Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Taiwan votes in tight presidential polls

Vote in Taiwan
Tsai Ing-wen cast her vote shortly before 10 am in a suburb of Taipei, AFP
Taipei - Taiwan began voting on Saturday in a tight presidential election that will decide who will run the island and manage crucial ties with China over the next four years.

Polls opened at 08:00 for the island's 18.1 million eligible voters in an election where the choice is essentially between pro-China incumbent Ma Ying-jeou and his main challenger Tsai Ing-wen, a China-sceptic.

"I voted for Ma because I am doing business with China and I often travel there," said businesswoman Ane Wei as she left a polling station in downtown Taipei.

"It'd be more convenient for me and good for my business if he remains in office."

Ruby Yang, an office worker, said she had cast her ballot in favour of Tsai "because I want to see the first female president in Taiwan".

Tsai cast her vote shortly before 10:00 in a suburb of Taipei, and Ma was expected to vote shortly afterwards.

For the past ten days, no opinion polls have been allowed, but the final surveys published last week showed a race too close to call, with Ma of the Kuomintang (KMT) party leading Tsai by as little as three percentage points.

Beijing and Washington are watching closely, as victory for Ma, 61, would likely be seen as a renewed mandate for policies that have brought about the most dramatic thaw in ties with the mainland in over 60 years.

"The reason why the Chinese mainland is so concerned about the Taiwan election is because we are worried that the idea of 'Taiwan independence' will be further spread by the process, as it was in the past," the state-controlled Chinese paper Global Times said on Friday.

Boosting trade

But it went on to say that "with democracy developing, rationality is growing while extremism is on the wane in Taiwan. In the future, the rotation of ruling parties will have a smaller influence on Taiwan's policymaking".

Ma was elected four years ago on a promise to improve Taiwan's economy by boosting trade and travel links with China and the key achievement of his term is a sweeping trade pact signed in 2010.

A win for 55-year-old Tsai could usher in a period of uncertainty in ties with China, as her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has traditionally favoured distancing the island from the mainland.

China and Taiwan have been governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949, but Beijing still claims sovereignty over the island, and has vowed to get it back, even if it must go to war to make it happen.

The United States, too, is keeping a close eye on the election, hoping the outcome will not upset the stability that the strategically vital Taiwan Straits area has experienced since Ma assumed power in 2008.

Further complicating the race is the third candidate, former KMT heavyweight James Soong, 69, who could cost Ma the result by taking crucial votes away.

Officials believe a relatively large proportion of the eligible voters will cast their ballots because of the tightness of the race.

Both Ma and Tsai staged huge rallies in Taipei on Friday to whip up support and try to win the undecided voters who will decide the outcome.

Chang Poh-ya, chairwoman of the Central Election Commission, said on Friday she expected the turnout rate to reach about 80%, compared with just over 76% in the 2008 vote.

The nearly 15 000 polling stations will close at 16:00. The presidential vote coincides with a poll for Taiwan's 113-member parliament, where the KMT currently has a majority.

News by News24

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What is the World's most-visited museums

Musée du Louvre, Paris
"Musée du Louvre" is the world's most-visited museums located in the city of France, Paris.

The world’s most-visited museum does not seem to be in danger of losing its top ranking; annual visitors to the Louvre have held strong at eight-and-a-half million for several years. While the museum is indeed an art-lover’s paradise of roughly 35,000 masterpieces – including the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa – it is also the subject of controversy: IM Pei’s 69ft-high glass pyramid, added to the entrance in 1989, has not been appreciated by all.

News by BBC

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Airlines given permission to fly over North Pole for the first time slashing the hours to exotic destinations

boeing 777
A British Airways Boeing 777 which will be able to take a 'short cut' over the North pole
Airlines given permission to fly over North Pole for the first time slashing the hours to exotic destinations

Air passengers will be able to cut the times of long-haul flights by as much as half and fly faster to exotic destinations under a new relaxation of aviation rules.

It could also mean cheaper and cleaner flights for British holidaymakers.

The new rules will allow carriers operating in the South Pacific, to take a 'short cut' over the North Pole for the first time.

While pilots from Australia taking passengers to South America will be able to steer more direct courses making big savings in time, fuel and emissions.

Until now, Boeing’s 777 and the new 787 ‘Dreamliner’ jets had for safety reasons to stay within a  three hour range (180 minutes) of the nearest diversion airport.

Under the new rules, that has been nearly doubled to five and a half hours, (330 minutes) taking account of improvements in aircraft and engine  technology.

It means, for example, that planes from the UK  will be able to take a non-stop flight - dubbed 'Santa's short cut' - over  the North Pole to destinations such as Hawaii, Alaska or French Polynesia.

It also means shorter journeys, cheaper flights, less fuel, and lower emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) - the so-called greenhouse gas’ blamed for global warming.

The ‘extended operations’ rules define the time that an aircraft is permitted to be from an emergency landing site in case of an engine failure and is applied to two-engine jets.

It follows a decision  by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to allow up  to 330-minutes ‘extended operations’ for Boeings'  777 fleet.

It allows airlines operating Boeing  777-300ER (extended range), 777-200LR (longer range), 777 Freighter and 777-200ER models equipped with General Electric engines to fly up to 330 minutes from a potential ‘diversion’ airport.

Approval for the Boeing 777-200ER equipped with British Rolls-Royce and American Pratt & Whitney engines is expected to follow over the next few months.

The first airline to take advantage of the new longer ‘extended operations’ option is Air New Zealand which earlier this month flew from Los Angeles to Auckland.

Capt. David Morgan, chief pilot for Air New Zealand said: ‘What this means is that the aeroplane  is able to fly a straighter route between pairs of cities and that's good for the environment.

‘Less fuel is burned and less carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere. It's also good for customers because flights are potentially shorter and passengers could arrive sooner at their destinations.’

Virgin Atlantic airline president Sir Richard Branson said: 'This new development really does open up a whole new world.

'Our new fleet of 787s could well be flying to Honolulu or even Fiji one day.'

News by Dailymail

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Monday, December 05, 2011

10 World Biggest Holes on Earth

It is believed that holes are wrath of god on this earth and are pathway to hell. Most people reading this would agree but here it is certainly not the case. Holes created in different parts of the world either due to human works like mining, as sum of these are diamond mine shafts that have been abandoned or due to wrath of god as we all know through meteor shower or something similar falling that made the dinosaurs extinct are today popular vacation spots as they are a visual extravaganza.

Whether it’s the Great Blue Hole of Belize, Mirny Diamond Mine of Siberia or the Burning Gates of Turkmenistan, all of these attract a hell lot of tourists and adventure seekers every year just to get a glimpse and experience the ultimate souvenir of nature. Check these cool pictures.

Mirny Diamond Mine of Siberia

Great Blue Hole – Belize

Burning Gates of Turkmenistan

Kimberley Big Hole -  South Africa

Bingham Canyon Mine – Utah

Glory Hole in Monticello Dam California

Diavik Diamond Mine – Canada

Guatemala Sinkhole

Chuquicamata Copper Mine – Chile

Udachnaya Pipe – Russia

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Sunday, December 04, 2011

Travel Picks: Top 10 tips for holiday travel

Travel Month
(Reuters) - Silver bells, sleigh rides, menorahs and mistletoe are on the not-so-distant horizon.

But before the festivities get underway, there are flights to catch, security lines to endure and delays to tolerate. With that in mind, online travel adviser ( ) have come up with 10 top holiday travel tips to help you navigate the festive season. Reuters has not endorsed this list:

1. For procrastinators: Book last-minute

Typically we encourage travelers to book flights between 60 and 90 days before an anticipated date of departure. That ideal time-frame has now passed, leaving many fliers scrambling to find holiday fare deals. But all is not lost! Data shows that airlines this year were perhaps a bit too aggressive with pricing early on, leaving seats still to be filled. Lucky for procrastinators, flash sales are popping up left and right and - better yet - the best is possibly yet to come. Start scanning now, as early December bookers could save the most on holiday flights.

2. Travel alternatively

As ongoing advocates of both alternative airports and alternative destinations, our stance holds true with the season of cheer upon us. For fliers with a set destination in mind, taking the time to compare nearby airports based on affordability could mean major savings. Boston residents, for instance, should consider TF Green International in Providence or Manchester-Boston Regional in New Hampshire if fares out of Logan are too steep. And the same is true for arrival cities. Folks eager to get away for a beach vacation should look for the deal rather than the destination. Instead of Miami this Christmas, how about a beach town on the Gulf like Fort Meyers or Sarasota? The bottom line: do your homework.

3. Fly on the holiday

Flight searches by date often tell an interesting but consistent story: flying midweek, early in the day or late at night saves travelers cash. 'Tis true on holidays, too. Many times the lowest fares go to travelers willing to fly on the holiday itself, whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's Eve. Plus, the cheer can be felt 35,000 feet in the air for flexible fliers, as some airlines are particularly festive. Lufthansa in Christmases past has cooked traditional German meals and decked cabins with wreaths and decorations so passengers - and flight crews - can share in the celebration.

4. For gift givers: Shop online

In an era of ever-increasing baggage fees, it's best to show up to the airport with as little to check in as possible. Lucky for those with long wish lists, nearly everything nowadays can be found - and shipped - thanks to the glorious Internet. Evidence? Our recent list of travel gift ideas, all of which are available courtesy of the web. Order a Big Wheel-luggage hybrid for the junior traveler in your life or an airline gift card for your favorite frequent flier. No matter the choice, it means less to get through security and less on your credit card.

5. Ship gifts

If you've found a gift at a great rate or a specialty item during your holiday shopping sprees, then of course seize the deal. But if it doesn't fit in your carry-on, you may want to ship it via a courier company. Do the math a week before to see what will cost you less: a tracked package or an extra bag. If it's the latter, remember to leave your gifts unwrapped so security can easily access the contents.

6. Pack an empty suitcase

If the price is right, bringing an extra piece of luggage on your trip can be a frugal decision. Then, when it comes time to transport the gifts you've received home, you'll have an empty suitcase to fill. Either pack a fold-up duffel in your luggage or bring a separate bag if it means you won't get hit with high-priced baggage fees. First calculate what it will cost to ship your gifts home, then plan and pack accordingly.

7. Peruse duty-free

International fliers over the holidays have the opportunity to savor their layovers a bit in the duty-free shops, where high-end products go for everyday prices in airports around the globe. Hubs like Hong Kong International Airport, Amsterdam Airport Schipol and London Heathrow Airport offer shoppers a bounty of stocking stuffers and goodies for under the tree. Shop on your way - or way home - tax-free. A friendly reminder: If you're connecting Stateside from certain international locations, liquids purchased at duty-free have to be checked before the domestic leg of your flight.

8. For air mile collectors: Save the miles

Miles get tricky around the holidays, especially since "low points" seats for the most popular travel dates sell out even before the Halloween candy has hit the shelves. There's that, plus some airlines implement the never-popular blackout dates. Accumulated miles, whether through an airline or a credit card, are used most economically either when travel plans are booked early or a traveler has flexibility with their itinerary. Our advice: Save the points during the holidays unless you snag a great deal.

9. Health: Invest in hand sanitizer

The most wonderful time of the year is also the most sniffly time of the year for many travelers. Keep that in mind before you head for the airport, and pack plenty of hand sanitizer to help fend off germs. There's nothing worse than realizing during ascent that you're stuck in a cabin full of recycled air with a sickly seatmate. Fill your prescriptions, drink lots of water, wash your hands often - whatever it takes to guarantee your holidays will be spent both joy- and health-filled.

10. Plan ahead and expect delays

Flight delays are pretty much a guarantee this time of year, whether its crowded airports, bad weather or mechanical problems causing them. There's a way to plan ahead so that getting stuck behind infrequent fliers and families of five at airport security doesn't cause anxiety. First, avoid connections if you can when booking, even if it means paying a little more. If a connection is a must, then ensure there's a long enough layover in case your first flight is late to land. On the day of travel, get to the airport earlier - way earlier - than you typically would. Worst-case scenario: You spend extra time with your Kindle at the departure gate or relaxing at the airport bar.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sydney's Island Bar in full swing

Sydney, Australia
One of the best ways to kick off summer in Sydney might just be an outdoor barbecue in your best friend's backyard. Even better if that backyard has panoramic views of the city skyline and sunsets that most visitors to Sydney would pay a premium to see.

Island Bar, a trendy drinking oasis reached by ferry on the small, historic Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour, is back for its second season, and starting 1 December, will be open every day through 31 January.

The patio area, decked out with lawn chairs and an artificial grass lawn, is a stark contrast to the bar area, which is constructed from recycled shipping containers to honour the island’s shipbuilding and naval history. In the ample open-air seating, visitors can sip gourmet cocktails stirred up by mixologist Marco Faraone and dine on authentic Italian spuntini platters and wood-fired pizzas in Sydney's world-renowned summer weather. The new second floor Tropics Lounge overlooks the bar and water.

Island Bar is a perfect place to partake in the very Australian "Sunday Sesh", where locals spend the afternoon lazily hanging around with their best mates and a couple of jugs of Cold War Sgroppino -- a delightful mix of Russian Standard Vodka, lemon sorbet, Aperol and lemon juice. There’s also a tennis court nearby with the best backdrop in all of Sydney.

Visitors to Cockatoo Island before 11 December can stop by the Outpost Project, a street arts festival featuring more than 150 street artists from around the world. Along with perusing some visually stimulating art, drop by some of the pop-up bars and galleries tied to the festival before kicking back for the rest of the evening at Island Bar.

News by BBC

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World's Most Secret Islands

We turned up 10 dreamy islands unknown to the average U.S. traveler. 
By Jamie Moore
Looking for the perfect place to get away from it all? We searched the world and turned up 10 dreamy islands unknown to the average U.S. traveler. These little patches of unspoiled paradise, from the Great Lakes to the South China Sea, are relatively affordable and easy to get to. And the idea of getting stranded on any one of them would be, well, absolutely OK with us.

Madeline Island
Location: Lake Superior, just off Wisconsin
Size: 14 miles long by three miles wide
Population: 300 year-round; 2,500 in summer

Midwesterners need not go far for a secluded island paradise. Part of Wisconsin's Apostle Islands archipelago, Madeline has many trappings of a tropical oasis—sandy beaches, sailing charters, sea caves, cliff-jumping, and even stand-up paddleboarding. No wonder the population swells in summer. Visit in winter and you can make first tracks on a dogsled or see ice caves.

Island time
Kayak to sea caves, historical lighthouses, and a century-old shipwreck with Adventure Vacations or Living Adventure. Raise a glass to live music at the quirky Tom's Burned Down Cafe. Don't miss locally caught trout on The Pub Restaurant & Wine Bar's beachfront patio.

Getting here
Board the Madeline Island Car Ferry (25 minutes) at Bayfield. You can also walk onto the ferry and rent a bike or moped from the island's Motion to Go. In winter (mid-January through February), arrive by air-propelled wind sled or drive the ice road.

Location: U.S. Atlantic Coast, just off Virginia
Size: Three miles long by one mile wide
Population: 727

This little island 12 miles off of northern Virginia is one of the last isolated fishing villages left on the Chesapeake Bay. Out here it's a completely different world. Locals speak in a thick accent that sounds like a cross between Elizabethan English and the Old South. They drive golf carts on the virtually carless island. And the salty Tangier watermen still carry on the centuries-old tradition of harvesting crabs in the bay.

Island time
During a waterman tour, a Tangier captain teaches you how to pull crab pots. Try the incredible crab bisque and crab cakes made by wives of watermen at Fisherman's Corner Restaurant. Rent a free kayak at the Tangier History Museum and Interpretive Cultural Center and follow the island's water trails.

Getting here
Three seasonal ferries (one to one-and-a-half hours) and two year-round ferries (45 minutes) link the island with mainland Virginia and Maryland. There's also a small Tangier Island Airport.

Staniel Cay
Staniel Cay
Staniel Cay

Location: Eastern Caribbean,Bahamas Out Islands
Size: Less than two square miles
Population: 80

A tiny link in the chain of Exuma Cays, this gem lies 250 miles off the coast of Florida in the Bahamas' famously clear turquoise waters. Many of the Exhumas are private (Johnny Depp owns one) or ultraexclusive, but Staniel Cay is an exception. Here, you can stay in a cottage on stilts over the ocean for only $165 per night. Everything but the price seems top-shelf.

Island time
Go for the all-inclusive package ($176 per person per night) at Staniel Cay Yacht Club—the island's only lodging—and get a waterfront cottage, all meals, and your own 13-foot Boston Whaler during your stay. Cruise to a deserted beach or see the swimming pigs at Major Cay. Snorkel at Thunderball Grotto, a hollowed-out island and the filming location for James Bond's Thunderball.

Getting here
The yacht club arranges shared charter flights (two-and-a-half hours) from Ft.Lauderdale on Watermakers Air starting at $200 per person one-way.

Fernando De Noronha
Location: Western Atlantic, 220 miles off Brazil's coast
Size: Seven square miles
Population: 3,012
Peaks of a submerged mountain range rise up out of the sea to form this beautiful Brazilian 21-island archipelago. The largest island is the only one populated, but throngs of vacationers never clog its perfect coves of white-sand beaches. The government restricts tourism to 420 visitors at a time. Yes, this is the kind of place you want to (and can) be left to your own devices with a little motorbike: There's just one traffic light.

Island time
Two major ocean currents meet here, making it one of the world's best places to see a diverse range of marine life while snorkeling or scuba diving. All visitors stay in small pousadas whose owners take a personal interest in guests—a bit like having your own valet.

Getting here
Fly from Natal (70 minutes) or Recife (100 minutes), two Brazilian cities accessed by direct flights from major U.S. airports. Save with a Brazil air pass.

Mighty seaside cliffs. Rugged mountain ridges. Moorland peninsulas. It's a picture-perfect Scottish scene in the Inner Hebrides islands. Filled with abundant wildlife and dramatic scenery, Mull is one of Scotland's best places for seeing whales (April through September) and for spotting the white-tailed eagle, the U.K.'s largest bird of prey. Hike the coastal and glen trails or the more challenging peaks with views of neighboring islands Iona and Staffa.

Island time
Wilderness Scotland has hike-and-stay packages with the Tiroran House Hotel that include breakfast and dinner for less than $200 per person per night. In the colorful port of Tobermory, dig into fish-and-chips or the fresh scallops (a Prince Charles favorite) at the Fisherman's Pier Fish & Chip Van. Wash it down with a visit to Tobermory's malt whisky distillery.

Getting here
On the mainland, take a CalMac car ferry from Oban to Craignure (40 minutes), from Kilchoan to Tobermory (35 minutes), or from Lochaline to Fishnish (15 minutes).

One of the last rural holdouts in Singapore, Pulau Ubin ("Granite Island") near Changi Point is a freeze-frame of Malay kampong village life in the 1960s. Thatched-roof homes sit among forested rolling hills and abandoned granite quarries. Fishermen live on kelongs, old wooden fishing houses built on stilts over the water. It's a soul-soothing escape from the highly urbanized buzz on the nearby mainland.

Island time
Experience village life, thick forests, and the occasional monkey or wild pig from the seat of a rented bicycle or on a walking tour. The island is known for its great seafood restaurants, and the steamed crab is divine. See interesting low-tide marine life at Chek Jawa or hit the sandy beach at East Coast Park. For a kampong-style stay, ride to Celestial Resort. Rooms start at less than $100 per night.

Getting here
At the Changi Point Ferry Terminal near Changi Village, take the 10-minute bumboat ride that departs once there are 12 passengers.

One of 44 islands between Phuket and Krabi, Koh Yao Yai ("Big Long Island") is the largest but not the most developed. Here, where mass tourism hasn't taken hold, locals earn a modest living by fishing, rice farming, and working the rubber plantation. You can stretch out on footprint-free sand and really feel like you're staking out an undiscovered place. Since your dollar goes further in Thailand than most destinations, the island is quite affordable.

Island time
See local life on a bike ride. Or rent a long-tail boat and go island-hopping to Khai Nok and Khai Nai for great snorkeling. Elixir Resort and Koh Yao Yai Village run various types of tours and have private thatched-roof bungalows furnished in old Thai style.

Getting here
Fly into Phuket International Airport. Nearby ferries (60 minutes) and public speedboats (30 minutes) operate from piers in Phuket. Multiday Journeys Within tours start in Phuket, stopping in Koh Yao Yai and Krabi.

With waters tinted the purest shades of blue and mountains covered in every hue of green, Kosrae is a speck in the vast sea between Hawaii and Guam. This lush spot just north of the equator enchants with cloud forests, mangroves, waterfalls, and soft, sandy beaches. On Kosrae locals still follow traditions of carving and canoe-building. Look out to sea and you'll likely find fishermen and women working from a canoe or locals practicing for annual canoe races.

Island time
Dive or snorkel among some of the world's last remaining pristine fringe reefs, a sunken pirate ship, a wooden whaler, and planes from WWII. Explore haunting 13th-century ruins, or paddle an outrigger canoe through mangroves. At Kosrae Village eco-lodge and dive resort, you can sleep in a private cottage on a sandy beach for $119 to $169 per night.

Getting here
Continental (which is merging with United) flies to Kosrae. The airline is part of the Star Alliance, which sells a Micronesia Airpass with great savings if you want to visit multiple islands.

Off France's west coast, this charming vacation haven is connected to La Rochelle by a two-mile bridge. You'd think a place this accessible to Europe's population would be jammed with commercialism. Instead, the majority of Île de Ré is protected. Vineyards, forests, dunes, and salt marshes, where fleur de sel is still gathered using traditional methods, are all part of nature reserves. Although the population spikes in summer, there's still a quiet simplicity soaked up in the understated style you'd expect from the French on holiday.

Island time
Absolutely flat terrain and more than 60 miles of well-used bike paths have prevented an automobile invasion on this popular island. Rent a bicycle and cruise to natural, unannounced beaches and across pungent salt marshes. Stop and buy a basket of oysters from an oyster farmer, or explore one of 10 villages.

Getting there
Catch a TGV high-speed train from Paris (three hours) to La Rochelle and connect with a bus or taxi to the island.

This easygoing island, tucked between the B.C. mainland and Vancouver Island, is the quintessential snapshot of West Coast life. Its residents—free-spirited artists and musicians, retired millionaires, and organic farmers—have abandoned the fast track to build lives rich in community and natural beauty. Get a glimpse on an artisan studio tour, which takes you to a lavender farm, a cheese shop, a jewelry maker, and more.

Island time
Wander down to the Ganges dock for fresh crab ($10). Explore coastal tidepools at Ruckle Park or swim at Vesuvius Beach. Pick up local produce at the Saturday Market and take it to Salt Spring Vineyards for a picnic with your wine tasting. Splurge on a stay at the Hastings House or find excellent value at Salt Spring Inn (less than $100 per night), which overlooks the main village and harbor.

Getting here
Harbour Air and Salt Spring Air seaplanes fly to the island (30 minutes) from downtown Vancouver. Salt Spring Air also flies from Vancouver International Airport. B.C. Ferries connects from the Vancouver area (one-and-a-half to three hours)

News By Yahoo.

Monday, October 31, 2011

10 Great Mountain Towns

By Jamie Moore (Yahoo Travel)

Lucerne, Switzerland

This picturesque Swiss Alps city is like a model-train set come to life. Medieval-style homes and shops with flower boxes line cobblestoned streets. The wooden 14th-century Chapel Bridge (Kapllbrücke) spans the Reuss River flowing through the town's crystal-clear Lake Lucerne. And in the backdrop, little red cog railway cars climb the steep Mt. Pilatus.

Do: Take the cog railway up to Mt. Pilatus for lunch or for a hike at what feels like the top of the world. There are also high ropes courses, zip-lines, tubing slides, and summer toboggan runs here. Return by train and boat or by gondola and bus to the historic Old Town, a pedestrian-only shopping area where you can stroll narrow, winding streets to the Hermès shop. Splurge at Max Chocolatier, or save by hitting the impressive chocolate aisle at a local grocery store.

Riobamba, Ecuador

Like many cities in the Pacific Ring of Fire, Riobamba lives in the shadow of a sleeping giant. Clouds wisp at the tip of the inactive Chimborazo volcano, Ecuador's highest point, while native llama, alpaca, and vicuña graze in the protected habitat below. You'll see why some call Riobamba the Sultan of the Andes when you explore the colonial city center's cathedrals and museums.

Do: Shop for handicrafts at the Saturday market on the streets northeast of Parque de la Concepción. Try the market's snow cones (raspados) made from blocks of ice transported from the glacier by mules, a local tradition. Another favorite is the zigzagging Chiva Express train ride up a 45-degree pitch called Devil's Nose. Latin Trails will take you to the train or on an ice-harvest adventure.

Girdwood, Alaska

Next to the state's largest ski resort, just outside Anchorage, Girdwood was originally called "Glacier City" for the colossal icy peaks that surround it. Calving glaciers thunder into the Prince William Sound, and humpback whales play in nearby Kenai Fjords National Park. Set amid this idyllic valley's rugged beauty is one of Alaska's most productive and still active placer gold mines, Crow Creek Mine, where you can pan for gold.

Do: Find adventure and great photo ops year-round on a guided glacier hike or ice-climbing trek. A trip to the top on Alyeska Resort's aerial tram nets you a splurge-worthy dinner destination: Seven Glaciers Restaurant. The town's best cinnamon rolls are at The Bake Shop near the base of the ski hill.

Bled, Slovenia

Not far from the Austrian border, Bled in the Julien Alps has all the elements of a classic fairy tale: a clifftop castle, frosted peaks, an emerald lake, a church steeple, a wishing bell, and a signature sweet treat. This alpine town even sits at the edge of a dark forest (Triglav National Park) with a waterfall and mountains known for legends of the Zlatorog, the golden-horned chamois that is said to live here.

Do: Hike up to the 1,000-year-old Bled Castle, where you can bottle wine in the cellar, indulge in the herbal gallery's aroma, or stay for a meal with a view. Visit Bled Island in Bled Lake by rowing a boat or hitching a ride on a local gondola-like pletna, then ring the famous church bell. Don't miss the town's signature cream cake (kremna rezina) at Slascicarna Smon.

Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Coverage of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games introduced the world to this ski town's stunning beauty and cosmopolitan allure. At the base of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, icy blue streams gurgle through the pedestrian village. Boutique shops, lively pubs, and restaurant patios open onto great people-watching thoroughfares, where you can take in high fashion and sexy foreign accents in one delicious shot.

Do: Ride the Peak 2 Peak Gondola from Whistler to Blackcomb, or soak in the outdoor hydrotherapy baths at Scandinave Spa. In winter you can try the Sliding Centre's skeleton and bobsleigh runs—reaching speeds of up to 135 kilometers per hour—or race the luge track from spring through fall. At the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre cafe, sample traditional bannock fry bread and salmon chowder. Hit Zog's Dogs food cart for cinnamon BeaverTails or bratwurst and poutine (a mix of fries, cheese curds, and gravy).

Stowe, Vermont

Stowe is the quintessential New England village. In a fertile valley between the Green Mountains' peaks, this quaint town of 4,500 is a throwback to all things wholesome. The historical Main Street area is home to a general store, a malt shop, and even a mercantile with fresh handmade fudge. Head to the surrounding countryside for a grazing tour of Vermont's farm treats.

Do: You can stop in for free samples year-round at Laughing Moon Chocolates on Main Street or at Cold Hollow Cider Mill and Ben & Jerry's in the Waterbury area. Harrison's Restaurant & Bar, a popular watering hole in a historical Main Street basement, is like the Cheers of Stowe. Browse Stowe Craft & Design for handmade items, including great furniture for mountain retreats.

Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand

This South Island lake town, away from the crowds of its popular Queenstown neighbor, sits in a glacier-carved basin near the edge of Mt. Aspiring National Park's Southern Alps. Mountains rise out of Lake Wanaka, vineyards drape the hillsides, and tiny islands harbor uninhabited sanctuaries for the flightless buff weka bird. It's no wonder the laid-back Kiwi vibe has such a stronghold here.

Do: Relax with a local beer and a slice of pizza at Kai Whaka Pai, which has the best view in town. Eco Wanaka boat tours take you to Moa Wahu Island to see the native weka. At Cinema Paradiso you can watch movies in comfy old couches and eat warm homemade cookies during the intermission. Experience the scenery from an open-air Vintage Tigermoth flight with goggles and a leather helmet or on a canyoning trip in a wetsuit, helmet, and booties.

Taos, New Mexico

This Southwestern town, in a high desert valley, is a study in contrasts. Rich blue skies meet an arid countryside dotted with adobe dwellings and the Taos Pueblo village. The Sangre de Cristo Range towers majestically above the desert floor. And the Rio Grande's whitewater cuts a deep gorge in red sandstone below. Is it any wonder Georgia O'Keeffe, D.H. Lawrence, and countless others have been inspired here?

Do: Find kitschy kachina dolls, baskets, pottery, and other treasures at Robert Cafazzo's Two Graces Gallery, Curios and Bookstore in Ranchos de Taos. Sip a local specialty—the Buddha Margarita—during Taos Inn's Adobe Bar happy hour from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. For dinner, don't miss El Meze, a restaurant that puts a Spanish/Moorish twist on traditional local cuisine.

Gyalthang, Yunnan Province, China

Set among Himalayan snowcaps, this ancient rural town near the Tibetan border is a hidden highland utopia. Here in Gyalthang (Jiantang Town), renamed after the fictional land of Shangri-La in 2001, locals live simple, long lives far from the influence of the outside world. Shaggy yaks drag plows through rich soil, and the sound of chanting floats out of Tibetan monasteries. Just outside town, pastures open up to alpine lakes, gorges, and swift rivers fed by mountain snow.

Do: Shop for colorful scarves, blankets, and local handicrafts in Old Town, or stop at Bhuskar's Kitchen for authentic Tibetan and Indian/Nepalese food. View seekers can climb the local Shika Mountain or take a cable-car ride to the top. Songtsam Retreat leads excursions to Pudacuo National Park, home to 100 endangered species.

Breckenridge, Colorado

Gold seekers founded this Victorian mining town in 1859, and many of the original buildings that housed hotels, dance halls, and saloons still stand. The new occupants—quirky boutiques, restaurants, outfitters, and microbreweries—capture Breckenridge's pioneering spirit and down-to-earth character. It's an unpretentious Rocky Mountain high 90 miles west of Denver.

Do: Meet local sled dogs in their off-season and hop on a dogcart for a backcountry tour. Check out the whimsical, handmade clothing at Magical Scraps. Try Breckenridge Brewery, the Breckenridge Distillery, or the Blue River Bistro for drinks. For dinner, indulge in locally sourced cuisine in a historical Victorian house at Hearthstone Restaurant. Lucha's breakfast burritos are legendary.

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