South America

The Luxurious, Remote Amazon River Cruise

You’re on a cruise ship that features an outdoor jacuzzi and exercise room. Your meals are cooked by a gourmet chef. And your cabin is the equivalent of a five-star hotel room. But you aren’t sailing the Mediterranean. And you aren’t cruising the Caribbean. You are in Peru, on the Amazon River, deep in the heart of darkness, aboard the M/V Aria, on a luxury experience from Aqua Expeditions.

There’s something amazing—and perhaps a little unsettling—about being able to experience this much luxury in such a remote location.

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Top 10 Destinations
For Rice Terrace Travel

After thousands of years of hindsight it seems maybe rice wasn’t the best choice for humanity’s most popular food staple. Yes, it tastes great with sushi. But growing rice is very water and labor intensive. And it requires a flat field that farmers can flood during the planting season.

Rice is particularly labor intensive in hilly areas where farmers must create their flat field by carving floodable terraces into hillsides. We find even a single terrace impressive when we contemplate all the work involved, work usually done by hand. The sight of multiple rice terraces, stacked atop each other as if to form a giant’s staircase, is truly awe inspiring.

Spot Cool Stuff has been a longtime fan of rice terraces. We once flew round trip between San Francisco and the Philippines specifically to spend a single day in Banaue, supposedly the site world’s most grand rice terraces. Supposedly. After nearly two decades of rice terrace travel we’ve formed our own opinion on such matters. Here’s our list of the top 10 rice terrace destinations:

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The World’s Best Hostels 2011 (Part II)

This is the second of our two-part look at the world’s best hostels, budget hotels and inexpensive guest houses as chosen by the users of the Hostelbookers website. Scroll down or click on the region you are interested in:

Part I Part II
Africa Europe
Asia Oceania
Canada South America
Caribbean/Mexico United States

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Dr. Sketchy’s School of Anti-Art

Imagine a drawing class and you probably conjure an image of a studious group of experienced artists silently sketching a bowl of fruit whilst a demanding teacher paces back and forth whispering criticism to students.

If you were to take that image and replace the studious group of experienced artists with a fun gaggle of drinkers who might not have drawn anything since kindergarten, and then were to substitute the whispering teacher with an gregerous social director, and then were to swap out the bowl of fruit for a corseted madam doing a dance routine inside a steel cage, then you’d have a vague picture of what it’s like taking a class at Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School.

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One Fish, Two Fish,
Places That Look Dr. Seuss-ish

Anyone who grew up on The Cat In The Hat and Green Eggs and Ham remembers the illustrations of one Mr. Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. Trees with elongated trucks or with improbable collections of limbs. Stark and scraggly landscapes with oddly balanced rocks and unlikely geometric shapes. Architecture with unusual protrusions and awkward angles where no two windows exactly the same. These were some of the hallmarks of the world Dr. Seuss illustrated in his 60 children’s books.

Here’s a look at some places on Planet Earth—places you can visit on your next vacation—that resemble scenes from a Dr. Seuss illustration. So, in the words of the doctor himself . . .


…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!


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3 Cool Alternatives to the Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is probably the most renowned trek in the world. It sits alongside Everest Base Camp, The Annapurna Circuit and Kilimanjaro a must do for traveller bragging rights. But with spaces limited and busy trails, what are the alternatives for the growing band of anti-populist travellers who don’t like to follow the crowds? How can you get to Machu Picchu through the back-door?

Back in 2008 entry to the epic Inca Trail became controlled by a limited permit system. These permits tend to sell out at least three months in advance and the problem is exacerbated in the peak summer months. Even if permits are available not everyone relishes the prospect of trekking such a well-worn path in the company of so many others.

Luckily Machu Picchu is surrounded by fantastic trekking and the Inca Trail isn’t the only option on the table, there are now an ever growing number of alternatives for your dose of Incan culture and mountains. And although none of them can serve up the wonder of crossing through the Sun Gate for that first glimpse of the majestic ruins, they are all worthy alternatives.

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The Best View From a
Hotel Room in Patagonia

Glaciers, fjords, wildlife, mountain peaks, rushing rivers, idyllic lakes—Patagonia is one of the most scenic regions on Planet Earth. The area is vast, divided between Chile and Argentina at the southern tip of South America. Given the size and beauty you’d think that it would be difficult finding that one hotel with the best view in Patagonia. But it isn’t. One resort outshines the rest: The Hotel Salto Chico.

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5 Wonderfully Earthy Glamping Sites

Camping has traditionally brought sophisticated urban dwellers out in hives, but the emergence of glamping—a hybrid of “glamor” and “camping”—has changed things. Now, luxurious yurt and tepee sites boast 100% cotton bedding, organic welcome hampers and indecently abundent tea lights. So no more struggling with a tent and airbed!

Glamping sites range from little more than a pre-erected tent with simple Ikea furnishings to something more akin to an upmarket hotel. Along the way many have missed the point—either too basic or too plush and removed from the natural surroundings.

Here is a look at five luxury camping sites that have achieved the perfect blend, providing absolute immersion in the great outdoors whilst maintaining a just-so degree of indulgence and luxury:

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