Three Charming Villages on the shores of Lake Chapala

Born in the United Kingdom, Tony Burton, a Cambridge University-educated geographer with a teaching certificate from University of London, first traveled to Mexico after spending three years as a VSO [Voluntary Service Overseas] volunteer teaching geography, and writing a local geography text, on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. From there his travels took him to Mérida in summer 1977, where he spent several weeks backpacking around southern and central Mexico, returning two years later to teach at Greengates School in Mexico City.

Over the next seven years, Tony traveled extensively throughout Mexico, visiting every state at least once, and organizing numerous four-day earth science fieldwork courses for his students. He co-led the school’s extensive aid efforts following the massive 1985 earthquake.

From Mexico City, he moved to Guadalajara, where he continued to organize short, residential fieldwork courses for a number of different schools and colleges and began organizing and leading specialist eco-tours for adult groups to destinations such as Paricutín Volcano, the monarch butterfly sanctuaries, and Copper Canyon.

An award winning author, he’s written numerous books about Mexico including his latest Lake Chapala: A Postcard History (Sombrero Publishing). It’s part of a series he’s written on this region which is located about an hour south of Guadalajara. The 417-square-mile lake, Mexico’s largest, located in the states of Jalisco and Michoacán is situated at an elevation of  5,000ft in the middle of the Volcanic Axis of Mexico and is known for its wonderful climate, laid-back ambience, and is a popular destination for both travelers and ex-pats looking for a charming, low-key place to relocate. The three main towns along the lake are Chapala, Ajijic and Jocotepec. In an intriguing aside, Tony met his wife Gwen Chan Burton when she was working as at the director of the pioneering Lakeside School for the Deaf in Jocotepec. Gwen writes about the school and all that it has accomplished in her book, New Worlds for the Deaf, also published by Sombrero Books.

Tony’s other books about this region include Western Mexico A Traveler’s Treasury, illustrated by Mark Eager, now in its fourth edition; Mexican Kaleidoscope: Myths, Mysteries and Mystique, illustrated by Enrique Veláquez, and Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village. I’ll be covering them in upcoming posts.

Because I’m always interested in foodways, Tony was kind enough to share a copy of an undated Spanish language project put together by students from the Instituto Politécnico Nacional School of Tourism titled “Gastronomy of Jalisco.”  It includes numerous recipes from the region including one for the famous Caldo Michi of Chapala (the recipe is below).

I had the chance to ask Tony, who currently is the editor of MexConnect, Mexico’s leading independent on-line magazine, about Lake Chapala: A Postcard History as well as the time he spent in this beautiful region of Mexico.


How did you first become familiar with Lake Chapala?

I first visited Lake Chapala in early 1980, on my way back to Mexico City from the Copper Canyon and Baja California Sur. Little did I imagine then that it would be where I would later fall in love, get married, and have two children!

What inspired you to write Lake Chapala: A Postcard History?

There is no single overwhelming inspiration. I realized, while living at Lake Chapala and writing my first books about Mexico, that a lot of what had been previously written was superficial and left many unanswered questions. In the hopes of finding answers, I decided to trawl through all the published works (any language) I could find, which resulted in Lake Chapala Through the Ages (2008), my attempt to document and provide context to the accounts of the area written between 1530 and 1910.

My next two books about Lake Chapala—If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s Historic Buildings and Their Former Occupants, and Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of a Change in a Mexican Village—focused on the twentieth century history of the two main centers for the very numerous foreign community now living on ‘Lakeside.’ Part of my motivation was to dispel some of the myths that endlessly recirculate about the local history, as well as to bring back to life some of the many extraordinary pioneering individuals indirectly responsible for the area becoming such an important destination for visitors.

Lake Chapala: APostcard History is my attempt to widen the discussion and summarize the twentieth century history of the entire lake area. Its reliance on vintage postcards makes this a very visual story, one which I hope will appeal to a wide readership, including armchair travelers.



What were some of the challenges you encountered in writing this book? Was it difficulty finding the numerous postcards you included? And doing the extensive research that went into the book? Are there any intriguing stories about hunting down certain postcards and any “aha” moments of discovery when writing your book?

The main challenge was in deciding how best to structure the material. Because of the originality of what I’m doing, it is impractical to follow the advice that writers should start with a detailed plan and then write to that plan! In my case, after collecting the information and ideas that exist, the challenge is to select what can be teased and massaged into a coherent and interesting narrative.

Because the postcard book is the product of decades of research, I had ample time to build my personal collection of vintage postcards, through gifts, auctions and online purchases.

There were many significant “aha” moments in the process: some concerned the photographers and publishers responsible for the postcards and some the precise buildings or events depicted. While I’m saving some of these “aha” moments–because they are central to a future book–one was when it suddenly dawned on me that wealthy businessman Dwight Furness was the photographer of an entire series of cards (Figs 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, etc.) that relate to my next response.



If you could go back in time to visit one of the resorts that is no longer there that you featured in your book, is there one that stands out and why is that?

Ooohhh; I’d love to go back to about 1908 and stay at the Ribera Castellanos resort (Chapter 6) during its heyday. While staying there, perhaps I could interview owner Dwight Furness, his wife and a few guests? Apart from a few ruined walls, Furness’ postcards of the resort are pretty much the only remaining evidence of the hotel. And perhaps one night I could invite local resident and prolific professional photographer Winfield Scott and his wife to dinner to hear their stories?

How long did it take to write Lake Chapala?

The writing took less than a year; but only because of the many prior years of research.

Since I often talk about food and travel, are there any culinary specialties in the Lake Chapala region?

Long standing culinary specialties of the area include (a) Lake Chapala whitefish (b) charales (c) caldo michi. And, when it comes to drinks, there is a very specific link to postcards. The wife of photographer José Edmundo Sánchez, who sold postcards ( Figs 7.5, 7.6 and 7.7) in the 1920s from his lakefront bar in Chapala, is credited with inventing sangrita, still marketed today as a very popular chaser or co-sip for tequila. (Chapter 7, page 74).

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about your book?

I hope readers find the book as fun and interesting to read as it was to write!

MICHI BROTH

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons corn oil
  • ¾ kg of tomato seeded and in pieces
  • ¼ onion in pieces
  • ½ kg carrot, peeled and cut into diagonal slices
  • ½ kg of sliced ​​zucchini
  • 4 or 6 chiles güeros
  • 100 gr. chopped coriander
  • 2 sprigs of fresh oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 ½ liters of water
  • 1kg well washed catfish, yellow carp or red snapper

PREPARATION: Heat the oil and stew the vegetables in it, add water and salt to taste, let it simmer over low heat until the vegetables are well cooked, then add the fish and leave it for a few minutes more until it is soft.

Sangrita

I had the opportunity to stay at Tres Rios Nature Park, a 326-acre eco-resort north of Playa del Carmen and was first introduced to sangrita during my stay. I took several cooking lessons and learned to make a dish with crickets, but that is a different story. Chef Oscar also talked to us about the history of sangrita. The Spanish name is the less-than-appetizing “little blood” but hey, when you’re learning to grill crickets, you can deal with a name like that. The drink, as Tony writes in his postcards book, originated in Chapala in the 1920s.

Here is the excerpt:

”In the same year the Railroad Station opened, Guillermo de Alba had become a partner in Pavilion Monterrey, a lakefront bar in a prime location, only meters from the beach, between the Hotel Arzapalo and Casa Braniff,” he writes. “The co-owner of the bar was José Edmundo Sánchez. Regulars at the bar included American poet Witter Bynner, who first visited Chapala in 1923 in the company of D H Lawrence and his wife, Frieda. Bynner subsequently bought a house near the church. When de Alba left Chapala for Mexico City in 1926, Sánchez and his wife—María Guadalupe Nuño, credited with inventing sangrita as a chaser for tequila—ran the bar on their own. After her husband died in 1933, María continued to manage the bar, which then became known as the Cantina de la Viuda Sánchez (Widow Sánchez’s bar).”

Sangrita is typically used as accompaniment to tequila, highlighting its crisp acidity and helping to cleanse the palate between each peppery sip. According to Chef Oscar, the red-colored drink serves to compliment the flavor of 100% agave tequila. The two drinks, each poured into separate shot glasses, are alternately sipped, never chased and never mixed together.

Here is Chef Oscar’s recipe and below is one from Cholula hot sauce which originated in Chapala. Tony has a great story about that as well. More in my next post on his books.

For one liter of Sangrita:

  • 400 ml. orange juice
  • 400 ml. tomato juice
  • 50 ml. lemon juice
  • 30 ml. Grenadine syrup
  • 20 ml. Worcestershire sauce
  • Maggi and Tabasco hot sauce (mixed up) to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together all the ingredients and serve cold. Suggested duration of chilling : 3 to 4 days.

Cholula’s Sangrita

  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 20 pomegranate seeds
  • 3 fresh sprigs of cilantro or to taste
  • 1/2 stalk celery
  • 3 teaspoons smoked coarse sea salt or sal de gusano, divided
  • 1 tablespoon Cholula® Original Hot Sauce

Place all ingredients except salt in blender container, with about 1 cup ice cubes. Puree until smooth.Strain twice though a fine mesh sieve, discarding any solids.

Rim shot glasses with sea salt. Serve sangrita cold in rimmed shot glasses alongside your favorite tequila.

12 Great Reasons to Visit Lancaster, Ohio This Holiday Season

A new post by award winning travel writer Kathy Witt, author of Cincinnati Scavenger; Secret Cincinnati: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful & Obscure; The Secret of the Belles; and Atlanta, Georgia: A Photographic Portrait.

A new Christmas event based on a German tradition. The largest nativity display east of the Mississippi. And Mike, Carol and the “whole bloomin’ Brady Bunch.” See them all this holiday season on Fairfield County’s Tinsel and Traditions Trail in the Pressed Glass Capital of Ohio – Lancaster – once the world headquarters for the Anchor Hocking Glass Company.

Play

See the grooviest Christmas toys, togs and traditions around at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio at A Very Brady Holiday, part of A Storybook Christmas exhibit, on display through December 31. From Carol Brady’s mod Grand Canyon pantsuit to the Brady Kids’ 1970 album, “Merry Christmas from the Brady Bunch,” to Greg’s fringed Johnny Bravo costume, you’ll step into a time capsule of seventies flower power.

See the Rock’em Sock’em Robots, original Barbie, an Etch A Sketch and other iconic toys and boardgames from the past piled beneath the aluminum tree with color wheel illumination. The exhibit also features 1950s-era pop-up books, vintage Christmas cards and ornaments from beloved storybooks and shows, including “The Wizard of Oz” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Christmas shopping highlights along the Tinsel and Traditions Trail are distinctive and diverse. One-of-a-kind glasswork and barware at Gay Fad Studios, which tells the story of legendary glassware artist and entrepreneur Fran Taylor, who made her mark in the 1930s and 1940s, is stunning and affordable. Loosely translated, the studio’s name means fun, happy designs – and the new and vintage mid-century-inspired glassware, stemware and gifts are all that and more.

If candymaker Alice DuBois seems more like a kid in a candy store, chalk it up to the Candy Cottage owner’s irrepressible love of her job. DuBois is happy to help visitors choose from among the small-batch chocolates made onsite, novelty treats and holiday goodies – for yourself or as gifts. A coffee bar was recently added, and a cappuccino or latte sipped with the confectioner’s dark chocolate buttercreams is a sublime experience.

The Humble Crate is a veritable makers market of handcrafted gift items from more than 70 Ohio artists: soft and sweet baby afghans, original hand-painted snowman creations, Smelly Jellies scented soy candles, hats and fingerless gloves by But First, Crochet, aromatic Kampfire Coffee and more. You could find the perfect gift for everyone on your list with one visit to this hodgepodge of homespun.

Trail experiences include the holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” on Dec. 1, 2 and 3; the month-long Fontanini Nativity Display at the Crossroads Ministry Center, with life-size figurines made in Italy set in a finely detailed Neapolitan-style nativity featuring temple ruins in place of a traditional stable; and several Christmas tree farms with both pre-cut and cut-your-own firs and pines, and offering an array of extras like hot chocolate and crafts, petting zoo and horse-drawn wagon rides.

Eat

Crisscrossing the Tinsel and Traditions Trail is Fairfield County’s 12 coffee shop-strong Java Trail. Bring the little ones to the family-friendly Well and sip a deliciously fragrant turmeric chai latte from a comfy nook while the kids romp in a four-level playhouse. Pair an espresso at Provisions Bakery & Deli with its no one-can-eat-just-one chocolate chip cookies – and pick up a good cab from the shop’s wall of wine for enjoying later.

Slip behind a case filled with t-shirts and other souvenirs and into the secret game room and workspace hidden beyond at L-City, where you can grab a macchiato and pastry. Across the hall is the Downtown Bistro & Bar 123, a favorite gathering place serving salmon and sirloin, burgers and small bites in a casual, comfortable setting. Located in a historic, circa 1940s hotel in the heart of downtown Lancaster, the bistro is known for a staff that feels more like visiting with old friends.

Treat

A new holiday event makes its debut in Lancaster on December 1: The Advent Window Walk features 24 consecutive Big Reveals of brilliantly colored holiday scenes lighting up the windows of two dozen grand and gracious homes in Lancaster’s Square Thirteen Historic District. Think of it as a large-scale advent calendar, with a new window lighting up each successive night during the countdown to Christmas.

The brainchild of resident Joseph Taylor, who will flip the switch on his home’s window on Christmas Eve, the Advent Window Walk was inspired by similar Christmas events in Europe –  and just might be the only one of its kind in the United States.

Event

On New Year’s Eve, Lancaster celebrates its glass heritage with the Glass Town Countdown, a family-friendly street party held downtown at Zane Square and followed by a fireworks show. The centerpiece of the event is the Giant Glass Globe, which is raised rather than lowered, and comprises hundreds of hand-blown glass ornaments, each individually hand-painted. Prior to New Year’s Eve, the Giant Glass Globe may be seen inside the Ohio Glass Museum, which offers glassblowing classes for those wishing to create their own glass ornaments.

If You Go

For more information about things to see and do on Lancaster’s Tinsel and Traditions Trails and the Glass Town Countdown New Year’s Eve celebration, visit www.visitfairfieldcounty.org or download the Visit Fairfield County app (iPhone, Android) and find shopping, attractions, activities, accommodations, restaurants and more.

Recipes

Christmas cookies and Christmas candy. Is there anything sweeter during the holidays? Here are two recipes from Fairfield County’s Tinsel and Traditions Trail.

Provisions Bakery & Deli Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 C packed light brown sugar
  • 2/3 C granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 12 oz chocolate chips

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Beat the butter and both sugars together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to medium and add flour mixture. Mix just until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips with rubber spatula.

Using a tablespoon, scoop 12 heaping scoops of cookie dough 2 inches apart on lined baking trays. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cool and serve. Makes a dozen cookies.

The Candy Cottage Buckeye Candy

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Parkay margarine
  • 2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 lb. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 lb. milk or semisweet chocolate flavored coating

Instructions

Cream margarine and peanut butter. Add vanilla. Stir in powdered sugar, a cup at a time until consistency is not sticky.

Roll in 1 1 /2-inch balls or use cookie scoop for consistent size. Dip with a toothpick into melted chocolate coating. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.

Pinch to cover hole made by toothpick. Place into paper cups and serve. Makes about 90 pieces.

About Guest Blogger Kathy Witt

Writer and author Kathy Witt is a member of SATW Society of American Travel Writers and the Authors Guild

She is the author of Secret Cincinnati; The Secret of the Belles; Atlanta, GA: A Photographic Portrait

NEWCincinnati Scavenger: The Ultimate Search for Cincinnati’s Hidden Treasures arriving October 2022.

NEWPerfect Day Kentucky: Daily Itineraries for the Discerning Traveler arriving Fall 202

Nine Reasons Not to Miss Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas

Various Scenes from Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Presented by Humana on December 17, 2021 in Pigeon Forge, TN © Curtis Hilbun/Dollywood

Last week Mindy Bianca @mindybiancapr.com introduced her newest employee, an elf named Jolly Jinglebutton who, I have to admit, had some great holiday travel destination. Well, it turns out the elf is back and, as he puts it, excited as a reindeer in a carrot patch because “I get to tell you all about one of my favorite places on the entire planet … Dollywood!”

File this under “who would have thought” but it seems Dolly Parton, owner of Dollywood, is an elf favorite, having recently been voted as their Very Favorite Human Ever. I wonder how Santa and Mrs. Claus feel about that as they’re humans too—I think. But anyway, everyone loves Dolly Parton and they’ll probably love her a lot more when they find out about all the special fun things going on at Dollywood from now until January 1st. By the way, in case you didn’t know, Dollywood has been awarded the title of Best Theme Park Christmas Event a whopping 14 times,  

Various Scenes from Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Presented by Humana on December 17, 2021 in Pigeon Forge, TN © Curtis Hilbun/Dollywood

Here are nine reasons not to miss Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas.

Lights!

Six million of them, to be exact … spread across 160 acres. I’m not very math-y, but I’m here to tell you that it equates to A LOT of lights. They introduced a million new lights this year, so a park that already glistened and gleamed now also shimmers and shines. Hooray! There’s something bright and festive around every corner, which means that a walk around Dollywood will make you as giddy as a double espresso with a chocolate chip chaser. Every themed area of the park gets its own look and feel, so it’s kind of like you’re taking a stroll through a series of magical winter wonderlands.

Opening of Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas and Glacier Ridge held on November 9, 2019, at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. © Curtis Hilbun / Dollywood

Fireworks!

As if the lights all over the park – in every tree and on every surface – weren’t enough, on Friday and Saturday nights, they put a bunch of lights up in the sky … in the form of the “Merry and Bright!” fireworks show. The colorful display is set to upbeat, contemporary holiday hits and it’s quite a way to end a weekend night in the park. It warms my little heart to see kids try to make it to the end of the day so they can be awake for the whole show. I guess it gives them good practice for trying to stay up late to see Santa, but we all know how that works out …

Trees!

There are hundreds of trees throughout the park – and they decorated even more this year, just to literally up the voltage – but I have two favorites. One is the 50-foot giant evergreen in Glacier Ridge. This magical tree does a whole synchronized music and light show that ends with – wait for it – snow falling! I didn’t think anything could get better than that, but this year they really decked out the part of the park called Adventures in Imagination. The lights here are pink, platinum and gold – VERY Dolly – and they introduced a new 20-foot tree in an area they’re calling “Dolly’s Christmas.” Guess what else you’ll find there? About 60 LED butterflies! What reindeer are to Santa, butterflies are to Dolly. They’re her spirit animal.

Opening of Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas and Glacier Ridge held on November 9, 2019, at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. © Curtis Hilbun / Dollywood

Santa!

Speaking of Santa, I don’t think it’ll surprise you to know that he and Dolly are pals. They’re so close, in fact, that she talked him into getting himself a little Smoky Mountain cabin so they can be neighbors! His cabin magically appears inside Dollywood throughout the month of November and right until Christmas Day.(After that, as you can imagine, Santa gets to take a little vacation.) You can get a sneak peek inside the cabin to watch Santa at work and – bonus – if you look closely enough, you can actually see if YOUR name is on his Naughty or Nice List! I have personally witnessed kids turn from grumpy to grand in a matter of seconds so they can be assured that they’ll show up on the correct list!

Music!

Various Scenes from DollywoodÕs Smoky Mountain Christmas Presented by Humana on December 17, 2021 in Pigeon Forge, TN © Curtis Hilbun/Dollywood

Let’s face it: Dolly Parton isn’t going to have a theme park with lousy entertainment, is she? Dollywood is legendary in the amusement industry for having some of the best performances and performers. There are so many shows here, in fact, that the park uses both indoor and outdoor venues. The headliner is called “Christmas in the Smokies,” and it’s a show that has been featured here every Christmas since 1990. Music is an incredibly important part of life here in the Smokies – and obviously something that Dolly loves – so get ready to tap your toes as part of your visit. MY toes are clad in special little booties with bells on the end, so you’ll know when I’m in the audience near you!

Various Scenes from DollywoodÕs Smoky Mountain Christmas Presented by Humana on December 17, 2021 in Pigeon Forge, TN © Curtis Hilbun/Dollywood

Food!

We elves may be small, but we have big appetites … and I’m here to tell you that Dollywood puts out quite a spread. Let’s see if I can make your mouth water by mentioning some of my favorite hyphenated foods: herb-roasted turkey breast and citrus-glazed carved ham. Or how about chicken pot pie in a bread cone? Yeah, I said it … BREAD CONE! I love to carb load before a long night of delivering gifts, and I can promise you that I’m taking this recipe back to Mrs. Claus. There are also eggnog cupcakes and gingerbread-dusted funnel cakes, and I think I’ve convinced my favorite North Pole barista, Spazzy Sparkleshots, to start serving those at her café.

Rides!

Let’s not forget that this is a theme park, and most of the rides operate even in these cooler months. That means you can race through the night sky while millions of lights twinkle below. And you know what? I can tell you from first-hand experience that it’s a lot like how Santa feels when he takes his sleigh ride on Christmas Eve!

Opening of Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas and Glacier Ridge held on November 9, 2019, at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. © Curtis Hilbun / Dollywood

Gifts!

Some people love Christmas shopping, others dread it. I’m an elf, so we don’t shop … we MAKE gifts. And so do the craftsmen at Dollywood, who – if they weren’t so tall and didn’t enjoy life in the Smokies so much – could probably be recruited for Santa’s Workshop. Everything they create would make a perfect gift, and they’re also preserving some of the greatest arts of these mountains. Sometimes they even let YOU do the creating, like when the glassblower coaches you in how to make your very own glass Christmas ornament!

Stay!

If you’re thinking there’s a lot to do at Dollywood and you’ll need more than a day here to take it all in, you’re absolutely right. So, it’s kind of perfect that in addition to this award-winning theme park, there’s also a beautiful resort. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa offers families plenty of food, entertainment and décor during the holiday season. I love the two-story Christmas tree that greets you as you enter the resort. It’s very sparkly … just like me!

Whew! That was a lot to share, but I feel like I barely scratched the surface.

Remember … this Christmas, keep it holly, keep it jolly, keep it Dolly!

Holiday Cheers,

Jolly

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NEW! SLEEP IN A GLASS IGLOO FROZEN INTO A GLACIAL LAGOON ON A PRIVATE HOLIDAY IN ICELAND

“Glacier Lagoon Adventure Program” Offers Distinctive Way to View the Northern Lights on Your Own Private Tour of the Glacial Area

 Available for booking now for dates from mid-January through March 2023, two new glass igloos frozen into a secluded lagoon will open to guests for their first winter offering the chance to sleep next to a glacier in Iceland. Part of an exclusive, private tour from  Northern Lights specialists Off the Map Travel,  the “igloo boats” are accessible only by boat or all-terrain vehicles and float during the summer months and freeze into the ice as the temperatures fall.

The new fully guided five-night/six-day Private Glacier Lagoon Adventure  program allows guests to overnight on the lagoon by the Vatnajokull glacier for the first time and has been designed to optimize the possibility of experiencing the Northern Lights. This program is an exclusive one, designed for the utmost in luxury and adventure, with a guide at your disposal at all times for recommendations and excursions including a private glacier hike and sightseeing.

From a hidden (and dark) part of the Fjallsarlon glacial lagoon on the southern coast of Iceland, the transparent igloos sit in a position where watching the stars and Icelandic Northern Lights becomes the focus of the evening. The new experience takes full advantage of this dark setting as there is no light pollution and the igloos have panoramic glass walls for uninterrupted views north.

Isolated from tourists in an uninhabited corner of Iceland, the new igloos encourage connection with nature and the stunning snow-covered wilderness. The igloos measure nine square meters and come equipped with a cozy and generous double bed, bathroom, panoramic windows, Wi-Fi and hot drinks. The igloos are warmed by central heating, ensuring comfortable night sky viewing.

“This is a magical way to experience the Northern Lights and the quiet beauty of the Scandinavian winter wilderness,” says Alex Minnis, Chief Operations Officer of Off the Map Travel. “It’s pretty amazing to sleep secluded in an igloo that’s been frozen into a lagoon of glacial meltwater. You get a true feeling of the imposing glacier framed by the vast star-filled arctic sky. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll see the dancing Aurora Borealis.”

Itinerary

The new five-night, six-day Private Glacier Lagoon Adventure includes a night in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, followed by a guided road trip with driver to Myrdalsjokull with breath-taking views of the southern coastline. Guests will then enjoy a privately guided scenic tour and dinner at the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon before spending a night beneath the sky in a private glass igloo overlooking the stunning Vatnajokull glacier. 

During the day, guests can choose to marvel at the glacier up close or visit nearby Diamond Beach with its black sand and scattering of sparkling shards of ice.

Northern lights Hotel Rangá

After the igloo night on the lagoon, guests will continue along the coast to Hotel Ranga for the final night of the program.

The private five-night, six-day Glacier Lagoon Adventure trip is priced at $8799 USD per person at the time of this writing, based on two people traveling. This includes all accommodations, a private boat tour to an island with Champagne and lunch, a guided trip to a special location to be determined by weather and seasonal conditions, a private guide and driver for the duration of the itinerary, and daily breakfast. For more information visit https://www.offthemap.travel/glacier-lagoon-adventure/

Detailed itinerary – Private Glacial Lagoon Adventure

Day 1

Arrive into Reykjavik and meet your driver for your at the Hotel Borg in the city center and tour. With the guidance and recommendations of your guide, spend the evening at leisure exploring the city’s museums, restaurants and more. 

Day 2

Join your driver once again for a scenic journey to Myrdalsjokull (approx 2.5 hours) along the southern coastline. The glacier in the south of the Icelandic highlands is the country’s fourth largest ice cap, covering nearly 232 square miles, with a highest peak of 1500 meters. It sits atop the notorious and explosive volcano Katla. After, head to Hotel Katla for the evening and overnight.

Day 3

In the morning you will join your guide once again for a tour to explore the most accessible location on the day — perhaps Hekla Volcano or Landmannalaugar. Upon returning back from your day trip, you will then journey to the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon where you can check-in and have an early dinner before heading to Fjallsarlon for a unique overnight adventure staying in your “igloo boat” overlooking the stunning Vatnajokull glacier.

Day 4 

This day is all about glaciers. The day begins with a drive to your private glacier hike along Skaftafell. This outlet glacier extends from Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Europe.

Day 5 

Travel back along the coastal road stopping at the various viewpoints and natural wonders on the way to Hotel Ranga (approx 3 hours). Relax at the hotel before dinner in the restaurant. 

Day 6

Your driver will return you to Reykjavik Airport (approx 2 hours) for your return flight home. Option to extend your stay if you wish.

OFF THE MAP TRAVEL

The team at Off the Map Travel works with experiences and destinations that allow people to explore hidden wonders of our planet. Specializing in Soft Adventure OTMT creates tailor-made holiday itineraries offering authentic experiences not offered by many larger travel companies.  For more information on Off the Map Travel itineraries visit www.offthemap.travel; call 1-646-701-0041; email info@offthemap.travel  or join in the conversation on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube or Pinterest

Three Great Destinations for Fall Colors and Fun

Hikes, fly fishing, falconry, all-inclusive wilderness retreats, and a view from the top of America’s mountain, no one does Western fall wonder and adventure like The Broadmoor. Here are a variety of different ways (water, air and on top of a mountain) to enjoy those autumn golden aspens that everyone is talking about.

Fall fun by water: Get your boots wet with some Colorado fly fishing.

The Broadmoor’s all-inclusive Wilderness Properties such as Fly Fishing Camp are where fall colors and adventure combine.

For more water wonder, stay at The Broadmoor and take advantage of an autumn hike at Seven Falls.

For more water wonder, stay at The Broadmoor and take advantage of an autumn hike at Seven Falls.

The Broadmoor’s Soaring AdventuresEnjoy the tree tops and fresh autumn air with a zip lining experience in the mountains. For more reasons to look up, take advantage of The Broadmoor’s falconry experience which allows the unique opportunity for an up-close encounter with the resort’s majestic birds of prey plus the opportunity to watch them in flight.

A view from the top of the land: The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway

What’s better than a view from the top? America’s highest railway reaching a height of 14,115 feet offers stunning Colorado mountain views and some of the country’s best fall foliage landscapes. 

Cape May, NJ is one of the most underrated beach towns in America.

This charming seaside getaway offers the perfect beach town trip any time of year. Fall is a great time to beat the crowds and enjoy the award-winning beaches, cozy fireplaces, exquisite farm to table dining, and amazing small-town amenities including exploring this Victorian town by foot or bike and enjoying family-friendly fun and shopping. Plus families will also enjoy visiting Beach Plum Farm during harvest season to enjoy a mix of summer and a preview to fall.

Set on 62 acres less than two miles away from the center of Cape May, Beach Plum Farm is a family favorite and provides ingredients to several local restaurants, including the award-winning Ebbitt Room. The farm provides many of the seasonal ingredients used in the delicious food served at Congress Hall, its restaurants and sister properties! Kids love feeding the chickens and exploring the acres of gardens and fields. Cape May is also home to Congress Hall, America’s oldest seaside resort. Check out caperesorts.com

 Sag Harbor & Shelter Island (Hamptons / Eastern Long Island)

Grab a classic novel and head to Baron’s Cove in Sag Harbor, NY. Rich in literary history (the hotel was a favorite of John Steinbeck), this classic all-American hotel sits in one of the best spots in Sag overlooking the harbor making its porch and pool the perfect spot to curl up with a book and enjoy the autumn harbor breezes. Bonus: enjoy some of the East End’s freshest dock to dish dining. Baron’s Cove’s culinary team works closely with local farmers, purveyors, and fishing boats and can name the captain and boat that the restaurant’s daily fish came off of that morning. Baron’s Cove is also one of the few places in town that offers live music every night during the summer and Wednesday through Sunday in the fall.  

Over on Shelter Island, NY, Baron’s Cove’s sister property, The Pridwin Hotel & Cottages, recently reopened its doors after a two-year renovation (recently as in, the ribbon cutting took place mid-July!) Another waterfront property, The Pridwin offers travelers the best of both worlds: the vibes of a luxury lake/adult summer camp getaway with the thrill of the beach (it has its own private beach steps from the hotel). Guests may also take advantage of water sports activities, sunset sailing, private luxury yacht experiences and also the resort’s very own kayaking and paddle boarding. Guests also have the extra perk of fishing off of the resort’s dock.

Heading into the cooler weather, The Pridwin will continue to offer several family friendly programming throughout the fall including lawn games, arts & crafts, live music, kids cooking classes, nature walks, hiking in Mashomack; farm tours with local Sylvester Manor Farm; plus yoga on the lawn programming for children.

The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Grand Geneva Resort: Fall fun, frights, and culinary delights

More than a year-round destination for adventure, fun, and relaxation, Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin should also be on every serious foodies list as well. That’s because, under the direction of Food & Beverage Director, Nelly Buleje and new Executive Chef Dustin Urbanik, this popular resort is dishing up exceptional seasonal flavors on their new fall menus.

From the resort’s popular elevated Saturday brunch which are focusing on such autumn delights as pumpkin pancakes and fall flavored mimosas to in-house made desserts like apple crumble to seasonal soups and sides such as lobster bisque with Maine lobster sherry, tarragon, lobster brodo, sourdough crisp and caviar; truffle creamed spinach with black truffle, mornay, and farmstead cheese; and rainbow carrots and parsnips with bourbon and maple glaze, the resort and its collection of restaurants are bursting with fall flavors.

There’s also an impressive new fall cocktail menu with selections like Wisconsin Apple Old Fashioned; Smoked Maple Mile; a White Pumpkin cocktail; Espresso S’MORES-tini; and more (check out the fun visuals here). By popular demand, the resort’s seafood boil and Midwestern prime rib roasts will run every Friday and Saturday through November 12.

In addition to the new fall flavors, here are some new autumn offerings and programming guests and families can expect:

  • Seasonal outdoor adventures including hiking, biking, an indoor pool and waterpark, horseback riding, championship golf, skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and more.
  • One of the best ways to get around and explore the 1,300 acre-campus and beautiful Lake Geneva as well as Wisconsin’s scenic backroads is by the resort’s scooters and new this year, e-bikes. Rent one for a few hours or take a guided tour around the area with. The perfect way to spend an autumn afternoon with family or a group of friends (must be 18+, check out rules here).
  • Hayrides and waterslides! The resort campus is also home to Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark. Both Grand Geneva and Timber Ridge offer guests on-site haunted hayrides, haunted barns, apple picking opportunities and seasonal packages. Check out Grand Geneva’s packages here; Timber Ridge packages can be found here.
  • Families will also enjoy new programming such as pumpkin painting; DIY caramel apples; excursions to Pearce’s Farm (local farm with fresh produce, kid’s activities and corn maze); and a Grand Escape – the resort’s very own pop up escape room.

Keep an eye on the Wisconsin Fall Color Report for optimal leaf-looking opportunities. 

Photos courtesy of Grand Geneva Resort.

THE WORLD’S MOST LUXURIOUS ULTRAMARATHON RETURNS TO SCOTLAND

Combining Athletic Rigor with Personalized Care and Comfort

The Highland Kings Ultra, the world’s most luxurious ultramarathon experience, returns to Scotland with a new route celebrating the Scottish Highlands around Glencoe.

The four-day Highland Kings Ultra, which combines the physical and mental challenges of a multi-day, multi-terrain ultramarathon with extravagant comfort, will launch the second event of its kind in November 2022.

Covering 120 miles of rugged yet scenic terrain on Scotland’s west coast, the ultramarathon experience begins in November 2022 with a complete training program under the guidance of some of the most accomplished athletes and professionals in the world, followed by the ultramarathon in April 2023 through the dramatic Highlands of Scotland. The course traverses mountains and valleys, winding through forests and over rocky mountain terrain, celebrating the varying physical features of the Scottish wilderness including an ascent of 18,000 feet. 

The Highland Kings Ultra, so-named for Scottish kings Kenneth McAlpin, Alexander III and Robert the Bruce who helped to shape the region, has been designed for those who want to tackle a real physical challenge but prefer to do it in style and unwind with the finer things in life.

Participation in the training program and ultramarathon can be booked now at www.highland-kings.com,

 Training and Preparation

Athletes taking on the challenge will embark on a six-month training program, beginning November 2022, with some of the biggest names in the sport including reigning world-champion ultra runner Jonathan Albon, along with international sports notables.

Anna-Marie Watson, elite athlete and coach and winner of the Oman by UTMB; Andy Blow, fuelling and hydration expert; Alison Rose, physio for Olympic athletes; and Alan Murchison, a Michelin-starred chef experienced in devising nutritional plans for Olympic athletes.

Jonathan Albon, the undefeated OCR World Champion, Trail World Champion and Ultra SkyRunning World Champion, commented, “For both fun runners or more serious athletes, this is a great opportunity to really challenge yourself and see what you’re made of. The detail that’s gone into the experience from the training build-up to the days of the event is simply incredible. Our goal to prepare for both the physical and mental challenges that lie ahead.”

The Ultramarathon

Scheduled for April 2023, the 120-mile ultramarathon takes place against the backdrop of Scotland’s rugged west coastline traversing the deep valley and towering mountains of Glencoe, and finishing at the foot of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland, the United Kingdom, and the British Isles.

During the event itself, participants will receive ongoing personalized and lavish care with butler service delivered by Simeon Rosset, butler to royalty, world leaders and a-list celebrities; meals prepared by a Michelin-starred chef; and physical conditioning with Olympic physiotherapists.

Athletes will rest and sleep in a purpose-built athlete village on the grounds of a traditional Scottish country estate with high-quality, glamping-style Lotus Belle tents. Each room is furnished with a king-sized bed with memory foam mattress, fine bedding and linens changed each day, wooden furniture, cushions, throws, sheepskin rug, lighting, and storage. 

Communal areas for relaxation and recovery include a hydrotherapy pool after-care.

Matt Smith, founder of Primal Adventures, creator of adventuring and luxury wilderness experiences and organizer of the Highland Kings Ultra, said “The Highland Kings Ultra combines the physical and mental challenges of an ultramarathon with the ultimate in luxury. “For this one-of-a-kind event, we chose the stunning location along Scotland’s coastline, for both the race and the training by elite coaches with advice, mentoring and testing to prepare them for a true physical challenge. In short, they will run like warriors and recover like kings,” he added.

Athlete Sian Slater, who is returning after taking part in the first event, said: “The mentoring and coaching programs are superb and great value. You are working with the best athletes, coaches and experts in the world to prepare yourself for the event – something I never thought possible. I learned so much and got to the start line in the best shape – and with a really positive mindset to take on the 120-mile challenge.” She added, “One thing I wasn’t expecting was the community we created around the training. By the time we got to the event, there was a camaraderie that pushed and supported us through the event. I can’t wait to do it again.”

Background

Smith notes that the success of the inaugural event convinced the team to develop it into an annual experience. “The first event was a fantastic spectacle. The athletes who took part said they thoroughly enjoyed the experience, with some wanting to return for a second time.”

The event is the only one of its kind anywhere in the world, with the physical and mental challenges of an ultramarathon combined with the ultimate in luxury. Participants will be pushed to their absolute limit on the run but will also get the chance to relax in luxury each night.

“This is not for everyone,” Smith said. “There are many other events that follow the traditional aspects of ultra running. We are doing something a bit different here. This ultramarathon is for those who seek the physical challenge but with unparalleled comfort, luxury, and athlete support.”

American marathoner Adam Geyer took part in the first Highland Kings ultramarathon alongside his brother, forming a West Coast-East Coast USA team. He commented, “I was buoyed by the opportunity to challenge myself together with my brother, supported by Alex Paxton, our PT, and Alison Rose who changed my training routine. I had a knee injury and they helped to modify my shoe selection and strengthening exercises, and I was completely pain-free for the whole marathon. These are memories that we’ll never forget – this was different from anything we had ever done before.”

Details

Spots are available for the six-month training program and event, priced at $18,200 USD per person and are available at www.highland-kings.com. Event-only tickets are priced at $9924 USD and will be offered to experienced ultra runners who have completed an event with an ITRA event score of at least four points or a UTMB index rating of 100km or more.

For more information visit www.highland-kings.com

 ABOUT HIGHLAND KINGS

Highland Kings is the world’s first luxury ultramarathon, consisting of four days and covering 120 miles of rugged yet scenic terrain on Scotland’s west coast. Designed by Ex Special Forces communicator with an expert support crew for each athlete throughout, the luxury wilderness ultramarathon experience begins with six months of physical and mental preparation and continues with the four-day ultramarathon with the support of 24-hour butler and Michelin-starred chef service, physiotherapists, athlete mentors, comfortable accommodations and more.

Photos: Steve Kelly.