This week we asked around the office for our agents’ top destinations for 2012, and here are some of our awesome picks:
photo by Hector Garcia
The Cook Islands are situated between French Polynesia and Tonga, comprised of 15 islands. Summers (Nov-Apr) are warm with afternoon rains, and winters are cooler and dry. It is largely unspoiled, with pristine beaches, coral atolls, blue lagoons and white sands. With no high rise hotels and a culture firmly based in its roots—each island offers unique ways to relax and enjoy Polynesia. The visitor can enjoy a variety of activities, including swimming in resorts, visiting the famous Aitutaki Lagoon, snorkeling, scuba diving, mountain hiking or stopping for a shore excursion at Palmerston Atoll.
photo by Arian Zwegers
Since the fall of Soviet communism, the Baltic states—namely Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia—have slowly emerged as a major travel hub. Still under the American traveler’s radar, the capitals of Vilnius, Riga and Talinn still retain their refreshing and unspoiled vibe. With old world architecture, pastel colors, and rich cultural backgrounds, the people have been called welcoming and yet still an enigma. The Baltics are also relatively inexpensive for Europe, with boutique hotels running less than 150 USD per night and private tours available for a third of the price of their Western European equivalents. From the lively cities to the icy resorts on the Baltic Sea, there’s something for nature and culture lovers alike.
photo by xiquinhosilva
Turkey is a less expensive option to neighboring and popular Greece—but as equally worth your time due to its rich cultural heritage and diverse landscapes—from mountains to beaches to ancient monuments and ruins. Depending on your travel tastes, spend your vacation wandering through bipolar cosmopolitan Istanbul, sunbathing on the Bodrum Peninsula, touring the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, or unwinding in a steamy hamam. If you’re feeling more adventurous, we recommend exploring the uncharted deserts of Eastern Turkey, trekking through the Ottoman and Greek ruins, or hiking through Nemrut Dagi National Park. Above all, don’t miss the food—mouthwatering mezes, olives, kebabs, anchovies, baklava, and kanafeh (a sweet and delicious pastry). WIT works with a fantastic tour guide named Meli who provides fully escorted tours through incredible historical sites, hot springs, monasteries, and the gorgeous architectural wonders of the Aya Sophia and Topkapi Palace.
photo by Maurizio Costanzo
Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America, but features a biodiversity unparalleled in the Western Hemisphere. For decades a top destination for nature lovers, the country features volcanoes, tropical forests, Pacific coast, indigenous markets, and unique wildlife. Most popular are the Galapagos Islands, barren but beautiful landscapes ripe with giant tortoises, penguins, marine iguanas and sea lions. Due to the fragility of the islands, tourists’ access is limited and must be accompanied by a park-certified tour guide.
photo courtesy of Viking River Cruises
European River Cruises
The European river cruise is a massively growing industry—not a destination, but a worthy travel experience in of itself. These cruises are often all-inclusive, allowing Americans to avoid high exchange rates by locking fares in dollars, and can include accommodations, remarkable scenery, meals from stellar chefs and occasionally shore excursions. The most popular routes are on the Douro River, the Rhone, the Rhine and the Danube. River boats travel at a leisurely pace of 5 mph, allowing travelers spectacular views of the countryside, vineyards, castles, and villages. They can accommodate from 200-300 passengers, and the tiniest barges as few as four—intimate yet never feeling claustrophobic Many ships offer deluxe cabins, or suites with balconies, and there is a small number of public rooms and plenty of deck space. Fall is a popular time to go—the time for grape harvesting, Oktoberfest brewing, and the polychromatic turning of the seasons.
photo by @Michael
USA National Parks
Summer is a time for parks, and no better place to check out wildlife than in America’s diverse and breathtaking national parks. The National Park Service protects 58 areas across America, so there’s no excuse not to find one for a hike! Lodges are already selling out in well-known destinations such as Bryce Canyon or Montana’s Glacier Park. In Oregon, check out Crater Lake, Fort Clatsop, John Day Fossil Beds, or the Oregon Caves—or hike a historical trail, such as the Lewis & Clark or Pacific Crest trails. Some of the tours WIT works with offer escorted park tours, like Tauck’s Southwestern canyon vacation or their Yosemite trail, both crafted by filmmaker Ken Burns.
Interested in traveling this year to a top destination? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 503.224.0180.