July 22, 2019

Perfect Ways to End the Day

Save the best for last with these after-dark activities

By Brent Stoller

Vacations Magazine: Perfect Ways to End the Day
Keren Su-China Span/Alamy Stock Photo
When charged particles carried by solar wind collide with the Earth's atmosphere, the resulting energy release ignites the sky in one of the planet's most captivating phenomenons: the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights.

Part of the fun of witnessing this spectacle comes from the anticipation that precedes it. Bundled in winter wear to rebuff the evening chill, you flee the city's bright lights in search of darkened, star-filled skies. After finding your viewing spot, you sit with bated breath as your eyes turn toward the heavens. The suspense is undeniable. Yet, when the moment finally comes and those brilliant ribbons of green, blue and purple dance above you, you realize the wait was more than worth it.

The buildup makes the payoff that much sweeter. That's why in this story we're saving the best for last, highlighting vacations with activities that will end your day in the perfect way. You'll revel in the under-the-sun adventures these itineraries deliver, all the while knowing something special awaits you after dark.

For instance, on the weeklong "Iceland's Magical Northern Lights" with Collette, each day is spent exploring the country's beauty, from the raw terrain of Thingvellir National Park to the 200-foot cascading Skogafoss. By night, whether you're cruising Faxa Bay or standing amid the calm of a bucolic locale, you'll gaze upward, hoping for one more glimpse of nature's greatest light show.

Departures are offered through March 2020 at a starting price of $2,499.

For information on this escorted tour or the ones that follow, contact the travel specialists at Vacations To Go.

Relax in a Budapest Igloo
Divided into two sections -- Buda and Pest -- the capital city of Hungary boasts attractions on both sides of the Danube River. Travelers can admire the soaring spires of Matthias Church, hear a live duet while touring the Hungarian State Opera House (due to reopen this year after extensive renovations) and stroll the Szechenyi Chain Bridge as Buda Castle looms nearby.

While soaking in a public thermal bath eases tired legs, there's no better spot to unwind after a day of sightseeing than 360 Bar. Situated atop the tallest building on Andrassy Avenue, the establishment, as its name suggests, affords 360-degree panoramas of Budapest, including landmarks like Gellert Hill and St. Stephen's Basilica.

But what separates this rooftop retreat is its igloo garden, featuring eight domed lounge spaces covered with transparent tenting so as to not block the views. Accommodating small groups, these heated structures are the ideal place to enjoy the bar's musical acts, sip on specialty drinks and indulge in charcuterie and cheese boards in colder months.

Spending three nights in Budapest, Insight Vacations' 10-day "Easy Pace Budapest, Vienna and Prague" gives you ample opportunity to relax in your own igloo. Departures run April 2019 to April 2020 from $2,025.

Return to Petra
In southwestern Jordan, between the Red and Dead seas, stand the ruins of Petra. Complex temples, mausoleums and remnants of a water management system that made this desert outpost livable remain as a testament to the Nabataeans, the Arab tribe that chiseled the city out of rose-colored sandstone more than 2,000 years ago. Once a hub of the region's silk and spice trades, the site was featured in the 1989 blockbuster "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

As compelling as Petra is in daylight, it's moreso after dark. Following the glow of lanterns, you're led into the city along the Siq, a narrow path bracketed by rock cliffs, before arriving at Al-Khazneh. Known as the Treasury, this ancient tomb touts a detailed facade of sculptures and statuary, which are illuminated by some 1,500 candles. And as you stand there amid the stillness, gentle Bedouin melodies break the evening's silence, enveloping you not only in the moment, but in the history, mystery and ingenuity of this incomparable archaeological marvel.

On the six-day "Journey to Petra" Alexander Roberts visits the ruins twice, by day and night. Departures through April 2020 are available starting at $3,449.

Swim With Manta Rays
With a wingspan that can exceed 20 feet and fins that resemble a devil's horns, the manta ray seemingly would send scuba divers in the opposite direction. Yet on the west side of Hawaii's Big Island, adventurers are swimming toward them.

The species that inhabits the waters off Kailua-Kona are docile, devoid of the stinger that makes eagle rays and stingrays threatening. And each evening, their feeding ritual presents a mesmerizing under-the-sea spectacle.

Just before sunset, local vendor Big Island Divers ferries you to Garden Eel Cove, where guides place a collection of dive lights, secured in milk crates, on the ocean floor. These lights attract zooplankton like krill, which in turn attract hungry rays. After descending to the bottom, you'll have the perfect vantage point from which to watch these majestic predators somersaulting through the water as they feast on their prey. Most nights bring five or so rays to the site, though in rare instances that number has swelled to more than 20. For those who aren't certified in scuba, snorkeling also is an option.

Cosmos' 13-day "Hawaiian Islands" spends two free days and nights in Kailua-Kona, so you'll have time to dive into underwater scenes. In addition to the Big Island, the itinerary hops around Oahu, Kaui and Maui. Departures run through October and then again from January to March 2020, opening at $2,239.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in Winter 2019. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 680-2858 for current rates and details.


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