai in the United States. For those who are unaware, Kauai was the stunning backdrop for the Jurassic Park movies. Taking aerial tours will show you the sea cliffs of the Na Pali Coast that reach into the sky like monoliths towering over the water below. When it comes to exploring the island on the ground, just hiking along the marked paths is a photographer’s dream. Heading onto the floor of Waimea Canyon, or through the bogs of Alakai Swamp, visitors hike through the largest mahogany forest North America can boast. Whether journeyman or someone looking for luxury, Kauai is awe-inspiring beauty to the ‘nth’ degree.
When talking about remote, rustic and a place that actually offers up reindeer farms and snowshoeing, the Arctic Circle in Lapland, Finland is yet another “big” vacation that will never be forgotten. Staring up at the Northern Lights, Finland is filled with national parks, historical sites, and hiking sanctuaries for those seeking silence and tranquility that can be found nowhere else on Earth.
Another country that people are saving every nickel to visit is India. Here, the wild tiger population is growing by leaps and bounds (thankfully), and being able to see those regal Bengal tigers is a true vision that can only be viewed here in the U.S. inside an IMAX theater. Which is fine, of course, but definitely takes away from the magic of it all. In Central India, the Madhya Pradesh national parks are absolute havens for these wild tigers and visitors can even ride the Indian Railways’ new Tiger Express tourist train to go on the ultimate safari.
In Ecuador’s Chocó region, visitors can actually be a part of the primeval cloud forests – these are areas filled with the richest plant and animal life on the planet. North of Quito, these Andean slopes shrouded in fog play home to hundreds of species of birds, the rarest of orchids and air plants, as well as the olinguito – which just happens to be the newest mammal species discovered here in 2013. Can you just imagine exploring these sites by flying through the clouds on a zip-line Sky Bike? The immensity of this one-of-a-kind spot offers both thrills and chills.
For those looking to “go big” in the city and see beauty they’ve never before seen, Marrakech, Morocco is just the place to be wowed. With colors that set the imagination on fire, this former imperial city is now a major economic center that allows visitors a look at some of the most amazing palaces, gardens and mosques to be found anywhere. Mazelike alleyways allow people to come upon thriving, busy marketplaces packed with traditional textiles, pottery and jewelry. Even the famous fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent used Marrakech’s kaleidoscope of colors as his own palette when creating his vibrant fashions.
Another city that deserves to be on the “big” list was enjoyed by Hemingway, himself, who was so intrigued by the place that he called it “The Capital of the World” in one of his short stories by the same name. This is Madrid, Spain, and is a cosmopolitan fantasy come to life. With everything from parks and gardens to street artists and more than sixty museums, Madrid is all about creativity and class.
Last but not least is Germany’s “gateway to the world.” Although many plan trips to Berlin, it is Hamburg that takes the breath away. This floating city located on the Elbe River near the North Sea is a maze of canals that rivals Venice, itself. You can cruise the canals and take in the spectacular views of one of the world’s largest historic port warehouse districts and even visit the brand new concert hall complex that was built atop a brick warehouse providing stunning views of the city.
So whether heading out as a nomad with a backpack and a dream of viewing some of the world’s biggest sites to be seen; or one with money in the bank looking for luxury in a new locale that just has to be part of that proverbial bucket list – these “big” locales are the ones to see!