Places You Need To Visit

KAUAI

UNITED STATES

The views on the island of Kauai provide glimpses of the Kalalau Valley.

1-kauai-waterfalls-hawaii

(Photograph by National Geographic)

No-filter Kauai stole the show in the Jurassic movies and more than 60 other feature films.

The island’s ubiquitous aerial tours do deliver jaw-dropping views of the towering Na Pali Coast sea cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and other blockbuster locations.

But plunging deep into the Garden Island’s wild side requires hitting a trail. Marked hiking paths lead onto the floor of Waimea Canyon, through the shallow bogs of Alakai Swamp, and across unbelievably lush landscapes. One newer route, the five-mile Wai Koa Loop Trail, passes through North America’s largest mahogany forest.

For off-the-beaten-path treks, go with a local, says Hike Kaua’i With Me owner Eric Rohlffs. “A guide can take you to less traveled spots while keeping you safe, and educating you on all things Hawaii, such as identifying instead of trampling plants found nowhere else.

FINLAND

If silence is golden, you’ll discover the mother lode in Finland’s state-owned protected areas. From near the Arctic Circle in Lapland (where the northern lights can be seen up to 200 nights a year), through the 20,000-island Finnish archipelago, and along the rocky beaches on the mainland’s southernmost tip, Finland’s 40 national parks, 12 wilderness areas, and six national hiking areas are sanctuaries for silence-seekers.

It’s no wonder that Finns celebrate a hundred years of independence in 2017 with four (winter, spring, summer, and fall) nationwide Finnish Nature Days, and by designating Hossa Hiking Area as the country’s 40th national park. Join the party on a winter digital detox at WiFi-free Torassieppi, a rustic and remote reindeer farm. No phones or other electronic devices are allowed, freeing you to focus on more restorative pursuits, such as reindeer sledding or snowshoeing through unspoiled Lapland tundra, forests, and fells.

BAJA CALIFORNIA
MEXICO

fish-baja-california

(Photograph by National Geographic)

Close encounters of the ginormous marine kind are common in the waters off Mexico’s fingerlike Baja California peninsula. Baja is bordered to the west by the Pacific Ocean and to the east by the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California), where behemoths of the sea—whales, great white sharks, and manta rays with wingspans up to 20 feet—and a variety of fish congregate. —MKD

BANFF
CANADA

banff-national-park

(Photograph by National Geographic)

With its rugged peaks, meadowed valleys, and turquoise-blue lakes, Banff offers everything from mountain hikes and horseback excursions to hot spring soaks and luxury accommodations—making it an ideal destination for the 2017 celebration of our northern neighbor’s 150th anniversary of nationhood and the perfect place to escape to for answers to life’s questions. –NORIE QUINTOS

Travel with us to the Canadian Rockies and discover more in our feature.

A visitor rests in a hammock as the sun rises on Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks in Banff National Park.

CLOUD FORESTS
ECUADOR

ecquador

(Photograph by National Geographic)

Birders flock to the primeval cloud forests of Ecuador’s Chocó region, considered some of the richest depositories of plant and animal life on the planet. Located north of Quito on the fog-shrouded Andean slopes, the biodiversity hotspot is home to hundreds of bird species, including the flashy Andean cock-of-the-rock and dazzling hummingbirds.

Other wonders include a profusion of epiphytes (air plants) and rare orchids. The teddy bear-faced olinguito was identified here in 2013 as the newest mammal species in the Americas. At Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve & Lodge go on a guided night walk to spot hand-size moths and flickering fireflies. At Mashpi, a National Geographic Unique Lodge, soar through the mist on a zip-line Sky Bike or an open-air gondola for heady views of the forest canopy.

VIA DINARICA
WESTERN BALKANS

The Western Balkans, adventure travelers’ under-the-radar playground, just got more accessible. In 2017, for the first time after years of expansion, the 1,200-mile Via Dinarica trail will be completely mapped with stage information compiled from a growing community of hikers. The trek—which stitches together ancient trading and military routes—traverses the Dinaric Alps, linking the peninsula from Postojna, Slovenia, south through Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, and Macedonia.

Trekkers sleep in remote mountain shelters along the Adriatic Sea, atop the region’s highest peaks, and above the continent’s deepest gorge. But the path is also a cultural corridor, where thru-hikers, cyclists, horseback riders, paddlers, and day-trippers find themselves lost in old-world traditions uncovered after five decades of communism. During homestay layovers in nomadic shepherd settlements and isolated villages—along the popular three-day stretch from Albania’s Thethi National Park to the Kosovo border, for instance—you might find yourself drinking coffee cooked in a copper pot on an iron stove, with a
hospitable farmer with work-worn fingers and a sun-creased face.

What was once a contentious region has become the planet’s most exciting cross-border destination. “The Via Dinarica has replaced politics with nature,” says Thierry Joubert, the owner of Green Visions, a Bosnia and Herzegovina-based tour operator. “What could be more beautiful?”

TIGER NATIONAL PARKS
CENTRAL INDIA

1-tigers-central-india

(Photograph by National Geographic)

Why watch the Jungle Book when you can live it? In the heart of India, the regal Bengal tigers immortalized in Rudyard Kipling’s classic series (and subsequent Disney films) are making a roaring comeback. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s growing wild tiger population (up from as few as 3,200 in 2010 to 3,890 in 2015) resides in India.

For wildlife-watchers eager to catch a glimpse of the world’s biggest cats, nothing—including Dolby Vision 3D on an IMAX screen—beats watching the majestic creatures prowl their home turf. Thanks to wildlife and habitat preservation initiatives, Central India’s Madhya Pradesh national parks are wild tiger havens. Hop aboard Indian Railways’ new Tiger Express tourist train to go on safari in Bandhavgarh and Kanha, two other tiger-rich parks.

 

(National Geographic)