Welcome to yet another installment of “Personal Picks: Expert Travelers’ Favorite Destinations” with travel professionals revealing their personal hotspots.
A couple of weeks ago, Peter welcomed David Bear, travel editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, to his radio show. David gave us an inside peek into some of the unusual locations that are among his favorite destinations—places that, if they’re not already on your list, should be!
Guernsey in the Channel Islands
The Channel Islands, located in the English Channel, are an easy hop from London. “They were on my list of places to go,” explains Bear. “It’s a quirky place, kind of cross between England and France.”
Though the island of Guernsey is closer to France than England (about 30 miles versus 70), it’s loyal to the British crown. That means the official language is English, and the British pound is accepted, making it “a neat destination for Americans.”
Guernsey, which technically consists of the island of Guernsey plus several smaller Channel Islands, is miniscule in its own right. It’s only about 78 square miles, half the size of Washington DC.
While Guernsey and other Channel Islands have attracted many international companies and offshore accounts due to its relaxed tax duties, explains Bear, it has retained a traditional “Channel Island feel” (think Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard).
We’re talking rambling walks, bustling ports, and ancient roads that were originally designed for one car: “You feel like you’re in a Pac Man game when you’re driving.” The entire southern coast is a cliffside walk, stretching more than 28 miles starting just south of the capital town of St. Peter Port.
Jan Mayen Island
Talk about traveling off the beaten path. Jan Mayen Island is located nearly 400 miles north of Iceland inside the Arctic Circle.
This is a tiny volcanic island, dominated by the 7,680-foot-tall Mt. Beerenberg, the northernmost active volcano in the world. Bear traveled on a “luxury expedition” cruise last July, which traveled to northern Norway to Jan Mayen, then down to Iceland and into Greenland.
“It’s a part of the world that people don’t necessarily think of,” he says. “As you approach by ship, you see this huge volcano. The island is only 150 square miles, and it’s essentially all black lava, with some moss, lichen and short sea grass.” Part of the kingdom of Norway, the island’s only inhabitants are part of a small Norwegian meteorological station.
Glen Affric, Scotland
You’ve heard of the Loch Ness. Now head about 15 miles west into the highlands, two valleys over, into Glen Affric.
“It really is sort of untouched, compared with other places,” says Bear. Glen Affric (pronounced “Afrique,”) was recently designated a National Nature Reserve—it’s a wild, untamed region that feels like a remote corner of Scotland, but is easily accessible by car. This is an ideal destination to get that traditional Scottish feel, with ancient trees, lochs, moors, and unparalleled mountain scenery.
And, according to Bear, Glen Affric is home to an estate that once belonged to the wonderfully named Lord Tweedmouth—it’s thought that the progenitor of the Golden Retriever was first raised here. So as you wander the sprawling wilderness, you may be following the footsteps … er, paw prints of the first Golden Retriever.
“This is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world, but you can go in and find total aloneness,” says Bear. “Every time I go, it’s a different experience.”
A couple of years ago, Bear hiked from rim to rim. Savvy travelers know that while the South Rim is the more popular, you can find fewer crowds and incredible views from the North Rim.
“But I really prefer to be on the inside,” says Bear. “To really be alone, and to really get to know the Grand Canyon, you have to go inside.” The good news is that even casual hikers can handle the trek.
“Anyone who can go for a walk in the park can do this. It’s only a 25 mile walk to go from rim to rim, and the primary trails are easy. You just have to take water and pace yourself.” Some hardened hikers can make it there in a day, but Bear recommends taking it slowly, over the course of two or three days.
“I don’t see the point of being in a hurry.”
David Bear is the Travel Editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. You can find links to his articles and download his podcasts at www.travelersjournal.com.
Learn about the Grand Dame Hotels of our National Parks…
Check out more personal picks from top travel editors…