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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dream destinations for 2014

"Would you be so kind as to pass the marmalade?" Eating breakfast with giraffes at Nairobi's 10-suite Giraffe Manor is a unique thrill.
Giraffe Manor (Kenya)
Giraffe Manor (Kenya)
Having a giraffe -- unscientifically the most beautiful creature on earth -- poke its head through a window to steal your breakfast is a breach of privacy you have to get used to at Kenya's Giraffe Manor.
The 10-suite Nairobi hotel sits amid 140 acres of forest and has a family of endangered Rothschild giraffes as permanent residents.
Built in the 1930s, the hotel became home to a pair of Rothschilds in the 1970s.
Since then, several generations of giraffes have resided in the area and dedicated Giraffe Center was set up at the hotel by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife as a breeding ground.
What makes this vacation even better?
The hotel food those giraffes keep trying to steal is some of the best in the city.

This epic wilderness southwest of Anchorage, is filled with razor-sharp peaks, bear, caribou, salmon, rainbow trout and the most majestic body of water you've probably never heard of.
Alaska's Lake Clark. The most majestic body of water you've probably never heard of.
Lake Clark National Park & Preserve (Alaska)
About 265 kilometers southwest of Anchorage, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a wilderness filled with razor-sharp peaks, bear, caribou, salmon and the most majestic body of water you've probably never heard of.
Lake Clark itself is the milky-green love child of melting glaciers, the central feature of a landscape where three mountain ranges converge into a place so forbidding that few modern travelers will ever set foot in it, though ancient tribes have been inhabiting the area since the end of the last Ice Age.
From nearly every country in the world, visitors converge on Alaska's touchstone national parks: Denali, Glacier Bay, Kenai Fjords.
Together, these parks receive well more than a million visitors each summer.
With no roads leading into the park (visitors arrive by small aircraft), Lake Clark sees about 10,000 people.
"While in the back country it is not unusual to never see another back country party," says the park's website.
To rough it in style you can book a trip with Lake Clark Air & The Farm Lodge, which operates scheduled air service from Anchorage and one of the best places to stay outside of a tent.

The monks that once resided in this ancient monastery would spin in their graves if they saw the lavish hotel and spa it's become.

The monks that once resided in this ancient monastery would spin in their graves if they saw the lavish hotel and spa it's become
Monastero Santa Rosa hotel and spa (Italy)
The monks that once resided in this ancient monastery would spin in their graves if they saw the lavish hotel and spa it's become today.
For the bored-of-everything traveler, the newly opened Monastero Santa Rosa sets a new standard of expectation, from centuries-old history and a clifftop setting to an extensive wine list and sublime infinity pool overlooking the Amalfi coast.
The scene is completed with church bells ringing in the distance.
The 860-square-foot private Spa Suite has its own spa, lounge and dressing rooms.
Though you might never want to leave the room, the hotel has rock saunas, pomegranate-infused foot spas and heated mosaic loungers in a vaulted Roman bath.
When the pampering gets old, you can hit the road for the Amalfi coast, stopping by little towns to shop for silk and leather good

Inspiration for Avatar's 'Tree of Souls'? Eighty kilometers from <a href='http://travel.cnn.com/tokyo'>Tokyo</a>. the Ashikaga Flower Garden features this incredible 143-year-old wisteria tree.
Ashikaga Flower Garden (Japan)

Ashikaga Flower Garden (Japan)
Space travel to James Cameron's Pandora in "Avatar" would be ideal, but until that becomes possible, the Ashikaga Flower Park is a close second on the dream destinations list.
Eighty kilometers from Tokyo, the park offers an otherworldly experience -- its 143-year-old wisteria looks nearly identical to "Avatar's" spiritual Tree of Souls, with purple flowers cascading to the ground.
The fairy tale experience continues with vibrant wisteria trellises extending for a thousand square meters.
Others species, such as the rare Golden Chain, dangle in full bloom along dreamy tunnels.

Two dozen of these surreal trees that can grow 20 meters up and 10 meters wide flank a road on the western side of Madagascar. The avenue has become one of Madagascar's most popular attractions.
Two dozen of these surreal trees that can grow 20 meters up and 10 meters wide flank a road on the western side of Madagascar. The avenue has become one of Madagascar's most popular attractions.

Avenue of the Baobabs (Madagascar)
Big, branchy and slightly bulbous, baobobs are what trees might have looked like had a six-year-old Salvador Dali designed them.
Two dozen of these surreal stems, that can grow 20 meters up and 10 meters wide, flank a road on the western side of Madagascar near the city of Morondava.
They've appeared out of what was lush forest, the smaller shrubs around them cleared by locals for firewood and charcoal production.
Trips to this road are available from local tour groups; the avenue has become one of Madagascar's most popular attractions, protected by the local government.
As well as representing the importance of preserving this wildlife one-off -- Madagascar is the fifth largest island in the world, close to the size of Texas, and contains several thousand species found nowhere else.

This is one of the world's few "tourist attractions" (it even has a TripAdvisor entry) that remains free of turnstiles, ticket fees and usual add-ons that cheapen so many other "natural" sites.

                                               Reference: CNN, WIKIPEDIA
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