Odenza Reviews: Beauty in Your Own Backyard

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Both meditative and mind-blowing, the magnificent national parks of Canada and the United States offer travelers breathtaking views while simultaneously protecting natural heritage for generations to come. From snow-capped mountains and turquoise lakes to lush forests and red rock canyons, there is wonder to be found from sea to shining sea. And, while you might not be able to visit these parks in person now, we encourage you to immerse yourself in these lush locales to inspire your future travels.

Canada

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Atlantic Canada’s second largest national park is a starkly beautiful expanse of craggy, mist-shrouded mountains, wind-swept highlands and landlocked fjords on the eastern coast of Newfoundland. From its rocky beaches and lush coastal forests to its barren lands, this geologically fascinating and breathtakingly scenic park is punctuated by the panoramic peak of Gros Morne Mountain and the ancient glacial and geological formations called the Tablelands. Here, you can ascend from flower-filled lowlands high into the alpine tundra in search of caribou, ptarmigan (also known as a snow quail) and snowshoe hare. Paddle past the sheer cliff sides of Western Brook Pond, a waterfall-fed freshwater fjord, and explore coastal pathways and trails leading to beaches hidden among sea stacks – all the while soaking up the colorful traditions of the charming seaside communities that make Newfoundland so unique.

Thousand Islands National Park, Ontario

Sitting on the St. Lawrence River, on the border between Canada and the United States, Thousand Islands National Park is one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Ontario. Its rugged shoreline and islands are dotted with opulent estates, including the famous Boldt Castle. The European style mansion, on Heart Island, is one of the main attractions, but its history is mired in sadness. The castle was the dream of millionaire George C. Boldt, an American hotelier who built this summer home as a display of his love for his wife, Louise. Unfortunately, she passed away suddenly before the castle was completed, and the broken-hearted Mr. Boldt stopped construction and never set foot on the island again. For over 70 years, the structure was vacant, left to mercy of the elements until the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property. Today, visitors who embark on a Thousand Island cruise can visit the castle (a passport is required to disembark on the island) and enjoy the stunning views of the St. Lawrence River. Other islands offer visitors hiking trails, canoe or paddling excursions and overnight accommodations.

Jasper National Park, Alberta

The largest of Canada’s seven Rocky Mountain National Parks, which together comprise a UNESCO World Heritage site, Jasper is an alpine wilderness teeming with wildlife, including bighorn sheep, moose, eagles, elk, wolves, lynx, cougars and grizzly bears. Here, nature is writ large – from massive glaciers and snow-capped peaks to towering waterfalls, deep canyons and pine scented valleys. In summer, you can stroll through meadows carpeted with brilliant swathes of delicate wildflowers, soak in the restorative waters of natural hot springs and paddle across pristine emerald lakes, or camp, hike, bike and even backcountry horseback ride over rugged mountain trails. In winter, there are opportunities for canyon ice walks, cross-country and downhill skiing, pond skating, snowshoeing and wildlife watching.

Pacific Rim National Park, British Columbia

Saturated in millennia-old indigenous Nuu-chah-nulth culture and famed for its rugged coastline dotted with enormous beaches and old growth rainforest, Pacific Rim National Park is one of Canada’s most popular National Parks. Stretching south from the whale-watching center of Tofino, the park spans part of Vancouver Island’s wild west coast – famous for its spectacular Pacific storms that draw awed visitors from around the world. Take an easy interpretive stroll along the picturesque Wild Pacific Trail near Ucluelet or a challenging multi-day trek along the legendary West Coast Trail. Learn to cold water surf like the pros. Paddle among the Broken Islands, one of the world’s premier sea kayaking destinations. Whale-watch from shore or on a boat, keeping an eye out for some of the estimated 20,000 grey and Orca whales that transit past here each year. Explore one of the world’s oldest temperate rainforests at Clayoquot Sound. Or kick back and relax while watching a ferocious winter squall pummel the shoreline while you dine in style on classic west coast cuisine.

Kluane National Park, Yukon

Kluane National Park and Reserve is truly an extraordinary destination, set within the traditional territory of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. On top of being home to the largest non-polar icefields in the world, the park is a hiker’s paradise as it comprises 17 of Canada’s tallest mountains – including Mount Logan, the highest peak in the country. Two modern highways allow visitors access to the park, where they can enjoy scenic drives and watch Dall sheep grazing or resting on the mountainsides, black bears roaming in search of food, and herds of mountain goats climbing to the summits. For visitors seeking adventure, the park offers numerous hiking trails from short family friendly paths to multi-day expeditions. Rafting is also available on the Alsek River to see grizzlies, eagles and glaciers. For a behind-the-scenes look at the wildlife, flightseeing tours offer a great opportunity for some unique encounters with nature and spectacular photo ops. A visit to the Thachäl Dhäl Visitor Centre is a must to get historical details of the region and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.

The United States

The South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon encompasses just over one million acres and three distinct forest environments, measuring 277 miles long. From Grand Canyon Village, the drop measures a vertical mile, or approximately 5,000 feet from Rim to River. (No, there is no elevator to the bottom!) The width ranges 10 to 18 feet across. Putting that in practical terms, if you hike the canyon or go down by mule, it takes two days. If you hike from the South to North Rim, the trek is three days one way. For a real adventure, raft through the Canyon; the trip can take up to two weeks. That said, the park offers a variety of sight-seeing opportunities for people of all ages and fitness levels. Scenic rim tours by motor coach are an excellent way to maximize your time and see the key viewpoints.

The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

For a quieter, less crowded visit, make the 4.5-hour drive to the North Rim. North Rim is open May 15 to October 15 and there is only one lodge in the park, so reserve well in advance. The North Rim offers numerous hiking trails and mule rides from 1 hour long to 2.5 days.

Petrified Forest National Park

The Petrified Forest was designated a national park to preserve and protect multi-colored stones, trees, plant and animal fossils, Native American sites and petroglyphs, and portions of the Painted Desert, along with a section of Historic Route 66. The landscape is diverse in color, wide open and somewhat flat with plateaus spanning miles. Visit the Hoodoos, natural stone towers at Devil’s Playground, or do some geocaching. The National Park Service set up a series of geocaching clues that can be accessed from your own GPS system through the park website. The visitor’s center displays some amazing samples of petrified trees and clearly explains the evolutionary process of fossils – great for the kids if you are traveling as a family.

Arches National Park

Here you will find the densest concentration of natural stone arches in the world, with over 2,000 documented arches! A special experience is the park’s night skies program. Here, the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye, except on nights of dense cloud cover. Arches offers visitors the opportunity to view dark skies from dusk till dawn, and there are ranger-planned night sky programs on set dates. A unique moment in time here is when the earth and sky blend into the darkness, allowing you to wonder at the beauty and vastness of the universe.

Bryce Canyon National Park

From Arches, it will take around five hours to drive to Bryce Canyon, where you will be awed and inspired by towering stone hoodoos and cliffs in dazzling shades of orange, pink and gold. The hoodoos, according to Paiute legend, were once human before a powerful god called Coyote became angry with them and turned them all to stone. Take in the formation called Thor’s Hammer on the Navajo Trail – a must-see for movie and comic book fans. The park is open year-round, but access may be restricted during winter months due to road conditions. There is nothing more beautiful than snow covering the glimmering red rocks at sunrise. The park even offers snowshoeing in winter months as part of their planned ranger program.

Zion National Park

Zion was Utah’s first National Park. The name means “Place of peace and refuge”. The Narrows, truly the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, has white and pink walls as high as a thousand feet tall, and the river is sometimes just 20 to 30 feet wide. It is one of the most popular areas in the park and can be seen by hiking along the paved, wheelchair-accessible Riverside Walk for one mile from the Temple of Sinawava. If you wish to see more, you will be walking through the Virgin River, which can involve wading upstream for a few minutes or become an all-day hike. There is only one historic lodge inside the park and two restaurants, so dining is limited. If the lodge is sold out, your agent can find a variety of lodging options nearby. From April to October transportation through the park is by shuttle only, but private cars can take the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway year-round.

There is so much more to see throughout North America, and the national parks of Canada and the United States offer a variety of opportunities to get out and explore the great outdoors. So, start planning your future exploration now – we’ll be back out there before you know it.

Odenza Reviews Monteverde, Costa Rica

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Monteverde is a town in mountainous northwestern Costa Rica. It’s renowned for its beautiful forests in the clouds. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve shelters countless wildlife species, including jaguars, ocelots and the strikingly colored quetzal. Cut through ferns and orchids on the reserve’s exceptional trails and walk above the forest canopy on suspended bridges.

From pristine beaches, to tropical forests, and rugged mountain terrain, there is almost no landscape that Costa Rica can’t offer you, but the crown jewels of the outdoors are the nation’s cloud forests.

Skyline Trail, Cape Breton

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The Cape Breton Highlands National Park has many trails, ranging form short family walks to spectacular hiking expeditions like the Skyline Trail,  a seven-kilometer looping trail. It lies on the western side of the Cabot Trail, near French Mountain’s summit. This trail is well known for its scenic views.

A dramatic headland cliff overlooks the rugged coast from the end of this level trail. You can enjoy an eagle’s view of the Cabot Trail as it winds its way down the mountain and vehicles look like toys. Watch for whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the viewing decks. Moose, bald eagles, bears and numerous boreal birds live in this habitat.

Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

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One of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand; the power of Fiordland’s scenery never fails to enthrall travelers. Fiordland National Park has spectacular ice-carved fiords, lakes and valleys, rugged granite tops and pristine mountain to sea vistas.

Rising above stunning Milford Sound is Mitre Peak, rising 1692 m above sea level and adding awe to any photo, no matter what weather. The Milford Road journey will get you there. Black coral is an underwater beauty and in Fiordland can be seen at shallower depths than elsewhere due to the freshwater layer.

Fiordland National Park features three world class Great Walks tracks with stunning scenery: Kepler Track, Milford Track and Routeburn Track.

 

Kawachi Fuji Garden, Japan

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Kawachi Fuji Gardens in Kitakyushu, Japan is where you will find this pastel-colored floral tunnel.

The gardens are famous for the spectacularly presented, large numbers of wisteria flowers. The garden’s most prominent features are two, roughly 100 meter long tunnels made of wisteria trees of differing varieties and colors, ranging from white to dark purple. There is also a collection of large wisteria trees that together form an enormous roof of drooping flowers. A viewpoint at the top of the hillside garden allows for nice views over the sea of wisteria flowers and the surrounding valley which is also know for its bamboo groves.

Moraine Lake, Alberta

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Moraine Lake is a glacially fed lake in Banff National Park. It is surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, and rock piles, creating a scene so stunning it almost seems unreal. That view of the mountains behind the lake in Valley of the Ten Peaks is known as the “Twenty Dollar View”, as Moraine Lake was featured on the reverse side of the 1969 and 1979 issues of the Canadian twenty dollar bill.

Sit lakeside and absorb the sights and pure mountain air, or explore further by canoeing and hiking.

 

 

Cape Town, South Africa

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The Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway is a new curved steel and timber bridge that winds and dips its way through and over the trees of the Arboretum. The Walkway takes the visitor from the forest floor into and through the trees and bursts out above the canopy, giving spectacular panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains, Garden and Cape Flats.

Located in Kirstenbosch, an important botanical garden nestled at the eastern foot of Table Mountain in Cape Town.