Get outta town: A traveller’s Top 10

Where it began… Two thousand years ago, the Romans, having developed paved roads and the idea of the holiday, were the earliest leisure travellers. Emperor Augustus had suppressed piracy in the Mediterranean region, making it possible to travel in relative safety. Roman emperors, scholars and the wealthy visited historic sites such as the Parthenon and the ruins of Troy, stood where Plato stood, took a Nile River cruise and visited spas. Modern travellers are not very different in what they seek from travel — exposure to other cultures, adventures in far-off lands, the unfamiliar and the exotic.

Before there was the gap year or backpacking across Europe, there was the European Grand Tour, intended to expand an aristocrat’s classical education; it gave rise to a hospitality sector. The Industrial Revolution created more leisure time and greater middle-class wealth, facilitating the tourism industry. Technological changes to transportation got goods to market more efficiently; steamships and trains made travel easier. The luxurious and mysterious Orient Express made its inaugural journey in 1883 from Paris to Constantinople (Istanbul). Thomas Cook, spotting his niche, began chartering trains and hotels for tour groups in 1841.
International travel remained the domain of the well-off until the Second World War, when the development of the jet engine set the stage for air travel, initiating the modern travel industry. During the post-war recovery period, particularly in North America, greater disposable income and leisure time stimulated foreign travel. Specialist tour operators began aggregating transport, accommodation and related services and selling them for a single price. The democratization of travel brought foreign holidays to a new group of consumers.
Growth in the travel industry gives modern travellers myriad ways to satisfy their wanderlust. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals reached 1.1  billion in 2014 — 51 million more than in 2013.

Compiled here are 10 Top-10 lists for different types of travellers, based on travel statistics and reviews from a range of sources. The places are listed in no particular order.

Get outta town  |  Top 10 destinations
Traditional Travellers

Valley of the Ten Peaks and Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Canada. (Photo: Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak)

Valley of the Ten Peaks and Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Canada. (Photo: Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak)

Traditional travellers like tourist attractions relatively close to home, places that will ensure they have a fun vacation. When you go to these destinations, many (often most) of the people you see are fellow tourists.

Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas. With more than 40 million visitors annually, the Strip is a favourite for a quick break. Among the excesses on display — the famous Bellagio fountains, shows, museums, galleries, exhibits and the newest attraction, the High Roller, the world’s tallest observation Ferris wheel. Don’t forget the casinos!

Niagara Falls, Ontario and New York. Three massive waterfalls make up Niagara Falls, straddling the Canada-U.S. border. The iconic and historic Horseshoe Falls are on the Canadian side, in Niagara. About 168,000 cubic metres (six million cubic feet) of water per minute rush over the 55-metre (180-foot) vertical drop on its way to Lake Ontario. Sail on the Maid of the Mist to get up close and personal. Get campy in the Canadian city of Niagara Falls, where wax museums abound.

Grand Central Terminal, New York City. The exterior of Grand Central Terminal  features the world’s largest example of Tiffany glass on the clock facing 42nd Street. Inside, 2,500 stars adorn the ceiling in an astronomical mural of the Mediterranean winter sky. “Secret” platform No. 61 has a concealed entrance and an elevator going to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
Balboa Park, San Diego. The 1,200 acres of Balboa Park feature 19 gardens, 15 museums, nine performing arts groups, hiking and cycling trails, a miniature railroad, golf course, tennis courts, gymnasium, samba school, carousel and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

Chicago’s Navy Pier is one of the Windy City’s premier historic landmarks. (Photo: Banpei)

Chicago’s Navy Pier is one of the Windy City’s premier historic landmarks. (Photo: Banpei)

Navy Pier, Chicago. One of the Windy City’s premier historic landmarks, the 3,300-foot-long (1,010-metre-long) Navy Pier was designed for shipping and recreation and has become a significant entertainment and exposition facility. Enjoy restaurants, shops, the Ferris wheel, live theatre and attractions on the shore of Lake Michigan. The USS Chicago is docked at the end of the pier, a reminder of military history.
Canada’s Wonderland, Vaughan, Ont. Self-proclaimed as Canada’s premier amusement park, Wonderland has more than 200 attractions, 69 rides, North
America’s largest variety of roller coasters and a monstrous water park. In 2015, the park will host the Chinese Acrobats, Ultimate Thrills Circus and the West Coast Lumberjack Show.

Banff National Park, Alberta. Hike the mountains, valleys, forests and alpine meadows in Banff National Park, Canada’s first national park, covering the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Visit the hot springs, the discovery of which led to this park’s establishment, stroll downtown Banff, camp or enjoy posh hotels.

There’s a party every night on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. (Photo:  Chris Litherland)

There’s a party every night on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. (Photo: Chris Litherland)

Bourbon Street, New Orleans. It’s a party every night at the restaurants, shops and bars in this historic 13-block section of the French Quarter from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue. Not into partying? The area is imbued with 18th-Century history and folklore, including Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, a front for smuggling operations that is said to be haunted.

Playland, Vancouver. Canada’s oldest amusement park is located in Hastings Park and operates from April through September. It has been part of the Pacific National Exhibition since 1910. Playland features a wooden roller coaster, midway games, attractions such as an arcade, haunted mansion and pirate adventure, and of course, classic amusement park food.

Disneyland in Anaheim, California, celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2015.  (Photo: Tuxyso)

Disneyland in Anaheim, California, celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2015. (Photo: Tuxyso)

Disneyland, Anaheim, California. In fact, any place Disney, but 2015 is a special year for the theme park that started it all. This year is its 60th anniversary and there will be celebrations and new spectacles along with the usual attractions, such as Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Happy anniversary, Mickey!

Get outta town  |  Top 10 destinations
Ecotourists

While there is no official definition of ecotourism or sustainable travel, and no certifying body, ecotourism can be described as responsible travel to natural places for pleasure in a way that is socially conscious and does not damage the environment. Travel + Leisure magazine says ecotourism and cultural tourism are the fastest-growing segments of the global travel industry.

Caiman Ecological Refuge, Miranda, Mato Grosso State, Brazil. In the world’s largest wetlands, the Caiman Ecological Refuge — 132,000 acres (534 square kilometres) of forest, fields and waterways — turned from a working cattle station to a protector of the Pantanal region by running a nature conservation program and catering to ecotourists with four eco-lodges. Travellers can canoe, ride horses with Brazilian cowboys, known as Pantaneiros, and take nature walks.

Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, Placencia, Belize. The reserve, 36 kilometres (22 miles) off Placencia, is protected by the Southern Environmental Association, an NGO dedicated to environmental stewardship. Gladden is one of the few places on Earth where humans can predictably swim with whale sharks, which arrive during full moons March to June, drawn by the mass spawning of coral polyps.

Bako National Park, Kuching, Island of Borneo, Malaysia. Although it occupies only one percent of the world’s land, Borneo is home to six percent of global diversity, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The island’s rainforest is threatened by oil palm plantations. Bako National Park contains almost every type of vegetation in Borneo and is probably the best place to see wildlife.

Tatshenshini-Alsek Park, British Columbia. The Tatshenshini-Alsek river system forms the basis of the eponymous park in northwestern B.C. When the mining industry planned a huge open-pit copper mine in the watershed, rafters campaigned to protect it and the Canadian government rescinded the permit. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tatshenshini-Alsek Park’s 958,000 hectares (9,580 square kilometres) provide travellers the opportunity to raft, hike and see wildlife and unusual flora.

Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) Conservancies, Northern Kenya. In the shadow of Mount Kenya, overgrazed and drought-ravaged land barely supported its population. Community reserves have restored the land and seven NRT conservancies support sustainable tourism. Lodges offer top-notch accommodations, food and opportunities to trek, track wildlife and learn bush lore. Places to stay include Saruni Lodge, Il’Ngwesi Ecolodge, Kitich Camp and Tassia Lodge.

Makalali Game Reserve, South Africa. The Siyafunda Bush experience in the Makalali puts visitors in an eco-friendly tent camp in the wilderness of the reserve to learn bush survival, navigation and biodiversity conservation surrounded by big game — elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions, leopards. Volunteers can help with invasive plant clearing, road maintenance and habitat rehabilitation.

Samoa, South Pacific. Maintaining the island’s beautiful coastline, coral reefs, marine wildlife and the rainforest-covered volcanic slopes is important to Samoans. The island’s inhabitants take a leadership role in adopting standards based on the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Destination criteria and setting the standard for other island nations. Enjoy fishing, surfing, diving, snorkelling, museums and cultural exhibits.

Thailand’s Phang Nga province is a tourist gem in which volunteer opportunities for such projects as sea turtle research and mangrove planting are possible. (Photo: René Ehrhardt)

Thailand’s Phang Nga province is a tourist gem in which volunteer opportunities for such projects as sea turtle research and mangrove planting are possible. (Photo: René Ehrhardt)

Phang Nga Province, Thailand. The Thailand Coast Marine Expedition, offered by the Global Vision International Program, gives visitors volunteer opportunities that include sea-turtle research, beach cleaning, mangrove planting or teaching English to children. Volunteers are also encouraged to see the sights, such as the Khao Sok National Park.

Kihavah Island, Maldives. In 1998, El Nino’s unusually high temperatures killed about 90 percent of the Maldives’ coral reefs. Restoration is an ongoing project, applying coral gardening and reef adoption. In Kihavah, a luxury vacation combines coral adoption by allowing visitors to sponsor a frame where coral will be transplanted by a marine biologist.

Conservation Ecology Centre, Victoria, Australia. The five-room Great Ocean Ecolodge, operated by the Conservation Ecology Centre, runs entirely on solar power. The centre borders Great Otway National Park, which protects eucalyptus forests, waterfalls and windswept heathlands. Guests can help care for injured and orphaned wildlife or take the 102-kilometre (64-mile) Great Ocean Walk, with supplies provided daily by the lodge.

Get outta town  |  Top 10 destinations
Photographers

Those who like to view their holiday destinations through a camera lens seek beauty and breathtaking visual experiences. Landscapes, architecture, people, cultural displays — all are fodder for the photographer who seeks to
capture the world in an image.

Kauai, Hawaii. The “garden isle” lives up to its name, with lush rainforest, jagged green mountains, tremendous waterfalls and the National Tropical Botanical Garden. The island has appeared in several movies, including the Jurassic Park series, King Kong and Mighty Joe Young, the sites of which can be toured. Waimea Canyon is the ultimate in prehistoric landscapes; Kalalau Lookout provides the most stunning views.

Belize. This small country to the east of Guatemala gives visitors plenty of opportunities to explore the perfect blue waters of the Caribbean and white sand beaches. Coral reefs, marine life, Mayan ruins — the opportunities for dramatic photos are everywhere. Explore Glover’s Atoll, Half Moon Caye, Belize City and Mayan ruins at Xunantunich, Altun Ha, Caracol and many other sites.

Finish your sight-seeing day in Venice with a gondola ride on the Grand Canal. (Photo: Wolfgang and Moroder)

Finish your sight-seeing day in Venice with a gondola ride on the Grand Canal. (Photo: Wolfgang and Moroder)

Venice, Italy. The best thing to do in this unique and beautiful city is wander aimlessly. Your meandering will reveal charming squares and streets undiscovered by those checking off sites on a top-10 list. Then visit St. Mark’s Basilica, St. Mark’s Square, ride the Grand Canal on a vaporetto (water-bus), see the Doge’s Palace, wander Burano Island and top it off with a ride in a gondola.

Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. Formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands, Haida Gwaii presents a rugged landscape, rich with old-growth rainforest, as a beautiful backdrop to humpback whales breeching off the coast, soaring bald eagles, bears and other species. The Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve safeguards important cultural sites of the Haida people, including the S’Gang Gwaay totem poles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Liechtenstein. The miniature monarchy in central Europe stretches in pastoral splendour from the Rhine to the Alps between the Swiss canton of St. Gallen and the Austrian province of Vorarlberg. Rugged mountains, green valleys, a picturesque castle and modern and ancient architecture lie in close proximity, seemingly awaiting the click of a camera shutter.

Mount Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii. Haleakala means “house of the sun” in Hawaiian, and certainly sunrise and sunset viewed from the peak are awe-inspiring. At the top of this great dormant volcano, 3,055 metres (10,023 feet) above sea level, you can hike above the clouds and into the crater, or ride on horseback across its surreal deserts.

Tuscany, Italy. Viewing scenic Tuscany (Toscana) is like viewing a Renaissance painting come to life. Rolling hills dressed in Chianti vineyards and olive groves, ancient buildings and towns rich in history beckon, if you can stop gazing long enough to raise your camera.
Fiordland National Park, South Island, New Zealand. If you saw the Lord of the Ring trilogy, you’ve seen the impressive landscapes of New Zealand’s largest national park. They range from snow-capped mountains to vast marshes. South Island is less inhabited than the country’s other island, providing more astoundingly beautiful open areas.

Plain of Temples, Bagan, Myanmar. The kings of ancient Bagan built more than 4,400 Buddhist temples in 230 years. Pagodas range one after the other, large and small, across the delta plain. Half of the red brick structures remain today, with hidden frescoes and ornate architecture to delight and amaze.

Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Wilderness Park, Saskatchewan. This may seem a surprising choice. The shifting dunes are virtually unknown, a surprising secret in northwestern Saskatchewan, stretching 100 kilometres (62 miles) along Lake Athabasca. Among the most northern dune fields in the world, they are home to nine types of plants that exist nowhere else. Access is by floatplane only.

Get outta town  |  Top 10 destinations
History buffs

History buffs look for destinations that tell the stories of the human experience and reveal the bonds we share among our diverse cultures. They prefer historic sites, monuments, landmarks, architectural marvels, heritage festivals and, of course, museums.

The Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses features the last century's most significant archeological excavation. (Photo: Ingo Staudacher)

The Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses features the last century’s most significant archeological excavation. (Photo: Ingo Staudacher)

Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses, Lintong, Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, China. The terracotta army is the most significant archeological excavation of the last century. The soldiers in battle dress guard the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, first emperor of China, who ascended the throne at age 13. Archeologists have confirmed that the artifacts were associated with the Qin Dynasty (211-206 BC). The site was discovered by farmers digging a well in 1974.

Paris, France. You would be forgiven if the City of Lights makes you think it has
existed untouched for millenniums. The iconic Tour Eiffel, Montmartre, Montparnasse, Musée du Louvre, Sacré Coeur, Notre Dame — they all connect visitors and Parisiens to the small medieval town of the past. Walking tours are the best way to explore.

Washington, D.C. The American capital is the site of much U.S. history and home to many of its artifacts and memorials. Check out the Smithsonian, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Vietnam Women’s Memorial, The Mall and Capitol Hill, and, of course, the White House.

A view of the Champs de Mars, taken from the Tour Eiffel in Paris, France.  (Photo: Matt Girling)

A view of the Champs de Mars, taken from the Tour Eiffel in Paris, France. (Photo: Matt Girling)

Sensoji-ji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo, dating back to 628 BC. (Photo: © Tomas1111 | Dreamstime.com)

Sensoji-ji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo, dating back to 628 BC. (Photo: © Tomas1111 | Dreamstime.com)

Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan. The oldest temple in Tokyo was dedicated in 628 BC to the Kannon Bodhisattva, the most compassionate Buddha. The site has a five-level pagoda and several halls, each with its own story. At night, dramatic lighting reveals intricate details. The practice for centuries, stalls along the temple’s Nakamise Street sell food and goods to pilgrims.

London, England. Where to start in this city, whose history is so involved in Canada’s? An important city in the Roman Empire, it became an important city in the modern world. Among its significant historic sites are Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, London Bridge, the Tower of London, the Churchill War Rooms, the British Museum and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Córdoba, Argentina. This intriguing city was named the Cultural Capital of the Americas in 2006. It is an exciting blend of new and old, exemplified by its modern architecture and 17th-Century Jesuit ruins. It comprises a mix of Roman, Arabic and Spanish history — after a fascinating walking tour, relax at one of the city’s Arabian baths.

Mumbai, India. Formerly Bombay, Mumbai is famous for chaotic streets, bazaars, bargains and Bollywood. Must-see sites include the Gandhi Museum, Juhu Beach, the cave temples of Elephanta Island and the Gateway of India monument, built during the British Raj. Cruise along Marine Drive as the sun sets on the Arabian Sea.

No list of historic sites is complete without Athens and its incredible Acropolis, pictured here. (Photo: Christophe Meneboeuf)

No list of historic sites is complete without Athens and its incredible Acropolis, pictured here. (Photo: Christophe Meneboeuf)

Athens, Greece. No list of historic sites would be complete without Athens. Its best-known historic sites, including the Acropolis, Parthenon, Theatre of Dionysus and Temple of Hephaestus, are monuments to the seat of civilization. Although it is a paradise for history lovers, history isn’t all Athens has to offer — it is a contemporary city with modern amenities and plenty of nightlife.

St. Petersburg, Russia. The most northern city in the world is also known as the Venice of the North, a reference to its many rivers and canals. Museums and famous buildings abound in St. Petersburg, formerly Leningrad, reflecting the city’s extraordinary history. The famous Winter Palace is one of many palaces and there are numerous monuments and religious sites.

Old Quebec, Quebec City, Canada. Old Quebec is a significant locale for the country’s early history, the only fortified city north of Mexico and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was once a crucial fur-trading post and the heart of New France. To visit Old Quebec is to visit Europe, with its narrow cobblestone streets, charming historic buildings and the Citadel and its fortifications.

Get outta town  |  Top 10 destinations
Gourmands

It’s not that they wonder where their next meal will come from, though that’s part of it; food lovers look for culinary adventure. They seek destinations that offer the exotic, the spicy, the rich and flavourful, where they can do more than just grab a bite to eat.

San Francisco, California. Superb
examples of cuisine from around the world are available in this coastal gem. Fresh seafood on Fisherman’s Wharf, dim sum in Chinatown, fresh fruit in Oakland, vegan delights in the Mission District, Italian food in the financial district and food trucks in Berkeley — it will sustain the busy traveller as it delights the palate.

Montreal, Quebec. Home of the smoked meat sandwich à la Schwartz’s Hebrew Deli, the oldest in Canada, in business for more than 80 years on Saint-Laurent Boulevard. The world-famous sandwich is a Montreal classic, but it is not the only Montreal destination for food-lovers. Excellent restaurants abound in Old
Montreal and central neighbourhoods.

Barcelona, Spain. Experience the social gathering that is de tapeo and enjoy real tapas, which are not merely snacks, but often tiny culinary works of art that vary by region. Tapas were originally served as a cover over a jug to prevent flies from getting into the wine. Today, they are light appetizers that accompany beer or wine.

Tokyo, Japan, is the place for sushi.  (Photo: Jon Rawlinson )

Tokyo, Japan, is the place for sushi. (Photo: Jon Rawlinson )

Tokyo, Japan. The place for sushi. Tokyo is not only the world’s sushi taste-maker, but the determiner of the cost of sushi worldwide. Visit a sushi temple, watch a demonstration of sushi preparation or visit a market with a local expert. Tokyo’s best-known market is the Tsukiji Fish Market.

Saigon, Vietnam. Try pho and bánh mì — this is not your typical soup and sandwich lunch. Many consider bánh mì one of the best examples of fusion food — meat, vegetables, pickles, seasoning and garnish in a crusty nine-inch baguette. It’s Vietnam and France in partnership. Pair it with a bowl of pho — a flavourful Asian broth with noodles, meat, chopped green onions and herbs — for a satisfying meal.

Chiang Mai, Thailand. The city’s signature dish is khao soi, spicy coconut curry soup with two types of noodles, one crunchy and one soft, often served with a slice of lime, roasted chili paste and pickled cabbage. Immerse yourself in Thai cuisine by taking cooking classes at one of the many well-regarded Thai cooking schools. Lessons are typically four to six hours long.

You haven’t visited Paris until you’ve bought one of France’s 500 cheese varieties and a baguette for a picnic. (Photo: © Studioportosabbia | Dreamstime.com)

You haven’t visited Paris until you’ve bought one of France’s 500 cheese varieties and a baguette for a picnic. (Photo: © Studioportosabbia | Dreamstime.com)

Paris, France. If you can tear yourself away from the French pastries, macarons and fine chocolate, be sure to visit authentic affineurs to sample the many wonderful cheeses, paired with the perfect wines, of course. Attend a cheese and wine workshop to explore the creation of French cheeses — there are 500 varieties.

Belgium. Many foodies consider Belgian cuisine to be the best in Europe; certainly it serves up a quadruple threat — waffles, beer, chocolate and frites — but Belgian specialties range further than that, including the fish and mussels of the North Sea coast, pheasant, rabbit and venison of the Ardennes, and beef and lamb in the Flemish polders. Wash it down with one — or more — of Belgium’s 400 types of beer.

Cacao Trail, Ecuador. Set out from Coca to trace the history of this region, where roughly 63 percent of the world’s fine aroma cacao is produced. “Fine” or “flavour” cocoa beans produce the highest quality gourmet chocolate, but account for only 5 percent of the world’s cocoa production. Cocoa production in Ecuador goes back 5,200 years.

Bolaven Plateau, Laos. What better way to top off a delicious meal — or a foodie tour — than with a fragrant cup of coffee? The fertile Bolaven Plateau, which spreads across several southern provinces, is famous for its cool climate and high-grade coffee plantations. The plateau can be explored on a day trip from Pakse.

Get outta town  |  Top 10 destinations
Urbanites

Those who prefer urban to natural destinations generally seek city attractions such as concerts, museums, shopping, festivals, events, concerts and nightlife. They may also appreciate architecture and human-made landmarks.

What other city offers as much spectacle as New York City? And Manhattan’s Times Square is its epicentre. (Photo: chensiyuan)

What other city offers as much spectacle as New York City? And Manhattan’s Times Square is its epicentre. (Photo: chensiyuan)

New York City, N.Y. What other city offers such spectacle? Times Square, also known as New York’s neon heart, draws 50 million tourists a year for Broadway shows, art galleries, museums, theatre — and don’t forget shopping. The square offers easy access to public transportation, including the city’s famous subway and yellow taxis. Central Park covers 850 acres (3.4 square kilometres) of Manhattan, an oasis for visitors and locals.

The Saiho-ji kokedera pond in Kyoto offers a contrast to the city’s bustling markets. (Photo: Ivanoff )

The Saiho-ji kokedera pond in Kyoto offers a contrast to the city’s bustling markets. (Photo: Ivanoff )

Kyoto, Japan. Kyoto is at once old and new, vibrant and serene, traditional and modern. It is a city of quiet temples and gardens and bustling markets and nightlife. Visit the Golden Pavilion, one of Japan’s best-known sights, the Gion entertainment and geisha district, experience the past at Takayama’s folk village or explore Kanazawa Castle.

Charleston, South Carolina. History lives in the genteel environs of Charleston, where visitors can stand on the site of the first shot fired in the Civil War, tour an antebellum mansion or board a Second World War aircraft carrier. Fish off the pier, walk the beach, enjoy high-end restaurants, dockside oyster roasts, outdoor cafés and the best grits you’ll ever have, according to the locals.

Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona combines culinary adventure with an exciting nightlife, culture and tradition, architecture, sun-drenched Mediterranean beaches and all things Picasso. La Rambla, a famous street for tourists, provides an intriguing taste of cultural centres, theatre and architecture. Architect Antoni Gaudi’s La Sagrada Família is a must-see — the cathedral has been under construction for more than 100 years.

Florence, Italy. This small riverside city’s beauty is rich and opulent. Narrow streets beguile and Renaissance architecture leaves one breathless. Intriguing shops yield their treasures, designer and otherwise, while art lives everywhere. Bars and eateries abound and year-round festivals serve up happy portions of tradition and culture.

Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is the most visited attraction in the world, with more than 91 million visitors annually. It offers bargains galore for those who come to haggle and browse. Search for ceramics, intricate carpets, copperware, gold Byzantine-style jewelry, clothing and more. When it’s time for a break, pause for a cup of strong Turkish coffee or a kebab.

Mexico City, Mexico. This World Heritage City offers so much culture. The Zócalo, officially the Plaza de la Constitución was once the centre of Aztec society and remains a hub of activity. Stroll through Chapultepec Park, visit ruins, museums and galleries, take in a plethora of events — cultural and otherwise — and indulge your palate with traditional foods.

New Orleans, Louisiana. There is something for everyone in this vibrant city. From amusement parks to zoos and everything in between, New Orleans has it. The city is most famous for its jazz and nightlife. Jazz clubs, music venues, bars and clubs will keep you partying all night. The city is also a gastronomic delight, particularly for Cajun and Creole cuisine.

Bangkok, Thailand. This modern city, where East greets West, exhibits plenty of tradition. Temples, palaces, a world-famous floating market, luxury hotels and lively Chinatown await travellers who want a taste of the exotic. The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew are among Thailand’s most important sacred sites. Khao San Road in the old city is the place to go for nightlife.

Vancouver, B.C. Tucked into B.C.’s most southwestern corner, Vancouver offers outdoor adventure and all the vitality of a thriving city. Enjoy Stanley Park, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Granville Island shopping and attractions, nightlife and casinos, concerts and theatre. Vancouver is the self-proclaimed culinary capital of Canada with a plethora of dining options and international cuisine.

Get outta town  |  Top 10 destinations
Nature Lovers

These travellers are like ecotourists in that they want to minimize their impact on the environment, but their primary travel goal is to enjoy nature. Their travel destinations include national parks and preserves, World Heritage Sites and places with good camping.

Darwin's Slipper is a perennial found in Torres del Paine, Chile. (Photo: Thomas Mathis)

Darwin’s Slipper is a perennial found in Torres del Paine, Chile. (Photo: Thomas Mathis)

Jasper National Park, Alberta. The largest national park in the Canadian Rockies covers 10,878 square kilometres (4,200 square miles), with nearly 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) of hiking trails, thousands of campsites, rivers and lakes, glaciers, alpine meadows and the world’s second-largest dark sky preserve. The park is home to an abundance of wildlife.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee. The United States’ most-visited park gets its name from the haze that settles in the vales. The Appalachian Trail bisects the 5.2 square kilometres (520,000 hectares) of Tennessee and North Carolina forest and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park offers 1,280 kilometres (800 miles) of trails, plus camping, waterfalls, horseback riding and stunning vistas.

Yosemite National Park in California is known for its waterfalls.  (Photo: Walter Siegmund)

Yosemite National Park in California is known for its waterfalls. (Photo: Walter Siegmund)

Yosemite National Park, California. This World Heritage Site was one of the first parks in the National Park Service. Mountain peaks dominate and are filled with giant sequoias, pine forests, crystalline lakes, waterfalls and abundant wildflowers. Hike, camp, or take a car ride through its breathtaking scenery.

Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Japan. Southwest of Tokyo, Japan’s most popular national park lies in the shadow of the dormant volcano Mount Fuji, which is more than 3,660 metres (12,000 feet) high. See Lake Ashi, visit the ruins and shrines of old Japan and the geysers of Atami Hotsprings, enjoy the onsen baths, where hot volcanic water rises from underground.

Guilin and Lijiang River National Park, China. This park in southeastern China is renowned for its limestone region, which features caves, sinkholes and subterranean streams, limestone cones, cylinders and hills. The best way to view its breathtaking scenery is to take a boat trip along the Lijiang River, from Guilin to Yangshuo. Popular activities include cruises, hiking, hill climbing and photography.

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in Patagonia, Chile, is considered by many to be Chile’s most spectacular national park. (Photo: Martin St-Amant)

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in Patagonia, Chile, is considered by many to be Chile’s most spectacular national park. (Photo: Martin St-Amant)

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile. Considered by many to be South America’s most spectacular national park, Torres del Paine offers expansive views of glaciers, forests, lakes and lookouts. Hiking and trekking are among the favourite activities here. Some say the view of the immense glaciers of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field is unequalled!

Lake District National Park, England. Walk, cycle and drive through a region whose plunging valleys, granite boulders and 16 picturesque lakes inspired artists and writers such as J.M.W. Turner, William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. It is the birthplace of British mountaineering and a delight for water sports enthusiasts, who can row, sail, windsurf, kayak and fish.

A grey-crowned crane in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Photo: ajjad Sherally Fazel)

A grey-crowned crane in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Photo: ajjad Sherally Fazel)

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. The Serengeti National Park, prominent among African national parks and a World Heritage Site, is known for its annual wildebeest migrations, the single largest animal migration on Earth. It is a park for viewing — buffalo, elephants, giraffes, impalas, zebras, Grant’s gazelles, lions, leopards and some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world.

Tofino, B.C. The west coast of Vancouver Island is rugged and undeveloped, the perfect place to watch wildlife. Black bears feed along the coastline at low tide and whales can be seen year round. If you prefer more active pursuits, try surfing, sailing or hiking.

Magdalen Islands, Quebec. The Magdalen Islands present a heritage experience like no other, rich with the music of Les Îles, artisans, performing arts and theatre, festivals and cultural events. After busy days of sea kayaking, snorkelling, sailing, horseback riding or sightseeing, enjoy the region’s exquisite cuisine and locally crafted liquors.

Get outta town  |  Top 10 destinations
Adventurers

Adventure travellers aren’t just those who look for the excitement of risking life and limb through daring activities that would scare the bejeebers out of the rest of us. They also look for destinations that focus on physical activity and new experiences, rather than relaxation.

Zavkhan Province, Mongolia. Take a 21-day journey by horseback, camel and on foot through the steppes, mountains and desert of a remote region of Mongolia. Start the journey with a three-day drive from Ulaanbaatar on the notorious roads of Mongolia to begin your adventure across Zavkhan, where you will immerse yourself in the nomadic culture of the region.

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama. Scuba-certified adventurers will love this. Southern Alabama has more than 17,000 artificial reefs, including the Lulu, the first whole-ship artificial reef created in the state for recreational diving. The former freighter sits upright at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, and is now home to scallops, sea urchin, snapper, grouper and abundant other fish.

Canada’s only grizzly bear sanctuary is located in British Columbia’s Khutzeymateen Provincial Park.  (Photo: gander178)

Canada’s only grizzly bear sanctuary is located in British Columbia’s Khutzeymateen Provincial Park. (Photo: gander178)

Khutzeymateen Provincial Park, Skeena-Queen Charlotte, British Columbia. Don’t forget your binoculars and camera when you visit Canada’s only grizzly bear sanctuary. It is rugged and way off the beaten track, accessible by small boat or plane and only when guided by a permitted outfitter. The sanctuary protects an estimated 50 grizzlies. Camp at your own risk.

Rio Futaleufu, Chile. Raft on the Futaleufu River as it flows westward to Chile past snow-capped volcanoes, through rich rainforest and pristine wilderness to race into deep canyons on its way to the coast. The white water is without equal in the world; rapids range from Class 2 to Class 4/5.

You can do high-altitude horseback riding at a working ranch called Hacienda Zuleta in Imbabura, Ecuador. (Photo: Adventures Within Reach)

You can do high-altitude horseback riding at a working ranch called Hacienda Zuleta in Imbabura, Ecuador. (Photo: Adventures Within Reach)

Hacienda Zuleta, Imbabura, Ecuador. High-altitude Andean horseback riding at this working ranch and ecolodge will put you on trails 2,740 to 3,350 metres (9,000 to 11,000 feet) above sea level, through forests, indigenous villages and pre-Inca sites. The ranch’s distinctive Zuleteño horses will take good care of you — they are acclimated to the altitude and skilfully traverse the challenging terrain.

Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania. Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak (5,900 metres / 19,340 feet) and one of the largest volcanoes in the world. Girdled by mountain forest, it looms over the expansive savannah surrounding it. To prepare to reach the “roof of Africa,” guides, who are compulsory, recommend following a fitness program of progressive weight resistance and hiking. Lots of hiking.

Combine a cruise to Antarctica with ice climbing and scuba diving. Expedition-style ships let you see the bottom of the Earth while minimizing the impact on the environment. (Photo: Joe Mastroianni, National Science Foundation)

Combine a cruise to Antarctica with ice climbing and scuba diving. Expedition-style ships let you see the bottom of the Earth while minimizing the impact on the environment. (Photo: Joe Mastroianni, National Science Foundation)

Antarctica. This is not your average cruise. Combine a cruise to the bottom of the Earth with ice climbing and scuba diving. Expedition-style ships with ice-strengthened hulls provide comfortable, safe travel and accommodations while giving you a front-row seat to viewing the breathtaking beauty of Antarctica with minimal impact on the environment. Qualified expedition leaders and experienced naturalists are your guides.

Mount Thor, Auyuittuq National Park, Baffin Island, Nunavut. Not the highest, but the steepest mountain of all, Thor is made of solid granite and has a vertical drop of 1,250 metres (4,100 feet,) with an average angle of 105 degrees. The landscape is almost entirely rock and ice. Though remote, it is popular with avid mountain climbers. Auyuittuq is pronounced ow-you-we-took.

Adventurers can swim with the sharks at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico.(Photo: Terry Goss)

Adventurers can swim with the sharks at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico.(Photo: Terry Goss)

Isla Guadalupe, Mexico. Double-dog dare you to swim with white sharks! This area is the world’s top white-shark cage-diving destination. Shark conservation diving is a way to study the fascinating species. From the safety (yes, we said safety) of a shark cage, divers get up close and personal with the big fish, some of whom have been tagged, including Shredder (4.5 metres / 15 feet) and Bruce (4.9 metres / 16 feet).

You can fly a T-33 that looks like this one from the U.S. Air Force, in Waterloo, Ont. (Photo: Stahlkocher)

You can fly a T-33 that looks like this one from the U.S. Air Force, in Waterloo, Ont. (Photo: Stahlkocher)

An airfield near you. If you think you have the right stuff, you can be a fighter pilot for a day. This is not a simulation, but an actual (accompanied) flying experience, with ground school and a flight in a fighter aircraft such as the T-33 (Waterloo, Ont.), MiG-29 (Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia), and L-39 (Tampa, Florida; Los Angeles, California; Eifel, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic).

Get outta town  |  Top 10 destinations
Hikers and Trekkers

These folks are in it for the long walk. Hikers and trekkers like to experience culture and landscapes by becoming part of them.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco. Get in touch with nature and 200 years of history in this expansive recreation area outside San Francisco. It includes the Presidio, an 18th-Century military post. Beaches, cliffs, hills, forts and giant redwoods are found within the recreation area, which comprises 19 ecosystems and is home to more than 1,200 plant and animal species.

Empty beaches, sand dunes and maybe whales and dolphins are all on view in Bay of Fires, Australia. (Photo: Poco a poco)

Empty beaches, sand dunes and maybe whales and dolphins are all on view in Bay of Fires, Australia. (Photo: Poco a poco)

Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories. Spectacular hiking is accessible by boat from the river through the South Nahanni region to places with colourful names such as Hole-in-the-Wall Lake and Sunblood Mountain. There are no established trails in the park, but popular routes have become well-defined.

Zermatt Mountains, Switzerland. There are several routes (total 400 kilometres/ 248 miles) to take through the Zermatt Mountains, but the 5-Seenweg (Five Lakes Walk) is in a class of its own. It presents delightful views of the lakes, two of which reflect the Matterhorn, and plenty of variety along the way. Its difficulty rating is medium.

The Zermatt Mountains in Switzerland offer excellent climbing opportunities. (Photo: chensiyuan)

The Zermatt Mountains in Switzerland offer excellent climbing opportunities. (Photo: chensiyuan)

Monte Cervino, Valais, Italy and
Switzerland. Better known as the Matterhorn, its Swiss name. Each face offers multiple routes on four main ridges. The northeast Hörnligrat Ridge is the easiest way to the summit. The southwest Italian Ridge has fixed ropes to assist trekkers. The northwest Zmuttgrat is the longest, but often in poor condition because of its northern exposure. Furggengrat, the southeast ridge, is extremely difficult and rarely taken.

John Muir Way, Scotland. Opened in 2014, it’s a 215-kilometre (133-mile) path across Scotland, from Dunbar on the east coast (Muir’s birthplace) and west past North Berwick Law, a volcanic remnant jutting out of the earth, and Loch Lomond, the largest freshwater lake (by surface area) in Britain. The Highland views of moors, hills and lowering skies reveal the Scotland one sees in movies.

Rhine River, Germany. Take a walking holiday along the Rhine River, exploring the Rheinsteig, a marked trail on the eastern bank of the river. See castles on the clifftops and within forests, charming villages, medieval towns as well as vineyards and splendid river views. The legendary Loreley Rock will be on your route.

Alentejo, Portugal. This wild coast hiking area in southwestern Portugal offers terrific scenery, a view of storks’ nests on the cliffs and an opportunity to be part of authentic rural life. Rota Vicentina, one of Europe’s newest hiking paths, covers 214 kilometres (133 miles) of Alentejo, from rugged coastline to countryside.

Bay of Fires, Australia. Traverse the remote and dramatic Tasmanian landscape through a series of short walks along the edge of Mount William National Park on Tasmania’s east coast. You’ll explore empty beaches, coves, sand dunes and perhaps see whales spouting and dolphins playing offshore. In the nearby woodlands, you’ll be greeted by the region’s endemic black cockatoo.

Kamchatka Volcanoes, Russia. Take two weeks to explore the wilderness of the Kamchatka Peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Warm up with a 12-hour hike into the crater of the Mutnovsky active volcano through a crack in the volcano’s edge. Those who’ve seen it describe the view as “alarming and fantastic.”  Hike the craters of the Gorely volcano, Plosky Tolbachik volcano and the site of the Tolbachik eruption.

Macchu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Cusco Region, Peru. While there is a train to take visitors to the most-visited site in Peru, those who are fit, adventurous and enjoy stunning views can take a multi-day trip on foot along a trail to the plateau. The 15th-Century “Lost City of the Incas” is renowned for its dry-stone walls made without mortar.

Get outta town  |  Top 10 destinations
Beach lovers

Beach lovers may be said to have a case of Tahiti Syndrome. Their idea of a perfect vacation involves sand, sun, surf, sea creatures and often palm trees.

The Seychelles Islands, Indian Ocean. Each beach you visit is more beautiful than the last, from Anse à la Mouche on the southwestern coast of Mahé to Petit Anse on La Digue and Grand Anse on Praslin. Be sure to check out your destination before you go — some beaches are for swimming and diving, some only for sunbathing and picnicking.

The Hamptons offer family activities, quiet time and young and hip destinations as well. (Photo: © Sylvana Rega | Dreamstime.com)

The Hamptons offer family activities, quiet time and young and hip destinations as well. (Photo: © Sylvana Rega | Dreamstime.com)

The Hamptons, Long Island, New York State. How to choose from among the beaches of the Hamptons? Depends on what you expect. Family activity? Check out Indian Wells or Mecox. Crave quiet time? Go to Wainscott. Think you’re young and hip? Opt for Flying Point or Gibson. Just looking for a generally beachy beach? Main Beach is for you.

Prince Edward Island. Canada’s smallest province has miles of lovely and distinctive beaches. For singing sand (really), go to Basin Head. Clam diggers will love Pinette or Tea Hill. Seven provincial parks offer camping and beaches and if you like company on the sand, go to Prince Edward Island National Park, where Cavendish and Brackley beaches are popular.

Phi Phi Islands, Thailand, feature limestone cliffs surrounding secluded beaches and brilliant turquoise water. (Photo: © Toxawww | Dreamstime.com )

Phi Phi Islands, Thailand, feature limestone cliffs surrounding secluded beaches and brilliant turquoise water. (Photo: © Toxawww | Dreamstime.com )

Phi Phi Islands, Thailand. A 90-minute ferry ride from the island of Phuket gets you to the Phi Phi Islands, which feature limestone cliffs surrounding secluded beaches and brilliant turquoise water. Ko Phi Phi Don is the largest island, much of which is a protected marine reserve. Swim, dive, snorkel or relax on the sand.

Gold Coast is a modern city edged by magnificent beaches and great surfing. (Photo: © Lucidwaters | Dreamstime.com )

Gold Coast is a modern city edged by magnificent beaches and great surfing. (Photo: © Lucidwaters | Dreamstime.com )

Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Surf’s up! Gold Coast is a modern city edged by superb beaches. The area has some of Australia’s best surfing along its 70 kilometres (43 miles) of beaches; its consistent waves play host to many international surfing competitions. Whether you’re a rookie mounting your first board or a professional surfer, you’ll catch your wave here.
Maldives. With 1,102 islands making up the Maldives and forming 26 atolls, finding the beach of your dreams might be a matter of too much choice. Relax under the palms at a four-star beach resort, dive with the tropical fish, surf, play water-
sports — it’s all waiting for you on these magnificent beaches straddling the equator southwest of Sri Lanka.

Maldives offers excellent snorkelling and scuba diving. (Photo: Uxbona)

Maldives offers excellent snorkelling and scuba diving. (Photo: Uxbona)

St. Barts, Caribbean Sea. Although the island is only 13 kilometres (eight miles) long, St. Bart’s stands out among the many Caribbean islands. It offers tranquil white beaches, lovely hotels and villas, excellent French restaurants and abundant activity. Its 20 beaches and many small coves for swimmers and sunbathers is a beach lover’s haven.

Langkawi, Malaysia. “Langkawai” means “the land of one’s wishes.” If one wishes uncrowded sand beaches, clear waters and captivating scenery, Langkawi is the place to visit. Langkawi is an archipelago of 104 islands on the Andaman Seas. It has a history as a reputed pirate refuge and rich cultural legends. It is also a shopping haven. Win-win!

Kauna’oa Beach, Hawaii. The half-kilometre-long beach on the west side of the Big Island of Hawaii is typically Hawaiian. Crescent-shaped, with white sand, palm trees and calm, clear water partially protected by a natural reef, it is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, snorkelling or riding boogie boards. Enjoy the beach with a view of the Mauna Kea volcano.

Bora Bora, Tahiti. Aaah, Tahiti! The French Polynesian islands in the South Pacific are magical. They exert a calming influence found nowhere else, urging one to relax and appreciate their verdant nature. Bora Bora, the Romantic Island, is only 29 kilometres (18 miles) long, with an exquisite lagoon. It is the beach lover’s paradise, with isolated white sand beaches, turquoise waters and gently swaying palms.

Laura Neilson Bonikowsky is an Alberta writer and traditional tourist/nature lover/history buff/photographer/beach lover.

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Laura Neilson Bonikowsky is an Alberta writer.

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