I’ve been a Backroads Trip Leader for seven years and one of the most frequent questions I’m asked by my guests is, “What’s the life of a Backroads Trip Leader like?” It’s a simple question, but not an easy one to answer. When I applied for a leader position at Backroads, I had no idea of the complexity of this job and how much it goes beyond any regular work environment.
With its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, Spain today is the culmination of thousands of years of trade, exploration and exposure to cultures from around the globe. Beyond its seemingly endless coastline, Spain boasts epic mountain ranges, world class cities, incredibly friendly people and intoxicating traditional music, food and drink. A trip here is sure to leave you spellbound, so we've highlighted seven of our favorite hotels across a wide array of Backroads adventures in Spain.
Active travel is immersive. It's tangible. It awakens every one of your senses. You're not on a tour bus with a window between you and what's around you. As Backroads founder Tom Hale puts it, "On foot or on a bike, you can really get a visceral sense of place. Without any filters, you're free to truly be where you are." In my experience, it doesn't matter if where you are is sitting at a roadside café sipping a perfect Italian espresso or hopping in the Backroads shuttle so you can freshen up before taking a tour of an Oregon brewery. The beauty of the Backroads approach to active travel is that you'll always have the freedom and flexibility to create your perfect adventure, with all the details and logistics planned to perfection by Backroads so that you can stay focused on what matters--the memories you're creating.
Yoga is already happening organically on many of our trips, and we see lots of guests stretching in preparation for an active day or unwinding well-used muscles before heading off to dinner. So, starting next year, we've enhanced some of our most popular itineraries with the option for guests to participate in a daily Backroads leader-led yoga class.
From the mountains to the vineyards to the Mediterranean, Italy has everything a traveler could want. Home to one of history's greatest empires, birthplace of philosopher's musings and Renaissance art, and with a cuisine so intoxicating it's been adopted across the globe, there's just no place like Italy. To set foot here is to transport oneself to a world apart. While every Backroads hotel in Italy is easily worth a visit, these are six of our very favorites that exemplify the Italian experience - the charm, majesty, history and beauty of a country you'll be longing to return to even before you've left it behind.
Backroads has long embraced the philosophy that, after a day spent biking or hiking in off-the-beaten-path corners of a new and beautiful region of the world, an outstanding meal is the perfect way to immerse ourselves even further in the local cuisine and culture. For this reason, our guests in Europe and the United States enjoy exquisite meals at over 30 Michelin-starred restaurants, including California's Madrona Manor, Italy's Ristorante Villa Crespi, Spain's Marqués de Riscal and France's Auberge de l'Ill.
Imagine icebergs illuminated by pale sunlight at midnight, the sunrise at 2 a.m. over a thundering waterfall, or a day of hiking that ends with an 11 p.m. soak in a natural hot spring. These things are a reality in Iceland where, for about two months every year, the sun never sets. This is the “midnight sun,” a legendary peculiarity of Iceland’s far north, where the sun might set a little—dipping below the horizon at, say, one in the morning, and rising again at two—but the sky remains light and night never falls.
In a country as magnificent as France, where class and style are as prevalent as the grapes in the endless vineyards, selecting our favorite Backroads hotels is a nearly impossible task. But we’ve done our best! Here are seven exceptional properties visited on Backroads trips in this remarkable country. To stay at any of these incredible accommodations is to immediately recognize that you’ve arrived somewhere truly special. Whether enjoying a Michelin-starred meal, vistas of imposing mountain peaks or the scent of immaculate gardens, each of these hotels promises a complete sensory tableau.
When my kids were small, I poured over Backroads catalogs while they slept. I dreamed of exotic vacations where I’d bike through amazing scenery and eat better food than the boxed macaroni and cheese my children liked. But those were just pleasant daydreams.
I’m not a fan of buzzwords, especially when it comes to travel. “Experiential,” “curated,” “transformational…” Labels like these often dictate what the traveler should be getting out of the experience, ironically building limits around what is and isn’t possible on a trip. An experience that embraces the individual gets lost. In contrast, the most important outcome at Backroads is that our guests have the freedom and support to seize unexpected opportunities, to go whatever pace feels right at any given moment, to craft their own adventure with no limits or boundaries and have a genuine, one-of-a-kind experience.