DREAM-WORTHY DESTINATIONS

 

ICELAND

The Iceland Board of Tourism describes their visitors as “creative and open to new people and ideas. Does not want a typical holiday or over-planned itinerary and rather chooses unfamiliar and new options”.  If this sounds like you, then Iceland will be the perfect destination.  With the midnight sun in the summer and the northern lights in the winter, Iceland is a year-round destination for intrepid travelers seeking adventure and a sense of deep calm and connection.

We create personalized trips to Iceland with the flexibility to move at your own pace no matter how much time you have.  With two weeks, you can circumnavigate the entire island.  If all you can spare is a week or less, then you can focus on the southwest and see the Golden Circle.  And if you can only manage an overnight stop on your way to Europe, then seeing Reykjavik is a perfect introduction to the Land of Fire and Ice.

shutterstock_342631733.jpg
Itinerary Inspiration

 

Imagine, if you will, that Alaska and Yellowstone National Park merged.  If you throw in the super-cool vibe of the Pacific Northwest – you have Iceland.

There are as many ways to see this magical country as there are people taking the time to visit.  With generous stopover offers from Icelandair, you can visit Iceland for as little as overnight.  If you have more time, the entire country can be circumnavigated in a couple of weeks. 

No matter the amount of time or your particular interests, nearly everyone starts their exploration of Iceland in Reykjavik.  With a population of approximately 120,000 people, it’s one of the smallest capital cities in Europe.  But what they lack in size, they make up for with fabulous art and museums, excellent restaurants, an epic music scene, and stunning public spaces. 
 

Even if your visit to Iceland is short (this time), you will want to take a day trip out of the city.  The Golden Circle is made up of three of Iceland’s most popular and significant sites.  Þingvellir National Park is the historical site of the first democratic parliament, the Alping, established in 930 AD.  It’s a stunning rift valley where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet.  Next up would be Geysir, the original gusher that gave all other geysers their name.  The Great Geysir has been classified as dormant since 2000, but the Strokkur geyser nearby shoots about 100 feet into the air every five to ten minutes.  You don’t want to be downwind!  Rounding out the Golden Circle is Gulfoss waterfall.  While Iceland has no shortage of waterfalls, this is considered to be one of the most beautiful with its 105 foot drop over two tiers. 

With more time, you can explore the other regions of Iceland. In the south, take a ferry out to Heimaey for the puffin colonies and the volcanoes.  Hike waterfalls and visit glaciers.  See ice on a black sand beach near Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Iceland.  Do a guided glacier hike or take a zodiac out in the glacier bay at Jökulsárlón and see the ice up close. 

The east combines stunning fjords and colorful fishing villages.  If you keep your eyes peeled, you may spot a herd of wild reindeer.  Buy a handmade sweater from one of the local shops or sample the local beer. 

 

photo-1579442431146-7241e1f1c88d.jpeg

In the north, see pits of bubbling clay and smell the sulfur in the geothermal area of Namafjall. Visit a botanical garden and see every plant known in Iceland.  Take your photo with a pair of giant trolls.

Out west, you can visit the Snæfullsness Peninsula.  Eat fermented shark and tour a lava cave, hike along the coast and test your strength. Jump on a small vessel and track whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Along the way, stay in a selection of handpicked guesthouses and small hotels.  Swim in the local pools, fed by hot springs.  Enjoy local delicacies.  And know that we have planned all the details so you can relax and enjoy the natural splendor of Iceland.

 

IRELAND

All the wonderful stories you have heard about Ireland are likely to be true…it is stunning.  People will argue about the must-sees, but you can’t go wrong by experiencing a mix of cities, small towns and the beautiful, rugged landscape that Ireland is famous for.  History is everywhere from the prehistoric burial chamber at Newgrange to the ruins of Glendalough.  Ireland is famous for its literary and music culture and it's highly likely that you will get to experience a traditional session if you pop into a pub while you’re there.

When you book a trip to Ireland with me, you will be working with someone who loves the country nearly as much as her own.  I’ve traveled there so many times that I’m as comfortable there as I am in the States.  From Connemara to Cork and from Dublin to Dingle, I have seen it all.  One of the things that keeps me returning is the kindness and friendliness of the Irish people – it is truly legendary.  It begins on the plane over when you hear “céad mile fáilte” – a hundred thousand welcomes.  You’ll never feel more welcome than you do in the Emerald Isle.

ireland-2212251_1920.jpg
Itinerary Inspiration

 

Unfortunately, Ireland isn’t known for its national public transportation like so many European countries.  The system forces you to backtrack quite a bit to get from place to place.  It can certainly be done, but a car is the preferred method for getting around Ireland and seeing all the best places.  If you don’t have the nerve to drive on the left-hand side of the road, a private driver is always an option.

Because Ireland is small, choosing regions to visit is a great strategy.  Rather than driving from place to place every day, we will choose a few strategically located towns and book you into guesthouses, hotels or even castles from which you can do day trips to see the sights.  Every evening, after a long day of sightseeing or hiking, you can return to the same pub for your dinner or evening entertainment.  Before you know it, they’ll be treating you like a local!

No visit to Ireland would be complete without a visit to its thriving capital, Dublin.  I always recommend at least two days in the city to explore the museums, shops, and historical sites like Dublin Castle and Kilmainham Gaol.  These are the best places to learn the history of the area and understand how the citizens fought for their independence from England.  For ancient history, a visit to the burial chamber at Newgrange and a tour of Tara, the home of the ancient kings, is a must.

After spending a few days in Dublin, make your way west to Galway.  This town is exactly what you imagine when you think of Ireland.  Colorful buildings, a walking street full of shops and buskers, excellent dining and the smell of the sea make the city truly magical.  Galway is also the perfect jumping off point for visits to the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands.

The next stop will be Killarney.  This bustling town is full of shops and restaurants…and tourists.  It offers easy access to the Killarney National Park with tons of hiking trails, the famous Muckross House, and a chance to ride horses or spend the day kayaking.  There are some lovely hotels in Killarney and it’s the perfect place to stay before you head around the famous Ring of Kerry.  There are a few stops along the way, but the highlight is the view.  From here, you can easily visit Kenmare or drive the Gap of Dunloe.

If you have extra time in Ireland, the south has Blarney Castle with its famous stone.  Kissing the stone rewards the kisser with the gift of “blarney,” or as John O’Connor Powers defined it, "flattery sweetened by humor and flavored by wit."  Kinsale is your stop for fresh seafood and views.  Waterford has the famous glass factory and Midleton is your chance to visit a whiskey distillery.


 

Image by Andre Ouellet

The west of Ireland has the famous Kilkenny castle, Wexford and its beautiful beaches, the Sally Gap, Glendalough and Powerscourt with its stunning gardens.  And if you love to hike, Sugarloaf is there with 360-degree views of the area. 

Should you have the time, a visit to the north would round out your adventure.  Remember that you will be departing the Republic of Ireland as Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.  The highlights there include Derry, with its history of the Troubles, the Giant’s Causeway, and Belfast.  In Belfast you can visit the Titanic Museum and take a Game of Thrones tour before heading back to Dublin for your return home.  

 

SOUTH AFRICA

with Victoria Falls

When people think about planning a trip to South Africa, it’s almost always because a safari is on their bucket list.  Sharing this experience with multiple generations can be a truly bonding experience.  But South Africa has much more than safaris and, after traveling so far, you will want to take advantage of some of the other opportunities this beautiful area has to offer.

Because South Africa is in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are the opposite of those here in the United States.  When you decide to travel there is up to you – but what you see will change with the seasons.  May to September is the all-around best time for wildlife viewing because of the lack of vegetation but it will be colder than you expect, especially for those early-morning drives from June to August.  The best weather is in spring and fall, April/May and September/October.  The high season is the best time for bird watching and goes from October to March but even then, safaris don’t ever feel crowded.  The scenery is green and lush.  Our family visited over the Christmas holiday and had an amazing time – and even managed to see the Big 5 with no problem.

 

thomas-bennie-B21WLsX6a5c-unsplash_edite
Itinerary Inspiration

 

Traveling from the United States to Africa is no easy feat.  It requires a lot of moving parts and attention to detail to make it all go smoothly.  When we book this trip for you, we make sure that you are never on your own to figure things out.  From guides to drivers, airport assistance to in-country support, all your needs are met so you can just relax and enjoy this amazing experience.

Your flight from the US will take you anywhere from 19- 22+ hours.  If you’ve ever considered upgrading to a business class ticket, this would be the trip.  Having the extra leg room and the ability to fully recline your seat will make all the difference in how you feel upon arrival.  In any case, your first day in South Africa will be spent acclimating.  If we have flown you to Johannesburg, you’ll have time for a quick tour of the city, or you may just want to relax at the hotel pool.  The next morning, you are off on your safari. 

 

A small plane will take you from the international airport to a small airfield near your safari camp.  There you will be greeted by a driver who will take you directly to camp and let you get settled.  Prepare to be pampered.  A safari experience can be quite luxurious.  Camps offer everything from private pools to spas – all designed to enhance your experience.  Your days will have an early start.  First game drives often depart camp as early as six am.  After a few hours, you will return to the camp for some lunch and a nap.  In the late afternoon, you will go back out for another game drive.  These often end with a cocktail out in the bush before heading back to camp for your dinner.  How long you spend at a camp is up to you.  But five days gives you enough time to track the Big 5 of Africa:  the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and African buffalo.  It might interest you to know that the rhinoceros is the most endangered species of the Big 5, the leopard is the most difficult to see because of their nocturnal and secretive nature, and the buffalo is the most dangerous – and the only one of the five that is not endangered.

 

When it’s time to depart your safari camp (and believe me, you won’t be ready), you will take a short flight to Zambia to see Victoria Falls.   This natural wonder of the world is famous with tourists of all descriptions. You will have the chance to walk the path and see the raging mile-long curtain of water up close.  Be sure to take the poncho that the guide offers you; you will get soaked, even in the dry season.  It’s well worth it to take a helicopter ride and see the falls from above.  The size can only truly be appreciated from this view.  And for the truly brave, you can take a trip out to Devil’s Pool and peek over the edge!  The sheer power and force of the falls is something that has to be seen to be believed.
 

paul-milley-fS_UGUadwbA-unsplash.jpg

With the rest of your day, you can opt for something adventurous like a bungee jump over the Zambezi or a canoe ride on it.  Or head back to camp and get a massage.  If you’re lucky like I was, a hippo may peek in the window while you’re on the table!

Your next flight will take you to Cape Town.  This beautiful city nestled beneath Table Mountain is a World Design Capital.  You can opt for adventure by hiking the mountain or spend the day shark diving.  Perhaps a day of wine tasting is more your style.  Or you might prefer to spend the day in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens.  If you have enough time, you can do all of these!

You can’t visit South Africa without learning something about the troubled history of this country.  A day trip out to Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison before the fall of apartheid, is a great place to learn about the history of South Africa.  Many of the guides at the prison are former inmates and they have incredible stories to share about their time there.  Besides Mandela, two other inmates have been elected President of South Africa since the late 1990s:  Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma.  The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

With a little extra time, you can visit the Cape of Good Hope.  While it’s not the southern tip of Africa as previously believed, it does have a special significance to sailors.  You can stop for lunch in Boulders and see penguins on the beach.  Or take a train ride to the Kimberley diamond mines.  South Africa is yours to explore.