Below are the top ten summer 2012 destinations which will take travelers outside the realm of everyday life. From rock climbing in Spain and kayaking London’s Thames River, to scuba diving in Curacao and horseback riding in Iceland, these destinations offer more than the traditional summer vacation.
A mix of modern-day Europe and old world ex-Soviet history, Croatia offers a new take on the European vacation.
The Summer Sensual Days Festival will premier June 15-17, 2012, before the 8th annual Croatian Summer Salsa Festival. Both festivals celebrate dance in all its forms. Located in Rovinj and Los Mamberos, respectively, both festivals will focus on dances like the bachata, kizomba, and zouk, and offer a wide variety of performances.
June 7-9, 2012, Pula is hosting the 11th annual Days of Antiquity, a festival highlighting musical and dramatic performances, including battles of gladiators and lions. With an antique gastro program and presentations of ancient fashion and hairstyles, the festival is celebrating the history of Croatia, and ultimately Europe. The festival will also include a cinematography and animated film program as well as antique crafts, products and vendors.
Saddle Skedaddle offers two bicycle tours where travelers can experience the backroads and scenery of Croatia. The Idyllic Istria Coast to Coast Mountain Biking Holiday, for $1322 per person, begins in Novigrad and after eight days of cycling, travelers will finish in Louran. A self-guided option is also available. The eight-day Backroads of Istria Guided Cycling Holiday, also for $1322 per person, begins and ends in the monastery village of Klostar. There is a 10 percent commission available on the land-only holiday price. To book, contact Adam Walker at [email protected] or Kay Cliffe at [email protected]. For more information, visit www.skedaddle.co.uk.
Winner of the Favorite Caribbean Destination for 2012 by the readers of About.com, Curacao provides a rugged landscape and clear waters, a sense of adventure and lively port of high-end retailers, restaurants and nightlife hotspots. Curacao is perfect for scuba divers, hikers, bikers, beach-goers and relaxation specialists alike.
Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the Western Hemisphere’s oldest synagogue and the 120-year-old Queen Emma Bridge. Punda’s Floating Market has fresh fish, spices, fruits and vegetables and vendors peddling local crafts and goods. August 1-5, 2012, the Curacao Salsa Tour will entertain visitors with salsa concerts, shows, workshops and competitions. The third edition of the Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival, held on August 31 and September 1, 2012, will take place at the World Trade Center.
Ocean Encounters is offering Curacao Summer & Fall Dive Packages where travellers can experience the underwater world of the Caribbean. The package includes seven nights’ accommodation and six days of two-tank boat diving. Prices start at $1191 per person. Breezes Curacao, Lions Dive & Beach Resort, Dolphin Suites and the Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino are all participating in the package. This offer must be booked by July 31 through [email protected]. Also available from Ocean Encounters are a $92 one-day Two Tank Boat Dive and a $73 Night Boat Dive. For more information, visit www.oceanencounters.com.
Throughout July and August visitors to Oman can partake in the Salalah Tourism Festival. To celebrate the rich heritage of the country, the Sultanate organizes the festival every year during the Khareef (monsoon) season. The six-week festival takes place at the Lake Amphitheatre in Salalah and incorporates folk music, traditional games, art shows, poetry, children’s contests, seminars, awareness campaigns, sports and more.
Through Holiday-In-Oman, travelers can descend into one of the largest cave chambers in Oman: the 7th hole. After two training sessions, travellers will experience one of Oman’s cathedral type caves, spend a night on the Selma Plateau and cave all day for $442. Visit www.holiday-in-oman.com for more information.
Oman Tours is offering the 1001 Arabian Nights Camel Trek Package for travelers who wish to experience the Middle Eastern deserts. For a 12 day package for two, the cost per person is $3131. The package includes all transportation, three- or four-star accommodations when not on the five day camel trek, breakfast and dinner, an English-speaking tour guide and tours of some of the larger cities in the area. For more information, visit www.omantours.net.
7. Costa Blanca, Spain
All year long, the warm, dry climate of Spain makes the craggy rocks and walls a haven for rock climbers. Costa Blanca is the center of Spain’s rock climbing world, with routes for all levels of climbers. Spanish climbing clubs are consistently ‘opening’ new crags, assuring there are enough routes to go around.
Rock and Sun offers a variety of different climbing packages. The Big Five package includes five days of instructed climbing with seven nights’ accommodations, transports and all equipment for $928. Guests who partake in this package will climb Toix West, Penon de Ifach, Sierra de Bernia Ridge, the Muscaret Gorge, the Puig Compana, the Barranco del Inferno Gorge and Montana Benicadell. Visit www.rockandsun.com for more information.
The Hospes Amerigo is running a summer “Dream Holidays” promotion which includes one night in a double Dreamer’s room for two, a welcome drink, buffet breakfast for two in Senzone restaurant, and a 25 dollar discount coupon for any Bodyna Spa treatment. The Dream Holidays package starts at $211 per person, per night. Visit www.hospes.com for more information.
Belize is quickly becoming a top adventure vacation hub, offering caving and kayaking, snorkeling and diving, tours of ancient ruins and zipline tours, naturalist eco tours, and journeys on horseback.
Belize Tree Houses’ Adventure Package includes complimentary arrival drinks, all meals, local beer and beverages, hotel tax and a choice of daily adventure tours for guests staying between three and seven nights. Prices start at $618 per person. Daily adventures include cave tubing, a drop into a black hole, Mayan ruin visits, ziplining and more. Belize Tree Houses at Caves Branch Jungle Lodge offers a 10 percent commission on the Adventure Package to booking travel agents. To reserve a place, contact Ingrid Murillo at 1-888-332-4268 or visit www.belizetreehouses.com.
Oriental Escape offers a wide variety of Thai vacations, including the Amazing Thailand Tour starting at under $1000 per person. The tour begins in Bangkok and takes travellers trekking, snorkeling, speedboating to the final destination city of Phuket. For more information, visit www.orientalescape.com.
For travellers seeking a Thailand vacation off the beaten path, the Tigerland Rice Farm offers eco-vacation trips where guests can live and work on an organic rice farm. Stays in the planting season are available June 10-15, 2012 and June 24-29, 2012. The harvest season in October and November is also available to guests. Tigerland’s six-day experiential trips allow guests to understand the effort that goes into nurturing a livelihood for only $376 per person. Meals, lodging, tours, and airport transportation are also included. Children five to 10 are half price and children five and under are free. Tigerland Rice Farm also offers year-round Bamboo Forest Experiences for $157. The two-day excursion includes lodging and meals as well as airport transportation. For more information, contact Alvin Yong at +65 98339455 or [email protected].
If travellers are looking to cool down this summer, Patagonia-Argentina is offering The Glaciers: Heavenly Ices package starting at $1460 per person. Travellers will spend a full day at Perito Moreno Glacier and a full day exploring Los Glaciares National Park. The four day package includes air fare, transfers, meals, a nautical safari and a bi-lingual guide. The Extreme South Tour offers travellers five days of exploration starting at $1725 per person. For more information, visit www.patagonia-argentina.com/en/.
Argentina is host to many festivals and fairs all year long, and Summer 2012 is no exception. From farm fairs to dance festivals, there’s something for every traveler. The World Tango Championships are being held in Buenos Aires in late August and the Feria de Vinos y Bodegas wine fair will be held in early September. For a full list of events, visit www.timeout.com/buenos-aires/features/299/festivals-events-in-buenos-aires.
Iceland is home to only one breed of horse: the Icelandic horse. The country prides itself on its horses and there are a wide variety of companies offering horseback tours. Ishestar offers tours ranging from hours to days, for beginners to seasoned riders. The Ishestar Special: Lónsöræfitour package, starting at $3312, allows guests to experience Iceland for 12 days, nine of which are spent on horseback. Airport transfers, Reykjavik accommodations, all meals during the ride and rain wear as well as riding gear are all included. For those only looking for a day excursion, the Black Lava Tour allows travellers to ride on horseback to a 2200-year-old lava cave in the Blue Mountains for $184. For more information visit www.ishestar.is.
Iceland also has a wide variety of events taking place this summer, from National Day on June 17 to the Icelandic Chamber Music Festival from August 8 to 18. The complete calendar can be found at www.visitreykjavik.is/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-207.
2. New Zealand
Summer 2012 in New Zealand offers a wide variety of festivals including the Out Takes 2012 Reel Queer Film Festival which ends June 10 and the NZ Chocolate Festival which begins August 24 and ends the 26. This summer New Zealand will also host the World Press Photo Exhibit from July 26 – August 29, the NZ Art show August 2-5, Beervana on August 17 and 18 and the Royal NZ Ballet will perform Cinderella August 2-11.
For something more relaxed and slow paced, New Zealand’s Parito Coastal Yoga Retreat on the west coast of the North Island allows guests to indulge in yoga and meditation retreats, organized retreats, workshops and events, including cleansing retreats, meditation and silence retreats as well as retreats for well-being and retreats for management and stress. Retreats start at $100 a night. For more information, visit www.parito.co.nz.
London will host the 2012 Olympic Summer Games this year while all of England is celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 year reign with the Queen’s Jubilee Bank Holiday events. All summer long, London will host film festivals, ballets, concerts, benefits, and exhibitions in honor of the Queen Mother. The City of London Festival will be held from June 24 – July 27, the Notting Hill Carnival begins August 26 and ends the 27 and the Thames Festival will be held from September 8 – 9. A schedule of summer events can be found at www.timeout.com/london/aroundtown/features/5601/Eco_tours_in_London.html
Travelers can partake in outdoor adventures even in London. Visitors to England’s capital can view London from a whole new perspective via Kayaking London’s Thames tours. Kayaking London offers a variety of guided kayaking tours and requires no prior paddling experience. Contact Katy Hogarth at [email protected] or call 02073499591 to book. Visit www.kayakinglond.com for more information.
The Cycle Windsor Castle tour through London Urban Adventures allows travellers to ride a classic English bicycle through the Thames Valley. The Cycle Hampton Court tour takes travellers to the former home of Henry VIII. Each tour is only $107. For more information, visit www.londonurbanadventure.com.