The view from 1,500 feet above Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park is jaw-dropping. Intricately carved mountains and huge rock masses erupt out of the Tasmanian Sea. Water swirls around them and crashes against their rocks. The sea slithers to the shores of sandy bays, leaving a layer of white foam in its wake.
Australia’s sparsely populated, mountainous, southern island state is best known for its stunning panoramas, historic prisons, friendly people and of course, the Tasmanian devil. (Actually, these endangered creatures are not that fearsome.) The real Tasmanian devils were the eighteenth-century commandants of the island’s many penal colonies.
By touring any or all of the Convict Trail’s 11 penal sites, visitors can learn about the harsh prison life that men, women and even children - age seven and up - suffered. Punishment was ruthless. For example, a prisoner could land in solitary confinement for insolence.
The Indian state of Gujarat is located in the western part of the country, and offers a look at civilizations that date back as far as 4,000 years. Near the capital city of Ahmedabad, both Lothal and Dholavira are important archeological sites, displaying the ruins of ancient cultures. Gujarat is also known for its stepwells, or water buildings, which were once an important part of life in this region, providing water for drinking and bathing. There are over 120 stepwells in this state alone. In Gujarat, visitors should also be sure to see some of the Jain Temples in Palitana and learn about the Asiatic Lion, whose last home in the world is in the Gir Forest in Gujarat. Indeed, it is a colorful region, filled with much of the culture from bygone eras.
Two summers ago, I took my then-12-year-old son, Gavin, to China. We spent the first part of the trip gliding along the Yangtze photographing the natural scenery and taking in the breathtaking views. I loved it, but he was completely bored. We went to see the Terracotta Warriors uncovered at Xi’an. His history textbooks had come to life, but one tomb was enough for him -- not three hours. Again, he was bored. However, things started to pick up for him when he got to play with a Chinese yo-yo in the Beijing hutongs with some local children, when he took a motorcycle sidecar ride to the Great Wall, and when he got to watch the chef-owner at the boutique Orchid Hotel (www.theorchidbeijing.com) prepare a gourmet breakfast of peppered eggs with coconut milk -- a dish Gavin still recalls as the best eggs he ever had.
Influenced by Arawak, Carib and African cooking traditions and peppered with recipes from around the world, the Caribbean is one of the most coveted regions for gastronomes. From food stalls and beach bars to Michelin-starred restaurants and food festivals galore, dining in the tropics is as much a part of the vacation experience as a refreshing dip in the ocean.
Fruits and vegetables from backyard gardens and organic farms, fresh-off-the-boat seafood and a myriad of spices and herbs are aplenty in every one of the countries that make up the Caribbean, and with chefs from all corners of the world showing off their prowess in the kitchen, gourmet adventures await travelers who come with hearty appetites. Whether it’s a plate of crispy conch fritters at a communal picnic table, snapper barbecued on an oil drum or an elegant dinner under the stars, dining in the Caribbean pleases even the fussiest of foodies.
President Obama’s reinstatement, in January 2011, of a Clinton-era license category-”People-to-People”-permitting any U.S. resident to participate in legal group travel to Cuba, combined with an end to Bush-era restrictions on island visits by Cuban-Americans, has sent U.S. visitor numbers to Cuba soaring.
In addition to the reinstatement of Specific Licenses for People to People organizations and a General license for visits with relatives by Cuban Americans, President Obama also issued a General license for academic travel by educational institutions which again allows travel by undergraduate and graduate classes with a ‘structured educational program’ in Cuba for any length of visit, as long as the students are receiving credit for their visit.
Having just returned from Peru, it’s easy to echo the sentiments of many visitors I met along the way. I love this destination, and so will your clients.
Peru offers the Amazon, the Andes, Cusco and Machu Picchu. It is a veritable foodie paradise, voted the Best Culinary Destination Award at the World Travel Awards in 2012. This gem of a country offers diverse, gorgeous topography with luxurious havens.
Inkaterra (www.inkaterra.com), a top tour operator in Peru that also owns superb properties, will create custom itineraries and take care of everything from the moment clients arrive until their departure, including accommodations, connecting flights, ground transportation, dining and all excursions. Their expertise, taste level, attention to detail and excellent guides guarantee the best in experiential luxury. Inkaterra properties and Aqua Expeditions (which can be booked through Inkaterra) are commissionable. Here are some highlights of my remarkable trip.
Angels playing music, jugglers in Medieval costume, ice skating beneath an illuminated Heidelberg Castle, torch-lit paths, a town hall made into a giant Advent calendar - Europe’s Christmas markets are as varied as the towns and cities that host them. You can plan entire trips based on Christmas markets, with breaks for sightseeing and seasonal activities, such as concerts and performances.
These Christmas markets aren’t just for shoppers. They are as much about the experience and sharing local traditions of food, drink, music, costumes, folk art and festivities that are part of a long history beginning in the late Middle Ages. They give today’s December visitors a chance to see some of Europe’s prettiest villages decorated for the season, and business travelers a chance to do some after-hours shopping.
Whether clients want to squeeze a few days on the slopes into a business trip or plan a family winter getaway, you’ll have no trouble finding them ski resorts in the northeast. After all, New Hampshire and Vermont are where modern skiing was born -- and it’s still going strong.
Getting your clients to the slopes may be the greatest challenge, as eastern resorts are not close to major airport hubs and there is little public transportation to them. With a few exceptions you will need to add car rental to the package, or at least arrange for limo transfer. The latter works well for skiers who choose full-service resorts, where shuttles carry skiers between hotels and base lodges.
Another challenge is helping clients choose the right resort for their - and their group’s - skiing skills. Look for resorts with multiple slopes and trails for all levels (green-designated trails are for beginners, blue for intermediates and black for experts). All resorts mentioned offer expert ski instruction for all ages and levels, and have full equipment rentals. Most also offer child care, and all have snowmaking and excellent grooming.