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Reconnecting with nature has been shown to offer a wealth of mental and physical benefits, not to mention the sheer enjoyment being surrounded by beautiful scenery can bring. If you hope to experience a vacation that offers the chance to immerse yourself in nature, these destinations are ideal.
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In Lapland, in northern Finland, there are igloos, hotel rooms and other accommodation options that were specially designed for enjoying the spectacular colorful natural light show known as the Aurora Borealis. Oulanka National Park is just one great spot in this region for viewing the dancing lights during the aurora sighting season, which falls in October and November as well as March and April. This magnificent park in the far north sits among a breathtaking rugged landscape of snow-covered forests with candle spruces standing frozen before a backdrop of the brilliant aurora. During the day, enjoy cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing or even igloo building. Cozy log cabins located right in the park are ideal for laying your head down at night and make a great base to combine a vacation of winter sports with the chance to watch one of the greatest wonders of nature after dark.
Known as “The Nature Island of the Caribbean,” Dominica is an obvious choice for those who want to get back to nature. It has an incredibly lush landscape that includes volcanic hot springs, natural mud baths, countless rivers and waterfalls, unspoiled rain forest and refreshing natural swimming holes. On Black Sand Beach, you can even visit a leatherback, hawksbill and green turtle sanctuary. Dominica is also renowned for its whale watching opportunities, with a resident population of sperm whales that live just off the coast and are often visible from shore. The sheer underwater drop-offs around Dominica create deep, sheltered bays along the western coastline, making the perfect haven for divers to explore, and the sperm whale to breed and calve.
Gros Morne offers striking natural beauty in western Newfoundland. This national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site stretches across nearly 700 square miles as part of the Long Range Mountains. Encircled by tiny seaside communities, it features dense forests, freshwater fjords, dramatic cliffs and picturesque shorelines as well as barren lowlands, bogs and moose. It’s also known for its unique and complex geology, including the Tablelands, a mountain of flat-topped rock – a type of which is usually found only deep in the earth’s mantle, and truly an awe-inspiring sight. Hiking, camping, canoeing and kayaking are all popular here. If camping is a bit too “back to nature” for you, you’ll find plenty of cabin and cottage rentals that will put you right in the heart of it all.
Virgin Gorda offers everything you could ever want in a tropical, getting back to nature retreat. Famous for The Baths, a geological wonder on the north shore made up of giant granite boulders that form sheltered sea pools on the beach’s edge, it seems as if it was perfectly made for a relaxing splash in the water. The protected area also includes Devil’s Bay, ideal for swimming and snorkeling. The North Sound, on the northeast shore of Virgin Gorda, is a major water sports center in the British Virgin Islands, while Gorda Peak National Park offers fabulous hiking opportunities and the chance view Christmas orchids, bromeliads and hummingbirds.
The Swiss Alps offer some of Europe’s most dramatic natural scenery, with lush, green valleys dotted with colorful wildflowers that give way to spectacular snow-covered rocky peaks. Of course, the Matterhorn is its most famous peak, jutting into the sky like a 15,000 foot tall pyramid. The “Mountain of Mountains,” as it’s sometimes called, straddles the Swiss-Italian border, though its highest summit stands in Switzerland. It towers over the picturesque, car-free village of Zermatt, and if you aren’t up for climbing it, you can get to the top by riding a cable car that leads all the way to the summit, the highest scenic outlook platform in Europe.
The chance to disconnect with the chaos of the modern world and reconnect with nature is just one of the reasons McLean’s Tsylos Park Lodge so special. You’ll also have the opportunity to reconnect with yourself, your loved ones, and maybe even one of your true passions. Forget about text messaging and computers, here you can truly soak in the peace and tranquility of nature. The lodge offers a perfect gathering place, along with delicious meals, for conversations around the table and sitting around the cozy fire. During the day there are a variety of activities to choose from, including world-class fly fishing and canoeing on the Chilko River as well as horseback riding and hiking among spectacular mountain views.
Surrounded by three majestic volcanoes, German explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt called this breathtaking lake “the most beautiful lake in the world.” Situated in the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range, it’s defined by tranquility and calm, providing an especially inspiring backdrop for meditation, yoga and contemplation. From the brilliant colors to the crisp mountain air, here it’s easy to become one with nature again. Enjoy soaking up the scenery while hiking, kayaking or biking, and immerse yourself in Mayan culture, after all, this culture didn’t totally disappear. Residents even wear a signature style of clothing that reveals the town in which they live.
This national park that covers the Durmitor Mountain Range and a narrow branch heading east along the Tara River, offers absolutely jaw-dropping scenic beauty. The dramatic landscape, carved from limestone with ice and water over time, is home to nearly 50 peaks that tower over 6,500 feet in altitude. Three magnificent canyons can also be found here, including the wild Tara River, home to the deepest gorge in all of Europe, and rivers even flow under the park as well. Reach the high plateau by taking one of the numerous trails, three shelters are available for those who’d like to overnight: a hut, a refuge, and a bivouac. Be sure to visit the ice cave, filled with icy stalactites and stalagmites all year round – a perfect place for hikers to cool off, even in the middle of July, with cold water dripping from the ceiling.
This small collection of islands in the western Pacific Ocean boasts some of the best diving and snorkeling sites in the world. In 2005, the president declared the conservation of one-third of near-shore coastal waters and 20 percent of forest land by 2020. The islands are also home to the first shark sanctuary in the world, a massive more than 231,661-square-kilometer area of protected space. The Rock Islands, which many became familiar with after watching “Survivor Palau,” are ancient relics of coral reefs that make up 300 islands in the Southern Lagoon of Palau. Most are uninhabited and are renowned for their unusual shape and fine, powdery sand beaches, but even more so for their azure-hued lagoons. The islands are also home to famed Jellyfish Lake, where millions of golden jellyfish live, harmless to humans, and a number of other surprises, like the Milky Way which is a bay filled with white limestone known for rejuvenating the skin.
Last but certainly not least, Iceland is filled with spectacular natural attractions that make it one of the best places in the world for reconnecting with nature. There are countless waterfalls to gaze at, hot springs to soak in and caves to explore. Be sure to check out Seljalandsfoss, one of the nation’s most photographed falls. Located near the southern coast, it plummets nearly 200 feet into a pool below, and if you walk around to the back of the cascade, you can feel the spray of the water on your skin while enjoying a unique perspective that few others get to experience. Horseback riding, mountain biking, whale watching, sea kayaking and snorkeling are just a few of the other great ways to experience it.