Top 5 Unexpected Adventures in Some Pretty Iconic Locations
Where will your next travel experience take you?
Written byCarole Dixon
AboveThe Grand Canyon awaits, courtesy of Xanterra Travel Collection
From searching for truffles in a country best known for the “Game of Thrones” filming location to an unlikely cosmopolitan city for a bungee jump, here are five unexpected things to do in some of the world’s most cherished locations.
Truffle Hunting in Croatia
Recently opened to travelers, this enduring Slavic country and Central European neighbor with 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites that include mid-evil villages and stretches of picturesque Dalmatian coastal sailing is now welcoming visitors.
Rather than hit the obvious (and touristy) port town of Dubrovnik or Split, why not head north to the capital of Zagreb? You can always make your way south later to the coastal towns of Sibenik, Trogir, Zadar where there are a wealth of cathedrals, architecture, museums, boutiques, and great restaurants without the throngs of people.
While you might be familiar with truffle hunting in Italy or France, the capital city of Zagreb is actually home to some of the highest quality wild black truffles. These highly sought-after mushrooms grow with a host tree and are tricky to locate but this area produces over 1,000 types of the famed fungi. They even have a mushroom museum in the city center of Zagreb if you want to take a deeper dive.
Your guide will take you on an adventure-filled 3-hour trek in the mountain area of Medvednica, just north of Zagreb while hunting with Lagotto Romagnolo dogs. This breed originated from the Romagna region in Italy where they are excellent for sniffing out dozens of truffle varieties.
As you roam the countryside in your rubber welly boots with the pack, your guide will explain the history and folklore behind this culinary obsession. At the end, you are rewarded with the prize truffle you unearthed – with the help of the experts, followed by an alfresco tasting with truffle cheese, along with an apèritif Truffle Medica and the sliced truffle. These tours can also be booked at night which would add an extra challenge to this delicious adventure.
ABOVE: Truffle hunting bounty in Croatia, Image by Domagoj Sever
Surfing in St. Barths
(reopening in May)
This hard-to-reach secluded Caribbean jewel know for French flair, celebrity spotting, yachting, designer shops, and one of the smallest airport landing strips, also has some great waves.
Your first port of call is Gustavia, the capital of St. Barthelemy which is a quintessentially quaint town with a picturesque harbor, pastel-colored structures enshrouded in bougainvillea with a sophisticated dining, shopping and nightlife scene.
St. Barth has been a high-end playground for everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Heidi Klum and is a hot spot for east coast and European snowbirds, but what most people don’t realize about this pristine and fashionable isle is how they also love to surf.
One place that will help get you on a board is Eco-luxury Hotel Manapany. On the northern coast of the island, nestled on a private tropical beach with turquoise blue water lapping up on shore at Anse des Cayes beach. The best part is you can access this piece of sand right from your bungalow-style room.
The resort offers private surf lessons for the beginner, pro and everything in between. The property works with certified teachers daily on-site, and you can’t beat rolling out of bed or your lounge chair and paddling right out to ride a wave.
St. Jean and Lorient Beach also have good waves but Pointe Milou and Toiny are best for more experienced surfers. Locals also like to visit secluded Gouverneur Beach in the Southern part of the island and you will find many of the resident hotel staff from the chefs to the managers also love to hit the wave breaks on their day off.
Riding a wave in St. Barths at Hotel Manapany
Zip Lining in Catalina
This coastal treasure located just off the west coast of San Pedro, California has long been associated with a European style port, the Wrigley Mansion and Casino, an old-Hollywood hangout and a sailing getaway that is perfect for day-trippers.
If you head away from the main town of Avalon, the island has a lot more rugged terrain to explore with Bison roaming free, along with camping and hiking where you can also zip-line above the canyons near the shoreline.
It just takes about two hours including a safety lesson before you gear up and are shuttled to a ridge top 600 feet above the Descanso Beach Club. The ocean views are staggering as you zigzag through 5 different lines while blowing past towering eucalyptus trees at 35 mph.
And, you won’t be alone on this eco-tour, there is a guide to share anecdotes about the island’s 60 specific types of fauna and flora unique to this destination that you will be viewing on your ride from above. When the tour ends you can recount your tales back at Descanso which also houses Avalon’s only beachside restaurant and bar.
ABOVE: Eco Zip Line Tours on Calatalina Island
Bungee Jumping in Vegas
When one thinks of embarking on a trip to Sin City for a special occasion, losing a lot of money, seeing Penn & Teller for the 10th time and being overserved all come to mind. While you might be getting crazy with your friends roaming The Strip making bad decisions, bungee jumping off a sky-scraper is usually not what’s on your mind.
And, that’s why it’s so interesting that Vegas has at least a dozen places to pick from when you have that urge to fling yourself off a building for an 829 feet neon plunge into the open-air at 40 mph while strapped to a retractable cord.
If that sounds like your idea of hitting the jackpot, Skyjump at The STRAT Hotel, Casino & SkyPod, actually holds the Guinness World Record as the highest commercial decelerator descent facility. You will be leaping off on the 108th floor of the building and your more sensible friends and family can watch you and take pictures from a comfortable lounging area.
If you get second thought jitters, not to worry, it’s a controlled jump for safety and one of the most accelerating things you can do on the strip for under $100 bucks. Much less than you probably lost last night at the blackjack table and you don’t want to try and live down getting issued a ‘chicken-out voucher.’
ABOVE: Skyjump from The STRAT Hotel in Las Vegas
Take a Train Through the Grand Canyon
The vistas of the Grand Canyon are spectacular to view on foot, by car, or during a horseback ride, but as train travel grows in popularity, you might be surprised to learn that you can also view this spectacular site on a train.
Americans have taken refuge in parks during the pandemic and the South Rim of the canyon is a high desert with an altitude of 7,000 feet. For those who don’t want to exert themselves too much, the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel is 65 miles away in Williams, Arizona.
The railway starts its daily roundtrips to the South Rim (they operate every day except Christmas) and runs from Williams on iconic Route 66 to the Historic Village inside Grand Canyon National Park, just steps from El Tovar, Hopi House, Bright Angel, and all the attractions found at South Rim.
Trains leave in the morning and return late afternoon, which leaves you with more than 3 hours at the canyon site. The train holds six different classes of service from historic Pullman and coach cars to luxury dome cars with beverages and tastings that even feature an open rear platform observation car. While it’s not the Orient-Express, it is possible to charter your own private luxury railroad cars on this short American train journey to one of the most famous world wonders.