Natural Habitat Adventures

Natural Habitat Adventures Paves the Way in Eco-Tourism and Wildlife Conservation

As the desire for up close and personal wildlife tours increases, concerns have grown about how to help protect animals in the wild especially in the face of climate change, irresponsible wildlife encounters, and an increase in poaching of certain species. Thankfully the demand for ethical wildlife tourism is on the rise and Natural Habitat Adventures, a global leader in responsible nature travel is helping pave the way.

Since 1985, Natural Habitat Adventures has been a leader in sustainable adventure travel and ecotourism.  From polar bear tours in Churchill to small-group Galapagos cruises, Natural Habitat Adventure’s journeys reveal the planet’s most extraordinary nature destinations. As the world’s first 100-percent carbon-neutral travel company and the conservation travel partner of World Wildlife Fund, Natural Habitat Adventures offers eco-conscious expeditions from Antarctica to Zambia with a multitude of adventures in between.

I had the opportunity to interview Court Whelan PhD, Natural Habitat Adventures’ Director of Sustainability and Conservation, and here is what he had to say.

When were you founded, by who and why?

Natural Habitat Adventures was founded in 1985 by Ben Bressler, with the intent to bring ecotourism to places where economic infusion could help make habitats and wildlife worth more alive than harvested as resources.

As a young boy, Ben spent endless time exploring nature right out in his backyard in suburban New Jersey. Though Ben had no idea then that his life’s work would take him to the planet’s most far-flung wild places, he discovered early on the life-enhancing power of exploring nature. And his experiences would spark something bigger: the inspiration for a nature travel company that would become his life’s work and a global leader in conservation travel.

Natural Habitat Adventure’s (Nat Hab) first trip was to see baby harp seals (“whitecoats”) on the ice floes in Quebec. We worked in collaboration with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The idea was to replace seal-hunting dollars with seal-watching dollars, supporting the local economy by taking tourists to view and photograph adorable furry white baby seals instead of clubbing them for their pelts. The approach synched with the newly emerging concept of ecotourism. In 1989, Nat Hab expanded further with brown bear viewing at Alaska’s Brook Falls, small-ship voyages in the Galapagos Islands and mountain gorilla safaris in Rwanda.

Emerging as a global leader in responsible nature travel, Nat Hab earned an alliance with World Wildlife Fund. Establishing an innovative partnership in 2003, Nat Hab became WWF’s conservation travel partner, adopting the tag line “Discovering Our Planet Together” in a shared mission to explore and protect the world’s wildest places.

Natural Habitat Adventures

Photo credit: Sean Beckett

Sustainable Travel Organizations TRAVEL RESOURCES

How Intrepid Travel is Changing the Way We See and Impact the World

Intrepid Travel -the world’s largest adventure travel company – is changing the way we see and impact the world. With over 1,000 tours in 120 countries, Intrepid has done wonders to promote responsible tourism and help make a positive impact on where they travel.  As part of the Intrepid Group which includes fellow tour operators Urban Adventures, Peregrine, and Adventure Tours Australia and runs The Intrepid Foundation, Intrepid is on a mission to change the way people see the world by delivering sustainable experience-rich travel products while also harnessing the power of travel to benefit the places and people they visit.

As a global leader in sustainability within the travel industry and a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact, Intrepid is dedicated to being a company committed to purpose beyond profit. Some of Intrepid’s accomplishments in responsible travel include becoming a carbon neutral business in 2010 and becoming the first global travel company to ban elephant rides on its tours in 2014. By 2016, Intrepid’s philanthropic fund distributed more than AU $6 million towards healthcare, human rights, child welfare and environmental and wildlife protection programs in the communities in which it operates. In June 2018, the company launched vegan tours and most recently, in August 2018, Intrepid became a certified B Corporation making Intrepid the largest Travel B Corp in the world.

I heard about Intrepid Travel by fellow travel blogger Alison Armstrong, the beautiful mind behind Adventures in Wonderland  who has written about her own experiences traveling with Intrepid to China last year. Wanting to learn more, I reached out to Rebecca Shapiro, the Senior Editorial Manager of Intrepid Group North America. We talked for over an hour about all the amazing work that Intrepid is doing to change the face of travel and improve the world. Here is what she had to say.

Intrepid Travel Tour in Iran.

Intrepid Travel Tour in Iran. Photo courtesy of Intrepid Travel

Sustainable Travel Organizations TRAVEL RESOURCES

Experience Life in A Village with Duara Travels

Have you ever dreamed of getting a glimpse into the life of a villager in a far off place completely off the grid?  Duara Travels is a social impact tourism enterprise that connects travelers with the opportunity to experience village life, living alongside locals in villages in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tanzania, Ghana, Nepal and Kenya. When you book a village experience through Duara Travels, you get to visit places out of reach for most travelers affording a unique opportunity to meet local people and see real village life. Furthermore, these visits are a great way to support local communities and provide a sustainable income that helps the entire community while supporting sustainable tourism.

I learned about Duara Travels by fellow Impact Travel Alliance media network member of The Altruistic Traveller. Reading her beautiful article on her homestay experience in Manikhel, Nepal through Duara Travels, inspired me to learn more about their work. I had the opportunity to interview Annika Järvelin, one of the co-founders of Duara Travels, and here is what she has to say.

When were you founded, by who and why?

Duara Travels was founded by three women from Finland in 2015. We were inspired to start Duara Travels after doing a fair amount of travel to Asia and Africa where we realized it was challenging to get to know locals and understand their everyday life, especially if we didn’t share the same language. The concept of providing village stays was our way of connecting tourists with this unique way of travel that otherwise would be almost impossible to find. We also wanted to ensure that the money spent on travel in developing countries would benefit locals – and not some wealthy expat. That is why we founded Duara in 2015 after an impact startup hackathon which we participated in and won. We realized we would make a good team as we had backgrounds in design, marketing, tourism, business and development organizations.

Where did you get your name Duara Travels?

Duara is from Swahili and means circle. That is exactly what we create in our villages by connecting families with each other, to offer tourists experiences that last for a lifetime. We currently have 28 villages in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tanzania, Nepal, Kenya, Vietnam and Ghana.

 

Kenya village visit with Duara Travels

Kenya village visit with Duara Travels

Sustainable Travel Organizations TRAVEL RESOURCES

Traveling Off Season with Off Season Adventures

We all know about the cost saving benefits of traveling off season however what about the more intangible benefits such as the ability to positively impact the local economy while avoiding some of the pitfalls of overtourism during high season to popular and ecologically sensitive destinations? Meet Off Season Adventures, a sustainable adventure travel company that curates immersive experiences designed to delight and empower both the traveler and the destination. I learned about Off Season Adventures in my research to create an ever-growing list of amazing sustainable travel organizations that are working to change not only the way we travel but the world.

As the United Nations estimates that nearly 2 billion people will be traveling worldwide by 2030, it is more important than ever to seek sustainable travel options that make the world a better place not worse. To conserve and protect our planet, it is critical to try to mitigate the damage especially when traveling to popular destinations or environmentally-fragile ecosystems. Traveling off season is yet another way to fight overtourism and protect wildlife, culture and landscapes of some of the world’s most beloved places.

I had the opportunity to interview Tanner Knorr, the founder of Off Season Adventures and learn more about their sustainable tours. Here is what he had to say.

When was Off Season Adventures launched and Why?

I launched Off Season Adventures in 2017 after completing my master’s degree in Administrative Studies (with a focus on Economic Development and Tourism Management) at Boston University. I was inspired to start my travel company after a trip to Tanzania through my university and by the sustainable tourism research of Megan Epler Wood who published the book “Sustainable Tourism on a Finite Planet: Environmental, Business and Policy Solutions“.  I was one of her teaching assistants for a Harvard Extension class which covered her book. Off Season Adventures partners with tour operators to showcase some of the incredible destinations around the world in a sustainable way.

Off Season Adventures

Visiting Tanzania. Photo credit: Off Season Adventures

Sustainable Travel Organizations TRAVEL RESOURCES
United for Hope India

United for Hope’s Sustainable Village Tours and Guesthouses in Rural India

Have you ever dreamed of exploring rural India and making a difference?  United for Hope is an international nonprofit that offers intrepid travelers the opportunity to discover the real India through their social tourism venture in Tirmasahun, India. Alongside their development work in education, social entrepreneurship and community programs, United for Hope’s social tourism is helping to truly transform the lives of both the villagers and the travelers who meet them.

Strategically located less than 30 minutes away from the popular tourist destination of Kushinagar (a famous Buddhist pilgrimage site) in the Uttar Pradesh region of India near Nepal is the tranquil village of Tirmasahun. Here tourists can enjoy the comforts of a guesthouse or do a day trip to the village through United for Hope’s social tourism program. This unique program is pioneering sustainable development and tourism in one of India’s poorest regions. During each visit, travelers will be able to embrace village life, enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal and experience meaningful cultural exchange, while also nurturing positive environmental and social impact in the community.  The impact of these visits is powerful, creating a socioeconomic ripple effect throughout the entire community while also affording travelers a magical glimpse into rural Indian life.

I had the opportunity to interview United for Hope about their sustainable tourism project and here is what they had to say.

Tell me more about United for Hope.  

United for Hope was founded by Tara McCartney in 2014 and is a registered tax-deductible NGO in Germany, France, India and the USA. Motivated by her love for development work and certainty that she has the skills to drive real change in rural India, Tara quit her corporate career to found United for Hope. The organisation launched its first pilot Smart Village in Tirmasahun, Kushinagar district (UP) in 2014. Just like in other areas of the world, rural populations here face a complex web of challenges: access to health, education and energy, income generation, lack of infrastructure, corruption, and bad governance. These aspects are all inter-connected and cannot be addressed separately. For this reason, after a process of testing, improving and learning, we developed a structured approach which aims to tackle all these issues.

Tell me a little more about Tara’s background.

Tara McCartney is an ex-corporate manager turned social entrepreneur with multiple projects and companies based out of India. From basic services for the rural poor such as water, solar energy and clean cooking stoves via her non-profit United for Hope and its partner for-profit, Shakti Empowerment Solutions to sustainable farming and dignified working conditions for farm labours via Grow Good Farms to ethical textile production for European retailers through her full service agency, Fairfactia, Tara has an in-depth knowledge of the challenges and the opportunities of social entrepreneurship in India. She has extensive experience in holding workshops, giving presentations, contributing to panel discussions and speaking to the media. Tara also works as a consultant for other international agencies.

Sustainable Travel Organizations TRAVEL RESOURCES
Above Safaris

Earth Day Travel Guide: Top Tours that Help Protect Wildlife Around the World

On April 22nd, the 49th annual Earth Day is being celebrated around the world. This year’s theme – to protect the Earth’s endangered and threatened species – could not be more important. The world is facing unprecedented climate change and a mass extinction of many of the amazing species of plants and wildlife that make our planet so incredibly unique. Unlike the extinction of the dinosaurs 60 million years ago, the devastating changes to our planet are driven by us. As concerns grow, there is still hope that we can fight climate change and reverse the mess we’ve made of our planet. As travelers, we have a choice on how we spend our money and we can make a difference by supporting travel organizations that help protect the environment and its wildlife.

In honor of Earth Day’s Protect Our Species campaign and as a member of Impact Travel Alliance (the world’s largest community for impact-focused travelers and travel professionals), I am highlighting some of the amazing tour operators working to help travelers responsibly visit and protect wildlife around the world.

“Seeing wildlife in their natural habitat can become some of our most vivid travel memories. I was deeply impacted by a trip to Uganda where I watched gorillas go about their daily lives in the Bwindi National Park and I bonded deeply with elephants while interacting with them at a conservation park in Thailand,” said Kelley Louise, Impact Travel Alliance founder and executive director. “It’s important to take the time to research and book wildlife tours that put the animals and their environment first.” As an avid traveler and nature lover, I could not agree more. Whatever we can do as travelers to make a difference is better than not doing anything at all. By choosing to travel with an ethical organization, we are making a big difference in hope that these incredible animals will be around for future generations.

Photo credit Playa Viva and Dave Krugman

Leatherback Sea Turtles on the shore of Playa Viva, Mexico. Photo credit Playa Viva and Dave Krugman

Here is a list of sustainable tours that help travelers see and protect Earth’s wildlife:

Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura’s mission is to inspire wonder and curiosity about the incredible world we all share by offering unique trips, sharing stories, holding events and fostering a global community to create a comprehensive database of the world’s most wondrous places and foods.

Atlas Obscura offers some pretty fabulous trips such as tracking wild bumblebees in the wild with expert biologists. Travel to Sequoia National Park with Atlas Obscura and expert biologists to track, conduct research on and help protect wild bumblebee populations and explore this peaceful landscape. You will learn firsthand about the plight of the humble bumblebee while also supporting them.

Atlas Obscura

Giant sequoia grove near auburn california trees, nature landscapes. Photo credit: Atlas Obscura

Playa Viva

Playa Viva is a unique yoga retreat destination where you will enjoy the rugged, unspoiled beauty of Mexico in the guilt-free luxury of an environmentally conscious resort. Become immersed in nature, volunteer in the turtle sanctuary, give back to the local community, engage in a workshop, or just relax completely.

Stay in Playa Viva’s sustainable hotel in Mexico and participate in the Playa Viva Turtle Sanctuary’s efforts to protect leatherback sea turtle eggs from predators.

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New Zealand Good Travel

GOOD Travel: Transforming the Tourism Industry into a Force for Good

Did you know that tourism is one of the largest industries in the world, employing 1 in 11 people and generating US $7.2 trillion annually? Imagine what can happen if we harness this powerful, global force with positive social, economic and environmental impact in the communities around the world we travel to. That is the vision and mission behind GOOD Travel, a social enterprise focused on changing the face and experience of travel in an effort to create a better world for all.

If you believe in having a positive impact on the places you visit, connecting with the communities you meet and learning through your journey, then GOOD Travel has the perfect trip for you.

I had the opportunity to talk with Eliza Raymond, one of the Co-Founders and the Director of Operations at GOOD Travel. Here is what she has to say.

When were you founded, by who and why? 

GOOD Travel was founded in 2013 by four women from Peru, USA, South Africa and New Zealand. Our vision is to transform the tourism industry into a force for GOOD. We believe that change needs to happen at a variety of levels for this to be achieved – our focus is on travelers. 
 

A Booking.com report concluded that while 46% of global travelers consider themselves a sustainable traveler, only 5% of travelers believe it is easy to travel sustainably. GOOD Travel exists to directly address this gap and to make it easier for travelers to have a positive social, economic and environmental impact on the places they visit. We do this through our GOOD tours as well as advocacy, research and events focused on influencing tourist behavior for GOOD. Our tours are carefully researched and designed to create unique, impactful and transformative experiences for travelers to have a positive impact on the destination being visited.

What is your mission?

Our mission is to inspire and empower travelers to have a positive social, economic and environmental impact on the places they visit.

What are five of your best trips?

Iceland

Iceland, September 23rd-28th, 2019– Discover stunning waterfalls and glaciers, support one of the world’s first eco-villages, explore your creativity with artist Baron Wright and experience Iceland’s famous (and secret!) lagoons. 

Good Travel Iceland

In Iceland, we’ll explore stunning waterfalls, national parks and glaciers. Photo Credit: Traveller of GOOD Travel

Sustainable Travel Organizations TRAVEL RESOURCES

How Ecotourism is Helping Protect Endangered Howler Monkeys in Belize

The Yucatan Black Howler Monkey is the largest monkey in the Americas, and found only in a small section of Central America. Originally called baboons by the locals, the Yucatan Black Howler Monkey has been listed as an endangered species since 2003 and its population has declined over 60% due to loss of land, hunting and disease. Yet an innovative, community-led grassroots project called the Community Baboon Sanctuary located in the Belize River Valley outside of Belize City is doing wonders to conserve and protect both the monkeys and the local community who support them. It was the first place I visited on my trip to Belize with G Adventures and was the perfect way to start off a week of adventure and sustainable travel.

I arrived in Belize City on a non-stop morning flight from cold, wintry Minnesota. The moment I walked off the plane, I was greeted with the sticky, thick humidity of the tropics. A smile instantly came across my weather-worn face. I was ready for some sun and adventure, both which would be coming over the next eight days in Belize exploring the jungle, ancient Mayan ruins, and marine life in the world’s second largest barrier reef.

After gathering my luggage, I was greeted by a representative from the Black Orchid Resort where I’d be spending the first two days of my trip. Located next to the mangrove banks of the Belize River near the tiny village of Burrell Boom, it was the perfect alternative to staying in Belize City. The Black Orchid offered peace, beauty and nature yet was not too far away from the major tourist attractions and very close to the Community Baboon Sanctuary where we would be spending our first full morning.

After an evening of settling in at the hotel and meeting my fellow group of travelers with G Adventures, we were ready to depart for a morning tour of the Community Baboon Sanctuary (CBS). I was extremely excited to visit the CBS because I love monkeys and I am passionate about seeing sustainably run conservation projects on the ground. We arrived around nine and were met by our guide Robert who would first give us an overview of the project and then take us on a wonderful nature walk within the sanctuary where we would learn about the flora and fauna of the rainforest and be able to observe the monkeys in the wild.

The CBS is an exemplary community-led grassroots conservation project that works to protect the natural habitat of the endangered Yucatan black howler monkeys while also working hand in hand with the local community through education, community development and sustainable ecotourism practices. The CBS was founded by American primatologist Dr. Robert Horwich in 1981 after he identified the region of the lower Belize River Valley as one of the largest habitats of black howler monkeys in North Central America. Working with the local community of private landowners, the pioneering idea of creating a voluntary sanctuary for the monkeys was formed. Property maps were drawn up for each landholder and they were asked to sign a voluntary pledge that outlined the management plans for conservation.

Belize Central America Conservation/Environment Sustainable Travel Organizations TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION
Jökulsárlón Northern Lights. Photo credit: Tom Archer

Discovering Iceland with Hidden Iceland’s Small Sustainable Tours

There is perhaps no other more mystifying place on earth than Iceland. Known as “the Land of Fire and Ice”, Iceland is home to extreme geological contrasts being blessed with some of the largest glaciers in Europe and also some of the world’s most active volcanoes. Iceland’s extreme beauty has captured the world’s attention making this small Nordic country one of the hottest tourist destinations in the the world. Many travel companies have opened up shop to support the growing tourism industry especially in a sustainable, responsible way. Hidden Iceland is one small tour company that is breaking the way in sustainable travel.

I went to Iceland in the summer of 2008 filled with anticipation. I had heard so much about Iceland’s stunning natural beauty of rushing waterfalls, massive blue icebergs, and her expansive, mysterious landscape. I wanted to see for myself if this magical place was real and within the first day I fell in love with her mystical power and beauty. While there were tourists around most of the sights during my visit, it wasn’t as popular ten years ago as it is today. Over the past few years, tourism has exploded which of course has its pros and cons. Per the Icelandic Tourist Board, “The total foreign overnight visitors to Iceland was around 2.2 million in 2017, a 24.2% increase from 2016, when foreign visitors numbered around 1.8 million”. With Iceland’s small population of approximately 338,000 this surge in popularity has not come without its price and there have been lots of people wondering how to travel to Iceland sustainably and protect its unique culture and environment.

One way you can travel responsibly is by choosing a sustainable tour company that offers off the beaten path tours to lesser visited areas, employs local guides and also takes care of the environment and culture. Hidden Iceland is a boutique travel company that focuses on immersive experiences with passionate guides in remote settings such as glaciers, volcanoes, Northern Light spots and ice caves.  Hidden Iceland is also a Certified Climate Neutral Partner offsetting their carbon emissions, and also maintains a strict sustainability policy of offering only small guided group tours. They are currently ranked number 3 in all of Iceland on TripAdvisor out of 386 tour outfitters (with all five star ratings!), and their unique approach to combining personalised service, expert knowledge and a love of all things Iceland is what makes them stand out as one of the best.

Sólheimajökull Blue Ice.

Sólheimajökull Blue Ice. South Coast. Photo credit: Norris Niman/Hidden Iceland

I had the opportunity to learn more about Hidden Iceland from Ryan Connolly, one of the co-founders and here is what he has to say about what makes their trips unique.  

Adventure Travel Europe Iceland Sustainable Travel Organizations TRAVEL BY REGION TRAVEL RESOURCES

Meet Six Companies That Are Empowering Women Through Travel

March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day celebrated around the world in honor of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It’s roots began back in 1909 by women in New York City and gained popularity in Russia after women gained suffrage in 1917. March 8th was officially adopted as International Women’s Day by the United Nations in 1975 and has been celebrated around the world ever since.

Over the decades much progress has been made in regards to women’s rights however there still remains a lot of work to be done in achieving gender parity and improving the lives of women. One area that can certainly help improve women’s lives is sustainable employment and as the travel industry booms around the world, there is a great opportunity for women to increase their livelihoods through sustainable tourism.

As a member of Impact Travel Alliance, the world’s largest community for impact-focused travelers and travel professionals, I am highlighting some of the amazing female-run travel businesses and tour operators supporting women’s programs around the world.

While I haven’t had the honor of traveling with all of these organizations, I was fortunate to have joined Lokal Travel on one of their early trips. In 2017, I went with Lokal Travel on a trip to the remote Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica where I met Xiñia, a former gold miner who has opened up her remote jungle cabin, “Descanso El Pizote” to rural tourism. Her story is one of heartbreak and hope as for years she had no choice but to continue the backbreaking work of gold-mining until she met the co-founders of Lokal Travel who changed her life. Today, her dream is to grow Descanso El Pizote into a full-time business sharing her beautiful rainforest property and her passion for the jungle with tourists. Then she can quit gold mining for good and it would be a win-win situation that promotes sustainable rural travel while conserving the environment.

Dos Brazos de Tigre Lokal Travel

Xiñia leads the way to her jungle cabin with her walking stick ready.

Xiñia’s story is similar to the hopes and dreams of many women around the world who are seeking to improve their lives through sustainable tourism. Not only does it improve these women’s lives, it also provides the traveler with a unique experience to do something different. For me personally, these kinds of trips have been the most rewarding travels of my life and I feel wonderful knowing that my travel dollars are making a difference on people’s lives.

In fact, I just returned from Belize with G Adventures and was thrilled to see that our trip included a visit to a Mayan women’s co-op to watch a live demonstration on making traditional pottery and corn tortillas. As part of G Adventure’s commitment to responsible travel and tourism, G Adventure trips always include a travel for good element to give back and support the local economy. In this case, it was to support the local Mayan women.

San Antonio Women's Coop Belize

At the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative in Belize watching a Mayan woman show us how to make corn tortillas.

Here are six amazing organizations that are working to help empower women through travel.

Sustainable Travel Organizations TRAVEL RESOURCES
Blackett's Ridge Hike, Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona

Tucson Travel Guide: How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Tucson

Tucson, with her laid-back charm and sunny disposition, has long been a top destination for travelers craving a visit to the American Southwest.  With an average of over 300 days of sunshine, four different mountain ranges to choose from, a vibrant University scene and a mecca for golf courses, resorts and spas, Tucson, Arizona’s second largest city, offers a great escape from a cold Minnesota winter or quite frankly winter anywhere.

I have been visiting Tucson for over 25 years and have always adored her vibrant desert landscape, rugged mountains, and bewitching southwestern charm. It is no wonder that Tucson is the perfect year round destination for outdoor enthusiasts who come to play golf, bike, hike, and explore nature. The options and opportunities to be outside are endless. For those seeking culture, Tucson’s rich Native American, Spanish and Mexican heritage as well as her Wild West past can be discovered within Tucson’s architecture, food, arts and overall vibe. Perhaps I’m slightly biased given Tucson is like my second home but in my opinion Tucson is a fabulous place to visit.

Why Tucson?

Tucson has a lot to offer given her size compared with her much larger neighbor Phoenix. At under a million people, Tucson is fairly manageable and you don’t have to drive too far to see great things. Although getting from one end of town to the other (such as driving from the Sonoran Desert Museum to Sabino Canyon) can be a bit tedious due to the lack of a freeway system, Tucson is a piece of cake in comparison to massive Phoenix. Furthermore, you are much closer to the mountains and hiking which is huge on my list. There are also some very nice museums to check out and enough luxurious resorts and good restaurants to keep you busy.

There is plenty to do for an entire week whether it involves relaxing at a spa or pool, hiking, biking, birdwatching, exploring culture and arts or taking a few scenic drives. Less than 90 minutes from Phoenix and a little over 3 1/2 hours to Sedona and five to the Grand Canyon, Tucson can easily be added on to an Arizona road trip. However, trust me there is plenty to do for an entire week in Tucson especially if you time your visit right with the weather.

Best Time of Year to Visit

Tucson can be visited year round however it gets very hot in the summer so that is the one time of year to be avoided if possible. If you do visit in the summer, plan on rising early to do your outdoor pursuits and spending the hottest hours of the day either in the pool or checking out some of the indoor attractions. My favorite time of year to go to Tucson is late March or April in the Spring when all the desert flowers and cactus are in bloom, the water is rushing through the streams and canyons and the weather is delightful with highs usually in the 80s. Another wonderful time to visit is in mid-Fall. October is still warm yet not as hot as September. This is also a nice time to consider a visit to Sedona or the Grand Canyon as it is not nearly as crowded as other months. Winter months (December – February) are nice as well but you can occasionally get cooler weather and rain.

Top Five Things to Do

There is a ton to do in Tucson and it all depends of course on your interests. Here are my top five things to do that cannot be missed when visiting Tucson.

Take a Hike

Tucson is a hiker lover’s paradise. With over 300 days of sunshine a year, a desert climate and four different mountain ranges surrounding the city, there are endless opportunities to take a beautiful walk or challenging hike in nature. Whether it be to the Santa Catalina Mountains in the north, the Rincon Mountains in the east, the Santa Rita Mountains in the south or the Tucson Mountains in the west, you will find no shortage of trails to explore.

One of the best places to hike in all of Tucson, Sabino Canyon Recreation Area with tons of hikes through both Sabino and Bear Canyon.  The best hikes to do:   Walk any distance along the paved road through Sabino Canyon (7.6 roundtrip) , take Phoneline Trail (7.6 miles) or hike to Seven Falls (7.9 miles).

If you go: The Visitor Center is open 8-4:30 pm daily and the cost to park is $5 per vehicle. Location:  5700 N Sabino Canyon Rd, Tucson, AZ 85750. To learn more visit US Forest Service website for Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.

If you really want a challenge, you can spend a day climbing Tucson’s highest peak, Mount Wrightson but be prepared as this is a 5-6 hour challenging hike to almost 10,000 feet.

 

Hike to Seven Falls, Tucson, Arizona

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Explore the World with HI USA Travel Scholarships

In September 2017, I had the honor of attending the White House Summit for Study Abroad and Global Citizenship, a two-day event co-hosted by Hostelling International USA (HI USA) and Partners of the Americas held in New York City at HI USA. The goal of the conference was to inspire a new generation to study abroad and experience the transformational power of travel. During the conference we learned about the abundance of funding options and scholarships available for students interested in studying abroad during college and beyond by various organizations. I had studied abroad myself in my early twenties and that experience profoundly changed my life. However, I understand how lucky I was to have that opportunity as not many people do.

The good news is that many organizations such as HI USA are working to help young Americans get out and explore the world. HI USA, a nonprofit, member organization founded on an enduring belief in the power of travel to foster a deeper understanding of people, places, and the world around has a wealth of programs and opportunities available to make it easier for young people to see the world. One amazing program currently being offered by HI USA, the nation’s leading hostel brand, is the Explore the World Scholarship which is now open to applications until March 2, 2019.

Explore the World Scholarships

HI USA created the Explore the World Travel Scholarships to help young adults aged 18-30 finance an international service or educational trip abroad. The total award given is $2,000 (split into two equal installments of $1,000) to go towards an international travel opportunity.

This is the fourth year of the program and in 2018, HI USA awarded 104 scholarships to young people across the U.S. so they could go learn Arabic in Jordan, volunteer in India and Vietnam, teach math in the Dominican Republic, or board a plane for the very first time to study abroad in Europe. Scholarship recipients have returned home from their travels with a profound sense of intercultural appreciation, and a renewed dedication to spreading the word about travel and tolerance at home.

In 2019, HI USA will be giving out 110 scholarships to would-be travelers around the country, aged 18-30, who need a little extra help along the way.

Program Eligibility 

The basic program requirements and eligibility to apply for the Explore the World Scholarships include the following:
  • Must be 18-30, with financial need, and live or go to school in one of 14 metro areas (select counties in CA, DC/Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, Portland, Austin, Houston and Richmond).
  • Should have an educational or service trip already in mind but cost is getting in the way.
  • Application deadline is March 2, 2019.

More details on eligibility can be found at www.hiusa.org/travel-scholarships .  Check out the Explore the World Program Details section for further information about the eligibility requirements, application process, and program requirements.

Success Stories of Past Recipients

In today’s interconnected world, understanding other cultures and making connections is critical to promoting world peace, stability and a happier planet for all. Traveling has a profound impact on both the traveler and the people they meet along the way. Traveling opens your mind and your heart to differences. It fuels your curiosity and passion for other cultures and places. It helps you understand the world and puts your own identity in perspective. But most of all, it builds connections and fuels your desire to become a global citizen and lifelong explorer.

Here is what a four past recipients of Explore the World Scholarships have to say about their own experiences.

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