SPEND A WEEK EXPLORING THE DRIEST PLACE ON EARTH

ATACAMA DESERT | CHILE

[ATACAMA DESERT, CHILE] — The Atacama Desert. Good lord. Nestled in the upper right corner of Chile — one of the longest and skinniest countries in the world — is this freak of nature, the driest place on our planet.  It’s only a few hundred miles from the Pacific, but has some areas with no registered rainfall since they started measuring such things, over 400 years. It’s also the oldest desert on earth, been rainless for close to 3 million years. I love this line from Wikipedia “Studies by a group of British scientists have suggested that some river beds have been dry for 120,000 years.” Dry. It’s dry here.     I’ve read about it, saw films about it, including this remarkable one, and was just totally

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THE PERFECT ADVENTURE HOTEL TO EXPLORE THE ATACAMA DESERT

Tierra Atacama Hotel | San Pedro de Atacama | Chile

[SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA, CHILE] — Chile is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, that few people know about. Dramatic, jaw-dropping landscapes and massive natural parks.  Chile has been the leader in preserving their amazing natural wonders and packaging them up with adventure tour packages, made easy with outstanding hotels like the Tierra, Explora, or totally luxe Awasi, which is more for millionaires.   All three brands have sister hotels in both the Atacama Desert, Patagonia and other regions (like the Lake District or Easter Island).  I chose the Tierra hotels for my trip in 2013. This is my review of Tierra Atacama, one of the easiest vacation I’ve ever booked, in the most remote locations on the planet. No matter which hotel

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THE WORLD’S BEST BEACH TOWN

Jose Ignacio | Uruguay

[JOSE IGNACIO, URUGUAY]  — There. I said it. Jose Ignacio is it. Jose Ignacio is the World’s Best Beach Town.  This is my favorite place in this world. If you’ve followed me for some time or talk to me over Negronis, THIS is the place I always talk about. This is a huge post, combing multiple visits over ten years into a single comprehensive guide. Here is your guide to the best beaches in Jose Ignacio. The best restaurants in Jose Ignacio and the best hotels in Jose Ignacio. All the reasons that make this the world’s best beach town. A half hour north of the Miami-like Punta del Este is a small peninsula that juts just right out into the ocean, able to capture the best

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VISIT A FAIRYTALE CASTLE OUTSIDE LISBON

PENA PALACE | SINTRA | PORTUGAL

[SINTRA, PORTUGAL] — Sintra is not just a single town, but an entire wooded (unusually so in these arid parts) nature preserve about an hour and a half outside of Lisbon. It’s the perfect daytrip from Lisbon or the perfect day trip from Cascais. Definitely well worth the drive and easy to find — all the roads and signs in Portugal are outstanding.  It’s a big riot of color and architecture, surrounded by hundreds of acres of gardens and forests. Plan a half a day, at least, or preferably a whole day, to make the loop through the forest and the half dozen towns and castles and sites within the preserve. It is very busy. Very touristy. But very cool to see. Think of it

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THE PERFECT LONG WEEKEND IN CASCAIS, LISBON’S BEACHY SUBURB

CASCAIS | PORTUGAL

[CASCAIS, PORTUGAL] — About a half-hour outside of Lisbon, Cascais is a great little beach town along the coast and the perfect long weekend base to explore the entire Lisbon coast. What to do in Cascais. Where to stay in Cascais. Where to eat in Cascais. It’s hard to picture such a cool little beach town as a suburb of Lisbon; it feels like a world away.  Where Lisbon opens onto the Targus river, Cascais is further out on the peninsula, just past the Monaco-like wealth enclave of Estoril. Out here, you are more open to the blue waters of the Atlantic. [Note:  a lot of people think that Portugal is a Mediterranean country, but it actually doesn’t even touch the Mediterranean Sea, it opens

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ON THE LISBON COAST, ONE OF THE TOP BEACHES IN THE WORLD

PRAIA DO GUINCHO | LISBON

[CASCAIS, POTUGAL] — Only an hour or so outside of Lisbon and just 5km and 10 minutes from the sunny Lisbon beach suburb of Cascais, Praia do Guincho. Guincho Beach. Rated as one of the best beaches in Portugal and on top ten beaches in the world, it’s a dream.  Strong winds, perfect sand — a contrast to the rocky beaches of France and Italy — large waves and incredible sunsets, it just all adds up.  It’s easy to get to, with parking along the road and multiple coves (I’m actually not 100% if there is one single Guincho, or a bunch) you can just drive, park and burn. If you’re staying in Cascais, you can rent a bike and it’s an easy flat ride, take

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THIS IS THE COOLEST HOTEL IN THE UNITED STATES.

Amangiri | Canyon Point, Utah

[CANYON POINT, ARIZONA] — About 30 minutes outside of Page, Arizona — home of the Lake Powell dam — is the second Aman Resorts property in the United States.  Amangiri. This is a review of the Amangiri hotel in Canyon Point, Utah, the best luxury hotel in the United States. Based in Asia, Aman is the best of the best hotel chains on the planet and they’ve been rapidly expanding to dream destinations all over the world, almost always in distant and spectacular locations like this one. Aman Resorts are known for their understated Zen architecture and vibe and this one fits right into that. The location and buildings are the heroes here.   Amangiri isolated in its own valley, 600 acres set amid Utah’s

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A ROADTRIP THROUGH ARGENTINA’S SALTA PROVINCE AND THE NOTORIOUS RUTA 40

SALTA PROVINCE | ARGENTINA

[SALTA, ARGENTINA] –You probably haven’t heard much about Salta, in the far northwest quadrant of Argentina and its famed Ruta 40 highway, but word is starting to spread. This is one of the great roadtrips in the world. While everyone knows of Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Patagonia, it seems like Salta has just barely opened up. You take a two hour flight from Buenos Aires to the city of Salta which you can use as a base, driving around the region — there are a number of road tours you can take from there — driving north to Jujuy province and the salt flats of Bolivia or West into the mountains and high altitude altiplano, or South through the red canyons to the Salteño wine town of

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YOU SHOULD STAY HERE IN SALTA ARGENTINA

SALTA PROVINCE | ARGENTINA

[SALTA, ARGENTINA] — There aren’t a ton of hotels in Salta province, it’s such a vast place, but there are several really cool ones.  I only stayed in three, but here are my favorites for best boutique hotels in Salta. You should stay here in Salta. The best luxury hotels in Salta. After doing lots of research, these are my choices for 3 best boutique hotels in Salta from a trip I took to Salta in March 2011. [Note: As I continue to improve my website, this is an updated and enhanced post from a trip I took in 2011, with better pictures and information from my previous lame posts, now consolidated into one guide.] To be clear, there is the city of Salta and the

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WALK ACROSS THE WORLD’S THIRD LARGEST SALT FLAT IN NORTHWEST ARGENTINA

SALINAS GRANDES | JUJUY, ARGENTINA

[EDITOR’S NOTE:  THIS IS AN UPDATED AND ENHANCED PREVIOUS POST AS I IMPROVE MY WEBSITE] [JUJUY PROVINCE, ARGENTINA] — Play the voiceover from the Voice of God dude in movie trailers: “In a world where…” and you’ll get a feeling what it’s like to make the trip to tour Salinas Grandes in Argentina, one of the largest salt flats in the world.  A well-worth-it side detour from traveling up the Humahuaca Gorge in Jujuy province. My trusty guide Augustin, who I’ve known only for an hour says, “But first we must make a stop.” pulls over to a skanky strip center off to the side of the road and comes back to the truck with some coca leaves and some unnamed Bolivian snuff. “This will make the altitude

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TOUR THE COLORED HILLS OF JUJUY PROVINCE IN NORTHWEST ARGENTINA

PURMAMARCA AND THE PASEO DE LOS COLORADOS | JUJUY, ARGENTINA

[EDITOR’S NOTE:  THIS IS AN UPDATED AND ENHANCED PREVIOUS POST AS I IMPROVE MY WEBSITE] [JUJUY PROVINCE, ARGENTINA] — Northwestern Argentina is one of the most surprising and under-visited part of the country. Right on the Salta/Jujuy provincial borders are two must see stops: the muddy Andean town of Purmamarca and just around the corner, the incredible Paseo de los Colorado, a two mile amusement ride of colors that wrap around behind Purmamarca. Stop in for a lunch in town, dominated by the stratified colors of the Hill of the Seven Colors — you’ll see why they named it that. When I read about this place in the NYTimes, I knew I had to go there. You should, too. Here’s a great article in the Wall Street

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HIKE AROUND THE EMERALD GREEN EIBSEE IN THE BAVARIAN ALPS

Lake Eibsee | Garmisch-Partenkirchen

[GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, GERMANY] — I was posting photos from a hike in the Bavarian Alps and an Instagram follower I’ve never communicated with posted “You should go hike around lake Eibsee, the most beautiful lakes around.”  And so I did and he was right. Just outside the town of Garmisch in Bavaria is this most perfect mountain lake. The Eibsee, with Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze towering over it. You can walk around in the perfect Red Riding Hood like moss-bedecked trail that loops around it, take a dip or just sit and soak it all in. Then follow up with a brat, red cabbage and a beer at one of the lakeside restaurants.  There’ an easy, flat loop trail that leads from the nicely-run parking lot

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AN IDYLLIC RETREAT IN THE MOUNTAINS OF BAVARIA

Schloss Elmau | Bavaria, Germany

[BAVARIAN ALPS, GERMANY] — On my last return trip from Verona to Munich, I remember flying over some killer mountains in Germany, just south of Munich. They were stupendous looking from the air as we headed in for final approach.  “Wow, wonder what those are called…” This year, I was headed back to the Italian Dolomites and realized that they were only a three hour drive from my Denver>Munich direct flight. I could save a day of travel, an extra flight and just drive directly there. Genius. But, passing through Bavaria, I thought I’d stop and see if I could find those mountains I saw before.  I did. Even better, I found this stunning hotel location. Schloss Elmau. I was researching cool places to stay

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HOW TO SPEND 36 HOURS IN MUNICH

Munich | Germany

[MÜNCHEN, GERMANY] — If you’re flying in/out of the ultra cool Munich airport — which looks more like an Apple store than airport — make sure you take a long overnight in Munich. Rated one of Europe’s most livable cities, you can see why when you walk around. Clean. Everything works. Nice Bavarian people. Gorgeous trees and parks all around. Here are some cool things to do if you have 36 hours in Munich. The last time I was in Munich was waaaay back in the early 80s when I was a backpacker making the wet slog to Oktoberfest. I don’t remember much besides the massive beer tents, sleeping in a down sleeping bag in the rain without a tent and spending the night cuddled

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A GORGEOUS, AFFORDABLE BOUTIQUE HOTEL IN LISBON

PALACIO RAMALHETE | LISBON, PORTUGAL

[LISBOA, PORTUGAL] — In planning for a trip to Portugal with a bunch of friends last month, I was in charge of looking for a cool boutique hotel. Some in the group I knew, others were going to be New Friends. Some I assumed were wanting somewhere special, others (cough cough) were a little more “I’ll just use my points.”-type.  The pressure was on… Holy cow (✞🐄) it’s amazing how fast Lisbon changes. I remember the first time I went in 2013 and Baixa was mostly boarded up and there just wasn’t much to do down in that grid of slick stoned streets. Now you can’t swing a cat without hitting a spanking new hotel or IKEA-bedecked Airbnb. The question was which one. I stumbled

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THE PERFECT BASE TO EXPLORE PORTUGAL’S DOURO VALLEY

[DOURO VALLEY, PORTUGAL] — After a harrowing Google Maps-led hair-brained shortcut through curvy mountains roads (umm guess who was Navigator 🙄), we arrived with our seasick passengers… ready for a drink. We drove through a gated entrance to a wine estate, wound up the road straight into the vines. A teeny sign on the right said “Reception ↘︎”. We slammed on the brakes. (Groans from the back) “That can’t be it…”. What we couldn’t see was the building built into the side of the cliff below us. Unlike Google Maps, we trusted this little sign. We fell out of the rental van, stumbled down the flinty steps and KABOOM. The view we were looking for. Just as Ana has prescribed.   We walk into the

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YOU SHOULD EAT HERE IN PARIS

[PARIS] — I was scared to death on my first trips to Paris — I started going B.I., Before the Internet — totally intimidated about finding the best cool restaurants. The mere thought of a) figuring out how to use a phone in France and b) people not understanding a single syllable of my Bad French just made the whole process unbearable. On top of that, I’d tried many times to ask some un-listening concierge — in those days of “Snooty France” — who would just shunt ALL Americans to some crappy brasserie around the corner with surly waiters and lame food. So I rarely trusted them…despite giving them big tips. So then I developed my default restaurant-picking technique:  Walking Until Finding Something Cool. WUFSC™️.

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VISIT THE LEAST-VISITED U.S. NATIONAL PARK

[PORTAL, ARIZONA] —   Chiricahua National Monument is one of the least visited national parks in the United States. When I heard that fact I said “I am definitely in.” You can see why, tucked into this vast, barren southwestern corner of the US, you’re not “going through” here on the way to somewhere else, you came here for a reason. And so did we. This is the high desert down here, with elevations starting around 5,000 feet and going up to 7500 ft inside the park, so it’s a lot cooler than the surrounding flat desert.   Refuel in Portal Arizona Portal is the gateway to the southern side of national monument, with its own funky lodge/grocery store/bar/restaurant right at the foot of the

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STAY ON A PRIVATE RANCH IN THE NEW MEXICO DESERT

[RODEO, NEW MEXICO] — A coupla weekends ago, I went on a bird-watching road trip along the southern Arizona and New Mexico border with my best college buddies. Three were into birding, two of us were along for the beer. We flew into Tucson and headed straight south, stopping at popular birding spots along the way to Nogales and the Mexican border.  Then we dog-legged left and skirted the border the whole way until we crossed in New Mexico and the dusty town of Rodeo, with watchful Border Patrol hidden around every curve.  We stopped in Patagonia, Tombstone, Bixbee and finally crossed the border in New Mexico to stay at the Painted Pony Resort in the dusty town of Rodeo. This time of year, this part of southern

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TAKE A TOUR THROUGH THE TERRACED VINEYARDS OF PORTUGAL’S DOURO RIVER VALLEY

[DOURO VALLEY, PORTUGAL] — I see all these Instagram peeps hitting Porto taking pictures of the big bridge, climbing up its steep hills, drinking some port and then bolting. But really what they’re missing is a day trip (or longer) up the Douro River to visit the incredible, hilly stair step vineyards of the Douro Valley, one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been. I dunno, I’m over wine tours, once you see a few, they’re all the same to me — “Is that French oak or American? How long in stainless??” — poke me in the eye with a stick…but that’s just me… But the Douro Valley is different. Hilly. Steep. Flinty mounds of luscious green heaven pouring down to a mellow meandering river.

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A FOUR DAY D-DAY TOUR OF NORMANDY

[Caen, France] — The cold morning wind was biting our faces as we walked up to the big bronze plaque. Our incredible guide Mathias Leclère, whom we just met ten minutes ago, pulled us over to chat in the protection of a wall dug into the hill. “Over along that ridge, German troops lined the tree lines, all the way to that bell tower in that village over there. Below us, all of these fields had been flooded by the Germans in anticipation of an invasion.” Mathias calmly shouted amidst the blowing winter wind, a little sleet stinging our faces. “Just behind us, 13,000 U.S. paratroopers had just landed in the middle of the night. It was pitch black, no moon. The ack-ack anti-aircraft fire

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