Called “As-Sahara al-Kubra” in Arabic, “The Great Desert” of the Sahara stretches more than 3.6 million square miles through North Africa.
With temperatures dropping, don’t let winter doldrums set in. Bundle up and embrace the cold (albeit the bone-chilling, artic-blasting cold of recent days) with some of our favorite things to do in winter.
1. Sleep in an ice hotel.
If you aren’t afraid of a little cold or a bed made out of ice, spend an unforgettable night in an ice hotel. Chill out in a luxury igloo full of hard-carved ice sculptures and cozy fur hides to keep you warm at night.
2. Toast with a decadent drink.
The ideal cure for a winter chill? A cocktail to warm you up. Toast to shorter days with these 10 cold-weather cocktails, from a traditional hot toddy to an innovative dry-ice-infused concoction.
3. Take an icy plunge.
What better way to plunge into 2014 than with an icy dip! There are still New Year dips taking place throughout January, or head to Finland where ice swimming is a popular custom all winter long.
Ring in the New Year right and enter to win an amazing trip for 2 to Belize! Your $10,000 adventure includes 2 nights in Belize City, 3 nights in San Ignacio and 3 nights in San Pedro. Winners of our monthly sweepstakes will take an amazing tour of Cahal Pech archaeological site; visit the Butterfly Farm at Chaa Creek; and go cave tubing and zip lining at Jaguar Paw.
And that’s not all! Visit more than 150 animals at the Belize Zoo, and explore Xunantunich, a Mayan archeology site, where there’s rumors of a ghost that still lurks around the ancient ruins. And your adventure in Belize isn’t complete without a dive to explore the marine life at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, including snorkeling with the stingrays and nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley.
Welcome to the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The winter solstice kicks off this Saturday, and with it, thousands of visitors from around the world have gathered at Stonehenge — the mysterious standing set of stones dating between 3000 B.C. and 2000 B.C., in Wiltshire, England — to mark the grand astronomical event when the monument aligns on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunset.
Of course, who are we fooling? On Saturday morning, most of us would probably prefer to snuggle up under the covers than brave the gathering crowds at Stonehenge (even if the new $44 million visitors center, which opened this past Wednesday, sounds interesting, with an exhibition that includes a forensic reconstruction of a Neolithic man). We’ll leave it to the druids, pagans and astronomical diehards currently gathered at Stonehenge to fill us in on the grand event, which, on the flip side, ushers in the longest night of the year.
Remember that scene in City Slickers, where Billy Crystal finds himself in a bit of a slump and says, “Do you ever reach a point in your life where you say to yourself, ‘This is the best I’m ever gonna look, the best I’m ever gonna feel, the best I’m ever gonna do’ … and it ain’t that great?”? His wife soon tells him, “Go and find your smile.”
Somewhere out west.
Personally, the west has always held a special allure for me; and for months, I’d been keeping my Pandora station on old western soundtracks (don’t judge). There was only one place to go, some place like … Montana. Upon the recommendation of some friends, I set my sights on the Metcalf Ranch. It’s here, on a fifth-generation, 4,800-acre working cattle ranch in the heart of south-central Montana, that a couple named Susan and Remi Metcalf offer guests an authentic cattle ranch experience.
In a cozy café in Reykjavik, Iceland, I was sipping my latte out of an oversized cup when a raven alit on the top of a bright red house outside the café. For the umpteenth time since I’d been in the country, I tried to pronounce the Icelandic word for Raven. Hrafn. I rolled the letters over my tongue, speaking the word aloud. As soon as I heard my voice, I knew I’d said it incorrectly. Hrafn. The fn makes a “p” sound, I reminded myself. But how do you pronounce Hr? Hrafn. Hrafn. I realized I’ve become that odd-looking traveler sitting alone at a table talking to myself.
I’d been thinking a lot about ravens. I’d come to Iceland to, among other things, work on my writing. The raven, or hrafn, is an important bird in Icelandic folklore. It is said that the Norse god Oðinn had two ravens that counseled him, Huginn (“Thought”) and Muninn (“Memory”). I’d hoped the raven outside the café would help inspire my thoughts and memories, and therefore my writing. But really, the bird was just the beginning, because so much in Iceland inspired my creativity.
Despite its name, Bryce Canyon isn’t really a “canyon” at all, but rather a collection of giant natural amphitheaters in southwestern Utah.