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Vibrant spring blooms in the northern hemisphere and dazzling autumn displays in the southern make this the perfect season to get outside and walk, hike, or take a scenic drive. Use our editors' list of 10 best spring trip destinations as the launching pad for an active—and colorful—spring getaway. —Maryellen Kennedy Duckett
Wild Atlantic Way, County Donegal to County Cork, Ireland
Photograph by Kevin Galvin, Alamy
The Wild Atlantic Way is far more than a scenic route from County Donegal south to County Cork along Ireland’s untamed western coast. The 1,491 miles were designed to be driven in small sections, allowing time to revel in the stories, sights, and history found around each bend in the road. “The most mystifying poetry of the route for me lies no doubt along the Mayo coastline, replete with thunderous views, land art, living 5,000-year-old ruins, and mesmerizing islands,” says Travis Price, a frequent visitor to Ireland’s western coast. “It is indeed a place where the soul catches up with body, the craic [fun] of daily life is abundant, and truly the ancient Irish spirits are soaring into the salt laden air. The word authentic literally disappears, as there is indeed no other than that there.”
How to Get Around: The Wild Atlantic Way is divided north to south into five sections: County Donegal, County Sligo to County Mayo, County Galway to County Clare, County Clare to County Kerry, and County Kerry to County Cork. Each section includes three suggested "signature experiences,” such as cycling a particular pathway, visiting a nearby beach, or taking a ferry to an offshore island. If driving the County Donegal section of the route only, fly into Belfast International Airport. Otherwise, fly into Shannon International Airport in Limerick.
Where to Stay: Kathleen and Michael Conneely’s Faul House Bed & Breakfast is only 1.2 miles off the Wild Atlantic Way on County Galway’s Ardbear Peninsula. Located on a quiet daffodil- and bluebell-lined lane leading to the sea, the modern farmhouse is surrounded by the family’s 40-acre Connemara pony farm. Spring visitors (the inn reopens for the season March 24) can celebrate the arrival of the farm’s latest foals, and, April to June, can join the Conneelys in the bog for the harvesting of turf for the inn’s peat fires. Rates include a full Irish breakfast (you can collect your own eggs from the resident chickens) served with homemade brown bread and piping hot tea.
Where to Eat: Before or after driving through the Burren & Cliffs of Moher GeoPark, stop at Café Linnalla in New Quay. The artisanal shop serves preservative-free ice cream made with fresh milk and cream from Brid and Roger Fahy’s Burren dairy farm. In Galway, bypass the restaurant at McDonagh’s and head straight to their bare-bones Fish & Chip Bar for flaky, fresh-from-the-docks fried cod and a hefty mound of thick, hot chips.
What to Buy: Watch weavers work traditional looms upstairs at the Donaghy family’s Studio Donegal, a one-stop weaving and garment making studio and retail tweed and woolens shop in Kilcar. The neighboring spinning mill, Donegal Yarns, produces many of the yarns used in the shop. Buy skeins of yarn or finished products like handwoven Donegal tweed jackets, Gatsby caps, and handbags; merino wool scarves; and blankets woven in colors representing the five "Donegal days": summer, rainy, winter, stormy, and payday.
What to Watch Before You Go: John Sayles’ 1994 film The Secret of Roan Inish is a mystical fable set on Ireland’s wild western coast and is accompanied by a lilting Celtic soundtrack.
Cultural Tip: Road signs in Ireland typically are bilingual, with the English written under the Irish. However, on rural roads in Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) areas you may encounter Irish-only signage. Two important terms to know before you go: geill sli (yield) and tigh (pub).
Helpful Links: Tourism Ireland
Fun Fact: “Signature experience” No. 14 is taking a ride on Ireland’s only cable car, which crosses over Dursey Sound from the Beara Peninsula to tiny Dursey Island. When the car is running, visitors can make the ten-minute trip (and watch for dolphins below)—when there’s room. There only are six seats, and when the island’s residents make the ride, they may be accompanied by their sheep or cows.
Staff Tip: If you're looking to save time by skipping a few hot spots, don't even think about bypassing the Connemara region. In Clifden—an hour's drive from Galway city—take the Sky Road. You'll feel like you're at the edge of the Earth, not just of Ireland. While you're in the area, make sure to take the extra time to see Kylemore Abbey, a truly stunning Gothic manse turned Benedictine monastery tucked into a hillside like it was meant to be a secret. —Leslie Magraw, Blog Editor, National Geographic Travel
Grande Rivière, Trinidad
Photograph by Catherine Karnow, Corbis
Of the two islands in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the latter is better known for its nature-based tourism, helping keep Trinidad’s wildlife side relatively under the radar. The 1,980-square-mile island, southernmost in the Caribbean, is home to some 96 native animals, including West Indian manatees and Capuchin monkeys, and more than 617 types of butterflies and 450 bird species. Visit the lush, remote northern reaches of Trinidad, separated from the rest of the island by the rain forest-covered Northern Range. By day, walk the mountain trails of the 1,500-acre Asa Wright Nature Centre, where 166 species of birds, including more than a dozen different kinds of hummingbirds, have been spotted. At night, watch in awe as behemoth leatherback turtles emerge from the surf to nest on Grande Rivière beach.
When to Go: Nesting season on Grande Rivière beach is March-August for leatherback turtles and May-August for hawksbill turtles. Late April to early June is the peak season for leatherbacks, with more than 400 turtles nesting on the beach on some nights.
How to Get Around: From Piarco International Airport in Port of Spain it’s about a two-hour drive to Grande Rivière. The most convenient option is to book round-trip airport transfers through your hotel.
Where to Stay: Family-run ACAJOU Hotel is a collection of six cottages clustered between the jungle and the river in the small fishing village of Grande Rivière. The accommodations are basic, but you can’t beat the location. Walk down a short path and you’re on Grande Rivière beach. The ACAJOU staff can arrange guided turtle viewing and other outdoor activities, such as hiking to a rain forest waterfall, bird-watching, and fishing.
Where to Eat: It’s always time for fresh fish in fishing villages like Grand Rivière. Scan the local menus for traditional Trinidad dishes like buljol (salted shredded codfish, tomatoes, and hot peppers) on toast for breakfast, and, for supper, a steaming bowl of fish broth (a flavorful and filling soup made with fish chunks, fish heads, green bananas, and vegetables).
What to Read Before You Go: Lime Tree Can’t Bear Orange (Broadway Books, 2009) by Amanda Smyth is an intricate tale of human resilience woven through Trinidad’s exotic landscapes and superstitions.
Cultural Tip: To observe the nightly turtle nesting you’ll need to purchase a permit (includes guide services) at the government-run tourist office in Grande Rivière. Tours are provided by the nonprofit, community-based Grande Riviere Nature Tour Guides Association.
Helpful Links: Trinidad and Tobago Tourism
Fun Fact: Leatherbacks are the largest and oldest sea turtles on Earth. Males can grow up to seven feet long and weigh between 500 and 2,000 pounds. Leatherbacks are part of a family of turtles that’s been around for more than a hundred million years.
Staff Tip: If you drive through Trinidad's northern hills on a Sunday and find yourself near a stream, you're likely to spot locals—friends, extended families—enjoying a "river lime," a popular pastime where picnic tables and chairs are set up in the stream for the Sunday meal. If you wade in and introduce yourself, chances are good you'll be offered a glass of Trini rum (10 Cane, Royal Oak, Angostura) and invited to join the gathering. Expect your feet and legs (at the very least) to get wet. —Jayne Wise, Senior Editor, National Geographic Traveler
El Greco Year, Toledo, Spain
Photograph by James P. Blair, National Geographic/Getty Images
The 400th anniversary of El Greco’s death marks the first time that Toledo, the flamboyant Greek painter’s adopted city, will host an exhibition devoted entirely to the artist’s works. Exhibit venues in the World Heritage site city include the Museo de Santa Cruz, as well as locations where the artist painted, such as the vestry of the Toledo Cathedral, Hospital Tavera, and Iglesia Santo Tomé, home to El Greco’s famous “Burial of the Count of Orgaz.”
When to Go: The Greek of Toledo exhibition, March 14-June 14
How to Get Around: From Madrid, it’s only about a 35-minute train ride or 50-minute bus ride to Toledo. The old city is best explored on foot, but the maze of narrow streets can be confusing. To get your bearings, buy a one-day hop-on, hop-off pass for the Tourist Bus, which stops at or near most of the major historical sites.
Where to Stay: Housed in a converted flour mill in the city’s Jewish Quarter, the Hotel San Juan de los Reyes combines historical panache with convenience (it’s only two blocks from the Museo del Greco). Rooms in the back of the building are quietest, and some have views of the surrounding countryside. To trade convenience for commanding views, book a top floor, city-facing balcony room at Parador de Toledo Hotel. The house sits atop Cerro del Emperador (Emperor's Hill) across the River Tajo from the old city.
Where to Eat: Sample some of Spain’s most celebrated marzipan, mazapán de Toledo (an intricately sculpted, filled, and glazed almond-meal sweet), at the Confitería de Mazapán Santo Tomé founded in 1856 opposite Santo Tomé Church. Typically a Christmas treat, marzipan (try the yemas, or egg yolks, and sugar-filled variety) is available year-round in Toledo. Other traditional tastes to sample in the city include Manchego cheese; pisto Manchego, a hearty vegetable stew often served with bread and a fried egg; and carcamusa (braised pork and potato stew).
What to Buy: Toledo’s sword-making and metal-forging traditions date back more than 2,000 years. Bypass the touristy sword and metal jewelry shops and zigzag your way to Mariano Zamorano Swords, a nondescript artisan’s shop tucked next to the Toledo Cathedral. Mariano handcrafts steel daggers, sabers, jewelry, and a wide variety of swords, including authentic Templar, Arabic, and Roman designs. Less pricey machine-made versions are available too, and all purchases can be packed for either air travel or shipping.
What to Read Before You Go: The Last Song (Tundra Books, 2012) by Eva Wiseman is a young adult historical novel set in Toledo during the Spanish Inquisition.
Cultural Tip: “Tour like a Spaniard would live—with long breaks for food and drink and not rushing on to the next attraction too quickly,” says Jonathan Riedel, a former Peace Corps volunteer who enjoys traveling in Spain. “Wait until at least 3 p.m. for lunch and until at least 9 p.m. for dinner, and satisfy cravings between meals with local tapas like jamon serrano (thinly sliced and salty cured ham), croquetas (bite-size stuffed croquettes), and olives.”
Fun Fact: Toledo was known for religious tolerance, with Jews, Muslims, and Catholics living together relatively peacefully until about the 15th century. “You can see these cultural convergences practically written into the architecture at places like Santa Maria la Blanca,” says Stephanie Cogen. “The building originally was a synagogue and later became a Catholic church, yet was built by Moorish architects in the Mudejar style reflecting Islamic influence in the region.”
Staff Tip: Toldeo's winding and narrow streets are perfect for casual wandering. Around each corner you'll find interesting architecture and tiny shops along the ancient Roman pathways. At dusk, head to the Puente de Alcántara arch bridge along the Tagus River for romantic views of the medieval town. —Sarah Polger, Senior Photo Producer, National Geographic Travel
Tasmanian Walking Tours
Photograph by Ashley Whitworth, Alamy
Clear blue skies, comfortable temperatures (typically 50º to 60º F), and fall foliage make March and April two of the best months to walk the paths less traveled in Australia’s smallest state. Tasmania’s walking routes range from easy strolls along Cornelian Bay in the capital city of Hobart, to challenging bushwalks in remote Southwest National Park, part of the 3.46-million-acre Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. “Expect stunning scenery in every direction,” says Hobart-based writer Tania Horne. “Whether you choose to walk the countless pristine coastline tracks, across mountains of wilderness sprinkled liberally with dense rain forests, or through the breathtaking patchwork of rural countryside, you’ll be assured of a kaleidoscope of riotous color.”
When to Go: Most overnight walking tours are available only through the end of April. Breath of Life 2014 music festival headlined by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, March 8; ANZAC Day, national holiday commemorating Australia’s war veterans, April 25.
How to Get Around: Tasmania is an island-state located off Australia’s southeastern coast, about an hour-long flight from Melbourne. For unguided walks, rent a car at Hobart or Launceston Airport and plan an itinerary using Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service’s 60 Great Short Walks. Book multiday, small-group tours (including lodging and meals) with local guides, such as Great Walks of Tasmania (a collection of independent guided walk companies) and Life’s an Adventure. Par Avion Wilderness Tours offers fly/bushwalk tours to Southwest National Park.
Where to Stay: Friendly Beaches Lodge is the secluded base for the four-day Freycinet Experience Walk. Designed to leave a minimal footprint, the wood-and-glass retreat in eastern Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park features a main lodge for communal dining and relaxing and two sleeping lodges with an assortment of double and twin rooms. At Maria Island National Park, walkers (with advance reservations) can sleep in historic, albeit Spartan, accommodations (bunk beds, wood-fired stoves) at the early 19th-century Darlington Probation Station, one of Tasmania’s five UNESCO World Heritage-listed convict sites.
Where to Eat: Housed in a restored 1830s Launceston flour mill, Stillwater offers contemporary Tasmanian cuisine (try the beetroot mousse on smoked goat curd with pickled beets and crispy beetroot paper), a Tasmanian-centric wine list, and Tamar River views. In Hobart, Ethos is worth a visit for the architectural details alone (the chandeliers are made from vintage drug store bottles recovered at the site), but plan ahead to reserve a table for the farm-to-table seasonal set menu. The ingredients list changes daily. All you have to do is show up, and choose either the six- or eight-course option.
What to Buy: Spend a Saturday browsing the maze of about 300 stalls at Hobart’s historic, open-air Salamanca Market (open 8 a.m.–3 p.m.). Look for homegrown Tassie products such as woodcarvings crafted from indigenous timbers like Huon and King Billy pines, sassafras, and myrtle; leatherwood honey; cheeses from Bruny Island Cheese Co.; and local craft ciders, including Willie Smith’s Organic Apple Cider, made from apples handpicked on the Smith family’s Huon Valley farm.
What to Read Before You Go: Australian novelist Richard Flanagan’s 1994 Death of a River Guide (Grove Press; reprint edition, 2012) weaves historical threads from Tasmania’s penal colony past and Aboriginal heritage into a narrative blending mystical visions and harrowing realities.
Cultural Tip: "Tasmanians are very friendly and you should expect a chat at every store, shop, and even gas station,” says Claire Richardson, office manager of the Freycinet Experience Walk. “Best not to be in a rush. Just enjoy the conversation and use it as an opportunity to learn about where the locals go for quiet beaches, good fishing, and great food.”
Fun Fact: The “turning of the fagus” is a uniquely Tassie event that begins in late April when the leaves of the deciduous beech tree, or fagus (found only in Tasmania), turn brilliant shades of yellow and red.
Staff Tip: It's hard to spot endangered Tasmanian devils in the wild, so stop by the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park in Taranna. You can watch the feisty, carnivorous marsupials feed, plus come face-to-face with endemic quolls, kangaroos, and wallabies. —Barbara Noe, Senior Editor, National Geographic Travel Books
Photograph by Sylvain Sonnet, Corbis
Valletta, capital of the Mediterranean island-state of Malta, covers less than half a square mile. What the city lacks in size it more than makes up for in history. Founded by the Knights of St. John in 1566, Valletta is a World Heritage site and “one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world,” according to UNESCO's website. An astounding 320 monuments are in the walled city, including baroque palaces and cathedrals, most notably St. John's Co-Cathedral, home to Italian artist Caravaggio’s "The Beheading of St. John the Baptist." Intermingled with the monuments are shops, cafés, and the lively Valletta Waterfront on Grand Harbour, a popular Mediterranean port of call for yachtsman and cruise lines. “My favorite place to be in the city is Piazza Regina, or Queen’s Square,” says Maltese native Victoria Bezzina, a Valletta ToursByLocals guide. “I call this the museum of Maltese life, since it’s often the meeting point for local people. If you sit at the outdoor café at Caffe Cordina here, you can watch the people in the piazza walking, chatting, and shopping, and see the children playing in the dancing fountains.”
When to Go: Malta’s busy summer season begins in May. Avoid the crowds by visiting in March or April, or plan a May trip to include beach time at one of Malta’s resort towns, like Mellieha or Saint Julian’s.
How to Get Around: Take a public bus, airport shuttle, or cab from Malta International Airport to the old city gate. Walking is the best option in the city, but be prepared to climb, since Valletta is built on a hill. For travel outside the city, use public buses.
Where to Stay: Founded by the Pisani family of Malta in 1968, the Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa is located in the heart of the island near Valletta. While only steps away from the President’s residential palace, the grand hotel sits amid landscaped gardens and lavish pools that are beautiful to wander around. Ask for an upper floor room with a view of the gardens. After a day touring Valletta, dine in the hotel’s exquisite century-old villa where the restaurant serves local cuisine and Maltese wine. The attentive, friendly staff provides insider tips for exploring the island.
Where to Eat: At Nenu, order traditional Maltese ftira (rectangular, stuffed flat bread) or learn how to make your own at the Baker’s Hall cooking class. Ftira topping options include standard pizza favorites like tomatoes, onions, and cheese, as well as eggs, potatoes, honey, and green fava beans. Stop at Caffe Cordina for pastries like savory pastizzi (stuffed with peas or cheese) and sweet honey rings filled with a blend of marmalade, spice, orange peel, molasses, and honey.
What to Buy: The Casa Rocca Shop showcases authentic Maltese artisan products like handmade lace, Gozo weave placemats, and handwoven cane coasters. After visiting the shop, stop in the Pantry for a jar of pure Gozo honey.
What to Read Before You Go: Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World (Random House, 2009) by Roger Crowley is a detailed history book that reads like a riveting epic novel.
Helpful Links: Malta Tourism
Fun Fact: Some of Valletta’s steep streets have broad stairs with steps that are only a few inches high. This unusual construction was designed to accommodate knights in clunky armor who had to swing their legs awkwardly out to the side when climbing or descending stairs.
Staff Tip: Take a tour of Casa Rocca Piccola, a 16-century palace in Valletta with more than 50 rooms filled with historic Maltese riches from the past 400 years. It's a private home to the de Piro family, but it's open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. If you're lucky, you'll hear stories about the different rooms and beautiful artifacts from the Marquis de Piro himself, who is an incredible storyteller and host. —Andrea Leitch, Associate Producer, National Geographic Travel
Kane County, Southwestern Utah
Photograph by Philippe Crochet, Getty Images
Kane County sits in the middle of southwestern Utah’s staggering geological smorgasbord: narrow slot canyons, polychrome cliffs, wavelike buttes, and world-class paleontological sites. From Kanab, the county seat, it’s 90 minutes or less to three national parks (Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion), Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, and the rugged and remote 1.9-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the last area in the continental United States to be mapped. “What strikes people when they visit is the intensity of the outdoor experience available here,” says Kanab custom furniture maker Rich Csenge. “[There's] staggering natural beauty, trailheads everywhere, and the sense of eternity expressed in geology and topography that seems to change color and shape with every hour of the day.”
When to Go: April and May; Amazing Earthfest, May 11-17, celebrates Kane County’s natural and cultural treasures with concerts, films, art exhibitions, and outdoor activities like deep-sky stargazing, archaeological hikes, and backcountry ATV and horseback rides.
How to Get Around: The closest major airport is McCarran International in Las Vegas, about 3.5 hours west of Kanab. Rent a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle at the airport to make day trips to public recreation areas. Always check road conditions before driving into the backcountry, since moisture can make local clay-covered roads impassable.
Where to Stay: What the mid-century modern Quail Park Lodge lacks in privacy (it fronts U.S. 89 in Kanab), the funky, 13-room motel more than makes up for in retro-cool charm and affordability (deluxe doubles start at $89). Rates include complimentary Wi-Fi, continental breakfast, and classic cruiser bike rentals. For more seclusion, drive north of Kanab to Zion Mountain Ranch, located about four miles from the east entrance of Zion National Park. The luxury ranch shares its high-country meadow digs with a bison preserve. Choose one of the rustic Buffalo Vista cabins or more spacious Buffalo Vista lodges to watch the buffalo roam.
Where to Eat: Housed in an 1800s adobe building (some of the original bricks are visible through gaps in the stucco walls), the Rocking V Cafe serves up original fare like the Kanab-a-Dabba-Doo Burger (half-pound ground sirloin burger topped with a ham steak, Swiss cheese, and avocado crème fraîche) and the lasagna-like Deep Dish Veggie Enchiladas (layers of tortillas, pepper jack cheese, roasted peppers, purple onion, yellow squash, and zucchini topped with pico de gallo and avocado crème fraîche). The posted closing time April-September (limited hours October-March) is 10 p.m., but locals know the kitchen will stay open until midnight if hungry people keep coming in.
What to Buy: Charlie Neumann at Willow Canyon Outdoor can hook you up with hiking gear—walking sticks, backpacks, footwear, and trail guides—and inside tips for where to hike. Stop by in the morning for a cup of coffee at the in-store espresso bar and chat with Charlie about your plans for the day.
What to Watch Before You Go: Zion National Park provided many of the stunning backdrops featured in the 1969 classic buddy film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The film’s memorable “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” bicycle sequence was shot in Grafton, a ghost town located just south of the park.
Cultural Tip: “Your safety in the backcountry is your responsibility, so know your level of competency and do the Boy Scout thing and be prepared," says avid hiker and Rocking V Cafe owner Victor Cooper. “Have water and sports drinks with you to stay hydrated in the dry, high-desert environment; take a headlamp; bring a paper topographic map of the area and, if possible, print out a satellite view of your planned route since cell service is nonexistent in many of the most popular areas.”
Fun Fact: Kane County is home to the nation’s largest no-kill shelter for companion animals, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Located on 20,700 acres, the sanctuary is home to about 1,700 animals and welcomes approximately 25,000 visitors each year for tours and as volunteers.
El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Photograph by Mon Corpuz Photography/Getty Images
Palawan, an archipelago of around 1,780 islands that's named after its largest island, is one of the most remote provinces in the Philippines. Known as the country’s “last ecological frontier” due to the astounding diversity of coastal and marine ecosystems, the entire province is protected as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. At the northern tip of the island of Palawan sits El Nido, gateway town to the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area, which spans about 350 square miles of land and sea. In El Nido, vertical limestone cliffs rise over the palm-lined shores of turquoise Bacuit Bay. Just offshore, mystical karst towers jut out of the crystal-clear water. For divers, snorkelers, and anyone looking to get away from it all, El Nido is the launching pad for island hopping in the enchanting Bacuit Archipelago. Hire a guide or join a tour and explore this tropical playground filled with secluded sugar-white beaches, secret sea caves, hidden lagoons, and coral reefs teeming with marine life.
When to Go: March to June is the sunny and dry summer season.
How to Get Around: Island Transvoyager, Inc. (ITI) offers daily flights from Manila to El Nido. Arrange island-hopping tours through your resort or directly with local outfitters like Caera Travel & Tours and El Nido Boutique and Artcafé.
Where to Stay: Posh Pangulasian Island combines a Shangri-La setting with upscale amenities like gourmet dinners on the beach; an onsite gym, spa, and library; and luxurious accommodations in 42 private villas. Opened in 2012, the tropical hideaway is the newest and most exclusive property from northern Palawan sustainable tourism leader El Nido Resorts. For the best water views, choose one of the six pool villas with private deck pools overlooking Bacuit Bay.
Where to Eat: Local, organic produce; fresh seafood (such as steamed crabs, grilled squid, banana-leaf-wrapped jackfish); and traditional Filipino fare like menu items Beef Steak Tagalog and Pineapple Pork Chop Barbecue at Pangulasian Island’s Amianan restaurant. The menu changes seasonally based on what’s fresh, and most of the greens and some of the fruit are grown in El Nido Resorts’ local greenhouse farms.
What to Read Before You Go: When the Elephants Dance (Penguin; reissue edition, 2003) by Tess Uriza Holthe infuses Philippine myth and culture into a riveting narrative set during the last days of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.
Cultural Tip: El Nido primarily is a cash-only town, and there are no local banks or ATMs. Resorts and many restaurants accept credit cards, but you will need to stock up on Philippine pesos at the Manila airport.
Helpful Links: Philippines Tourism
Fun Fact: Every full moon from March to May, El Nido Resorts turns off all nonessential lights at its four Palawan properties for one hour. The energy savings from the electricity shutdown is used to purchase seedlings to be planted in the El Nido watershed.
Staff Tip: While on the island of Palawan, be sure to schedule a day to visit the Underground River. One of the world's longest underground rivers, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and voted one of the seven New Wonders of the World. Visitors on guided rowboats enter subterranean chambers full of bats and echoey silence. Don't miss walking around the reserve; you may spot what appears to be a baby dragon but is actually the endangered monitor lizard. —Norie Quintos, Executive Editor, National Geographic Traveler
Casablanca Valley, Chile
Photograph by Hoberman Collection/Corbis
The Casablanca Valley’s coastal Mediterranean climate produces foggy mornings; crisp, white wines; and elegant, cool-climate reds. The valley is one of Chile’s fastest growing wine regions. And, since it’s less than an hour’s drive northwest of the capital city of Santiago, Casablanca is well positioned for a day trip or weekend getaway to visit boutique and commercial wineries like Loma Larga and Kingston Family Vineyards. “After you cross the tunnel from Curacavi into Casablanca, you feel like you are in a magic valley,” says Santiago-based tour guide Victor Hugo Tello. “The green carpet of wine grape vineyards climbing into the surrounding mountains and the morning coastal mist make it seem like you’ve entered a fairy tale.” If you’d rather focus on the views and the wine and leave the driving to someone else, book a day or overnight trip with Santiago Adventures. Options include a Casablanca and San Antonio Valley heli-wine tour that combines private tastings and aerial views.
When to Go: Much of the wine harvest takes place around March, which is the end of summer. April and May are autumn months, when the vines begin to change color. Winery tours are available year-round.
How to Get Around: For unguided touring, rent a car in Santiago and drive 47 miles northwest on Ruta 68 to the Casablanca Valley. Santiago Adventures tours include round-trip transportation from Santiago hotels.
Where to Stay: Make the Aubrey your Santiago base for day trips to the Casablanca Valley and beyond. Located in the city’s bohemian Bellavista neighborhood, the refurbished 1927 mansion is an urban oasis with gardens, palm trees, and a courtyard swimming pool. Sleek white walls and large windows give all 15 rooms a light and airy feel.
Where to Eat: Reserve a table for a leisurely five-course lunch in the Tanino Wine Bar and Restaurant located at the Casas del Bosque winery. Each seasonally fresh dish (such as salmon ceviche, roasted Patagonian lamb, and fudge-like chocolate turrón served with local vanilla ice cream) is paired with one of the vintner’s signature wines. During March and April (weather permitting), you can opt for a picnic lunch (including a bottle of wine) to nosh on as you walk or bike (rentals available) through the vineyard.
What to Buy: Start with a tour (includes two liberal pours) of the vineyards and cellar at House Casa del Vino, and then visit their foodie-dream bodega to shop for the winery’s exclusive Tiraziš (a spicy, cold-climate Syrah), the Casablanca Valley’s signature Ízaro extra virgin olive oil, and an assortment of spices, wine accessories, and cookbooks.
What to Read Before You Go: Isabella Allende’s 1982 debut novel The House of the Spirits (Dial Press Trade, 2005) is a complex family saga that encompasses three generations, threading together histories both personal and national with magic, passion, and revolution.
Cultural Tip: It may not take much wine to put you over the legal blood alcohol limit for driving under the influence in Chile. The national limit is .03 percent compared to .08 percent in the United States, and police administer on-the-spot Breathalyzer tests.
Fun Fact: The Casablanca Valley was primarily a cattle and dairy farming region until the early 1980s, when the first wine grapes were planted. In the early 1900s, Michigan native C.J. Kingston moved to the valley and built a large cattle ranch, which today is the Kingston Family Vineyards and home to the fifth generation of Kingstons.
Patriots’ Day Weekend, Boston, Massachusetts
Photograph by Paul Marotta/Getty Images
The third Monday in April is Boston at its best. It’s Patriots' Day, a state holiday in Massachusetts and Maine (part of the Bay State until 1820) that commemorates the opening battle of the American Revolutionary War. In Boston, Patriots’ Day caps off a three-day celebration of some of the city’s most iconic destinations and events: the Boston Marathon, Red Sox baseball at Fenway Park, the battle reenactment at Minute Man National Historical Park, and Swan Boat rides in the Boston Public Garden. This year, the city will also recognize the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. Among the expanded field of 36,000 expected to participate this year will be about 4,500 runners who were unable to complete the 2013 marathon due to the terrorist attack.
How to Get Around: Most Patriots’ Day weekend-specific activities are within walking distance of downtown hotels or are easily accessible via MBTA public transportation (buses, commuter trains, and the subway, called “the T”). It’s a 1.5-mile walk from the nearest commuter train depot to Minute Man National Historical Park.
Where to Stay: The Boston Strangler and Sacco and Venzeti were among the infamous “guests” who spent time inside the granite walls of the current Liberty Hotel, located at the foot of Boston’s tony Beacon Hill neighborhood. Part of the posh 298-room property was built in 1851 as the Charles Street Jail (most rooms are in a new 16-story tower). Numerous architectural elements from the jail remain, including the historic prison guard catwalks, the soaring 90-foot atrium, the inmate exercise yard (now a landscaped courtyard), and the former "drunk tank"—reconfigured as the aptly named Alibi Bar and Lounge.
Where to Eat: Download the Street Food App to find real-time locations for locally sourced Boston food trucks like Mei Mei Street Kitchen and Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese. For all-day brunch, The Friendly Toast near MIT is worth the wait, especially for Omar's Homefries, a mound of red potatoes, broccoli, onions, Parmesan, corn, and artichoke hearts splashed with soy sauce. In Harvard Square, chill at the hippie-inspired Beat Hôtel, a casual brasserie and bar serving up internationally inspired fare (try the quinoa Inca Bowl) and live world music.
What to Buy: No game ticket is required to shop for Red Sox gear and other Boston sports memorabilia at the massive Yawkey Way Store across from Fenway Park. On Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., head to the SoWa arts and media district in Boston’s South End to find one-of-a-kind vintage clothing and collectibles, artisan jewelry and crafts, and, beginning in May, seasonally fresh produce at the SoWa Vintage Market.
What to Read Before You Go: Acclaimed crime writer Robert B. Parker’s popular Spenser book series is set in and around Boston. Start with two early titles in the series: The Godwulf Manuscript (1974) and Looking for Rachel Wallace (1980).
Fun Fact: Boston College sits near the top of the Boston Marathon’s infamous Heartbreak Hill—the course’s final uphill stretch between miles 20 and 21.5. The enthusiasm of the college crowd and the concerted effort of the spectators to will struggling runners up the slope make this one of the most spirited places to watch the race.
Staff Tip: Hit up Mike's Pastry in the heart of Little Italy for an endless selection of pastries, cookies, and cake. The line is worth it. The employees move fast, so be ready with your order when you get to the glass. I recommend the cannoli with chocolate chips or a lobstertail to split. —Carolyn Fox, Digital Director, National Geographic Travel
Asheville, North Carolina
Photograph by Lynne Harty Photography/Alamy
Asheville is carpeted in color by early April, when acres of gardens bloom at the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate, the North Carolina Arboretum, and the Botanical Gardens at Asheville. A gateway to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville is also a destination in its own right, especially for the winter-weary eager to celebrate spring.
When to Go: Biltmore Blooms, March 20-May 23; Easter Egg Hunt on the Biltmore House front lawn, April 20 (Easter Sunday); Moogfest, dedicated to the synthesis of technology, art, music, and the legacy of Bob Moog, April 23-27; the 55th Annual Rhododendron & Azalea Flower Show, North Carolina Arboretum, May 3-4; Mountain Sports Festival, May 23-25
How to Get Around: It’s easy to walk around downtown Asheville, but you’ll need a car to visit the Biltmore Estate and the North Carolina Arboretum. For a good overview of the city’s top attractions, park at the Asheville Visitor’s Center and buy a two-day Asheville Trolley Tours hop on-hop off pass. The 90-minute narrated loop includes stops in Biltmore Village, the Grove Park Inn, and the River Arts District.
Where to Stay: The Montford Area Historic District is home to Asheville’s highest concentration of bed-and-breakfasts and is within easy walking distance of downtown. At the homey yet luxurious Applewood Manor, the daily three-course breakfast is served by candlelight and always includes one of innkeeper Nancy Merrill’s homemade breads (like Ghirardelli chocolate banana walnut, Pumpkin Blooper, and lemon). The 1912 red colonial manor house has five spacious guest rooms (three with private balconies), plus a separate, pet-friendly cottage.
Where to Eat: Reserve a seat or more for the Family Meal at Rhubarb, the first restaurant owned by James Beard Award finalist and North Carolina native John Fleer. The weekly, early evening Family Meal set-menu is designed to encourage conversation by seating 22 diners at three eight-top communal tables. If you’d like more privacy, there’s also a regular menu and individual tables. Menus change regularly based on what’s in season but typically include a sampling of southern-with-a-twist dishes like Turkey Pot Pie and Fried Chop Shop Bologna and Farm Egg.
What to Buy: Support local artisans by purchasing one-of-a-kind clay, wood, metal, and fiber items at the new Southern Highland Craft Gallery, located in historic Biltmore Village. In the River Arts District, sign up for a half-hour beginner’s glassblowing session at Asheville Glass Center to make your own paperweight.
What to Read Before You Go: Thomas Wolfe’s 1929 coming-of-age classic Look Homeward, Angel (Scribner, 2006) is set in his mother's Asheville boardinghouse, where the writer spent his childhood years.
Fun Fact: The Basilica of Saint Lawrence in downtown Asheville was built in the 1900s using an ancient Spanish tile-and-mortar building technique. There’s no wood or steel in the entire structure, making the centerpiece 58-by-82-foot ceiling one of the largest freestanding elliptical domes in North America.
Staff Tip: For more adventurous diversions, rent a "bellyak"—a new boat designed in Asheville for paddling on your stomach while using webbed gloves to paddle—and explore one of the rivers of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Alternatively, guided whitewater trips are available on the French Broad River. The Blue Ridge Hiking Company, run by long distance hiker (and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year) Jennifer Pharr Davis, offers guided day and overnight hikes in the scenic Pisgah National Forest. —Susan O'Keefe, Associate Editor, National Geographic Traveler
it is really beautiful in el nido..do check these pictures out..
The Philippines photo looks just unrealistic.
@Radek Bak It's too beautiful to be true
@Matthew Donal Murphy No money
Come for the big house, stay for the food, the outdoors and nature, the people and the arts and crafts. Make certain to visit the River Arts District and have an amazing, unique taco with a great margarita at White duck Taco. West Asheville is where the hipsters are and lots of organic, vegan small cafes. And, if you're into music, you can't top the Orange Peel! Asheville's been named an up and coming foodie town, so in addition to the new Rhubarb mentioned above, Curate chef Katie Burton is also a James Bearch chef. And they've just opened a tapas bar downtown. That's just to name a few -- so many for such a small town.
But the hiking and kayaking and the waterfalls are what you'll want to come back for. Pisgah Forest, Blue Ridge Parkway!
Love this town! On second thought, don't come.
This place is incredible. Just like a painting that turned into reality. I would love to go back here. People are amazing too.
@Jessie Garrido "This place"! Which place???
We also have this thing called the "Blue Ridge Parkway" that runs through Asheville. Mount Mitchell, Clingmans Dome, are sights not to be missed.
Hey, is this National Geographic or Southern Living? I thought National Geographic would pay more attention to Geography and not just where to spend your money. :-/
Biltmore is nice, but it's a tourist trap. Get away from there and spend your dollars elsewhere, our locals will truly thank you.
Biltmore is owned by the Vanderbilt family heirs.. they have enough money already!
Great to see the WAW featuring. If you are thinking of cycling some of the most amazing cliff scenery check out www.irelandbybike.com. Tours visit iconic spots such as the Slieve League cliffs, Glencolmcille, Glenveagh National Park.
Here's a video I made of a 7km walk on one section of the Wild Atlantic Way. Starting just outside Doolin in Co. Clare the footpath gradually rises up towards the awe inspiring Cliffs of Moher. The 702 ft high Sea Cliffs have inspired photographers, poets, songwriters and artists over the years. We can't guarantee the weather will be the same when you come to visit though. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Anftlby4gSE Enjoy !
Great to see Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way featured. Anyone starting or ending their tour in Donegal should call in to see us at Portsalon Luxury Camping - we have five yurts for rent in a stunning setting with amazing views over Lough Swilly - Donegal is a very beautiful county with so much to see and do. It is a paradise for walkers, surfers, birdwatchers, nature lovers, cyclist....... really anyone who enjoys the outdoors and the natural environment. Well done to Failte Ireland for promoting the Wild Atlantic Way - we are looking forward to welcoming visitors from around the globe!
Sean and Helen
Nice article .. check out this small video showing '
Kinard, Dingle Peninsula is part of the 'Atlantic Way''
Ireland, my home country !!! a must see, from north to south and east to west, they'll greet you with arms open too
It is gorgeus!!!!! I would love to go there, but i am from Romania and i don t know if i can get the visa.
@Rita Marinela No visa required :D
If you're in southern Utah and headed east check out Bluff, due south of Moab, itself the home of Arches National Park.
The Recapture lodge at the edge of Bluff is a wonderful local hotel run by a friendly and knowledgeable family who will give you great advice on how to see some of the splendid ruins and rock art the area is known for, along with rust red cliffs, fern green springs, and jaw dropping beauty.
Hovenweep and Natural Bridges are nearby and little visited national park wonders as well. In addition it bears mention that southern Utah offers the higher and wilder side of the Grand Canyon, with a fraction of the tourists clogging the southern rim.
Come and stay at The Old School B and B on the Wild Atlantic Way in Loop Head County Clare. Voted the best place to holiday in Ireland by the Irish Times 2013. View our accomodation on loophead.ie or ring us on 0861549402
Philippines says Thank You! Come visit us this summer and get the know the fun-loving country you helped recover from Typhoon Haiyan.
Rustic Mount Plaisir Estate Hotel is right on Grande Riviere's beach and is owned and operated by Pierro Guerini (an Italian living in Trinidad for over 20 years) and who also has been making delightful cheeses for the past 2 years right there in Grand Riviere. With the aid of one of Trinidad's top chefs, Lou Callahan (originally out of New Jersey) the dining experience there combined with the simply appointed but comfortable rooms along and overlooking the beach thus offering a ringside seat to the laying and hatching turtles and the warm and friendly hospitality of Pierro, Lou and Staff make for a memorable getaway in Grand Riviere. Even out of Turtle season it's fantastic to unwind and recharge in Grand Riviere's natural environs and small village hospitality.
Le Grand Almandier is another small (less rustic) hotel just off Grand Riviere's Beach where with a few steps on to the Beach proper the Turtles whether laying or hatching are there for the viewing and careful interacting with.
I live in Kanab, Utah and I would suggest that people contact the Travel Council here in Kanab for a listing of all the activities that our little town has. My favorite is Western Legends in the third week of August. It brings people here from all over the world to meet movie stars and see how the real cowboys helped settle this area. There is a street fair, quilt show, local singing entertainment and a real wagon train to experience, plus a parade that includes long horn cattle. In September Kanab hosts the Grand 2 Grand ultra marathon. This race begins on the rim of the Grand Canyon and ends at the top of the Grand Staircase. We have ultra athletes from all over the world come to compete in this race. That is just two more events that will get your blood pumping, along with the unique and wonderful scenery. I just say, "Welcome to Kanab, a Western Classic!"
2015 Traveler Photo Contest
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