Royal City Carlson Wagonlit Travel's Blog

Sometimes we think that the best travel experiences can only be found in distant, exotic destinations. And they're waiting for you right in your back yard.

Kieran Andrews of Wild Rock Outfitters leads cycling tours in some of the most famous and storied locations in the world. But when BestTrip.TV's Ryan McElroy asked him about one of his favorite places to cycle, it was at home in Canada in Peterborough & the Kawarthas.

In this BestTrip.TV video, Kieran takes Ryan in a two-day cycling journey across rolling hills and scenic vistas to waterfront in cottage country. Ryan gets an insider's introduction to local cycling community favorite trails, views and 'energy stops' (that is, fabulous restaurants!) as well as its network of passionate, connected cyclists.

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Why Inject Adventure Travel Into your Next Vacation

We get it. You really need a break. Downtime. Relaxation. Time to book a vacation so you can… Try a new adventure.

Does 'adventure travel' sound way too energetic, even the opposite of what you need in a holiday? Think again.

Lynn Elmhirst, Executive Producer, Host and Travel Expert from BestTrip.TV, explains why finding a way to leave the beach and make soft adventure part – or all - of your next holiday, whether it's a cruise, multi-generation family vacation, a couples' escape, a girl- or guy-friend getaway, bleisure time from your business trip or business conference, might be the best travel decision you can make. And way better for you than a week on a lounge chair.

Soft adventure is about being active and interacting with the outdoors and nature. It's not about extreme activities that involve intensive training or baked-in danger. Think hiking, cycling, canoeing and kayaking, spelunking, tree walks, orienteering, photography, bird and wildlife watching, agriculture and rural volunteering - not tagging sharks, climbing Everest, or base jumping!

Tapping into your inner Scout, not SEAL.

Soft adventure vacations are one of today's top travel trends. Some reports say 50% of North American travelers have started choosing soft adventure travel experiences over beach vacations. There are outdoor adventures waiting in some of the world's most beautiful, inspiring places for travelers of every age and most levels of fitness. Cruise lines are getting into the 'action', pun intended, wit active and soft adventure options in ports of call, and even with some ship board activities.

Get active on your next vacation and here are some of the benefits:

Physical Wellness

Fill your 'park prescription': anytime you can be active rather than sedentary, you're doing your body good. Doctors are starting to prescribe 'park prescriptions' to get people moving outdoors, deep breathing clean air, absorbing Vitamin D to reduce the impact of, and even treat common modern ailments, from heart disease to obesity to ADD. And of course you've heard that sitting is the new smoking. Anytime you're moving not sitting, your overall health and fitness is winning. Outdoors just makes it more effective.

And knowing you're going on an adventure on your next vacation can give you motivation to stay on your fitness program at home so you can enjoy the kinds of soft adventures you want to experience when you travel.

Acid Balance: Breathing fresh outdoor, clean air is believed to have an alkaline effect on your body. This can reverse or balance acidity from stress and lower oxygen levels from a more indoor, sedentary life. Ultimately, being active outdoors is a valuable tool to fight impaired fat loss, poor endurance and more unwelcome physical effects and make your body stronger and healthier.

See green to get fit: Getting outdoors is one of the best ways to support your fitness goals. Research shows that when you're viewing the color green (that is, plant life in a natural setting) exercise actually feels easier! So you'll enjoy it and stay with it longer, and it feels less like a 'workout' than play.

Get dirty to get healthy: It's possible our lives have just gotten too… clean. It's time to get down in the muck to strengthen our immune and digestive systems. Contact with soil and the earth is now believed be important to reconnect us to the good bacteria, enzymes and other organisms in soil that helped our ancestors – and can help us – strengthen our bodies against allergies, asthma, chronic digestive problems and support our overall immune systems.

Mental Wellness

Reduce stress, improve your mood and perceived energy: Being active in nature has been shown to realign thinking associated with stress and depression and low energy levels, and viewing natural beauty can elicit feelings of awe, releasing endorphins and trigger a purely natural mental 'high'.

Take a hike, grow your brain-power: Memory loss as you age is linked to a shrinking hippocampus in your brain. Guess what? Hiking and walking or similar moderate outdoor activity grows the hippocampus, with just 3, 40 minute walks a week. And brain scans after being active show focused activity in the pre-frontal cortex.

Increase your confidence to deal with uncertainty: The one thing you can always say about Mother Nature is that she isn't afraid to throw you a curve ball. Soft adventures give you low-risk opportunities to grow your problem solving skills when things don't go according to plan, practice staying cool under pressure, and acquire confidence in your ability to cope with life's uncertainties.

Give yourself a sense of accomplishment: Physical adventures give you opportunities to push the envelope of your safe zone and acquire new skills and knowledge outside of your daily routine, especially when they take place in a new environment. When you set yourself a challenge – like getting to the top of a new hill, to the end of a new trail, and achieve it, we get a chemical reward from our brains that creates euphoria. Don't we all need some natural euphoria in our lives?

Personal Growth

Create Memories and Stories: Our earliest ancestors knew the value of group memories and storytelling. Outdoor adventures and challenges create new memories, shared stories, opportunities to learn from challenges and share them. Even tough times create great stories, and fantastic times can give us inner resources to draw on for a lifetime.

Forge new relationships: embarking on challenges, achieving goals and getting those outdoor and physical 'highs' together with other people, can forge lasting bonds, whether it's with family, new friends, or even business colleagues.

Develop Self-Awareness/ Mindfulness: Outdoor adventures, especially ones that keep your body busy, free your mind to reflect on what you're seeing and experiencing, and on big picture 'life' itself. Most of our days are occupied on mentally-heavy work, family scheduling, and multi-tasking. Hiking or paddling or most other soft adventure remove us from our day-to-day mental loads, and let the side of wonder, self-reflection, and interaction with a world that's greater than ourselves take over.

Help the World

A lot of soft adventure travel options involve interacting with the natural and unspoiled world. Increasingly, soft adventure tourism, when it is about responsibly interacting with those natural spaces and resources, wildlife and local / indigenous people, provides one of the only – and best – sources of income to financially support their ongoing protection. The value of adventure travel creates a 'business case' for preserving them from development or other encroachment.

Key words: responsible and soft. Soft adventure isn't just 'soft' on your body, it's ALSO soft on the world around you. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Soft adventure can be transformative travel for you AND for future generations together on this earth.

(Photo: Kayaking in Halong Bay, Vietnam, a shore excursion on our Seabourn cruise.  BestTrip.TV)

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Spelunking in Jamaica

It might be the most polar opposite activity to a day on the beach in Jamaica. Escaping from the sunny, hot, breeze of the beaches, to explore one of the island's networks of cool, dark, damp cave systems.

Jamaica is one of the special places in the world with 'Karst' topography, where flowing water has carved paths through soluble limestone terrain, resulting in spectacular underwater rivers and caves.

Exploring caves is irresistible. Our earliest ancestors used caves for protection, a place for worship, where they created art, stored their treasures, even buried their dead. There's something about being in a cave that taps our most primal instincts, returning to the refuge of Mother Earth. Feeling just for a little while that we're exploring the unknown.

It's a magical environment inside caves. Like entering another world, transitioning from sunlight, heat, and breeze, to dark, damp, stillness, with the Earth encompassing you, not just beneath your feet. Where light does leak in through openings from the world above, it's filtered and bounced off the limestone walls, dancing off particles in the air, creating a mystical ambiance.

Jamaica has long been on the map for the global community of experienced cavers drawn to the wild highlands of the island where some claim are a thousand cave systems, some descending hundreds of feet into the bowels of the Earth. Now, Jamaica is also a destination for spelunking – amateur caving – where travelers with no caving experience at all can work with guides who have intimate knowledge of the maze of caves, and can provide safety equipment and instruction so you, too, can discover a completely different world in Jamaica.

If you are not part of a very experienced, well-equipped caving team who has safety training for these conditions, working with a reputable cave tour company is the only safe and responsible way to experience Jamaica's caves. First, you don't want your actions to damage the cave or its wildlife inhabitants. Then there's your own wellbeing. Cave interiors are dark and can be muddy with difficult footing, low ceilings, and twists and turns that can make you lose your way.

You need more than flip flops, a camera phone and enthusiasm! Spelunking tours in Jamaica provide you with everything you need to become an explorer of this fascinating, underground side of the island. You'll discover not just new scenery, but perhaps also a new, mystical relationship with the earth that might be one of your best memories of a trip to Jamaica.

Cockpit Country Adventure Tours offers half and full-day caving trips. Their experienced guides lead trips of all levels of difficulty. Whether you're a first-timer, or an experienced spelunker, you'll have an unforgettable adventure. For more information, or to book a trip, click here.

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High-Flying Winter Luxury at Whistler Blackcomb

Canada's Whistler Blackcomb ski resort in British Columbia has been rated top in North America for the third year in a row.  The mountain and lifestyle are already legendary for skiers and riders, but Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler is upping the ante this winter with high-flying luxury helicopter mountain adventures that will give you epic memories and stories to share.

Winter "Glamping":

A custom snow hotel experience: A helicopter takes you to the a remote ice cap to explore ice caves before arriving at your own private enclave, for a stay in a luxury "snow hotel." The encampment is custom designed and built with comfort in mind, complete with pre-warmed down duvets, gourmet meals and a hot tub in a remote wilderness setting. This experience incorporates an array of bespoke Four Seasons services, including a natural thermal spa experience with a Four Seasons spa professional and culinary offerings prepared by Four Seasons' chefs.

Wilderness Wellness Hot Springs Experience:

Your journey includes a helicopter ride over a remote ice cap before arriving at a remote natural hot spring, where you are greeted by a master yoga instructor and a Four Seasons spa therapist to enjoy a private yoga session, followed by an aqua massage treatment. The experience includes thermal pool-side cuisine and cocktails prepared by a Four Seasons Chef de Cuisine.

Ice Cap Adventure and Exploration: 

Transportation begins via helicopter over expansive ice fields, after which guests will explore the vast ice caves with a private guide through natural, aqua blue ice sculptures, ice flows and gentle slides transporting you from one cave to the next. The adventure ends with a Four Seasons gourmet mountain-style lunch.

High Altitude Dining:

A private helicopter whisks you to a remote ice cap as you sip on a glass of sparkling Moët Ice Impérial. You're wearing a Canada Goose black label parka and sleek, waterproof Sorel boots, yours to keep, ensuring maximum comfort and warmth for this excursion and years to come.

When you arrive at a glacial peak, you embark on an ice cave exploration, discovering a spectacular 12,000-year old labyrinth of chambers of aqua blue magnificence, where you gather a crucial ingredient for the upcoming cocktail session - pure glacier ice. The resort's Mixologist will shake the ice into one of their signature specialties amid the majestic beauty of Whistler's mountain peaks. 

Once cocktail hour is complete, you re-board the helicopter and take in the alpine scenery before returning to a luxurious Private Residence  featuring panoramic views where the Executive Chef prepares a memorable dinner boasting locally sourced ingredients and premium meat cuts paired with custom cocktails that complement each dish. 

It may be hard to choose which of these one-of-a-kind exploration, culinary and wellness backcountry experiences – all with the brand's renowned style and finesse – will make this winter your best season yet.

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Go Glamping in Antarctica

Antarctica may be on your travel bucket list, but what if even the prospect of being one of the few people ever to set foot on the surreal, winter wilderness of the South Pole isn't enough to convince you to rough it?

Well, you don't have to. We've discovered a tour operator that takes only a dozen visitors at a time to what they call the 'real' Antarctica, inland from cruise shore excursions, all the way to the actual Geographic South Pole.

And they do it in style.  Inspired by luxury safaris of yesteryear complete with china, chefs, hampers and fine linens, White Desert creates an encampment of luxury pods that furnishes almost as unique an environment inside as outside.

Taking off from South Africa, it's a half-day's flight to the camp. While nothing to look at from the outside (and why would you want to when you're surrounded by scenic glaciers and ice waves?), the interior design would be at home in any luxury lodge. It's 'glamping' – that's 'glamour' meets 'camping'.

All photos: White Desert

The camp has six sleeping pods for two, equipped with a bed, desk, and wash/toilet area.

There are separate structures for showers, a kitchen, and lounge and dining areas, and your meals are catered by an award-winning chef.  With your comfort assured, it's time to explore.

Guests can choose from two, eight-day trips, and even an extraordinary, 'best day ever' single day to Antarctica and back. Expert polar guides help you discover the wonders of the immense 'white desert' continent through different excursions out from base camp. You may trek to a magnificent colony of 6,000 majestic Emperor Penguins, explore exhilarating ice formations and tunnels, go technical rock climbing, abseiling, kite-skiing, even take a trip to the actual Geographic South Pole and the science station nearby.  Imagine standing at the single place on earth where all points lead… only north!

Your actual footprints will be swept away by the snow, and the company ensures no ecological footprint will be left behind in this pristine environment either. The company's zero impact policy is complete: the camp is temporary, and re-created each season; all waste – including human – is removed; solar and wind power the camp; and even your flight emissions are offset through dedicated carbon projects around the world.

It's an Antarctic luxury 'safari' where you can have the world's rarest scenery, rushes of adrenaline, and stylish comfort, too.

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Snuggle in an Igloo in the Alps in Switzerland

Igloos aren't a central feature of Switzerland's picturesquely traditional alpine culture. Scenic, snow-capped mountains, check.  Sophisticated ski chalets, check. Meadows with dairy cattle, check.  The famous cheeses and milk chocolate they produce, check and check.

But a mountain in central Switzerland also has the unique atmosphere of high-design 'igloos' as part of its winter experience.

Stockhorn mountain towers seven thousand feet high, with a restaurant near the peak reached by cablecar, hiking trails, and views of the surrounding Alps and lakes below. On the shores of one of the lakes, an 'igloo village' springs up, just for the winter months: December through March.

Three thousand working hours of muscle power, snow plowing, balloons and enthusiasm go into the ice hotel/ 'iglus' as they call them.  Igloos are interconnected and themed, with elaborate, fantastical ice/snow carvings by international artists, and warmly rustic chic décor.

Up to 14 people can stay at the hotel – imagine booking the whole place for a group of friends or even a company retreat!

Nothing says 'team building'  or 'family fun' like an igloo building workshop. 

 But there's also the family igloo and even the romantic igloo.  Snuggling under the covers is bound to cement feelings of warmth.

Yes, that's a wedding proposal made out of ice. How romantic is that?

Cocktails at the bar, fondu dinners, mulled wine, mini film festivals, they'll all keep you warm indoors.

Outdoors, around Lake Hinterstocken, you can fill your days ice fishing, snow tubing, winter hiking and snowshoeing, playing hockey… or even relaxing and soaking up the winter sun in a lounge chair.

Stockhorn has half a dozen sister 'igloo-villages' throughout the country, so as long as the weather cooperates, you can add a night in an igloo to your winter trip to the Swiss Alps.

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Get on your bike and cycle Scotland! Mountain biking is hugely popular in Scotland and the country is home to some of the best cycling ranges and trails in the UK. read more
Scream your heart out while enjoying the numerous thrills at the Royal Gorge Bridge, Colorado

Looking for a place where you can enjoy a number of extreme adventures? Head to Royal Bridge and Park located in Cañon City, Colorado, where you can experience heart-stopping adventures!

Located on a mountain bowl along the Arkansas River valley, Cañon City is a small town with about 16,000 inhabitants, established in 1858. Known as the "the Climate Capital of Colorado", the city is also dubbed as the “Prison Town” with 13 prisons and correctional located in the city. The city has numerous attractions including the Museum of Colorado Prisons, Temple Canyon Park, Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center, Cañon City Municipal Museum, Garden Park  Fossil Area, The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey, and of course, the famous Royal Bridge and Park. The city is accessible by land and air travel. The closest major airport is Colorado Springs Municipal Airport which is about an hour away.

There is so much to experience in Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. It is where you and the entire family can have lots of fun. The first thing you must do is to visit the Visitor Center which provides you a bird’s eye view of that you can enjoy in the park, as well as where you can shop and dine. This is also where you can take a gondola ride and zip line across the gorge, definitely not for the faint hearted.  You can also walk or drive through the Royal Gorge Bridge, the, highest suspension bridge in the country which will leave you breathless. The waterclock located behind the visitor center, one of the three in the world, is simply amazing. The one-mile open-air train ride is a great bonding experience for the entire family. For the kids, they will definitely enjoy the Children’s Playland where they can learn more about the park and enjoy fun activities. The Royal Rush Skycoaster, named one the “world’s scariest skycoaster” is where you can scare yourself by free-falling at a speed of 50 miles per hour!

Ready for a thrilling adventure at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park? Call or email us and ask when is the best time to visit the park.

Explore the Off-the-Beaten-Path Destinations in Jamaica

When going to Jamaica, most vacationers think about the resorts that line the island's northern coast. It's not surprising that most travelers will head to that direction because Jamaica is known for exactly that: lounging in the pool, basking in the sun, or enjoying the buffets. But if you're tired of the usual Jamaican scene, why not try exploring the off-the-beaten-path destinations in the island?

It takes an adventurous spirit should you want to explore the other side of Jamaica. However, we can assure you that it's an adventure worth taking! Here are some of the destinations you can visit:

  1. Port Antonio: Located in the eastern side of the northern coast, you can enjoy a slow-paced stay in this local secret destination with lush and green secluded beaches. But, Port Antonio is not just about the beaches. You can try waterfall hikes here or go bird watching. You might also want to try dining on authentic jerk cooking.
  2. Southwestern Jamaica: Just a 90-minute drive from Montego Bay, Southwestern Jamaica is less isolated than Port Antonio, but can still offer you a less crowded vacation spot. Some of the activities you can join are a safari excursion on the Black River, a tour of the historic Appleton Rum Estate, and a relaxing dip at YS Falls. You might also want to visit Treasure Beach, which is the site of Lovers Leap where two Jamaican slaves were said to have leapt to their deaths.
  3. Pelican Bar: A 20-minute boat ride out on the sea, Pelican Bar stands on stilts. Guests can enjoy a frosty Red Stripe and some fresh-caught seafood here.
  4. Mandeville: When you think of Jamaica, you think of beaches. However, land-locked Mandeville is something else. Here you can find the Caribbean's oldest golf course, the Manchester Golf Club, which dates back to 1868. Expect an English vibe when you visit this place, with cricket games and English-style pubs all over the place.
  5. Flower Forest and River Head Adventure Trail: Go to this ecotourism attraction and enjoy a 130-acre tropical forest and 40 acres of landscaped gardens. Follow a hiking trail along Little River and feast on the beautiful sights that include dozens of tropical plants, flowers, and birds. At the end of your hike, you will find yourself in a 14-foot deep pool where you can relax and enjoy the view.

Experience Jamaica differently by exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations. Book your holiday with a travel agent today and get the best deals!

Fun-filled day at Portland, Maine

Visiting Portland, Maine offers various activities that you will definitely enjoy: from amusement parks to museums and wildlife encounters, from sports and recreation to pampering and relaxation. Every member of the family will surely agree that this vacation is one for the books!

For food enthusiasts, try out the Maine Foodie Tour which gives you an opportunity to interact with culinary artists and even get to taste their creations. Have an idea of the food’s history in a 2-3 hour walking tour around town. However if you’re more of a wine enthusiast, Portland also offers something for your needs through Wine Wise.

Once your stomach is all filled up, you can try out the different outdoor activities in Portland. There's Summer Feet Cycling Adventures, which caters to all level of cyclists where you can ride around different lighthouses. Portland Paddle, on the other hand, offers water activities where you can rent kayaks and paddle boards or join a guided tour at Casco Bay. You can also visit Portland Observatory to experience a close encounter with nature.

This is just a grasp of what to expect when you visit Portland, Maine. Surely there are more hidden activities out there that will enrich your experience and knowledge about the place. Have a memorable trip with your family and you’ll no doubt come back for more. Book a holiday with a travel agent today to make the most of your trip!

We have a bucket list tour coming at great pricing.  For now, to get the imagination going,

 

It's Time You Explore The Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley in Andorra The upper part of the valley features an exposed glacial landscape with picturesque steep cliffs, rock and lake glaciers. Further down, the valley narrows and becomes more wooded. A secondary valley is also to be seen here at the point where Perafita Claror Valley blends into the Madriu Valley to the South West. read more
There's something inspiring about rainforests. Watch this vlog and you may catch the bug that has so many conservationists working round the clock to preserve what is left of them. read more
That the surrounding area teems with the amazing African wildlife is a major plus. Carry your binoculars and get a vantage point to see the magical jungles of Africa from Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira volcanic cones at the summit of the mountain. read more
5 Daily escapes in Costa Rica If there is something more dangerous than hiking into a national park that has an active volcano, then I would like to know...for now, I will say you are crazy to be even within a mile of the volcano, let alone on its foothills. All in all, it is one of the most satisfying experiences ever - and the reason why you will throw caution to the wind and attempt this. read more