GREAT PLACES TO VISIT THAT ARE OFF THE BEATEN PATH
There’s nothing wrong with a delicious week at the beach with a pile of books. But if you’re hankering to encounter new worlds and come back with a tale, think about some of these destinations. This is adapted from my column "The World's Coolest Places" (http://nyti.ms/1jEhO20).
- •Bikini Atoll, Marshall IslandsThis coral island in the Pacific Ocean was the site of American nuclear weapons tests in the 1940s and 1950s, but after decades left to itself it is now dazzlingly beautiful in a way that belies its history. Radiation has dissipated, and the deserted white-sand beaches are lined with coconut palms and scattered with seashells and an occasional giant sea turtle.
- •Potosí, BoliviaPerhaps no country in Latin America is more picturesque than Bolivia, and the most memorable Bolivian city may be Potosí. European explorers discovered a huge silver mountain here in the 1540s, and, in the 1600s, this was one of the major cities in the world. Tourists can descend the silver mines, down hundreds of feet in tiny, sweltering tunnels thick with dust, talk to some of the miners, and get a glimpse of what life is like for the many Bolivians who work each day in the mines.
- •Victoria Falls, ZimbabweMaybe our best family trip started at Victoria Falls, which drenches you with spray and is so vast that it makes Niagara Falls seem like a backyard creek. Then we rented a car and made our way to Hwange National Park, which was empty of people but crowded with zebras, giraffes, elephants and more.
- •Amritsar, IndiaThe Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine, is in northwestern India near the Pakistani border, and it is a delightful place to contemplate the draw of faith. A four-century-old temple set in a lake, it attracts Sikhs from around the world. It is much less visited by tourists than the Taj Mahal, yet it is just as serene, grand and unforgettable.
- •Tanna, Vanuatu.This remote island in the South Pacific is notable for its live volcano that you can climb at night. From the lip, you look down and see the fires and molten lava. It’s a natural fireworks display. The people of Tanna are also likely to invite you to drink kava, the local intoxicant, or perhaps join a village dance.
- •Cu Chi Tunnels, VietnamFollow a guide in wriggling on your stomach underground through these tunnels dug by Vietcong soldiers who used them and even lived in them during the Vietnam War. The tunnels are now widened to accommodate portly Americans, and they are still a tight fit. After a couple hundred feet of crawling in the tunnels, you’re desperate to come up again, and you understand that military victory is sometimes not about weaponry but about commitment.