Far Horizons

The 14th-century Trakai Island Castle, outside of Vilnius, was recently reconstructed. Photos by Randy Keck

Vilnius, Lithuania

(First of three parts)

In late April, I had an opportunity to travel to the Baltic States — Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — as well as to Berlin and Helsinki with smar­Tours (New York, NY; 800/337-7773, www.smartours.com) on a partially hosted basis.

I was part of a group of 15 on the 14-day tour “Baltic States & Berlin,” featuring the cities of Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, Berlin and Helsinki. It is priced from $2,899 per...

CONTINUE READING »
Left: Dining at the lolo Sky’s the Limit in Grand Case, Saint-Martin. Right: A smoking oven in use at Sky’s the Limit. Photos by Randy Keck

Exploring Sint Maarten/Saint-Martin

(Second of two parts)

On our March 2017 visit to the Caribbean island of St. Martin, comprising the Dutch territory of Sint Maarten and the French Saint-Martin, my wife, Gail, and I had to choose how best to explore the island.

Touring options

Because of the traffic gridlock resulting from the Heineken Regatta, taking place during our entire stay, we opted not to rent a car. This proved to be a wise decision. Other options...

CONTINUE READING »
Miramar Ocean View rooms at Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort — Sint Maarten. Photo by Randy Keck

(First of two parts)

The need for a dose of relaxation following a heavy work schedule resulted in a March 2017, 6-night visit to the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, comprising Sint Maarten (Dutch) and Saint-Martin (French). 

It had been well over a decade since my wife, Gail, and I had visited the island, and much development had occurred, especially on the Dutch side. In terms of size, the French portion of St. Martin is 21 square miles and the Dutch, 16....

CONTINUE READING »
On a headland in Biarritz, France, in June 2015, Randy Keck (right) chatted with the Dutchman Gysbert Haaksman, who was on a 2,500-kilometer pilgrimage from the Netherlands to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, pulling a 30-pound backpack apparatus that had a single wheel.

Europe travel bucket-list considerations and mentoring

In my January 2017 column, in which I wrote about developing a bucket list for travel, I excluded Europe from the discussion, choosing to treat that region separately. This month, I am covering Europe. 

This article is also intended to be used as a primer by any of ITN’s well-traveled readers who are in a position to influence and advise newer travelers. Please digest the following information with that...

CONTINUE READING »
On Reykjavik’s waterfront, the steel “Sólfar” (“Sun Voyager”) sculpture  is not a depiction of a Viking ship but, according to the sculptor, Jón Gunnar Árnason (1931-1989), a “sun ship [that] symbolizes the promise of new, undiscovered territory.” Photos by Randy Keck

Iceland (Third of three parts)

Puffins are among the most colorful seabirds to be found in the North Atlantic.  On my June 2016, 11-day adventure in Iceland, the standing joke within our group was that Day 9 would be puffin day, based on the near-guarantee of sightings that we had been given by our most amazing guide, Gugga Eiriksdóttir.

I was traveling (partially hosted) with ElderTreks on their annual circuit tour of that remote, European island nation.

Finally,...

CONTINUE READING »
Alluring Skógafoss on the Skógá River in southern Iceland. Photos by Randy Keck

Iceland (Second of three parts)

My exciting Icelandic adventure continued from the whale-watching mecca of Húsavík, in the north, with a day exploring some of the many attractions of the highly popular Lake Mývatn region. I was traveling (partially hosted) with a group of 11 explorers on a tour with Toronto-based ElderTreks in June 2016.

Mývatn is regarded as a birding paradise, even playing host to the largest breeding duck colony in Europe. On this day, we saw few...

CONTINUE READING »
Hot springs pool at Hveravellir — a true oasis in Iceland’s spartan lava interior. Photos by Randy Keck

Iceland (First of three parts)

To be certain, I had expected to encounter appealing landscapes on my June 2016 journey in a European island nation where, in a banishing of darkness at the height of summer, the sun never really sets. 

I was traveling, partially hosted by ElderTreks (Toronto, Canada; 800/741-7956, www.eldertreks.com), in amazing Iceland, where the adventure-tour operator (and advertiser in ITN) annually offers an 11-day tour. ElderTreks runs small-...

CONTINUE READING »

The facts and opinions expressed in this column are based on firsthand observation. On 10 occasions since 2010, I have traveled to Cuba as a travel writer or in some other tourism-related capacity, visiting 15 of the island’s 16 provinces and all of the major cities. I have another two visits scheduled before November 2016.

An enthusiastic welcome

Earlier this year, I had occasion to visit Cuba’s most popular and most developed resort destination, Varadero, located...

CONTINUE READING »