Romance in the Great Outdoors
|Patagonia's pendulous peaks|
If a winter trek merely calls up images of Kleenex shortages and you're feeling fit, you might consider some of the world's classics... where you shouldn't hear the word "sniffle" or "Kleenex" at this time of year.
Among the earth's most scenic trails is the famous Milford Track , long called the "finest in the world," but mostly by people who turn a profit from the trekkers, or trampers, as they're called in the local patois. Located in Fiordland on the southwest coast of New Zealand's South Island, it is home to waterfalls and soaring mountains. The Routeburn Track and Hollyford Valley are less famous but dramatic in their own right.
Also near the top of my list is Costa Rica's Monteverde Cloud Forest. Founded in 1951 by Quakers, it has blossomed into a full-fledged international attraction with ample walking trails, a butterfly garden, quetzals (a long-tailed, beautiful bird), and more stunning insects than you can shake a tripod at.
Patagonia's Torres del Paine , a national park with nearly half a million acres of biodiversity, is crowned by spectacular granite pillars that bolt straight up for over 6,000 feet. With high-altitude waterfalls, thick woodland, and creeping glaciers, you'll feel swooned by Mother Nature herself.
Botswana's Okavango Delta is one of my favorites. Try a walking safari in the world's largest river delta that never finds the sea. It has been called the Venice of Africa. The Okavango dissolves into the Kalahari Desert, but not before creating a maze of channels and lagoons and a lush region bursting with wildlife. Elephants, zebras, giraffes, hippos, lions, and countless birds can be spotted on a single walking tour. And if you need to rest your feet, simply hop into a mokoro (dugout canoe) for a piloted ride.
For those who prefer the sound of the word "stroll" to "hike" or "trek" and find the trips above a little too ambitious or a little too far from home, simply contact your local park. Many are delightfully (and seductively) deserted in the off-season.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication