News and Notes from Around the World

Explore Ecuador’s beaches, small-town resorts and coastal jungles. ©Kseniya Ragozina

On the Cover This Month…

Jungle-clad mountains sweep down to the ocean, pristine beaches are waiting for your footprints, and temperatures average 77 F to 90 F… There’s a lot to explore along Ecuador’s 1,800-mile Pacific coast.

Here you’ll find some of the least-expensive beachfront towns in the world. Salinas is one of the coast’s most popular resorts. Just 90 miles from Guayaquil, the country’s largest city, it’s trendy yet retains a small town vibe.

Along the seafront malecon you can get a steak or seafood dinner for just $5. And $30 gets you a night in a boutique hotel. Famous for its sea fishing and surfing you can also go yachting, hang gliding, para gliding, whale watching…or just work on your tan.

Airplane Hotel

A real bed on a plane sounds like the ultimate in travel comfort, but the latest thing at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport doesn’t get you to your destination. Instead, this converted Boeing 747 offers quirky on-the-ground accommodation to weary travelers. An overnight stay starts at $70 and goes up to $300 for the luxury cockpit suite.

If it sounds a bit claustrophobic, you can forgo the overnight stay and just have a drink at the bar, instead.

Only suites have built-in bathrooms—the rest are hostel-type affairs with shared hallway facilities. All rooms do, however, feature WiFi and flat screen televisions that broadcast, among other things, airport flight times. For more information, see here.

Hobnob in Iceland


If you’ve ever dreamt of traveling to Iceland to see glaciers, geysers, and the magic of the Northern Lights, there’s another attraction to add to your list—you can hobnob with heads of state.

The President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grimsson, is taking a hands-on approach to stimulating tourism by inviting foreign visitors to his home. He’s encouraging other Icelandic citizens to do the same, and officials such as the Mayor of Reykjavik say they’re ready to follow suit. The president says he’ll serve pancakes, whipped cream, and rhubarb jam—no word yet on whether other officials will try to top that with a sweeter offer.

Reykjavik tourism officials say the initiative is simply a continuation of the award-winning “Inspired by Iceland” campaign that saved the country’s tourism industry following the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010. For more information, see here.

Igloos in France

©Sava Alexandru/iStock

Grab your rented snowshoes and hit the French Alps for a new experience. About an hour out from the resort of La Plange you’ll find the base camp of Mon Igloo Village. After the hike from town, guests are treated to an aperitif around an open fire before sitting down in one of the igloos for a warming “fondue Savoyarde,” a melting pot of cheese and white wine.

Each of the four igloos can sleep five people and sleeping bags and camp beds are provided. The highlight of the evening is a story-telling session about life in the mountains, and guests are invited to bring along musical instruments to make it a night to remember. Prices range from $40 for just the hike and a drink to $127 per person for your own private igloo along with dinner and breakfast. For more details, see here.

Travel Concierge

Friends and family sometimes surprise us with mystery honeymoon or vacation destinations… but would you let a company like American Express decide your fate the next time you travel?

According to the company, prospective travelers the world over are willing and ready. Via a new website dubbed “Nextpedition,” American Express customers can get a travel personality profile, consult with travel professionals, and book mystery trips—in which the destination is disclosed just days before departure.

Travelers will apparently have their plans revealed to them, one leg at a time, via portable electronic devices. A lure for the adventurous or just the gadget-happy, the trips offer fun and mystery while taking every aspect of planning out of the traveler’s hands. Be adventurous, yet saddled with no decisions (as long as your nifty electronic device doesn’t freeze as you exit the airport in Barcelona, leaving you with no idea where your dinner reservations are).  American Express isn’t the only company offering this new option… companies like Magical Mystery Tours are cropping up to meet the apparent demand. See here.

Mexican Mardi Gras

Mention Carnival and most of us think “Brazil,” land of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and lithe, scantily-clad dancers. But you also know Carnival by another name: Mardi Gras. French for “Fat Tuesday,” it’s the celebration that takes over New Orleans every year.

Call it what you will, wherever it happens, the festival that precedes Catholic Lent is a colorful, hedonistic affair. And there are many festivals—worldwide—to choose from.

Across the border in Mexico every region celebrates Carnival, but Veracruz is widely acknowledged as the Carnival king. It’s a city of fiery food and flaming colors. The Carnival celebration here starts with a madcap event called the Quema del Mal Humor—roughly translated, it means “Burn that Bad Mood.”

After you kill your cranky inner demons (by burning them in effigy), it’s time to watch mega-parade productions and root for the Carnival Queen and her Rey Feo, or “ugly king.”

You won’t get any serious business done during Carnival. This time of year is strictly for partying, and all offices will be closed. Plus, Mexicans and foreigners flock to the celebrations, so reserve your hotel and travel well in advance. Carnival 2012 takes place from February 17 to 21.

Editor’s Note: This article was taken from a past issue of International Living’s monthly magazine. To get full access to all past and future articles and to receive the magazine in the mail or online each month, simply click on the below button to subscribe to International Living magazine at the special introductory price of $49. You will get instant access to the current issue of the magazine as well 10 years of back issues. As an added bonus, we will also send you a FREE report – How to Retire in Paradise on $30 a Day. (You can cancel your subscription at any time.)

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