Category: Travel

Canada doesn’t make the top 20 in Lonely Planet’s traveller’s choice destinations

Lonely Planet just released its traveller’s choice destinations, based on a survey of 3,000 of their Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Thorntree fans. The results were revealing:

  • Canada didn’t even crack the overall top 20 destinations. Half of the destinations were Asian, and both Australia and New Zealand made the top five.
  • The big winners? Bhutan, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Thailand, and India.
  • Canada made it into only two categories – it came in ninth in the Nature category. The winners here? Costa Rica, Iceland, New Zealand, Bhutan, and Australia. So even though we feel we “own” nature, and certainly have lots of it, travellers don’t see us as the top destination to go for nature.
  • Canada also came in fourth for safety.
  • We didn’t make it to the top 10 in the adventure category.
  • Bhutan won the prize as best overall destination, and made it into the top 10 in 8 out of 16 criteria. Interesting, as it is not cheap to travel there.

While this survey only sampled a certain type of traveller, it does show that despite our great national tourism brand, we have some work to do when it comes to marketing our country.

Countries that entered the to 10 of most categories in Lonely Planet’s 2013 Traveller’s Choice awards.

One of world’s scariest airports

Korupun (sometimes spelled Koropun) in the highlands of West Papua, has one of the world’s scariest air strips. See this video of a take-off and landing at the strip.

I can attest to the difficulty of landing here; I spent two weeks in the mountains above Korupun in 1995. Planes start by flying over the strip to check for pigs, then have to make one full circle to get low enough to land. When taking off, the plane has to make a 90 degree turn to avoid the mountain wall across the valley, followed by a full turn to get out of the steep walled valley. It’s an experience!

Africa from the air

This short video features George Steinmetz’s stunning aerial photography over Africa. George is a great photographer; his aerial photos are second to none. I once had the fortune to take him around Manokwari in West Papua for a day.

Flying in a motorized paraglider over one of the most diverse continents in the world, George Steinmetz captures in his photographs the stunning beauty, potential and hope of Africa’s landscapes and people. See the project at

The quest for adventure

“The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts” – Yvon Chouinard.

Scott Gilbertson describes very eloquently why most people no longer experience real adventures when they travel. We plan everything, and we know what we are getting into because we’ve researched all details of our trip on Tripadvisor and guidebooks, or have asked a travel agent to arrange all details of our trips. Yet we call our trips to faraway places an “adventure”.

180 Degrees South is a great movie that follows Jeff Johnson on a trip to Patagonia. Along the way, lots goes wrong, but it doesn’t matter; the trip is a a great adventure. Along the way we are introduced to Chouinard (founder of Patagonia) and Doug Tompkins (co-founder of the Northface), and the ways they use their fortunes to save the environment.

My greatest adventures have been when things went wrong, like getting stuck in a river in Mongolia, running out of gas in the Gobi desert, or walking through the rainforest of New Guinea without water for 30 hours, or even getting stuck in snow storms in the far northwest of BC. None were planned, but they were all epic adventures in places that are not listed in the guidebooks or on Tripadvisor.

As Mark Twain said: “… throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Oh, and go places where there is no cell phone coverage or Internet, and which are not in the guidebook.

Sailing across the Atlantic

while looking for ways to cross the Atlantic, I came across the Star Clippers. They offer luxury trans-Atlantic cruises on tall ships. Now that is the way to get to Europe in style!


Travel overland in Europe

With the airline chaos in Europe, people are taking taxis from Norway to London (a mere $5,000!), or waiting at airports in the hope that the airspace will sometime soon. But if one has a bit more time, there are lots of good overland travel options.

There are still a lot of ferries in Europe. Lines such as DFDS Tor Line and Stena line operate a number of routes to and from Scandinavia and the UK.

Once on dry land, the trains are reliable, fast, and (generally) on  time.  And although not as well known, Eurolines operates express buses all over Europe.

“Europe without borders”

Travelling by sea to Europe

With the chaos that the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull has caused to the airline industry, people are forced to return to land and ocean travel. Even though most of the large scheduled ocean liners have vanished, there are still some great options!

It is possible to book a cabin on a freighter. It takes a bit longer, and is actually more expensive than flying, but at least it will get you to Europe. Check out Freighter travel on Wiki Travel for some information on options.

Since the airport in Reykjavik is still open, you could fly there with Iceland Air, take a tour to the now famous volcano while you are in nearby anyway, and then continue by ferry from Iceland to Denmark on the Norrøna.

Or, if you have cash to spare, you can board the luxurious Cunard Queen Mary 2 for a Trans-Atlantic trip of a lifetime! There are some cheaper alternative Trans Atlantic cruises too. Guaranteed to be more memorable than an 8 hour flight in Economy class (or a 5-day camp-out at an airport).

Beaver bush planes

The iconic deHavilland Beaver bush plane is still flying all over the north, 62 years after it was first took to the air. Yet despite its iconic status, there are few good videos of this classic plane. Our film crew took the opportunity to take a Beaver into Nahanni National Park and shot some amazing air-to-air footage amongst some of the most beautiful backdrops in the country. Enjoy!

Sable Island

One of Canada’s most isolated islands is wind-swept Sable island, off the coast of Nova Scotia. It is famously difficult to visit the island, but I was surprised to read that there are in fact a few residents. And one of them, Zoe Lucas, even maintains a website with everything you ever wanted to know about Sable Island.

Adding this one to my list of must-goes in Canada.

Volcano climbing in Indonesia

Mouint Bromo and Semeru, Java, Indonesia

Mouint Bromo and Semeru, Java, Indonesia

Indonesia is blessed with some of the world’s most beautiful volcanoes (they have also created some of the world’s most fertile soils, although the frequent eruptions have caused countless hardships for those living on their slopes). One of my favourite hobbies while I lived in Indonesia was to climb these peaks. The views from the tops are amazing, it is nice and cool up there, and it’s great exercise. Until now there was no single source of information on all volcanoes and other mountains in the country, but a couple of expats have recently launched Gunung Bagging – a website that details all the mountains in Indonesia over 1000m. Very inspiring!

Thanks to for the tip-off.