The sights and sounds of waterfalls have always captivated me. Whether it's due to the security my brain feels near a clean freshwater source or the aesthetic beauty of the surrounding ecosystem, I just feel so invigorated. I've chased waterfalls from Western Canada to South America to Asia and have marveled at them all. But there's a place, right in the heart of the Western United States, that might be the best kept secret of all the cascading sheets of water. It's called "Waterfall Alley" and it's nestled in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.
In a spectacular explosion of froth and spray, the Zambezi River plunges abruptly into a crack in the earth, like spilled water disappearing between two paving stones. Hitting the rocky bottom of the gorge, the water kicks vertically upwards, as though the shock of the river's sudden disappearance has flipped the world upside down, making rain fall from the ground. This soft mist drenches everything deeply and completely, showering tiny pinpricks on the skin like blood rushing back into sleepy limbs.
South America is home to an impressive array of animals living in nearly every type of environment from cactus-filled deserts to glaciated mountain peaks. Here are five of our favorites!
It seems word has officially gotten out about this adventurer's playground, and globe-trotters from near and far want to experience firsthand why it's such a unique and sought after tropical destination. From hiking incredible landscapes to sipping a cup of locally grown coffee, it's easy to see why Costa Rica is one of the most popular holiday destinations Backroads offers.
The high desert is one of those places always worth visiting, particularly in the spring. Seemingly barren at first glance, it's the small springtime pops of paintbrush red, prickly pear pink, penstemon magenta and cliffrose white that draw our attention. These blossoms help us understand that the desert is not just a giant sandbox, but rather a colorful landscape teeming with life.
What do you know about puffins? They're smaller than penguins, they live in Iceland, and they're cute. Great! Unfortunately, they're also elusive little creatures, with unique and specific migratory patterns and a habit of nesting in remote hundred-meter cliffs. Like the Northern Lights, puffins are unpredictable, but here are a few suggestions of where and when you're more likely to spot them.
Glaciers, massive conglomerations of ice, snow and rock, are among the world's greatest wonders. But they're also slowly disappearing. These natural phenomena, which have come and gone throughout Earth's long geological history, appear to be in the process of documenting another chapter in our planet's story. But while most glaciers are receding at an alarming rate, certain destinations still provide an abundance waiting to be appreciated. What many don't realize is that many of Earth's most beautiful places, while devoid of glaciers today, were actually sculpted and created by these fascinating features and are home to unforgettable scenery.
Iceland is a land of stunningly diverse scenery, where you can pass from lush glacial meadows into barren volcanic deserts in the blink of an eye, and where cliffs tower hundreds of meters high only a few steps away from the sea. Backroads’ wide variety of trips here matches the diversity of the island’s landscapes. Every itinerary is different, and each offers a unique perspective on the majestic beauty of this lonely volcanic island. Which one is right for you?
The one thing that has always attracted me to New Zealand--and what I continue to search for while I'm leading Backroads Trips here--is the feeling of living in the moment. In New Zealand there are so many ways to escape and be present with the people that you're traveling with. I recently had the opportunity to tour the country with my family, and while everything was truly incredible, there were three unique experiences that stood out above the rest.
Everyone’s heard of the Galápagos Islands, with their blue-footed boobies and natural phenomena. But many are surprised to find that they’re a part of Ecuador, a country the size of Colorado replete with its own incredible natural and cultural diversity. Ecuador is a place where you can begin your day with breakfast by the ocean, drive a few hours for lunch in the Andes and finish with dinner in the rain forest.