A Year of Adventure
How's this for a New Year's fantasy: you've won the lottery, quit your job, and have decided to spend the year roaming the worlda trip a month for 12 months, a perfect year of adventure to start the new millennium, or your own "new life." Which trips would you choose?
Sean Greene, founder and CEO of the world's best travel website, Away.com (no humility here), has some suggestions. No geeky Internet nerd, Greene is a veteran traveler who's lived in Singapore, Korea, and Argentina, and visited 40-odd other countries.
He and I ventured out on a frigid night in New York City, trading travel tales over dinner at a Malaysian restaurant on Columbus Avenue. And he mulled over his 12 picks for a fantasy year of adventure. A seasoned adventure traveler myself, I kibitzed and offered some suggestions of my own. Over fragrant plates of roti canai and curry sauce, we came up with the following Dream Dozen Destinations:
JANUARY: Torres del Paine, Chile
The jagged compact range of mountains that juts 6,000 feet out of the Patagonian pampas in southern Chile is one of the world's scenic wonders. "What makes it so dramatic is that out of the flat brown wasteland of Patagonia rises this incredibly imposing massif, surrounded by blue glaciers and lakes," recalls Greene. The Paine Circuit is a classic 60-mile trekking route that encircles the massif, and there's also superb day-hiking from several lodges located nearby. For serious rock climbers, the sheer granite walls of the central towers rank among the world's elite climbs. Wildlife buffs will be entertained by guanacos (cousins to the llama), clouds of condors, and pink flamingoes.
FEBRUARY: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
"It has to be the most beautiful city in the world," insists Greene. "It's got gorgeous beaches, stunning mountains. What more could you ask for?" Well, you could ask for a festive, exotic populace that loves to play music, dance, and party. And you'd get it. February is Carnival month, of course, and the best time of year to go. Perhaps you'll be as lucky as Greene was and find a friend who can get you into one of the glitzy Carnival parades. (An Internet geek wearing satin and feathers? The mind boggles.)
MARCH: The Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu
Macchu Picchu, the extraordinary cloud-swept Inca citadel perched precariously on a mountaintop, was not seen by a white man until 1911. (Somehow, the Spanish conquistadors missed it entirely.) These days, however, it is perhaps the most renowned tourist destination in South America, and the terminus of one of the world's most popular trekking routes, the Inca Trail. "Adventure purists may sniff because it's so popular, but that doesn't change the fact that the Inca Trail is extraordinary scenic and physically quite challenging," says Greene. "At night, there is a mystical feel to Macchu Picchu that is quite captivating."
APRIL: Santa Fe/Taos, New Mexico
Weary from your Inca Trail trek, head back to the good old U.S.A. for a rejuvenating sojourn in northern New Mexico: spring skiing on the black-diamond runs at Taos, hiking in the foothills of the Sangre de Christo foothillsand okay, some shopping, eating, and gallery-cruising in nearby Santa Fe. "I love the juxtaposition of the snowy mountains and the arid desert below," says Greene. "Great skiing. Great southwestern food. Artists love the area. Gourmands love it. I love it."
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication