[AL HAJAR, OMAN] — When I first saw a photo of this hotel a couple of years ago I just stopped and went “Wooh, where the hell is this???” Oman. Oman? Where’s Oman? “I gotta go there. And stay riiiiiiight here.” And that’s how this whole trip came to be. Months later I saw another picture of a stunning luxury boutique hotel on a barren sandy beach and the article said you could either drive down the zigzag road… or paraglide down to the hotel Reception and check-in. (You’ll see that in the next post) And I thought: “Wow, where is that?” Oman. Oman? Man, I gotta go to this place. And started a travel file named “OMAN” that included article after article of
[WAHIBA SANDS, OMAN] — We’d been driving all day when we pulled into the scruffy desert town of Bidiyah. My guide Zubir pulled off to the left side of the road and rolled to a stop in a small gas station, a cloud of dust chasing us to a stop. Two dark Indian men had been waiting for us, squatting against a wall. They knew we were in a hurry, so when he rolled in, they were quick to tackle each tire, twisting off the caps to the air valves and immediately started letting air out of the tires. SSSSssssssssssss. “The tires work better in the sand if they are flat” Zubir said. We’d covered a lot of ground that day, Zubir had picked
[OMAN] — Such a fascinating place, Oman, with the nicest people I’ve run into, across the board. Omanis are known for their gentle souls, peacemaking and equal support of friend and foe. People are so nice that even when I arrived at Passport Control, I walked up to the stern looking passport-checker dude. “From where are you?” “The States” “Really?? We don’t get many Americans here. What is your purpose? Where are you going? And for how long is your visit?” “For tourism. Two weeks, all over. Muscat. Mountains. Beach.” Smiling broadly “Ahhhhh, I hope you will like Oman. You must, simply must, visit Jebel Shams, the highest mountain in Oman. Very beautiful. The car only goes so far, but you must walk to the top.
[CATALONIA, SPAIN] — So I was sitting in a cool hotel on the edge of the Sahara one day before I was scheduled to fly back to the States. I’d been on the road for a month in Portugal and Morocco, but I wasn’t ready to go back quite yet. So I cancelled my return flight, flew to Barcelona, walked up to the Hertz desk and asked “Can I rent a car for two months?” “Si! Si, Señor!” I didn’t really have a plan or destination in mind, but I looked at a map and the towering mountains of the Spanish Pyrenees and just headed in that direction. Didn’t really know anything about this area and, with little time for research, I just looked on
[Lagos, Portugal] — The winding two lane highway runs all up and down the western coast, tucked just under a constant high berm of low hills that act like a windbreak from the coast. The car weaves in and out of clumps of wooly cypress trees, their wide trunks like the fuzzy legs of a herd of mammoths, crossing small bridges and dodging farm trucks heaving from the local fields. It’s kind of weird, actually. The sun is bright as can be, yet you’re in shadows most of the time in the early afternoon. You can feel the salty ocean breeze but that long forehead of low hills casts long shadows across the road, it’s hard to even get a view of the beaches you’ve read so
[TOURRETTES-SUR-LOUP, FRANCE] — I was on my way back from nine blissful days in Greece, heading toward the southwest of France. Having already done most of the coast, I wanted to find a new place to explore. I opened a new travel website I kept hearing about i-escape.com and started scouring pictures for something that grabbed my eye. And then BOOM. This is what I saw. That was it. This is in France? Looks more like Italy, or maybe Corsica. An ancient village perched high above the Côte d’Azur in the mountainy Alpes-Maritime region of France. I’ve always heard about this region, but had never been. So that’s where I pointed my car as I hopped off the plane in Nice. It’s really not
[FOLEGANDROS, GREECE] — 20 hours, three planes, long layovers and a zippy ferry straight from Santorini, I arrived in the port of Folegandros after 9pm, in the pitchdark. The owner of my hotel, Dimitris was waiting for me at the port and drove me the short 3kms up to the town of Chora in his Jeep Cherokee. In minutes we were zig-zagging through the crooked streets of Chora, headed for my home for the next couple of days — the Anemomilos Apartments. A slow cool breeze, a couple of Mythos and music from the local tavernas conked me out for twelve straight hours. Set the phone for 6am to catch the sunrise, didn’t work… woke up at 10. Nine days I was on this island. A mellow
[FOLEGANDROS, GREECE] — A video and music overview of the best beaches, hotels and restaurants of the under-the-radar island of Folegandros. For more details, visit the Folegandros page on my website.
[MOUSTIERS-SAINTE-MARIE, FRANCE] — Moustiers in eastern Provence is the gateway to the great Gorge du Verdon. The Grand Canyon of France. And an Adventureland of fun, with trekking, boating, canyoning, climbing and just plain gawking at all the natural beauty. Driving up from southern Provence, you first drive over the high and flat Valensole plateau, home to some of the largest and most stunning lavender fields in France. Miles and miles of sweet purple flowers, as far as the eye can see. After driving across the plateau, you dip down into some of the most luscious, golden wheat fields you’ve ever seen. Picture perfect, dancing in the breeze Moustiers is freakishly cool. Surreal. Almost looks like painted illustrations in
[GORGE DU VERDON, FRANCE] — All along the skinny serpentine road that follows each side of the Gorge due Verdon canyon rim are cool slot canyons to explore. Canyons like this awesome hike below the jaw dropping Point Sublime. I wasn’t planning on this hike. Just stumbled on it and kept going. The path descends to follow along the water, climbing up ladders and disappearing into cool dark tunnels, emerging on the other side. When I say tunnels, I mean pitch black tunnels. “Signs warn you should have a headlamp. “Hahaha, we don’t need no stinking torchiers.” I mumbled to myself as I entered that last and longest tunnel.” Okay, click this video, turn your sound up and then start reading: Well, they were serious.
[CORSICA, FRANCE] — You know when you’re in a rental car in a foreign land and you’re on a steep impossible skinny one lane road with dropoffs of hundreds of feet and wondering “what the hell am going to do if another car comes the other way???” I was in exactly in that situation, on a steep rocky road, barely wider than my car, pointing downdowndown on my way to the a sleepy fishing village I was told was a gem. The crazy road was a bunch of zig-zags all the way down to the sea, each turn more precarious than the last. My clutch skills failing on the steep hill, killing the car as I rounded the tightest bends. When you’re traveling with someone else, you kinda
[SCANDOLA NATURE RESERVE, CORSICA] — Okay, who’s been to the Scandola Nature Reserve in Corsica? Non? Strap in. You’re about to see something really amazing. You gotta gotta go do this. A huge natural preserve in the northwest of Corsica, with the most dramatic rock formations, canyons and wildly shaped rocks you’ve ever seen, plunging right into the sea. Dwarfing everything in their midst, namely you. It’s like being in a one-armed Grand Canyon, with the deep blue Mediterranean sea on the right side, and every color and shape of rock you’ve ever seen. On the northwest corner of Corsica, you can really only see it from a boat, dramatic jagged cliffs of every shape and size and color, changing from cove to cove, none of
[CORSICA, FRANCE] — “Emmm, Monsieur Dan, please be careful. The water is deep enough, but there ees a big rock down there. So you must jump out from the cliff to not hit it, but not too far. Or you will hit the beeg rock.” That was my super-cute young French guide, shouting above the roar. I was canyoning in Corsica for the first time. We were standing on top of a huge stack of elephant rocks, a swift stream was zooming under our feet, funneled into a torrent off the edge of this cliff, crashing twenty feet five below. We were high, high up in the raspy mean mountains of inner Corsica, a lush island in the middle of the Mediterranean, that thrusts out of the
[CORSICA, FRANCE] — Smack in the middle of the deep blue Mediterranean Sea are two big islands, Sardinia and Corsica. Almost like twins, ripped apart, both jut out of the sea like breeching whales, with huge mountains in the middle and some of the best beaches in all of Europe, if not the world, ringing their rocking shores. Corsica is a magical adventure land, with an infinite amount of sporty things to do. Hiking. Climbing. Canyoning. Snorkeling. Sailing. Boating. Or just sit on the beach. The middle is spiked with enormous shark-toothed mountains, some as high as the Alps, often dotted with snow year-round. It’s only 200km long, but with a wild spread of geography that would rival entire countries 100x its size. And we’re talking
[GÈDRE, FRANCE] — I always wanted to go on some great hikes in the French Pyrénées, but I could never figure out where. As I finally figured out after all these years, the Pyrénées aren’t just a single group of mountains, but a bunch of groups of Pyrénées spread all along the French/Spanish border. So when you think, as I stupidly did, “Oh I’ll just go hike in the Pyrénées” you’re instantly in over your head when you finally try to Google it and figure out where to go. There’s the Pyrénées-Orientales in French Catalonia (which I wrote briefly about in another earlier post), the Pyrénées-Atlantiques in Basque country near San Sebastian, the Midi-Pyrénées, the Haute-Pyrénées and several other subparts. And then there’s the complementary Spanish Pyrénées on the very other side and
Here’s a quiet little video summary I made of a fabulous two week trip in Morocco in April 2015. I tried to capture the sights, sounds and incomparable experiences of all of Morocco. Marrakesh, the High Atlas Mountains, the desert oasis of Skoura and camping in the Sahara. If you want more detailed information of all the sights in this video, check out the Morocco page on my website. Lots of great pictures, information, maps and links to other resources to help you plan your trip. Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to comment below.
[VAL BADIA, ITALY] — You read a lot of about skiing in the Dolomites of Italy, but I can’t believe how little is written about how amazing the Dolomiti are in summer. In the winter, rates are high, availability is low and restaurants are hard to get into. But in the summer, what they call the “off season”, the rates are a fraction of winter, the crowds are small and you almost have the hiking trails to yourself. The Dolomites are aren’t just one range, but dozens. Kinda confusing, especially for me, to piece it all together. It’s all called “Dolomites” or “Alto Adige” and “Süd Tyrol” … and in a part of Italy that was once part of Austria. So the names are always in
[TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE] — Going to Torres del Paine in Patagonia has been one of my lifelong goals, well, at least for the last 15 years. Finally got a chance to go, paired with a visit to the Atacama Desert in the northern half of Chile — the driest place on the planet (and posts to follow). Patagonia actually straddles Chile and Argentina and I could never figure it out, finally just picked Chile and didn’t even get a chance to see the Argentina side, which people I met strongly recommend. Where is it? Look at a map, find South America, then take a left and go aaallll the way to the bottom. It’s there. End of the earth. It’s hard to figure out what
TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE] — If you’re going to Patagonia the Tierra Hotel is the perfect base to explore Torres del Paine national park. It’s actually inside the park, with stunning views of the steep granite mountains called The Towers. Okay, here’s the deal: the Tierra Hotels in Chile have an awesome setup, all built around the adventure side of travel. There are two different sister hotels, one in the Atacama Desert in the north and the other right next to/inside the Torres del Paine national park in Patagonia. You pay one (hefty) price per day, but all your meals and drinks are included, but what is really cool is the “Guide Experience” that comes included. Each hotel has about 10-15 trained guides (and a dozen