Dusk falls on a primeval landscape on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. A final relic from the world’s last ice age, this North Atlantic island nation is a world of knife-cut valleys, gargantuan fjords, monumental cliffs, black-sand beaches, thundering waterfalls, and silent white glaciers. Recent volcanic eruptions remind us that Iceland is still a country in the making, with changed landscapes that even Icelanders continue to discover.
Three years of financial recovery have made Iceland more affordable, with consumer prices now largely pegged to the euro. The country’s return to a humbler attitude stems from a thousand-year-old tradition of self-reliance—a tradition that has preserved one of the world’s oldest living languages and harnessed some of the cleanest energy on Earth.
Photograph by Jon Hicks, Corbis
The Comeback Kid
Dresden shone brightest in the 1700s, when the kings of Saxony spent their wealth to turn their capital into “Florence on the Elbe.” But in February 1945, two days of British and American bombing destroyed much of Dresden’s center and killed tens of thousands of civilians.
Nearly 70 years later, the city has been resurrected as one of Germany’s top tourist destinations. The landmark Frauenkirche (“church of our lady”), a baroque masterpiece designed by George Bähr, was rebuilt from rubble in 2005 (above). Today it towers above a carefully reconstructed historic center that is home to half a dozen world-class museums—from the Albertinum and the Old Masters Picture Gallery, with its Vermeers and Titians, to the oddly named but unforgettable German Hygiene Museum.
Photograph by Jane Sweeney, Corbis
Lost No Longer
Tayrona National Park's gorgeous beaches are a highlight of northernColombia, home also to the famed Ciudad Perdida. The cleared mountaintop terraces of the "lost city" shine like a green grassy beacon declaring the country’s rebirth as a travel destination at the crossroads of the Caribbean and South America.
Photograph by Last Refuge, Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis
Africa's Green and Fiery Heart
Perhaps nowhere on Earth is the dual creative and destructive nature of volcanoes more evident than in central Africa’s Virunga Volcanoes Massif. Straddling the borders between Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the eight-volcano chain is one of Earth’s most active volcanic regions and a veritable salad bowl for mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, and other wildlife. Landscapes in all three countries conjure visions of both Eden and hell.
In Congo, the swirling plume of the active Nyiragongo Volcano (above) beckons. Check on the security situation in the troubled country before going, but those who make the steep five-hour hike up Nyiragongo are rewarded with heady vistas of the world’s largest lava lake. Spend the night on the rim to fully experience the crater’s fiery light and sound spectacle.
Photograph by Lianne Milton
American as Apple Pie
“I’ve been to Napa and Sonoma,” you hear people say, as if they were one and the same. Sure, Sonoma’s 300-plus wineries, like those of vine-centric Napa, offer peak wine tasting, from Ravenswood’s deep Zinfandels to Gloria Ferrer’s sophisticated sparklers. But if you’ve visited only the county’s wineries, come back to sample the astounding diversity that makes Sonoma one of America’s travel treasures.
Spend some time floating in an inner tube down the Russian River and walking amid ancient giants—one over 1,400 years old—at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. Poke around the old Russian stockade at Fort Ross, which turns 200 in 2012, or the Spanish adobe mission, San Francisco Solano, in Sonoma town. Hunt for antiques along Petaluma’s downtown Victorian row, and dine on seasonal sake-steamed, aged abalone at Michelin-starred Cyrus in Healdsburg. And don’t miss a flaky, fruit-packed slice of Gravenstein pie from Mom’s Apple Pie, a roadside stop outside Sebastopol. It ranks up there with a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir as a real taste of Sonomafashioninn4us.blogspot.com