Imagine icebergs illuminated by pale sunlight at midnight, the sunrise at 2 a.m. over a thundering waterfall, or a day of hiking that ends with an 11 p.m. soak in a natural hot spring. These things are a reality in Iceland where, for about two months every year, the sun never sets. This is the “midnight sun,” a legendary peculiarity of Iceland’s far north, where the sun might set a little—dipping below the horizon at, say, one in the morning, and rising again at two—but the sky remains light and night never falls.
In a country as magnificent as France, where class and style are as prevalent as the grapes in the endless vineyards, selecting our favorite Backroads hotels is a nearly impossible task. But we’ve done our best! Here are seven exceptional properties visited on Backroads trips in this remarkable country. To stay at any of these incredible accommodations is to immediately recognize that you’ve arrived somewhere truly special. Whether enjoying a Michelin-starred meal, vistas of imposing mountain peaks or the scent of immaculate gardens, each of these hotels promises a complete sensory tableau.
Writing about the “why” of picnics at Backroads in a recent blog post got me thinking about the “how…” I certainly wasn’t born knowing how to create a bountiful spread for 20+ people in the middle of nowhere, and our guests are always curious where this seemingly magical skill comes from when they roll up to an overflowing lunch table. So here are a few tips and tricks I use when creating some of my favorite dishes. Try them the next time you’re tasked with pleasing a throng of long-lost relatives or picky eaters and bring some Backroads organization, aesthetics and deliciousness to the table!
There are days when you might not appreciate your home as much as you once did. Waking up in the same place every day, you become so familiar with the light of the sunrise, the sunset, and what the sky looks like throughout the seasons. You even know for a fact when it will rain, or when birds will start to sing in the springtime. In our busy lives, it can be easy to take these things for granted.
The Florida Keys are a string of coral islands that stretch southwest from the end of the state. They were historically oriented toward the Caribbean, and a center for boat trade and commerce. Key West was the largest town in Florida and the richest per capita in the US. In the early 1900’s, Henry Flagler connected them to the rest of Florida by railroad. Today, 42 bridges connect the archipelago, and many of Flagler’s original bridges have been designated as part of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail for biking, fishing and walking. The Seven Mile Bridge, south of Marathon, was an engineering marvel and the longest in the world when built.
When my kids were small, I poured over Backroads catalogs while they slept. I dreamed of exotic vacations where I’d bike through amazing scenery and eat better food than the boxed macaroni and cheese my children liked. But those were just pleasant daydreams.
What do you know about puffins? They’re smaller than penguins, they live in Iceland, and they’re cute. Great! Unfortunately, they’re also elusive little creatures, with unique and specific migratory patterns and a habit of nesting in remote hundred-meter cliffs. Like the Northern Lights, puffins are unpredictable, but here are a few suggestions of where and when you’re more likely to spot them.
I’m not a fan of buzzwords, especially when it comes to travel. “Experiential,” “curated,” “transformational…” Labels like these often dictate what the traveler should be getting out of the experience, ironically building limits around what is and isn’t possible on a trip. An experience that embraces the individual gets lost. In contrast, the most important outcome at Backroads is that our guests have the freedom and support to seize unexpected opportunities, to go whatever pace feels right at any given moment, to craft their own adventure with no limits or boundaries and have a genuine, one-of-a-kind experience.
Glaciers, massive conglomerations of ice, snow and rock, are among the world’s greatest wonders. But they’re also slowly disappearing. These natural phenomena, which have come and gone throughout Earth’s long geological history, appear to be in the process of documenting another chapter in our planet’s story. But while most glaciers are receding at an alarming rate, certain destinations still provide an abundance waiting to be appreciated. What many don’t realize is that many of Earth’s most beautiful places, while devoid of glaciers today, were actually sculpted and created by these fascinating features and are home to unforgettable scenery.
Sitting on the vibrant red rocking chair on the porch of my hotel room at Kennicott Glacier Lodge, I listened. The early morning calls of birds waking the world and the creaks and groans of the shrinking Root Glacier just a stone’s throw from me dominated the otherwise quiet scene. It seemed to me as if this morning show of song and silence was for me and me alone. Any other sound that was occurring in the surrounding expanse of the park’s 13.2 million acres was muffled by the ripening raspberry bushes, trembling aspen groves and deep blue glacial ice.
You’ve probably heard of Banff, Canada. But do you know about the other park that flanks its northwestern border? Jasper National Park is known as much for its beauty as it is for how you get there: by way of the Icefields Parkway, a world-class journey that you’ll never forget. And the hikes along the way are simply unparalleled. You’ll experience some of them if you come along for the ride with Backroads, or you can tap into the park’s majesty on your own with a few of our favorite Jasper hikes—we’re sharing our top five!
Hearing the gasps escape the mouth of a Backroads guest as they lay eyes on the iconic summit of Half Dome or the impossibly beautiful Yosemite Falls for the first time never gets old. Although I’ve been visiting and leading trips in Yosemite for many years now, I recently had a “first time” experience that allowed me to see this majestic place with fresh eyes. Just by chance, I had the opportunity to bike the Tioga Pass road to the high country with no traffic. Surrounded by conifers and glowing granite mountains and without a single worry, I realized how fortunate I am to be a part of the Yosemite experience with so many Backroads guests.
Game hunters in Africa originally coined the phrase “Big Five” to describe the five animals deemed hardest and most dangerous to hunt on foot: the elephant, lion, rhinoceros, leopard and buffalo. Because of their size, aggression, intelligence and speed, these animals were trophies that came with significant risk, and were therefore prized above all others. Safari operators now use that same phrase to describe the animals they know their clients hope to “shoot” with their cameras.
Iceland is a land of stunningly diverse scenery, where you can pass from lush glacial meadows into barren volcanic deserts in the blink of an eye, and where cliffs tower hundreds of meters high only a few steps away from the sea. Backroads’ wide variety of trips here matches the diversity of the island’s landscapes. Every itinerary is different, and each offers a unique perspective on the majestic beauty of this lonely volcanic island. Which one is right for you?