Ultimate guide to the coolest kids summer camps

  • Shadow Hill Training Center

Forget about sitting around the campfire and singing “Kumbaya” this summer.

From high-flying action to four-legged fun, kids’ summer camps are nothing like their parents remember from summers gone by.

Parents and kids are demanding more during their time away from school, and camps across the nation are providing options for developing skills, finding adventure and creating friendships.

“It’s the highlight of their entire year,” said Dee Dee Wilson Barton, a mother of two in Palm Springs, Calif. “They talk about this all year long. It’s the best thing. It’s like Christmas, except that it’s a couple of weeks.”

Wilson Barton has sent her kids to Pali Adventures, located in Running Springs, Calif., for four years. Pali offers 18 different camps for participants to choose from. Her daughters have attended the camp’s extreme girl adventure, rock star, trapeze and fashion camps, among others.

“Summers are long and so I’m looking for some way to keep them in the game, stimulated,” Wilson Barton said. “I love that my older daughter has been able to pursue music while she’s there, but in this fun, relaxed environment… They think it’s fun, but all of these things are feeding into their interests.”

No matter what excites, stimulates or entertains your child, there is bound to be a camp just for him.

Fox News Traveler rounded up nine unique summer experiences lucky kids will have the chance to enjoy after the school bell rings.

  • 1. Dog Lovers Camp

    Shadow Hill Training Center

    Doggone! A week away doesn’t have to mean time away from a child’s best friend. At the Shadow Hill Training Center in Jackson Springs, N.C., kids can actually go to camp with their favorite four-legged pets.

    “I always thought, wouldn’t it be a blast to go to someone’s camp if you’re a dog lover and get started in all of the dog sports that are out there now?” said owner Jane Hammett Bright. “We offer agility, conformation, junior showmanship, rally, obedience and herding.”

    Campers bring their dogs and learn how to train them throughout the week.

    “If they’re a little on the shy side and have never been away to camp, their dog is always the distraction and needs attention,” Hammett Bright said. “It’s an icebreaker for a lot of kids.”

  • 2. Movie Stunt Camp

    Pali Adventures

    “Ready, set, action!” takes on new meaning at Pali Adventures where campers can literally jump into stunts and tricks like Hollywood actors.

    “Swordplay, fight scene choreography, high falls from various buildings … What’s not to like?” said Christopher Kelly, Pali Adventures’ Hollywood stunts director. “Our campers develop many new skills during their time in the Hollywood stunt program and make fantastic new friends. Falling from over 30 feet is definitely a confidence booster.”

    Building upon the action from day to day, the young Hollywood stars gain confidence by conquering each task at hand.

    “My goal is to give them an escape where they can be themselves and relax,” said Pali Adventures camp director Ian Brassett. “The kids these days – their lives are so structured. There’s very little play in this day and age… At camp, they get to choose. They get to develop what they want to do… There’s structure to it, but I don’t want the kids to see that structure. They don’t know that I’m tracking them. They’re having fun and that’s what it’s all about.”

     

  • 3. Ski Camp

    Ligety Weibrecht Ski Camp

    Re-experience the best of winter at the Ligety Weibrecht ski camp at Mount Hood in Oregon, which is one of the few places in North America where there is enough snow to hit the slopes in the summer. Several medalists from the Sochi Olympics, including Ted Ligety and Andrew Weibrecht, coach campers in various skiing events.

    “The coaches are really, really interactive,” said camp director Miguel Azzarate. “It’s not like they show up, sign autographs and leave until the next day… They train with them. They coach them. They talk with them. They share their experiences… It’s a treat for the kids, for sure.”

    Azzarate said the skiers work on basic skills, running gates and other training activities, just as they would during the winter.

    “Many people are treating skiing like it’s only a winter sport,” Azzarate said. “But if you want to really, really improve and dedicate yourself a little bit more, you need year-round training.”

  • 4. Secret Agent Camp

    Pali Adventures

    Kids who want to be James Bond learn what a career in international intelligence and espionage is all about at Pali Adventures’ secret agent camp. Spy training and secret agent games are just some of the non-covert fun packed into one week.

    “Who hasn’t wondered at some point in time what it would be like to be a secret agent?” said camp director Axel Newton. “There is nothing like the thrill, excitement and pure joy that can be seen on every camper’s face as they launch a raid – armed with shaving cream and water balloons.”

     

  • 5. Entrepreneur Camp

    Camp Inc.

    Get your business on! At Camp Inc. in the mountains above Boulder, Colo., 7th through 12th graders learn what it takes to make an idea become a reality. Young entrepreneurs are encouraged to develop a product, start a business or create a non-profit organization, with business specialists guiding them through the process. Chief camp officer Josh Pierce says the camp does more than help kids see their dreams through to fruition.

    “It’s a great resume builder for college,” Pierce said. “People don’t realize how transformational a two- or three-week camp can be at that age.”

    At the end of camp, the teenage business executives present their plans to real investors for feedback – and possibly more.

    “They can definitely win prizes and possibly seed money,” Pierce said. “The investors that are in the audience or on the panel that are judging – it’s up to them. If they want to get involved, they definitely can.”

  • 6. Game Design: 3D Game-Making & Intro to Programming Camp

    Tech Know How

    It’s nearly every teenager’s idea of a perfect summer: endless hours of video games. Tech Know How, based in Foster City, Calif., takes things up a notch with its game design: 3D game-making & intro to programming camp.

    It’s much more gratifying than just playing games because, when the summer’s over, these campers can show their friends the two-person racing game they created.

    “Robotics is their future and so they want to learn more about it,” said camp director Sue Mofsie-Stevenson. “Kids are playing games all the time now. I think that instead of just playing games, parents want them to take the next step, and the kids do, too, to make their own games.”

     

  • 7. Girl Power Camp

    Pali Adventures

    Paintball, skateboarding and ziplining are just a few of the high-adventure activities offered in Pali’s girl power camp.

    “We provide a safe and supportive environment for girls to experience a number of outdoor adventure-based activities, without having to worry about the presence of any boys,” said director Simone VanAsbeck. “Our girls are empowered to try new things and step outside of their comfort zone, and there is still time for some manicures, pedicures and facials.”

  • 8. Lego Motor Madness with Intro to NXT® Robotics Camp

    Tech Know How

    The classic building blocks may be toys, but Legomotor madness with intro to NXT® robotics camp, which like the video game camp is also with Tech Know How is anything but simple playtime.

    “Our lego creations go beyond what they could buy in a store,” Mofsie-Stevenson said. “We have proprietary builds. The kids learn about motors, electricity, gears… We are teaching them a little about science and engineering, but they’re having a lot of fun, too.”

    Besides stacking up new possibilities and learning how to make extreme Lego creations, the director says participants gain problem-solving skills they can use in high school math.

    “It also teaches them patience in putting a problem together and empowers them,” Mofsie-Stevenson said. “It helps them with social skills in a more academic environment.”

    Final Tips for Choosing the Right Camp

    While the kids are still in school, parents should do their homework to figure out what type of camp fits their child’s needs.

    Pali Adventures camp director, Ian Brassett, offers these tips to parents:

    - Check to see if the camp is accredited by the American Camp Association. That shows a baseline for safety.

    - Call the camp director. “Don’t be afraid to be on the phone for an hour or two hours,” Brassett said. “If the director doesn’t have time to talk to you as a parent, then you should not send your child to that camp.”

    - Ask for references. Try to talk to other parents whose children have attended the camp before. Better yet, visit the camp for a tour.

    - Find out about the camp’s staff-to-camper ratio and health care situation.

    - Look into what type of feedback you can get about how your child is doing at camp.

    Brassett says Pali posts about 1000 photos daily for parents to view online. He says the reassurance that gives them while their children are away is priceless.

    “Parents know if they look at a picture of their kids if they’re having a great time,” Brassett said. “Since we started doing that, their comfort level with the camp has only increased, because they can see they’re having a good time.”

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7 most bizarre theme parks on Earth

  • GoKunming

From adrenaline-pumping roller coasters to life-like interactive rides, Americans love big amusement parks. But if yet another turn on the Scrambler or ride on the swinging pirate ship is leaving you yawning, we’ve got some more interesting theme parks around the world that give “theme” park an entirely new meaning.

  • 1. Summer Lovin’

    Korean Tourism Organization

    In South Korea, amorous couples and curiosity seekers head to the famous Jeju Love Land amusement park located just 10 minutes from the Jeju International Airport in Jeju.   For the 18-and-over crowd, visitors can get their fill of all things conjugal as they take in the 140 sculptures and collectables representing humans in various sexual positions.  The park’s website describes the location as a “humorous sexual theme park where sexually-oriented art and eroticism meet,” and recommends visiting during both the day and night to complete your experience.

    If you need a break from all the erotic art, stop by the glass-dome restaurant, outdoor café and art shop, just in case you want to take home a piece of one of these beauties as a souvenir. They even offer a recreation area for kids younger than 18, while Mom and Dad take in the park. You might just want to blindfold them on the way in.

  • 2. A Child Size Village

  • Welcome Argentina

    Ever feel like the world is just too big? Well, Argentina has shrunk it down to child-size scale at The Children’s Republic, or Republica de los Ninos, theme park in city of La Plata Partido. Designed for kids to explore and learn about democracy, the park has a parliament, government house and courthouse where kids can do everything from elect members of congress to secure a bank loan.

    Inspired by the tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, it also features castles, palaces, public buildings, a pier, a farm, a sports area, chapel and a train that travels throughout the park.  According to its website, Walt Disney visited La Republica in 1950 and was inspired to build the original Disney Land in California.

  • 3. Stalin’s World

     

    Stalin World

    Grūtas Park, nicknamed “Stalin’s World,” is a sculpture garden in Lithuania filled with Soviet-era statues and artefacts.  Opened in 2000 after the fall of Communism, the park’s collection gives a snapshot into that country’s five decades of Soviet rule.   There are about 100 imposing stone statues, as well as curios, documents, newspapers, posters, video footage and audio files illustrating Soviet propaganda.  Marching music blasts from speakers perched on imitation Gulag watchtowers and wooden walkways meant to resemble those in Siberian prison camps take visitors from one exhibition to the next.  Next to all of this is a children’s merry-go-round, a restaurant that severs themed food, like the “Goodbye Youth” chop, and a small zoo.

  • 4. A Refuge for Little People

    GoKunming

    Another small themed park is China’s Dwarf Empire. Located in the country’s southwest Yunnan Province near Kunming, the park employs some 100 little people who perform, run restaurants, act as tour guides and make crafts for sale, according to the state-run China Daily. There’s even a king, and a village of cottages that are sized appropriately for the residents’ heights.

    While the park seems like the most exploitative amusement park on Earth,according to the China Daily, 70 percent of the theme park’s employees used to live “a vagrant’s life or stay holed up at home,” so the park is reportedly providing them with a stable income and a place to live.

  • 5. Get Your Dig On

     

    Diggerland

    Who doesn’t love to dig in the dirt?  At this theme park you can dig all you want with all manner of machines and tools –and we’re not talk just the kiddy stuff. Created by an executive of H.E. Services — the largest supplier of digging machinery in Europe — after watching kids’ fascination with their machinery,  Diggerland lets you operate dump trucks, diggers and other full-size construction machinery, while also enjoying more traditional theme park rides all with a construction bent.

    Currently there are fours parks in the U.K., including Kent, Durham, Devon and Castleford in Yorkshire.  A fifth park is coming to the U.S. in New Jersey this May. Rides include searching for buried treasure using a digger, another called the the Spin Dizzy which spins you around on a large crane, a Land Rover Safari, the Dig-a-Round merry-go-round, go karts and more. Our favorite?  The giant 6-ton digger.  We know a few little boys and girls who would love to give it go.

  • 6. Go Dutch

     

    Dutch Village

    No need to jump across the pond to the Netherlands for a Dutch fix.   Dutch Village, a theme park in “Holland,” Michigan, lets you step into the Netherlands while enjoying classic family fun. Experience Dutch cheese making using old world equipment, watch a wooden shoe carving demonstration, take a spin on the Zweefmolen swing ride, slide down the wooden shoe, ride the restored 1926 Dutch carousel, watch Dutch dancing  and more.

    Throughout the park are buildings with authentic Dutch architecture, as well as canals, gardens, water wheels, and more that depict life in 1800s Holland. There are also plenty of shops with imports direct from the motherland like Delftware, Sinterklaas (Dutch Santa Claus), Black Forest Clocks and wooden shoes, of course.

  • 7. Life in Miniature

     

    Bekonscot Model Village

    Just outside London is an amazing park billed as the world’s oldest and original model village. Bekonscot is an adorable miniature town set across 1 ½ acres designed to resemble a 1930’s English village. Feel like Gulliver as you traipse like a giant through the town, which features hundreds of miniature houses, 10 miles of model railway track and thousands of plants.

    Bekonscot has six miniature villages each with their own character and highlights like a coal mine, castles, a zoo, cable cars, a working watermill and even a fox hunt. Check out the 3000 residents and keep your eyes peeled for the tiniest of details, many of which they’ve hidden, so don’t be afraid to take a peek in a window or two.

 

Lyn Mettler is a freelance travel writer based in Indianapolis, Ind.

Categories: Exotic Locations | Leave a comment

Visit these real cities by playing a video game

FoxNews.com
  • Sony Computer Entertainment/Charlie Schuck Photography

Video games often show bloody scenes of rampant carnage, speeding racecars on professional tracks, and cartoon-like plumbers jumping off platforms. Yet, in a few cases, games take place in real cities like New York and Seattle. Because the new Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One console systems have such fine fidelity when it comes to graphics, you can now visit these cities in a virtual environment — and believe you are really there.

  • 1. ’inFAMOUS Second Son,’ City: Seattle

    Sony Computer Entertainment/Charlie Schuck Photography

    One of the most faithful renditions of any US city in a game, “inFAMOUS Second Son” lets you walk around Seattle’s waterfront area, the Market District, and even goggle at the Space Needle. If you play the game, available now for PS4, make sure you hunt around for the gumwall. It’s located in an alleyway in the Market District. In real life, the iconic gumwall is a few inches thick in some spots and has appeared on many “most germiest” tourist destinations.

  • 2. ’Watch Dogs,’ City: Chicago

    Ubisoft/Google

    We live in a surveillance society, and this upcoming open-world action game from Ubisoft is playing off that stark reality. Set in a futuristic-looking Chicago, the game gives you plenty of hacker tools to infiltrate a super-secret corporation known only as Blume. Thankfully, Chicagoans will feel right at home in the game — you’ll notice landmarks such as the Marina City complex that sits next to the Chicago River near downtown.

  • 3. ’Tom Clancy’s The Division’, City: New York

    Ubisoft/Google

    Many military-themed games show real cities as they predict to look in the future — e.g., after they’ve been blown apart by tanks and rocket launchers. This tactical shooter from Ubisoft coming later this year is hyper-realistic: “The team is working on creating the most realistic and detailed New York City ever created in a video game,” game director at Ubisoft Ryan Barnard told FoxNews.com. According to Barnard, there were only a few adjustments made for smoother gameplay and the chaotic post-apocalyptic tone.

  • 4. ’2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil’, City: São Paulo, Brazil

    EA Sports/ Portal da Copa/ME

    Few of us will visit São Paulo in Brazil this summer during the World Cup, but you can get pretty close in the game “2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil” for PS3 and Xbox 360. The city, located near the southeastern coast, is building a brand new stadium to host the opening match. The game gives you ample opportunity to catch a few rays, glance around at the rolling hills and neo-classical architecture nearby, and inspect the detailed crowd animations.

  • 5. ’MLB The Show 14,’ City: Pittsburgh

    Sony/VisitPITTSBURGH

    Baseball games like “MLB The Show 14″ for PS4 pay tribute to classic ballparks like PNC Park in Pittsburgh. They render more than just the playing field, though. You can see the city skyline in the background and the iconic scoreboard over left field. Shawn Robles, the Lead Environment Artist at San Diego Studios who worked on the game, told FoxNews.com the team spends several hours at a stadium, measuring bullpens and dugouts and taking photos.

  • 6. ’World of Speed,’ City: Moscow

    My.com

    One of the most spectacular scenes in any recent game, this rendering of Red Square in Moscow looks ultra-realistic. In fact, you might not realize that the image with the dark shadows is actually from the massively-multiplayer online game “World of Speed,” and the more human-populated shot is the real one. Unlike some modern racers, the game uses streets modelled after real-world locations in places like London and Monaco in the French Riviera.

  • 7. ’Forza 5′, City: Long Beach, CA

    Microsoft/Google

    Racing games sometimes take place only on closed professional tracks, but the “Forza” series usually breaks that restriction. (In fact, a previous version rendered entire sections of Colorado west of Denver and all the way to Grand Junction). For the new Long Beach update to “Forza 5,” you can wind your way through city streets driving a sweet 1956 Jaguar D-Type or a 1998 Mercedes-Benz AMG Mercedes CLK GTR. Notice the iconic “rollercoaster bridge” in the game, which is located near the Long Beach Convention Center.

  • 8. ’Madden NFL 25,’ City: Seattle

    EA Sports/Google

    CenturyLink Field in Seattle has never looked so good. In the latest “Madden NFL” game for Xbox One and PS4, you can almost taste the beer. That’s the Columbia Center in the background in both the real and virtual city skyline views. As with “2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil,” you can gander at the stadiums and surrounding landmarks while controlling your favorite team. During an Instant Replay, you can move around the entire stadium and inspect every square inch.

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At least 12 dead, 3 missing after avalanche sweeps Mount Everest

Mount Everest (C), the world highest peak, and other peaks of the Himalayan range are seen from air during a mountain flight from Kathmandu April 24, 2010. (REUTERS/Tim Chong)

KATMANDU, Nepal –  An avalanche swept Mount Everest’s slopes on Friday along a route used to climb the world’s highest peak, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving three missing in the worst disaster to hit climbers on the mountain, officials said.

The Sherpa guides had gone early in the morning to fix ropes for other climbers when the avalanche hit just them below Camp 2 at about 6:30 a.m., Nepal Tourism Ministry official Krishna Lamsal said from the base camp where he is monitoring rescue efforts.

Rescue workers pulled out 12 bodies from under mounds of snow and ice and were searching for the three missing guides, Lamsal said.

Two Sherpas who were injured were taken by helicopter to hospitals in Nepal’s capital, Katmandu.

Hundreds of climbers, their guides and support crews have gathered at the base camp to prepare for attempts to scale the 29,035-foot mountain early next month when weather conditions become favorable. They have been setting up camps at higher altitudes and guides have been fixing routes and ropes on the slopes above.

As soon as the avalanche hit, rescuers and fellow climbers rushed to help.

Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association said the area where the avalanche hit is nicknamed the “popcorn field” and is just below Camp 2 at 21,000 feet.

Earlier this year, Nepal announced several steps to better manage the heavy flow of climbers and speed up rescue operations. The steps included the dispatch of officials and security personnel to the base camp at 17,380 feet, where they will stay throughout the spring climbing season that ends in May.

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled the summit since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Hundreds have died attempting to reach the peak.

The worst recorded disaster on Everest was on May 11, 1996, when eight climbers were killed in one day because of a snow storm near the summit. Six Nepalese guides were killed in an avalanche in 1970.

Categories: Extreme Adventures | Leave a comment

10 most sacred spots on Earth

  • Budget Travel/Twickey/Dreamstime.com

When we modern folks visit a beautiful natural site, the experience may evoke a sense of peace, a feeling of awe…or just the need to snap a million photos. For our ancient forbearers, though, these places were so much more. Throughout history, civilizations all over the globe have attached spiritual or religious importance to natural spots (ie. not man-made places)that played key roles in their respective cultures. From the mythological homes of powerhouse gods like Zeus and Shiva to the serene spot where the mortal Buddha achieved enlightenment, these are the places of legends. Some are still used for age-old rituals, others have been lost to time, but all crackle with a special energy and, if you’re lucky, just a little bit of leftover magic.

SEE THE SACRED PLACES

  • 1. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

    Budget Travel/Twickey/Dreamstime.com

    Located in Australia’s Red Centre, in the heart of the continent, these two natural rock formations are the main attractions in the World Heritage Site Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. One of the country’s more recognizable landmarks, Uluru is a flat-topped sandstone rock standing about 1,100 feet high and almost six miles around, with a soulful, deep-red hue that changes throughout the day. (The site is also known as Ayers Rock, so named by the colonial surveyor who “rediscovered” the place in 1873.) About 30 miles away, Kata Tjuta (a.k.a. The Olgas) is made of more than 30 domes of varying rock types, including granite, sandstone, and basalt; the tallest point is almost 1,800 feet high.  Both sites are sacred to the Anangu people of the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal tribe, who believe the rocks were built during the ancient creation period and are still inhabited by ancestor spirits. (Archeologist work suggests there were humans in this area over 20,000 years ago.) Owned by the Anangu and leased by the government, the park is open to the public, though tribespeople continue to perform rituals and ceremonies in various locations, such as the sacred “Dreamtime” track that runs near the modern hiking trail. The park also houses a Cultural Center and Aboriginal rock art sites, and ranger guided tours are available.

    Getting There: Visitors can drive or join a bus tour to the park from Alice Springs (280 miles away), or fly to Ayers Rock Airport/Connellan (AYQ); Qantas and Virgin Australia offer direct flights from several major domestic cities. There are only a few accommodation choices in the area, in different price ranges, and all are owned by Voyages Indigenous Tourism. (Camping is not allowed in the park.) Note that while hiking Uluru is not technically forbidden, the Anangu ask that visitors not climb the rock out of respect for its significance, and also ask that photos not be taken of certain sacred sites. Guests should also not pocket any rocks as souvenirs—those who have say it brings bad luck, and often mail the rocks back to the park. Admission is $25 for a three-day pass.

  • 2. Cenote Sagrado, Mexico

    Budget Travel/imagebroker.net/SuperStock

    The ancient Maya revered water for its life-sustaining power, and worshiped Chac, the god of rain, because of this awe of H20. Many areas of Mexico are dotted with cenotes—natural underground sinkholes—and the Maya believed that some of these sites were visited by Chac himself. As a result, some cenotes were designated as “sacred” and kept for rituals, offerings and sacrifices, while others were set aside for bathing, drinking and crop water. One of the most notable of the sacred springs is Cenote Sagrado, located near the major Mayan archeological site Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula. Created from a natural limestone cave, with steep sides stretching about 60 feet above the water line, this cenote was specifically used for ceremonies and occasional sacrifices; for the latter, men, women, and children were thrown in during drought times to appease the water gods. When archeologists dredged the spring in the 20th century, they found gold bells, masks, cups, rings, jade pieces, and more (many from the post-Spanish period) along with human bones.

    Getting There: One of the most visited archeological sites in Mexico, Chichen Itza can be reached by car or organized bus tours (typically about $35 per person) from nearby tourist hubs like Cancún or Cozumel, or via infrequent public bus service; the ride is about two-and-a-half hours from Cancún. The entry fee is about $8 and includes the evening light and sound show; headphone tours are $2. Cenote Sagrado is part of the Great North Platform section of the site.

  • 3. Mahabodhi Tree, Bodh Gaya, India

    Budget Travel/Photononstop/SuperStock

    According to Buddhist traditions, around 500 B.C., when the ascetic Prince Siddhartha was wandering through what’s now the state of Bihar in India, he took rest under a native bodhi tree. After meditating there for three nights, the prince awoke with enlightenment, insight and the answers he had been seeking, which developed into the teachings he went on to spread to his disciples. Naturally, the place where the Buddha reached enlightenment is one of the most sacred sites for Buddhists, and has been a major pilgrimage destination for centuries. Today, a temple complex surrounds what is believed to be a direct descendant of the original majestic tree itself, which sits in the middle of a courtyard surrounded by protective carved panels. A beautiful Buddha statue under the tree marks the significant spot.

    Getting There: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mahabodhi Temple Complex is in the Bodh Gaya area of Bihar, India. The site is about three miles from the Gaya Airport and about seven miles from Gaya City. Car service, public buses, and bus tours are also available from the holy city of Varanasi; public buses run about $8.

  • 4. Mount Kailas, Tibet

    Budget Travel/Glebsokolov/Dreamstime.com

    This black rock mountain in western Tibet is something of a holy hat trick, since it is sacred to Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains and is thought to be the mythical Axis Mundi, the center of the universe. Hindus believe it is the residence of Lord Shiva and the land of eternal bliss, and have celebrated the mythical Kailas in temple carvings throughout India. Tantric Buddhists say the mountain is the home of Buddha Demchog, who represents supreme bliss, and that three key Bodhisattvas live in the surrounding hills, while Jains believe it is the site (which they call Mount Ashtapada) where the first Jain attained nirvana. The peak is part of the Gangdise Mountain range and is set near the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia, including the Sutlej, the Indus, and the Ghaghara (a tributary of the holy Ganges River). Nearby Lake Manasarovar, considered the source of purity, is another major pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists.

    Getting There: Despite being such a mythical sacred site, Mount Kailas is also one of the least visited, due to its remote location in the Tibetan Himalayas. From Lhasa, it’s about a four-night journey over the plateau to the small pilgrim outpost, where there are a few basic guesthouses. From this base, most pilgrims set out on foot, pony, or yak to circumnavigate the base of the mountain, a journey of about 32 miles. There is no record of anyone having attempted to climb Mount Kailas.

  • 5. Mount Sinai, Egypt

    Budget Travel/Gelia/Dreamstime.com

    Some of the basic tenets of Judeo-Christian-Islamic beliefs can be traced back to this mountain on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, for it was at the top of this peak that Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments from God. Though there is not much archeological evidence confirming this as the exact place, and biblical scholars have theorized for years about the mythical mountain’s location, early Christian monks believed this was the sacred site and established several monasteries in the area.

    Getting There: In the past, visitors could start at St. Catherine’s Monastery at the base of the mountain, then climb to the summit, where there is the small Holy Trinity chapel and stunning views, especially at sunrise, however in September 2013, The Guardian reported that St. Catherine’s Monastery was forced to close as a result of a shaky economy following the country’s uprisings. The mountain can only be reached by road; Dahab and Nuweiba are both about two hours away by car, while it’s about three hours from resort hub Sharm al-Sheikh. Most hotels on the peninsula can set you up on a bus tour, and many of these arrive at the base around 1 a.m., so visitors can be at the summit for sunrise. There are two ways to climb: by foot (which takes between 45 minutes and three hours, depending on your pace, or by camel, which is about three hours; note that if you choose the latter, you will still have to walk the final 750 steps up to the top. Guests are required to hire a local guide at the entrance for about $15 (the rate is negotiable.) Because of its peaceful silence, the mountain is also popular with visitors who practice yoga and meditation.

  • 6. Glastonbury Tor, England

    Budget Travel/Radomír Režný/Dreamstime.com

    Rising out of the middle of the Summerland Meadows in Somerset, England, is a hill that has long had magical connection. For centuries, Glastonbury Tor (Celtic for “hill”) has been a source of myths: Some ancient Celtic civilizations considered it the entrance to the home of the Gwyn ap Nudd, alternately regarded as Lord of the Underworld and King of Fairies (a theory that resurfaced in the 19th century), while pagans may have used it for ceremonies celebrating the Goddess. Later, the site was considered a possibility for King Arthur’s Avalon, since Arthur and Queen Guinevere’s coffins were supposedly discovered at the top of the hill in the 12th century. And even more recently, theorists have linked the hill to the quest for the Holy Grail. To further add to all the speculation, archeologists have found remains of seven deep, symmetrical terraces on the hill’s slopes, which could be anything from Middle Age crop land to a Neolithic labyrinth. Whatever the history, the hill is still thought to have spiritual energy, as visitors often report feeling more hopeful and positive after a walk on its slopes. Topped by the remains of the 15th century church of St. Michael, the hill is managed by the National Trust of the United Kingdom.

    Getting There: The Tor is a short walk or bike ride from the center of Glastonbury, which is linked to London by frequent train service. The nearest station to the hill is Castle Cary. Admission is free.

  • 7. Crater Lake, Oregon

    Budget Travel/Matthewjade/Dreamstime.com

    Formed nearly 8,000 years ago after an alleged massive eruption caused Mount Mazama to collapse, this deep blue, freshwater caldera lake in south-central Oregon plunges nearly 2,000 feet below ground, making it the deepest in the United States and the seventh deepest in the world. The Native American Klamath tribe has long considered the lake a sacred site: Their legends say a battle here between the Chief of the Above World and the Chief of the Below World led to the destruction of Mount Mazama. (Historians believe the Klamath people may have witnessed the actual implosion of the mountain.) The tribesmen used Crater Lake in their vision quests (tasks may have included scaling the crater walls), and it is still considered a spiritual spot. The lake is now part of Crater Lake National Park.

    Getting There: Crater Lake National Park is about 60 miles from the airport in Klamath Falls and 80 miles from the airport in Medford; cars can be rented in both locations. (There is no public transport service available.) The park is open year-round, but some areas may be inaccessible in winter. A seven-day pass is $10 for cars and $5 per person for pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcycles. Check the official park website for a list of official free days each year.

  • 8. Mount Parnassus, Greece

    Budget Travel/age fotostock/SuperStock

    Towering above Delphi in central Greece, this limestone mountain looms large in Greek mythology. In addition to being sacred to the god Apollo, who often visited the nearby Oracle at Delphi, the mountain was thought to be the residence of the Muses and, as a result, the home of poetry and song. The three Corycian Nymphs, each of whom was romanced by a major god, were born of springs located on Parnassus, and the mountain was also the setting for many minor myths. Today, the only sacred activity takes place on the slopes: The mountain is topped by two popular ski centers and is dotted with scenic hiking trails.

    Getting There: Mount Parnassus is a winding, two-hour mountain drive from Athens. Day trips and overnight bus tours are also available (Key Tours offers Delphi tours from $120 per person). After exploring the slopes, don’t miss a visit to the ancient ruins in Delphi, set in the shadow of the mountain.

  • 9. Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

    Budget Travel/Valery Shanin/Dreamstime.com

    Set up in the Guatemalan Central Highlands, and bordered by three volcanoes, Lake Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America at 1,114 feet. Along with its natural beauty, the lake is famous for the Maya villages that ring its shores, many of which have been there for centuries. Ninth-century Panajachel, one of the largest, has been drawing tourists since the 1960s, while in Santiago Atitlán, residents are known for their worship of Maximo, a local idol that fuses Mayan gods, Catholic saints, and Spanish legends. Mayan ceremonies still take place at various sites around the lake, from caves to the top of an adjacent hill. The lake’s shores are also strewn with archeological sites and ruins of pre-Spanish towns, including Chiutinamit, a mythological “underwater city.”

    Getting There: Lake Atitlán is located in western Guatemala, about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Guatemala City or Antigua. Companies like Transport Guatemala can arrange for bus or van service (from $25 per person from Guatemala City, from $15 per person from Antigua). There are a wide array of accommodations, from luxury to budget, in towns like Panajachel, along with tourist activities and dining options.

  • 10. Vortexes, Arizona

    Budget Travel/Daniel Raustadt/Dreamstime.com

    Sedona, Arizona, has long drawn people interested in healing, spirituality, mysticism, and metaphysics, who come for more than just the dramatic, red-rock beauty. The area is famous for its vortexes, powerful centers of kinetic energy that can have a deep effect on those who visit them; there are four main ones spread around town, including one near the airport. The ancient Native American Yavapai people knew about these centers, and celebrated this “Great Mother” energy with petroglyph paintings and sacred dwellings. Today, visitors can easily walk or hike to the four spots (the one in Boynton Canyon is among the most popular), and once there, can meditate or just soak up the good vibes. Many feel recharged and uplifted after visiting a vortex, and some guests even report having visions or deeper experiences while in town.

    Getting There: Sedona is a scenic two-hour drive from Phoenix, home to an international airport, and 45 minutes from the smaller commercial airport in Flagstaff. Maps highlighting the four vortexes are available at most hotels and online.

Categories: Exotic Locations | Leave a comment

Glass-bottomed attractions: spectacular views at terrifying heights

Condé Nast Traveler
  • Dennis Watts

Embrace the vertigo—the view from these skywalks, glass bridges, and see-through observation decks are worth it. Check out the list for dizzying images of the Alps, the Grand Canyon, New Zealand, and more.

  • 1. Grand Canyon Skywalk

    Dennis Watts

    Grand Canyon West (Hualapai Reservation), Arizona

    Sure, the views of the Grand Canyon are spectacular from pretty much any angle, but none are as thrilling as looking through the glass walkway that juts out over the Canyon’s western rim; the horseshoe-shaped path is suspended 4,000 feet (shudder) above the canyon floor. Tours include a hop-on, hop-off shuttle bus ticket that takes you to the Skywalk as well as viewpoints back on terra firma.

  • 2. Dachstein Sky Walk

    Erich Hagspiel

    Dachstein, Austria

    A visit to the Dachstein Sky Walk starts with a gondola ride, which delivers sprawling vistas of its own, but it’s only upon arriving at the platform that you’ll get to peer straight down, 820 feet, at the Dachstein glacier and up into the Alps. Not enough high-altitude scenery? Take a walk across the suspension bridge—the highest in Austria—for more breathtaking views.

  • 3. Sky Tower

    Sky Tower

    Auckland, New Zealand

    From the main observation deck in Auckland’s Sky Tower, look down—way down—at the city through a glass floor that’s just an inch and a half thick. (Touch-screen computers with live cameras will tell you what you’re looking at.) And, since this is New Zealand, of course that’s not the only thrill the Sky Tower provides—you can also base jump off the tower.

  • 4. The Edge at Eureka Skydeck 88

    The Edge

    Melbourne, Australia

    The Eureka Tower claims to be the tallest residential tower in the entire Southern Hemisphere. You can take in the view from the 360-degree observation deck or open-air terrace, but, for a little bit of extra cash, you can step into The Edge—a glass cube that sticks out nearly 10 feet from the rest of the building, more than 980 feet above the ground. Even the elevators here are thrilling: They reach the 88th floor in less than 40 seconds.

  • 5. Glacier Skywalk

    Brewster Travel Canada

    Jasper National Park, Canada

    One of the newest glass-floored attractions, the Glacier Skywalk in the Canadian Rockies, doesn’t open to the public until May 1. When it does, you’ll definitely want to add it to your must-do list. The curved walkway extends 100 feet off the edge of a cliff, holding steady 918 feet above the Sunwapta Valley. From the observation platform, you can see out across the valley and up into the mountains of Jasper National Park.

    See more spectacular views at Conde Nast Traveler

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Weird natural wonders you won’t believe are real

Condé Nast Traveler
  • Conde Nast/Newscom

From Mexico’s Cave of Crystals to waves frozen in time, these natural formations will make you look twice.

  • 1. The Cave of Crystals

    Conde Nast/Newscom

    Mexico

    Mother Nature hid the largest crystals in the world nearly 1,000 feet below Naica Mountain, in the northwest region of Chihuahua, Mexico. The hidden caves were drained in 1975 but miners only unearthed these milky-white selenite crystals—spires of gypsum as long as flagpoles—in 2000. Though they may look icy, the mega crystals are forged in extreme heat, up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit and were developed in mineral-rich water over a period of 500,000 years. Researchers can only enter the cave for short periods of time, and there are plans to re-flood it to preserve the crystals.

  • 2. The Wave

    Conde Nast/Newscom

    Utah and Arizona

    This awe-inspiring rock wave in shades of ochre and crimson unfolds through the Paria Canyon–Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness on the border of Utah and Arizona. First water, then wind eroded the Navajo sandstone, revealing layers of sand that blew through the area during the Jurassic period. Access to “the wave” is heavily restricted; the Bureau of Land Management hands out only 20 permits to the Coyote Buttes region a day.

  • 3. Fingal’s Cave

    Conde Nast/GMS Photography

    Scotland

    Reminiscent of Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, and just across the sea in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, Fingal’s Cave on the island of Staffa boasts the same hexagonal basalt columns, but houses them in a cathedral-like sea cave with shimmering turquoise water. Not convinced Fingal’s Cave is superior? German composer Mendelssohn wrote an overture inspired by the acoustics he heard on his visit.

  • 4. Wave Rock

    Nigel Killeen

    Australia

    Like a 46-foot-high cresting wave that’s never going to break, this odd rock formation in Hyden Wildlife Park is a popular photo stop on trips to western Australia. (Travelers tend to assume the surfer pose for pictures.) The wave was formed by the erosion of softer material at the bottom of the ancient granite dome, and the vertical stripes are the result of rain washing chemicals down its face.

  • 5. Snow Rollers

    Conde Nast/Newscom

    USA

    Like a cross between tumbleweed, a hay bale and a doughnut, this natural phenomenon is rarely witnessed; it requires very specific snow conditions and wind speed. But when all the boxes are ticked, as they were this January in Ohio (pictured), the wind rolls an ever-growing snowball and then blows out its middle, creating this bizarre sight.

    See more weird natural wonders at Conde Nast Traveler

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Categories: Exotic Locations | Leave a comment

10 awe-inspiring travel photos that will give you wanderlust

FoxNews.com
  • Smithsonian.com

Ever dreamed of capturing that perfect shot while on vacation?  Sure, there are some good, hang-on-your-wall worthy snaps you’ve taken.  But have a look atSmithsonian.com’s 11th annual photo contest finalists.

There were 60 finalists selected from over 50,000 images by photographers from 132 different countries.  Not all were travel photos.   The six categories include, The Natural World, Travel, People, Americana, Altered Images and Mobile (a new category this year).

But first, a word of warning: These travel photos will give you some serious wanderlust.  Resist the urge to dust off that SLR and book a flight somewhere exotic.  Enjoy.

  • 1. A young monk

    Smithsonian.com

    A young monk.

    Innwa, Burma, December 2012 (Canon EOS 7D)

    By Pyiet Oo Aung  (Rangoon, Burma)

  • 2. Navajo Bridge

    Smithsonian.com

    “Navajo Bridge” is an image overlooking the Colorado River’s Marble Canyon.

    Page, Arizona, August 2012 (Canon 5D Mark II)

    By Matthew Zheng (San Francisco, California)

  • 3. Sun on an Indian monetary

    Smithsonian.com

    Sun painting a monastery and the surrounding Ladakh landscape.

    Ladakh, India, July 2013 (Canon 5D Mark II)

    By Porus Khareghat (Mumbai, India)

  • 4. Ricardo Breceda’s sculpture garden

    Smithsonian.com

    Designer Ricardo Breceda’s sculpture garden is a site to behold anytime.Lee waited for a moonless night to capture the Milky Way, and he light painted the sculptures to “conjure up a sort of 1950s sci-fi movie feel, with two atomic creatures doing battle under the stars.”

    Borrego Springs, California, August 2013 (Nikon D7000)

    By Ken Lee (Lake Balboa, California)

  • 5. Ethiopia boy and his father

    Smithsonian.com

    Portrait of a young Suri boy going with his father to take care of the cattle.

    Ethiopia, August 2013, (Nikon D600)

    By Sergio Carbajo Rodriguez (La Garriga, Spain)

  • 6. Action Hero

    Smithsonian.com

    As part of a show called “Well of Death,” a biker performs a stunt at a village fair to celebrate Rath Jatra, a Hindu festival.

    Dhamrai, Bangladesh, June 2012 (Lumix FZ 100)

    By Nidal Adnan Kibria (Dhaka, Bangladesh)

  • 7. Neist Point Lighthouse

    Smithsonian.com

    Neist Point Lighthouse at dusk.

    Isle of Skye, United Kingdom, August 2013 (Nikon D600)

    By Stefano Coltelli (San Miniato, Italy)

  • 8. Terraced fields in Vietnam

    Smithsonian.com

    Terraced fields during harvest season.

    Mu Cang Chay, Vietnam, September 2012 (Canon 5D Mark II)

    By Vo Anh Kiet (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

  • 9. Fisherman in Burma

    Smithsonian.com

    A fisherman on Inle Lake.

    Inle Lake, Burma, November 2013 (Canon EOS 1DX)

    By Aung Pyae Soe (Rangoon, Burma)

  • 10. A break at Devil’s Wall

    Smithsonian.com

    “Devil’s Wall and the Harz region had always been an inspirational source for German poets and artists like Brothers Grimm or Caspar David Friedrich. My aim was to elaborate this natural topic with the medium of contemporary photography combined with that kind of certain romantic imagery of times past,” says Koester.

    Devil’s Wall, Harz Mountains, Germany, June 2013 (Nikon D800)

    Photograph by David Koester (Halle, Germany)

Categories: Travel Destinations | Leave a comment

Scotland’s top 10 castles

FoxNews.com
  • Visit Scotland

In honor of Tartan Day on April 6, Visit Scotland gave us a list of the best castles to celebrate Scottish heritage. From massive fortresses like Inveraray Castle, to historical city landmarks like Dunvegan Castle, these iconic castles have fascinating tales to tell. Here is their list:

  • 1. Eilean Donan

    Visit Scotland

    Visually one of the most recognized romantic and  iconic castles in all of Scotland. Eileen Donan is set in the stunning Scottish Highlands and is one of the most photographed in the country. Strategically located on its own little island overlooking the stunning Isle of Skye, visitors can wander through most of the fabulous internal rooms, viewing period furniture, Jacobean artifacts and displays of weaponry and fine arts.

  • 2. Stirling Castle

    Visit Scotland

    The castle is of great historical importance in Scotland as it was once the favored residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held celebrations in the castle. Knights and nobles once flocked to the castle to revel in its grandeur and beautiful gardens. Today, guests can meet costumed characters in the roles of bodyguards, court officials, maids of honor, etc. Families enjoy the palace vaults where children can try activities such as dressing in period costumes and playing medieval instruments. Not too far from Edinburgh and Glasgow, it’s a great visit for first-time travelers in Scotland that are staying in the larger cities.

  • 3. Edinburgh Castle

    Visit Scotland

    A must-see for any traveler visiting the medieval and charming capital city of Edinburgh. The castle is a world famous icon and a World Heritage Site, and the most famous of Scottish castles for obvious reasons. The oldest part, St. Margaret’s Chapel, dates from the 12th century– the Great Hall was erected by James IV around 1510 and the castle houses the Honours (Crown Jewels) of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, the 15th century gun Mons Meg, the One O’Clock Gun and the National War Museum of Scotland.

  • 4. Urquhart Castle

    Visit Scotland

    Urquhart Castle offers a taste of Scotland’s dramatic Highlands– with 1,000 years of drama and history, guests experience a glimpse of the medieval life and stunning views over Loch Ness. The Grand Tower watches over the iconic loch (lake) where guests may spot a view of the mythical Loch Ness Monster, Nessie. Urquhart’s stories can be told through a collection of artifacts left by its residents, historic replicas and more. This is where St. Columba is said to have worked miracles in the 6th century and where acts of chivalry and defiance provided inspiration during the War of Independence.

  • 5. Ballindalloch Castle

    Ballindalloch Castle

    One of Scotland’s most romantic castles (known as “The Pearl of the North”) — it’s located in the heart of Speyside, one of Scotland’s famed whisky regions and is one of the few private castles in the country that has been lived in continuously by the family which founded it, the Macpherson-Grants. The castle shop stocks a wide variety of great Scottish goods, including luxury cashmere, family tartans and jewelry.

  • 6. Dirleton Castle

    Visit Scotland

    A charming and romantic 12th century castle. The renowned gardens include an Arts and Crafts herbaceous border has been authenticated by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest.

  • 7. Cawdor Castle

    Visit Scotland

    Home of the Thanes of Cawdor, this 14th century castle is set in the Highlands, about 5 miles southwest of Nairn. Originally belonging to Clan Cawdor, it was passed to the Campbells in the 16th century and is famed for its connection to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The castle’s interior allows for guests to view highlights such as the impressive Drawing Room, Tapestry Bedroom and the Dining Room (which includes 19th century antique cooking tools and furniture).

  • 8. Glamis Castle

    Visit Scotland

    A monument to Scottish heritage, Glamis Castle is the family home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne and the legendary setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth, along with the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and the birthplace of Princess Margaret. Every room has its own story and the evolution of the castle and its legendary tales and secrets are brought to life once you step inside.

  • 9. Inveraray Castle

    Visit Scotland

    On the shores of Loch Fyne, Inverary Castle & Gardens is one of Scotland’s finest. The ancestral seat of the Dukes of Argyll, Chiefs of the Clan Campbell whose family have resided in Inverary since the early 15th century, the castle was designed by Robert Morris and decorated by Robert Mylne. Its fairytale facade houses an equally enchanting interior. There is a tearoom that is quite popular amongst visitors.

  • 10. Culzean Castle

    Visit Scotland

    A remarkable vision of turrets and battlements, Culzean Castle is surrounded by surging seas, secret gardens and lush forests. The castle is set on a dramatic cliff overlooking the Firth of Clyde and has been associated with the Kennedy family since the 14th century and was converted by Robert Adam between 1777 and 1792. Culzean also has a strong link with President Eisenhower, as the top-floor apartment was presented to him for his lifetime in recognition of his role during World War II.

Categories: Travel Destinations | Leave a comment

Find paradise in French Polynesia

FoxNews.com

 

A decadent lunch right at the water's edge

Discover the French Polynesian islands: Tahiti, Bora Bora and more

 

Travel to these exotic islands may be easier than you think. Take a look at one of the world’s most romantic and beautiful beach destinations.

 

The 118 islands of French Polynesia, which include Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, are the stuff dreams and bucket lists are made of.

Treasured for its exclusivity and remote locale, French Polynesia has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. But this “remote paradise” is not as far away as you might think: It’s just a 7 1⁄2-hour flight on Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles, a small price to pay for the exquisite beauty, uncompromised luxury and near magical tranquility that await you.

It’s impossible to visit every island, so just focus on a few. Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti would be an excellent start.

DON’T FORGET TO PACK

-Underwater camera – The friendly sharks, rays and fish are plentiful.

-Water shoes – Lots of coral can be found under the sea.

-Hiking shoes – Explore the rugged islands.

-A light rain jacket – It gets hot and sometimes sprinkles, but not for long.

You can begin your adventure by flying into Tahiti and catching a quick connection to the 11.3-square-mile island of Bora Bora, where you can stay at the Bora Bora Nui, which looks exactly like a screen saver: crystal blue water, over-water bungalows, pristine white sands and swaying palms.

Thanks to its mild weather and calm waters, French Polynesia is one of very few places with over-water bungalows, and you’ll find them at a number of resorts, including the Bora Bora Nui and the Moorea Hilton. Staying in one is like living on a boat docked in the perfect harbor.

You could spend all your time at the Bora Bora Nui lounging on the beach or getting pampered in the spa at the top of the hill, which boasts sweeping South Pacific views. But you’ll want to spend at least one day swimming with the sharks and the rays. Hire a guide who will take you by boat to the perfect spot.

You can also relax on the hotel’s private island of Motu Tapu, another short boat ride away. The resort will set up a table in the surf, complete with silver, china and a white linen tablecloth, so you can sit with your feet in the water as you sip champagne and dine on lobster and other fresh seafood.

Back at your bungalow, you can snorkel and swim right from your private dock or dangle your feet in the water and feed the waiting sea creatures. The longer you linger, the more varieties will appear, from trumpetfish and Picasso fish to sharks and rays.

When it’s time to move on, take a short flight from Bora Bora to the larger, 52-square-mile island of Moorea on Air Tahiti, the only domestic airline. The Moorea Hilton offers compelling vistas and over-water bungalows with glass floor inserts and end tables you can peer through to see the life below.

Don’t miss the Hilton’s Toatea Bar & Creperie, an over-water restaurant with a school of sharks that swims around it all evening, especially when the chef comes out to feed them.

Make sure to tour the island and see all its tropical glory. You can rent a car or take a 4×4 to visit Belvedere Lookout, which offers incredible island views and a magnificent sunset.

And if you’ve ever wanted to learn about the elusive black pearl, you can visit Ron Hall Pearls, where the owner’s son will teach you how they grow and how to judge a pearl’s worth.

When you’ve had your fill of Moorea, you can catch a 45-minute ferry to Tahiti, which is more urban than the other islands and feels enormous at 403 square miles. The island is rife with lush, natural beauty, with a fiercely green rain forest and a magnificent waterfall.

A visit to the home of Mutiny on the Bounty author James Norman Hall, which has been converted into a museum, is well worth your time, as is a trip to “Le Marché de Papeete” (the market), where you can wander through aisles of local handcrafts, fresh fruits and fragrant manoi oils.

Wherever you go in French Polynesia, don’t miss the delicious poisson cru, a ceviche-like raw fish dish made with coconut milk and lime. Order it with french fries, because there’s something about the cold, fresh fish mixed with the hot, salty, crisp fries that takes you straight to heaven.

As I boarded my flight back to the U.S., I could still smell the flowers that had adorned my hair and been draped around my neck just hours earlier. The mother of a friend I made in Tahiti had woven them for me from the red flamboyant, yellow tipanie and white tiare Tahiti flowers and green auti leaves so I could wear them to the Hura Tapairu, the local annual dance competition.

That loving gesture served as a tiny glimpse into French Polynesia’s rich culture and the kindness and generosity of her people.

You don’t go to French Polynesia; you go home. The islands envelop, embrace, enthrall and enchant you. You may leave her, but French Polynesia will never leave you.

How to get there:

Air Tahiti Nui

Where to stay:

Bora Bora

Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort and Spa

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort and Spa

Moorea

Moorea Hilton

Moorea Pearl Resort

Tahiti

Manava Suite Resort Tahiti

How to get around:

Air Tahiti

Aremiti Ferry

Categories: Fun in the Sun | Leave a comment