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A Landmark Ride in the West

By Linda Tancs

Sixty-four miles of Rocky Mountain splendor await you on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad running between Chama, New Mexico and Antonito, Colorado. A National Historic Landmark, the rails were originally constructed in 1880 as part of the Rio Grande’s narrow-gauge San Juan extension, which served the silver mining district of the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. Almost lost to history when the last freight train crossed the Cumbres Pass in 1968, the historic route was bought and preserved by both states. Unlike other legacy routes, it features original coal fired, steam operated, narrow gauge locomotives and 19th century passenger cars. Scenic highlights include the Rockies, Chama Valley, Toltec Gorge, Cumbres Pass (the highest mountain pass reached by rail in the U.S.) and alpine meadows lined with wildlflowers, along with an array of wildlife like elk, deer and bears. It takes under seven hours to traverse the entire 64-mile line from Antonito to Chama or vice versa. The regular season runs this year to October 20. Buy your ticket in advance to avoid disappointment.

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From Tyrol to Italy

By Linda Tancs

From Austria’s highest peak (Grossglockner) to the Adriatic Sea, the Alpe-Adria Trail is a 466-mile trek winding its way through Austria, Slovenia and Italy. Signposted throughout, the trail is divided into a series of stages, each taking about six hours to walk. The hiking season begins in April and ends in October, the whole stretch taking up to six weeks. If you go now, you’ll likely see snow lingering on the high passes in Carinthia and Slovenia.

The Island of Mimosas

By Linda Tancs

Noirmoutier is an island off the west coast of France in the Vendée Départment of the Loire Atlantique province. It’s nicknamed the “island of mimosas” (no, not for the drink) because its temperate climate allows for the flowering of Acacia dealbata (mimosa) year-round. Its captivating name is translated “black monks,” a reference to the black cowls worn by the order of St. Philbert, the island’s founder. A popular seaside resort, make haste before the madding crowd arrives. Treat yourself to a two-hour cruise around the island on a Portuguese tall ship, O’Abandonado. You can even help hoist the sails.

Tigers in Karnataka

By Linda Tancs

Established as a tiger reserve in the 1970s, Bandipur National Park in the southern state of Karnataka lies in the shadow of the Western Ghats, a mountain range running along the entire west coast of India. It was once a private hunting ground for the Maharaja of the Kingdom of Mysore. Although perhaps best known for its small tiger population, it’s also a safe haven for elephants, spotted deer, bison, antelopes and numerous other native species as well as for much-desired sandalwood. A number of hotels are within close proximity to the park. Go now before the rainy season.

Stargazing in New Zealand

By Linda Tancs

Situated in the middle of New Zealand’s South Island, the Mackenzie Region is a photographer’s paradise of turquoise blue lakes, valleys of emerald green and snow-capped mountains. It’s also a heavenly place for stargazing, its clear skies earning it a designation as the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The reserve is home to Mount John Observatory, the perfect locale for a stargazing tour year round, where powerful telescopes will reveal all that the southern sky has to offer, like the Southern Cross and unparalleled views of the Milky Way.

Vegetable Bowl of the Andamans

By Linda Tancs

India’s Neil Island is known as the “vegetable bowl of the Andamans” because it supplies vegetables to nearby islands in the Andamans. Just a short hop from better-known Havelock, the tiny island’s charm lies in its relaxed vibe and picturesque little villages. Some highlights are the underwater life at Bharatpur beach, snorkeling at isolated Lakshmanpur and the photo-ready natural bridge (Howrah Bridge), an arch of rocks and earth.

 

The Forgotten Pyramids

By Linda Tancs

If you thought that Egypt had a lock on pyramids, then you’ll be surprised to learn that the country with the most pyramids is actually Sudan. Situated in the Nile Valley, the country’s smaller, more navigable pyramid structures outside Khartoum are a relic from a forgotten civilization, memorials to Nubian kings who once ruled the ancient Kingdom of Kush. In the middle of nowhere, this off-the-beaten-track destination affords easy entrance without the queues so common in Egypt. You can even camp there.

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