Earlier this year, in the deep dark days of lockdown, we were approached by boutique New York travel agency Conversational Traveler to contribute to their Monday with M blog. They wanted us to write a series of inspiring travel blogs on destinations across the US and around the world. Naturally, we jumped at the chance: if we were going to be stuck at home, at least we could imagine we were on the open road (and help others do the same).
Over the next six months, as restrictions slowly eased, we produced a number of blog articles for Conversational Traveler, on destinations ranging from Iceland to Greece to South Africa. We have included extracts from a few of these articles below – simply scroll down to read the snippet, or click for the full piece on the Mondays by M blog.
Iceland is a country like no other, a lonely island in the Arctic where fire and ice play an equal role in shaping the weird and wonderful landscape. Adventures abound here, the geysers, waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, valleys and black sandy beaches offering a range of activities not found anywhere else on earth. The Golden Circle is Iceland’s crowning glory, its thermal pools and legendary geysers luring visitors. Yet step off the trail and you’ll delve deeper into off-the-beaten-path, immersive Icelandic activities.
Exploring Two Continents
There is only one place in the world where you can see two tectonic plates exposed, and that place is in Iceland’s Þingvellir National Park. As part of the famous Golden Circle, the national park stands alongside the Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss Waterfall as one of the country’s most astounding sights. It is here the continents of America and Euro-Asia meet, and you can take to the staggeringly clear – up to 100-meter visibility – waters of Silfra Sound to snorkel or swim in between them. For those less keen on venturing into the chilly waters, the Bridge Between Continents at Sandvík straddles the two continents and is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The limelight might shine on Mykonos, Santorini, and the famous names of the Greek Islands. Still, with more than 6,000 islands to choose from, there are plenty of opportunities to escape the crowds and seek a traditional way of life and untouched natural beauty on a Greek Island cruise. Here we take a peek at five spectacular secret islands which fly under the radar and why you should visit them.
The most remote of the Northern Sporades islands, Alonnisos encapsulates the spirit of the Greek Islands. The small isle is blanketed with pine forests, olive groves, and orchards grazed by bell-toting sheep in the picturesque harbor of Patitiri, a cobbled waterfront lined by pastel-colored buildings and quaint cafés. Hora (the Old Village) is dominated by a medieval castle with panoramic sea views, and its narrow lanes are home to ancient stone houses. Alonnisos is pure natural perfection, and its National Marine Park is home to seabirds, dolphins, and the endangered and rare Mediterranean monk seal.
A cruise to Alaska ventures deep into one of the world’s wildest frontiers. In this realm, nature reigns supreme and promises unparalleled adventure and exploration. The snow-frosted mountains, great calving glaciers, and puffing whales are jaw-dropping when seen from the deck of the ship, but get closer and you’ll feel genuinely embraced by nature. Here we look at some of the most incredible wild adventures Alaska can offer cruise ship passengers.
Meet the Wildlife
All across Alaska, wildlife thrives, from the vast mountainous inland to the long craggy coastline. Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge is home to the largest brown bears in the world, so where better to watch these magnificent animals as they gorge on plump summer salmon and dig for clams in the coastal shallows? Rugged and remote, Kodiak is the largest island in Alaska and is home to 3,000 grizzly bears, whales, seals, sea lions, and otters. Alaska’s chilly Arctic waters are teeming with marine mammals, and in Juneau, you can hop aboard a small ship and go in search of huffing humpback whales and pods of orcas.
Italy is bursting with iconic destinations, from flamboyant Venice to cultured Rome and the pastel-hued villages of the Cinque Terre. Famed the world over for its rich cuisine, its picturesque landscapes, and blend of ancient and modern culture, there is nowhere which fires the wanderlust quite like Italy. Yet step away from Lake Como or the Amalfi Coast, and you’ll discover an even more authentic Italian experience. Our destination here is Le Marche, a region of dramatic landscapes, fine white wines, and pretty hilltop towns.
Be Dazzled by Dramatic Landscapes
Tucked between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea, Le Marche offers visitors the best of both worlds. The crowd-free pebble beaches are lapped by the clearest of waters, with tranquil little bays such as those in the Parco del Conero backed by white cliffs. There are impressive caves to explore – the Grotte di Frasassi standing as one of the largest cave systems in Europe – and sweeping national parks of towering mountains and foothills blanketed in vineyards. While away an afternoon at the vineyard in the Parco Regionale Monte San Bartolo, sipping delicate wines while the sun sets over the Adriatic for an experience that’s impossible to forget.
South Africa’s wild landscape stretches from the craggy, windswept coast to the plains teeming with wildlife. It is amongst the mountains and sand dunes, the bush and beaches that some of the world’s most unique golf courses have been created. With a long, proud history of golfing in the country, these are some of the wildest and most nature-inspired courses you could ever tackle. Just watch out for the alligators.
Legend Golf & Safari Resort, Limpopo Province
What could be a more African experience than playing a challenging round of golf accompanied by herds of giraffe, zebra and antelope? It’s hard not to get distracted from your game as these incredible plains animals wander nonchalantly by. Ramp up the excitement further by tackling the record-breaking 19th hole, both the longest and highest in the world at 470 yards above a vast green shaped like Africa. It is only accessible by helicopter and the views will take your breath away.
You can read more of the blog posts we’ve written for Conversation Traveler in the World Words portfolio. If you want to keep up with all our latest writing projects and other travel tidbits, you can follow us on Twitter.