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Why These 5 Unexpected Winter Getaways Should be on your Bucket List

Posted by: Xanterra on November 7, 2019

Aboard a four-masted sailing ship with just 148 guests, you’ll visit Bora Bora, Moorea, Fakarava, and other exotic Tahiti destinations that are the stuff of dreams.

Nothing compares to a warm-weather destination when you’re in the grip of winter’s icy sting. But there’s more to a winter escape than tried-and-true Florida, Hawaii, or the Caribbean. Consider a more exotic locale for your next winter getaway. From Tahiti and Death Valley to Panama, New Zealand, and South Africa, here are five amazing and unexpected vacations. Get ready to fill out your bucket list.

Tahiti on Windstar

Tahiti & the Tuamotu Islands

Experience one of the most beautiful places on earth on a 10-day Windstar Cruises voyage in French Polynesia, Tahiti & the Tuamotu Islands. Aboard a four-masted sailing ship with just 148 guests, you’ll visit Bora Bora, Moorea, Fakarava, and other exotic Tahiti destinations that are the stuff of dreams. With the trade winds at your back, sail among deserted motus and shallow lagoons enveloped in crystalline waters and azure skies. Travel through the windward and leeward Society Islands with sails billowing to the beautiful Tuamotu Islands, where pristine atolls and pocket lagoons welcome you to a hidden paradise. You may have to pinch yourself to make sure it’s actually real.

Inn Pool Sunset

Death Valley

Winter getaways don’t always have to beach focused. Sometimes, only the desert will do. Comfortably warm in the winter when much of the country is shivering, The Oasis at Death Valley welcomes you with spring-fed pools at a constant, cozy 85 degrees, the world’s lowest golf course at 214 feet below sea level, and two hotels, the historic AAA Four Diamond Inn at Death Valley and the family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley. Coming off a $100 million revitalization, the resort is an unexpected gem in the middle of the 3.4 million-acre Death Valley National Park, the largest national park in the lower 48. In addition to the park’s stark and dramatic beauty, perfect for exploring on hikes, bike, horseback, or jeep, the resort pampers guests with a spa, two dining rooms, and spectacular stargazing from its outdoor decks in a Gold Tier Dark Sky Park, the highest level awarded.

New Zealand

New Zealand

Longing to tick a dream destination off your bucket list this winter? Consider Country Walkers eight-day guided tour of New Zealand: The South Island. Winter in the Northern Hemisphere is a perfect time to visit because it will be summer in the Southern Hemisphere. On this tour, you’ll trek through stunning natural beauty including dramatic mountain landscapes, secluded beaches, and verdant forests. Hike the Mt. Robert Circuit, an alpine trail overlooking Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park, which is marked by the snow-capped Southern Alps. Explore one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks,” the Abel Tasman Coast Track, lined by golden beaches, pristine bays, and intriguing rock formations. Take in the photogenic coastlines at Marlborough Sounds, as you climb the ridge-top trails of the Queen Charlotte Track (be sure to keep your camera handy!). And enjoy encounters with locals as they go tramping — Kiwi for “taking long walks” — and learn why it’s a favorite national pastime. It just may become yours, too.

Arenal Volcano

Costa Rica and Panama

When is two better than one? When it’s a nine-day cruise to both Costa Rica & Panama with Holiday Vacations. Not only will you visit both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the same day as you traverse the iconic Panama Canal, but you’ll also enjoy the extraordinary natural sights of Costa Rica, a country known for its eco attractions. On the first half of the tour, you’ll explore Costa Rica’s renowned tropical forests filled with endemic wildlife at Poas Volcano National Park, the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, and the misty Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, among others. Thrill at the sight of jaguars, ocelots, pumas, margays, and iguanas — as well as the resplendent quetzal. Then visit vibrant modern Panama City and the historical ruins of Old Panama. After the canal crossing, take a scenic boat ride to Embera Quera, an indigenous community where residents share their music, dance, and handmade crafts. Talk about a break-the-mold vacation!

Cape Town

South Africa

Combine stunning wilderness with wine tasting on an 11-day guided bike tour of South Africa: Cape Town & the Garden Route with VBT Bicycling Vacations. South Africa’s sandstone mountains, rolling hills, lively townships, family-run wineries, and cosmopolitan Cape Town unfold as you cycle through this fascinating country. Ascend iconic Table Mountain by cableway and thrill to its stunning views of the Cape Peninsula. Hike among the forests of Tsitsikamma National Park or swim in the Indian Ocean. Photograph the blooms of the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and the scenic roads of the Garden Route. Experience post-apartheid South Africa on a township tour. Enjoy a wine tasting at a family estate and a traditional braai, or barbecue. And discover centuries of cultural influences, from Dutch-flavored Oudtshoorn to the “French Corner” of Franschhoek, settled by farmers from France who brought their winemaking traditions with them. It’s a great way to sample the country’s amazing diversity.

How to Explore

Windstar Cruises

Recognized by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler on the 2016 Gold List of Favorite Cruise Lines and by USA TODAY readers for Best Boutique Cruise Line, Windstar’s fleet of small luxury sailing ships and all-suite power ships with 148 to 310 guests bring you closer to smaller ports and exclusive local experiences around the world. Visit windstarcruises.com or call 888-460-5098 for more information.

The Oasis at Death Valley

The Oasis at Death Valley is situated in a lush oasis surrounded by the vast and arid desert of Death Valley National Park, Calif. — just 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 275 miles northeast of Los Angeles. This is one resort with two hotels — the historic, AAA Four Diamond, 66-room Inn at Death Valley and the family-oriented, 224-room Ranch at Death Valley. The entire resort has undergone a complete renaissance with an extensive renovation in 2018. It includes natural spring-fed pools, an 18-hole golf course, horse and carriage rides, world-renowned stargazing, and is surrounded by Death Valley National Park’s main attractions. Visit oasisatdeathvalley.com for more information or call or call 800-236-7916.

Country Walkers

For more than 40 years, Country Walkers has provided active, immersive, and unforgettable travel experiences on five continents. They offer two distinct ways to explore: scheduled, small-group Guided Walking Adventures and independent Self-Guided Walking Adventures. On tour, guests enjoy superb local cuisine, first-class guides, fine accommodations, and authentic cultural and natural encounters. Visit countrywalkers.com or call 800-234-6900 for more information.

Holiday Vacations

Holiday Vacations is one of America’s most reputable tour companies, with 46 years of experience. As a nationwide provider of air, rail, motorcoach, and cruise guided vacations to more than 65 destinations worldwide, their packages are inclusive of all airfare, fine hotels, meals, and must-see attractions. Expert tour directors handle all travel details, assuring you a carefree and memorable vacation. Visit holidayvacations.com for more information.

VBT Bicycling Vacations

VBT Bicycling Vacations offer more than 55 deluxe, small-group bicycling, walking, and barge & sail vacations in 27 different countries and 10 U.S. states. They are the value leader in active biking vacations and have been rated among the “World’s Best Tour Operators” by the readers of Travel + Leisure for seven years. Each trip includes all accommodations, many meals, two expert local trip leaders, unique sightseeing and cultural activities, and full van support. Unlike other companies, VBT also includes round-trip international airfare from more than 30 U.S. cities and select Canadian cities for all overseas vacations. Visit vbt.com or call 800-245-3868 for more information.

For more travel experiences available from the Xanterra Travel Collection and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/stories.


Author

Written by: Veronica Stoddart

Award-winning travel editor and writer Veronica Stoddart was the former editor in chief of the Travel Media Group at USA TODAY. She has written for nearly two dozen publications and websites.

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