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TRAVEL SLEUTH - NEW HORIZONS TO EXPLORE
 
(2014 - Fall/Winter Issue)

Writer: JANE STOKES



One way to get ahead of the global curve is to find out about places that are off the beaten track.

Some on the radar have been popular places in their own localities from the beginning of time. Others are emerging as new and hopeful sovereign nations, while others are benefitting by simply rolling out the welcome mat for travellers. Either way, as destination cities emerge and become more accessible from Canada, it is now their turn to show us around:

OAXACA

Where is it? Mexico, a 300-kilometre road trip from Huatulco to 1,525 metres above sea level.

Snapshot: This vibrant mountain city, where ancient cultures have endured alongside the colonizing Spanish, provides an opportunity to see, touch and taste the Mexican way of life. Start your day in the zocalo (main square), then stroll through the markets, take part in the food-and-craft festivals, eat poultry in a spicy-chocolate molé sauce, but mostly relax with coffee and sweets at a sidewalk café. Just enough visitors to Oaxaca have sparked a delightful variety of restaurants, luxury accommodation and tourist services. Nearby, don’t miss Monte Alban, the preserved archaeological ruins of the Zapotec people and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inquire about the Arbol del Tule,atree that is believed to have the largest base trunk of any in the world, with locals insisting it is more than 1,400 years old. visitmexico.com

ARMAÇAO DOS BUZIOS

Where is it? Brazil, just 175 kilometres northeast of Rio de Janeiro.

Snapshot: Known as Buzios to locals, this pretty resort town is where visitors can unwind from the razzle-dazzle of Rio. Attractive hotels line 20 beaches along the peninsula. If you prefer gentle currents for swimming, the west-facing resorts are for you, whereas surfers, windsurfers and kite enthusiasts head for the east-side swells on the Atlantic Ocean. Lessons for watersport activities are easily lined up. Scuba diving is also top-rated here, but first, hop on board any one of many tourist schooners moored along the main pier to take a two- to three-hour cruise along the coastline and a visit to one of many islands for a swim. Canadians who yearn for an Amazon adventure while in Brazil—along with as much music, dance, food and football as can be squeezed into one vacation—are advised to visit in April or May when the weather is great, but when Buzios is less crowded. visitbrasil.com

KOLKATA

Where is it? India, on the central east coast just before the Hooghly River flows into the Bay of Bengal.

Snapshot: Spelled Calcutta in the British years, this epic city is often tagged the “cultural capital of India,” a blending of influences that inspires ongoing generations of poets, writers, artists and film talent. Begin your exploration by jumping into the carnival of colours at the Esplanade—the old colonial district in the heart of the daily barter scene—and then work  your way into North Kolkata, a fascinating district of narrow, winding lanes with residences dating back to the 19th century. Take time out to stroll in Maidan Park and consider booking your accommodation in East Kolkata, an upscale neighbourhood that includes the IT sector, plus several luxury hotels and intriguing tourist pursuits. First trips to India are easier to navigate with guidance, considering the multi-layered cultures of more than 400 languages and the spellbinding landscapes of mountains, jungles, beaches and deserts. onkartravels.com; incredibleindia.org

DUBROVNIK

Where is it? Croatia, toward the southernmost tip of the country on the Adriatic Sea.

Snapshot:  If the thought of stepping into history thrills you, walk right through the medieval gates of the red stone wall that surrounds this city. Dubrovnik was a powerhouse of maritime trade in the 15th and 16th centuries, which made it a prized target for rivals ever since. Today, the walkable neighbourhoods within the wall are such a treasure of architecture and historic arts, the entire city is a fully protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you stroll, it’s still easy to imagine all of the wealth, power and creativity of yesteryear, perhaps because it is stirring again in its present-day poets, playwrights, painters and scholars who enrich the Croatian lifestyle and make Dubrovnik irresistible to visitors. You will be welcomed with an abundance of accommodation choices, fine-dining establishments, countless cultural diversions, intriguing shops and a variety of nightlife options. croatia.hr

LEIPZIG

Where is it? Germany, a Saxony jewel that is central to the golden triangle of Leipzig, Dresden and Berlin.

Snapshot: Exquisite Leipzig was reunified with its kin in western Germany following the people protests of 1989, a revolution that brought down both the Berlin Wall and the entire Soviet-controlled Iron Curtain. This October marks the 25th anniversary of that freedom march and the people of Leipzig are credited universally for their round-the-clock demonstrations near St. Nicolas Church. Today, the half million or so residents continue this leadership role in cultural arts and industry, all of which began when Leipzig was a pivotal trading centre in the Holy Roman Empire. You will see the main pedestrian square today is a recently revived ensemble of baroque and renaissance buildings. Music and theatre are still central to the Leipzig identity (J.S. Bach and Felix Mendelssohn were residents) and in a local pub called the Auerbachs Cellar, you can eat and drink in the otherworldly surroundings that caught the attention of playwright, Goethe, as he wrote his masterpiece, Faust. Leipzig is often voted among the most livable cities in Germany and it is ranked in many surveys as one of the top 10 European cities to visit. germany.travel

REYKJAVIK

Where is it? Iceland, on the southwest coastline facing the North Atlantic Ocean, about halfway between Scotland and the Arctic Ocean.

Snapshot: The vivid colours on houses and buildings will likely be your first impression of the lively residents of Reykjavik, an affection that only grows when you get an unconditional welcome along with an agreement that you will always say yes to abundant food and drink. Reykjavik is spread out, but the historic centre is packed with galleries, museums, music, theatre, thermal spas and a fascinating mix of architecture with Norwegian influences dating from the 18th century. Be sure to stroll around the Tjornin pond, a park in the centre of the city, or in Klambratun, a much larger farmland park where major events are held. In Iceland, nature cohabits with urban activity, so within minutes you could be exploring the shorelines, hiking lava fields, horseback riding along glacial rivers  and staying out after dark (in spring and fall) to dance with the Northern Lights. Did you know ice covers only 10 per cent of Iceland and it is far greener that Greenland, where glacial ice covers 80 per cent of the terrain? As well, Iceland is a volcanic island and, due to its location on the Atlantic Gulf Stream, its winters are often milder than those in Canada. Every day, Air Canada and Icelandair connect our gateway cities to Reykjavik. visiticeland.com

 
 
 
 
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