Posts made in September, 2013

Are these the world’s best walks?

Posted on Sep 6, 2013 | Comments Off on Are these the world’s best walks?

trail towards Everest Nepal sm

The trail to Mt Everest, Nepal


Wanderlust Magazine says these are the best wanders the Earth has to offer. What do you think?

Article by Sarah Baxter, 4th September 2013


Latin America & Caribbean


1. Inca Trail

Where? KM82-Machu Picchu, southern Peru

Length: 45km

Days: 4

Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough; some high passes; camping only

Independent? No – a guide is mandatory

The walk: This iconic tramp through the Andes is not all about arriving – though reaching the stone gate of Intipunku to see a misty sunrise over mountain-perched Machu Picchu is a fine finale. The journey there is testing but manageable, weaving via old Inca pathways, orchid-filled cloud-forest and some lung-busting passes, including 4,200m ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’. There are also fascinating ruins en route, such as the clifftop guard-post at Sayacmarca and the sweeping terraces of Huinay Huayna.

Numbers on the trail are limited to 500 a day, including guides and porters, but camp stops (and their insalubrious loos) still get busy.

Like that? Try this… Choquequirao – a tough eight-day hike from Cachora to these lesser-known ruins, then on to Machu Picchu via a different path, is the offbeat Inca option.


2. El Circuito

Where? Torres del Paine, Chile

Length: 130km

Days: 7-10

Difficulty: *** Moderate-to-tough; wilderness conditions; refugios or camping; pricey supplies available

Independent? Possible

The walk: It can be icy cold. It can be dripping wet. Winds can blast at over 100km an hour. But a circuit of Torres del Paine – taking in the Patagonian park’s gorgeous granite spires, creaking glaciers, mirror lakes and, possibly, pumas – is worth a bit of weather. The hiking isn’t too tough, and never exceeds 1,200m. The challenge is being out in this wilderness for so long – if you’re trekking independently, that’s a lot of stuff to carry, though supported options ease the burden, leaving you freer to look out for llama-like guanaco, calving ice and those classic Cuernos del Paine views. Or try the W (60km; 5-7 days), a shorter, only marginally less impressive version.

Like that? Try this… Mt Fitz Roy, Los Glaciares, Argentina – hop over the border for a four-day, 40km loop amid more dramatic Patagonian landscapes.


3. Inca Trail to Ingapirca

Where? Achupallas-Ingapirca, Ecuador

Length: 40km

Days: 3

Difficulty: ** Moderate; up to 4,800m; wild camping

Independent? Possible

The walk: Peru doesn’t have a monopoly on Inca trails – this trek follows part of the Latin civilisation’s Royal Road, which once linked Cusco and Quito; it ends at Ecuador’s own version of Machu Picchu: the castle-complex of Ingapirca. The trail leads over the Andean páramo, with high-altitude views across glaciated mountains and shimmering lagoons. There are a few Inca ruins en route, but little else – just you, your muleteer (a recommended extra) and the history-soaked highlands.

Like that? Try this… Around Cotopaxi – spend five days walking in the shadow of this perfectly conical 5,897m volcano.


4. Patí Valley

Where? Capão-Guiné, Chapada Diamantina, Brazil

Length: 15km

Days: 1

Difficulty: * Easy, with some steep sections; no facilities en route

Independent? Possible

The walk: A contender for world’s best day walk? The route from Vale do Capão – a hip hangout for alternativos – to the village of Guiné packs in the best of the lush Chapada Diamantina. Here, Jurassic-style tabletop mountains loom like those in a Conan Doyle novel. The vegetation is rampant, the waterfalls plentiful, the high-plateau views sweeping and other people scarce. There are some tests – Bumbreaker Hill is a bit of a slog – but there are also cold beers waiting at the end.

Like that? Try this… Roraima, Venezuela – for more Lost World landscapes, a five-day trip up Venezuela’s iconic tepui is the ultimate challenge.


5. Waitukubuli National Trail

Where? Scotts Head-Cabrits NP, Dominica

Length: 184km

Days: 9-14

Difficulty: ** Moderate; some easy sections; guesthouses/homestays

Independent? Possible

The walk: The native Carib-Kalinago called Dominica ‘Waitukubuli’ (‘tall is her body’) after the island’s mountainous spine. Apt, then, that this coast-to-coast hike – the Caribbean’s first long-distance trail – bears that name, as it snakes across Dominica’s profusely green and volcanically craggy land. Split into 14 accessible sections, ranging from 7km to 15km, you can thru-walk or pick stages: maybe the hike up Morne Crabier (section 1), jaunts around high peaks and sulphurous pools (4), or the beach traverse to Fort Shirley (14). Expect sea breezes, mango trees and encounters with local Carib communities.

Like that? Try this… Pico Duarte, Dominican Republic – mount a three-day expedition up the highest peak in the Caribbean (3,087m).


6. Nebaj-Todos Santos

Where? Cuchamatanes Mountains, north-west Guatemala

Length: 55km

Days: 4

Difficulty: ** Moderate; some tough climbs; remote; homestays en route

Independent? Not recommended

The walk: Guatemala has many volcanoes to climb and lakes to amble around, but this hike across the remote Cuchamatanes is the top offbeat choice. Only four days long, it crosses three Mayan-language zones and reaches nearly 4,000m. You’ll traverse flower-covered plains, pine forest and barren plateaus, while viewpoints might afford glimpses of peaks erupting in the distance. Staying in homestays offers insight into local culture, too.


7. Silver Trail

Where? Carachic-Batopilas, Copper Canyon, Mexico

Length: 160km

Days: 9

Difficulty: **** Moderate-to-tough; some scree sections; hot; camping

Independent? Not recommended

The walk: In the 18th century, the Spanish forged a trail to access their silver mines, located deep in the Batopilas Canyon. Today that remote path is used only by local Tarahumara Indians (famed for their long-distance running prowess), a few plucky trekkers and their load-bearing burros. This is frontier territory, hiking via scree slopes, forested passes, cool pools and caves; there’s also the possibility of meeting Tarahumara farmers en route.

Like that? Try this… Pueblos Mancomunados, Oaxaca – explore the 100km of dramatic trails that weave between a clutch of Zapotec villages.




8. Tsitsikamma Trail

Where? Eastern Cape, South Africa

Length: 60km

Days: 6

Difficulty: *** Moderate; some tough bits; huts with flush loos and showers

Independent? Yes, though huts must be pre-booked

The walk: South Africa’s first official hiking trail is a treat. The route, through gorges, fynbos and the Tsitsikamma mountains, is testing, but each night ends in an equipped hut, while a porterage service can lighten your load. Highlights include ocean views from Nature’s Valley, gazing into Bloukrans River Gorge and wildlife from bulbuls and goshawks to even leopards.

Like that? Try this… Otter Trail – tracing the East Cape coast, only 12 people are allowed  on each section of this tough 42km hike each day.


9. Kilimanjaro

Where? Northern Tanzania

Length: from 45km

Days: 6-9

Difficulty: **** Tough, due to high altitude; camping; huts on one route

Independent? No – a guide is compulsory

The walk: Stand on the roof of Africa! As the continent’s highest peak (5,895m), and the world’s highest trekking summit, it’s a magnet for challenge-seekers. There are six  routes: Machame (49km) is tough but dramatic; quieter Rongai (65km) allows for more acclimatisation and has a high success rate. Whichever you pick, altitude is the biggest concern, and sweat, tears, carbs and camaraderie are guaranteed.

Like that? Try this… Mount Kenya, Kenya – Africa’s second-highest (5,199m) is an easier, less-crowded and more wildlife-filled climb.


10. Toubkal Circuit

Where? Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Length: 72km

Days: 4-6

Difficulty: ** Moderate; some tough sections; camping; gîtes in villages

Independent? Possible, though guide highly recommended

The walk: The summit of North Africa’s highest peak is a relatively simple hike up from the Neltner Refuge. But much better to spend several days circuiting 4,167m Jebel Toubkal than to rush it. The surrounding High Atlas terrain is a mix of verdant valleys, Berber villages and stark mountainsides; some days include testing passes, but frequent stops to sip mint tea in the shade relieves the strain.

Like that? Try this… M’goun Massif – a five-day expedition around Morocco’s lesser-hiked but still lofty mountain is an offbeat alternative.


11. Simien Mountains Traverse

Where? Ethiopia

Length: various
Days: 6-9

Difficulty: *** Moderate-to-tough; camping

Independent? No – trails are not clearly marked

The walk: Trekking in Ethiopia’s World Heritage-listed highlands might yield sightings of gelada baboons, walia ibex, possibly even a rare Simien fox – but few other trekkers. This is offbeat African hiking, across rugged volcanic escarpments seemingly untouched by time. Routes vary, but often include a summit attempt on Ras Dashen (4,620m), the country’s highest peak, and stops at village mud-huts to drink coffee like a local.

Like that? Try this… Mountains of the Moon, Uganda – try a challenging hut-to-hut hike in the oft-overlooked Rwenzoris.




12. Sentiero degli Dei

Where? Bomerano-Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Length: 8km

Days: 1

Difficulty: * Mostly easy; short

Independent? Yes

The walk: The Path of the Gods traces one of the Amalfi Coast’s most handsome  sections. Following old mule trails, it skirts vineyards and rolls over valleysides cloaked in holm oak and heather, offering views down the cliffs to the Med beyond. The ‘alto’ route has most drama; a lower route can be shortened at tiny Nocelle (perched 440m-up) by catching the bus to pretty Positano below.

Like that? Try this… Sentiero Azzurro, Cinque Terre – the Blue Trail between Liguria’s five coastal villages is a compact Italian classic.


13. Tour du Mont Blanc

Where? France/Switzerland/Italy

Length: 170km

Days: 9-12

Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough; plentiful refuges; villages accessible from several points

Independent? Yes; many guided trips available

The walk: No need to haul yourself up 4,810m Mont Blanc – arguably, the best way to experience Western Europe’s highest peak is to walk in its shadow on this classic trail that nips into three nations and brims with Alpine charm and history. It’s also high on  creature comforts, dotted with refuges (providing hot, homecooked meals) so you don’t have to carry camping kit. There are stiff climbs, some steep ladders and snow is always possible, but plentiful accommodation choices mean you can tackle it at your own pace.

Like that? Try this… Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route – a tough two-week, 180km  adventure that showcases the best of the high Alps.


14. Camino de Santiago

Where? St Jean Pied de Port-Santiago de Compostella, France/Spain

Length: about 800km

Days: 30

Difficulty: *** Long but moderate if paced; albergues; villages

Independent? Yes

The walk: The Camino isn’t a walk, it’s a state of mind. Some see it as a spiritual undertaking, others as a physical test; for some it’s all about the camaraderie at the albergues (pilgrim hostels). Whether you’re there for the highlights of northern Spain – León’s cathedral, delicious grilled octopus – or some higher goal, there’s nothing else quite like it.

Like that? Try this… Portuguese Road – there are many ways to Santiago; try the 230km camino from Porto.


15. Laugavegur

Where? Landmannalaugar-Thórsmörk, Iceland

Length: 55km

Days: 4

Difficulty: ** Moderate, though very weather dependent; six huts en route, with dorms, tent pitches, toilets, showers but no food

Independent? Possible, but guide recommended

The walk: Iceland’s most iconic walk is a rainbow-coloured romp through some of the country’s best bits. Peaks come in reds, yellows, greens and purples; blinding-white glaciers creak, hot springs burble, lakes and rivers glitter. The trekking season is short (mid-June to early September), so the trail can get busy, but the wonderful weirdness of Iceland’s geothermal geography is more than compensation.

Like that? Try this… Borgarfjörður Eystri – this inlet in eastern Iceland is riddled with walking trails and elvish legends.


16. Lycian Way

Where? Fethiye-Antalya, Turkey

Length: 509km

Days: 25

Difficulty: **** Moderate-tough; some easy sections; camping, village houses and pensions en route

Independent? Yes; many guided trips available

The walk: The Lycian Way, Turkey’s first long-distance trail, flanks the hilly coast of the Tekke Peninsula. It’s rich in history – dotted with Byzantine monasteries, Greek temples and Roman ruins; it’s riddled with coves, caves and brilliant beaches; and it’s infused with the scent of wild strawberries, juniper and pine. Camping is possible, but best is to stay in guesthouses, to meet the locals who call this handsome coastline home.

Like that? Try this… St Paul Trail – Follow in the saint’s footsteps for 500km, from Perge, near Antalya, to Yalvac, close to Lake Egirdir.


17. Faulhornweg

Where? Schynige Platte-First, Switzerland

Length: 16km

Days: 1

Difficulty: ** Moderate but short; huts en route; train/cablecar at ends.

Independent? Yes

The walk: This well-marked route is potted Swiss perfection. Accessed by 19th-century cog railway from Wilderswil, it offers views over blue-turquoise lakes Thun and Brienz to one side, the amassed peaks of the Bernese Oberland on the other. Green, curving valleys, dramatic ridge walking, a 2,680m-high mountain lodge (a good refreshment  stop) and mirror lakes are added extras. A scenic cablecar from First to Grindelwald even saves the walk back down to the valley floor.

Like that? Try this… Matterhorn Circuit – for a longer Swiss stroll, try the tough but magnificent 145km route around the iconic mountain.


18. West Highland Way

Where? Milngavie-Fort William, Scotland

Length: 154km

Days: 6-7

Difficulty: ** Moderate, though it’s weather dependent; camping, bothies, hostels and
B&Bs en route

Independent? Yes; many guided trips available

The walk: From just outside Glasgow to the UK’s highest peak, the West Highland Way is the perfect Scottish primer. Utilising many old pathways – from drovers’ roads to  disused railway lines – it crosses pastoral lowlands, skirts Loch Lomond and negotiates bleakly beautiful Rannoch Moor before delving into great glens and finishing beneath 1,344m Ben Nevis – a summit of which provides the ultimate finale.

Like that? Try this… East Highland Way – extend your Scottish soiree by picking up this 132km trail, which links Fort William to Aviemore.


North America


19. West Coast Trail

Where? Pachena Bay-Gordon River, Vancouver Island, Canada

Length: 75km

Days: 5-7

Difficulty: **** Tough; tidal/river crossings; wild camping; no shelters or facilities

Independent? Yes – but permits/booking essential

The walk: Don’t underestimate the WCT: it might be in lovely, well-developed Canada, but it’s a wild prospect. Along its glorious Pacific-battered route, there are no settlements, ferry ports, shelters or shops – you must be entirely self-sufficient. There are also rivers to ford, gullies to cross, ladders to climb, bears to avoid and inclement weather to contend with. But the rewards are many: this is North America at its most pristine, where the trail runs via old-growth forest, untouched beaches, caves, coves, cliffs and incredible sunsets. Watch out for whales, sea lions and wolves, too.

Like that? Try this… Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Vancouver Island – this 47km WCT alternative is still spectacular, but easier, more accessible and permit-free.


20. Appalachian Trail

Where? Springer Mountain, GA-Mt Katahdin, ME, USA

Length: 3,500km
Days: 180

Difficulty: ***** Varied – challenging thru-hike, but some easy sections; long; camping; basic shelters en route;intermittent access to hotels

Independent? Yes

The walk: First, some stats: the Appalachian Trail passes through 14 states; its total elevation gain equals 16 Mt Everests; around 2,000 people try to thru-hike the whole lot each year – one in four succeeds. Luckily, it’s easy to simply sample this back-country behemoth – offers suggestions, from easy two-milers to multi-day trips. In general, Maryland and West Virginia offer the gentlest hikes; New Hampshire and Maine the toughest.

Like that? Try this… Florida Trail – trace sections of this 2,250km path, which spans the state from Gulf Islands National Seashore to Big Cypress NP.


21. John Muir Trail

Where? Yosemite Valley-Mt Whitney, California, USA

Length: 340km

Days: 20-30

Difficulty: **** Moderate-tough; camping; self-sufficiency required; long

Independent? Possible, but advance booking and permits are required

The walk: It’s fitting that the man who spearheaded the national parks movement should have such a world-class wilderness-traversing trail named after him. Muir loved Yosemite, where this backcountry adventure starts; the route then wends further into the Sierra Nevada, where highlights include meadows strewn with wildflowers, remote Evolution Lake and the pretty pools at Rae. En route there are a few re-supply stops (including the hot springs at Red’s Meadows Resort), but mostly it’s just you, the mountains and the bears.

Like that? Try this… Pacific Crest Trail, USA – the John Muir forms just part of this massive 4,240km journey from the Mexican to the Canadian border.


22. Virgin Narrows

Where? Chamberlain’s Ranch-Temple of Sinawava, Zion NP, Utah, USA

Length: 26km

Days: 1-2

Difficulty: *** Moderate but short; camping; all waste must be packed out

Independent? Possible, but guide recommended and permits required

The walk: Breathe in for this squeeze down one of southwest USA’s most dramatic slot canyons. This is Indiana Jones-style stuff: sheer, twisting sandstone walls tufted by hanging gardens soar up from the boulder-strewn riverbed – which forms your wet-n-wild walking trail through Zion’s canyons. Good water-shoes and neoprene socks are essential; you may need to swim short sections. But keep an eye on the weather before you start as flash floods are lethal here. Go with a guide for the safest trip.

Like that? Try this… Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Utah-Arizona) our cover star this issue. Set off from Wire Pass trailhead to check out the weird and wonderful rock formations such as The Wave.


23. Berg Lake Trail

Where? Mount Robson, British Columbia, Canada

Length: 23km

Days: 1-2

Difficulty: ** Moderate but short; campsites with bear lockers and pit toilets

Independent? Yes

The walk: This out-and-back hike towards the Canadian Rockies’ highest peak (3,954m Mt Robson) is a stunner: gaining nearly 800m in 23km, it traverses the Valley of a Thousand Falls – via reflective pools, suspension bridges and squeaking marmots – to Berg Lake, where ice-chunks from massive Berg Glacier calve into the aquamarine water. Doable as a long day-hike, there are campgrounds en route for those who want to linger; for even better hiking, use the camp at the lake as a base for forays into the surrounding wilds.

Like that? Try this… Mount Assiniboine, British Columbia/ Alberta – spend six days hiking around ‘Canada’s Matterhorn’.


Middle East


24. Dana-Petra

Where? Southern Jordan
Length: 45km

Days: 3-5 days

Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough; camping; wild

Independent? No – a guide is compulsory

The walk: The ‘Inca Trail of the Middle East’ wends from the wildlife-filled forests of Dana Nature Reserve to the rock-hewn ‘lost’ city of Petra, with some truly intoxicating desert in between. It’s not waymarked – this is a directional route along a range of old mule tracks, rather than a set path, hence the need for a guide. But it’s full of atmosphere and drama: rolling hills, scorching wadis, rich sandstone mountains, Bedouin-style camping and access to Petra via its little-known back door.

Like that? Try this… Wadi Rum – follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia with spectral overnight hikes in the Jordanian desert.


25. Mount Sinai

Where? Egypt

Length: various

Days: 1-4

Difficulty: ** Moderate; camps; guesthouses

Independent? No – many trails are not clearly marked

The walk: Many a traveller hauls themselves up 2,285m Mount Sinai for sunrise, a two- to three-hour hike in the dark from St Catherine’s Monastery. However, the entire peninsula is scored with old pilgrim paths and mule tracks that could occupy several days. You can summit Mount Saint Catherine (2,641m), Sinai’s highest peak; hike into El Shegg Gorge to bathe in nearby pools; or climb to the ruined Ottoman castle on Mount Abbas Pasha. Throughout, the desert terrain is wild, and rich in biblical and Bedouin intrigue.

Like that? Try this… White Desert – camp and hike out amid the weird chalk formations of Egypt’s Western Desert, on the fringes of the Sahara.




26. Milford Track

Where? Lake Te Anau-Milford Sound, South Island, NZ

Length: 53.5km

Days: 4

Difficulty: ** Moderate; huts with bunks, cookers and flush loos

Independent? Yes, but reservations required

The walk: Awesome and oh-so popular – the toughest thing about this four-day Fiordland tramp (aside from scaling 1,154m Mackinnon Pass) is booking a place on it. Only 40 independent walkers a day are permitted to hit the trail, which passes mossy rainforest, tumbling falls and high peaks en route to marvellous Milford Sound. Book ahead, pack all your supplies and prepare to be rained on and blown away.

Like that? Try this… Kepler Track – this easy, accessible and less-crowded 60km loop takes a different route from Te Anau.


27. Overland Track

Where? Ronny Creek-Lake St Clair, Tasmania, Australia

Length: 65km

Days: 6

Difficulty: ** Moderate; basic huts, tent platforms

Independent? Yes; guided options are available (including a ‘posh’ version using private huts)

The walk: Starting from Cradle Mountain and passing wizened rainforest, glacier-gouged valleys, towering eucalypts and golden moorland, this classic sums up the Tassie wilderness. As well as the standard 65km, there are side-trips to waterfalls and lookouts. At Lake Sinclair, finish with a ferry ride, or extend your trip by walking an extra 17.5km around its shore.

Like that? Try this… Maria Island – saunter in style on a luxurious four-day guided hike across Tassie’s pristine east-coast isle.


28. Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Where? Tongariro NP, North Island, NZ

Length: 19km

Days: 1

Difficulty: * Easy-medium; steep sections; short; no facilities

Independent? Yes

The walk: Often touted as the world’s best day walk, this yomp across eerie Tongariro is a magical mix of sulphurous pools, red craters, totara trees, Maori legend and – since the Lord of the Rings movies – Mount Doom. There are some significant ups, but it’s a straightforward undertaking (unless the weather comes in). To add extra interest – and lose the crowds – spend three days completing the 34km hut-to-hut Northern Circuit: the Crossing, supersized.

Like that? Try this… Lake Waikaremoana Track – this 46km Great Walk explores North Island’s lesser-visited Te Urewera NP, rich in Maori history.


29. Larapinta Trail

Where? Alice Springs-Mt Sonder, NT, Australia

Length: 223km

Days: 11-16

Difficulty: **** Tough; some stages easier; camping; self-sufficiency required

Independent? Yes; guided options available (including a ‘posh’ version using  semipermanent camps)

The walk: Australia has many trails but this is perhaps the most quintessentially ‘Oz’: starting from the Red Centre capital of Alice, it goes bush along the spine of the West MacDonnell Ranges, incorporating red rocks and desert, deep gorges, cooling creeks, termite mounds and star-filled skies; the climax is Alamy a climb of 1,380m Mt Sonder for a panoramic overview. It’s broken into 12 sections, and each trailhead is vehicle-accessible making short forays easy to arrange. Only the fit and well-prepared should attempt the lot alone.

Like that? Try this… Bibbulmun Track, WA – nearly 1,000km of brilliant bushwalking, from Kalamunda to Albany.


30. Kokoda Track

Where? Owers Corner-Kokoda, Papua New Guinea

Length: 96km

Days: 6-10

Difficulty: **** Tough; humid; jungle camps, homestays, villages en route

Independent? No – guide and permit required

The walk: In 1942, this jungle trail was the site of fierce fighting between Japanese and Australian troops; today it’s filled with hikers battling humidity, bugs and torrential rain. This isn’t a comfortable undertaking, involving steep, slippery ascents, raging rivers and sticky conditions, but pay-offs include fascinating Second World War history, tribal encounters and Technicolor birds of paradise.

Like that? Try this… Black Cat Track, Morobe Province – launched in 2003 as the ‘new’ Kokoda, this five-day trail from Wau is said to be even tougher!




31. Great Himalaya Trail

Where? Near Kanchenjunga Base Camp-Hilsa, Tibetan border, Nepal

Length: 1,700km

Days: 150

Difficulty: ***** Challenging, long!; camping

Independent? No – hire a guide

The walk: First thing first: don’t panic! This mammoth hike across the Nepalese Himalaya is formed of ten connecting sections (two/three weeks each), so the less gung-ho can still have a go at a bit of it. Also, there’s a ‘cultural’ version (1,500km), which uses gentler, lower altitude trails, and where small guesthouses offer a warm namaste each night.

Like that? Try this… Mustang – with access restricted to only a handful of groups each season, treks here are special indeed.

32. Great Wall of China

Where? North of Beijing, China

Length: 5,000km in total; various short sections possible

Days: 1-12 (a section)

Difficulty: ** Easy-moderate; steep, uneven sections; homestays

Independent? Yes; many guided options available

The walk: It’s tough to walk the entire Great Wall – not just because it’s a really long way but, in places, its route is ill-defined. However, stringing together a series of day-hikes in the Beijing region – around the less touristy areas of Jiankou, Mutianyu, Gubeikou and Jinshanling – is a good alternative, combining watchtowers, vertiginous steps and mountain views.

Like that? Try this… Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan – From Lijiang, spend three-four days hiking this dramatic canyon.


33. Chomolhari Trek

Where? Paro-Dodena, Bhutan

Length: 133km

Days: 10-13

Difficulty: **** Fairly tough; high altitudes; camping, no facilities

Independent? No – guide mandatory

The walk: This exclusive yet manageable Himalayan adventure is a Bhutanese classic. Join yak herders – but few hikers – walking in the shadow of 7,326m Chomolhari (Jomolhari). The trail leads past colourful dzongs (monasteries) and thick forest, over lofty passes (topping out at 4,900m Nyile La) and maybe even past the footprints of rare snow leopards.

Like that? Try this… Merak Sakten – spend five/six days looping around the culturally distinct villages of eastern Bhutan.


34. Mount Kailash Circuit

Where? Tibet

Length: 52km

Days: 3-5

Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough;remote; monasteries and camping

Independent? No – permits/guides required

The walk: A circumambulation of Kailash won’t just test your legs, it will sort your karma: Buddhists, Böns, Hindus and Jains all believe that a lifetime’s sins can be expunged by completing a circuit (kora) of the unmistakable 6,714m mountain. Kailash is in a remote spot – just getting there (via sacred Lake Manasarovar) is an adventure. On trek, you’ll crest a 5,600m pass, visit monasteries and meet the Tibetan pilgrims who are walking for their souls.

Like that? Try this… Everest’s Kangshung Face – a tough trek to view the mightiest Himalaya peak’s little-visited Tibetan side.


35. Lantau Trail

Where? Hong Kong

Length: 70km

Days: 3-12

Difficulty: * Mostly easy; some tougher sections; good facilities

Independent? Yes

The walk: Only a short train or ferry hop from the hubbub of Hong Kong Island, this  circular trail on nearby Lantau is a breath of bucolic air. Starting/finishing at Mui Wo, the route feels far from the metropolis, taking in temples, beaches, fishing villages and gardens. Divided into 12 sections, it’s easy to pick and chose a suitable section.

Like that? Try this… MacLehose Trail – this 100km trek traverses Hong Kong’s New Territories for more alternative city views.


36. Singalila Ridge

Where? Manebhanjan-Rimbik, Sikkim, India

Length: 85km

Days: 6-7

Difficulty: ** Moderate; teahouses
Independent? Possible, but guide recommended

The walk: From Sandakphu, the 3,636m zenith of this route near the tea terraces of Darjeeling, you can look out over the world’s highest peaks: Kangchenjunga, Lhotse, Everest. As you trek between teahouses, you’ll stop en route to admire Hindu temples, prayer wheels and red pandas. Each night, curries, Sikkimese beers and warm welcomes await.

Like that? Try this… Markha Valley, Ladakh – tale a seven-day hike in ‘little Tibet’, for views of the Karakoram and Himalaya.


37. Annapurna Circuit

Where? Besisahar-Naya Pul, Nepal

Length: 300km

Days: 17-24

Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough; teahouses

Independent? Possible, but local guides/sherpas recommended

The walk: Although it weaves amid remote, spectacular mountains, this is no wilderness adventure. Dubbed the ‘teahouse trek’, you’ll interact and stay with the varied ethnic groups that live here. As well as high passes (peaking at 5,416m Thorong La), lonely stupas, lush paddies and barren moonscapes, there are yak herders, reviving hot springs and guesthouses serving curry and cake. Options abound too: cut the trek in half by flying into/out of midway Jomsom. Or take alternative side trails to avoid walking by the new road.

Like that? Try this… Everest Base Camp – Nepal’s other classic, a 14-day out-and-back from Lukla.


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“Hello – we’re just taking off” US to relax restrictions.

Posted on Sep 6, 2013 | Comments Off on “Hello – we’re just taking off” US to relax restrictions.

Airlines and Technology

Smart phones, computers- the 10 best global airlines to take them along

Sep 05, 2013

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will relax some rules in regards for passengers to use communication devices. It may include using a phone even during take off and landing.

This is good news for tech-savvy flyers everywhere. But the question is, just how “plugged-in” are the airlines themselves?

A major online booking portal has compiled a list of what it believes to be the best technology adopters within the airline world. Here is our top 10.

#1: Japan Airlines
Japan Airlines takes in-flight technology to new heights by embracing fun gadgets that make the flying experience more enjoyable. Not only does it offer Wi-Fi on select routes and power outlets for all cabins, but it also has a laptop battery lending service for first and business class customers. Similarly, if you are one of the fortunate ones who can afford to travel in style, Japan Airlines provides its first and business passengers with noise cancelling headphones and portable air massagers. And who wants to squint at a tiny video screen? First class passengers also enjoy their in-flight entertainment on 19″-23″ screens, while Select Business customers get to use a liquid-crystal touch-panel controller.

Honorable Mentions: Like Japan Airlines, both ANA (All Nippon Airways) and Singapore Airlines offer in-seat power supply and noise cancelling headphones (to first and business passengers). Likewise, ANA has a portable PC battery rental service, not to mention portable media players (on select aircrafts). And Singapore Airlines provides Wi-Fi on select flights, as well as the capability to connect devices directly to personal touch screens.

#2: Virgin Atlantic
Not to be confused with Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic has long been a forward thinker when it comes to technology. Two decades ago, before integrated systems in the back of seats were prevalent, it offered portable video devices to each first class customer. You just picked the video you wanted from whatever cassettes they had on board and the flight attendant would bring you your choice. Likewise, you have long been able to play video games with other passengers.

But now, the social media savvy airline will be using its already very active Facebook and Twitter accounts to announce live entertainment acts on its domestic Little Red service. (By live, we mean actual musicians and performers doing their thing in-person on your flight).

Virgin Atlantic also offers a plethora of mobile apps to choose from, including a mobile boarding pass. And it boasts gate-to-gate in-flight entertainment through its Vera entertainment system (which allows you to bookmark content for later in your flight, rate content and see other travelers’ ratings, as well as access the Sky news channel live).

#3: Air Canada
If you can afford a first class ticket, imagine an airline that offers seats with a built-in massage function and lumbar adjustment, in addition to the fold-out bed capability that has become standard for long haul flights — ever since British Airways first introduced them in 1996. This is just one of the many perks that Air Canada provides its Executive customers. Even the mattress can be adjusted from soft to firm. And to further help you sleep, Air Canada has created an ambient mood lighting effect to sync with each time zone you enter as a way to minimize jet lag. With technology-driven capabilities like these, it is no wonder Air Canada was named Best Airline in North America by the Skytrax 2013 World Airline Awards.

#4: American Airlines
As Air Canada demonstrates, it is not just international airlines that have a corner on technology. And American Airlines is no exception. It has managed to integrate technology into its entire user experience – -from travel planning, to security check, to gate navigation, on board access and baggage claim. Its mobile app not only lets you use your device as an electronic boarding pass, but it will also give you boarding and baggage claim alerts. Need to power up? No problem. Just use one of AA’s gate work tables, complete with charging stations, or plug into the AC power outlet that is a feature on most of its planes. This way you are all juiced up and ready for AA’s in-flight Wi-Fi.

However, a quick poll of Travelzoo employees revealed that it was American’s new upgrade/stand-by feature on its mobile app, as well as the preloaded Samsung Galaxy tablets that were particularly appreciated.

“I like having a reasonable idea of where I stand [with upgrades and stand-by]!” says Alissa Bavli, Senior Sales Director, Entertainment.

For her part, Morgan Ashley Parker, Hotel Content Producer and Merchandising Manager at Travelzoo, loves that American gives its business and first class customers Bose headsets and a Samsung Galaxy tablet with tons of movies loaded onto it. “On the redeye between SFO and JFK, I have to force myself to turn it off so I can get some sleep!”

#5: EVA Airways
Imagine an in-flight entertainment system that integrates with your own devices. If you are flying first class or business, EVA Airways has USB ports that allow you to display your PDF documents, photos and other media directly onto your very own personal touch screen. Their in-flight entertainment system will also let you send and receive emails and cell phone text messages (all classes on select aircrafts). And to make sure your devices stay charged, just use their in-seat power supply.

#6: Qantas
Speaking of in-flight entertainment, Qantas takes it one step further by supplying iPads in every seat so that B767 customers can enjoy 200 hours of streaming on-demand programming. Oh and there are PC power outlets for all classes as well.

It is their Q Bag Tag product, however, that really sets them apart technologically. Designed to make it easier for their customers to check baggage, the little device removes the need for temporary bag tags each time you fly. All you need to do is drop off your bags and go.

#7: Virgin America
Virgin America is pretty tech-savvy too. You can order food, movies and other items directly from your own personal touch screen in the seat in front of you. They also offer in-flight Wi-Fi.

Still, it is their live in-flight TV offering that scores big with Travelzoo. “My favorite flying experience was on a Virgin America flight from San Francisco to Chicago this June. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Bruins in a triple overtime Stanley Cup Final game that had the whole plane cheering. I think we frightened the non-locals with our excitement, but it was such a treat to get to experience the win live. On any other airline, we would have missed out on all the fun!” shares Anna Heinemann, Senior Associate Producer, Entertainment.

#8: Delta Airlines
Like American Airlines, Delta also offers in-flight Wi-Fi and USB power outlets, as well as charging stations at its top airports. But it is Delta’s iPhone app that no doubt helped propel the airline to be named “Top Tech-Friendly U.S. Airline” by PCWorld magazine early last year. Among the many things it can do is track and pay for checked baggage!

#9: Emirates
One of the few international airlines to allow passengers to use their cell phones, Emirates may or may not be helping to pave the way for policy changes on domestic U.S. flights. Regardless, this capability combined with its Ice OnDemand entertainment system and Wi-Fi offering helps position it as a tech savvy airline.

#10: Etihad Airways
This summer Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, debuted Wi-Fly in-flight connectivity on its Abu Dhabi and New York flights. It also offers travelers “Etihad Mapped-Out,” an online mapping tool developed in cooperation with LinkedIn, that gives professionals the ability to search their connections by geographical location and see them displayed on a map. The idea is to make it easier for their passengers to message new contacts, arrange meetings and be more productive while travelling.

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Accor’s Pullman to manage more Qantas lounges across Australia

Posted on Sep 5, 2013 | Comments Off on Accor’s Pullman to manage more Qantas lounges across Australia


Accor has managed Qantas’ First/Business Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne airports for more than five years. It will now take over the operations of the majority of Qantas domestic lounges in Sydney and Melbourne plus Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Perth, with a roll-out from November this year. They will be will be run under Accor’s upscale Pullman brand.

Earlier this year, Qantas relaunched its newly refurbished lounge in Singapore, also managed by Accor.

Simon McGrath, Accor’s COO Australia and New Zealand, said the deal brings together the two biggest names in tourism and hospitality in Australia to provide the best possible service to Qantas Frequent Flyers.

Accor’s involvement in the Qantas lounges extends to providing staff training, lounge management and food and beverage services.

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TripAdvisor now lets hotels start afresh

Posted on Sep 5, 2013 | Comments Off on TripAdvisor now lets hotels start afresh



SEP 04, 2013 5:55 AM

In response to hotel owners’ request for a fresh start following major renovations,TripAdvisor added a review removal policy last October, and updated the policy for clarity in July 2013.

The odds are big for hotels: In exchange for proof of major renovations, a hotel’s old reviews are wiped clean — a fresh start.

Hotels must produce proof of structural changes including the installation of new guest rooms or bathrooms, alterations to hotel layout, or complete property overhauls. Cosmetic changes like new paint or curtains do not count.

According to TripAdvisor’s Help Center (screenshot embedded below), hotels need to provide building permits, materials invoices, or press releases to prove that the renovations were indeed structural and completed.

TripAdvisor: Reporting major renovation

All old reviews are then deleted from the live site and cannot be accessed by travelers or hoteliers. Any removed reviews are no longer factored into the hotel’sPopularity Index.

Hotels essentially start back at zero with a clean slate and any comment about bed bugs, rude staff, or disruptions from ongoing renovations never happened as far as new customers can tell.

“We understand that as part of running a successful hospitality business, sometimes significant renovations are made in an effort to modernize or simply remodel an establishment,” TripAdvisor spokeswoman Alison Croyle told Skift.

“With this in mind, TripAdvisor will remove a property’s reviews and photos that were posted prior to completion of a major renovation.”

TripAdvisor will also remove old reviews if a property moves between two major flags or brands. For example, if a Westin in Paris becomes part of the Waldorf Astoria Collection, no one will know of its Starwood past.

But the largesse does not extend past construction and branding changes: A simple management change, even if it results in improved customer relations or operations, does not warrant the removal of reviews.

A Successful Restart

One look at Minneapolis’ Millennium Hotel on TripAdvisor today and you would never know it spent the first five months of this year closed for a much needed $22.5 million renovation.

The reviews noting the property’s smooth and pleasant check-in process, contemporary clean rooms, and great value are very different from those that called the hotel “dirty” and “old” one year ago.

The hotel sent TripAdvisor the entire scope of its work plan once it closed for renovations, says Ryan Walker, the Director of E-Commerce for Millennium Hotels and Resorts. A TripAdvisor staffer responded that they had opened a case, but reviews would not be removed until the hotel reopened and new photos were provided.

In that time, the hotel’s entire lobby was expanded and redesigned, 321 guest rooms were renovated, public bathrooms were redesigned, and the fitness area gained some 700 square feet. Only the hotel’s TVs, which were bought one year earlier, remained untouched.

After the hotel reopened and provided proof of its renovations, there was a one to two week wait before TripAdvisor removed all reviews. TripAdvisor wiped the hotel’s slate clean, but its ranking relative to competitors hardly changed.

“With only one or two reviews, we’re going to fall to the bottom of our competitive set. TripAdvisor needs a quantity of reviews to move you up,” explains Walker.

“In the last month, we’ve noticed an exponential rise in our competitive set as we consistently gain new reviews. That was frustrating for the team at first, but I don’t think it matters to the guest.”

Millennium Hotel Minneapolis ranked in the bottom quarter of its competitive set prior to the renovations and TripAdvisor refresh. It is now ranked number ten out of 49 hotels in Minneapolis.

Jenny Stimler, Director of Sales and Marketing, believes the hotel’s closure helped make Millennium’s case to TripAdvisor.

Stimler says, “[TripAdvisor] is a source that everyone really goes to these days. We have to put the right pictures and the data information so they can research pre-stay.”

Hotels’ Previous Status Are Not Indicated

TripAvisor makes no note on hotels’ pages that recently rebooted their TripAdvisor history, although many properties will add ‘renovated’ to their page headline.

There’s room for improvement here since TripAdvisor users could be confused to find reviews dating back only a few months for a property they visited years ago.

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You Light Up My Life

Posted on Sep 4, 2013 | Comments Off on You Light Up My Life

Neon Museum
Neon Museum 11/12/13 Weddings
LAS VEGAS (September 2013) – When that special “Magic Day” hits on 11/12/13, brides-to-be and their grooms can say “I do” in one of the most remarkable and picturesque locations in Las Vegas: The Neon Museum. Only available on 11/12/13, The Neon Museum is now offering the “Magic Day” wedding package. For this special day, there will only be four slots available for couples.
Considered one of most colorful and sought-after attractions in Las Vegas, the Neon Museum is home to the Neon Boneyard – a collection of more than 150 classic signs from the city’s most celebrated properties—including the Moulin Rouge, the Desert Inn, the Flamingo and the Stardust—which are displayed alongside those from various other bygone hotels, restaurants and businesses. The Boneyard’s two-acre outdoor area encompasses nearly 3,600 square feet and features a partial canopy.
The package includes:
  • 30 minute wedding ceremony for the couple and up to four guests.
  • 30 minute photo opportunity in the Neon Boneyard.
  • One bottle of chilled champagne or sparkling wine, paired with cupcakes that are packaged to go.
  • An exclusive pair of his-and-her Neon Museum-wedding themed shirts.
For more information, go to To book a wedding, reception or other event, contact Events Manager Joel Castillo at or call (702) 387-6366.
*Pricing does not include ceremony officiant, catering, floral or photography. All ceremonies are performed by Elegant Vegas Weddings. A list of exclusive vendors for photography, catering, décor and equipment will be provided. A list of recommended florists is available by request. 
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Where In The World Do Chinese Tourists Go?

Posted on Sep 4, 2013 | Comments Off on Where In The World Do Chinese Tourists Go?



SEP 03, 2013 5:56 AM

Thanks to its rising affluence, China is becoming an increasingly important source market for international tourists. In 2012, it was the fourth largest source market for outbound travellers according to Euromonitor International, and the country is expected to become the largest source market in 2017, surpassing Germany. Not surprisingly, regional destinations are the biggest beneficiaries of the Chinese boom, accounting for the bulk of the top 10 most popular destinations for Chinese tourists in 2012, but long-haul destinations dominate the remainder. Over the next five years, regional destinations will again benefit the most, although countries which amend their visa policies and procedures could quickly boost their Chinese arrival figures.

Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand the Top Destinations

For most first-time overseas travellers, Hong Kong and Macau are usually their first choice, thanks to proximity, affordability and lack of language barriers. The attractions of shopping and gambling are strong draws, particularly since the Chinese yuan has appreciated over the past few years.

South Korea also benefits from its proximity to China, with flights of only 1-3 hours. Since 2008, Chinese tourists arriving directly at Jeju Island have not needed a visa, which is another major draw. The Korean Wave (hallyu) – the popularity of all things Korean globally – is attracting many Chinese tourists who want to experience South Korea’s food and culture at first hand. And the popularity of Gangnam Style has certainly not hurt either.

Growing interest in Thai culture, known as T-Pop fever, is also a factor in the growing number of Chinese tourists in Thailand. Thai television soap operas, or lakorn, have been popular among Chinese viewers over the last few years. Some series use locations across the country, such as beach, mountain, farm and boutique resorts, which has driven demand for travel to Thailand.

China Now the Second Largest Source Market for Australia and New Zealand

In 2012, China became the second largest source market for Australia, behind only New Zealand. Tourism Australia dedicated a quarter of its budget in 2012 to China, promoting the country in primary and secondary cities. Additionally, Tourism Australia formed an alliance with China Southern Airlines, which is promoting Australia to Chinese consumers via the slogan “Australia, It’s Really Not That Far” in the hope of making Australia more attractive than the US and Europe.

China also became the second largest source market for New Zealand in 2012. During the year, the New Zealand government signed an agreement with China Southern Airlines to increase flight capacity between New Zealand and China. The new agreement allows each country to operate up to 21 return flights weekly (previously each country was only allowed to operate one return flight daily). In addition, the government agency Immigration New Zealand struck a deal with China Southern Airlines in 2012 to allow the fast-tracking of visitor visa applications for the airline’s gold and silver frequent flyer cardholders.

As a result of the agreement, China Southern Airlines’ gold and silver frequent flyer cardholders need not produce evidence of sufficient funds to support themselves as long as they can provide their flight history over the previous two years. The New Zealand government was considering extending this agreement to other airlines, primarily Air New Zealand, during the year.

Top 25 Countries for Arrivals from China in 2012

Ranking Country 2012 Arrivals (‘000 trips) 2012 % Growth
1 Hong Kong, China 15,110.4 11.1
2 Macau 7,958.0 8.4
3 South Korea 3,383.2 55.0
4 Thailand 2,820.0 62.2
5 Taiwan 2,590.7 47.1
6 Singapore 2,054.2 30.2
7 USA 1,593.5 46.0
8 Japan 1,506.5 44.4
9 Vietnam 1,428.7 0.8
10 Malaysia 1,369.3 24.6
11 France 1,288.0 15.0
12 Russia 830.4 16.4
13 Germany 762.9 19.7
14 Switzerland 663.4 33.0
15 Australia 626.4 15.5
16 Indonesia 585.2 16.0
17 Austria 356.4 37.1
18 Cambodia 335.0 35.2
19 United Arab Emirates 300.8 23.7
20 Philippines 291.4 20.0
21 Italy 253.0 12.9
22 Canada 243.0 2.7
23 New Zealand 215.4 48.0
24 United Kingdom 206.6 17.5
25 Mongolia 203.8 2.5


Changing Visa Policy and Processing Key to Attracting Chinese Tourists

While marketing and accommodating Chinese tastes in a destination are important to attracting Chinese tourists, relaxing visa requirements and improving visa processing procedures have proven to be sure-fire ways of boosting arrivals from China. Countries intent on capitalising on the growth in Chinese international travel will continue to evaluate and improve their policies.

South Korea is a good example of a country with an evolving visa policy with regard to Chinese tourists, eliminating visas for Chinese travellers arriving directly at Jeju Island in 2008 and 2010, South Korea began issuing multiple-entry visas valid for three years to people working in a range of professions, such as teachers, and employees of the largest companies in China. This move helped boost arrivals from China by 260% over 2008-2012. In 2013, the country has announced that it will issue visas to Chinese citizens registered as residents in Beijing and Shanghai and those who own timeshares worth Won30 million (US$26,740). Spouses and children of Chinese citizens who hold multiple-entry visas will also be eligible to apply, along with students from the top 112 universities.

There are many more examples of countries improving their visa procedures to welcome more Chinese travellers. Germany and France opened a joint visa processing centre in autumn 2012 to expedite the processing of visa applications. The UK, which has come under fire for an arduous visa process, outlined in December 2012 that it is aiming to simplify its visa issuance to Chinese tourists, although the UK travel industry insists that more could be done. Thailand announced in August 2013 that it is discussing a bilateral tourist visa exemption with China that could be implemented this September. It is likely that more countries will follow these examples to boost inbound tourism from China.

Top 25 Fastest Growing Countries for Arrivals from China 2012-2017

Ranking Country 2012-2017 Absolute Growth in Chinese Arrivals (‘000 trips) Arrivals in 2017
1 Hong Kong, China 4,629.4 19,739.8
2 Thailand 3,708.8 6,528.9
3 Taiwan 2,718.5 5,309.2
4 South Korea 2,308.4 5,691.6
5 Singapore 2,038.5 4,092.7
6 USA 1,627.9 3,221.4
7 Switzerland 1,501.5 2,164.9
8 Philippines 1,080.6 1,372.0
9 Macau 1,008.8 8,966.8
10 Malaysia 875.5 2,244.8
11 Cambodia 820.8 1,155.7
12 Vietnam 719.7 2,148.4
13 France 533.6 1,821.6
14 Japan 502.2 2,008.6
15 Australia 477.1 1,103.5
16 Germany 469.8 1,232.7
17 United Arab Emirates 464.0 764.7
18 Angola 429.5 541.4
19 Spain 356.3 537.0
20 Indonesia 355.7 940.9
21 Russia 341.5 1,171.9
22 Austria 328.3 684.7
23 Italy 245.5 498.5
24 New Zealand 187.4 402.7
25 Croatia 178.5 221.8
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