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The world’s strangest islands


  • YouTube / light222333

When we think of taking an island vacation, many of us immediately think of clear blue waters, cloudless skies and warm, sandy beaches. However, not all island are created equal. In fact, some islands are just plain weird. Check out our list of the strangest islands in the world.  Many of them are open to the public, and have historical pasts that make them truly unique.  If you’re feeling adventurous, go check them out for yourself.

  • 1. The Isola La Gaiola, Italy

    YouTube / light222333

    This island off the coast of Naples, which is actually made up of two minor islands linked by a bridge, is uninhabited, since many of its former owners were either met with extremely bad luck or untimely deaths. The island is surrounded by clear, blue water and beautiful skies, but believed to be extremely cursed. Watch this video to learn more about this cursed island.

  • 2. Okunoshima Island, Japan


    Usaga Jima, or “Rabbit Island” is home to hundreds of friendly, feral rabbits. Between 1929 and 1945, when the island was a production site for Japan’s chemical weapons before and during WWII, a colony of rabbits was brought to the island to test poison gas. Some believe the current rabbit inhabitants are related to the original group, but others believe they are descendants of rabbits brought to the island by school children in the 1970s. The island is now a popular tourist resort with a small golf course, camping grounds and beaches.

  • 3. Sable Island, Nova Scotia


    Sable Island sits in the middle of “The Graveyard of the Atlantic,” and has been the site of roughly 475 shipwrecks, and is home to over 400 wild horses. These horses have managed to survive on the island with only sea grass and rainwater. While it has never been permanently settled, it has been occupied by shipwrecked sailors, transported convicts and pirates. It was declared Canada’s 43rd National Park on June 20th, 2013.

  • 4. Christmas Island, Indian Ocean


    Christmas Island is a protected Australian national park, and acts as the ideal ecosystem for the Christmas Island red crab. Throughout most of the year, the crabs live under the forest canopy, but during the rainy season nearly 120 million crabs make the five mile, month long journey to the ocean to spawn. Super-colonies of ants have been known to terrorize and blind the crabs throughout their migration.

  • 5. The Island of the Dolls, Mexico City


    La Isla de las Munecas, or Island of the Dolls, is located in the canals of Xochimico, near Mexico City. The island is said to be dedicated to the soul of a girl who mysteriously drowned on the island many years ago, and the hundreds of severed limbs and decapitated heads of dolls are possessed by her spirit.

  • 6. Vulcan Point, the Philippines


    Vulcan Island, or Vulcan Point, is considered the geographical equivalent to the 2012 film Inception. On the island of Luzon is Lake Taal, which has the Taal Volcano inside it. At the top of the volcano is a basin, or caldera, which is filled with water and creates a crater lake. At the center of the lake is Vulcan Point, which is one of the volcano’s cones. In a nut shell: Vulcan Point is an island inside a lake inside an island inside a lake inside an island inside the Pacific Ocean.

  • 7. Ilha de Queimada Grande, “Snake Island,” 90 miles from Sao Paulo, Brazil


    It is estimated that anywhere between 2000 and 5000 snakes currently inhabit the 106 acre island, making it less than appealing and expressly forbidden by the Brazilian Navy for anyone to land on except scientists. The Golden Lancehead Viper, one of the most venomous snakes in the world, is the sole snake inhabitant.

  • 8. Deer Island, Alexandria Bay, New York


    Deer Island is located on the Saint Lawrence River in Alexandria Bay, New York. It is also home to Skull and Bones, the secret society of Yale University. Alumni of Skull and Bones include former Presidents William Howard Taft, George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Members of the secret society have reported the area to be fairly run-down, however Atlas Obscura claims that this leaked information may just exist to make the society seem more innocent than it is. Either way, the island remains cloaked in mystery just like the secret society itself.

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Take a walk on the wild side in the Cotswolds


Giuliani: de Blasio has hard time getting past his ideology

Ready for a nice country walk for 100 miles or so?
The famous Cotswolds Way in Britain is 102 miles, actually, through rolling fields, past villages that couldn’t evoke Old England any more than if you were on a film set.  Think thatched roofs, winding country lanes, ancient stone cottages, huge manor houses. We stayed in one that’s now the Ellenborough Park Hotel—and even Sudeley Castle that once was home to royalty.

You’ll walk on ancient footpaths, past bleating sheep.  What we call hiking the Brits call “walking” and “walking trips” –and they have never been more popular, whether you opt to go with a group or just arrange for a company like Sherpa Expeditions to transfer your bags. That way you can amble unencumbered from villages with names like Chipping Campden, Bourton-on-the-Water to Winchcombe, stopping for lunch in one village and for a beer in another. Rain doesn’t stop determined walkers, one local told me.  This being England, make sure you’ve got good rain gear and waterproof hiking shoes.

Of course the Cotswolds, about a two hour train ride from London, is only one of Britain’s famous walks. You’ve got your pick whether you want to focus on history, food—yes there are good farm-to-table eats—spirts and beer or just get out the city:

The Wales Coastal Path is the only path that allows you to walk along the border of an entire country.   It stretches 870 miles, though you can walk whichever sections you choose.

The John Muir Way stretches 134 miles through the heart of Scotland. It will take you a week or longer to walk the entire way, half that on a bike.  But again, you could opt for just one or two of the 10 sections.

–See the famous Scottish Highlands by hiking The Great Glen Way past the foot of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, along the shores of Loch Ness and ending in Inverness, Scotland’s northernmost city.   If you are in really good shape, maybe you’d prefer the arduous Cape Wrath Trail through the Scottish Highlands  that’s considered Britain’s toughest long-distance path—186 miles that would take you 18 days to hike the whole thing, mostly on ancient footpaths.

–If you like to imbibe as much as hike,  consider The Edges and Ales Walksthroughout the Peak District in England –one seven mile path allows for stops at four pubs on route.

–For wine aficionados, there’s an English Vineyard Walking Weekend  in Sussex, an hour by train from London. Stop for tastings at some of England’s best wine estates along the way each day.

–If you are a history buff, The 1066 County Walk explores the southern coast of England where the Normans first  landed, going past a still-standing Norman castle and Norman fort along the 31-mile route.

Just make sure you’re hiking shoes are broken in.

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Take a walk on the ‘Wild’ side like Reese Witherspoon: America’s best hiking trails


  • AP Photo/Fox Searchlight Pictures

In the upcoming film “Wild,” Reese Witherspoon straps on hiking boots to portray Cheryl Strayed, a woman who traversed over 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself. It’s a break from the rom-com darling’s characteristic roles but, according to hiking experts, getting back to nature is really the best way to find yourself.

Fortunately for wilderness junkies and nature novices around the country, there are plenty of ways to experience the outdoors.

“People think you have to go to Yellowstone to really find a great hiking experience but I’ve hiked all over the U.S. and there are beautiful trails everywhere,” Craig Romano, an avid hiker who has penned nine wilderness guidebooks, told “There are a lot of resources available, even for people just starting out.”

For less experienced hikers, Romano recommends joining a local hiking association or club to get acquainted with the territory and start off with professionals. Having a map or updated guidebook is always essential. Even if you’re familiar with a certain region of the country, hiking in unfamiliar terrain can be dangerous.

“One area where a lot of people get in trouble is not knowing the area. You might be a great runner in a city park but in challenging terrain or difficult climate, the weather can change so rapidly it may get dangerous,” said Romano.

“If you’re new to an area, stick to the well-maintained, clearly marked, popular trails and heed any park ranger warnings.”

Though the getting-back-to-nature storyline may seem cliché by now, Romano maintains that there is a lot of truth to the inner peace that hiking can bring. He thinks movies like “Wild” can encourage a deeper appreciation for wildlife from people who ordinarily wouldn’t think twice about going into nature.

“I love breathing in the fresh air and having the time to really soul search…There’s a lot of truth to that,” he says. “You get into this zen state when you’re out exploring the trails and you notice things that usually seem mundane.”

So if you’re looking to reconnect with nature—and with yourself—consider taking a hike on one of these fabulous North American trails.

  • 1. The John Muir Trail – Pacific Crest Loop

    AP Photo/Fox Searchlight Pictures

    This 211 mile long section of Pacific Coast Trail features stunning cliffs, lakes, granite peaks and canyons. The trails pass through some of America’s most stunning backdrops, including Ansel Adams Wildernesses, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Hikers can take the trail going North or South but travel during the winter months is not advised. 

  • 2. Old Rag Mountain – Shenandoah National Park


    Described as one of the most beautiful and “most dangerous” hikes in the country by the National Park Service, this nine-mile loop contains many rocky paths and a significant change in elevation. For this reason, the park discourages young children and shorter adults from attempting the seven to eight hour trek. Despite the difficult terrain, this trail can be very crowded on weekends so if you have some free time during the week, head over the Shenandoah and be the king or queen or your own mountain for the day.

  • 3. Lincoln Woods Trail – New Hampshire


    White Mountain National Forest is home to over 1,200 miles of non-motorized trails for all levels of hikers. But for novice hikers, Lincoln Woods Trail affords great views on a popular route with relatively stable terrain. Summer hikers can take bait and tackle gar along to fish in the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River. In the Fall, enjoy spectacular Northeastern leaf foliage colors, a favorite time of year for Romano.

  • 4. Devils Garden Primitive Loop – Arches National Park


    This difficult trek traverses over seven miles of rocky terrain but hikers are sure to witness some of the most breathtaking views Arches has to offer. The National Park Service estimates this hike will take between three to five hours to bring plenty of water. Not recommended when rock is wet or snowy.

  • 5. Florida National Scenic Trail


    While hiking usually brings to mind mountainous terrain, Romano says there are great hikes to be find anywhere nature exists. “The Florida Trail is almost 1,400 miles and it has great sections for long distance hikers.” If you’re just starting, it might be better to stay out of the Everglades unless you’re with an experienced hiker. Whether you’re looking for wildlife, interesting marine species or a better understanding of the Florida ecosystem, the Florida Trail has something for everyone.

  • 6. Forest Park – Portland


    “People living in urban area have great hiking networks right in their backyards. Especially Portland,” says Romano. He recommends Forest Park with its more than 80 miles of scenic Northwest wildlife. For hikers young and old, Forest Park Conservancy even has its own app with maps of hiking trails, weather updates and other details.

  • 7. Mount Rainier National Park – Washington


    “I’ve hiked all over the U.S. but some of my all time favorite trails are in Washington– I just love the diversity of mountains, wildlife, forested scenery and even wildflowers,” says Romano. Among his favorites in the Pacific Northwest: Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades. All National Parks are popular tourist destinations. Rainier is the smallest of three making it a great destination for new hikers; Olympic is the largest and features more diverse terrain.

  • 8. Porcupine Mountain State Park – Michigan


    While most hikers tend to gravitate to the East or West Coasts, great trails can be found everywhere. On Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, take a walk along Lake of the Clouds in Porcupine Mountain State Park. This scenic trail has high peaks, sparkling rivers, waterfalls and more. Campers will also find a fully loaded RV amenities area for over night adventures.

  • 9. Appalachian Trail – Fitzgerald Falls near Greenwood Lake, NY


    This scenic section of the Appalachian Trail is a perfect spot for city-dwellers. Just an hour and a half from New York City, Greenwood Lake is known for its pristine waters and summer aquatic activities. This 4.6 mile loop involves moderate climbing ability to reach the summit of Mombasha High Point. History buffs will enjoy exploring an abandoned settlement along the trail and on a clear day, views of New York City can be seen on the Southern horizon.

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Student snapped final photo before bear attack in New Jersey



Darsh Patel was walking with four friends through the Apshawa Preserve in West Milford in September when the black bear attacked. The 22-year-old student became the first person to be killed by a bear in New Jersey. (West Milford Police Department)

A Rutgers student who was killed by a bear while hiking in New Jersey snapped photos of the 300-pound beast before it chased him, mauled him — and even gouged the phone the victim used to take his last pics.

Darsh Patel was walking with four friends through the Apshawa Preserve in West Milford in September when the black bear attacked.

The 22-year-old student became the first person to be killed by a bear in New Jersey.

West Milford police Tuesday released six photos taken before the attack, five of them snapped by Patel himself before the bear attacked, according to The Record of Hackensack.

The images show the lumbering male bear approaching a fallen tree about 100 feet away from the group.

The beast appears to get closer in the five photos taken by the Rutgers senior, including this one.

The police report said that the young hikers attracted the bear’s attention by taking the nature shots, according to the The Record.

“They stopped and took photographs of the bear with their cellphones and the bear began walking towards them,” the police report said.

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How to hunt your own Thanksgiving dinner


Do more than just carve your Thanksgiving turkey –hunt it.

Chef and outdoor adventurer Georgia Pellegrini loves to tap into her modern day pioneer spirit by hunting and cooking the family dinner.

She’s out with a new book, ‘Modern Pioneering: More than 150 Recipes, Projects, and Skills for a Self-Sufficient Life’ to show that anyone can be a do-it-yourself cook.

Pellegrini told when cooking for Thanksgiving, think outside the box. “We are so used to eating the same traditional things over and over; it’s really about using every part of everything whether it’s animal or vegetable protein.”

For dinner, Pellegrini likes to change it up by cooking pheasant, wild turkey, duck, or even pigeon. These animals are plentiful for hunters, but also available in supermarkets and specialty stores. “We’re used to the same flavors, it’s kind of fun to switch it.”

Though, she added that when it comes to more odd choices like pigeon, “you need to think about where is your source” before taking a bite.

When it comes to critics who might be against hunting, Pellegrini has a strong belief that “for me, it’s about paying the full price of the meal and having a true experience behind my food whether it’s gardening, foraging, or hunting my food. I think the meal means so much more that way.”

Pellegrini has three dishes that might put a different spin on Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Bourbon Soup might give the dinner an extra kick. “Pumpkins and all kind of squash are in season right now and I love to use every part of it … I also like to add a little bourbon in things,” said Pellegrini. Made with two pumpkins, the dish includes shiitake mushrooms, chicken stock, coconut milk, and crushed red pepper.

Recipe: Pumpkin Bourbon Soup

She then takes the pumpkin seeds to make a brittle called Chocolate Clumpkins. “It’s got some coffee grinds in there and spices which are really fun … gives a little protein and crunch.” The brittle also includes chili oil or habanero oil, maple syrup, and dark chocolate bars.

Recipe: Chocolate Clumpkins

When it comes to leftovers, Pellegrini likes to make Thanksgiving Leftover Bites. “Taking the turkey, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and rolling them into one delicious bite. It’s a great thing to do with your leftovers so you’re saving, not wasting it.” Each bite is wrapped in turkey bacon to keep the dish all together.

Recipe: Thanksgiving Leftover Bites

For dessert this year, Pellegrini is making a pie using leaf lard or pork fat. “The best way to make a really flaky pie crust comes from the stomach lining of a pig, which might sound creepy but it’s really delicious.”

Before heading into the kitchen, Pellegrini has one last tip. “We need to start doing more with less, be more self-sufficient – it’s a very empowering thing to do.”

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Top hotels and resorts in the world


  • Londolozi

As travelers, it’s sort of par for the course to have a running knowledge of favorite places to stay when traveling abroad. Whether it’s a five-star resort on a secluded island, or a cozy bed and breakfast overlooking a stunning mountain range, everyone has a favorite place to call a home away from home.

From the farthest reaches of the world to a city that may just be in your very own backyard, see which hotels and resorts made the top 100 list.

  • 1. Londolozi, Sabi Sands, South Africa


    This five-camp preserve in a riverine forest offers “the vacation of a lifetime—everything is fabulous.” In a perfect-scoring location on the Sand River, accommodations include Pioneer Camp, with three private suites decorated in Ralph Lauren style, and Varty Camp, where chalets in earth tones have private pools. Enjoy freshly baked muffins on the deck at sunrise while watching the elephants below—”an absolutely incredible experience.” Dinners at the boma are served by candlelight on white linen. “The safaris are beyond fantastic. The Big Five are literally within reach!”

  • 2. Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, Saratoga, Wyoming

    The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch

    The Lodge in Saratoga, Wyoming is our readers’ favorite U.S. resort, bringing an extra dose of luxury to the rugged West. Outdoor lovers enjoy fly fishing, hiking, and horseback riding at Brush Creek Ranch while also indulging in the luxuries of their spa services. The lodge serves up family-style dinners, gourmet meals, and barbecue to visitors as they enjoy beautiful Rocky Mountain views.

  • 3. The Mulia, Bali, Indonesia

    The Mulia

    This new 526-room seaside resort in the southeastern tourist enclave of Nusa Dua is one of readers’ top resorts in Asia. The ocean is just steps away, though you may be inclined to linger at the one of Mulia’s pools with a cocktail. With a spa, fitness center, and play area for kids, the resort offers a comfortable stay for singles, couples, and families alike.

  • 4. Singita Sabi Sand, Sabi Sands, South Africa

    Singita Sabi Sand

    A former game farm adjacent to Kruger National Park, this “truly amazing” two-lodge camp and private villa is surrounded by groves of acacia, thornveld, and marula trees on the Sand River. “It’s spectacular through and through.” Ebony Lodge celebrates Africa with stone, thatch, and splashes of tribal colors, while contemporary Boulders Lodge has earth tones, glass walls, and private pool decks. South African wines complement dishes such as chermoula-marinated tiger prawns. In addition to game drives, guided safari walks are available upon request. “The game spotting is incredible—animals are everywhere you look.”

  • 5. Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, Montana

    Triple Creek Ranch

    At this newcomer looking onto the Bitterroot Mountains, rooms are spread across 23 log cabins that ooze rusticity via exposed log walls and slate bathrooms. “Our room had a view of the woods, very private and peaceful” with “a hot tub on the deck.” The restaurant pairs cathedral ceilings with “superb, world-class” cuisine ranging from traditional French to Southwestern, and signature items like venison carpaccio with marinated plums. “There were fresh cookies every day when returning from activities” such as spotting mountain lions, moose, and eagles in the wilderness.

  • 6. Nayara Springs, Arenal, Costa Rica

    Nayara Springs

    This new boutique hotel is a Costa Rican dream for anyone looking for a secluded vacation spot. Nayara Springs is perched at the top of a rainforest, surrounded by tropical plants and creeks with gorgeous views of Arenal Volcano. Sixteen private villas include plunge pools, gardens, and open-air showers. Located 2 ½ hours from San Jose, this adults-only hotel gets high scores for service, and the spa has indulgent treatments with volcanic mud and chocolate clay.

  • 7. Singita Grumeti Reserves, Serengeti, Tanzania

    Singita Grumeti Reserves

    American billionaire Paul Tudor Jones II has established three splendid lodgings—Sasakwa, Sabora, and Faru Faru—within his 340,000-acre tract adjoining Serengeti National Park. Sasakwa Lodge, the most sumptuous, comprises nine suites styled as colonial manor houses, with fireplaces, claw-foot tubs, a wraparound veranda, a plunge pool, and Wi-Fi. Between game drives, guests can smoke complimentary cigars at the main lodge’s bar, take tea in the garden sunroom, shoot billiards on a 19th-century table, and make free satellite phone calls; other diversions include an archery range and a stable of horses for gallops alongside the herds. On an open plain, Sabora has nine tents furnished with antiques from an English lord’s East African campaign and two 1930s Chevy touring cars. Faru Faru’s eight tents sit in wooded country by the Grumeti River.

  • 8. Aro Hā, Queenstown, New Zealand

    Aro Hā

    Located in New Zealand’s Southern Alps off of Lake Wakatipu, this retreat wins rave reviews for its luxurious approach to wellness. In a peaceful setting with stunning views, retreat-goers practice mindfulness, yoga, fitness, and healthy eating in a setting far from the stresses of everyday life. Rooms are comfortable and simply furnished, leaving attendees more inclined to focus on their wellbeing, enjoy nature walks, or write about their slice of idyll.

  • 9. Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai, Thailand

    Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle

    Set on a jungle hillside along the Mekong River, this “simply stunning property” has views of three countries—Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. The “diversity of activities” includes elephant trekking, bird watching, cooking classes, and more. Complete with handcrafted furniture, mosquito nets, and a hand-hammered copper bathtub, the “tents are amazing, as are the views.” Three tents have custom-made wooden hot tubs on the decks, with views of the surrounding jungle. Dine on regional and Western cuisine in a thatched-roof pavilion at Nong Yao, where “the chef will prepare local cuisine with local spices especially for you.” “By far the most memorable resort of anywhere we have stayed.”

  • 10. Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, Australia

    Southern Ocean Lodge

    If Kangaroo Island—an unspoiled 1,700-square-mile haven teeming with native animals—is Australia’s Galápagos, then the Southern Ocean Lodge is a very natural selection, with its recycled timber floors, soaring glass, and limestone. A thoroughly evolved eco-wilderness lodge, this 21-suite human sanctuary has panoramic ocean views from the pristine clifftop brushland it inhabits. Rooms come with trekking gear (backpacks and water flasks), but cell phone reception is limited and not all suites have TVs. From the moment you walk into the vast atrium, your attention is drawn to the great outdoors. Over a third of the island is untouched national park land, and the sheer amount of wildlife is bewildering (there are 267 bird species alone). The lodge takes full advantage of the natural abundance, and the rates include treks, evening “Kangaroos and Kanapés” excursions, and half-day tours that take in seal colonies, the island’s oldest lighthouse, and remarkable rock formations.`

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Places few travelers have ever seen


  • Courtesy Tikchik Narrows

When you want to feel more like an explorer than a tourist, consider traveling to one of these 13 remote places around the world—lost cities, distant islands, even the “Middle of Nowhere” China. Some are endangered destinations, so tread carefully.

  • 1. Tikchik Narrows Lodge, Wood-Tikchik State Park, Alaska

    Courtesy Tikchik Narrows

    “This small fishing lodge, located on the tip of a peninsula in Wood-Tikchik State Park, is more than 300 miles from the nearest connecting roads system—which means it’s only accessible by seaplane. Four full-time pilots, employed by the lodge, fly guests from Dillingham (a small city in southwestern Alaska) to the property, where freshwater fishing and plenty of Pacific Northwest cuisine (reindeer sausage, smoked salmon, moose tenders) await.”—Claire Brown

  • 2. The Principality of Sealand

    Associated Press

    “It might not look like much, but that lone structure 7 miles off the coast of Suffolk is the Principality of Sealand, the brainchild of an eccentric pirate radio broadcaster. The isolated nation in the North Sea boasts a flag, anthem, and even a soccer team. (Since Sealand isn’t recognized by any other nation, it’s unclear who the soccer team plays.) Sealand currently has a population of one: a caretaker who lives on the platform. The nation’s main source of income continues to be the online sales of mugs, T-shirts, and even peerages—you and that special someone can become Count and Countess of Sealand for just $320!”—Ken Jennings

  • 3. Ciudad Perdida (Lost City), Colombia

    brianlatino / Alamy

    “The endangered city is hidden in the middle of the Colombian jungle, a few days’ hike from Santa Marta, the country’s oldest colonial town. Ancient jungle ruins include more than 200 structures (staircases, wide stone platforms) built by the Tairona people from the 8th to the 14th centuries. In order to preserve the archeological treasures, the Global Heritage Fund is helping locals develop environmental education programs, and is working to lessen tourism’s impact on the area. Meanwhile, Wiwa Tour, the only agency in Santa Marta that’s owned by indigenous peoples, offers four- to six-day treks through the area.”—Dorinda Elliott

  • 4. The Minority Villages of Guizhou, China


    “Guizhou, terraced with lush rice paddies and dotted with elaborate wooden structures and stupas, is China’s poorest province. But modernization is coming, and villages that have maintained ancient traditions are threatened by increasing industrial activity. Drive three hours from Guiyang City until you reach Dali, a charming village. As you pass through rolling mountains, stop along the way and buy crafts (such as hand-made paper) made by the Dong, Buyi, and Miao people. The Indigo Lodgein nearby Zhaoxing, a beautiful Dong village, offers simple accommodations in a traditional setting.”—Dorinda Elliott

  • 5. Mirador, Guatemala

    age fotostock Spain, S.L. / Alamy

    “You’ve heard of Peru’s Machu Picchu—this is Guatemala’s answer, home to the earliest Preclassic Maya archaeological sites in Mesoamerica. It also boasts one of the world’s largest pyramids, a majestic edifice entangled by lush jungle. Trekking to the site is half the fun: You can book the two-day sojourn (on foot or by mule) from the Ni’tun Private Reserve, on the shores of Lake Petén Itzá in nearby Flores.”—Dorinda Elliott

  • 6. Rifugio Torre Di Pisa, Dolomites, Italy


    “You’ll have to hoof it to Rifugio Torre di Pisa, a hostel nestled in the Italian Dolomites (and named for a nearby peak said to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa). Plan accordingly for the two- to three-hour hike: The property is open June through October only, and the barebones accommodations consist of 20 bunk beds split between two dormitories, and one shared bathroom.”—Claire Brown

Categories: Exotic Locations | Leave a comment

How to not get killed (or arrested) while watching wildlife


  • Bison, AP Photo

Some overly eager visitors to South Lake Tahoe prompted local wildlife authorities to issue a warning recently: Stop taking selfies with the bears that feed on salmon at a popular viewing area.

Sadly, such ill-advised snaps are just one example of the cluelessness of many visitors to wilderness areas, documented by hundreds of videos that provide hours of head-shaking viewing.

Wildlife experts don’t know whether the proliferation of cellphones and social media sites is to blame or if the footage is just evidence of bad behavior that’s been happening all along, but they agree that many visitors to national parks and other wildlife areas remain shockingly unaware of the dangers they may encounter in the great outdoors.

“In my experience, people tend to believe that the wilderness is not really very wild, that it’s been sanitized and made safe for them — and that’s just not true,” says Lee Whittlesey, historian at Yellowstone National Park and author of Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park.

“In fact, the word ‘wilderness’ comes from wild animal. But people are not used to seeing big mammals, so they get excited and run after them and chase them and try to get photos. Even with all of our warning signs and literature, we have incidents every year.”

So, with the arrival of fall — a popular time to visit wilderness areas but also the rut season for large mammals like bull elk and deer — here’s a refresher on wildlife safety tips. It’s common sense for most people, but it could be a life-saving read for others.

  • 1. Keep a safe distance.

    Bison, AP Photo

    In 2012, Yellowstone National Park posted a video of a bison charging a crowd at the Old Faithful geyser, showing how fast the animal can run and highlighting the importance of keeping a safe distance.

    Just how far “safe” is varies — it’s 100 yards for bears and wolves and 25 yards for all other large mammals, including bison, elk and deer, according to Yellowstone’s regulations — but a general rule of thumb is that if your presence changes the behavior of the animal, you’re way too close.

  • 2. Don’t touch the wildlife.


    National parks and other natural habitats are not petting zoos — it’s illegal to touch wildlife. But that doesn’t stop countless clueless visitors from trying to lay a hand on the animals. Bottom line: You should never be close enough to wildlife to touch it.

  • 3. Don’t feed the animals.


    Feeding animals isn’t just a problem on land; it’s also a major issue for marine creatures. In 2012, Beggar, a bottlenose dolphin in the Gulf of Mexico and one of the most studied and famous dolphins in the world, was found dead in Sarasota, possibly because hundreds of people fed it over the years, according to wildlife officials.

    What’s more, even “harmless” animals like deer and squirrels can carry disease, and feeding them can put you at risk of illness, said Ashley Mayer, a park ranger at Yosemite National Park in California.

    In addition, in some western states, small animals like prairie dogs have been known to carry the plague, which was diagnosed in three people in Colorado this summer. The bacteria that causes plague occurs naturally in the western United States, primarily in California, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • 4. Don’t assume you’re safe in a car.

    AP Photo

    An incident in South Africa’s Kruger National Park illustrates the misconception that vehicles provide safe haven from wild animals. In the viral video, an agitated elephant overturns a car carrying a British couple on a self-drive safari. One of the passengers suffered serious injuries and the animal was put down, igniting worldwide outrage because the couple appeared to be at fault.

    But elephants aren’t the only animals that can damage cars and injure their passengers. Every fall, Whittlesey says, rutting bull elk charge vehicles that get too close to them in Yosemite. “I’ve seen them tear up a car,” he told “They’re on edge, and they don’t like anyone getting too near them.”

  • 5. Leave your drone at home.

    AP Photo

    In the summer, the National Park Service issued a ban on drones in national parks after an uptick in incidents of them harassing wildlife and bothering park visitors. In Zion National Park in Utah, a group of drone handlers was busted in April for harassing a herd of bighorn sheep with their drone, separating a few young animals from adults.

    Violation of the ban is punishable by up to five months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine, but not everyone has abided by it. There have been several recent convictions for operating drones in Yellowstone, a spokeswoman said, including a visitor from the Netherlands who flew his drone into Grand Prismatic, the third-largest hot spring in the world and one of the park’s most iconic landmarks.

  • 6. Store Food Properly

    California Department of Fish & Wildlife

    At Yosemite, which has more than 4 million visitors annually, there have been 154 incidents between humans and bears so far this year, resulting in over $7,000 in property damage. Most of them were because visitors improperly stored their food, Mayer said.

    Those figures are a fraction of the $631,143 in damage that occurred as a result of 1,479 incidents in 1998, an indication that the park’s education efforts are working. However, Mayer confirmed that there is a 35 percent increase in incidents so far in 2014 over the same time period as last year, which could be related to California’s three-year drought because it may be affecting some food sources like berries.

    Visitors to parks with bear populations must be highly vigilant about properly storing food in bear-proof containers at campsites, not their cars, as well as at trailheads in the backcountry. In addition, Mayer said, anything with an odor — toothpaste, deodorant, mouthwash — is a potential food source for bears and must be stored accordingly.

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World’s most amazing waterfalls


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Waterfalls are one of nature’s most beautiful creations, and come in all shapes in sizes. Here are some of the most incredible waterfalls on Earth. 

  • 1. Alamere Falls (California)


    Alamere Falls, which is located in Pt. Reyes National Seashore near Bolinas, Calif., is actually a rare “tidefall,” meaning if flows right into the Pacific Ocean. This multi-tiered waterfall is active year round, but is especially impressive during the winter months, which are also the months of the rainy season.

  • 2. Angel Falls (Venezuela)


    At 3,212 feet, Angel Falls, which is in Venezuela’s Canaima National Park, is the highest waterfall in the world. The water from the Río Gauja travels down Auyan Tepui, a sandstone plateau-mountain, and vaporizes into a column of fine mist by the time it reaches the bottom. The best way to see Angel Falls is by plane during the wet season (May to December).

  • 3. Gullfoss (Iceland)


    Gullfoss, which means “Golden Falls,” is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions. Located in the Hvita river, Gullfoss  boasts a 105-foot double-cascade, and is considered Europe’s most powerful waterfall. It is best to visit during the summer, and many tours are available.

  • 4. Hanakapi’ai Falls (Hawaii)


    Located on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, Hanakapi’ai Falls can be found deep in Hanakapi’ai Valley. Seeing the falls will take some effort. You first need to hike two miles on the Kalalau Trail before trekking another two miles inland. The hike is strenuous, and is eight miles round trip, but your efforts will be rewarded with a view of one of Hawaii’s most beautiful falls.

  • 5. Havasu Falls (the Grand Canyon)


    The blue-green waters of Havasu Creek flow over photogenic Havasu Falls into a swimming hole where the water is always around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Havasu Falls is a great place to take a dip in the sun or enjoy a picnic. The best times to visit are May/June and September/October, although the weather is best from March to November.  The falls is located on the Havasupai Reservation, which is in the Grand Canyon.

  • 6. Iguazu Falls (Argentina and Brazil)


    Semicircular in shape, Iguazu Falls is surrounded by subtropical rainforest and is made up of 275 independent falls over 1.67 miles. The highest section of the falls reaches 269 feet. You can access the falls from Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil or Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. Although the falls is shared by Brazil and Argentina, you can also visit from Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, which is across the river from Foz do Iguaçu. There is no “bad” season to see Iguazu Falls, but the area is less crowded in September and October.

  • 7. Niagara Falls (New York and Ontario, Canada)


    Arguably the most famous falls, Niagara Falls is comprised of three waterfalls: the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. This popular tourist destination offers double the fun, as both the Canadian and American sides are home to additional attractions. You can see the falls any time during the year, but you will have the best weather if you visit between mid-May and mid-September.

  • 8. Rhine Falls (Switzerland)


    At about 500 feet wide and 75 feet high, Rhine Falls ranks as Europe’s largest waterfall. Located near Schaffhausen, Switzerland, you can access the falls via public transportation, car, on foot or by bike. During the summer months, one of the best ways to see the falls is from the deck of a Rhine River tour boat.

  • 9. Victoria Falls (Zambia and Zimbabwe)


    Located on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. At 1 mile wide and 360 feet high, Victoria Falls is the largest waterfall on earth based on width and height. It is also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means “smoke that thunders.” There are a number of way to see Victoria Falls, including bungee jumping, white water rafting and helicopter rides. Check out the ones on the Zambia and Zimbabwesides.

  • 10. Yosemite Falls (Yosemite National Park)


    Yosemite Falls is actually made up of three separate falls: Upper Yosemite Fall, the middle cascades, and Lower Yosemite Fall. When measured from the top of the upper fall to the bottom of the lower fall, Yosemite Falls is 2,425 feet, making it one of the tallest in North America. Yosemite Falls is also famous for its moonbows. You can see Yosemite Falls from locations around Yosemite Valley, or participate in a strenuous hike to the top. It is best to visit Yosemite Falls in the spring or early summer, as the waters flow strongest from November to July and reach their peak in May or June.

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Mountain views to see before you die


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Outdoor enthusiast Steve Casimiro has spent the past 30 years writing and photographing remote corners of the world, documenting these experiences on his travel website, Adventure Journal. He shares his must-see mountain views.

  • 1. Mirador Condor, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile


    Patagonia is notorious for having some of the wildest weather on earth, so views of the iconic Torres del Paine massif (it’s the inspiration for the logo for outdoor gear brand Patagonia) are a gift. Any of the perspectives from the frosty blue waters of Lake Pehoé will take your breath away, but a 40-minute hike to the Condor Lookout reveals an angle you’ll never forget.

  • 2. Tre Cime di Lavaredo area, Dolomite Mountains, Italy


    The limestone of northern Italy’s Dolomite Mountains is craggy and rough-hewn, as if the DNA of its past life as ocean reefs must show through the curtain of the ages, and wherever you look you see another peak suitable for national park status. Tre Cime di Lavaredo, also known in German as Drei Zinnen, justify their acclaim, but these three sentinels are to some eyes gaudy and monumental. Turn south, toward the resort town of Cortina, and there, with little fanfare, is a ridgeline less heralded but with more classic mountain beauty.

  • 3. Denali, Alaska


    One view of Denali is enough to satiate for a lifetime, but getting two glimpses of North America’s highest point at once defies words. Accessible by car, Reflection Pond at Wonder Lake is some 85 miles into Denali Park, and when the light is right and the wind at abeyance, it’s one of the world’s most magnificent mirrors.

  • 4. Mount Shasta from Heart Lake, California


    Mount Shasta can been seen almost anywhere you go in northernmost California, a distant speck on the horizon or a looming hulk of glacier-clad white guarding endless green farmlands. But perhaps the sweetest angle is from the west, when you drive to Castle Lake, then hike another mile to a delightful pocket pool called Heart Lake.

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