TODAY has traveled to the Ends of the Earth and now you can, too! The folks at Travel + Leisure magazine have compiled tips for trekking to Antarctica, Greenland, Antarctica and the North Sea, while showing respect for the planet and giving back to the global community at the same time:
Sustainable travel. Ecotourism. Fund-raising expeditions. Educational tours. Voluntourism.
The lexicon of travel is expanding as quickly as the world is shrinking. For many, it is no longer enough to return home with a Turkish carpet or tales of an exquisite atoll. Travelers still want to explore Chile or the Loire in style, but they also want a deeper experience, and one that doesn’t leave a footprint, carbon or otherwise. In the post-9/11 world, travelers want to make transformations of their own.
A range of organizations are answering that need, including luxury outfitters like Butterfield & Robinson, environmental watchdogs such as the Sierra Club, and new groups like Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS), which places volunteers in 12 countries. As with other vacation packages, there is staff to take care of the details—arranging airport transfers, setting up accommodations (a converted riad, a Maori lodge, a stateroom on an Amazon sloop), and coordinating work assignments.
Whatever these trips might cost, all of them give back—to the travelers themselves as well as to the communities they visit. Debby and Tom Glassanos of Pleasanton, California, spent three weeks in Morocco with CCS where Tom, a Silicon Valley executive, worked with local women to increase their computer skills. Now, long after the couple’s return to the United States, he continues to share his expertise with his old students in a stream of e-mail exchanges. And interior designer Joe Naham and his partner, Jeffrey Fields, carried away from their trip to Costa Rica a lasting impression of the camaraderie that can develop between "voluntour" travelers of disparate backgrounds. Their group—including a financier, a CNN anchor, and a coffeehouse owner—discovered shared interests along with the new bond of their shared experience abroad.
Volunteers also describe the rewards of contributing beyond writing a check, although the dollars these programs provide to communities and causes are significant and often crucial. The itineraries that follow have the potential to make a difference in both your world, and the world.
GreenlandAir Greenland inaugurated its twice-weekly service from Baltimore to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland’s air hub, in May. Daily flights link Kangerlussuaq with Ilulissat and other major towns. The airline also offers four different package tours (877/245-0739; airgreenland.com; three-night tours from $2,350 per person, including the round-trip flight from Baltimore and all transfers).
Where to Stay:
- Hotel Arctic Ilulissat; 299/944-153; hotel-arctic.gl; doubles from $270.
- Hotel Kangerlussuaq 299/841-180; airporthotels.gl; doubles from $240.
Trip Tip: Pack your suit for a soak in the thermal waters of Deception Island’s Pendulum Cove.
Luxury Level: There are 108 double cabins aboard the 437-foot Explorer II, each with a private bathroom and climate control. (Make sure to request a walk-out balcony.) The vessel also has a 1,000-square-foot health club and spa.
Abercrombie & Kent; 800/554-7016; abercrombiekent.com; $6,190 per person, all-inclusive; December 8-21, 2007.
Explore these biologically diverse islands, still a hub for groundbreaking biological research nearly two centuries after Darwin’s first visit. Sign up for a Lindblad Expeditions trip and board either the 80-passenger Polaris or the 48-guest Islander. Watch giant tortoises foraging, swim with penguins and sea lions, and tour the Charles Darwin Research Center in Santa Cruz.
Trip Tip: The best time for snorkeling is February through March, when marine turtles emerge.
Luxury Level: Cabins on the Islander and Polaris are relatively spacious, with private bathrooms. Bonuses: yoga classes and a spa.
Lindblad Expeditions; 800/397-3348; ; $4,320 per person; operating weekly.
G.A.P Adventures takes up to 106 passengers on its low-impact M/S Explorer from Edinburgh to the Norwegian coast—stopping at the Orkneys, Shetland Islands, Bear Island, and Svalbard. Spot enough puffins, minke whales, kittiwakes, reindeer, and walruses—and, if you’re lucky, an
elusive polar bear—to fill your camera’s memory card. You’ll also benefit from the knowledge of the ship’s team of naturalists during shore excursions. G.A.P Adventures asks that travelers donate to the trip-long Dollar-A-Day Program to assist communities visited during the cruise; it will also match funds generated from on-board auctions (items include vintage watercolor sea charts) to support polar bear preservation research.
Trip Tip: Take a dive off the main deck before a sauna. It’s as invigorating as it is cold.
Luxury Level: The Explorer’s modest cabins include some triples and large suites, each with a private bathroom and windows overlooking ice floes and glaciers.
For a complete list of Travel + Leisure's 40 trips to change your world, click here.