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Passport 10 Top Treks for 2012 By Kimberly Turner F or those who love to travel, ﬁnding the next great excursion can be a daunting task. Recently, award-winning luxury adventure travel company Classic Journeys released its list of 10 top travel destinations for 2012. We talked with Edward Piegza, the company’s founder (and globetrotter), about each locale. “The way we introduce our guests to a region is to mix in with interesting local people and visit cultural and historic sites in a special way, a more personal way than someone might be able to do on their own,” Piegza says. “We like to travel away from the cookie-cutter trips. We like that sense of authenticity, experiential travel, and combination of interactions with local people.” His company’s explorations are typically an active seven to nine days of culture and opportunity. Experiential travel can be customized by extending a trip or making private arrangements. T HE H IGH E ND PHOTO AND TOP RIGHT PHOTO COURTESY CLASSIC JOURNEYS 22
<br /> 10 Top Treks for 2012<br /> <br /> For those who love to travel, finding the next great excursion can be a daunting task. Recently, award-winning luxury adventure travel company Classic Journeys released its list of 10 top travel destinations for 2012. We talked with Edward Piegza, the company’s founder (and globetrotter), about each locale.<br /> <br /> “The way we introduce our guests to a region is to mix in with interesting local people and visit cultural and historic sites in a special way, a more personal way than someone might be able to do on their own,” Piegza says. “We like to travel away from the cookie-cutter trips. We like that sense of authenticity, experiential travel, and combination of interactions with local people.”<br /> <br /> His company’s explorations are typically an active seven to nine days of culture and opportunity. Experiential travel can be customized by extending a trip or making private arrangements.<br /> <br /> Amalfi Coast — A juxtaposition of mountain and sea, the intense coastline of Italy’s Amalfi Coast showcases some of the most stunning views from the villas and houses that are perched on the cliff. Classic Journeys takes guests here to the home of an old friend, Lucas, and they are welcomed in for an authentic glimpse of Amalfi life.<br /> <br /> “Lucas’ house is perched on a cliff right above a monastery, about 1,000 feet above the sea,” Piegza says. “He welcomes our guests in and we sample his homemade wine, make our own pizza [with Lucas’ pizza oven], and we sit on this beautiful terrace overlooking the sea.”<br /> <br /> Guests can then visit Capri, staying at the famed 5-star Quisisana Hotel, allowing an in-depth exploration of Capri and its locals.<br /> <br /> “We take a beautiful walk from Monaco Campri to a private beach club on the back side of the island where Jackie Onassis, Julia Roberts and all kinds of luminaries have hung out to get away from the paparazzi,” Piegza says.<br /> <br /> Bhutan — Considered the happiest country in the world, and expensive and hard for travelers to get into, Bhutan provides not only its unique sandwiched location between India and China, but also a plethora of community activities.<br /> <br /> “Because our local guides have some really nice local connections and relationships in the different villages, one of the villages puts on a butter lamp lighting ceremony for us every time we bring our guests there,” Piegza says. This is a unique opportunity, as the butter lamp lighting ceremony is a rare occurrence, taking place only a couple times a year when locals visit temples or go on a pilgrimage to a sacred site.<br /> <br /> The ceremony helps focus the mind and aid in meditation as Bhutans prepare themselves for a sacred experience.<br /> <br /> Another unique activity of the Bhutan trip includes an archer demonstration, where travelers get to learn how to be archers and participate in the national sport of Bhutan.<br /> <br /> Machu Picchu — Named as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, visiting the “Lost City of the Incas,” Machu Picchu in Peru, is now on many “bucket lists.” Experiencing it with the local culture adds to the wonderment.<br /> <br /> “You can literally take a lesson on how to pick, dry and pair your own tea, go for guided naturalist walks in the orchid gardens or go back up to the site and explore Machu Picchu,” says Piegza.<br /> <br /> Travelers can spend time in the Sacred Valley, enjoy a private dinner at a 300-year-old hacienda, learn how to make pottery from a famed potter ceramist and visit the local school children.<br /> <br /> “What people often are raving about when they get home are those personal interactions,” says Piegza.<br /> <br /> Galapagos — Enjoying beautiful islands that have white-sand beaches and gorgeous black-lava formations isn’t the only thing to explore on the Galapagos Islands of San Cristóbal, Isabela and Santa Cruz. Here, in Ecuador, you can stay in gorgeous boutique hotels and take a trip up to the highlands, where the vegetation changes drastically from the blue-water beaches. Up here, you and experienced guides can interact with the Gonzalez family of San Cristóbal, which owns the second-largest coffee plantation in all of Ecuador, and visit the second-largest volcanic crater in the world, which is 31 miles around.<br /> <br /> Panama — As an enormous ecosystem that is fueled by water runoff from the rain forest, the Panama Canal is much more than just a canal. It’s a central location for migrating birds, and you can get to enjoy them while staying at a luxury resort on the banks of the Chagres River. You’ll also meet one of the seven area indigenous tribes.<br /> <br /> “We go down to the banks of the river and waiting there for us are tribesmen with real dug-out canoes,” Piegza says. “They take us up the river, about an hour and a half to their village, and we spend a day there.” An elder brings the group on a tour of the rain forest and its medicinal plants.<br /> <br /> In addition to meeting this tribe and seeing its authentic life, travelers can opt to fly to Panama City and visit “the land of eternal spring,” a place known for its 72- degree and sunny atmosphere. Here, you can trek the highlands to view the Quetzal, a bluish-green iridescent bird. Other offerings include river rafting, zip lining and the chance to participate in a tasting at a coffee plantation as well.<br /> <br /> Cinque Terre — Built along the rocky, rough terrain of the Ligurian Sea (a segment of the Mediterranean Sea), five small Italian villages stand the test of time, and preserve a slower pace of living. As settlers came to this area to escape the wrath of barbarians in the 1300s and 1400s, they found a way to survive, by terracing out from the hillsides to enjoy the beautiful southern exposure that allowed for a way of life. In exploring these “captured-intime” villages, travelers can go on an adventure to the tiny monastery of St. Fruttuoso, which is reachable only by foot or boat. As the locals love to stop and talk to visitors, it is not uncommon to have cultural interaction along the tour.<br /> <br /> “It is completely a different lifestyle then what we are used to,” says Piegza.<br /> <br /> Czech Republic — As part of a three-country trip, a visit to the Czech Republic with Classic Journeys takes you to Austria and Hungary as well.<br /> <br /> “What is neat about this trip is we are bookended by two famed imperial cities, Prague and Budapest,” Piegza says. “So you have these spectacular cities … that were preserved really nicely.”<br /> <br /> Referred to as “golden” and “the crown of the world” and known as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Czech Republic’s Prague is the first stop.<br /> <br /> For this preserved city, travelers walk along the bridges and cobblestone alleyways to delve into this old town’s way of life, leading to a visit at the Rozmberk Castle.<br /> <br /> Nest, guests stop to observe glass blowers in rural Czech Republic and see how the famed Czech and Austrian crystal is hand-blown. Continuing with personal and authentic experiences, guests then cruise the Habsburg trade routes along the Danube River, exploring the country in a different way, to Austria where they visit a historic paper mill to see how paper was made in the Middle Ages — a great way to kick off the three-country trip.<br /> <br /> Siem Reap — A visit to one of the largest temple complexes in Cambodia, Angkor Wat, is a must. It represents an astonishing and enduring architectural achievement. Expanding on a Vietnam and Laos trip, a Classic Journeys trek to Siem Reap includes a 2-day stay at the famed hotel, Raffles, where, when you are not busy exploring Angkor Wat (believed to be the center of the universe in Hindu mythology), you can enjoy the spa and pool.<br /> <br /> “You are luxuriating at this gorgeous hotel and from it we are able to explore Angkor Wat and all of its temples,” Piegza says. “We have the luxury to take our guests on leisurely explorations.”<br /> <br /> While visiting the massive three-tiered, 65-square-meter-high Angkor Wat, travelers can choose to participate in a moving ritual as lines of barefoot monks walk silently along the street on their morning alms rounds.<br /> <br /> Switzerland — Known for its mountain scenery, a Swiss Alps exploration might include a variety of activities, including river rafting, mountain biking, lava trekking, glacier hiking and even riding dog sleds on a glacier.<br /> <br /> “You have all these really fun ways to see Switzerland, its mountainous villages and its beautiful scenic backdrop,” Piegza says.<br /> <br /> As part of a family trip, and far from the common way of traveling along the Swiss Rail, the Classics Journeys travelers meet with a family that owns a farm with llamas and trek for a day (while the llamas carry supplies), going to a bakery to learn some of the native treats and visiting local artists to learn how to do chalet paintings. On top of it all, a dinner filled with cheese and chocolate fondue makes for a memorable experience.