Tag Archives: turkey

10 Best Places to Hike in the World

28 Apr

Whether climbing Everest is at the top of your bucket list or you’d prefer a gentle hike through the British countryside, the world is full of jaw-dropping natural landscapes that beg to be discovered on foot. From Iceland’s otherworldly topography to unveiling the real Middle Earth in New Zealand, here are 10 of the best places to hike in the world.

New Zealand

Mount Cook in New Zealand

Mount Cook in New Zealand

Immortalized on film as the magnificent backdrop to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, New Zealand’s many attractions and dramatic scenery have had a revival of late, with Peter Jackson’s most recent offering, The Hobbit, reminding travelers what they’re missing. It’s no surprise that hiking – or tramping as it’s known to New Zealanders – is one of the best ways to take in the scenery, and well marked routes traverse the length and breadth of the country, served by a wide network of government-run campsites. Most popular are the nine Great Walks including the one-day Tongariro Alpine crossing, passing by the famous Mt. Ngaurube volcano (otherwise known as ‘Mt. Doom’ from the Lord of the Rings films); the 82km Heaphy Track, which passes a varied terrain from dense rainforest to rugged coastal cliffs; and the 53km famous Milford track, which offers spectacular views of New Zealand’s tallest waterfall.


Nepal

Mount Everest

Mount Everest

Nepal’s legendary Annapurna Circuit tops many a hiker’s bucket list and the 230km loop is renowned as one of the world’s most impressive treks, tracing the awe-inspiring Annapurna massif and crossing the Thorung La pass at a breathtaking 5,416 meters. Nepal’s other famous challenge is, of course, the mighty Everest, and trekking to the base camp of notorious peak has become a popular undertaking even for non-climbers. Nepal’s appeal isn’t just the challenging trekking and ruggedly beautiful Himalayas though – the Buddhist country is noted for its unique hospitality and soaking up the culture is as much a part of the experience as the hike itself. Hire a local Sherpa guide, bed down in a traditional mountain village, visit serene mountaintop temples and sip yak butter tea with the locals, as you uncover a whole other world thriving in the wilderness.

UK

With short walking trails and rambling long distance treks running to every corner of the British isles, the United Kingdom makes the perfect location for hikers to test out their navigation skills, with well marked routes doing away with the need for a guide.  Head to one of England’s world renowned National Parks like the Lake District, the Peak District or the Yorkshire Dales, where the vast moorlands and sweeping hills are dotted with cobblestone villages and traditional pubs, or attempt the 182km Coast to Coast trail, spanning the entire length of England. It’s not just British soil that’s well trodden – you can also visit the Scottish Highlands which are home to the UK’s highest peak, Ben Nevis and a vast network of footpaths provide dramatic views over the windswept glens and glistening lochs of the northernmost county.

Turkey

Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia, Turkey

From scrambling through the volcanic valleys of Cappadocia to trekking the vast Taurus Mountains, Turkey has plenty to offer lovers of the outdoors away from sun and sand of the Mediterranean coast. The 500km Lycian Way, running along the coast from Fethiye to Antalya, and the St Paul’s Trail, following in the footsteps of the legendary evangelist from Perge and Aspendos to Yalvac, are the country’s two main long distance hiking routes, passing a number of key historic sites and showcasing the country’s incredibly diverse terrain.

Iceland

Hiking in Iceland

Hiking in Iceland

With majestic glaciers, bubbling hot springs and looming volcanoes, hiking through Iceland’s otherworldly landscape offers some of the world’s most unique photo opportunities. Hiking is possible almost anywhere, but most adventurers head for one of the national parks – Skaftafell national park is a wonderland of shimmering ice caps and jagged mountains, whereas Landmannalaugar’s striking rhyolite mountains provide the focal point of the celebrated 4-day Laugavegurinn trail.  Another popular trek is scaling the country’s highest peak Hvannadalshnúkur, at 2110 meters, where you’ll be afforded spectacular views over the Vatnajokull glacier – one of the world’s largest.

Patagonia

Patagonia

Patagonia

The gateway to Antarctica has fast become a popular destination in its own right – a wintry playground of glaciers, penguin colonies and snow-dusted mountains. Stretching across the southernmost parts of Argentina and Chile, visiting Patagonia means seeing some of the continent’s most magnificent surroundings – swollen glacial valleys, pristine lakes and towering mountain peaks. The UNESCO biosphere reserve of Torres del Paine National Park, on the Chilean side, is a hotspot for hikers with well-marked trails offering expansive views of the famous pink granite Paine towers, or else make the pilgrimage to see the wondrous Perito Moreno Glacier, the ‘smoking mountain’ of Chalten volcano or the windswept archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, the ‘Land of Fire’.

California

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Hikers could spend a lifetime exploring the US on foot, but the varied terrains of California make the perfect place to start. While there are few pockets of wilderness left undiscovered, America’s third largest state still has plenty of jaw-dropping hikes up its sleeve, including some of the country’s most iconic landscapes. Hikers can choose from exploring the epic canyons and dunes of the Death Valley desert; the granite cliffs, tumbling waterfalls and vast rivers of Yosemite National Park; or visiting the world’s largest tree, the General Sherman Tree, in Sequoia National Park. The world famous parks aren’t the only options – the Joshua Tree National Park, Redwood National Park, Big Sur and the Golden Gate National Park all lie within Californian borders, with the landscape ranging from snow capped peaks to arid desert basin.

The Alps

Chamonix, Switzerland

Chamonix, Switzerland

Hikers traveling to Europe will find it hard to miss a walk in the Alps, Europe’s principal mountain range, sprawling across eight countries. Throughout winter the Alps play host to some of Europe’s glitziest ski resorts but as the snow thaws, hiking the alpine slopes becomes one of the region’s most popular pastimes. Color-coded signposts mark out routes throughout the Alps, Europe’s open border policies means hiking between countries isn’t a problem and there’s such a high concentration of peaks over 4,000 meters that you won’t have to walk far to get a view. Explore the traditional villages and cheese factories in the Swiss foothills; follow one of the acclaimed tracks through the lush valleys and glacial passes of the French Alps; or tackle the hugely popular trail encircling the iconic peak of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain, straddling the border between France and Italy on a Half-Day Trip to Chamonix and Mont Blanc from Geneva.

Canadian Rockies

Canadian Rockies in Banff

Canadian Rockies in Banff

Taking the famous train journey through the towering Rocky Mountains are one of Canada’s most celebrated attractions but to truly experience their magnitude, you’ll need to don your hikers and take to the hills. The vast Rockies harbor myriad opportunities for hiking but the best-marked trails and a network of alpine huts lie within the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage site. Notable trails include the famous Berg Lake Trail, running through the Mount Robson Provincial Park and scaling the highest peak in the Rockies; the Mount Fairview trail in Banff National Park, offering panoramic views of the dazzling Lake Louise; and the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit in Yoho National Park, a scenic route through lush woodlands and shimmering glacial valleys.

Kazakhstan

Ticked the other nine off your list? Now’s the time to get truly off the beaten track and discover some of the world’s most inspiring and least-visited landscapes – hikes long overlooked by the tourist hoards. Kazakhstan has been steadily building a reputation among serious hikers for its remote and unspoiled wilderness, and with a number of reputable trekking companies operating in the country, it’s easier than ever to explore. The Tian Shan and Altai mountain ranges hold the most popular routes, with ancient pathways tracing the borders of Russia, China and Mongolia. Just make sure you take a local guide.

10 Best Places to Hike in the World Argentina , banff , California , canada , Chile , England , featured , France , Geneva , Iceland , Kazakhstan , Nepal , New Zealand , Patagonia , Switzerland , turkey , United Kingdom , Yosemite National Park

The 10 Best Cities for a European Layover

4 Apr

Long flights with even longer layovers may seem less than ideal when you are eager to kick-start your vacation but your stopover doesn’t have to be boring. Whether your layover is a quick break or an entire 24 hours, venturing outside the airport in one of these ten European multi-faceted cities will make your layover just as memorable as your final destination.

Reykjavík, Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Heading into Iceland’s capital in the dead of winter might seem counterintuitive (though the average temperatures aren’t much colder than New York) but the city has much to offer travelers in terms of history, culture and leisure excursions any time of year. And if you fly IcelandAir between the US and Europe, you can stopover in Iceland for up to a week at no extra cost.

From Kjavík International Airport, board the FlyBus for a 45 minute ride, hopping off at the very first stop in the city, called BSÍ, which is an easy walk to the city center. Those pressed for time can take a city tour highlighting the major landmarks and touristic attractions or you can explore on your own on foot. Use Tjörnin, a centrally located lake as your reference point, as many of the city’s museums and landmarks are within walking distance from here. For travelers with a bit more flexibility in their schedule, highlights include Perlan, the National Museum and Church of Hallgrímur not to mention the colorful nightlife scene. If you have an early flight the next morning and want to party, don’t plan on sleeping. Most locals arrive to the clubs after midnight on weekends.

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

Switzerland has a reputation for being on the expensive side, and compared to how the U.S. Dollar and the European Euro fare against the Swiss Franc, that’s a fair statement. Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city in terms of both geographic size and population so while there is no way to do everything in a few hours, it also means that you have endless possibilities based on your interests. Getting into the city center won’t be difficult. While trams and buses are available, trains from the airport to the central train station only takes 10-15 minutes and purchasing a ZurichCARD will save you money.

For a picturesque and affordable view of the city, climb to the top of Grossmünste that once served as a Roman cathedral. Head to Bahnhofstrasse for some serious shopping or visit Kunsthaus to view Swiss art.

The small size of Switzerland and efficient train system also means that if you have more time and want to venture farther away from the city, you can. Interlaken and Lucerne are each about an hour away from the city by train; you can even get to Geneva on the other side of the country in less than three hours.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic

One of the perks of having a layover in Prague is that the airport has a facility in Terminal 1 where you can leave your luggage for up to 24 hours. There’s a fee of 120 CZK per item but it beats lugging your bags around with you all day. On the flips side, a thirty-minute taxi ride into the city is the only realistic means of transportation and can be costly, but once you are in the city, costs are generally low compared to most destinations in Western Europe.

For a scenic tour, take either a one-hour cruise tide on the Vlatva River or opt for a bike tour if the weather is nice. If walking by foot, make sure to watch the Astronomical Clock chime every hour by Old Town Square and visit Prague Castle for a crash course in Czech history.

London, England

Westminster, London

Westminster, London

There’s hardly anything that can put a damper on a layover in London except maybe the frequent rain clouds. The city has a few different airports and all are accessible from the airport (via the Underground for Heathrow or via express trains and busses for both Gatwick and Stansted). The Underground (the Tube) is the cheapest method at £5 but takes more than an hour to reach the city so plan accordingly. If your next connection leaves a few hours, it’s best to stick around in the airport but if you have more time, as London airports are notoriously crowded.

If time permits, take the Piccadilly Line from Heathrow to the Green Park stop. Exit here and proceed through the park until you reach Buckingham Palace. From here, head north to Mayfair for shopping or west to South Kensington for museums.

Brussels, Belgium

Belgian Waffels

Belgian Waffels

A jaunt through Brussels may feel strangely reminiscent to another romantic European capital. The Belgium city was actually modeled after Paris and the similarities and differences are apparent. Conveniently located a mere seven miles from the airport, a quick trip to Brussels can and should be done. For an interactive and speedy tour of the city, join a bike or Segway tour or just explore on foot.

Start at Grand-Place, considered the heart of Brussels and featuring impressive architecture from the Baroque era. Make your way to the EU Headquarters for an audio tour of Parliament or simply stuff your face with sweets in one of the many local chocolate shops after a tour at the Belgium Chocolate Museum.

Lisbon, Portugal

Belem Tower, Lisbon

Belem Tower, Lisbon

There are certainly worse places to spend your layover than Lisbon. The city is known for its fascinating architecture and pleasant climate and is only five miles from the airport. If arriving during the day, opt for public transportation to get into the city.

A trip to Lisbon would not be complete without visiting The World Heritage Belem Tower, a landmark that is said to compare to Paris’ Eiffel Tower or London’s Big Ben. Grab a coffee in Baixa along Rua Agusta or view vibrant flowers in Jardim da Estrela. Laid-back by day and lively by night, Bairro Alto is a charming neighborhood lined with local restaurants, cafes and bars.

Madrid, Spain

La Cibeles, Madrid

La Cibeles, Madrid

Spain’s capital city has a population of more than three million, so it’s no surprise that Madrid Barajas Airport is the county’s busiest. Similar to Prague, the Madrid airport offers luggage storage space to travelers in terminals 1, 2 and 4 for €3.85 for the first day. If on a time crunch, take a taxi to reach the city in thirty minutes but if time allows, hop of the metro, which stops in terminals 2 and 4. Consider buying the Madrid Tourist Travel Pass if spending the entire day in the city.

Start your exploration in Plaza Mayor, a plaza located in the heart of Madrid. Browse through the Prado Museum for European art dating back to the 12th Century, see Picasso’s famous Guernica painting at the Reina Sofia or visit the Royal Palace. For a snack, stop into the Mercado de San Miguel, a covered market where you can sample tapas, wine, oysters, pastries and much more.

Istanbul, Turkey

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Truly a unique city, Istanbul is split between two continents. After a short boat ride from the European side, travelers can reach Asia to experience a different side of Istanbul. The airport is about fifteen miles from the city and various transportation options are available including taxis, an express bus and the underground metro. Also worth noting is that most tourists from the U.S. (among other countries) are required to buy a $20 visa before leaving the airport in Istanbul, regardless of how long they are in town.

Once downtown, the famous Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia are within close proximity of each other near Sultanahmet Square. The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Basilica Cistern and the Topkapi Palace are also nearby. For a more leisurely stop, shop at the Grand Bazaar for souvenirs or relax at The Turkish Baths.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Red Light District, Amsterdam

Red Light District, Amsterdam

Consider yourself lucky if your layover happens to be in Amsterdam. There is hardly a tourist that won’t find this city effortlessly enchanting. Schiphol Airport is less than six miles away from the city and the commute is relatively stress-free. In twenty minutes and for under €4, you can reach Amsterdam Central Station via train (storage lockers are available at the airport for €5-10 per day so there’s no need to lug your bags). Known for its scenic canal system, many tourists sign up for a canal tour to better orient themselves with the city. If navigating by foot, make sure to pick up a map, as many of the street names look similar to the English eye.

The Anne Frank Museum and the Van Gogh Museum are two popular attractions as is the infamous notorious Red Light District just a few steps from the train station and outdoor markets.

Frankfurt, Germany

Frankfurt

Frankfurt

While Berlin and Munich would most likely be stops on a trip to Germany, Frankfurt sometimes gets overlooked for no good reason. Eight miles from the airport, the city is reachable via the fast and cheap S-Bahn train. Before leaving the airport, make sure you know which train station you want to get off at, as there are three main stations. Most likely, Hauptbahnhof will be the best starting point.

Ride the elevator to the top of the Main Tower for a ski-high view of the city or grab a traditional “Apfelwein” in Old Town. If the weather is bad or if you are in the mood for museums, Frankfurt makes it easy because most of them are lined next to each other along the river. Römerberg is another central square and is where the Christmas markets take place each winter.

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I Heart My City (in the Spring)

29 Mar

Hanami cherry blossoms outside the Tokyo National Museum. (Photograph by Rob Towell, Flickr)

There’s still a chill in the air here in Washington, D.C., but the days are getting longer, the cherry blossoms are starting to pop, and residents are beginning to shed those cumbersome winter coats. Spring is upon us (at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), and we’re embracing it with open arms by highlighting seasonal must-dos from our amazing I Heart My City community.

From ice cream to air shows, palaces to train rides, here are 20 ways to make the most of the next few months in 20 cities around the globe:

Shelly’s Oxford (United Kingdom): Head to nearby Wytham Woods to see the bluebells at their finest.

The Hyangwonjeong Pavilion, on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace. (Photograph by Ncburton, Flickr)

The Hyangwonjeong Pavilion, on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace. (Photograph by Ncburton, Flickr)

Megan Natalie’s Seoul (South Korea): Visit Gyeongbokgung Palace’s gardens to experience a piece of paradise you’d swear couldn’t exist in Seoul (make sure to watch the changing of the guards).

Ewelina’s Krakow (Poland): Take a walk to Krakus Mound at Podgórze; a nice, green hill where you can take a blanket and relax.

Annie Fitzsimmon’s NYC (United States): Celebrate the bounty of post-winter produce and eat anything with ramps on it because they’re only in season for a few weeks! Motorino has a great ramp pizza, and ABC Kitchen never fails with its in-season menu.

Keith Bellow’s Montreal (Canada): Hang around near McGill and Prince Arthur, soaking up the sun and the street life.

Anya’s Istanbul (Turkey): Visit Topkapi Palace. The flowers are in bloom and it’s positively stunning.

Katherine’s Athens (Greece): Take a bus to Cape Sounion, the ancient ruins of Poseidon’s temple. On the short bus ride from Athens, you’ll wind along the coast and enjoy some of my favorite views.

The Boxi-Platz flea market in Berlin. (Photograph by La Citta Vita, Flickr)

Berlin’s Boxhagener Platz flea market is open on Sundays. (Photograph by La Citta Vita, Flickr)

Madeleine’s Annapolis (U.S.): Check out the Blue Angels air show at the United States Naval Academy commencement.

Maja’s Belgrade (Serbia): Go to Zemun in Old Town and have lunch at one of the fish restaurants on the Danube.

Colleen’s Beijing (China): Fly kites by Houhai Lake.

Zain’s Amman (Jordan): Pack a picnic and visit the Hellenistic site known as Iraq Al Amir.

Shannon Switzer’s San Diego (U.S.): Check out the wildflowers in Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

Yvonne’s Berlin (Germany): Explore Berlin’s many flea markets to find great vintage clothes, furniture, books, and local art.

Sylvia’s Tokyo (Japan): Go for hanami (cherry-blossom-viewing parties) in a park with a big group of Japanese friends, some beer, and some sushi.

Jessica’s Barcelona (Spain): Experience a traditional Catalan calçotada which consists of getting together and eating large quantities of local green onions known as calçots along with romenesco sauce, regional wine, and good company.

Vienna's MuseumsQuartier. (Photograph by Photongatherer, Flickr)

Hang out outside Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier. (Photograph by Photongatherer, Flickr)

Jennifer’s Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates): See Abu Dhabi from the water. Hire a dhow (traditional wooden boat) for a tour, charter a speedboat to take you to one of the 200 islands off the main island, or kayak amongst the mangroves.

Karen’s St. John’s, Newfoundland (Canada): Watch the last ice depart from the Atlantic from atop Signal Hill National Historic Site. Check out the on-site gift shop where local music, books, and culinary delights make excellent gifts.

Isabel Eva’s Madrid (Spain): Take a trip on the Tren de la Fresa to Aranjuez. During the 50-minute ride, you will be served fresh strawberries. Once in Aranjuez, you can take a tour of the Museo del Ferrocarril (the railway museum) and the Palacio Real (the royal palace).

Lea’s Vienna (Austria): Do as the locals do and head to the MuseumsQuartier to hang out on one of the over-sized flexible furniture elements called Enzis.

Nat Geo’s Washington, D.C. (U.S.): Check out the National Arboretum and Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, two of D.C.’s hidden gems.

Wherever you are, what’s your favorite thing about your city in the springtime? Tell us about it in the comment section below.

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Skiing Turkey: Backcountry Gear for Breaking the Snow Ceiling

28 Mar

Photography by Cat Jaffee

Photography by Cat Jaffee

I live in Kars, a snowy, cold eastern Turkey town that author Orhan Pamuk describes as  “the edge of the world.” Sometimes when I am staring off the dramatic dropping cliffs of the Anatolian plateaus, I couldn’t imagine a place that would better fit the description. Everywhere I look, it is white rolling mountains uninterrupted by trees or roads or houses—a wide-open backcountry heaven. Going on my third year of living here (one of two permanent, registered native English speakers for more than 200 kilometers) and the only resident backcountry skier in the region—I recently came to a realization that if I am going to live out here, I better go big or go home. I should take advantage of this amazing terrain or go live in a place with a few more daily comforts.

Other than a heliski operation on the Black Sea, out here there are thousands of kilometers of untouched backcountry terrain that has never been explored on a pair of AT skis. Coupled with daily fluffy snowfall and meters upon meters of annual snow accumulation with very few avalanche casualties a year, northeastern Turkey is a backcountry skier’s dream. However perhaps the casualty number is low because no one is going into the mountains–especially a young woman.

As a solo American woman living here on the Turkish/Georgian/Armenia/Azeri borders, I am used to spending my days getting funny looks and humored variations of “yapamazsın” a saying that means “you aren’t able to do this.” They are not accustomed to woman trekkers, let alone a young woman hiking through villages in full gear up mountainsides through snow and trees, over bear tracks and towering ridges, out doing it solo.

Photography by Cat Jaffee

The ski resort in Kars, Turkey; Photography by Cat Jaffee

This is new for me, too. I was born and raised skiing all terrains in Colorado, but I am a backcountry novice. Out here in Kars, we have a quaint nine-slope ski resort (Sarıkamış Kayak Merkezi) where there are as many people barbequing and walking around with sleds as there skiers. Jokes aside, the snow is actually great, and it feels like pure skiing without all of the distracting bells and whistles of fancy resorts. Just you, the mountain, and a kebab.

But for a good challenge though, the backcountry calls. So while I had two weeks home in Colorado, I went big. I bought all of the gear I thought I could help me live large while staying alive. I get one chance a year to buy gear and because I reside in a remote village in Turkey, I have a zero return policy option. As such, I buy gear is as if my life depends on it, because, well, it does. And when you are a woman breaking snow ceilings in eastern Turkey, you want to know you have the best tools possible.

Photography by Cat Jaffee

Photography by Cat Jaffee

Here are some of the beginner backcountry and all-terrain purchases I made, why I made them, and how they are holding up after a month of backcountry skiing in the South Caucasus.

1. I started with my skis. I needed something light that I could spend 50 percent in country when I was skiing on the resort with friends, but something that could handle the powder and extremely varied terrain of the backcountry. I also hike long distances with skis on and off my feet, and my commute to and from my hills includes anything from a 5 km walk through a village to an hour-long bus-ride full of farmers. With these considerations, I went with the VOLKL NANUQ,  and they are the perfect fit for me. They are great for flying and travel because of their weight, and I am stunned by how well they transition between groomed slopes and 1 meter backcountry powder. I have also learned that I spend a lot of time looking at my skis when I am climbing, and the icy bears on the Nanuq are a classy touch, especially in parallel to the bear tracks I am finding underfoot.

2. The next purchase was footwear. For boots, I wanted a light boot that could be stiff enough for the front country but flexible enough for a good 10 km hike. I went with the Scarpa Gea RS that has a 120 flex index, a respectable number for a regular downhill boot. I had the boots fitted and find them still a bit loose in the ankle, but they are comfortable, and the walk-on walk-off flip option is great.

3. Other than my ski boots, I get one pair of shoes to be my everything else – running shoes, walking through villages shoes, jumping into a meeting shoes. My criteria for this shoe is first and foremost not-white because none of the local roads are paved and are dominated by muddy runoff. This brings me to my second criteria,the shoe must also be waterproof yet breathable. And as with everything I own, the shoe has to be light. I have gone with the Women’s Hedgehog GTX XCR by The North Face. I am training for a marathon so I add inserts for support, and throw on a pair of yak tracks for ice training. They fit my wide foot well and so far they are keeping my feet dry, and they are small enough to throw in the ski pack.

4. Next for poles, I have gone with the Black Diamond Expedition Ski Pole that has so far been my biggest disappointment. The pole is light in weight and adjustable, but the basket engineering is off and I am constantly loosing them. They don’t stay on with my speed. Without the baskets, the pole feels nearly useless in deep powder when I am skinning up a mountain face. Because I can’t easily get replacements out here, the poles–even if light and collapsible–will stay home until I can get new baskets that don’t fall off during the first run.

5. Perhaps my favorite purchase has been the Dynafit TLT Radical FT Binding. From the outside, it looks like your boot is held down by two tiny pins at the toe. But in reality, this is a nice piece of engineering that keeps your boot locked-in for high downhill speeds and then free and elevated for the steep climbs. Shifting between the different settings took some arm-work at first, but when I learned how to hold down the instep piece of the binding, I noticed they clicked nicely to every setting I desired.

6. I went with the standard Black Diamond custom fit skins that have been fairly good except for super steep climbs, where to my surprise, I have caught myself sliding back down the hill. They also don’t fair well with wet snow.

7/8. I have started putting my iPhone into a bright pink Griffin Survivor Case while I ski due to its water proofing abilities and the fact that I am always trying to catch a good shot of tracks, or snow, or light. I am thrilled how well it protects my IPhone from moisture and elements so far. I am less happy that my new Olloclip iPhone lens  doesn’t fit with it, or any iPhone cover for that matter, making it hard to bag some of the wide angle or fish eye shots that I must save for drop and moisture free scenarios.

While breaking the figurative snow ceilings of eastern Turkey, I want to know that I have gear that can keep up with my dreams and requirements. Gear is one of the pillars to keeping us safe in the backcountry, so we can both live big and go home.

Skiing Turkey: Backcountry Gear for Breaking the Snow Ceiling backcountry , Cat Jaffee , National Geographic Young Explorer Grants , skiing , turkey

The Radar: Travel Lately

22 Mar

Selime Cathedral, a rock-cut church in Cappadocia, Turkey. (Photograph by Zhiqun Fei, My Shot)

The Radar – the best of the travel blogosphere – is a regular feature on Intelligent Travel every Wednesday.

Here’s this week’s:

  • Turkey links the East and the West — and its landscapes are just as unique. Read on as one blogger finds subterranean surprises in the smack-dab center of this cultural olio. @YoungAdventures
  • Modern travelers may take to the air to see the globe, but some of the world’s wonders are still best seen by way of water. From Idaho rapids to a remote corner of Fiji, here are 21 places to get your feet wet. @MatadorNetwork
  • Vilnius may be Lithuania’s capital and largest city, but Kaunas has its own contributions to make. Find out what makes this Baltic city tick (and don’t forget your umbrella!). @EuropeUpClose
  • What do you get when you pair an iconic car with the Mexican backcountry? The Traveling Beetle – a series of all-inclusive road trips that one traveler calls “a vintage dream.” @Butterflydiary
  • The elephant may be Thailand’s national animal, but that doesn’t mean they’re treated with universal respect. Pay homage to the mammoth mammals at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai@WanderlandAlex

 

The Radar: Travel Lately Alex in Wanderland , Butterfly Diary , Cappadocia , Chiang Mai , Europe Up Close , Kaunas , Lithuania , Matador Network , Mexico , ngtradar , thailand , The Radar , The Traveling Beetle , turkey , Young Adventures

Meet Private Tour Guide Aykut Altinisik in Antalya, Turkey

5 Mar

Meet Aykut Altinisik , one of Viator’s local experts in Antalya, Turkey, and a licensed private tour guide.

Antalya private tour guide

Meet Aykut!

When Aykut says he can open your eyes to the ancient wonders of the Mediterranean, he definitely means it. Tour guides come in all shapes and sizes, and with all varied degrees of backgrounds – art history, linguistic studies, tourism – but Aykut is special. Aykut’s background is based in archaeology, and as a trained archaeologist, he takes the journey across some of the world’s most ancient sites to a new and real level.

Just imagine visiting such local Antalya jewels as Hadrian’s Gate and Old Town, and then on to surrounding ancient cities of Aspendos and Perge, with an experienced guide that has a passion and career in the archaeological world.

Some sample tours to explore with Aykut include Antalya walking tours, Antalya culture and gastronomy tours and private archaeological tours. For those looking to get out of Antalya, Aykut possesses a vast knowledge on nearby cities of Perge, Aspendos, Side, Phaselis and Termessos. One of these tours takes visitors around for 6 hours to explore the Karain Cave – the oldest cave settlement in Turkey – and on to Termessos, which is home to a national park that houses rare plants and animals.

Transportation in a private car or van (with air conditioning) can be arranged for Antalya sightseeing, while Aykut’s standard out of Antalya tours include transportation in the price. Aykut has you covered!

Planning a trip to Turkey and the Antalya region soon? Don’t hesitate to learn more on Aykut’s Viator Private Guide profile and book a tour well in advance.

Meet Private Tour Guide Aykut Altinisik in Antalya, Turkey antalya , turkey , Viator Private Guides

Food Fridays: Bike Tours for Foodies

21 Jan

Two women picking red peppers for spice powders near Jodhpur. (Photograph by Shivji Joshi, My Shot)

What better way to sample the culinary delights of a region than by peddling along its backroads, enjoying the scenery and working up an appetite for the next meal?

Here are ten great itineraries for all you food- and wine-loving cyclists out there:

1. Blue Ridge, Virginia

Tucked away in Virginia’s vineyard-dotted farmland awaits a land of gastronomic pleasure. After a gourmet breakfast, head out to the region’s wineries, and return to a sumptuous dinner in the evening. Some tours include an evening at The Inn at Little Washington, which invented such signature dishes as veal Shenandoah and timbale of Maryland crabmeat.

Napa Valley from above. (Photograph by Marek Hosek, My Shot)

Planning: Base yourself at the Foster Harris House bed and breakfast.

2. Sonoma and Napa Valleys, California

Vine-covered hills, redwood groves, and sprawling farmlands provide perfect cycling country. Follow Sonoma’s backroads in the Dry Creek, Alexander, and Knights Valleys, stopping to taste the wines and the best of California’s farm-t0-table cuisine. Then move on to Napa Valley’s winery-lined Silverado Trail and stay in St. Helena, sampling locally raised lamb, cheeses, and seafood.

Planning: Some tours start from San Francisco; or stay in the area and book tours by the day.

3. Salta Province, Argentina

Beginning in colonial Salta, visit ancient Cachi, remote Estancia Colome — featuring a private tasting of its high-altitude wines — and picturesque Cafayate, the hub of Salta’s wine-making business. Gaucho barbecues and a regional cuisine of corn-based Locro stew, tamales, and lots of desserts, are complemented by the Malbecs and Torrontes of the province’s vineyards.

Planning:The route involves some hard cycling at high altitudes.

4. The Golden Triangle, Thailand

Sample the cuisine of northern Thailand, with its liberal use of spices, curries, and noodles prepared with fresh local ingredients, on a tour that starts in Chiang Mai and visits hill-tribe communities en route to the ancient Burmese kingdom of Chiang Saen. Peddle past jungle valleys and boat-dotted rivers, eating in local restaurants, and taking in markets and an optional cooking class.

Soak in the local street food culture in Chiang Mai. (Photograph by Christian Schmidt, My Shot)

Planning: The route goes along rural roads with some climbing.

5. Rajasthan, India

Rajasthan‘s royal kitchens turned the preparation of food into an art form, cooking scarce meats with elaborate curries, dried fruits, and yogurt. Sleep in palaces and feast on some of India’s finest cuisine in towns such as Umaid Bhawan, Jodhpur, and Udaipur, sharing lonely roads with camel trains and shepherds en route.

Planning: This is an easy route. Bikes can be rented in most towns if you want to devise your own tour.

6. Mediterranean Turkey

For centuries Ottoman chefs crafted dishes for sultans, creating a rich culinary tradition in the process. On this tour of epicurean discovery, you will cycle through the citrus-perfumed countryside and along the Mediterranean coast, exploring the seaside towns of Bodrum and Datca, and ending with a three-day cruise on some of the world’s most dazzling blue waters.

Planning: A challenging route for intermediate and advanced cyclists.

7. Piedmont, Italy

With robust wines (Barolo, Barbaresco) and singular gastronomy, Piedmont is a gourmet’s paradise — a typical meal consists of at least six courses, accented with some of the world’s finest truffles. Peddle along quiet but hilly country roads, visiting red-roofed villages, such as Alba, and the five towns of Barolo.

Planning: Moderately difficult.

8. Burgundy, France

With lazy lanes, picturesque canals, farmland, and vineyards galore, Burgundy is a biker’s delight. Discover the abbeys at Cluny and Vezelay and the historic cities of Dijon, Macon, Tournus, and Beaune, with architecture funded by wealthy wine merchants. Taste the likes of Vosne-Romanee, Gevrey-Chambertin, and Puligny-Montrachet along the way.

Sample salame in Piedmont, Italy. (Photograph by Rachel Black, Flickr)

Planning: A network of linked cycle routes covers the region, providing services and facilities for cyclists.

9. Basque Country, Spain

The region’s cornucopia of ingredients combine to create some of the best cuisine in Spain: including aged beef grilled over hot coals, and bacalao (salted cod) — washed down with Basque cider or Rioja wine. Cycling tours take in fishing villages along the area’s rugged coast, the cultural delights of Bilbao, and Haro and the Spanish plateau, where Rioja wines are produced in all their glory.

Planning: Tours are available tailored to your interests and fitness level.

10. The Cape & Winelands, South Africa

Beginning in Cape Town, explore the Cape Peninsula coast before heading inland to the Franschhoek Valley, with its French roots and magnificent vineyards, and the Shamwari Game Reserve. On the way, taste a medley of Cape Malay, Indian, Afrikaner, and European culinary delights, such as springbok loin in balsamic broth.

Planning: Spring and fall are the best times.

This list originally appeared in National Geographic’s Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe.

Food Fridays: Bike Tours for Foodies