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Nov 15, 2000
Best Vacation Places to Get Lost - The Discovery Channel


"Get away from it all." "Great escapes." "Vacation hideaway." Oh, how these phrases are overused to describe holiday destinations that far too often are about as isolated as your average Manhattan subway station. So here's the real deal - a list of the best places to go when you truly want to disappear for a few days. We've kept the destinations diverse in terms of geography and resources needed to get there. Whether you're prepared to sail to a remote African island or just simply want to drive to a spring-fed oasis in the California desert, these are the getaways for you.

7. Furnace Creek Inn
Location: Death Valley, California
What's Cool: Lush desert oasis in the middle of nowhere

First-time visitors driving amid Death Valley's arid features - with cheery names like Devil's Golf Course, Dante's View or Funeral Peaks - inevitably wonder if it's possible for anyone to survive for long out here. Then, in the apparent middle of nowhere, the oasis resort of Furnace Creek rises from the wasteland like a mirage in a fever vision. Started as an executive retreat for a mining conglomerate in the 1930s, Furnace Creek rests near a hot spring that once served as the stopping point for the original '49ers who arrived on ox-drawn wagons. The hot spring now feeds the Inn's remarkable terraced garden, neighboring golf course and enormous pool - a truly exhilarating vantage point for contemplating the enormous parched landscapes surrounding the oasis.

The Scoop

Where: Highway 190, P.O. Box 1, Death Valley, California 92328
Phone: (800) 236-7916
Web site:
Click here
6. Saint Bernard Monastery
Location: Swiss Alps
What's Cool: Vacationing on the roof of Europe in an ancient Augustine monastery

This ancient crossing place 12,000 feet up in the Swiss Alps has hosted Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hemingway, and many a lost wanderer rescued by the famous Saint Bernard dogs. The Saint Bernard tunnel now diverts traffic across the Alps and the Saint Bernard dogs no longer carry barrels of booze under their collars (to provide relief from the cold, promise!), but the hospice is still manned year-round by gracious Augustine monks. Although one can drive there during the summer months, the road is closed because of snow in September and only the hardy can trudge up to its splendid isolation and excellent skiing (most of the monks are expert skiers). Simply park or get a ride to the parking lot at the Great Saint Bernard tunnel and snowshoe or ski up to the hospice. Guides and gear are available in the nearby Swiss village of Martigny.

The Scoop

Where: Hospice Du St-Bernard, Maison du Saint-Bernard, Col du Grand-St-Bernard, 1946 Grand-St-Bernard
Phone: (+41) 27 787-1153, Hotel (open June through September); (+41) 27 787-1236, monastery (open year-round)
Web site:
Rates: Summer rate in adjoining hotel is $65, double room per night with breakfast; winter rate in hospice is $38 per person per night with all meals
5. Denali West Lodge
Location: Lake Minchumina, Alaska
What's Cool: Lakeside living in Alaska's roadless forests

Far out in the roadless wilderness surrounding Alaska's Mt. McKinley lies a luxuriously appointed cluster of 10 log cabins that form the Denali West Lodge. The ever-hospitable Hayden family built the Lodge in 1985 on the shores of Lake Minchmina, the largest lake in interior Alaska. Visitors fly in by scheduled bush-plane from Anchorage or Fairbanks (or simply charter a plane - Alaska's version of a taxi) and spend their days exploring the pristine birch-studded landscape in the lodge's pontoon plane or, in the winter, dogsled teams.

The Scoop

Information: Jack and Sherri Hayden, P.O Box 40 AC, Lake Minchumina, Alaska
Phone: (907) 674-3112
Web site:
4. Amanpulo
Location: Philippines
What's Cool: Luxurious beach living on a Philippine jungle island

Some travelers will journey to the ends of the earth to find luxury on a secluded tropical island. Luckily, the owners of Aman Resorts did all the legwork, having discovered a small, lush island approximately 300 miles from Manila. Twenty-nine well-appointed huts (including four treehouses) overlook the powdery beach. This is no Robinson Caruso flashback, either. The island features a swimming pool, beach club and playground all accessible by the golf-cart that comes with each cabin.

The Scoop

Information: Aman Resorts American Sales Office, 22647 Ventura Blvd., Suite 327, Woodland Hills, CA 91364
Phone: (800) 447-7462
Web site:
3. Ucaima Camp
Location: Canaima, Venezuela
What's Cool: Explore prehistoric life in the original Jurassic Park

The late "Jungle" Rudy Truffino built this camp on the banks of the Carrao River near Angel Falls, the world's tallest waterfall. The cabins, bar and library lie along a jungle lagoon facing southern Venezuela's famed tepuys - enormous flat-topped buttes, many of which have never been explored. This area was the setting for Arthur Conan Doyle's novel "The Land That Time Forgot" (the "Jurassic Park" of its time). Indeed, several prehistoric species have survived in this isolated country, most notably in the form of large lizards and horned toads not found anywhere else in the world. Flights around Angel Falls, the jungle tepuys and ultimately back to the concrete jungle of civilization are arranged at the camp. Regularly scheduled flights travel via Caracas and Ayacucho

The Scoop

Phone: (+58) 48 214-865
2. Ol Donyo Wuas
Location: Chyulu Hills, Kenya
What's Cool: Sleeping with lions

"What's that?" My alarmed wife nudged me awake as I slumbered in the bungalows in the Chyulu Hills. It was night but I could still see white-topped Mount Kilimanjaro looming across the plains. Somewhere close by, very close by, we could hear the rapid grunts of two lions mating. Why could we hear them so clearly? The front of our hut was wide open to the outside elements, including our feline companions. After a semi-sleepless night, we found the lions' tracks directly under the hut, making me grateful that the open side of our bedroom stood elevated on stilts.
A nocturnal visit by lions is not unusual in the pristine isolation of the Chyulu Hills. There are no roads to the Ol Donyo Wuas lodges; visitors arrive by propeller plane (this can be arranged through the lodge) after a stunning one-hour flight from Nairobi over countryside teeming with wildlife. The lodge's seclusion is helped by the lack of water in the area. Water is brought in by tractor from a well 30 kilometers away. But that doesn't detract from the luxurious amenities of this extraordinary place, where a day's safari on horseback or in a jeep is amply rewarded by gourmet meals next to the main lodge's enormous fireplace.

The Scoop

Information: Ol Donyo Wuas, Box 24133, Nairobi, Kenya
Phone: (+254) 2 882-521
Web site:
Click here
1. Chumbe Island
Location: Zanzibar
What's Cool: Self-contained living in an isolated coral paradise

Robinson Crusoe, eat your heart out. Chumbe Island, off the coast of the island nation of Zanzibar, is a lush coral gem featuring a pristine jungle, an old, unmanned 60-foot lighthouse (a great place to watch the sunset) and often not another soul on the island apart from yourself and a ranger.
A short boat ride from the Mbweni Ruins Hotel on the mainland brings guests to the island where they can overnight in one of the half-dozen open two-story beach bungalows. With their sculptured roofs, the bungalows have a Frank-Gehry-in-the-tropics look, but they're very comfortable and self-contained, thanks to an ingenious design that utilizes rainwater cisterns, solar panels and compost toilets.
Chumbe offers some of the best snorkeling on the west African coast, while the high and low tides create wonderful opportunities to explore the Island's ever-changing coral environment. Rangers are available to help visitors find the right snorkeling spot, hunt for coconut crabs (so strong that their claws can cut through metal) and unlock the mysteries of this African paradise.

The Scoop

Information: P.O. Box 3203, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Phone: (+255) 24 223-1040
Web site:
                                                                                                              -  Finn-Olaf Jones
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