It’s that time of year again, the time where you stop and think ‘where should I go this summer?’ The beach? The cottage? Europe? A road trip? A family driving vacation to Cape Cod? Or perhaps Mongolia? It might not be the first place you think of, but as globetrotters we are constantly searching for new, out there destinations. Or is it those destinations searching for us? We’ve collected our thoughts on a few special ‘out there’ places just waiting to be discovered during the North American summer.
Mongolia, being north of China and surrounded by Siberian Russia is typically a summer-only travel destination. July and August offer the best weather (and it is warm!). It is a land of breathtaking steppes; endless bright blue skies; lush green forests; stunning gorges; and untouched landscapes including the vast Gobi desert and Bayan-Ölgi Mountains. The nomadic peoples are known for their genuine hospitality, which is unparalleled and almost overwhelming at times. The 2 day Naadam Sports Festival (Horse-riding, Archery and Mongolian wrestling) is a big draw in the capital of Ulaan Baatar and will be held this year on July 11-13th. It’s a great destination for horse trekking, hiking, or a Ger or Yurt camping tour.
Mongolia is more accessible than one would think with daily flights from both Seoul, Korea and Beijing, China. This makes Mongolia an ideal trip to combine with Korea, China, or both. There’s also an overnight train from Beijing, which spends a rewarding morning passing through the Gobi, into Steppes before arriving in Soviet-style Ulaan Bataar. The capital is known for its ‘Black-Market’ (what everyone calls it), one of the largest open-air markets in all of Asia, selling anything from bathroom-tile, to groceries, to antiques, to horse-saddles. Mongolia is not exactly close to North America. It’s not known for its food, or its high-end hotels, but it delivers a travel experience few places on earth can rival. It’s a land of incredible landscapes, fascinating customs, eye-opening history, and some serious bragging rights as an atypical traveler destination.
Mongolia country information and travel ideas:
- Mongolia Country Info *Note – North Americans require a visa to Mongolia
- Mongolia In Depth 8 Days
- Mongolia Stopover 5 days
- The Gobi and Karakorum 12 days
Mauritius is the perfect combination of beach relaxation and cultural discovery, plus the bonus of great diving. May to late November are the best months to visit, when things are a little cooler and drier (it’s still hot!). There are numerous historical sites, virgin rainforest and stunning beaches with cobalt blue seas and skies to match! Food here is a real treat. Choose from Indian, French, Chinese and East-African cuisine, these are four distinct cultures live together harmoniously here, and make for great cultural diversity. From North America, Mauritius is reached via Paris (For those searching for honeymoon ideas… your welcome!), London and South Africa.
Mauritius information and travel ideas:
- Mauritius Escape including Airfare 10 days
- Stay of Distinction – Four Seasons Mauritius
- Idyllic Mauritius 5 days
The North American summer might be ‘winter’ in Australia, but it’s actually the best time to visit one of the most iconic regions of the land Downunder. So while it is dry and cool, with chilly water surrounding most of Australia (including Sydney, Melbourne, etc), the North America summer is the very best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef and
Northern Queensland, or the Northern Territory. You can even trek out to Western Australia and take the drive from Broome to Darwin, seeing the Bungle Bungles, and swimming with the whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef along the way. Located in the top half of Australia, most of these sights are found in desert, rainforest or tropical coast environments. In some cases, the North American summer can in fact be the only time to go! Many tourist areas and resorts are only open between April and late September, such as El Questro (an enormous ranch/campground/resort area in Western Australia). Just remember that the Australian winter brings drier weather and far more tolerable temperatures to anwhere north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Australia is an easy flight from LA, San Francisco, and Vancouver with multiple daily flights.
Australia information and travel ideas:
- Best of the Tropical North 7 days
- Alice Springs to Darwin 6 day 4WD Self Drive
- Best of the Outback 11 day Escorted Tour
- Daintree Eco Lodge
- Wonders of the Kimberly
Let’s admit that Bolivia is not for everybody. Working in the travel business gives me an insight into what ‘most travellers’ do, and Bolivia is not that. Climate wise, it’s hot, it’s cold, it’s high altitude, it’s very rough travelling (bouncing around in vehicles on sketchy roads), first class hotels are limited to cities only (You might call much of the accommodation… ‘rustic’) and at times it can be frustrating with terrible infrastructure… BUT Bolivia is so worth it for every one of those reasons! It’s one of my top travel experiences to date. It’s untouched, the people are genuine, and the scenery on the high altiplano is breathtakingly beautiful with virtually endless vibrant blue skies, red, green and white lakes (Laguna Colorado, Laguna Verde and Laguna Blanca) as well as abundant, unique wildlife. Not far from the Laguna Colorado is Sol de Manana, a geothermal field at an altitude of 16,100ft/4900m that has many colourful boiling mud pools and is a unique site even in Bolivia. Sol de Manana is about as high as one gets in the area, and while the air is thin, you’re not moving too quick, so it’s not too strenuous. After a couple of days in this region most traveller’s end up in Uyuni where a highlight is staying in a “salt hotel” and visiting the salt planes. The very adventurous you can actually stay in the centre of the lake in a converted Airstream trailer. Just outside of Uyuni is an eerie train cemetery where it feels like time has simply stood still for 50 years. Bolivia has a lot of scenery, much of it mountainous, or desert like, but as a contrast, there’s even pristine jungle in their slice of the Amazon basin. The North American summer coincides with not only Bolivia’s best weather, but most of the country’s major festivals. Bolivia can be accessed by air directly from a number of US cities, or added onto a Peru itinerary, crossing the border by land or boat (across Lake Titicaca), or by direct flight.
Bolivia information and travel ideas:
Namibia is an incredible travel destination with sweeping deserts, prolific wildlife, colonial towns, and a fascinating coastline, few tourists compared to South Africa or Kenya! Namibia is perfect for travel in the North American summer, either on its on or part of a longer trip in the region, like South Africa and/or Botswana. Without a doubt the best time to visit this diverse country is from June to October. The desert areas cool down (they get quite cool at night actually!), the rains and rivers dry up, and while the nights can get cold, the game begins to gravitate to the watering holes which makes for easy viewing. In September and
by October things begin to warm up and game viewing is at its best. Namibia has something to offer everyone whether it’s game viewing, sand-boarding or quad-biking across dunes, exploring ship wrecks on the Skeleton Coast or surfing in Swakopmund, also home to great German beer! Namibia is quite culturally diverse as well, with two of the most fascinating ethnic groups in all of Africa: The Himba, and the San people (a.k.a. The Bushmen). Meeting either of these groups will be a strong contender for the highlight of your trip. Wildlife-wise, Etosha national park in the North is easily one of Africa’s most famous, but private reserves and national parks and plentiful throughout the country. There are rare white desert elephants, endemic lions, desert foxes, jackals, ostriches, oryx (gemsbok), leopards, and abundant kudu awaiting your camera, while along the coast you can visit huge seal populations, and spot whales. Some of the most unique scenery on earth can be experienced at the Sossuvlei and the Deadvlei, while nearby Dune #45 is perhaps the most photographed sand dune on earth. To reach Namibia, most travelers fly into Windhoek (pronounced “vindt-hook”) from Johannesburg, South Africa, or cross the border from South Africa into Namibia in the far south, visiting gaping Fish River canyon en route.
Namibia country information and travel ideas