Seeing new places is what travel is all about. Visiting somewhere new to you typically comes with a sense of excitement. But if you’re up for a little adventure, you can reap big rewards by taking your sightseeing to new heights.
Especially if Quito, Ecuador is on your must visit list.
The Church and Convent of San Francisco was built in the 1500s by Franciscan Monks. It was Quito’s first church, and today, Franciscan Monks still call it home. It’s relatively easy and inexpensive for travelers to visit by day.
But if you’re a guest of nearby hotel Casa Gangotena, one night a week, right around sunset, guests have the opportunity to meet one of the Franciscan Monks for a private tour. (It’s part of the hotel’s Quito Experiences programming.) The highlight of which takes you up winding staircases, so you get a bit of a workout, to the twin bell towers. The view overlooking Old Town is striking, and differs from the typical travel memories made when visiting churches abroad.
Up next.. let’s go ride a bike.
But I’m willing to bet it’s unlike any other ride you’ve ever been on because you’re spinning through a cloud forest, attached to a cable that runs 700 feet or so across a gorge. The bike is one of the outdoor rain forest activities at Mashpi Lodge.
It’s designed for two. One person pedals, and the other kicks back and enjoys the view. The ride takes about 10 minutes, 20 round trip. The pedaling is not hard, and the view is one of a kind. They have to be accompanied by an adults, but kids more than three feet are welcome. For especially nervous folks, Mashpi guides will ride along, and do all the pedaling.
Kauai is called the “The Garden Isle” for a reason. Known for lush, tropical foliage and beaches, it’s a great spot to simply relax and do a lot of nothing. But if you want to something to get your blood pumping, hop into a helicopter and see Kauai from above. I went flying with Island Helicopters, and once you’re up in the air, you see the island in a whole new way that’s simply hard to visualize from the ground. Along with the Napali Coast, there’s many other wow-inducing sights like Waimea Canyon and waterfalls aplenty.
Helicopter tours run seven days a week, you can book longer ones, but expect about an hour. That makes them easy to fit into just about any vacation schedule. I’d recommend booking them early in your trip as opposed to later, that way is you run into any weather issues, (it’s not likely but it can happen) there’s time to reschedule.
Napa Valley wine country knows how to show off, even in winter. Hot air balloon flights lift off all year long in Northern California. The hardest part is getting up early, but the folks with Napa Valley Balloons had plenty of coffee waiting as the sun was rising, and we got ready to soar. You’ll fly for about an hour. Mimosas and breakfast are served once you’re back on solid ground.
Dress in layers, and bring a hat. The hot air really can warm up your noggin. And be sure to bring your camera.