(October 23, 2012 / JNS) Whether it’s the ancient lost city of Petra, the Wild Coast of South Africa, or the enchantment of Alaska, the world is filled with untold beauty. Here are a few suggestions to help you escape the tourists and honeymoon craze in favor of a more offbeat and adventurous destination:
Petra is a mythical city that was hidden to the western world until 1812, when Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt rediscovered the ancient city carved into the red rocks. It was established around the 6th century as the capital city of the Nabataeans, a tribe that turned the city into an important stop on the historic India-Eastern Africa spice route.
In 1985, Petra became a UNESCO world heritage site. The magic of generations past seems to whisper to visitors as they walk through the entrance to the city, or the “Siq.” It’s a narrow gorge, over 1km in length and surrounded on both sides by soaring, 80m high cliffs.
Walking into Petra makes you feel like an ancient explorer—the phenomenal colors and formations are mesmerizing. The view at the end is where you can catch the first glimpse of the breathtaking Al-Khazneh, otherwise known as the “Treasury.”
Carved out of the reddish-pink rock, the Treasury is a massive façade measuring 30m wide and 43m high. It was carved in the early 1st century and was used as the tomb of an important Nabataean king. You also might know it from Hollywood—the site was featured heavily in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
If you are traveling to Petra from Israel, use www.desertecotours.com. They provide transportation, border crossing assistance, guides, and accommodations (you can either stay in a hotel or overnight in a Bedouin tent.) They can also custom design a tour.
Wild Coast, South Africa
South Africa is filled with a magic, a pulsing sensibility that is hard to touch but easy to feel. While the Wild Coast of South Africa is one of the poorest regions in the country, it is one of the richest in beauty. The birthplace of former president Nelson Mandela, it is located between Durban and East London and stretches well over 240 kilometers along the eastern tip of the country. It was known as the Transkei Homeland during the apartheid period, from the early 1950s until 1994.
The breathtaking jagged coastline is dotted with remote villages, numerous rivers, waterfalls, shipwrecks, unspoiled beaches, expansive open space and pristine forests.
You can climb onto the shipwrecks and hike on private beaches and find your way over rolling hills covered with long blades of grass blowing in the wind. Depending where you go, you might find a lagoon surrounded by lush green foliage and shimmering waterfalls.
If any part of South Africa is your destination of choice, the best travel agent to work with is firstname.lastname@example.org. She will design an outstanding tour for any budget, and can also point you in the right direction for anything Jewish related, from sites such as the South Africa Jewish Museum to helping you book a kosher Safari.
Alaska is an adventure lover’s paradise and can also be the ultimate destination for relaxation. The best way to see Alaska is to spend time on the land and take a cruise for a different perspective.
Spend a night at the Historic Anchorage Hotel, which, according to legend, is haunted. Also be sure to go on Ghost Tours of Anchorage, where you will be both frightened and enlightened while walking through the city streets. Enjoy a stylish décor and tasty meal at the Sweet Basil Café.
The Mat-Su Valley, located about a 45-minute drive away from Anchorage, is filled with gorgeous adventure opportunities. One of the most fun and exciting is the pristine Matanuska Glacier hike.
While the drive to get there can be a little unnerving, the views of snow covered purple mountains, aqua blue rivers, and green forests make it well worth it.
Be sure to stay at the romantic Matanuska Lodge, where you will be greeted with a mezuzah on the door. The lodge offers a cheerful sensory overload, from the colorful and comfortable couches to the table covered with books and baskets of chocolate.
But, if strapping on crampons and hiking a glacier is not so appealing to you—try a less active option by simply having dinner facing a glacier. The Alyseka resort in Girdwood (also 45 minutes away from Anchorage) is a dream. Take a cable car up the mountain and enjoy a AAA Four Diamond-rated meal at Seven Glaciers. The food matches the views: outstanding.
The majestic Alaskan railroad provides a romantic mode of transportation. The Gold Star service is premiere in train travel, and sitting on the second floor of the train is a treat; it’s comprised of all glass windows, so the views are phenomenal.
Take the train up to Denali National Park, where you can see what the world looked like before time existed. You can hike, river raft and even try fly-fishing nearby.
The best way to conclude your land adventures is with a Holland America inside passage cruise. It is one of the best ways to combine relaxation, excitement, spectacular views and fabulous food. One of the smaller ships, the Statendam, has a cozy and intimate atmosphere and the cabins are decorated in a classic style.
Holland America seems to have pampering down to an art form; no request is to be too big, and the attention to detail—from arranging excursions, to catering to kosher passengers—is impressive.
Alaska is filled with untamed beauty. It will surely keep you smiling on your honeymoon.
Masada Siegel can be reached at Fungirlcorrespondent@gmail.com