Though anchored to the German coast with bridges at both north and south ends (and a railway over the northern bridge), Usedom lies so far east that the eastern tip is actually part of Poland — you can walk down the beach from Ahlberg to the large commercial port of Swinoujscie. But it’s the German side that’s the tourist magnet, a beloved getaway since the early 19th century; Usedom has been nicknamed the “Bathtub of Berlin.” Usedom’s other nickname, “the singing island,” came about because the white sand of its 25-mile strand is so fine that it squeaks when you walk on it. A handful of nearby “wellness hotels” and thermal baths preserve old-world spa traditions. Landscaped garden promenades, open-air concert pavilions, and tree-lined side streets hark back to genteel seaside holiday traditions; each resort town also has a long pleasure pier extending into the Baltic, where you can still envision a parade of ladies with parasols and bustled dresses and gents in well-cut linen suits.
Nothing says “ultimate honeymoon” quite like Bora Bora. The word is out — and has been for some time — about this French Polynesian island’s extraordinary natural beauty, and Bora Bora’s remoteness and high prices have kept the island’s luxurious mystique intact. Enchanting Bora Bora belongs to the exclusive, “so-preposterously-gorgeous-it-doesn’t-seem-natural” club of travel destinations. Even the most jaded globe-trotter duly drops his jaw when confronted with the spectacle of the lagoon and the iconic silhouette of Mount Otemanu in the background. Many visitors, in fact, never get farther than that perfect tableau of paradise, but excursions to the main island and its lofty interior are how you’ll get to the real heart of Bora Bora.
Sometimes all the Anne of Green Gables hoopla around Prince Edward Island gets to be a bit much. How can a century-old series of children’s books define an entire Canadian province? Drive around PEI’s low rolling hills blanketed in trees and crops, and that bucolic past celebrated in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books makes sense after all. Beyond the jagged coast with its inlets and historic fishing villages, you’ll discover that small farms make up the island’s backbone. You can get in touch with the island’s Acadian heritage at the five Rusticos: the coastal villages of North Rustico, South Rustico, Rusticoville, Rustico Harbour, and Anglo Rustico. This inevitably brings you to Cavendish, the vortex of Anne of Green Gables country. You can see the farmstead that started it all, Green Gables, a solid white mid-19th-century farmhouse with green shutters (and, naturally, green gable points) that belonged to cousins of author Montgomery.
Gorgona: Welcome to the Jungle
It hasn’t taken long for nature to regain complete control of Gorgona Island. From the 1950s to the 1980s, this landmass in the Pacific was a maximum security prison — Colombia’s Alcatraz — but the facility was closed and declared a natural national park in 1985; the jail buildings are now overgrown with dense vegetation, complete with monkeys swinging from vine to vine. Gorgona is one of those places where the natural environment is almost comically inhospitable to humans. Visitors who come ashore at Gorgona today are strictly supervised, limited to groups of 80 at a time, and forbidden from wandering too far away from the coastline, for fear of encountering deadly critters. Gorgona shelters a wealth of endemic plant and animal species in its rainforests, including the small (and endangered) blue lizard of Gorgona. Gorgona also has some of the finest sandy beaches in Colombia, backed by palm trees and a thick curtain of green, letting you know that the creepy-crawly jungle is never far away on this island.
Walking the streets of most any Maltese town, you get the vague sense that you’re in some kind of greatest hits of European architecture — a little London here, echoes of Paris there, maybe a touch of Rome in that baroque church facade. And it’s no wonder: the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans, the knights of St. John, the French, and the British all swept in from their respective compass points and left indelible reminders of their conquests. Malta today is a modern and well-run island nation, with its illustrious laurels of history on full view. The walled city of Mdina, on Malta proper, is superbly evocative of the island’s medieval era. Descendants of the noble families — Norman, Sicilian, and Spanish — that ruled Malta centuries ago still inhabit the patrician palaces that line the shady streets here. In summer, the coastal resort towns of Sliema and St. Julian’s, just outside Valletta, come alive with holidaymakers and yacht-setters, and the cafe-filled promenades fronting the teal sea are the epitome of the Mediterranean good life.
Just 2 degrees south of the Equator, off the east coast of Kenya, Lamu is a place that seems stuck in time. For centuries, it was a bustling Indian Ocean port of call and an important link in the spice trade; that atmosphere is totally palpable here today. Lamu is like an exotic stage set that also happens to have amazing beaches. The streets of Lamu are quiet, cool, and car-free, lined with thick-walled white stone buildings, their arches and decorative cutouts evoking the centuries of Muslim influence here; Lamu was founded by Arab traders in the 1400s. The entire island has one proper town — the busy Lamu Town, which, as the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Monuments here include the turreted Lamu Fort and Riyadha Mosque (both from the 19th Century), but the most interesting sights are the much more ancient, nameless traditional houses, some of which date back to Lamu Town’s 14th-century foundations.
Argentina and Chile
Several centuries ago, the only inhabitants of the southern extremity of South America were the native Yahgan Indians. To survive in the inhospitable climate of this land, the Yahgans made ample use of fire. The campfires continuously burning here were so numerous and so bright that when the first Europeans to explore the region saw them from the sea, they called the whole place Tierra del Fuego (“Land of Fire”). Today, the name Tierra del Fuego applies to the group of islands that make up the southern tips of both Argentina and Chile. Isla Grande — as its name suggests — is the largest landmass in the archipelago, with territories belonging to both those countries. Not far from Isla Grande, though it’s actually a separate small island in the Tierra del Fuego group, is the real southernmost tip of South America and one of the most fabled sites in the story of seafaring: Cape Horn. Before the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, rounding “the Horn” was the only way for ships to get between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, and its hostile waters were — and still are — notorious for the challenges they posed to sailors. Strong winds and currents, enormous waves, and even icebergs sent many a seaman to his watery grave.