Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand

Photo: Phillip C. (flickr.com) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Phillip C. (flickr.com) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s almost springtime in New Zealand! While you may still be able to ski farther south on the South Island, the northern end of the island is already thinking about warmer temperatures. Green grass is starting to sprout, the trees are beginning to bloom, and baby lambs should arrive anytime. The days may start off chilly, but you’ll appreciate the crisp air when you set off to explore the Marlborough Sounds.

The Marlborough Sounds are a drowned river valley in Cook Strait, which separates New Zealand’s North Island and South Island. With calm water, mostly sunny days, and gorgeous scenery, it’s a sailor’s paradise.

You arrive in Picton and board a ferry bound for Queen Charlotte Sound, the easternmost sound. You pass uninhabited islands, isolated coves, a pod of social bottlenose dolphins, and freshly painted sailboats before the Bay of Many Coves starts to come into view. A long dock juts into the water. The hillside resort sits on Arthurs Bay and blends in with the surrounding bush. Plus there are amazing bay views from the restaurant, the library, the pool, your balcony . . . well, just about everywhere.

Photo: Bay of Many Coves

Photo: Bay of Many Coves

Your apartment-style room is modern, cozy, and all about the view, but you’re in a hurry to return to the water. Follow the shoreline in a sea kayak, stopping at the salmon farm in Ruakaka Bay and then Ratimera Bay for lunch on the sandy beach. You might see dusky dolphins doing backflips, playful fur seals, or even a southern right whale, if you’re lucky. Board the Lady Karen and ride past Captain Cook’s Monument at Ship Cove and Motuara Island. The island is a bird sanctuary where South Island Saddlebacks, little blue penguins, and Okarito kiwis breed.

Return to the Bay of Many Coves to catch the end of a rugby match on the big screen at Bight Café. Steamed clams with chili make a perfect afternoon snack. As dusk starts to fall, curious Wekas and swooping kererūs come out to play. Watch the birds from the binoculars in the library. Relax your tired muscles in the cedar hot tub. Then watch the sun set and the moon rise over the water from Foredeck Restaurant. Everything is local, from the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and the South Island cheese to the Nelson scallops and the out-of-the-bay snapper. You’re exhausted, well fed, and ready to crash at this point, but there’s one more thing you need to see: the glow worms. The bioluminescent insects live in grottos just a short walk from the hotel.

Tomorrow you might go for a bush walk along the Queen Charlotte Track for amazing views over the sound. You might fish for blue cod and be disappointed to throw your catch back in the catch-and-release area. Or you might glide across the bay on another kayak trip. There are so many options now that spring is on its way.

Mount Kailash, Tibet

Photo: I, Ondřej Žváček [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: I, Ondřej Žváček [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

You’re standing in front of one of the world’s holiest sites. The base of the mountain is pure granite. It’s capped with snow, even though the summer is almost over. Thick, white clouds obscure the peak. After months of planning, endless hours of flying, adjusting to the altitude, and traveling through the barren countryside, you’ve finally arrived at Mount Kailash.

Mount Kailash is part of the Transhimalaya mountain range in western Tibet. The remote area is full of green valleys, pristine lakes, and snow-capped peaks. Four religions—Bon, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism—consider this a sacred place. Pilgrims come to walk the circuit around the base, 13 times, to bring them good fortune. The Buddhists and the Hindus walk clockwise, while the Bons and the Jains walk counterclockwise. All perform full-body prostrations as they go. The 32-mile trek can be accomplished in as few as 15 hours, though most people do it in three days. You’ve arrived during the year of the horse, an especially sacred time to visit.

You start at Darchen looking toward the south face of the mountain. The old sheep station now acts as the starting and ending point of the circuit. A few guesthouses, a couple of vegetarian restaurants, and a doctor are set up in the makeshift town. Have your permits stamped—the pilgrimage requires three separate permits, not including the one just to enter the country.

Photo: Yasunori Koide (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Yasunori Koide (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

On day one, you pass the colorful Tarboche prayer flagpole. Walk through the glacial Lha Chu Valley with its green meadows, sculpted red towers, and gravelly streams. Follow the river through a narrow canyon with steep cliffs by beautiful waterfalls. Pass long mani (prayer) walls and the Chuku Monastery that sits on the western hillside. Eventually, the Dira-puk Monastery and the surrounding campsites come into view. You fall asleep gazing at the north side of Mount Kailash.

The hardest section of the circuit comes on day two. You ascend through the Dolma Chu Valley. Pilgrims undergo a symbolic death at Shiva-tsal, leaving hair or blood, to be reborn again at Dolma La, the highest point of the trail. Tibetan prayer flags wave in the cool breeze. You pause for a water break before beginning your descent to Thukpe Dzingbu, one of the highest lakes in the world. The Zutul-puk Monastery, built near the cave of miracles, is your well-deserved resting spot for the night.

The final day, which only takes a few hours to hike, is relatively easy. You cross small streams, follow a deep gorge, and take in the amazing view. For the first time, the clouds have parted, so you can see Mount Kailash’s peak. More prayer flags wave across the river. The bright, blue water of Lake Rakshastal is in the distance. And a dirt road leads you back to Darchen. You just completed one of the most important circuits in Asia. Only 12 more loops to catch up with the pilgrims.

Bwambe, Cameroon

Photo: BrianSmithson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: BrianSmithson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You’re standing—well, technically sitting in a pirogue—in awe of the Lobé Waterfalls. Fresh water is cascading over the rocks and dropping 20 meters into the Atlantic Ocean for nearly a kilometer. Massive clouds rise from the splash zone. Your skin feels damp even this far away. Surrounded by a Littoral Evergreen Forest, the falls are beautiful, though they still don’t seem real.

Fresh water rarely tumbles straight into the ocean. It usually flows toward the sea in a river, which ebbs and flows with the tide, changing the salinity as it does so. There are only a few places in the world where fresh waterfalls shoot into the ocean. Two of these are located in Africa: Waterfall Bluff near Cathedral Rock in South Africa and the Lobé Waterfalls outside of Kribi, Cameroon.

The Lobé Waterfalls are an important cultural site for the Batanga people. Despite their beauty and rarity, few people know about this enchanting location. Cameroon may be politically stable, but the West Africa country isn’t well explored by tourists. Which means you get to see the waterfalls and tour the coast in relative peace.

Photo: ymea (Personnal photography taken by ymea.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: ymea (Personnal photography taken by ymea.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

You started in Kribi, a coastal town on the Gulf of Guinea. You saw the German-built cathedral, Le Phare Lighthouse, and the spice-filled market. You drove south to the waterfalls, visited a pygmy village, and learned about medicinal plants. You found the area’s most beautiful and secluded beaches in Grand Batanga, a deep-water port where iron ore from Mbalam, in the East Region, is loaded onto ships. Then you drank fresh coconut milk, ate coal-grilled fish, and relaxed in the sun.

Now you’re trying to find Hotel Ilomba, a beachfront hotel that blends Cameroonian culture and the owners’ Swiss charm in the little fishing village of Bwambe. It sits on a sandy, secluded bay, which is lined with palm trees and runs undisturbed for miles. Endangered sea turtles lay their eggs here. You’re welcomed with fresh papaya juice and singing birds. The rooms are named after rainforest trees, like Bubinga, Sipo, and Padauk. The white, round huts have handmade furniture and Cameroonian cotton bedding. Simple and comfortable is all you need, especially when you can hear the waves crashing right outside.

You swim in the warm Atlantic, sip a locally brewed beer on the terrace, and watch the sun sink over the horizon. At La Baobab, you eat flame-grilled spiny lobster with lemon butter sauce and share a cold bottle of South African Chenin Blanc. The wine is the only thing the restaurant serves that isn’t locally sourced. Then you listen to the crickets as you follow the moonlight back to your hut. What a perfect evening along the coast. Cameroon is full of those little surprises.

St. Michaels, Maryland

Photo: Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond

Photo: Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond

What a peaceful morning on the Eastern Shore. You’re sitting in an Adirondack chair facing the calm water. Sailboats gently rock in the cool breeze. Their reflections almost reach the shoreline. Two white swans swim through the maze of boats and the slowly retreating fog. The sun’s pinkish-orange glow is starting to streak across the still-dewy lawn. While a grand, white inn stands silent behind you. Most people are still sleeping this early in the morning.

You’re staying at the Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels, Maryland. It’s an easy escape from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The colonial-style building was built in 1816, and later turned into a nautical-themed inn. Linden trees line the driveway. The gardens are filled with old magnolias and cypresses. An infinity edge pool is surrounded by a brick wall. English scones, lemon curd, and homemade tea are served in the Morning Room during afternoon tea. Your room has a sleigh bed, a gas fireplace, and a bay view. And Stars, where you’re heading, makes Bloody Bay Bloody Marys—with local vine-ripe tomatoes and Old Bay Seasoning—during breakfast time.

After one or two of those Bloody Marys, head back outside. Everyone seems to be up by now. Boats are starting to motor through the harbor. Seagulls fly lowly overhead. The fog has moved down the river. And you’re ready to go fishing. Cast your line for rockfish and striped bass. It’s tranquil even though the fish don’t seem to be biting right now.

Photo: Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond

Photo: Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond

When you give up trying to catch the big one—or any fish at all, right  now—grab a bike and head into town. St. Michaels was founded in 1770. By the War of 1812, it had become an important ship-building center, whose Baltimore Clippers could outrun foreign navies at sea. The British tried—and failed—to destroy the shipyards during the Battle of St. Michaels. A cannonball from the battle remains embedded in the Cannonball House. After the war, St. Michaels became known for oyster harvesting and, eventually, tourism. Many consider it the prettiest town on the Eastern Shore.

You pedal through the Victorian streets, by overflowing antique shops, and around abstract art galleries. Pass Christ Church-St. Michaels Parish. The town was named after the church, which was built in 1677. Visit the waterfront Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. The site was originally a seafood-packing house, but boats, a drawbridge, and even a lighthouse now preserve the area’s maritime history. The Hooper Strait Lighthouse once stood at the entrance of Tangier Sound, and it’s one of four surviving screw-pile lighthouses. And the bugeye Edna E. Lockwood, a historic vessel, is the last-working oyster dredger of her kind.

You’re tempted to stop at Justine’s Ice Cream Parlor for a moosetracks cone, but you opt for lunch at the Town Dock instead. You sit on the deck overlooking the river, breathe in the salty air, and smell seafood cooking inside. It’s crab season, so you order soft-shell crabs, of course. They’re steamed and cooked in Old Bay Seasoning, they go perfectly with St. Michaels Magic Hefeweizen, and they’re a mess. A seagull is watching, just in case you can’t finish your crabs. But unlike fishing earlier, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Leptis Magna, Libya

Photo: SashaCoachman (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: SashaCoachman (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the best Roman ruins sites is off-limits. That’s right, you aren’t welcome here. Actually, the friendly people in the nearby fishing village of Khoms would be honored to have you visit. But it just isn’t safe right now. It’s in Libya. That makes you even more curious.

Leptis Magna sits on the Mediterranean coast. The site is massive, the architecture is remarkably unspoiled, and the view is amazing. The Phoenicians first settled the port in the 1st millennium BC. The Carthaginians, and then the Romans followed. They built baths, arches, shrines, a circus, an amphitheater, and a basilica. It became one of the most important cities in Africa. But the decline began when the Vandals arrived, and by the 11th century, Leptis Magna was abandoned. Sand covered—and preserved—the ruins for centuries, until excavations began in the 20th century.

A small museum is located at the entrance of the ruins. It’s filled with pottery, jewelry, oil lamps, and even coffins that were discovered among the ruins. Though interesting, it’s hard to pay attention with the towering arch behind it. The Severan Arch was built in honor of Septimius Severus, the first African Roman Emperor. It’s ornate and massive, and it leads down Via Trionfale, the main street that points toward the sea. The West Gate, more arches, and the Roman Wall are to the left, while the marble and granite Hadrianic Baths—the largest Roman baths outside of Rome—are to the right.

Photo: Daviegunn (self-made by David Gunn) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Daviegunn (self-made by David Gunn) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Market, the Nymphaeum, and the Forum are ahead. The Market, where fish was sold, consists of two octagonal halls. The Nymphaeum, an ornamental fountain house, is a shrine dedicated to the worship of nymphs. The Forum is decorated with Gorgon heads. Eventually, you reach the Basilica. Leptis Magna’s most famous monument was inspired by Rome’s Basilica Ulpia, with three aisles and an apse on each end.

You can continue toward the water, where a battered lighthouse sits at the entrance of the harbor. Strong waves demolished the left wall long ago. Or cross a bridge and follow the Byzantine Wall past the cemetery to reach the waterfront Circus and Amphitheater. Chariot races were held at the Circus, and the Amphitheater sits in a natural quarry. Both have gorgeous views.

Now the ruins sit empty, once again collecting sand as the country attempts to rebuild in the post-Gaddafi era. Hopefully Libya becomes a safe place to visit again soon. When it is, you’ll be one of the first in line at Leptis Magna.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Photo: Forage

Photo: Forage

Salt Lake City is known for a lot of things—its gorgeous location near the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges, its Sundance Film Festival held every January, and its huge population of Mormons. But it’s never been known as a foodie destination. Until now.

It’s easy to overlook the first restaurant. Forage is located on a residential block in East Central Salt Lake City. You enter through a side door to find a minimal space with absolutely no decorations. But the art is in the food. The exact number of courses changes constantly, depending on what is growing in the wild or available at small, nearby farms. The menu is puzzlingly simple, offering just a few clues as to what is to come. Chef Bowman Brown introduces the first course. Green juniper and wild cress, carrot and sunflower seed, or black walnut. The little appetizers just keep coming. Homemade bread on a hot stone arrives during a pause, as if more food is needed to keep you interested. And then, at a slower pace, trout with new pine and peas, new potatoes and crayfish, and Idaho sturgeon and grilled kale appear. By the time the first dessert—elderflower with yogurt and raspberries—is set in front you, you’re practically green. You’re even more amazed when you see the bill, which would be two or three times higher in other major cities.

Photo: The Copper Onion

Photo: The Copper Onion

You may not be able to handle eating 13 to 16 courses at Forage, but you can still eat well downtown. Chef Ryan Lowder, who is originally from Utah, worked at Michelin-starred restaurants around the world before returning home to open the Copper Onion. The New American restaurant has a copper-paneled ceiling and wooden tables. Order a Salt Lake City Red Rock Elephino Double IPA and watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen as you peruse the menu. Start with the addictive ricotta dumplings. The little pillows are cooked in brown butter and topped with parmesan cheese. Move on to the Wagyu beef stroganoff with homemade al dente pappardelle, Snake River Farms beef, and crème fraîche. And leave room for dessert. The cheesecake is light, creamy, and topped with Montana wildflower honey. There may not be as many courses at the Copper Onion, but you’re still happily stuffed by the time you leave.

You probably can’t eat another bite of food at this point, but a nightcap sounds perfect. Yes, you can find a real drink in Salt Lake City. Just a block away, the Bar-X is a classic speakeasy that first opened when Prohibition was repealed in 1933. The master bartenders can make you a traditional Old Fashioned, a Moscow Mule, or a Pimm’s Cup. But you have your eye on the Corpse Reviver #2, in which dry gin, Lillet Blanc, fresh lime juice, and Cointreau are poured into an Absinthe-coated glass. Cheers to a surprising new foodie destination.

Milos, Greece

Photo: Line Lasserre (This file was imported from Wikivoyage WTS.) [CC-BY-SA-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Line Lasserre (This file was imported from Wikivoyage WTS.) [CC-BY-SA-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Hey beach lover! Your perfect island has been found. Whether you prefer white sand, golden sand, red sand, or volcanic rocks, the southernmost island in the Cyclades has a beach for everyone. So jump on a high-speed ferry or join the standby line at the airport. You’re going to Milos—where you have nearly 70 beaches from which to choose.

After arriving in Adamas, make a beeline for the southern coast. The paved road will end, but keep going until you reach Tsigrado. There you slide through a tight, rocky passage. You hesitantly climb down a shaky wooden ladder. And you breathe a sigh of relief when your feet touch the snow-white sand. Go swimming in the warm water, search for hidden caves, and avoid the big boulders. With towering cliffs on one side and clear, turquoise water on the other, Tsigrado might be the most beautiful beach on an island full of stunning beaches.

When little Tsigrado starts to get crowded, drive west to Provatas. Rocky cliffs sit at either side of this beach as well, but easy access and the longer stretch of sand make this red-sand beach more popular. With calm, shallow water, Provatas is ideal for swimming. Here you can rent sun loungers and umbrellas. Then when you need a break from the sun, a little taverna at the top of the hill serves chilled wine and mezes.

Photo: N. Preseault

Photo: N. Preseault

Following a morning on the southern coast, head north in the afternoon. Sarakiniko is unlike any beach you’ve ever seen. There’s no sand or dunes or trees here. There’s just rocks. Pure-white volcanic rocks that have been shaped by the waves and the wind. The salt water has eroded the rocks over time, so be careful stepping over the hollows as you angle for the perfect picture. And when the sun bounces off the rocks and the teal water, you feel like you’re on another planet.

Eventually, you end the day in Pollonia, a fishing village on the northeastern tip of Milos. The beach sits on a small, protected bay. Colorful boats bob in the water. Shady tamarisk trees line the golden sand. Whitewashed houses stand in the distance. The ferry to Kimolos departs four times a day.  And a line of seafood restaurants are only steps away. Tomato salad, sea bream carpaccio, prawn tartare, tuna tataki, and risotto with cuttlefish ink, plus lots of ouzo, will keep you by the waterfront long after the sun sets and give you plenty of time to decide which beaches to visit tomorrow.