Argentina’s Los Glacieres National Park is full of it – I mean ice!

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Looking to explore Argentinian Patagonia but don’t know where to start? Everyone has heard of Buenos Aires, but Argentina also has some of the most incredible natural beauty on Earth outside of this vibrant city. Located in the southwest province of Santa Cruz, Los Glaciares National Park is home to awe-inspiring glacial lakes, mountains, and subpolar forests sure to take your breath away.

Despite the name, Los Glaciares National Park does not only house ice and snow. In the park’s Northern area, hikers can drink in the spectacular views of the

Mount Fitz Roy, the highest peak in Los Glacieres National Park, provides striking views and a challenge for mountain climbers.

lakes, rugged mountains, and ancient stone structures.  So let’s get started on our discovery of the park’s most incredible features, how to get there, and just what to do once you’ve arrived.

Getting to Los Glaciares

Los Glaciares National Park is divided into two halves: the northern half, comprising Mount Fitz Roy, El Chaltén, and Viadmo Lake, and the southern half, which includes major glaciers like Perito Moreno and Upsala, and Lake Argentino.

The easiest way to get to the spectacular southern glacial area is from El Calafate – a small town just outside the park’s borders. From here, rent a car or schedule a tour into the park’s center.

The town of El Chaltén at the base of Mount Fitz Roy serves as the base for hikers heading to Los Glacieres National Park.

For those traveling from Buenos Aires, catch a flight from either Aeroparque or Ezeiza International Airport to El Calafate. The whole journey should take around 3.5 hours, with a 30-minute taxi or bus ride into the town center once you’ve arrived.

The glaciers advance during June and December and recede between December and April. For the best experience of this incredible natural wonder, time your visit during the advancement months, as large glaciers like Spagazzini, and Perito Moreno will be at their most impressive.

If you want to see the mountains and hiking trails, make your way to El Chaltén at the base of Mount Fitz Roy. The best way to get to this adventure town is by renting a car or let others deal with the details and take a tour or hire a guide.

So Much To Do

Around half of Los Glaciares is covered by ice – explaining how this heritage-listed park got its name! By far the most impressive glacier, however, is Perito Moreno. Over 19 miles in length, with a maximum height of around 200 feet above water, this ice wall is both awesome and intimidating and is one of the biggest draws for visitors from around the world heading to the park.

Life in the glacial park isn’t just about ice and snow – no matter your fitness levels, traveling experience, or personal preferences, there is something for everyone! Here are some of the best activities to get involved in during your visit to Los Glaciares for a truly unforgettable experience.

Hike and Become One With Nature

For those not interested in glaciers, Los Glaciares offers fabulous hiking opportunities across the rugged mountain ranges located in the park’s

Amazing natural sculptures of ice in the form of icebergs create nature’s art gallery on Lake Argentina.

northern half. Among the most iconic peaks of Cerro Torre and Mount Fitz Roy lies some of the best walking trails that wind through the Los Glaciares, with options for everyone from the keen mountaineer to the casual hiker.

Mini-trekking on the Perito Moreno glacier.

The best way to access the hiking trails is from El Chaltén. Founded in the 1980s, this Patagonian town was built for the sole purpose of providing a base to adventurers wanting to explore the northernmost mountains of Los Glaciares.

For the experienced hiker, Laguna De Los Tres (also known as the Fitz Roy trail) is one of the most popular trails for a multi-day adventure and snakes around for spectacular views of Mount Fitz Roy and the surrounding ranges. However, if you want something more low-key (without sacrificing the breathtaking scenery), try your hand at Mount Vespignani. This easy hike is perfect for beginners and is easily accessible during all weather.

A word of caution – the northern half of the park is at high altitude, and those unaccustomed to the thinner air may experience altitude sickness. Pack appropriate supplies like sufficient water, sunscreen, and chocolate before heading out – compounds in the delicious dessert help moderate nausea and dizziness, and are great for an energy boost mid-way through your hike!

Explore the Ice on a Mini-Trek Adventure

The most popular activity for visitors to Los Glaciares is the mini-trek. For 90 minutes, you’ll don crampons attached to your shoes to  wander across the surface of Perito Moreno immersing yourself in the extraordinary natural beauty of the national park.

Glaciers are not static ice formations – instead, they are constantly moving and changing, and crevices and cracks can develop quickly and without warning. Due to the dynamic nature of Perito Moreno, visitors must join an authorized guided tour to take part in a mini-trek – many of the dangers of the landscape are difficult to see, and it’s easy to fall or injure yourself without proper guidance.

Mini-trekking is available all year-round, except for between June 1st and July 20th when the weather becomes too volatile. Perfect for hikers of all ages and fitness levels, mini-trekking is the ideal activity for those who want to experience the glacier without committing to a full-day exploration.

The reward for completing a trek on the Perito Moreno is whiskey (or other non-alcoholic beverage) with glacier ice!

Travel in Style During a Boat Excursion

For those who want a more deluxe experience of the glaciers, consider adding a boat cruise to your itinerary. Leaving from outside El Calafate, these luxury cruises cut through the waters of Lake Argentino in the shadows of the park’s most spectacular glaciers.  You can enjoy a delicious gourmet lunch in the shade of Spegazzini (Los Glaciares’ tallest glacier) before traveling along the awe-inspiring lip of Perito Moreno and Upsala glaciers as the afternoon sun makes the ice glow.

Enjoy not only the waters but also land on a day long boat excursion on Lake Argentina where you see glaciers, icebergs, some wildlife and beautiful scenery.

There are boat cruises to suit every budget and taste, but the best way to experience the magnificent ice mountains is on an all-day adventure – while you won’t be hiking, this is one activity sure to leave you breathless!

Kayaking Along Perito Moreno

You don’t just have to walk on the glacier to appreciate their raw natural beauty. If you’re not afraid of the cold, kayaking along Perito Moreno is the perfect way to experience the park from a different perspective. Designed for all skill levels, kayaking is an excellent activity for families, young travelers, or those looking to step outside their comfort zone.

Before your tour, you’ll be fully kitted out in thermal suits, drysuits, boots and gloves, and given proper instruction on how to navigate the waters of Lake

Argentino safely. If the idea of being so close to the glaciers makes you nervous, don’t fret – knowledgeable guides are careful to keep groups at a safe distance from the walls of the ice in case of any unexpected splits or calving.

Guided tours run from El Calafate daily, and you’ll gain a unique view of Los Glaciares’ largest glacier, as well as some local history from an experienced guide. Warm up after your kayak with some spiced hot chocolate, and take home photos of an adventure that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

Kayaking allows you to get a personal water-based experience with the Perito Moreno glacier.

Let a Wizard Plan Your Adventure

If you’re keen to explore the beautiful Los Glaciares National Park, contact me today! Whether you’re an enthusiastic outdoor lover, or want to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of this unique region for the first time, I can help you plan the perfect adventure that will take your breath away – and not just from the cold!

Pat Ogle-CollinsArgentina’s Los Glacieres National Park is full of it – I mean ice!
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Two lakes, two lakeside towns – the dilemma!

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If you are planning a trip to New Zealand, there will be much debate on which exciting cities, charming towns and endless scenic viewpoints to visit.  With limited time, you really need a solid travel plan to make the most of this country with its picturesque mountains, lakes, beaches and forest to explore.

Many travelers feel torn between the South Island destinations of Wanaka and Queenstown. The good news is they are both wonderful places to visit and you will have a fabulous time at either one. The bad

Aerial view of Queenstown with Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables (mountains) .

news is, it’s hard to pick. So I’ve laid it all out, like a delicious picnic on the beach, to help you decide between beautiful Wanaka and lovely Queenstown. Or you always have the option of seeing both places if time allows.

Queenstown

Landing in Queenstown, you will look out the plane window and be amazed at the aerial view of majestic mountains and pristine lakes. Then you go from the runway to your cozy accommodation in lightning speed time since the airport is close to downtown Queenstown.

To get your adrenaline going, try a jet boat ride on the Shotover River thru beautiful scenery.

Hiking is a popular activity for Queenstown visitors, with the Queenstown Hike being a rewarding challenge. If you prefer more of a pretty meander, the Queenstown Gardens path is wrapped around Lake Wakatipu and makes a lovely place to take in the fresh air, nature and wildlife without breaking a sweat.

For thrill-seekers, Queenstown is an exciting playground with attractions like bungee jumping, luge rides, jet boats and sky diving readily available. Adrenaline junkies rejoice at the thought of Queenstown’s adventure sports options and even if you are not brave enough to join the daredevils, watching them play can give you sweaty hands. A gondola ride up the Southern Hemisphere’s steepest cable car ride can also get the heart racing.

Excellent dining, shopping, and entertainment such as Kiwi bands playing at cool venues mean you will be kept busy for however long you stay in Queenstown.

Wanaka

By air, you will land at Queenstown Airport then drive for about an hour to reach Wanaka. The scene is more laid back and quieter than Queenstown, but just as gorgeous, with Lake Wanaka being a vision against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. One of those mountains, Iron Mountain, is wonderful for trekking and reaching the top is exhilarating. Catch your breath, then start taking photos because this will be one of the most photogenic sights of your day. Roy’s Peak is another Wanaka gem if your fitness

View of the South Island’s town of Wanaka on the lake of the same name.

level is reasonable. Diamond Lake/Rocky Mountain is a bit easier and also has the wow factor when you reach the top.

Wanaka, like Queenstown, has plenty of extreme sports and thrilling activities to experience. Hold on tight when the jet boat roars through the chilly Lake Clutha water, then go horseback riding across scenic lands. Not scary enough? You can pretend you are James Bond and bravely cross a jiggly suspension bridge then repel down a powerful waterfall. Another fun-packed experience is taking The Cardrona Bike Park chairlift to the highest point, then mountain biking down.

The Wanaka area is also known for wine with vineyards extending to the shores of the lake.

Wanaka is also home to many wineries and vineyards where you can sample award-winning wines and meet the winemakers who are so passionate about winemaking. Specialty tours for novice tasters and connoisseurs are designed to entertain and educate both the mind and the taste buds.

Hiking, biking, mountain biking and blissful walks surrounded by nature are as easily enjoyed in Wanaka and Queenstown. The accommodation, dining, shopping and facilities are also great in both places and in terms of cost, there isn’t much difference.

So it really comes down to what activities you would enjoy most, how much time you have, and if you prefer a buzzing tourist scene like Queenstown offers or a slightly more low-key experience like Wanaka serves up. The nightlife in Queenstown is hopping, while in Wanaka, you can let the barman give you the last drink before closing and still get an early night.

If skiing is your buzz, then Queenstown is a popular base with world-class ski facilities 30-60 minutes away at Coronet Peak, The Remarkables or Cardrona. You can hit the slopes from Wanaka too, or enjoy leisurely wine tastings.

Again, you could squeeze in time at both places. Using Queenstown as a base and making a day or overnight trip to Wanaka can be a good plan. All good road trips to Wanaka include a stop in the historic mining town of Arrowtown just out of Queenstown. The Arrowtown Bakery has fresh pastries that are legendary.

So Wanaka versus Queenstown – still find it hard to choose? Give me a call and I’m sure you’ll be able to decide after our conversation and it will be only one stop on a trip thru scenic and friendly New Zealand – a trip you will talk about for years to come.

Pat Ogle-CollinsTwo lakes, two lakeside towns – the dilemma!
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This South African scenic route could change your definition of a garden!

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Going on a safari is probably one of the popular ways to explore South Africa but it isn’t the only one. If you are interested in taking the “road less traveled” when in South Africa, consider including the Garden Route in your itinerary. The outdoor paradise has perfect weather year-round with monthly highs of 25 degrees in the hottest months and 18 degrees during the coldest ones. To be clear, this popular area isn’t a garden but rather a 200-kilometer coastline filled with versatile natural features.

A diversity of environments along the Garden Route including coastal areas and rainforests, wildlife, and landscapes means there’s something for everyone.

Driving the route takes three to fourteen days depending on the number of stops in your itinerary. The route is filled with detours so it is the best way to experience one of the most beautiful regions in the country at your own pace. Luckily, South Africa has one of the most developed road networks in the continent with the N2 highway on which the Garden Route runs being the perfect road for a self-drive trip through forests, by lagoons, along the coast and into towns – a trip that is not only known for its scenery but also its wildlife and culture.  You can start your self-drive road trip from Cape Town, stopping by various towns, parks, and attractions before winding up the journey in Port Elizabeth. The Garden Route which stretches from Mossel Bay

Mossel Bay is considered on of the endpoints of South Africa’s Garden Route.

to Storms River showcases the culture, hospitality, and beauty of South Africa and is a “must-see” for adventure lovers.

Start your journey at Mossel Bay

Mossel Bay, the gateway to the Garden Route,  lies less than 250 miles from the coastal city of Cape Town. Drivers can stop by the many cafes along the road for a snack as they make their way to St Blaize trail to stretch their legs.

Your trip to Mossel Bay is incomplete without visiting the famed Post Office Tree, shaped like a boot. Although it’s said to have been in existence since the 1500s, you can still use it to send letters to various destinations or even back home.  Mossel Bay gives you a scenic start to your trip with an idyllic coastline covering most of the route.

Experience natural beauty at Knysa

Lush forests and the glistening sea water surrounds Knysa, a popular town on the Garden Route. One of its main attractions is the Knysa Heads, two sea cliffs that guard the entrance to the lagoon. Exploring Knysa can be done while hiking or on a cruise with both options promising panoramic views of the area. If you decide to hike, you get to explore the scenic trails that lead to waterfalls and rivers. Hundreds of yellowwood trees that are 400 to 800 years old are easy to spot in the lush forest vegetation.

Knysna Bay, South Africa

Other trees in the surrounding forest are pink-flowered Cape chestnut and stinkwoods in which different bird species build their homes. If you decide to go for the cruise expect a bumpy ride to Knysa Heads.  Multi-hued and jagged rocks line the sea edges allowing you to get close to stunning scenery while watching sea animals swim nearby. The eastern cliff has a narrow gap that offers a beautiful viewpoint of the islets at the lagoon as the sun sets.

Enjoy the Tsitsikamma National Park by taking an excursion thru the Storm River Gorge.

Besides natural beauty, Knysa is also home to rehabilitated elephants at the first sanctuary of its kind in South Africa. The orphaned herd of elephants provide a unique experience for wildlife lovers exploring the Garden Route. Visitors are given a presentation on safety around the elephants before walking with the elephants and feeding them. Interaction with the elephants varies depends on how well they cooperate, but most times the experience is great for those that follow instructions.

Explore the beach at Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay is a hiker’s paradise that offers stunning ocean views to those that get to the top of the slope. Its breathtaking beaches are surrounded by sheer cliffs that are perfect for watching the sunset. Nearby is the Robberg Nature Reserve which stretches 2.5 miles showcasing prehistoric caves and rocks. The bay is a breeding area for several waterbird species, and seals that can be seen basking on the beach or bobbing up and down in the water. Surfers can also spot dolphins and whales in the water during the migration season, providing an amazing show.

Test your limits at Bloukrans Bridge

Imagine bungee jumping off the highest bridge in Africa as part of your trip. The 718 foot high bridge is architecturally stunning, with an arch going over the steep gorge below. Getting to the bungee bridge is on a zip line, a taste of what to expect when you finally jump off the bridge. Once secured, you are ready to take the world’s highest bungee jump that comes with an “out of this world” adrenaline rush. The adventure doesn’t end there, with visitors opting for a winch ride or using the skywalk to get back to land. If

Bloukrans Bridge provides a great jumping-off point for those interested in bungee jumping.

you are brave enough, you can enjoy spectacular views of Bloukrans River on the underside of the deck.

Stand at the mouth of Storms River 

Although Storms River is the last stop of the Garden Route, its dramatic coastline makes it worth the stop. Located in the Tsitsikamma National Park, watching the point at which the Storms River and the Indian Ocean meet with the ocean pounding the headlands is a therapeutic experience. If you are interested in an up-close look at the coastline, consider hiking up the gorge following well-marked trails in the indigenous forest. The trails which lead to secluded waterfalls and the famous Suspension Bridge hanging over canyons are worth checking out for thrill-seekers. Expect to see an abundance of flora, fauna, vervet monkeys, and diverse exotic birds. The tree-shrouded strip is also a great place to relax while visiting several shops, restaurants, and refueling at a local microbrewery.

A suspension bridge crosses the
Storm River in South Africa’s Tsitsikamma
National Park on the Garden Route.

Not a fan of a self-drive trip? Relax because driving in South Africa is fairly easy. All you need to do is rent a vehicle, and soon you’ll be discovering the Garden Route stopping and exploring on your schedule. If you choose to extend your safari to include this stunning coastline, you are assured of a memorable experience. Call me today, and let’s start planning your trip to South Africa’s Garden Route.

Pat Ogle-CollinsThis South African scenic route could change your definition of a garden!
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Don’t tiptoe thru the tulips – cycle!

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Imagine cycling through the countryside among fields of colorful tulips stretching for miles with the sight of a pretty windmill in the distance. Just over a rustic bridge, you stop for a rest, inhale the scent of the fragrant flowers and take photos of the scenery surrounding the path you are traveling.

Biking through the Netherlands provides a form of slow travel that allows you to experience truly local sights and get a fitness fix at the same time. This beautiful European country has charming towns, quaint villages, and lovely countryside that will keep you entranced. Biking tourism is popular for many reasons, including how easily you can hit the bike brakes to stop and admire the sights and then continue your adventure when you are ready.

For the Dutch, cycling has become a way of life – almost everyone owns a bike, including children and the elderly. The biking culture is so popular in the Netherlands that most people ride every day and some paths serve double duty as bike paths and power generators because these solar cell-covered paths collect energy!

Narrow streets and canals means you get to your destination faster than by car in Amsterdam.

The flat landscape of the Netherlands makes it easy for leisure riding, so you don’t need to be ultra-fit or a serious cyclist to enjoy this mode of travel when you visit. Those with young children or in their retirement years, might dismiss biking as being too energetic and demanding, but once you see how the locals embrace biking, you might be tempted to give it a try. The locals will always be cheering you on in their warm and friendly way, as they love seeing visitors embrace their biking culture.

Tulip time provides not only beautiful scenery for a bike tour, but a delightful scented tour as well.

Since travelers are all different, you will find different kinds of bikes for your journey, including recreational bikes, e-bikes and road bikes. Depending on your experience and fitness level, you can match the right bike and tour, so you have a wonderful time cycling the great outdoors. You can even choose your bike seat to help you have a comfortable ride.

There are many kinds of bike tours available with something for everyone from hour-long tours to full or multi-day tours.  You can find group tours, luxury

tours, and family-friend tours, making your bike trip a great social experience. For those that enjoy time in the company of friends and/or family or even alone, you can head out on a self-guided tour through a tour company, leveraging the services just like you would get on a tour.  This more independent style of bike travel works out to be affordable yet still comes with services including routes, information and a help hotline.

There is nothing like being able to enjoy your pedal-powered travel without the hassles and logistics. All the details are arranged when booking a group or self-guided bike tour. When moving on to a new hotel, your baggage will be transported for you while you use peddle power to reach your destination. If your bike needs a repair or the weather turns bad, you will be rescued, making it a stress-free adventure that will be exhilarating. Getting to your destination promises to be both rewarding and exciting.  After biking thru the scenic countryside all

Due to its biking culture, you frequently see crowded bike parking lots.

day, indulge in some guilt-free local cuisine with drinks and dessert. The beer that waits for you at the end of a fun day of cycling will taste incredible.

Life in the Netherland’s bike lane is great for first-time bike tour travelers. It is a very safe place to cycle, so safe that wearing a helmet isn’t required. Even with group tours, you can ride at your own pace and enjoy the sights and scenery; taking your time to experience the environment is what it’s all about. Once you experience the fun of cycling in Holland, you might consider bike tours in other countries too. Barge cruises and biking trips are also popular for travelers who like to mix it up. This different kind of travel is easy to get used to and might be your new-found pastime.

See the Netherlands by land and water on a bike and barge tour.

The Dutch constructed over 35,000 km of bike paths where you can see lush forests, pristine rivers, ocean, plains, towns and more. You might stop to explore a local bakery and farmer’s market with the freshest cheese for your picnic later. You are free to ride and park as your wish, making every day full of unexpected surprises.

Bike sightseeing provides a great way to immerse yourself in the communities you visit. Conversations with locals flow when they see you are riding through

their country and often, questions about where have you been and where are you going spark meaningful exchanges. These rich travel experiences probably wouldn’t happen if they were on a tour or driving by car.

As well as health and fitness benefits, cycling means you contribute to improving the environment. You will notice how fresh the air is, especially in the countryside. As you can tell, there are numerous benefits to biking in the Netherlands. If you’ve been considering a bike tour, I am sure you will find it immensely enjoyable. If this idea is new to you, I’m excited to help you discover this new form of travel.  Just give me a call!

Even cheese goes by bicycle in the Netherlands!

Pat Ogle-CollinsDon’t tiptoe thru the tulips – cycle!
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Mother Nature makes Australia’s route B100 GREAT!

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In the Australian state of Victoria, get behind the wheel for the scenic drive of a lifetime. The Great Ocean Road tops the list of must-do road trips for visitors to Australia because it’s one of the MOST iconic areas in the whole country.

With your favorite soundtrack blasting, you are free. Locals with surfboards on their roofs and tourists in camper vans will be your new friends on the road. Stop at Split Point lighthouse, enjoy the fresh salty sea air, indulge in fresh seafood meals at local restaurants, and enjoy the views.

Expect not only scenic ocean views along the Great Ocean Road but also sights of lush rainforests.

Rent a vehicle in Melbourne or Torquay and head along the southwest coast of Victoria to Allansford. Downunder they drive on the left side of the road, so you’ll be on the ocean side for the most amazing views if you take that route. It’s also easier to pull over for those Instagram-worthy photos of the limestone or sandstone cliffs and endless ocean views.

Loch Ard Gorge is seen in scenes in The Pirate Movie (1982) and Journey to the Center of the Earth, a 1999 television series.

While it can be daunting to be driving on the other side of the road, there is no better place to gain confidence than the Great Ocean Road. You can take your time and there usually isn’t a lot of traffic. It’s also easy to pull over and let cars pass. Well-paved and spacious with many long stretches make driving past the pristine beaches and through green rainforests easy. Best of all, most people driving The Great Ocean Road, built to commemorate the sailors and soldiers who served from 1914 to 1919 in the Great War, are out for the scenic views as well so they drive at a leisurely pace as well.

By the time you arrive at the famous Twelve Apostles near Port Campbell, you will feel happy and confident driving the 244 kilometers trip.

This stunning collection of limestone stacks is an awe-inspiring sight. It is estimated the rocks that rise out of the ocean are over 20 million years old. Sunrise and sunset create spectacular lighting to see the famous rocks (there are only eight still existing from the original dozen) from the boardwalk located in Port Campbell National Park. Explore the Gibson Steps leading to the beach for a new perspective of the rocky scene. Just past the Twelve Apostles discover the Loch Ard Gorge, a location included in several movies, and The Grotto, a photogenic sinkhole. Take a photo under the naturally formed London Arch before hitting the road again.

Plan to be on the road for at least three days if driving. But if your time is unlimited, you surely will want to stop for scenic nature walks, shopping in quaint towns and maybe a dip in the ocean. You might go zip lining, take a surf lesson, hike to a waterfall, go bird watching or fly a drone from one of the many gorgeous lookout points. Of course, seeing some cute koalas in their natural habitat would top off the trip. At Kennett River on the Grey River Road, a number of these cuddly creatures reside, or you might spot them anywhere along the Great Ocean Road, which has an abundance of wildlife and nature.

Other sights that produce oohs and ahhs along the Great Ocean Road include koala bears seen along the Kennett River Koala Walk.

Driving and sightseeing can be tiring so luckily there are many lovely accommodation options to choose from. Spend an evening relaxing in style and comfort with dinner and drinks, scroll through your picturesque photos taken that day, and get ready for another epic day of discovery.

Early rises are more valuable than sleep-ins because the soft morning light is so pretty, especially for photos and videography. This tranquil time of day is also quiet, with less traffic than later in the day. So if you fancy cruising in solitude, this is going to be your favorite time of day to be driving.

Erosion, Mother Nature’s sculpting, creates numerous photo-worthy sights long the Great Ocean Road, including the London Arch.

If you are driving back to Melbourne, try to stop at the Grampians National Park for some of the lushest rainforests you’ve ever seen. You can hire bikes and get some exercise and tourists often report having kangaroos hopping around nearby. You’ve heard of diving with sharks, but did you know cycling with kangaroos was a thing? Expect the unexpected and a whole lot of beauty in nature when you travel The Great Ocean Road, also known as the B100. Spend as much time as you can because there is so much to see and do during this once-in-a-lifetime journey.

Contact me today if this sounds like the trip for which your soul yearns. I’m ready to help you plan your trip to Australia, including a fabulous trip along the Great Ocean Road!

Pat Ogle-CollinsMother Nature makes Australia’s route B100 GREAT!
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This natural zoo boasts no bars, but some amazing walls!

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Picture hundreds of animals going in and out of a gigantic crater, similar to the proverbial Noah’s ark. Lush vegetation, which hosts thousands of animal and bird species, is found in and around the crater. Ngorongoro Crater offers this and more to visitors considering making their first trip to Africa. It is also a natural wonder that earned it a spot on the famous World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1979.

The game species, diverse terrains, and significance in human prehistory make it a “must visit” attraction

25,000 large mammals reside in the Ngorongoro Crater including elephants,  lions, black rhino, wildebeest, and cheetah and more.

for thousands of visitors ready for an exhilarating expedition. If the thought of spending time at one of the few intact calderas in the world excites you, then Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania is your next destination.

The Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled caldera in the world is 2,000 ft deep and covers 100 sq miles.

Ngorongoro crater is a beautiful sight to behold and is often the first stop when you visit the highland area. The 2000ft deep crater, which would have been one of the highest peaks in Africa, formed after a volcano erupted. The geological landform is over two million years old, covers over 100 square miles, and is surrounded by a conservation area of 3,200 square miles.

As you descend into  one of the largest intact calderas in the world, you will witness a changing

landscape every few turns. Visitors get to experience ashy marshlands, patchy forests, grassy plains, and savannah filled with different vegetation. For thousands of years, the nature of geography at Ngorongoro has evolved, resulting in a distinct ecosystem. The caldera terrain includes Lake Magadi, a shallow but large lake; Lerai Forest, a thick forest filled with fever trees; Gorigor Swamp, a wetland popular with hippos and open grasslands teeming with thousands of game species.

No trip to Africa is complete without taking a safari, but the one in Ngorongoro is one of a kind. Game drives give you an up-close look of the enormous crater plus the flora and fauna of the area. Safety is guaranteed for visitors as they move around the crater in a safari vehicle while enjoying the serene environment and diverse animal species.

A stopover at Lake Magadi, which is at the center of the crater, is a perfect way to see some of the

Rains change the colors of the Ngorongoro Crater and bring the wildebeest thru parts of the conservation area surrounding the crater.

popular animal species. The vast population of animals that call the lake home includes crocodiles, hippopotamus, and pink flamingoes that add color to the lake. Other bird species can also be spotted at the lake making it a perfect spot for bird lovers.

Lerai Forest, a wooded area filled with yellow or green fever trees, brings you into another world. The straight trees are breathtaking when in bloom, with bright yellow flowers covering the entire forest canopy. Hundreds of baboons and elephants can also be spotted in Lerai making it a paradise worth exploring.

The Lerai Forest in the Ngorongoro Crater provides a shade to elephants and a hiding place for leopards.

Besides the famous “Big Five” you will see thousands of wild animals in Ngorongoro. The area is home to over 25,000 wild species giving you a chance to interact with wildlife you may have only seen online. Wildlife spotting is popular with tourists as they get a chance to see large mammals such as wildebeests, hippos, zebras, hyenas, wild dogs, gazelles, buffalos, and black rhinos. The large population of mammals also attracts predators such as lions, hyenas, cheetahs, and leopards. It is common to come across them feasting on a mammal as part of your safari.

Wildebeest migrations in Ngorongoro are an exciting time and a highlight for visitors from all over the world. If you travel during the right time of year, you can watch them move in their thousands. From afar, the wildebeests resemble a snaking line as they plod along a course that is invisible to the human eye. One unique fact about the famous crater is that you will not come across giraffes, impalas, or topis that find the cliffs too steep to maneuver. Also, insufficient grazing areas in the crater make it unable to feed antelopes that move in large herds.

Bird lovers also have a reason to take a trip to the crater, which is home to over five hundred bird species. The birds which live in bogs, savannahs, and forests are easy to spot using binoculars in their natural habitat. Some species to look out for include secretary birds, ostriches, eagles, weaver birds, kestrels, and sunbirds, among others.

Did you know you originated from Africa? All humans emerged from the continent, specifically Olduvai Gorge located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area,

Lake Magadi located in Ngorongoro Crater draws wildlife to its shores.

about two hours away from the Ngorongoro crater. The area hosts two archaeological sites within Olduvai Gorge that are important to the evolution theory. Visitors get to explore the area in which the discovery of the first Proconsul skull by famous paleontologists, Louis and Mary Leakey was unearthed. The skull is said to be an ancestor of the Homo Habilis and was unearthed in 1959. Evidence of the lifestyle of the human ancestor, which included scavenging and the use of stone tools, is available at the site.

Monument commemorating the discovery of two species of early man at Olduvai Gorge

Ngorongoro’s Olduvai Gorge is also home to another discovery, the Laetoli footprints, which are over 3.7 million years old. The human tracks discovered in the 1970s, preserved in volcanic ash, are evidence of humans walking on two feet. According to anthropologists, these two discoveries by the Leakey’s remain one of the most important breakthroughs studying the origins of humans. If evolution interests you, then Olduvai Gorge is a “must-see” on your itinerary.

Besides visiting the two archaeological sites, you can also tour the museum and listen to presentations by resident guides. The museum has several sections that provide information about the site and its history, plus details of the fossils. Replicas of the Laetoli Footprints and information of mammals that inhabited the gorge for millions of years are on display. For the latest research taking place at the gorge, you can chat with an archaeological expert stationed at the museum.

Your first trip to Africa can be unique, memorable, and hassle-free. I am your best bet when visiting Ngorongoro Crater and its environs. Call me and let’s plan your trip today!

Pat Ogle-CollinsThis natural zoo boasts no bars, but some amazing walls!
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Dancing lights make these cold destinations a warm delight!

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Although more common than an alien sighting and less dangerous than tornado chasing, the Northern Lights can be elusive. This is part of the thrill of traveling to a destination where they can be seen. If you are thinking of taking a vacation that includes searching the skies for the Northern Lights, there are a lot of factors to consider so you have the best time possible.

You want to pack your suitcases for somewhere the Northern Lights are frequently seen and where

The Northern Lights meet urban lights for a unique light show.

you will be entertained if don’t see them. While the lights are spectacular, we can never guarantee they will appear, so plans should include other activities that make the trip worthwhile if Mother Nature doesn’t bless you this time.

 

So here are some places that offer a good chance of seeing the lights, but are also wonderful to explore in any case.

The city of Churchill, in Manitoba, Canada, is known not only for the Northern Lights but for the polar bears that migrate thru the area.

Canada and the United States

Bursts of color can be seen at night in Yukon Territory in Canada from August to mid-April. Churchill in Manitoba province is another excellent place to see the lights and polar bears in the natural habitat. For nature lovers, there is also the possibility of seeing animals like Beluga whales, birds, seals and the surroundings are beautiful.

In the United States of America, Cherry Springs State Park is the ideal place to immerse yourself

in nature with the chance of seeing the gorgeous Northern Lights. The Milky Way Galaxy and many stars can also be seen from the area classified at an International Dark Sky Park. You might pack outfits for hiking, ATV riding, swimming, boating, fishing and camping.

 

In Alaska, for your best bet of seeing the lights head to Fairbanks or destinations above the Arctic circle. You might experience the Aurora Borealis during any season, but the best time is November to February, when there are fewer daylight hours and darker nights. Arctic excursions can include fishing, hiking, paddling, nature watching and more.

Nordic Regions

The Nordic region covers Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland. All of these places are amazing to visit.

 

Norway is one of our top picks because from mid-November to the end of February, the country experiences polar night, meaning it is dark 24 hours of the day. So technically, you might see the lights during the daytime. This increases your chances of seeing the lights, especially in Svalbard, a group of islands between Norway and Santa’s place (aka the 

Enjoy not only the Northern Lights, but the centuries old houses and Artic Cathedral of Tromsø, Norway.

North Pole.) You can keep busy with adventurous experiences like snowcat safaris, snowmobile tours, or stay cozy in luxury accommodation complete with spa treatments and fine dining. 

In Finland, the lights are seen an impressive 200 nights per year on average. You can hunker down in a luxury igloo after taking a sleigh ride powered by reindeer or huskies. Horseback riding, hiking, photography, boat trips and Finnish saunas are wonderful outdoors and cultural activities you can enjoy in Finland.

 

Iceland is a glorious place for a vacation with a wild and rugged landscape, rich culture and plenty of history to enjoy. From volcanos to waterfalls to lakes to mountains, you will have the adventure of a lifetime and a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. 

Enjoy dog sledding, ice fishing, snowmobiling, sleigh rides and more when visiting the Lapland area of Finland for the Northern Lights.

Wherever you go, the lights might dance across the sky in an amazing array of colors. We have our fingers crossed you will see them. Sometimes one of nature’s best shows is only minutes long, other times it goes on for hours.

 

Weather patterns, including the Northern Lights, are unpredictable. We recommend you go for the destination, not the Northern Lights. Of course, we can maximize your chances of seeing them by booking your trip at the right time of year, but we also want to ensure your visit is still memorable if you aren’t lucky enough to see the lights.

Many hotels and resorts are geared towards guests looking for the Northern Lights. You might

find a room with a skylight or be offered a wake-up call at any hour the lights appear. You can also book many tours on arrival at Northern Light destinations that include exciting nighttime activities as you wait for the sight you’ve been hoping for. 

 

Planning epic schedules for our clients is a passion that has been burning since we launched our travel business so many years ago. Contact us soon to discuss your options. We are ready to light up your life!

Pat Ogle-CollinsDancing lights make these cold destinations a warm delight!
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Cairns deserves more than a transit stop to get to the Great Barrier Reef!

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If exploring the Great Barrier Reef is on your bucket list, your next trip should include time actually in Cairns. The Australian destination is a tropical paradise with ample adventure opportunities in a laid-back atmosphere. With temperatures of up to 32°C during summer,  Cairns has a lot you can discover if you are willing to explore the surrounding area.

Of course, visiting Cairns without visiting the Great Barrier Reef is also a no-no. As one of the natural wonders of the world exploring the reef allows you to get a glimpse of its unique features.

Cairns Waterfront

You get to learn about the 900 islands and almost 3,000 individual reefs that make it the largest system in the world. If you are adventurous, consider being part of a snorkeling excursion or scuba diving in its cool waters from one of the many island resorts or take a day long excurions from Cairns. Taking a tour that takes you into the 344,400 square kilometer coral reef system should be on your itinerary but you shouldn’t stop there.

Kuranda Skyway overs ocean views from above the rainforest as you travel 7.5 km journey from Smithfield to Kuranda.

 Discover scenic  Kuranda

It takes two hours to get to the picturesque Kuranda Village by train. But this train journey is unique because of the many attractions you get to see while on the 120-year old train. The village is surrounded by a World Heritage rain forest in full view while the train passes. Other fascinating sights on the Kuranda Railway include a wildlife park and an aviary with lots of beautiful birds. You can decide to spend the entire day on the scenic railway, for a deeper experience and connection with nature.

View the rainforest from the sky 

Booking a seat on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is an exciting way to see the popular World Heritage attraction. The glass bottom gondola provides an aerial view of the entire rainforest and the

nearby Barron Gorge National Park during the 7.5 km in the air. You can relax while traveling in style with the forest underneath your feet. At the end of the aerial trip, pass by the Rainforest Interpretation center to learn fascinating facts about what you saw or join a cultural tour of the Aborigine people. If you are interested in a more fulfilling trip, consider combining the Kuranda railway and the cableway activities in one day.

Walk through a rainforest

An abundance of vegetation, stunning scenery, and scenic sites is what you can expect in the Daintree rainforest. It is one of the oldest rainforests in Australia with one of the largest populations of butterfly and bat species. If you are a nature lover, hiking through the forest will lead you to incredible sites, waterfalls, amazing walking trails, and coastal views. Delight in different aspects of the ecosystem that has evolved in isolation for many decades resulting in an unspoiled Australian rainforest. Luckily, several tours are available for visitors interested in exploring Daintree, giving you a chance to be part of a guided excursion.

Explore the Crystal Cascades

Just outside Cairns is the breathtaking Crystal Cascades, a waterfall perfect for cooling down in the summer. It takes about

Walk thru the canopy of the Daintrain Rainforest.

twenty minutes to reach the area and another half-hour walk to reach the hotspot nestled within the expansive rainforest. The waterfall drops into a deep hole filled with clear freshwater, perfect for swimming. Snorkeling is another popular activity at Crystal Cascades with the clear water allowing you to swim safely and see different types of fish underwater.  If you prefer to stay out of the water, you can lay out a picnic nearby and enjoy the scenic view offered by the surrounding forest. Remember to carry insect repellant to be safe from the many flying insects that call the forest home.

Explore Aboriginal culture at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Park.

Experience Aboriginal Culture

The Australian aboriginal people are an interesting community and one of the oldest cultures globally. Its 40,000-year-old culture is worth exploring when visiting Australia at the famous Tjapukai Aboriginal Park. At the park, which is only 15 minutes from Cairns, you get to be part of the Aboriginal culture through storytelling, dance, live performances, and music. Visitors to the cultural park participate in several interactive experiences like throwing a boomerang, playing, riding a canoe, playing the

didgeridoo, or taking part in a corroboree at the fireside. For a wholesome experience, you can sample traditionally prepared bush foods at the park.

Go up the Atherton Tablelands

If you are looking for a quiet and peaceful spot, head to Atherton tablelands, half an hour from Cairns. The highland region attracts fewer tourists and I filled with several small towns with several activities you can be part of. It’s also cooler than Cairns during the summer making it the perfect getaway spot. At Atherton Tablelands, you can choose to ride the Express steam train, visit the Chinese temple Hou Wang Miau, Tyrconnell Gold mine and Gallo Dairyland Farm. You can also sample coffee and tea at the Coffee Works roastery and Lake Barrine Tea respectively.

See lava tubes at Undara National Park

Lava tubes crisscrossing an extinct volcano is the major attraction at the Undara National park. The volcanic park is safe and gives you a chance to get up close to some of the longest lava tubes in the world. Although the journey from Cairns to the volcanic park is about a day, it’s worth it for many people that make the trip. Besides, visiting the national park, you can also be part of a sunset tour to watch wildlife or book a pioneer hut, or “glamp” in a tent village for an overnight stay.

Explore lava tubes at Undara National Park.

Although Cairns and its environs have a lot to offer, the city also has great spots to explore as you wind up your trip. Check out Cairns Esplanade which hosts several shopfronts with various facilities and grassy areas for sports activities. The botanical gardens are a great place to take a break from the city and is perfect for taking strolls while enjoying various types of trees and local plant. Remember to stop by the Aquarium to interact with aquatic wildlife common in the Great Barrier Reef and other World Heritage Sites in the area.

Ready to explore beyond the Great Barrier Reef?  I have years of experience planning memorable trips to Australia and its environs. Talk to me today!

Oh, and the picture of the rocks?  They’re known as Gatz Rock Piles found south of Wangetti on the beautiful Captain Cook Highway between Cairns and Port Douglas.  No one knows how this got started but these mounds of rocks or cairns, are proving to be a hit on social media.  Now aren’t you glad you read to the end?  🙂

Pat Ogle-CollinsCairns deserves more than a transit stop to get to the Great Barrier Reef!
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See Victoria Falls but make sure you do Victoria Falls too!

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You first hear the roar and then see the majestic waters falling from 108 m high to the Zambezi River below. Victoria Falls, located at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is one of the most incredible natural sights you’ll ever see. Its position as the largest waterfall is here to stay, and when you travel to the UNESCO World Heritage site, you’ll see why.

Aerial view of Victoria Falls and the mist that can be seen for miles.

Besides being a natural wonder with mists that can be seen from many miles away, the cascading waterfall has plenty of activities for travelers to do. The best way to enjoy your visit to Victoria Falls is to embrace the various experiences available at the site.

Even at the falls, start with a safari

A trip to Africa without going on safari would feel incomplete. Luckily, the banks of the Zambezi River are home to several animal and bird species worth checking out. A cruise on the river will have you spotting crocodiles, elephants sunbathing, antelopes, giraffes, and rhinos lapping the cool waters. The cruises explore the river channels, savannah-lined shores, and islands for about two hours. Whether you prefer a morning or late evening cruise, your experience will be spectacular.

Enjoy viewing crocodiles, hippos and more on a cruise on the Zambezi above Victoria Falls.

If your love for wildlife is insatiable, plan a day trip to surrounding wildlife parks or reserves. Close by is the Zambezi National Park which is home to various antelopes, buffaloes, zebras, elephants, and giraffes. Further ahead is the largest park in Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park, home to the biggest population of elephants. The elephant-rich park has half the population of elephants in Zimbabwe, which is about forty-four thousand.

Add some extra drama

Adventure activities at Victoria Falls are many and are suited to different tastes. The Victoria Falls bridge slide is the best way to see the majestic waters while gliding across the Zambezi River. The 300-meter zipline begins at Batoka Gorge and goes over the rapids to the Zimbabwean side. If you don’t feel brave enough to go on the zip line alone, you can be accompanied by one of the guides allowing you to enjoy breathtaking views.

Bungee jumping at Victoria Falls is for daring souls and the perfect activity for adrenaline junkies. The jump takes place from the Victoria Fall Bridge and leads to a plunge of over one hundred meters below towards the Zambezi River. For many, the incredible views when getting ready for the jump and on the way down makes it a “must do” activity. If it’s your first time, you can request a tandem jump as you build up confidence for a solo jump.

Enjoy the thrill of bungee jumping from the Zambezi Bridge near Victoria Falls.

Boasting some of the best white water rafting sections, the Zambezi River is perfect for a rafting adventure. Gliding on the water gives travelers a chance to see a different viewpoint of the river and surrounding gorges. The adrenaline rush on the challenging stretches and relaxation on the calm stretches is a combination worth experiencing. Even so, the best time for white water rafting is between August and December when the river is at its lowest.

View not only Victoria Falls but the Batoka Gorge on a scenic helicopter tour.

An aerial view of Victoria Falls allows you to see all you know about the majestic waterfall in one swoop. Taking a helicopter ride with a designated guide gives you a chance to appreciate the massive size of the UNESCO site and scenic views. The guide will point out key sites such as the Batoka Gorge and Zambezi National Park during the shorter 12 minutes or more

extended 25-minute trip. Some guides also give a history of each site as a way of enriching the airborne journey.

Time for a history lesson

The Victoria Falls scenery would be incomplete without the iconic Victoria Fall Bridge. Known initially as Zambezi Bridge, it is one of the oldest connections between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Visitors get to learn its history since its construction in 1905 to date through an informative presentation. The bridge tour includes a walk underneath the giant steel structure or getting harnessed up to view the falls fully. If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a double rainbow formed by the water spray.

Livingstone is a historical town that opens up to Victoria Falls and other attractions from the Zambian side. Retaining much of its colonial architecture, the town provides a glimpse of what life looked like during the time of David Livingstone, its founder. Strolling down the town’s streets is a great way to interact with locals while exploring famous sites like the Livingstone Museum to learn more about their past. Other

Architecture from bygone times help give Livingstone, Zambia a special atmosphere.

activities to engage in while in the town are visiting pavement cafes and colorful markets that offer several cultural merchandise, perfect for gift items for loved ones back home.

End on a nostalgic note

Sailing on a classic 70ft riverboat dubbed “The African Queen” is a great way to wind down your day. With the start of tourism in the area in 1905, your cruise can create a connection to those that enjoyed their time on the Zambezi River years ago as the trip-deck boat allows you to enjoy the golden hour while sipping cocktails and taking in the gorgeous sunset.

The colonial British influence can still be felt during afternoon tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel.

Check out or check into The Victoria Falls Hotel, built by the British in 1904, and set up to accommodate Cecil Rhode’s workers. Enjoy high tea on the veranda overlooking Victoria Falls and the famous 156 meters long Victoria Hills Bridge. Enjoy the five-star experience that includes exceptional facilities, luxurious accommodation, and impeccable service if you decide to stay.

For an unforgettable experience at the grandeur hotel, you will have to book in advance.

Is Victoria Falls your next destination? 

These are just a few of the many activities and experiences found in and around Victoria Falls.  My job is to learn about you and recommend activities for you in Africa and at Victoria Falls that will result in an amazing trip that will not only be fun but memorable. Call me today and leave all the work to me as you dream about your upcoming trip to Victoria Falls.

Pat Ogle-CollinsSee Victoria Falls but make sure you do Victoria Falls too!
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Italy’s famed Alps, the Dolomites, are dyn-o-mite!

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For many travelers the Dolomites in the north of Italy are a kind of heaven on earth. Mother Nature blessed the stunning Italian mountain range with rolling hills, grand mountains, scenic glacier lakes and the kind of fresh air that makes you feel truly alive.

The Dolomites, aka the Dolomite Mountains or Italian Alps, are enchantingly gorgeous and you can also find a diverse cultural scene with the prettiest little villages dotted throughout the area. There really is something for everyone in the Dolomites!

Braies Lake north of Cortina d’Ampezzo
in northern Italy

Your days will be decorated with awe-inspiring sights as you travel the Dolomite Alps. If you love hiking, the trails will delight you whether you are a newbie or seasoned hiker. Don’t forget your camera because there is an abundance of photo opportunities from dawn to dusk. As well as photographing the iconic gray rocky mountains you will find flora and fauna including deer, cows, goats and birds to document the local “wildlife”.

Iconic alpine winter sports in Italy draw enthusiasts from around the world.

The seasons in the Dolomites put on spectacular shows and it’s debatable which season is the most beautiful. In summer you can expect blue skies contrasting with wildflower explosions and in winter the snow-capped peaks are fairytale-like. For skiers and snowboarders, the alps offer some of the most epic experiences in all of Europe. Autumn and spring are equally as stunning and the weather during those months is just lovely.

While a vacation in Italy usually conjures up visions of shopping in Milan, gondola rides in Venice and ruins in Rome, this area of the country offers something quite different. While those places are wonderful, you won’t want to miss the Dolomites. This sometimes-overlooked destination is rich in nature, culture, history and gorgeous postcard-perfect scenes and for many it is a highlight of their travels. UNESCO agrees, listing the Dolomites as one of the top 49 world heritage sites in Italy.

Charming towns like Vipiteno are lined with pastel-colored historic buildings, old cathedrals, excellent restaurants and shopping. Each town is unique so I recommend you spend several nights at each stop to truly experience the local culture of each village. Foodies can indulge in some fantastic dining experiences that will include mouth-watering pasta dishes and spa junkies will find luxury spa resorts for some relaxation and pampering that is well-deserved after a day of exploring the great outdoors.

Due to its proximity to Austria, this northern Italian region reflects the influence of its neighbor in its architecture, food and culture.

A glass of local Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Francs is also on the menu as you unwind from your busy day of sightseeing. Or make a day of sipping wine by stopping at a winery or vineyard for a wine tasting tour.  Or you can even ski from wine tasting to wine tasting.  You might also stumble across a remote monastery, museum, ride a cable car or go fishing with a local guide on another day. The Dolomites

Via Ferrata, a type of mountain climbing that used metal rungs, ladders, and cables mounted in the mountain walls provides an exhilarating experience.

are full of spellbinding experiences and sights that will stay with you for a lifetime. If you get the chance to go kayaking on a crystal-blue lake it will be one of the most peaceful and lovely rides of your life. Cycling is another awesome way to get around the Dolomites with epic cycling routes the go through lush green valleys, over bridges and passes and along country roads that are as quaint as they come.

For sure you will hear about Via Ferrate. Translating to iron road, Via Ferrata is guided climb along four breathtaking routes on the cliffs above Mt Norquay. It’s an exhilarating adventure not for the faint hearted. Scaling steep cliffs, crossing suspension bridges and braving steel safety ladders are all part of the thrilling experience. All the routes are wildly exciting from the 2-hour explorer path to the challenging mountaineer path that takes around eight hours.

If you are excited to explore the Dolomites contact me to start planning your trip. With over 500 square miles covering three Italian regions (Veneto, TrentinoAlto Adige/Südtirol (South Tyrol) and Friuli Venezia Giulia), I can create trips to rival trips to those other Alps that are filled with music!

Cortina d’Ampezzo, a small town in the northern Italy, that hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics will again share hosting the games with Milan 70 years later in 2026.

Pat Ogle-CollinsItaly’s famed Alps, the Dolomites, are dyn-o-mite!
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