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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BEST PLACES TO SOAK IN THE WORLD

Nothing says "R&R" like a long, hot bath: That ahh feeling is the best cure for stress. Sure, you can find hot water and a tub just about anywhere (including your own home), but you can only extract so much ambience from bathroom tiles. To really kick back, leave your well-treaded bathmat behind and head to a soak-spot that both calms the nerves and soothes the senses. We've uncovered some spectacular bathing locales that drip with history, luxury and natural beauty.
Thermae Bath Spa, Bath, England


This beautiful town in southwest England has always been a heavyweight in the R&R sector. The city's original name, Aquae Sulis, honors the Celtic goddess of Sulis. Said to be a nurturing giver of life, Sulis presided over Bath's ancient hot springs and was worshipped by the pool's previous patrons, the Romans.






The Thermae Bath Spa's pools are fed by the same steamy springs that have long beckoned to bathers. Although the city's three springs -- the Cross Spring, the Hetling Spring and the King's Spring -- are located more than a mile underground, the best place to enjoy them is Thermae's rooftop pool. While you're simmering away, you can look out over the beautiful, Gothic-style Bath Abbey.


Molori Safari Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa








Just because you're in the wilderness doesn't mean you have to rough it: The Molori Safari Lodge's five bungalows bring chic to the Savanna. These unique accommodations seated within the Madikwe Game Reserve include floor-to-ceiling windows that allow visitors to wake up to stunning African vistas. But for the best views, grab your swimsuit and head to the main lodge's hot tub. This in-ground soaking spot looks out over an ever-busy watering hole, frequented by elephants, lions and zebras.


Chena Hot Springs, Fairbanks, Alaska


Simply thinking of Alaska may send a shiver down your spine, but the northernmost state holds the key to a warm, relaxing getaway:






The Chena Hot Springs. Located about 60 miles east of Fairbanks, these bubbling waters are at the heart of a 40-square-mile geothermal activity zone. The hot springs funnel mineral water at a whopping 165 degrees Fahrenheit into the massive pools at the Chena Hot Springs Resort. But don't worry about the heat: The water is cooled well before it makes its way to the pool. When you do settle in for a soak, you'll find that the region's alpine peaks and verdant evergreen forests make for a splendid backdrop.


Rome Cavalieri, Rome, Italy




Guests at the Rome Cavalieri have a one-up in avoiding Rome's massive crowds: This ornate Waldorf Astoria property in the heart of Rome boasts a bird's-eye view of the city. The scenery is particularly sweet if you're savoring it from the steamy waters of the Penthouse Suite's private rooftop whirlpool. Watch the city unfold beneath you as you soak; consider a nighttime dip to glimpse St. Peter's Basilica illuminating the skyline.




Hot Water Beach, Waikato, New Zealand


If you're a more active traveler, you might prefer the DIY spa experience at Hot Water Beach, located on the northeast shore of New Zealand. The two underground fissures leak gallons of water at 147 degrees Fahrenheit every minute; the water then bubbles its way up through the beach's golden sands to the surface. To make the most out of your visit, plan to arrive one to two hours before low tide (when more of the beach is exposed) with a bucket and shovel in hand -- you'll need them to dig your own hot tub.




Pamukkale,Denizli, Turkey






Located approximately 400 miles south of Istanbul in Denizli, Turkey, these hot springs are rumored to have both healing and beautifying powers. The site's own beauty is worth beholding. Formed by mineral deposits left behind by 17 flowing hot springs, these crystalline-white terraces collect shallow pools of steamy water ideal for a soothing soak. While visiting Pamukkale, your view will extend far over the city of Denizli.


Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island, The Maldives


Spread out across two remote islands, the Conrad Maldives' 150 villas offer spectacular panoramas of the Indian Ocean. And there is no better place to enjoy the landscape than from the soothing 104-degree waters of a private hot tub. Consider one of the villas on the Rangali Island section of the resort; the tubs in these Beach Villas are flanked by sugary-white sands and a vibrant coral reef. And if the scenery isn't enough, hotel staff members provide a few extra luxuries like cool glasses of fresh papaya juice.




Jigokudani Monkey Park, Yamanouchi, Japan







We're not the only ones who enjoy a hot bath from time to time -- our primate brethren do too. And nowhere are the R&R needs of monkeys catered to better than in Japan's Jigokudani Monkey Park. Sitting 158 miles northwest of Tokyo in Yamanouchi, this natural park sits atop bubbling hot springs that feed a man-made pool frequented by Japanese macaques (or snow monkeys). Although Homo sapiens are not welcome in these pools, followers of the old "monkey see, monkey

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

12 TRAVEL TRENDS & TIPS FOR 2012

With the end of 2011 fast approaching, Unique Travel Concepts thought we would present these insightful new trends and tips to guide you  in choosing your adventures for 2012


Many travelers are looking to voyage back through time to the golden age of travel. "Journeys reminiscent of the romantic adventure style of old are extremely popular," notes expert Brad Crockett. "Travelers are interested in the old world elegance of train journeys, classic desert camps & mobile safaris where they sleep under the stars."




"Colombia's back & ready to show the world what they've been missing," says Expert Noraly Barillas. This Latin American treasure is a museum of adventure with pirate legends, colonial ruins, the Amazon rainforest & the lost city of Ciudad Perdida. "With beaches that rival those in the Caribbean & charismatic cities like Bogota & Cartagena, this is one country that won't be denied its chance to shine."


Don't Be A "Would-Be Traveler"


Travelers who plan ahead win when it matters. "Every year we see disappointed would-be travelers who waited too long to book bucket-list experiences like a safari during the Great Migration, Galapagos at Christmas or Costa Rica during spring break," says Expert Brad Crockett. "Booking in advance is crucial. You get the best hotels, flights & connections to ensure your dream trip is just that, perfect.


Indonesia - Beyond Bali



" Bali may be on the top of every traveler`s list thanks to Eat, Pray Love, but once through with yoga & monkey dances, the rest of Indonesia awaits. Asia Expert Jacob Hason says, "adventurers in 2012 are going further afield to the exotic island of the legendary Komodo dragon, heading to Borneo to see the orangutans, climbing Mt. Bromo volcano & traveling to Sulawesi to witness the eerie funeral rites of the Toraja."

The Myanmar Road An Exotic Time Warp

Asia Expert Sarah Ferguson recommends Myanmar for those who yearn for exotic adventures more akin to the Angkor Wat & South East Asia of over a century ago. Largely off limits to tourists until recently, this time-locked land offers a mosaic of intriguing wonders with its hundreds of pagodas, leg-rowers, monastery of jumping cats, painted caves, golden Buddas, river cruises, floating gardens & tranquil beaches.


On Your Mark... Get Set London's Calling

"Hot on the heels of Will & Kate upping its hip factor, the UK is buzzing for 2012," says Expert Kerstin Sowden. Monarchists will be going for Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee in June & sports fans for the Summer Games. "For those not interested in taking part in either event, the secret to traveling smart is to go after the Games when the UK is still at its shiny best but the Olympic size crowds, lines & prices are gone."



Israel's Spiritual Sites Mixed With Adrenaline Adventures


With a record 3.45 million visitors to Israel last year & numbers predicted to rise, the Holy Land is attracting more visitors than it has in millenniums partially due to an assortment of new adrenaline adventures attracting far more than just pilgrims. "Visitors to Israel in 2012 will be hiking, biking, horseback riding, mountain climbing rappelling, scuba diving, going on archaeological digs & enjoying jeep safaris" according to Middle East Destination Expert Chris Bazos.


Personalized Cruising - Pre & Post Tours & Private Shore Excursions

For those who love to cruise, tailor-made pre & post tours with private shore excursions are transforming cruises into a rich cultural experience. "Cruisers are realizing the folly of just breezing through Europe's great stepping-off points," says Expert Dana Toma. "Instead, savvy travelers are booking 2-3 day customized land tours before & after their cruise. During the voyage, many are skipping the crowds on traditional group excursions & are opting to be met at each port by a private guide."

Customized Heritage Tours Getting To The Root of It



European bookings coming on strong for 2012 often focus on the traveler`s interest in their genealogical past, want to trace their individual family`s lineage & to explore their ancestral homelands. "Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Poland, France, Italy & Russia are all extremely popular due to emigration around World War II," says Europe Expert Eimear Duggan.


Intimate African Wilds Private Concession Style




Savvy safari goers looking for a more intimate African experience are opting for privately owned concessions. "South Africa has always been well known for this exclusive safari style," according to Expert Gabrielle Nijdam. "But now, conservancies are no longer just the well-kept secret of the jet-set & there are a growing number in Tanzania as well like Singita's Sabora Camp & the new Manyara Ranch Conservancy."

Short & Stylish North American Escapes

 "The focus of today's weekend escape is on quality & being experiential," explains Expert Olivia Paszkowski. "Travelers want culture, great food & new experiences even when it's just a quick four day getaway. I recommend Quebec City's Ice Hotel for a once-in-a-lifetime winter experience & the vineyards of Ontario's Niagara for a new spin on food & ice wine."

The 2012 Phenomenon The End Of The World


 Finally....a side note for superstitious travelers. This is the year to hit the road, as according to the ancient Mayan calendar the world will end on December 21st. So now's the time to hit up everything on your bucket list. For those who want to investigate doomsday for themselves, Expert Erika Linares suggests heading to Mexico to see the fabled Mayan ruins & calendars firsthand.


So what is your 2012 adventure going to be?

Unique Travel Concepts looks forward to assisting you in your travel plans to the above locations or wherever our dreams long for..... 

UNIQUE TRAVEL CONCEPTS - 1-800-879-8635 

Visit our website and tell us where you want to go at http://www.uniquetravelconcepts.com/

 

Friday, December 2, 2011

HONORING THOSE THAT SERVE OUR NATION

Unique Travel Concepts want to salute those that serve our nation every day with a special deal.  It is our way of saying Thank you......

















Call Unique Travel Concepts and let us plan your getaway.....  
1-800-879-8635

Thursday, November 10, 2011

10 Great Places to Spend Christmas 2011

’Tis the season to start planning your holiday vacation. While this year’s shaky economy will force some to roast their chestnuts and stuff their stockings at home, which isn't a bad thing, others are already building their far-flung itineraries and checking them twice.



But deciding where to celebrate is not as simple as it is during other times of the year. Not surprisingly, fares and rates tend be higher around the holidays, which can dictate which destination you choose. But local customs (13 Santa Clauses of Iceland or roving masked musicians in the Caribbean?), unexpected seasonal closings, even flight availability—especially in the US, when you’re competing for seat space with whole families flying to grandma’s house—all factor into the equation.


In truth, the holiday traveler’s choices are endless. There’s a quintessential white Christmas in New England celebrated amid the cobblestone streets of historic Boston, where roasted lobster trumps Turkey on holiday menus. Further to the south, gracious living comes to life in the Victorian mansions of Charleston at holiday time, and eggnog is made with local bourbon. In Santa Cruz, California, Santa arrives by—what else—surf board.


On the other side of the pond in Munich, travelers and locals alike look forward to the traditional crafts and hot spiced wine in the Marienplatz Christmas market. New Zealand—where it’s summer in December—serves up nighttime fishing, sub-tropical beaches, and award-winning wines. And in Bali, with its sunsets over temple spires and miles of terraced rice paddies, expect holiday dishes laced with Kaffir lime juice.


OK, not everyone has visions of exotic locales dancing in their head. For many, a simple change of scenery will do the trick in conjuring the holiday spirit and supplying a dose of much-needed rejuvenation at the end of the year.


So, sit back and read Unique Travel Concepts dreamy destination options and find yourself a merry little Christmas.


BALI


Why Go: -Miles of terraced rice paddies


-Instead of carols, the haunting sound of the gamelan gong or wreaths of rice plants, herbs, and flowers




-Watching Christmas Eve sunset at the island temple of Tanah Lot.


Unusual Holiday Dinner: The Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan jazzes up the traditional meal—tangerine-glazed foie gras with dates, spiced rack of lamb with garlic mashed potatoes and Kaffir lime juice, and the soufflé of the day.


BAY OF ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND


Why Go: -Barbecues on subtropical beaches


-Summer in December


-A cooler of Stein lager beer instead of eggnog


-Deep-sea fishing at night


Unusual Holiday Dinner: Start with a cocktail at the Duke of Marlborough which holds the oldest pub license in New Zealand, then pop next door to Kamakura  a serene seaside restaurant serving the day's catch.


BOSTON


Why Go: -Old-world ambiance


-New England coziness


-Beacon Hill's cobblestoned streets dusted with snow




-Roasted lobster in lieu of Christmas turkey


Unusual Holiday Dinner: The dining room at Locke-Ober, a blue-blooded institution since 1875, still feels like a gentleman's club. Lobster bisque, Dover sole, calf's liver, and baked Alaska and the food is actually delicious.

CHARLESTON


Why Go: -Pecans roasting on the fire instead of chestnuts


-Eggnog laced with the local bourbon


-Choirs singing spirituals at Drayton Hall plantation.




Holiday Dinner: At Peninsula Grill chef Robert Carter puts a radical spin on such low-country favorites as black-eyed pea, country ham and mushroom soup, and rack of New Zealand lamb with coconut-mint pesto.


EDINBURGH


Why Go: -Fireworks lighting up the sky from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse


-Bagpipers playing "Amazing Grace" around the Sir Walter Scott Monument.


Unusual Holiday Dinner: Sorceresses were burned at the stake beside the gates of Edinburgh Castle in the 16th century, but nothing is scorched at the Witchery by the Castle, which stands on the site. The restaurant serves traditional baked Scottish crotin and rabbit wrapped in Parma ham—all cooked to perfection.


MONTREAL


Why Go: -A quiet celebration in the Canadian city that Harriet Beecher Stowe described as "a mountain of churches."  -A spin in one of the many outdoor ice-skating centers





Pre-Holiday Dinner: The majority of restaurants in predominantly French-Catholic Montreal are closed December 24 and 25, so it's best to have a fabulous meal before Christmas day. The elegant Restaurant Globe, chef Alex Rolland's duck breast with Japanese eggplant and black cherry sauce is a perfect stand-in for goose.


MUNICH


Why Go: -Church bells ringing through the Alps


-Trading that tame cocoa for a steaming cup of gluhwein (hot spiced wine) at the Marienplatz market.


Unusual Holiday Dinner: Most restaurants in Munich are closed on Christmas and the night before, so it's a treat that the award-winning Restaurant Mark's is open for an elegant Christmas Eve meal. On the mezzanine floor of the Mandarin Oriental the dining room offers a traditional Christmas goose dinner complete with red cabbage and potato dumplings.


PARK CITY


Why Go: -Snow, snow, snow. Schuss Utah's famously light powder and take a ski stroll down funky Main Street, the hub of this former mining colony


-One town, three resorts: Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley, and the Canyons.


Unusual Holiday Dinner: Chimayo adorned with wreaths and candle light, dishes up peppercorn-crusted London broil of elk, served with a potato-and-cheddar quesadilla, and asparagus with a spicy Béarnaise sauce.
PUERTO RICO


Why Go: -"Jingle Bells" set to a salsa beat


-Instead of pine trees, palms and exotic flora in El Yunque rain forest or instead of hot chocolate or egg nog drink a coquito




-Evening strolls through a 500-year-old Spanish colonial city on the Atlantic.


Unusual Holiday Dinner: The 160-year-old La Mallorquina is known for its family-style cocina criolla, or traditional Puerto Rican feasts: seasonal favorites include lechón (suckling pig), arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), and pasteles (yucca and meat wrapped in a banana leaf).


SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA


Why Go: -Thousand-year-old redwoods


-Santa arriving by surfboard




-Still-crazy-after-all-these-years hippies co-existing peacefully with over-caffeinated young bucks.


Unusual Holiday Dinner: The bland façade of Casablanca  may look quiet and unassuming, but inside, executive chef Scott Cater turns out some smart New American cuisine. His special Colorado rack of lamb with raspberry sauce and black truffles is to die for. The beach views aren't too shabby, either.


If you haven't yet planned your 2011 Christmas Destination Trip or if you are an early planner and want to start planning 2012 Christmas give us a call  we don't charge anything to put a unique, and personalized Christmas to Remember.
 
UNIQUE TRAVEL CONCEPTS 
1-800-879-8635

Friday, November 4, 2011

Conquer the Macau Tower Mast Climb

Conquer Macau's highest summit, at 338 meters, and stand at the top of the world's 10th tallest free-standing tower by climbing 100 meters up the mast's vertical ladders. The ascent and descent takes approximately 2 hours and is not for the unfit or faint-hearted. Maximum height exposure and best views of Macau guaranteed.



Macau Tower is the One and Only free-standing tower in the world that takes people of the public to its very top.


Definitely an experience of a lifetime


The night view of the tower is beautiful

 Advanced booking for this experience of a lifetime is highly recommended. Let Unique Travel Concepts take you there!

Call us today 1-800-879-8635




Friday, October 28, 2011

HAPPY HALLOWEEN - SPOOKY SAN FRANCISCO

Blessed (or is it cursed?) with broad swaths of darkness and foreboding swirls of fog, the Golden Gate National Parks harbor countless spine-tingling, goosebump-inducing sites. In honor of Halloween, just around the corner, we present the top five spookiest places in our parks. Click through and venture forth, if you dare….



5) Haskell House at Fort Mason


At the end of Franklin Street in Fort Mason, you’ll find a sign indicating an 1850s-era structure as the “Haskell House”—originally home to an early San Francisco developer, Leonidas Haskell. Haskell, along with several other residents of the “Black Point” area in Fort Mason, was an anti-slavery “free-soiler” and supporter of David Broderick for California’s U.S. Senate seat. After a volley of insults, Broderick’s opponent, California State Supreme Court Justice David Terry, challenged the anti-slavery candidate to a duel near Lake Merced on September 13, 1859. Broderick, mortally wounded, was rushed to the home of his friend, Leonidas Haskell. He died there three days later.



In the intervening years, the military men who lived in the Haskell House have reported mysterious happenings: lights flickering on and off, framed pictures falling from walls, and a figure flitting through the home—the figure of a man in a top hat, presumably the ghost of David Broderick.



4) Muir Woods At Night

By day, Muir Woods is a beautiful sanctuary of peace among the redwoods. When dusk falls, though, a person’s imagination runs to far more sinister places in the profound darkness of the forest. You know it’s the same place, but when the sun goes down your heart rate goes up nonetheless. Maybe it’s because of the chill-inducing hoots of owls, northern spotted owls and the invasive barred owls, winging their way above. Maybe it’s the whispers from the leathery wings of 10 species of bats as they embark on their nocturnal hunt. Or maybe it’s the soul-freezing fact that, in the dark, you are confronted with the massiveness of the mystery of it all.







Although Muir Woods is usually closed after dark, you can see for yourself on a Muir Woods After Hours tour, November 10—one of the few times during the year when you can experience the National Monument at night.


3) Battery Townsley


While most of the mysterious batteries and bunkers in the Marin Headlands are sealed off, the most extensive facility is open for public tours. Built in the late 1930s on a hill above Fort Cronkhite, Battery Townsley was so high-security that few knew of its existence. During World War II, it mounted two massive guns (capable of firing 2,100-pound projectiles 25 miles out to sea) and housed more than 100 men in a warren of underground tunnels and rooms.

If the thought of spending days in a dank concrete cave isn’t creepy enough, consider this: soldiers sometimes had to drill in complete darkness—in the event of electrical failure.


Picture right after construction



2) The Presidio


In addition to its persistent and eerie fog, the Presidio has three essential ingredients for hauntings: a deep and ancient history (the post was founded in 1776), many gravestones (see the San Francisco National Cemetery), and tragic events (the wife and three young daughters of John “Black Jack” Pershing died in 1915 when a fire consumed their home, marked now by the flagpole in Pershing Square).



Other spooky sites in the Presidio include the grounds of the Letterman Digital Arts Center (built on the site of the old Letterman Army Hospital, where tens of thousands of wounded soldiers were treated during World War II, and where many of them tragically perished); the area behind the Presidio Landmark apartment building (where hundreds of foreign merchant seamen were interred, far from home, behind the Marine Hospital during the late 1800s); and of course the Pet Cemetery (think Stephen King).


To begin your explorations, check out the new temporary Presidio Visitor Center, located in Building 105 on the Main Post, open Thursday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.


1) Alcatraz Cellhouse


The infamous island of Alcatraz is where you can find one of the most famous haunted “houses” in America: the Cellhouse. It is the site of numerous suicides and tragic escape attempts, including the one in May 1946 during which two guards and three inmates were killed in a violent skirmish. The spirits of the three convicts are purported to haunt Cellblock C, where they died. Other seemingly inexplicable goings-on have been reported over the years: mysterious crashing sounds, running footsteps, swinging doors, and screams. In particular, the “holes” (cells for solitary confinement) and the prison hospital have been especially fraught with reports of alleged paranormal activity.


The best way to experience the bone-chilling nature of the Rock is to go on an Alcatraz Night Tour. Winter, the “quiet” season on Alcatraz, is a great time for locals to make a trip to the island. And, in this season of atmospheric mist and rain, the scene is set for a perfectly spooky trip!





For your next trip to San Francisco let Unique Travel Concepts plan a very "Unique" trip for you!!

UNIQUE TRAVEL CONCEPTS
1-800-879-8635

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

10 Great Mountain Towns of the World

From the Alps to Alaska, here are 10 mountain towns that shamelessly seduce with good looks, affordable deals, and year-round appeal. Read on for ways to see some of the best views in the world.  
1-Riobamba, Ecuador




Like many cities in the Pacific Ring of Fire, Riobamba lives in the shadow of a sleeping giant. Clouds wisp at the tip of the inactive Chimborazo volcano, Ecuador's highest point, while native llama, alpaca, and vicuña graze in the protected habitat below. You'll see why some call Riobamba the Sultan of the Andes when you explore the colonial city center's cathedrals and museums.


Do: Shop for handicrafts at the Saturday market on the streets northeast of Parque de la Concepción. Try the market's snow cones (raspados) made from blocks of ice transported from the glacier by mules, a local tradition. Another favorite is the zigzagging Chiva Express train ride up a 45-degree pitch called Devil's Nose. Latin Trails will take you to the train or on an ice-harvest adventure.

2-Girdwood, Alaska


Next to the state's largest ski resort, just outside Anchorage, Girdwood was originally called "Glacier City" for the colossal icy peaks that surround it. Calving glaciers thunder into the Prince William Sound, and humpback whales play in nearby Kenai Fjords National Park. Set amid this idyllic valley's rugged beauty is one of Alaska's most productive and still active placer gold mines, Crow Creek Mine, where you can pan for gold.


Do: Find adventure and great photo ops year-round on a guided glacier hike or ice-climbing trek. A trip to the top on Alyeska Resort's aerial tram nets you a splurge-worthy dinner destination: Seven Glaciers Restaurant. The town's best cinnamon rolls are at The Bake Shop near the base of the ski hill.


3-Bled, Slovenia


Not far from the Austrian border, Bled in the Julien Alps has all the elements of a classic fairy tale: a clifftop castle, frosted peaks, an emerald lake, a church steeple, a wishing bell, and a signature sweet treat. This alpine town even sits at the edge of a dark forest (Triglav National Park) with a waterfall and mountains known for legends of the Zlatorog, the golden-horned chamois that is said to live here.


Do: Hike up to the 1,000-year-old Bled Castle, where you can bottle wine in the cellar, indulge in the herbal gallery's aroma, or stay for a meal with a view. Visit Bled Island in Bled Lake by rowing a boat or hitching a ride on a local gondola-like pletna, then ring the famous church bell. Don't miss the town's signature cream cake (kremna rezina) at Slascicarna Smon (this website in Slovene only).

 
4-Whistler, British Columbia, Canada


Coverage of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games introduced the world to this ski town's stunning beauty and cosmopolitan allure. At the base of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, icy blue streams gurgle through the pedestrian village. Boutique shops, lively pubs, and restaurant patios open onto great people-watching thoroughfares, where you can take in high fashion and sexy foreign accents in one delicious shot.


Do: Ride the Peak 2 Peak Gondola from Whistler to Blackcomb, or soak in the outdoor hydrotherapy baths at Scandinave Spa. In winter you can try the Sliding Centre's skeleton and bobsleigh runs—reaching speeds of up to 135 kilometers per hour—or race the luge track from spring through fall. At the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre cafe, sample traditional bannock fry bread and salmon chowder. Hit Zog's Dogs food cart for cinnamon BeaverTails or bratwurst and poutine (a mix of fries, cheese curds, and gravy).


5-Stowe, Vermont


Stowe is the quintessential New England village. In a fertile valley between the Green Mountains' peaks, this quaint town of 4,500 is a throwback to all things wholesome. The historical Main Street area is home to a general store, a malt shop, and even a mercantile with fresh handmade fudge. Head to the surrounding countryside for a grazing tour of Vermont's farm treats.


Do: You can stop in for free samples year-round at Laughing Moon Chocolates on Main Street or at Cold Hollow Cider Mill and Ben & Jerry's in the Waterbury area. Harrison's Restaurant & Bar, a popular watering hole in a historical Main Street basement, is like the Cheers of Stowe. Browse Stowe Craft & Design for handmade items, including great furniture for mountain retreats.


6-Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand


This South Island lake town, away from the crowds of its popular Queenstown neighbor, sits in a glacier-carved basin near the edge of Mt. Aspiring National Park's Southern Alps. Mountains rise out of Lake Wanaka, vineyards drape the hillsides, and tiny islands harbor uninhabited sanctuaries for the flightless buff weka bird. It's no wonder the laid-back Kiwi vibe has such a stronghold here.


Do: Relax with a local beer and a slice of pizza at Kai Whaka Pai, which has the best view in town. Eco Wanaka boat tours take you to Moa Wahu Island to see the native weka. At Cinema Paradiso you can watch movies in comfy old couches and eat warm homemade cookies during the intermission. Experience the scenery from an open-air Vintage Tigermoth flight with goggles and a leather helmet or on a canyoning trip in a wetsuit, helmet, and booties.


7-Taos, New Mexico


This Southwestern town, in a high desert valley, is a study in contrasts. Rich blue skies meet an arid countryside dotted with adobe dwellings and the Taos Pueblo village. The Sangre de Cristo Range towers majestically above the desert floor. And the Rio Grande's whitewater cuts a deep gorge in red sandstone below. Is it any wonder Georgia O'Keeffe, D.H. Lawrence, and countless others have been inspired here?


Do: Find kitschy kachina dolls, baskets, pottery, and other treasures at Robert Cafazzo's Two Graces Gallery, Curios and Bookstore in Ranchos de Taos. Sip a local specialty—the Buddha Margarita—during Taos Inn's Adobe Bar happy hour from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. For dinner, don't miss El Meze, a restaurant that puts a Spanish/Moorish twist on traditional local cuisine.


8-Gyalthang (Jiantang Town), Yunnan Province, China


Set among Himalayan snowcaps, this ancient rural town near the Tibetan border is a hidden highland utopia. Here in Gyalthang (Jiantang Town), renamed after the fictional land of Shangri-La in 2001, locals live simple, long lives far from the influence of the outside world. Shaggy yaks drag plows through rich soil, and the sound of chanting floats out of Tibetan monasteries. Just outside town, pastures open up to alpine lakes, gorges, and swift rivers fed by mountain snow.


Do: Shop for colorful scarves, blankets, and local handicrafts in Old Town, or stop at Bhuskar's Kitchen for authentic Tibetan and Indian/Nepalese food. View seekers can climb the local Shika Mountain or take a cable-car ride to the top. Songtsam Retreat leads excursions to Pudacuo National Park, home to 100 endangered species.


9-Breckenridge, Colorado


Gold seekers founded this Victorian mining town in 1859, and many of the original buildings that housed hotels, dance halls, and saloons still stand. The new occupants—quirky boutiques, restaurants, outfitters, and microbreweries—capture Breckenridge's pioneering spirit and down-to-earth character. It's an unpretentious Rocky Mountain high 90 miles west of Denver.


Do: Meet local sled dogs in their off-season and hop on a dogcart for a back country tour. Check out the whimsical, handmade clothing at Magical Scraps. Try Breckenridge Brewery, the Breckenridge Distillery, or the Blue River Bistro for drinks. For dinner, indulge in locally sourced cuisine in a historical Victorian house at Hearthstone Restaurant. Lucha's breakfast burritos are legendary.


10-Lucerne, Switzerland


This picturesque Swiss Alps city is like a model-train set come to life. Medieval-style homes and shops with flower boxes line cobble stoned streets. The wooden 14th-century Chapel Bridge (Kapllbrücke) spans the Reuss River flowing through the town's crystal-clear Lake Lucerne. And in the backdrop, little red cog railway cars climb the steep Mt. Pilatus.


Do: Take the cog railway up to Mt. Pilatus for lunch or for a hike at what feels like the top of the world. There are also high ropes courses, zip-lines, tubing slides, and summer toboggan runs here. Return by train and boat or by gondola and bus to the historic Old Town, a pedestrian-only shopping area where you can stroll narrow, winding streets to the Hermès shop. Splurge at Max Chocolatier, or save by hitting the impressive chocolate aisle at a local grocery store.

Call Unique Travel Concepts
for your Mountain Town Vacation
1-800-879-8635