- World's Weirdest Hotels
- 10 Tips to a Sexy Hotel Room
- America's Coolest Small Towns
skirted by the Danube River and backed by
steep mountains complete with a crumbling
Gregor Semrad/courtesy Durnstein Hotel
Eleven people lucky enough to travel for a living reveal their favorite recent discoveries—places they happened upon and still can't stop thinking about. Here are their stories.
The traveler: Michael Guerriero, author of the guidebook Party Across America: 101 of the Greatest Festivals, Sporting Events, and Celebrations in the U.S.
The place: Backed by striking mountains, Dürnstein's winding cobblestoned streets and homes with steep, red-tiled roofs and window flower boxes look plucked out of a fairy tale. Sections of the fortified walls remain intact, and the baroque church's blue-and-white clock tower is inverted in time (when it's 3 p.m., the clock reads 9). A crumbling castle fortress rewards those who make the 30-minute hike up to it from Dürnstein with marvelous views of the Wachau valley. Its terraced vineyards yield crisp, dry Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners. In early April, the landscape erupts in pale-pink blossoms, and prized apricot fruits turn up in strudels, pork dishes, and Marillenknödel—traditional apricot dumplings rolled in butter-toasted bread crumbs.
Travel Ink/Getty Images
The traveler: Christian Pucher, development director for Six Senses Resorts & Spas, a Bangkok–based hotelier known for its high-end eco-resorts in pristine locales.
The place: Few places evoke paradise like the mythical Shangri-La, the mountainous valley depicted in James Hilton's 1933 novel, Lost Horizon. And that's just what Pucher found when he encountered the northwestern area of China's Yunnan province, which borders Tibet and was renamed Shangri-La in 2001 for its natural beauty. The snowcapped peaks, Alpine lakes, and deep gorges of the Tibetan Plateau were unlike anything the Swiss native had imagined. "I was in absolute awe," Pucher says. "Mountains of up to 22,000 feet would rise and drop into valleys of 6,000 feet or more. The roads crossed some of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever seen."
The traveler: Alex Robertson Textor, a prolific blogger and the author of a low-budget Caribbean guide. He travels about 12 times a year on assignments for The New York Times, Budget Travel, and Eurocheapo.
The place: Despite its position on the banks of Macedonia's magnificent Lake Ohrid and its popularity among Europeans, Ohrid remains unknown to most American travelers. But it's reaching an on-the-verge moment—like Prague 20 years ago—that should grant early North American arrivals serious bragging rights. "In the height of summer, there's a party atmosphere," says Textor. "Lots of people rent a car or a taxi for the day and circle the lake." A worthwhile stop is the 10th-century monastery complex Sveti Naum, which has commanding views of the lake's blue-green water and a church gilded with elaborate frescoes.
Courtesy Cruce Andino
Lago Todos los Santos, Chile
The traveler: Rupert Barrington, who has spent 20 years traveling to far-flung places as a producer for BBC wildlife programs, including this spring's Life series.
The place: Lago Todos los Santos has steep wooded banks and, in the background, looming fantastically over the watery scene, a perfectly symmetrical, snowcapped, 8,730-foot volcano called Osorno that's drawn comparisons to Mount Fuji. Barrington's verdict on the landscape was nearly instantaneous: "I thought it was just the most beautiful place I'd ever been," he says. "I felt that I'd arrived at something quite special and wild."
Switzerland Tourism-BAFU/swiss-image.ch/Lorenz Andreas Fischer
The traveler: Greg Witt, operator of a hiking guide service, Alpenwild. He first tackled the Alps as an 18-year-old backpacker and continues to spend two months in Switzerland every summer.
The place: After decades of canvassing the Swiss countryside, Witt still gets excited about returning to Binn, in a small, secluded Alpine valley at the base of zigzagging peaks sporting countless shades of green. Local residents uphold a pact made more than 50 years ago to resist the kind of overdevelopment that's added posh ski resorts and multilane highways to much of southwestern Switzerland. "Even today, the 16th-century stone bridge leading into the village of Binn bears the load of goats and hikers, not cars and buses," says Witt.
The traveler: Adam H. Graham, a food and travel freelance writer and former executive editor at Sherman’s Travel magazine. He struck out on his own in 2007.
The place: Last June, Graham convinced a publication to send him to Newfoundland, an island in the easternmost Canadian province and the setting of Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Shipping News. A three-hour drive north along roller-coaster roads from the provincial capital of St. John's brought him to Trinity, a harbor town with a year-round population of 350. Lovely primary-colored wooden houses punctuate a landscape of craggy cliffs and rolling hills that reminded Graham of western Ireland. "I hate to use this word, but it is magical, and there's this crystal-clear blue water that sparkles in the sunshine." Icebergs glide by, the occasional bald eagle soars overhead, and puffins can be seen up close, diving right into Trinity Bay.
Ondina Rosch/Courtesy Playa Koralia
Playa Koralia, Colombia
The traveler: Marcella Echavarría, founder of SURevolution. The New York–based company connects indigenous artisan communities to fashion houses such as Donna Karan, Tory Burch, and Ralph Lauren.
The place: For at least 10 days every year, when she needs a break, Echavarría retreats to Playa Koralia, a laid-back resort named after the beach on which it's set on Colombia's Caribbean coast. There's nothing in the world she's seen like it. "Playa Koralia is the only place where you can walk on a tropical beach and see snow-peaked mountains so close," says Echavarría. Scattered between palm trees, the resort’s 19 thatched bungalows encourage a no-Internet, no-newspapers, unplugged approach.
Courtesy Janice Bowen
The traveler: Amie O'Shaughnessy, founder of ciaobambino.com, a website devoted to family-friendly lodging. She travels at least twice a month to review family-friendly properties.
The place: Trémolat's fortresslike Romanesque church dates back to the 11th century, but the surrounding region boasts an even longer history. The valleys are dotted with prehistoric rock dwellings, Stonehenge-like megaliths, and caves painted with haunting images of bison, horses, and traced human hands estimated to be an astounding 17,000 years old. O'Shaughnessy and her brood explored the area by bike, car, and on foot; their favorite experience was dining at Les Truffières, a working farm that serves the food it grows.
The traveler: Beth Whitman, founder of Wanderlust and Lipstick, which includes a guidebook series for female travelers, a website, and tours.
The place: A self-proclaimed travel addict who's visited more than 30 countries, Beth Whitman spends about a quarter of the year on the road leading tours or scouting out new destinations. In 2008, while researching her second book, Wanderlust and Lipstick: For Women Traveling to India, Whitman happened upon the seaside town of Varkala, located at India's southwestern tip in the state of Kerala. She was greeted by palm trees and cafés perched on cinnamon-red laterite cliffs overlooking the turquoise-colored Arabian Sea. "It was so peaceful, laid-back, and beautiful," Whitman recalls. "Just the kind of place I was looking for after weeks traveling the country."
Courtesy Trevor Dennis/Flickr
Havelock, New Zealand
The traveler: Leon Logothetis, a London broker who jumped ship at the chance to work for the Discovery Channel show Destination Future. The experience inspired his own show, Amazing Adventures of a Nobody, which cataloged his super-frugal adventures.
The place: Havelock sits at the head of the wide, startlingly clear Pelorus Sound, and a boat or kayak boarded at the marina leads to winding waterways where dolphins jump from the water and dark-green mountains jut steeply into the air around every turn. Havelock's tiny downtown is chockablock with cute two-story colonial buildings that house galleries and restaurants. "Both the North and South Islands of New Zealand are filled with dreamlike scenery and picturesque little towns," says Logothetis. "But of all of them, Havelock is my favorite. It's just this little slice of heaven, with great food, super-friendly people, and an amazing setting."
The traveler: Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, a Travel Channel series devoted to exploring local cuisines that keeps Zimmern globe-trotting for about 30 weeks each year.
The place: When your specialty is bizarre food, your travels take you well beyond the world's slick capitals. It's the off-the-beaten-path spots that hold the most promise for Zimmern. His recent favorite is Heimaey, one of the Westman Islands off the coast of Iceland. "Most people who go to Iceland stay in Reykjavík, and if they leave, it's to do a one-day excursion somewhere north of the city," he says. "I wanted to connect with the real Iceland." That quest led him and his TV crew south to rugged Heimaey, where the principal industry is commercial fishing and the wharf is lined with unassuming seafood restaurants. "They're packed during lunch and dinner," Zimmern says. "I'd walk down the row and pick a different one for each meal."