Those who have experienced New Zealand will at once agree that it features some of the most extraordinary scenery to be found anywhere. The rugged landscapes from the glaciers of the Southern Alps, to magnificent Lake Taupo with its massive volcanic crater filled with crystalline water, to the serene Bay of Islands, offer endless opportunities for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
And helicopters are the ideal match to explore this wonderland. Indeed, these are the work horses in transportation for the islands. In agricultural work, emergency rescue, heavy lifting and scenic flights, helicopters are the answer. They also come in handy to get you to the golf course for your tee time or to take you out on a heli-skiing adventure.
Sightseeing by helicopter, also call flightseeing, is immensely popular as it allows you to access even the most remote reaches. Travel by helicopter not only offers the ultimate views of New Zealand’s spectacular geography, it is seriously fun.
Helicopter flights are available in many locations throughout the country, including at the beautiful Huka Lodge near Taupo. See for yourself – go flightseeing on our 16-day New Zealand journey.
250 °F… That is the maximum internal temperature needed to lift a giant, nylon hot air balloon off the ground. And, it takes about 65,000 cubic feet of hot air to lift 1,000 pounds. A typical balloon system – envelope, gondola, fuel tanks, and 40 gallons of fuel – weighs in around 600 pounds, before inflation. Once airborne, however, the complete package, including the weight of the air inside the envelope, is about two and a half tons.
Two other brothers, Joseph Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, were the first to develop a practical hot-air balloon in 1783. They used a linen envelope lined with paper and a simple fire made of wood and straw.
Today, there are an estimated 10,000 hot air balloon pilots worldwide, from the U.S. to Kenya, Egypt to Myanmar. A hot air balloon ride offers travelers an opportunity to drift above landscapes and gain a perspective that no ancient king, pharaoh or mystic could have imagined.
One such experience is found at Bagan, Myanmar where travelers gain a bird’s eye view of plains dotted with 800-year-old temple ruins. You savor unrivalled views in the early morning in comfort, style and safety, beginning pre-flight coffee tea and refreshments while the balloon is being inflated. In the air, you drift above a stunning landscape over the ruins of some of the more than 2,200 temples and pagodas that remain of the more than 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries that once inhabited the Bagan plains between the 11th and 13th centuries.
After your extraordinary flight, you are welcomed back to earth with a light Champagne breakfast, fruits and pastries.
To enjoy this magical experience, and many others, including a bike ride among these ruins, consider our 22-day President’s Pick: Vietnam, Laos & Myanmar.
Magical, stunning, other-worldly – all are apt descriptions of the Salar de Uyuni, Uyuni Salt Flats. This remarkable landscape is on the top of most bucket lists for a trip to Bolivia. One of the flattest places on the planet, the 4,000-square-mile salt flats are what remains of several prehistoric lakes that date back more than 30,000 years. The flats are covered by a few feet of salt crust, which are extraordinarily level with average altitude variations less than about three feet over the entire area of the Salar. In fact, the large area, the magnificent clear skies, and the exceptional flatness of the surface make this an ideal object for calibrating the altimeters of earth observation satellites.
The Salar serves as a primary breeding ground for several species of the South American flamingos, including the Chilean, the Andean and the rare James’s flamingos. No one knows how they came to be here. This is the only place in the world where flamingos are found at such a high altitude, about 15,000 feet. Sadly, it is estimated that they may disappear completely within the next decade. In the mid-1980s, there were some 77,000 birds, but as recently as 2012, the flock had dwindled to under 5,000.
Other life in the flats include some 80 other bird species, the rabbit-like vizacha and the small culpeo, also known as the Andean fox, as well as an island of giant cacti. The salt flats are their most wondrous after a rain, when water sitting atop the cement-like salt acts like the surface of a mirror, perfectly reflecting the sky above.
As one traveler noted, “If Uyuni Salt Flats is not on your bucket list, add it!”
We couldn’t agree more. To discover the flats for yourself, consider our Chile & Bolivia adventure.
Definition of primary: first in order of time or development; of first rank, importance or value.
Say what you will, this year’s election process is interesting, but its intensity can also lead to early primary election fatigue. In looking at the definition of primary, we decided to return to the beginning… first in order of time, to an equally interesting era. The oasis of Fayoum southwest of Cairo is the oldest city in Egypt, founded 4000 years BCE, and one of the most ancient cities in all of Africa. It was also heavily involved in the politics of its day. Most of Fayoum’s archeological wealth comes from the Middle Kingdom, when the oasis was actually a center of political power in Egypt.
The pharaohs also used Fayoum as a reservoir, where excess water from Nile River floods was saved and used for irrigation. It became the most fertile land in the country and is today famous for its lush agricultural lands, water wheels and canals, thus earning it the nickname “Venice of Egypt.”
Fayoum has a host of archaeological sites to investigate such as Qasr Qarun, a Ptolemaic-era temple on the western shore of the lake that was dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile god, whose offspring used to thrive in the oasis.