Hot Destinations in 2017

by Gavin Haines, The Telegraph, August 7, 2017

A new report compiled by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has revealed the world’s fastest growing tourist destinations for 2017 – and the results throw up a few surprises.

So what can we read into the data? Well, the fact that countries such as Egypt and Tunisia feature in the top ten seems to indicate their ability – against the odds – to bounce back after a string of terrorist attacks.

As well as telling tales of resilience, the report also chronicles holidaymakers’ increasing appetite to travel beyond traditional destinations and forge paths on roads less travelled. The presence of Mongolia and Nicaragua in the top ten is testament to that.

Here are the fastest growing tourist destinations so far in 2017:

1. Palestine

Earlier this year the street artist, Banksy, opened a boutique hotel in Palestine’s West Bank, which, in hindsight, appears to have been a sage move: tourism in Palestine is booming. According to the UNWTO, the occupied territories witnessed a 57.8 per cent rise in international arrivals so far this year.

Overlooking the Israeli West Bank barrier, Banksy’s politically-charged Walled Off Hotel has likely helped raise awareness of tourism in Palestine, which is on course to welcome more than 630,000 holidaymakers by the end of the year. Read our review of the Walled Off Hotel here.

2. Egypt

Egypt’s tourist industry has had a torrid time of late. Ongoing political unrest and the downing of a Russian passenger plane in 2015 – which investigators attributed to terrorism – deterred many people from visiting the North African nation.

Much to the chagrin of the Egyptian authorities, the UK government still refuses to let airlines fly to Sharm el-Sheikh, from where the doomed jet departed, meaning Britain is the only European nation apart from Russia not serving the holiday resort. That hasn’t stopped other nationalities flocking to the country, which has witnessed a 51 per cent spike in international tourist arrivals this year and is on course to welcome nearly 8 million holidaymakers in 2017 (though that’s still well below the 14 million who visited in 2010).

At a glance | The rise and fall of tourism to Egypt

3. Northern Mariana Islands

Most people probably couldn’t point to this archipelago on a map, but that hasn’t stopped the Northern Mariana Islands from emerging as one of the fastest growing tourist destinations on the planet. According to the UNWTO, arrivals are up by 37.3 per cent so far this year.

The self-governing US commonwealth territory welcomed a modest 531,000 tourists in 2016, so we’re not talking about a stampede here. Just as well really because people heading to this 15-island archipelago – with its swaying palms and powdery shores – go to escape the masses, not jostle for space with them on the beach.

Reykjavik, Iceland - Boyloso/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Reykjavik, Iceland // Photo by Boyloso/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

4. Iceland

Okay, perhaps seeing Iceland in this list isn’t really a surprise. In fact, it has been well documented by this newspaper how popular the destination is becoming; a popularity attributed to the “Game of Thrones effect” and Icelandair, which offers passengers free stop-offs in Iceland en route to the US.

And the trend continues; according to the UNWTO, arrivals are up 34.9 per cent already this year, meaning the nation is on course to welcome nearly 2.5 million holidaymakers by the end of the year. That’s bound to heighten fears that the island is becoming a “Disneyland for adults”.

29 reasons why Iceland is incredible

5. Tunisia

Tunisia’s tourist industry suffered a similar fate to Egypt’s following the Sousse beach massacre of 2015, when a gunman killed 38 people – most of them 30 Britons – during a shooting rampage.

The hotel where the massacre took place reopened earlier this year and the FCO has since eased its travel advice for Tunisia, which seems to have signalled a change in fortunes for the country: the UNWTO reports arrivals are up by 32.5 per cent so far this year. If the trend continues, some 7.5 million holidaymakers would visit Tunisia in 2017, not far off the 7.8 million who flocked there in 2010.

6. Vietnam

Asia’s fastest growing tourist destination, according to the UNWTO. Granted, Vietnam is not exactly a stranger to tourism; in fact, anyone who has visited Halong Bay – where junk boats packed with tourists jostle for space on polluted waters – will likely have seen the grimmer side of the country’s burgeoning tourism industry.

Visitors should probably expect more jostling because the number of international arrivals this year is already up 31.2 per cent, meaning the number of tourists visiting Vietnam should surpass 13 million by the end of 2017. Where to escape them? Our destination expert, Lee Cobaj, recommends Ninh Binh, “the inland Halong Bay”, as a less crowded alternative to the oversubscribed tourist staple.

7. Uruguay

South America’s fastest growing tourist destination may come as something of a surprise, but on paper it’s easy to see why holidaymakers are finally wending their way to Uruguay (tourist arrivals are up 30.2 per cent year-on-year).

Sandwiched between the tourism heavyweights of Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay is picturesque, progressive (cannabis was legalised in 2014) and culturally sophisticated destination that’s also, incidentally, home to one of the weirdest Unesco World Heritage Sites: the Fray Bentos meat packing facility. All of which is tipped to entice nearly 4 million holidaymakers this year.

Nicaragua // Photo by AlvaroFaraco/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

8. Nicaragua

Nicaragua has not been making the news for all the right reasons recently. A Chinese plan to build a Panama Canal-rivalling waterway through the country has stoked fears that it would destroy vital wildlife habitats and not provide enough wealth locally. The plan has since been shelved.

Despite the furore, Nicaragua is emerging as a Central America’s fastest growing destination with tourist arrivals up 28.4 per cent so far this year. As well as palm-fringed beaches, the country’s revolutionary history and verdant interior adds to the appeal. Despite the steep rise in arrivals, though, fewer than 2 million holidaymakers are set to visit this year.

9. Mongolia

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises in the list, Mongolia was once shorthand for “a very long way away” thanks to its geographical isolation amidst vast steppes and sandy deserts. But this rugged Central Asian nation now seems to be currying favour with travellers; according to the UNWTO, international arrivals are up 28.3 per cent this year.

That’s a big leap, but the starting point was somewhat small: only 400,000 odd tourists trekked there in 2017. Definitely a destination for the intrepid, Mongolia is famed for its nomadic inhabitants – with whom travellers can lodge – and mad festivals such as Naadam, a celebration of wrestling, horse racing and archery.

Meet the stars of Naadam, Mongolia’s answer to the Olympics

10. Israel

The top 10, then, is bookended by destinations that live not particularly harmoniously next to one another: Israel and Palestine. They may have plenty of differences, but they share a booming tourist industry (and they do share it because many visitors arriving in Palestine do so via Israel).

According to the UNWTO, tourist arrivals in the country are up by 25.1 per cent so far this year, which, if sustained, would take the overall number of holidaymakers visiting Israel to 3.7 million by the end of the year. Israel and Palestine: the fastest growing destinations in the Middle East. Who saw that coming?

Around the world | In maps

My First Travel News Letter

May 30, 2017

Tourwithdave Travel tips

First edition

As most of you know I love to travel. Also I enjoy researching and learning new things about places and events.  So I thought I would share a few items I have come across in the past few weeks and months.  This is not intended to be in-depth but just to give you enough information so you will want to go and find out more for yourself.  So let’s begin.

Cuba

As some of you know I took a group to Cuba about a year ago.  We really had a great time.  Since that time a lot of cruise ships have announced they are going to include Cuba in their itinerary. The latest to do so just a few days ago is Holland America.  They will begin sailing to Cuba from Fort Lauderdale starting on December 22nd of this year.  It will be aboard the Veendam.  Most of the cruise ships that are going to Cuba usually stay docked in Havana for a day or two and then go to other places in the Caribbean.

One interesting thing about travel to Cuba is that it has not been as big a draw as many of the American based airlines thought it would.  Therefore some of the flights that were announced have been cut back.  There are plenty of seats still available but you might not have a large a selection as you did six months ago.

Finally on Cuba you still are required to list one of 12 reasons why you want to go to Cuba.  Just to go to beach does not count.  The most popular is “people to people” tours where you go out and meet many of the average Cubans and even stay in some of their homes.  We did this on our trip and it was just as good as staying in a Bed and Breakfast here in America.  A visa is required to go to Cuba.

Mississippi Delta

If you have not been to the Mississippi Delta recently you should go.  One new attraction that is getting a lot of attention is the Grammy Museum in Cleveland.  There are two Grammy Museum in America, one in Los Angeles and the other in Cleveland, Mississippi. The reason Cleveland was selected was because per capita there are more Grammy winners from the Mississippi Delta area than anywhere else in America.  Now that is saying something.

There is a large Taylor Swift exhibit at the museum until August of this year.  Also you will have a chance to see a ten minute video about Taylor Swift and all the Grammys she has won.  It is really professionally done.  In addition they also have a wonderful film that showcases all of the Grammy winners across the decades.  By now they will have the 2017 Grammy winners included in the film.  The cost is only about ten dollars to get in.  So it is quite reasonable

Remember you can see many other tourist articles at my web site Tourwithdave.com.

One Third of Travelers Visit Vanishing Destinations

 

(This was recently published in Travel Agent Central)

Looking for a good sales hook? Many travelers are looking to experience destinations that are in danger of disappearing, according to a new report.

U.S. adults who have traveled during the past year feel it is important to visit “vanishing destinations” before they disappear, according to the latest travelhorizons survey of 2,300 U.S. adults conducted by travel marketing organization MMGY Global.

In the survey, “vanishing destinations” include the Great Barrier Reef, Glacier National Park and Venice, Italy. Nearly four in 10 feel it is very to extremely important to visit these destinations. MMGY said that this trend is most prominent with Millennials, the affluent and those with college degrees or higher.

The level of importance of visiting vanishing destinations seems to decrease with age, MMGY said. Half (51 percent) of Millennial travelers feel it is important, significantly more than all other generations, followed by nearly four in ten Xers (37 percent) and one quarter of Young Boomers (27 percent). Those with an annual household income of $100,000 or more display the highest level of importance to visit vanishing destinations. Similarly, interest tends to decrease as household income decreases. Four in ten travelers with an annual household income of $150,000 or more (42 percent) and $100,000 – $149,999 (39 percent) feel it is important to visit these destinations. More than four in ten (44 percent) of travelers with a college degree or higher feel it is important to visit vanishing destinations, significantly more than those with partial college education (32 percent) or a high school diploma or less (27 percent).

U.S. travelers were also asked about the impact of climate change on their decision to visit destinations that are affected, MMGY said. Four in ten (40 percent) U.S. travelers report climate change does impact their vacation destination decisions. Millennials, travelers with an annual household income of $50,000 – $149,999 and travelers with a college degree or higher are most likely to consider climate change when making destination decisions. More than half of Millennials (53 percent) report climate change impacts their decision, significantly more compared to other generations (Xers: 37 percent, Young Boomers: 30 percent, Older Boomers: 28 percent, Matures: 23 percent).  More than four in ten travelers with an annual household income of $50,000 – $99,999 (43 percent) or $100,000 – $149,999 (43 percent) report climate change has an impact, followed by 38 percent with an annual household income under $30,000, 35 percent with $30,000 – $49,999 and 34 percent with $150,000 or more. Half of travelers with a college degree or higher (49 percent) report that climate change has an impact, significantly more than those with lower education levels (some college: 31 percent, high school diploma: 30 percent).

 

What Travel is Trending in 2017

(Recently published in Vogue Magazine)

When researching an upcoming trip, many of us are turning to social media for inspiration and intel. In fact, Pinterest reports that it has experienced a 37 percent increase in travel-related searches since last year. With all that quantifiable action, it’s no wonder the virtual bulletin board has accrued some pretty interesting insights. Recently, the network teamed up with another travel force, Airbnb, to determine which destinations are currently trending across both sites. While some of the results come as no surprise (who doesn’t want to go to Bora Bora?), some are a bit more unexpected.

Below, a look at the findings with options for places to stay, should you decide to forgo the Airbnb.

Sharm El Sheikh, EgyptPhoto: Alamy

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

Sharm El Sheikh is famous for its world-class scuba diving and picturesque, palm-studded beaches. And, despite recent warnings of terrorist actions, visitors continue to flock to the northern Africa region on the Red Sea.

Where to Stay: Sharm El Sheikh is filled with decadent, sprawling resorts. The Four Seasons, which features a romantic, Arabian village–inspired design set among lush gardens along the shore, is one such option.

Tenerife, Canary IslandsPhoto: Alamy

Tenerife, Canary Islands

Europeans have long been flocking to this beachy, sun-drenched Spanish island. Recently, though, Tenerife has experienced a bit of a renaissance as posh hotels, cool boutiques, and stylish restaurants (including some with Michelin stars) have been replacing the more mainstream tourist options.

Where to Stay: Check out the off-the-beaten-path San Roque, an understated boutique hotel within walking distance of authentic restaurants serving tapas and local seafood, in the northern port village of Garachico.

Courchevel, FrancePhoto: Alamy

Courchevel, France

Located in Les Trois Vallées—the world’s largest lift-linked ski region—this storybook Alpine ski village boasts over 170 lifts and a super-diverse terrain; no wonder it’s a popular winter sports destination for everyone from experts to newbies. Off the slopes, there is plenty to do, including hot-air balloon rides and indoor surfing.

Where to Stay: The recently renovated Hôtel des 3 Valléesis housed in a classic chalet but decorated with chic furnishings from the likes of Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé.

Scottish HighlandsPhoto: Alamy

Scottish Highlands

It’s not just the legendary Loch Ness Monster that visitors to the Scottish Highlands are hoping to peep—it’s the area’s cinematic landscapes, romantic old castles, and famed whiskey distilleries, too.

Where to Stay: Near the remote town of Dornoch, The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle is something out of a fairy tale. It’s also known as the “most exclusive” hotel in the world—in fact, non-members are only allowed to visit the property once. For a less intense experience, stay at the romantic Ardanaiseig, an elegant stone country house nestled on the shore of Loch Awe.

ReykjavikPhoto: Alamy

Reykjavik, Iceland

Last year, 1.7 million tourists descend on Iceland’s capital, eager to take in the city’s colorful buildings, cosmopolitan culture, and cooler-than-cool nightlife scene. In fact, so many visitor’s have been flocking to the country’s attractions—the Blue Lagoon, the Gullfoss waterfall, Vatnajökull National Park—that the government has considered limiting the amount of visitors in order to preserve these natural wonders.

Where to Stay: Insiders say, if you’re looking for stunning design and a super-hip vibe, then 101 Hotel is the place to be.

KyotoPhoto: Alamy

Kyoto, Japan

Fun fact: Kyoto has the second most Michelin stars of any city in the world. It also has more than 1,000 temples and shrines and, thanks to its hauntingly beautiful mix of ancient architecture and dense bamboo forests, is often described as Japan’s most mesmerizing city.

Where to Stay: Ugenta, a 200-year-old ryokan inn with just two guest rooms, is nestled in the wooded mountains outside Kyoto.

Bora BoraPhoto: Alamy

Bora Bora, Polynesia

Over-the-water huts, crystalline water, palm fronds swaying to the twinkle of ukulele music: When it comes to romantic, far-flung tropical destinations, Bora Bora occupies an undying space in almost every nomad’s imagination.

Where to Stay: Until the much-anticipated Coqui Coqui Bora Bora opens later this year, there are plenty of stellar options—like the St. Regis and the Four Seasons—each of which are sure to meet every expectation of paradise you have.

New York CityPhoto: Alamy

New York City

The Big Apple, the City That Never Sleeps . . . call it what you will, but the U.S.’s biggest city is always reinventing itself and remains a top tourist destination, thanks to its nonstop cultural offerings, enticing dining options, diverse neighborhoods, and high-octane energy.

Where to Stay: In Manhattan, the recently opened 11 Howard has a conscientious outlook (among them: a portion of proceeds from bookings go to charity) that belies its sleek mid-century modern decor and prime location above Le Coucou. Across the bridge, the brand-new (and jaw-droopingly gorgeous) 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge takes the eco-luxury trend one step further with reclaimed furnishings and energy that’s 100 percent wind-powered.

SantoriniPhoto: Alamy

Santorini, Greece

Perhaps the most well-known island in the Cyclades, Santorini’s picturesque blue-and-white villages and salty Aegean Sea breezes make it a favorite among travelers looking for the quintessential Greek Island vacation.

Where to Stay: At Kapari Natural Resort, the serene, white-walled rooms are carved into a cliff, while the icy blue main pool has a stunning view of the Aegean.

BarcelonaPhoto: Alamy

Barcelona, Spain

Spain’s second biggest city draws a creative-minded crowdwith its infamous street art, ever-growing culinary scene, iconic Modernist architecture, and mild weather—all within view of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea.

Where to Stay: El Palauet, an intimate boutique hotel housed in an Art Nouveau building, has just six high-design suites and is within walking distance of most of the sights.

Ideas on How to Pack for a Trip

(this was recently posted on Johnnyjet.com)

 

So, you have a big trip coming up, and the departure date is getting closer and closer. If you are anything like myself, you more than likely are thinking, rethinking, and over thinking what to bring. Should I get a new backpack? Should I replace my luggage with the kind that is hard on the outside? Which books should I bring for the plane and to read during down times? Do they use batteries where I’m going? Can I bring batteries as carry-on?…

JOHNNYJET.COM

The thoughts that pop into our heads in the short weeks before a big trip are all ones that err on the edge of caution. We doubt that what we already have is not good enough, and that if we leave that one “essential” item behind, that our entire trip is doomed.

To help calm your nerves, we have put together 8 actually essential packing tips for you to remember as you prep for your next big adventure. To get this frequently asked question out-of-the-way early, NO, you do not need to bring your favorite hair dryer. The hotel will most likely provide one for you. Yes, we’re sure. Read on for more tips.

Take Time To List.

The first thing you need to do is make a list of the items you need everywhere you go, regardless of the specifics of your destination. This is a run-through of the basics –shirts, pants, shorts, socks, undergarments, shoes, glasses, jacket…pretty much a run through of all the items you use in the course of a normal stretch of time.

Plan your outfits based on the number of days you will be out, keeping in mind the events you have planned (are you planning on eating a nice dinner, or hitting the nightlife a few nights out of the trip? Then be sure to include those sharper outfits, too).

Also, just like your mother used to remind you –bring more socks and underwear than you think you’ll need. Mother always had an insight into the unseen…

Understand Your Destination.

Once you have the basics of “how much clothes should I bring?”, you can start altering your travel wardrobe to the specifics of your destination. Are you going someplace tropical? Then chances are you are not going to need that parka and pair of snow pants. Swap it out for that swimsuit, as that will get more mileage on this trip than your snow jacket. Going someplace warm but also rainy? Be sure to grab the waterproof windbreaker and rubber shoes if you already have some.

By doing simple research on your destination as to the weather and expected activities available there, you can easily avoid over packing items that you will never pull out of your suitcase. Nothing makes a trip harder than a massive bag full of items you never needed to bring in the first place.

The Gray Area Of “Essentials.”

After you have settled the clothing conundrum once and for all, we move into the gray area of packing –items.

Do we bring books into the trip? Should I bring my computer? My textbooks for that class I’m taking? What about my new art set that I’m thinking about possibly maybe busting out while on the island…?

The answer is simple when it comes the gray-area items: why are you going on vacation? Answering this simple question helps declutter your suitcase from all the stuff that will try to make its way into our bags unnecessarily.

Are you going on vacation to get away from work and thinking about work? Then leave the laptop. No access to emails means the tentacles of work can’t reach you. Going on vacation to reconnect with your spouse or family? Then leave the books. They will cause you to hide from everyone because you are seeking alone time to read. Books and even portable video games just tempt you to avoid achieving your vacation goals, whatever they may be.

Unless your goals for this vacation are “more ME time”, then perhaps the art set can stay home, too. Don’t worry, it’ll be waiting for you for when you return.

Let’s Talk Toiletries.

If you are going to a hotel and not a camp ground, then you are in luck –you don’t really have to bring any toiletries at all! Shampoos, conditioners, body wash and soap…they are all provided for you in your room (don’t believe us? Just peek in the shower really quick when you get there).

This saves you the trouble of having to high-tail it to Target the night before because you just realized that you are running low on Head & Shoulders. Bring your toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush and any special (and we mean special as in necessity) items, and let that be pretty much it.

The idea is to get away, not bring your entire medicine cabinet with you. And again, leave the hair dryer at home. Doesn’t matter how much you think you’ll need it, the one provided in your room is more than adequate.

How Many Bags Can I Bring Onboard?

Now that you got your bags all packed, we should find out just how exactly traveling with your luggage and backpack will go with your airline (if you’re flying to your destination, that is).

JOHNNYJET.COM

Every airline varies when it comes to what you can check and what you can bring onboard free of any fees. Southwest, for example, makes it so that two bags can be checked for free with economy tickets, and United has it so that everyone in your traveling party can bring one carry-on with them, but charges per checked bag unless you carry their co-branded travel card.

A quick online check of your airline with the phrase “luggage fee” will offer the answers you need.

Laundry Is Always An Option.

Don’t want to pay that extra bag fee? Then downsize all your items into one bag per person rather than two (that is, a backpack AND a checked bag). You can do that by lessening the amount of the clothes you bring.

One of the best ways to downsize your packed bag is to plan to launder your clothes rather than bring more outfits. Recycling outfits after you get them cleaned and washed is a great way to save space in your bag, but of course, you need to find a place to get your things washed, first.

Many hotels offer some form of a laundry service, or even a washer and dryer in the rooms themselves. Past that, local laundromats are often not too far from hotels.

Hop online, or even just on the phone with your hotel concierge to see what they would recommend as far as getting your clothes cleaned would be.

Keep Your Essentials With You.

Afraid of getting your luggage lost? Luggage being sent to a wrong destination, leaving you without your bag happens more often than you think, so plan and don’t have your essentials be in your checked bag but rather your carry-on instead.

JOHNNYJET.COM

Items like your toothbrush, your tablet (if you brought it), a jacket and change of clothes, even tickets and confirmations are all items you want to keep close to you, always. Don’t check them. Keep them on your person, or at the very least in your checked bag that stays above your head or under your seat.

Downsize Everything Possible.

Again, the name of the game is to keep everything as light as possible. To do this, as we keep mentioning in this article, we downsize. Everything.

If you are a book person, and you don’t want to bring a separate bag just for all the books you want to bring with you to read, then welcome to the digital age! Get an E-Reader like a Kindle, or even just download the Kindle app for your iPad or tablet and download the books onto there. Why carry 47 lbs. of paper-and-binding when you can carry just 10.5 ounces?

We would recommend the same for those who feel they must stay connected to the world they are supposedly leaving behind. Why carry a bulky laptop around when they can downsize and just carry a tablet? On top of that, consider sharing the tablet (as in you and your spouse must share the screen) instead of bringing two. This way you won’t be tempted to waste your vacation by being alone and staring at a blue glow the entire time.

How to Stay Well Overseas

Here are four ways to prevent getting sick overseas.

Travel health professionals strongly advise sticking to bottled, carbonated, and even canned water, and to refuse bottled water at restaurants if it’s brought to the table with the cap opened.

2. Avoid salads

Eating steamed, boiled or fried vegetables, instead of salads rinsed in water, also reduces the risk of illness.

3. Bring a prescription antibiotic

Consult with your doctor before your trip and ask for a prescription for a strong antibiotic, such as ciprofloxacin or levfloxacin, which can wipe out multiple types of bacterial infections that cause upset stomach and diarrhea. It’s wiser to come prepared than to try finding a doctor and pharmacy while abroad.

4. Use a purifier

In rural areas and smaller villages, purify water with iodine pills (except if you’re pregnant or have thyroid problems), or, alternatively, chlorine pills. For the most remote locations, water purifiers are the safest option. Try the Steripen Ultra, which has a UV lamp to kill bugs, microbes and bacteria. Or consider the Lifesaver water bottle, which uses nano-filtration to remove viruses, bacteria, cysts and parasites from contaminated water.

Traveling to Patagonia

This story was recently posted in the Washington Post.  I have also traveled to Patagonia and while I did not do any major hikes I went to many of the same places this man went.

Patagonia is a beautiful area to visit.  The glaciers in that part of the world are even more beautiful than the ones you see in Alaska.

Torres dep Paine is a wonderful thing to see.  When we returned from there several years ago…it was featured on the front cover of National Geographic.

 

Who: Henry Egghart of Alexandria, Va.

Where, when, why: I trekked through Torres del Paine National Park, in Chile, for a week in late February. I went with Backabush Xplorers, a meetup hiking group and travel company based in London. I had always wanted to travel to Patagonia, but it seemed so remote and adventurous. But when a group I had met while working in London was going there, I jumped at the chance to join them.

Flying from Dulles International Airport to Punta Arenas, Chile, took a long time because of the layovers. There are buses from Presidente Carlos Ibanez del Campo International Airport to Puerto Natales, the gateway town to the park, 3 1 /2 hours away. It has a frontier feeling, with weathered one- and two-story houses and free-roaming dogs. There are numerous hostels, hotels, restaurants and camping gear shops.

After buying food in a well-stocked supermarket, we caught an early morning bus for the three-hour ride to the park. Near the park, the cattle and sheep grazing in lush pastures gave way to herds of guanacos, a kind of wild llama, and a few rheas — large, flightless, ostrich-like birds. Several buses reached the entrance station together, so a small crowd formed to pay the entrance fee and watch a mandatory video on park rules. The most important one is that fires are not allowed, and cooking stoves are only allowed in designated areas; large areas of the park have been damaged by camper-caused fires. A boat took us across a turquoise-blue lake, past stunning mountains, to the start of the hike.

Highlights and high points: After we had been hiking for more than two hours by headlamp in the early morning darkness to see the first light hit the Torres, it started to rain. I feared there would be no view. But we were so high that the sun rose below the rain clouds, forming a brilliant double rainbow over the Torres and Lago Las Torres National Reserve. It was breathtaking.

Cultural connection or disconnect: I thought Patagonia would be wild, remote and lonely, and much of it is. Torres del Paine, however, is Chile’s crown jewel national park and very popular. Reservations are required for all campsites, camping is allowed only in designated sites next to refugios (mountain huts) and you must show your reservation to be allowed onto the trails. The best viewpoints are marked “miradors,” and a lot of people gather at them. The trails are rough, with frequent large rocks and puddles. On the other hand, the camping areas have warm showers, a perfect treat after a long day of hard hiking.

How unexpected: It surprised me that the glaciers in Patagonia flow down into forested areas, often ending in large lakes where bright-blue icebergs break off and float away. Also, I was impressed by the friendliness and honesty of the Chilean people. I never worried about getting shortchanged or taken advantage of. One time, a 5,000 peso note (about $10) fell out of my pocket, and a young woman ran down the street to return it to me.

Favorite memento or memory: This trip reminded me how beautiful, varied and well worth exploring the world is.