[A Note About this Column: The advice found in our guides and on our site comes from our expert writers out in the field. But behind every great writer is a great editor, and our talented wordsmiths here in the office have been around the globe a few times themselves. They add their own polish to the words of others, so we decided to bring them together for the first time to share their voices with our readers.
Frommer's editors are ready for their close-up -- paging Mr. DeMille -- in a feature we're calling "Editor's Choice."
Each month, we'll pick the category and let them them have at it. You might be surprised -- even miffed -- at some of their choices. We'll add individual names to each write-up so you know the guilty parties; these will not be determined by committee. Editors can write about whatever floats their boat (or cruise ship or dinghy) -- as long as they've sailed there firsthand.
We hope this feature lets you get to know our editors a bit better, and at the same time inspires you as you plan your next trip.
To kick it off we're running two columns this month: today's favorite experiences and Friday's piece on what we've found to be overrated.]
Editor's Choice: Favorite Travel Experiences
Asking travel editors about our favorite travel experiences is like asking music lovers about their favorite album or film buffs about their favorite flick. Gee, Vertigo is great, but so are Psycho, North by Northwest, and Notorious. Is 16 Candles better than The Breakfast Club? And when did New Order hit its peak anyway?
So this is by no means a definitive list of our all-time favorite travel experiences; they're ones that we really, really liked. Really, really, really liked.
These are the trips we'd suggest to you if you sat next to one of us on a plane and we swapped travel stories -- experiences that are still fresh in our minds. Whether we visited for business or pleasure, these places touched us in some way and remind us why we love to travel and why we work in travel -- and why ours is the most envied editorial staff in the Wiley publishing building.
Hiking the "Ticklish Path" in the Swiss Alps
- The trails surrounding Engelberg, a mountain village one hour from Lucerne in Switzerland, offer endless hiking possibilities in the summer -- you can start hiking from the village, or take one of 26 cable cars and cogwheel trains (in winter these whisk skiers up to the slopes) up to a higher plateau. My favorite excursion: take the Brunni Luftseilbahn (Brunni cable car) from Engelberg to Ristis, hike around for a few hours, and then take your shoes off and hit the Kitzelpfad (rough translation: "ticklish path"). You walk in ankle-deep water around the circumference of the Härzlisee, a tiny Alpine lake. Along the way, your feet tread on mineral-rich sand, mud, bark, and pebbles, all of which massage your feet as you walk. This natural al fresco foot spa leaves your feet clean, soft, and tingling -- perfect after a long hike! Brunni cable cars run every 30 minutes, from 8am to 6pm, in the summer (from June 4 to September 18, 2005), and cost 14F ($11.25) one way, 24F ($19.25) round-trip, for adults. Children ages 6-15 ride at half price. Visit www.engelberg.ch/en or www.kitzelpfad.ch (German only) or call tel. 041/639-77-77. -- Caroline Sieg
Exploring Kauai's North Shore
- This is the perfect destination for the traveler who wants gorgeous beaches, tropical rainforests, staggering cliffs, and a truly relaxed atmosphere all in one place. For an exotic swim in summer months (it's closed to swimmers Oct 1-May 1), visit the Queen's Bath (off of Kapiolani Rd. in Princeville), where the Pacific creates a natural swimming pool on a lava shelf. But my favorite water activity here is a boat trip up the Na Pali Coast, where many outfitters offer trips. You'll find stunning cliffs, waterfalls, secluded beaches, and -- if you're lucky -- whales and dolphins. After your fun in the sun, treat yourself to a burger at Bubba Burgers (tel. 808/826-7839; www.bubbaburger.com) and dessert at Shave Ice Paradise (tel. 808/826-6659), both in the Hanalei Center (www.hanaleicenter.com). For a hotel, I recommend the Princeville Resort (tel. 800/826-440 or 808/826-9644; www.princeville.com) on Hanalei Bay, where you'll find spectacular sunsets, superb mai tais, and fresh sushi. Elsewhere on Kauai, do not miss Waimea Canyon along the southwest coast; you can take an invigorating hike or just enjoy the breathtaking view from the side of the road. Visit www.hawaiiweb.com/kauai for more information. -- Cate Latting
Jamming and Noshing at New Orleans' Jazz Fest
- I could go on and on about the astounding array of musicians -- from old greats like Brian Wilson to newer headlining acts like Wilco -- that play at this annual festival (held the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May). But, really, what makes this experience truly memorable is a laid back atmosphere that caters to aficionados of all sorts of music (not just jazz); I prefer the crowd at Jazz Fest to the frenzied revelers that dominate Mardi Gras. Plus, the food is legendary. The New Orleans Fair Grounds are bursting with stands selling everything from beignets to jambalaya to pralines, so you'll have plenty of options on hand if you need to refuel between sets. Tips: Bring plenty of sunscreen, wear comfortable shoes, and book your hotel a few months in advance. Visit www.nojazzfest.com or call 504/522-4786. -- Jennifer Reilly
Settling into Provincetown
- When you're high above the Cape Cod Canal on the Bourne or Sagamore Bridges, heading over to the crooked finger of land at the very tip of Massachusetts, you still have an hour or so to drive to Provincetown. Route 6 or 6A are just the way to wind down after the multi-lane high-speed interstate highways that have brought you this far. It's about slowing down, looking at the old saltbox houses, vintage motels, and tourist courts, and glimpsing the sea as you curve north and west. As the cape gets narrower, and you get closer to P-town, you can see the beaches and freshwater ponds, and glimpse a fox or a deer vanishing into the dunes. You see the ocean on the left, then the right, and the tall granite spire of Pilgrim's Monument is nearly at land's end. The air becomes clean and salty, and the streets get narrow; whether you're heading out alone on the beach or promenading down Commercial Street, you're in P-town! Sign me up for drag karaoke at the Governor Bradford, 312 Commercial St. (tel. 508/487-2781)! Visit www.provincetown.com. -- Kathleen Warnock
Celebrating the New Year in Bali
- Jetting into Kuta, Bali, for New Year's Eve is decidedly decadent, but nothing beats sitting on the beach, watching fireworks careen into the Indian Ocean. The key to a successful Balinesian New Year's celebration is to go along with island vibe. Don't expect $200 dinners or a night ensconced behind velvet ropes. Instead, have a low-key dinner at a local eatery and then migrate to the beach, where you can become chummy with the locals and then perhaps head to a local boÂ¿te where you can dance until dawn under the southern stars. When you brunch later in the day, don't forget to toast your friends who are just beginning their revelry stateside. Click here for our coverage of Bali or visit www.bali.com. -- Marc Nadeau
Climbing Mt. Katahdin in Maine
- Up in Maine's 15 million-acre North Woods you're surrounded by wilderness -- no condos, no strip malls, few roads, and very few other people. And the best place to get a look at it all is from the top of mile-high Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park. You can hike up a few trails, including Cathedral Trail, which has the most dramatic views and is the shortest -- but it's also the hardest. At the summit the views are extraordinary: vast expanses of pine trees punctuated by deep blue lakes. L.L. Bean (tel. 888/552Â¿3261; www.llbean.com/ods) is offering several Moose Photography Weekend Getaways in the North Woods in June, which is peak viewing season, for $650. You'll rise before dawn to capture moose feeding in the day's best light. Pine Ellis B&B (tel. 207/392-4161) in Andover Maine has hiking packages that include 2 nights, full country breakfast each morning, and shuttles to the Appalachian Trail. Rates are $83 per person in a double. For more information on hiking and campsite reservations, contact Baxter State Park (tel. 207/723-5140; www.baxterstateparkauthority.com; 64 Balsam Drive Millinocket, Maine 04462), or visit www.visitmaine.com. -- Margot Weiss
Climbing Masada in Israel
- Too often, I find that visiting historical ruins turns out to be less an experience than a deep indulgence in creativity -- see a fragment of rock, imagine what the original building looked like 2,000 years ago. So do as the Romans did in the 1st Century A.D. and climb the treacherous Snake Path to the famous Israeli mountain fortress of Masada; I didn't have any trouble figuring out how a small band of 900 Jews held off an army of 10,000 for almost three years. It's not for the faint of heart (the trip up is arduous; the trip down is arduous and scary, especially for those who don't like heights), but it will bring history to life in way that few other travel experiences can. As a bonus, the views from the top of the mountain are spectacular. Warning: In summer, you'll need to arrive at dawn or they won't allow you to make the climb in the brutal desert heat. The price of admission to Masada for adults hiking in both directions is NIS 23 ($5.30). Children get a 50% discount. Visit www.parks.org.il. -- Naomi Kraus
Camel-Trekking in the Sahara
- This may not be for everyone, but it is one of my favorite travel experiences. I love trading the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, Morocco for a journey through the High Atlas Mountains and the edge of the Sahara beyond. Expect to see Berber villages perched on mountain ledges, amazing vistas, and ruined kasbahs on your journey before the mountains give way to desert. Camel expeditions usually last from one to three nights, during which you'll sleep in Berber tents pitched under a resplendent star-filled sky. In the mornings, you'll awake to the crackling of a fire and the wafting aroma of brewing mint tea. Befriending an ornery camel may be the most difficult part of your trip, but the experience is well worth it. Hotel Ali (rue Moulay Ismail tel. 044/44-49-79) just off of Djemaa el-Fna Square in Marrakech can arrange a number of desert excursions. -- Marc Nadeau
Eating Fabulous French Food in the Heart of Chile
- Chile is worth visiting for a number of reasons, but its culinary reputation isn't one of them. Fortunately, La Fourchette de Viña, 3 Norte 370, Viña del Mar (tel. 32/69-31-08 or 09/371-23-06) is a rare and exciting find. This non-touristy restaurant is full of charm and will impress even the biggest foodie. The location is the antithesis of the glitzy Casino Municipal nearby; this is a small cottage where you're made to feel more like a guest in a French family's home than a paying customer. Couples and groups of friends linger over glasses of wine, and chat with the small staff. The owner/host/waiter makes his way to each table to recite the full menu in fluent Spanish, French, or English. I listened to the choices en espanol, and though I understood muy poco, I was ready to order any dish. Everything was delicious, from the cheese soufflé, to the fish of the day topped with marinated tomatoes, to the sumptuous chocolate cake. If you're in Viña del Mar, don't skip this place. -- Jennifer Anmuth
Hitting the Strip in Las Vegas
- It's kitschy, larger than life, artificial, capitalistic, wholly American, and -- though it's admittedly not everyone's cup of tea -- I love it. This is the ultimate 24-hour town, where sensory overload is part of the fun and boredom is impossible. Sure you can see a fabulous show (I recommend one of Cirque du Soleil's magnificent productions; www.cirquedusoleil.com) or gorge yourself at a buffet (I like the Luxor's Pharaoh's Pheast best for its King Tut's tomb atmosphere; www.luxor.com). But for the best Vegas experience, just chill out and watch the nighttime action unfold around you as you hop from hotel to hotel on the neon-lit Strip -- one of the most vivid street scenes you'll find anywhere in the world. Visit Paris; visit Camelot; visit Egypt; visit Venice -- all in the space of a few blocks! Or you can always try that gambling thing; there's nothing quite like tackling a slot machine at 3am. Visit www.lasvegas24hours.com. -- Naomi Kraus
Leading a Double Life in Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo
- For luxurious retreat and authentic small town life in one vacation, try Mexico's neighboring towns of Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa, west of Acapulco along the Pacific Coast. You'll recognize Zihuatanejo, or "Zihua," as the pristine beach paradise at the end of The Shawshank Redemption (filmed in the US Virgin Islands, but the waters are just as clear and blue). It's definitely worth seeking out even if you're not fleeing a wrongful prison sentence. Best of all, the local area is a laid-back little beach town where the fisherman drag in their catch of the day, prepare it right on the beach, and sell it to nearby fish joints. You'll find Swiss and Italian immigrants and a few American millionaires in the mix, but you don't get much of a touristy vibe. That's been relegated to nearby Ixtapa, which was developed expressly for extravagant tourism in the form of luxury beach resorts, some truly fine beachfront dining, and a decent nightlife. The towns are connected by highway, a 15-minute drive apart, so you can taxi back and forth at whim. Or, if you want to skip the tourist scene, stay in Zihua. I like the homey bungalows along Playa La Ropa and Playa Madera, which are usually run by some friendly, animated locals. Log onto www.ixtapa-zihuatanejo.com. -- Stephen Bassman
Hiking and Stargazing in San Pedro de Atacama
- This tiny desert town and its surrounding areas in northern Chile (about a two-hour flight from Santiago) offer an amazing outdoor experience in a local Spanish-speaking community. Wander by the church in Plaza de Armas on a Friday or Saturday night and dance in the street with locals. And do not miss a tour of Valle de Luna ("Valley of the Moon" dessert valley of the Cordillera de la Sal, or "Salt Mountains"). Walking across the narrow top of a sand dune is a bit scary and dizzying but entirely worth it for the views and that "King of the [Sand] Mountain" feeling. Also in San Pedro: a less-talked about, but completely remarkable astronomical tour led by French astronomer Alain Maury and his wife, called SPACE Agency, Caracole Street 166 (tel. 565/585-1935 or 569/817-8354; www.spaceobs.com). You take a van to their home and backyard, where you view constellations and nebuli through brilliant telescopes, followed by an indoor slideshow and hot chocolate. Visit www.lanchile.com and www.sanpedroatacama.cl/ingles for more on San Pedro. -- Jennifer Anmuth
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