The Island of Beauty, as it’s known, prides itself on being a promised land for cyclists. Corsica has 1,000 kilometres of craggy coastline and summits topping 2,000 metres, not to mention some of the most beautiful beaches in France, all yours to discover solo or in the peloton. Combining performance and Mediterranean cuisine, this six–day, two–wheeled tour, courtesy of DuVine Cycling & Adventure Co., takes you from sea to mountains, and back. Drawn out over 270 kilometres and with 5,575 metres in elevation changes, the demanding ride includes an epicurean component to reward your efforts. One day’s journey begins gently in Bastia in Upper Corsica and continues with a 35–kilometre warm–up through Cap Corse. On another day, pedal across the sleepy countryside – with slowdowns for frequent goat crossings – to join the winding coastline route with hairpin turns all the way to Pigna, where you will wander the village market stalls and taste creamy brocciu cheese and local charcuterie. This 30–kilometre jaunt ends with Corsican specialties, myrtle liqueur and, as a bonus, a view of the Bay of Calvi – sweet reward indeed. —Émilie Souedet
An Epic Ride
France Cycle Tours for Every Level.
Beginner Travel the country roads of Luberon Regional Nature Park and the Coulon Valley, crossing Provence’s fragrant lavender fields.
Intermediate From Valence, the gateway to southern France, cycle south toward Provence and explore the Rhône Valley before making your way to Avignon.
Advanced Ride past green valleys, lunar–like landscapes and snow–capped peaks on the highest paved through–road in Europe, which tops out at 2,802–metre Cime de la Bonette.
An Otherworldly Stay
An unending white landscape made up of hexagonal patterns of salt that stretch alongside the peaks of the Andes would be enough of a draw for photography enthusiasts. Add in pops of pink flamingos, turquoise mineral lagoons, herds of grazing llamas, bubbling geysers and a brilliant night sky, then top it off with luxury geodesic domes, and you’ve got the ultimate photography playground.
At Kachi Lodge, the first permanent accommodation on the world’s largest salt flat, which spans more than 10,000 square kilometres and sits over 3,000 metres above sea level, the experience is highly visual. Beyond the sweeping view from the windows of each of the six domes – otherworldly salt desert by day and star–filled sky by night – the 10–month–old property launched its artist residency program with legendary Bolivian photographer and artist Gastón Ugalde. His works and installations, like the colourful full–size llama that greets you on the outdoor deck, fill the lodge and dot some of the white expanse surrounding it. Ugalde even hosts photography master classes for guests. Whether you’re shooting on a smart phone or more serious set–up, just remember to look up every now and then. —Dominique Lamberton
Take Better Photos — Photographer Max Milligan, who is hosting a workshop at Kachi Lodge in May, shares his tips.
Get a tripod (even a small one) “To shoot the stars at night – they are clearer at Kachi than anywhere else, and you can see the whole Milky Way – your camera needs to be still for 20 seconds to one minute.”
Know your camera “Switch to the manual setting – on automatic, the camera does what it wants to do, not what you want it to do.”
Fill the frame “Don’t take a boring photo with half the sky and half the salt – if you’ve got insane skies, fill the frame or screen with it. And get up close to things like cacti and textures and flamingos. Be experimental.”
A Glamping Adventure
On the Sea of Cortez
Secret lagoons. Stretches of deserted beach strewn liberally with seashells. Water so clear you can spot starfish resting on the sand beneath the shadow of your kayak. Alfresco dinners where the catch of the day – triggerfish – is delivered on a small motorboat dragged up the beach by two spry fishermen (the Pulpo brothers, Mario, 85, and Santiago, 92). Maybe best of all, zero bars, should you be inclined to pull your cellphone out to check. It’s all part of the daily routine on Espíritu Santo Island in Baja California Sur, Mexico. —Sydney Loney
A Journey to the Past
Dart tips, cutting tools, pottery sherds and bison bones (some of which predate the Egyptian pyramids) have been unearthed at Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatoon. Ernie Walker, an archeologist at the University of Saskatchewan, founded the 600–acre park in 1992. (He worked on a cattle ranch on the property in the 1960s and found himself tripping over pieces of the past.) “The park had to be preserved: there were artifacts eroding out of embankments.”
Wanuskewin is now Canada’s longest–running archeological dig, shortlisted for UNESCO World Heritage status. There are guided tours of active excavations and, later this year, a new archeological lab will open to the public. But even more exciting for visitor services manager and Dakota First Nation’s Chris Standing is the return of the park’s most studied species: Once nearly extinct on the prairies, bison were reintroduced to the park in January. “We’re reconnecting with an animal that provided for us and the land for thousands of years,” Standing says. Meanwhile, bison from the park’s past are equally important to Walker – particularly their third molars. “We can determine the bison’s diet using isotope chemistry on tooth enamel and learn its age with radiocarbon dating.” —Jenn Smith Nelson
Ask an Archeologist — Ernie Walker on the wealth of Wanuskewin.
Do you ever get compared to Indiana Jones? Unfortunately, yes, and I don’t like it. It’s so fanciful.
Why is Wanuskewin worth escaping to? Nowhere else can you find medicine wheels beside bison jumps; my students find artifacts every 15 minutes.
What is the biggest misconception about what happens on a dig? A lot of people think we are digging for dinosaurs – we are not.
A Food Odyssey
in the new Tuscany
“I’d much rather eat pasta and drink wine than be a size 0.”
They call it the new Tuscany. Bond fans will recognize its sun–drenched landscapes from several action–packed scenes in the trailer for No Time to Die, while celebrities including Meryl Streep and the Beckham family have been spotted enjoying the dramatic coastlines, lush olive groves and ancient towns that abound on the heel of Italy’s boot.
The Puglia region is both a cultural and culinary escape, where food tells a story and a single meal can turn into a journey through history. With 60 million olive trees, the region is also an olive–lover’s paradise, complete with tours showcasing both centuries–old underground presses and active modern olive–oil mills.
Ostuni, known as La Città Bianca or “The White City” – and home to many olive producers – is filled with maze–like streets, which often lead to great wine and even better food. Like many parts of Puglia, Ostuni was ruled at different times by the ancient Romans, Goths and Normans. Combine this history with more recent Spanish, French, Greek and Italian roots to understand the mixture of flavours and cultural flourishes (and surnames). Those influences turn up everywhere, from a castle tower and garden built by Normans in the 12th century to local dishes like the Spanish–influenced tiella, a casserole made with half–shelled mussels and rice, onions and potatoes.
There’s no better way to immerse yourself in the region’s flavours than by cooking a multicourse meal from local ingredients. A cooking class in a medieval masseria (farmhouse) gives visitors the chance to make everything from orecchiette – a pasta whose name means “little ears” – to eggplant parmigiana to fresh mozza and burrata cheeses. Enjoy the meal alfresco, paired with a local wine and views of whitewashed walls and olive trees.
Of course, no class can cover the full range of excellent local specialties, like taralli pugliesi (crunchy rings of baked dough), a common appetizer often served with red wine; vegetable–forward antipasti dishes, including sformato – a heavy soufflé made with cheese and vegetables – torta pastries and marinated local eggplant, peppers and zucchini; and Pane di Altamura, a bread made from locally milled wheat to exacting standards.
Whatever visitors seek in Puglia – the chance to relive a James Bond moment or simply to slow down and savour the fragrant coastal air – they will likely find themselves under the spell of one of Italy’s most exceptional regions. —Malcolm Gilderdale
“The problem with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you’re hungry again.”
An Urban Safari
in New York
Legend has it that 50 years ago the Argentine government shipped a crate of wild monk parakeets to New York in an attempt to control populations and make a profit (the birds were destined for pet stores). But the parakeets escaped. Eventually, they flew out of JFK and built their towering condominium–style nests on ledges, trees and utility poles across the city. Now, thanks to the Wild Brooklyn Parrot Safari and its hour–long educational walking tours, bird enthusiasts can observe the small, bright green parakeets (also called Quaker parrots) in their (un)natural habitat.
The monk parakeets have thrived in the urban environment, swapping seeds for street food and using their dexterous feet to design their dwellings (they’re the only parrots that build nests). Upwards of 200 nests have been spotted throughout Brooklyn, notably at Green–Wood Cemetery and Brooklyn College, but also in Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan. The Wild Brooklyn Parrot Safari is one of 1,000 new Airbnb animal experiences, which feature locally hosted, responsible animal tourism outings. —Jenn Smith Nelson
A Transformative Trip
Away from the traditional tourist routes, a walk through the streets of New Delhi is an adventure in itself. There’s the stifling heat, the jumble of flowing crowds, the din of motorbikes and tuk–tuks, and the cacophony of horns. The smells of spices, incense, dust and sewers all blend together.
Davrij, a local tour guide, leads his group far from the main roads. The 19–year–old knows the lively enclave of Paharganj well – he grew up on the streets here – and moves with ease through the busy bazaar, sharing how he became part of Salaam Baalak Trust, an organization that offers city tours led by former street kids.
The project is one of many run through Planeterra, a non–profit created in 2003 by responsible tourism pioneer Bruce Poon Tip. (Poon Tip founded G Adventures, a recreational–tourism business that offers around 750 immersive responsible tours, almost three decades ago.) “Travel can be a catalyst for the common good when it focuses on local communities rather than ignoring them,” says the Canadian entrepreneur.
The Salaam Baalak Trust shows tourists a different side of New Delhi, he says, “a little–known reality that can only be discovered through the eyes of the locals and by listening to their stories.”
Davrij’s tour ends at Kitchen With A Cause, a restaurant established with the support of the Salaam Baalak Trust. It’s a calm, welcoming space where steaming dishes of dal, paneer, tandoori chicken, curry and naan bread are laid out on a large table. A young server moves around the room, offering drinks. Like Davrij, she too was once on the street.
G Adventures orchestrates trips that cover traditional tourist attractions while also immersing participants in the daily life of local communities. The company estimates that, for every dollar spent locally by its travellers, there is a ripple effect in the local economy amounting to $8.
“I doubt that tourists fully grasp the effect their choices can have,” Poon Tip says. “Very often, their decisions are determined by cost or by the amenities on offer and have little to do with the destination or its inhabitants.” (The United Nations Environment Programme reported in 2013 that for every $100 spent in a developing country, just $5 remained there.)
“Travel can be a catalyst for the common good.”
Poon Tip and his team spent three years developing a system of measurement, called the Ripple Score, which shows how much of the money paid out to cover G Adventures tour expenses remains within the local economy. The company then measured 640 of the 750 trips in its catalogue and found that an average of 93 percent of the money spent in–country goes to local businesses.
While the Taj Mahal is a must–see on the G Adventures itinerary, a visit to the legendary monument also includes a stop at Sheroes’ Hangout. This vibrant café is run by survivors of acid attacks, who serve up unforgettable vegetarian dishes from Northern India. “What tourists want is to see the famous landmarks, whereas we want to take them off the beaten track and show them what they otherwise would not see, like Sheroes’ Hangout,” Poon Tip says. Visitors to the café help ease the isolation these women feel and put some money in their pockets, while also getting to enjoy home–style Indian cooking – they leave feeling spiritually enriched.
“The transformative power is so real when our travellers see with their own eyes the effect that their choices have had on other human beings.” —Catherine Girouard
A Secret Trek
in Peru’s Sacred Valley
Like any well–photographed beauty, Machu Picchu knows its angles, and the very first view it presents to visitors is the iconic one. You climb 100 metres from the ticket gate along a shaded path to an open plateau and then, poof, there it is: ancient stone walls and steep green terraces palmed by jagged mountains, as though conjured from a postcard – or an Instagram feed.
What the feed doesn’t show you, though, is the sluggish conga line of tourists, 1.5 million of them annually, all waiting to take their picture at the one corner that conceals the bulk of the crowd. I join the queue, inching ahead in the same resigned shuffle I use at home to board jammed streetcars or pay for groceries. Five hundred years after it was abandoned by Incas, we’ve turned Machu Picchu into a city again.
But elsewhere in Peru’s Sacred Valley – the verdant basin that snakes southeast of Machu Picchu – there’s still an embarrassment of ruins, dizzying ascents and preposterous views. For the past four years, South American adventure outfit Explora has helped divert travellers from the tour–bus–clogged sites toward these more remote stretches; its starting roster of 25 hikes and bike rides was shaped by local guide Vider Chavez, a young mountain biker who knew all the best back routes. There are now some 40 explorations on offer, with more to come at greater heights. “I like to be in the puna,” Chavez tells me, referring to Peru’s highest ecological field, above the treeline. “I like the quiet.”
So, after Machu Picchu, that’s where I head: into the thinning Andean air to hike 10 kilometres past five lagoons at almost 4,500 metres. Nothing much grows up here except potatoes – there are, at least, nearly 5,000 kinds – and their narrow beds make the umber fields look raked by fingernails. Beyond the second glassy lagoon, an indigenous Quechua farmer digs trenches with a chakitaqlla foot plough, a wooden tool that dates back 800 years. A radio he’s stuck in the straw–like feather grass plays quietly. Beyond the farmer, where rocky ground angles sharply into bright sky, a few dozen alpacas loiter, ears twitching. Nothing else moves.
A kilometre away, I spot two pyramids made of large stones, maybe hip–high – handy for orientation in foggier weather, my guide explains, but also local offerings to the land for a safe journey. I scramble up along a tapering ridge to the stone mounds and rise to find Sawasiray Mountain, perfectly framed, its spiky charcoal peaks topped by blinding snow. Green and ochre hills roll below, an alpaca–flattened path cutting between them. It’s by almost comical distance the longest uninterrupted view of my life. I take as deep a breath as the altitude allows, and then I walk straight in. —Danielle Groen