Best Trips of 2001: Island Escapes

Island Escapes

Mighty island: one of the El Nido chain north of Palawan Island, Philippines     Photo: Frieder Bickle

You could limit yourself to standard island fare: beaches great for digging your feet into the sand, tiki torches, moonlight dips in aquamarine lagoons. Or you could seek out the delights found only on the choicest isles: whitewater rapids galore, verdant hiking trails winding through wolf territory, and mindblowing views of the northern lights.

The Philippines: Coral, Butterflies, and Sweat
Start with a seven-day whitewater-rafting descent of the boulder-choked Cagayan River, which churns down Luzon's Sierra Madre and through the island's last remaining rainforest. You may not be able to identify every one of the butterflies along the way (the Philippines have 895 species) because you'll be too busy paddling; this is, after all, only the second commercial trip down the steep and technical Class IV upper section of the Cagayan. Next, ditch the raft and embark on a four-day trek to the 2,000-foot-high, 2,000-year-old Banaue rice terraces before hopping into a sea kayak for four more days of paddling and snorkeling around the lush El Nido islands to see as many of the Philippines's 500 different corals as you can. Outfitter: Mukuni Wilderness Whitewater Expeditions When to Go: December–January Price: $2,950 Difficulty: Moderate —Jason Daley

Get Marooned
Michigan: Backpacking Isle Royale National Park
The dense boreal forests of roadless Isle Royale, located 22 miles off Minnesota's easternmost tip in Lake Superior, put you in prime moose-viewing territory. Depending on your fitness level, guides choose between two seven-day, 45-mile island traverses: the mountainous Greenstone Ridge, which follows the island's backbone, or the precipitous Minong Trail on its north shore. At night, you'll watch the northern lights from camp and listen for the howls of the island's 29 wolves.Outfitter: The Northwest Passage When to Go: September Price: $925 Difficulty: Strenuous
Ireland: Mountain Biking the West Coast
There's only one proper way to experience rural southwestern Ireland's druidic past—biking your way 30 to 65 miles a day for 14 days down coastal roadways and rough lanes on the Dingle Peninsula. You'll take detours over narrow sheep-clogged farm pathsin County Clare and cycle through the Irish mist to 2,200-year-old caves, ring forts, and mysterious stone dolmens—thought to be druid altars or gravestones—and sleep in village hotels. It could well rain, but in Ireland, you have to take dark skies with a grain of salt. (A pint helps, too.) Outfitter: Classic Adventures When to Go: July–August Price: $2,990 Difficulty: Moderate

Scandinavia: Road Cycling the Southern Islands
You'll start each of this trip's 15 days with platters of Danish pastries, mounds of Swedish pancakes, and no fewer than 12 varieties of yogurt. After breakfast, the cycling will wake you from a carbohydrate stupor as you explore the islands and mainland coasts of eastern Denmark and southern Sweden, powering 25 to 30 miles a daypast the grassy dunes and sandy beaches of Denmark's Baltic coast to the harbor towns of Aerø Island and the cool pine forests of Sweden's Lake District. And the best thing about a hard day's ride? Evenings spent lounging in the Swedish sauna. Outfitter: Euro-Bike and Walking Tours When to Go: June–July Price: $3,900 Difficulty: Moderate
Indonesia: Tall-Ship Sailing the Bali and Flores Seas
It looks like a prop from The Princess Bride, but the century-old tall ship Adelaar is a prime sailing machine. It cruises east from Balifor 11 days and through the remote tropical archipelago Nusa Tenggara, detouring to let you snorkel the coral surrounding Rinca Island and deserted Banta Island in search of butterfly fish and Spanish dancers. On Komodo Island, you'll prowl the Komodo National Park with a guide to look for the nine-foot-long man-eating Komodo dragon. Outfitter: Wilderness Travel When to Go: July–August, December Price: $3,200 Difficulty: Easy
Irian Jaya: Visiting Papua New Guinea's Stone Age Peoples
Irian Jaya, an Indonesian province comprising the Western half of the island of Papua New Guinea, is inhabited by hundreds of tribes who practice a way of life that dates back to the Stone Age. On this 14-day trip, you'll visit with the Dani people of the Baliem Valley and the Asmat of the southern coast and witness traditional ceremonies (such as the Bisj pole ceremony which commemorates dead warriors). You'll hike through lush mangrove forests and down sandy beaches as your native Irian guides point out the best parts of their homeland. Outfitter: Geographic Expeditions When to go: June, September Price: $5000 Difficulty: Strenuous
Prince Edward Island: Cycling Historic Canada
You'll start your 7-day cycling tour in the P.E.I. capital Charlottetown before moving down the road to Canada's Brackley Beach National Park. Then you'll pedal through rolling farmland on to the fishing village of Victoria, known for its light houses and blue heron colony. Besides magnificent seascapes, choice seafood, and a dose of island life, you'll learn much mire than you ever thought possible about the influences behind Anne of Green Gables, P.E.I.'s literary claim to fame. Outfitter: Classic Adventures When to go: July Price: $1295 Difficulty: Moderate
Madagascar: Wildlife Safari
For millennia, Madagascar has been separated from mainland Africa, allowing an amazing array of unusual and interesting creatures to develop. On this 19-day trip, Allen Bechky, a world-renowned authority on safari and bush travel, will lead you into the rain forests of Perinet, the Coral Gardens of Isalo, the Spiny Forest of Ifaty, and the badland canyons of Isalo. You'll see some of the island's wildlife--indri, aye-aye, and sifaka to name a few--and gain a deep understanding of their place in one of the world's most unique ecosystems. Outfitter: Mountain Travel Sobek When to Go: April, May, June Price: $4750 Difficulty: Easy
Washington: Sea Kayaking the San Juan Islands
You'll start your six-day adventure on San Juan Island, one of more than 200 island in the San Juan archipelago. Paddling through forested islets, you'll be in the prime location to spot some of the more than 80 orca whales who call the San Juans home. The evenings are spent in beach camps, where classic Northwest cuisine (roast salmon!) is served as you watch the sun set over the Pacific Outfitter: REI Adventures When to Go: June, July, August, September Price: $895 Difficulty: Moderate


Greece: Cycling Crete
The double steeps: Crete is steeped in history--you'll pass by the ruins of Knossos, Gortyn, and Festos on your week-long journey--and Crete's roads are steep. On this cycling trip you'll power up the islands rugged mountains and coastline as you cycle from inn to inn and taverna to taverna experiencing the best hospitality the Cretans have to offer. Flower-festooned houses greet you as you come out of the mountains and into inland villages. And although it's ancient, Crete loves new visitors. Outfitter: The Northwest Passage When to Go: May, October Price: $1890 Difficulty: Moderate

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