Winter Wish List
If you’re planning to take a winter vacation this year, it’s not too late to book your trip. But the sooner you do it, the better. Looking for a little inspiration? Here’s my own winter wish list.
As always, choosing a winter vacation getaway entails balancing dream and reality. First ask yourself: Where do you dream of going and what do you dream of doing there? And then: How much time and money do you have to spend? There’s a trip out there to suit every style and budget; it just takes some time and energy to find the one that’s right for you. But the rewards merit the effort!
To inspire your wintry wanderlust, I’ve been perusing -- well, "salivating over" might be the more accurate term -- the Adventure Collection members' catalogs. Here’s my own winter wish list.
Close to home:
Yellowstone in Winter: I love the idea of exploring national parks in winter, when the crowds have thinned, the air is crisp and the landscape is pristine. Off the Beaten Path’s Winter Wonders: Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks Winter Adventure sounds right up my alley: It offers the opportunity to see bison, elk, wolves, coyotes, otters, bighorn sheep, eagles, and other winter-adapted creatures. Plus its activities include snowshoeing to backcountry geysers, cross-country skiing, sleigh riding – and sipping cocoa by a cozy lodge fire. Adventure with marshmallows. Sweet!
Encountering Polar Bears: There’s something simultaneously awe-inspiring and awww-inspiring about polar bears, and I’ve always wanted to view them in the wild. Natural Habitat Adventures’ Classic Polar Bear Expedition promises to take me in the comfort of a heated tundra vehicle into the heart of the largest concentration of polar bears in the world, just outside Churchill, Manitoba. Need I say more? Wish I were there!
Heli-Skiing in the Bugaboos: This sounds as exciting as skiing can get. Canadian Mountain Holidays transports you by helicopter into virginal mountains where you can ski as little or as long as you like. At the end of the day, you’re transported back to a comfortable lodge for a hearty meal and a deep sleep. The next day, you’re back swooshing through your own private wonderland of spectacular untouched slopes. Adults are guaranteed 30,500 vertical meters (100,000 vertical feet) of heli-skiing; for children, the guarantee is 15,250 vertical meters (50,000 vertical feet), Heli-Skiing in the Bugaboos? Cowabunga!
Baja Sea-Kayaking: Winter isn’t all about cold, of course; sometimes the idea of shoveling sand appeals instead. Mix in a little learning with those sun-kissed sand castles and you’ve got a trip worth talking about: like the 14-day Baja Sea Kayaking course offered by NOLS – the National Outdoor Leadership School – on the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Mexico. This course covers the skills of sea kayak paddling and ocean traveling in depth. You learn everything from landing a craft on a remote beach to leave-no-trace camping and cooking practices, and you may well see reef fish, dolphins and manta rays along the way. That’s my kind of homework!
Exploring Costa Rica and Panama: For their compact size, Costa Rica and Panama contain an astonishing wealth of wilderness and wildlife. Lindblad Expeditions offers a number a winter expeditions that explore the riches of these areas. Their 11-day Monteverde + Costa Rica and Panama trip is highlighted by a visit to the spectacular Monteverde cloud forest, where you can walk among misty, majestic trees in search of capuchin and howler monkeys, three-toed sloths, iguanas, hummingbirds and the elusive resplendent quetzal. The trip also features snorkeling off Panama’s famed Isla Coiba, kayaking along the wildlife-rich Pacific coastline, and transiting the Panama Canal. Pura vida!
Fiji Fling: This description on the O.A.R.S. web site already has me hooked on their Fiji Highlands to Islands Multi-Sport trip: It’s “an exploration of some of the South Pacific’s best adventures, including world-class whitewater rafting and sea kayaking. Rolling rainforest highlands, verdant jungle thundering waterfalls, playful canyon rapids, aqua blue surf and kaleidoscopic reefs teeming with fish and sea life are all an integral part of this unique adventure.” The tour utilizes inflatable kayaks, rafts, and sea kayaks to explore rivers, valleys, inlets and coves. For a cultural adventure, a visit to the riverside village of Nakavika is also included. Bula, baby!
Bali by Bike: Bali is one of the most profoundly moving places I’ve ever visited, and for two decades I’ve been wanting to return. Backroads offers a two-wheel window on that enchanting world with their Bali Biking trip. Pedaling past the island’s emerald-green rice terraces, participants on the nine-day tour visit a mask-carver in Mas, Lake Bratan and its striking Ulun Danu temple, and the textile treasures of Tenganan; travelers also hike to remote villages, snorkel in the Blue Lagoon, and learn how to cook classic mie goring in a private class. Bali in winter? Beautiful!
Bounties of Bhutan: Bhutan has been at the top of my Must Visit list for years now, ever since travelers first began returning with wide-eyed tales of pristine landscapes, vibrant festivals, a robust culture and warmly welcoming people. Geographic Expeditions’ 17-day Essence of Bhutan trip sounds like just the ticket to me. The itinerary includes a stay in the old capital of Punakha, the heart and soul of Bhutanese culture, plus day-hikes to remote villages and hidden valleys, and close appreciations of thangka painting, textile weaving, and wood carving. The early March trip also takes in the incomparable Paro festival. Sign me up!
Indian Air Odyssey: Once India gets under your skin, you want to see more and more. Bushtrack Expeditions’ North India & Rajasthan Air Safari offers an exquisite way to see this expansive country in a compact amount of time. The journey begins at the evanescent Taj Mahal, then continues on to the epic Fatehpur Sikri complex, the magnificent desert-surrounded sandstone fort of Jaisalmer, historic Jaipur, the Jain temples of Ranakpur, Udaipur -- the romantic “city of lakes,” and the Pench Tiger Reserve. Along the way travelers visit with shepherds in their villages, partake in a cooking lesson led by local families, and experience the country’s multi-faceted religious traditions at Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples. Sounds like the perfect passage to India!
Botswana Magic: The Okavango Delta, Kalahari Desert, Victoria Falls – these are three magical names that have set my imagination soaring for decades. Micato Safaris’ 15-day Botswana’s Great Herds trip offers all three, along with a stay in the wildlife-rich Kwando Reserve. I like to imagine myself gliding through the Okavango in a mekoro dug-out canoe, surrounded by baobab trees and birdsong. Next it’s on to the wonders of the Great Migration in the Kalahari, thundering wildebeest and zebra and the lions and other preadators that prey on them. And then we end with thunder of another sort – the “smoke that thunders” at majestic Victoria Falls. Ah, Africa!
I hope this wish list has given you some winter inspiration. It’s definitely fueled my imagination. Time to pack those bags – you never know what Santa might bring!