World-Wide Spring Break Travel for College Student & Young Adults
College students these days are thinking beyond Daytona Beach, Cancun, and Mazatlan. Having grown up with the internet they feel a strong connection to other young people around the world, and are very aware of cultural differences, environmental challenges and social and political issues that are shaping the course of the world’s uncertain future. It’s important that they get out and see the world for themselves, making friendships with others and learning what it takes for people of vastly different backgrounds to get along with and work with each other. Spring break is no longer just one big party – it’s an opportunity to grow as a person and learn from the ideas of others.
J-Term trips, sponsored by colleges and universities allow students to study abroad during the long January break. Classes are offered in almost every field of study, and students are able to earn some college credit. However the expense is prohibitive for many, and the experience limits the time students have to travel outside of the classroom to meet new friends not associated with the college group.
In contrast, there are several tour operators that specialize in travel for young adults who want to meet new people and experience first hand some of what the world has to offer. The traveler (and the traveler’s parents) have the peace of mind of knowing that safety is a priority, that local guides will provide in-depth tours and out of the way adventures, and the traveler will have plenty of time for individual exploration with new friends and fellow-travelers who come from all over the world. Because the tours are designed for the college age crowd there are plenty of opportunities to socialize and party, but the main focus is on cultural immersion, stepping just a little bit out of one’s comfort zone to broaden the horizons of these young adventure seekers.
One example of the kind of tours offered is a seven day trip to southern Thailand. The adventure begins in Bangkok where you’ll have a day to explore this magical city, strolling through the iconic Royal Palace’s extensive grounds and temples, taking in the crazy nightlife on Khao San Road, and finding out what authentic pad Thai tastes like! Visit Wat Pho, the temple that houses the massive and impressive statue of the Reclining Buddha. The following day you’ll travel by overnight train to Surat Thani which is the gateway to the islands of the Thong National Marine Park. Don’t miss the Surat Thani Night Market, with food stalls and unique shops jammed together along its crowded alleyways. You’ll visit the Khao Sok National Park where you can sail on Cheow Lan Lake and spot the many animals and birds that live in the surrounding dense rainforest. A bamboo raft will take you to explore the Pakarang Caves (the raft is also your accommodation for the night!) You’ll move on to the islands in the Krabi archipelago where natural cliffs, caves, hot springs and beaches abound. Take an island hopping tour or do some rock climbing above the crystal clear waters of Railay Beach.
Another popular destination for students is Costa Rica. This ten day trip begins in San Jose, the vibrant capital of the country. Once you arrive, take advantage of a free walking tour to help you get a feel for the city as well as gleaning some useful travel tips from your guide. The following day you’ll take a motorcoach to the Arenal region, famous for its volcano. Kayaking on Lake Arenal is at the top of the list for the day’s activities, but you can also opt for a white-water rafting trip, followed by a soak in the natural hot springs. The following day you’ll hike to the base of La Fortuna Waterfall and cool off with a plunge into the deep pool beneath. Next you’ll climb into the cloud forests of Monteverde where ziplining through the clouds is on the agenda. Hiking through a rainforest can get a little steamy – the next stop is Puntarenes, for some beachfront relaxation that will help you understand the Costa Rican mantra “pura vida” – the simple life! A visit to Manuel Antonio National Park takes you through mountainous rainforest where you can expect to encounter howler monkeys, capuchins, iguanas and dolphins – then on to two pristine beaches, Espadilla Sur Beach and Playa Manuel
Antonio where you can wet your whistle with an Imperial beer – Costa Rica’s favorite lager. Your next day in Quepos is yours for exploring at leisure, having lunch at a “soda” (local cafe – authentic food, inexpensive, and crowded with locals who’ll be happy to share stories of local events and Costa Rican culture.) On your way back to the airport in San Jose you’ll stop for a tour of a coffee plantation and have a cup or two to chase away the effects of too many Imperials or Guaro Sours (Costa Rica’s answer to the Chilean Pisco Sour).
A vacation destination that’s on everyone’s bucket list is Australia. A fifteen day tour here gives you a taste of what this vibrant country is all about, with stays in Melbourne, Sydney and Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. One of the main advantages of a tour here is there is no language barrier. Everyone speaks English (sort of) and you’ll pick up some great Aussie expressions and start calling everyone “mate” and yelling out “crikey!” when you’re surprised.
The tour begins in Melbourne with a short walk around the city with your local tour director who can steer you toward the best hangouts, shops, and fun activities. You’ll visit Carlton Gardens, featuring diverse plantings of cacti as well as native plants and flowers. Collins Street’s charming Victorian storefronts contrast with the modern skyscrapers typical in Melbourne, and Queen Victoria Market is the perfect place to sample local brews and street food like jam donuts and superfood smoothies. The next two days you’ll have time on your own to explore now that you have the lay of the land.
You’ll most certainly want to take in the mind-popping graffiti along Hosier Lane and visit Chapel Street to bargain hunt for souvenirs. You’ll no doubt run into some of the talented street musicians that frequent the street corners. Melbourne is a real melting-pot of cultures as there is a large Asian population here as well as transplants from Africa and Europe. Visit Grazeland – a global food truck paradise! You’ll also have the option to tour Phillip Island Nature Park where you can meet penguins and koalas and enjoy some beach time.
The next day you’ll fly to Cairns (“Cans” in local speak) where the atmosphere is definitely more casual and laid-back than Melbourne. Visit the Esplanade Lagoon, built right into the seaside boardwalk, and stop for a cold one at Gilligan’s. The next day you’ll board a boat for the 90 minute trip to the Great Barrier Reef, so immense it is observable from space. You’ll be swimming and snorkeling in one of the most pristine coral reef systems in the world, and you’ll have the option of spending several hours with a marine biologist to acquaint yourself with the marine life you’ll be encountering and the conservation efforts that are strictly maintained. In Mossman Gorge and Port Douglas you’ll discover the rainforest environment of Australia, contrasting sharply with the dry, rugged landscape of the interior. Visit the aboriginal population in Mossman Gorge and experience a Dreamtime Walk, learning about the history and way of life of the Kuku Yulanji people. Port Douglas’ Four Mile Beach is a perfect spot for paddleboarding and kiteboarding or a short hike to Flagstaff Hill Lookout for some fantastic photo ops.
The bus trip from Cairns to Townsville takes you out of the rainforest and into the dry savannah. The hiking trails here are a great place to encounter koalas in their natural environment, and you’ll have more chances for wildlife viewing on Magnetic Island, a short hop from Townsville by ferry. In Airlie Beach you’ll have the day to yourself in this hip beach town with options for a river tour of the Proserpine River Wetlands (home to some Australian crocodiles) or a boat ride to Whitsunday Island to enjoy the whitest sand beaches you’ll ever find.
The next day you’ll fly to Sydney, Australia’s largest city. A harbor cruise in Sydney Harbor will acquaint you with some of Sydney’s most recognized landmarks – the Opera House, The Rocks (dating back to the days of Sydney as a penal colony), Mrs. MacQuarrie’s Chair and Bondi Beach. You’ll take a guided walking tour of the city and spend most of the day at Bondi Beach with an option for a surfing lesson. The next day (your last, unfortunately) is yours to plan. A visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens is a nice break from beach time. If you’re interested in aboriginal history, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park is worth the trip.
If you haven’t got fifteen days to spare and still want to travel “down under,” consider a six day tour of New Zealand. The tour begins in Auckland where you’ll cross the Auckland Harbour Bridge on the road toward Paihia, the entry point for the Bay of Islands. Learn some Kiwi history at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds Museum. Take the next day to enjoy the sandy beaches, take a speed boat ride to Hole in the Rock or parasail over the glistening water. Hiking trails lead to Haruru Falls – you’ll get hungry, so don’t miss fish ‘n chips Kiwi style.
Back in Auckland the following day there are several options for adventure seekers. Bungy jump off the Auckland Harbour Bridge or, if that isn’t enough of a challenge, try Sky Jumping 630 feet down to the heart of Auckland off the impressive Sky Tower. Not that brave? Head on down to Ponsonby Road to do a little shopping and bar hopping. The following day you’ll travel through Waikato’s verdant farmlands on the way to Rotorua, known for its sulfurous mud pools and hot springs. Immerse yourself in ancient Maori culture at a hangi dinner show (much like a Hawaiian luau), and join in the vigorous Haka dancing to work off all the delicious food. The next day you’ll be on your own with so many options for things to do you’d better get up early! Ziplining, water rafting, downhill luge thrill rides, BMX biking, and mountain biking in the Whakarewarewa Forest are all designed to get the blood pumping. OR you can soak in the mineral hot pools and opt for a leisurely boat cruise on Lake Rotomahana.
Another thrilling six day escape is to a destination that has just recently come to the attention of tourists – Iceland. If you’re looking for a destination that is a study in contrast, Iceland certainly fills the bill. Active volcanoes and frozen glaciers, remote wilderness and the modern city of Reykjavik are all part of Iceland’s landscape. You’ll get an overview of the city on your first day on a walking tour with a local guide. Considered one of the cleanest, safest and “greenest” cities in the world, Reykjavik has many points of interest. You’ll be kept busy marveling at the architectural wonders of the Harpa Concert Hall, the iconic Hallgrimskirkja church, and the harborfront Sun Voyager sculpture. Enjoy the quirky street art that appears around almost every corner, and have a brew or two at Gaukurinn, a local hangout frequented by the city’s talented street artists. You’ll want to visit Perlan Museum, high on a hill overlooking the city with a rotating glass dome that affords the visitor fantastic views of the surrounding forestland and city below.
The following day you’ll board a motorcoach to experience a tour of the Golden Circle – a trail that leads to Iceland’s most spectacular natural wonders. Thingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site with a rich history. Viking explorers made this site the location for their early political center back in the tenth century. Currently it is the location for many episodes of Game of Thrones. The Oxararfoss Waterfall is worthy of the hike to see it as is the Nikulasargja Gorge – both offer stunning views popular with amateur and professional photographers alike. The next attraction is the Geysir Geothermal Area, home of two geysers, one of which is basically inactive unless triggered by earthquakes. The other is very active, much like America’s beloved Old Faithful. The Strokkur geyser erupts every ten minutes, spewing water up to 130 feet in the air. It’s possible to walk around the geysers for photographs. The visitor center features handcrafted Icelandic souvenirs and serves authentic Icelandic delicacies like fish stew, smoked lamb, and (for foodies who are willing to try anything) sour ram’s testicles, fermented shark and sheep’s head. The powerful Gullfoss Waterfall is the last stop on the tour. A pedestrian path takes the visitor to the very edge of the falls, and the sunshine overhead creates dozens of rainbows in the mist – once again, a photographer’s paradise.
The following day you’ll visit the south coast of Iceland which features yet another waterfall – Seljalandsfoss – where you can walk into a cavern behind the waterfall and feel the power of the rushing water. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach is perfect for hiking to view the caves, cliffs, and stone arches that have been formed by the pounding sea. The stone pillars there are chronicled in Icelandic folk tales about trolls who hunted down passing sailing ships attempting to drag them to land. Foiled by the rising sun, they were struck down and turned into stone. Reynisfjara is not a swimming beach however, as the waves are unpredictable and dangerous. A stop at the Eyjafjallajökull volcano’s visitor center offers a fascinating look into the massive eruption in 2010 which destroyed much farmland and disrupted air travel to and from Europe for weeks due to visibility issues.
Your last full day in Iceland is all about relaxing and revisiting some of Reykjavik’s attractions that appealed to you. A trip to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is a must for relaxing those tired muscles after your hikes at the beach and the volcano. Will you want to return to Iceland? Without a doubt!
Let’s not forget about all the wonderful places there are to visit in Europe. Because many of the countries are close together, you can cover a lot of ground, see scads of amazing sights, and meet many interesting people all in one spectacular trip. A fifteen day tour of Greece and Italy hits a majority of the highlights of each country. The tour begins in Athens where a local guide will introduce you to the secrets and history of the Acropolis, Parthenon, and the Temple of Athena Nike, the patron goddess of the city. In your free time, visit Monastiraki, a hip, picturesque neighborhood jammed with local shops and bistros. Don’t wear out your feet on the first day of your trip – see all the sights by using the “hop on, hop off” bus service that hits all the highlights. The next day is a road trip to the Peloponnesus peninsula with stops in ancient Epidaurus and Mycenae on the way to Nafplio, a picturesque seaside town favored by Athenians as a weekend getaway. Take a hike along the Palamidi path to view the fortress overlooking the sea – the path ends at Karathona Beach, one of several beautiful beaches on the coast of Nafplio.
The next day you’ll visit Olympia, a UNESCO World Heritage site – the location of the first Olympic stadium. The first Olympic games were held in 776 BC, so the stadium has seen better days, but the Archaeological Museum is a treasure trove of artifacts and statues dedicated to Zeus and other Olympic gods. In Dephi you’ll visit the Sanctuary of Apollo and spend time enjoying the scenery at Mt. Parnassus. Traveling to Kalambaka you’ll visit the Meteora monasteries, perched high above the city amid jagged cliffs and peaks (the monks didn’t welcome company!) Whitewater river rafting is a popular sport here along the scenic, rushing Aspropotamos River.
You’ll retrace your steps to Athens for a two hour flight to Rome where your knowledgeable guide will get you acquainted with some of the most iconic historical landmarks in the world. Visit the Colosseum, the Forum and the Temple of the Vestal Virgins. Your guide can give you suggestions for sightseeing the following day which is free for you to explore on your own. Of course you’ll want to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain and visit St. Peter’s Basilica to marvel at Michaelangelo’s handiwork, but take a hike up Palatine Hill for a marvelous overview of the city. Run up and down the 135 Spanish Steps to work off all the pizza you’ve been eating. (It’s also a great place for picture taking and people watching!) Take an evening stroll at the Piazza Navona to enjoy the lighted fountains and treat yourself to a gelato. If you enjoy street performers, hit the Trastevere or Via del Corso neighborhoods after dark.
It’ll be hard to leave Rome, but, Hey! Florence awaits! On your way through the scenic countryside you’ll stop in Orvieto for a visit to a 13th century cathedral. In Florence you’ll hit all the “must see” attractions – the Uffizi Gallery (think statue of David), the medieval Ponte Vecchio with its high end shops and galleries, and the Basilica de Sante Croce, burial place of Michaelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo. Wine tasting tours at a winery in the Tuscan countryside are an option.
Or how about something a little more unusual? Picture yourself sailing the Adriatic Sea (on an actual sailboat!) to see the beautiful islands of Croatia. This voyage is limited to 28 people, so you’ll really get to know your fellow sailors. You’ll begin the eight day journey in Split – a city that takes you back in time to the ancient Roman empire. You’ll sail to the island of Hvar and climb to the Spanish Fortress overlooking the town – what a view! St. Stephen’s Square is in the heart of Hvar Town, a great place to have a glass of wine and a bowl of buzara ( mussel stew) and fritules (addictive pastries). Sail on to the island of Korcula, affectionately known as “the wine island” because of all the varietals exclusively produced here. Try windsurfing or take a bike tour of the city.
You’ll spend two nights in Dubrovnik – and it won’t be enough time. You’ll have a guided tour so you can get your bearings, and then set off on your own. It’s a walled city, and a popular thing to do is to take a two hour walk around the walls, climb the Minceta Tower, and take tons of pictures. Ride a cable car to the top of Mt. Srd overlooking the city and visit Fort Lovrijenac (a site used in a Game of Thrones episode). Take a ferry ride or kayak to Lokrum Island and relax at the beach. Sailing past the Elaphite Islands you’ll arrive in Trstenik, a great location for scuba and cave diving.
You’ll continue to the Croatian Riviera and the town of Makarska. With beautiful beaches on one side and the imposing Biokovo Mountain on the other, you’ll find plenty to do. Jet skiing, parasailing and perfecting your tan is one way to spend the day. In the evening visit Club Deep, a natural cave reborn as a trendy night club. You’ll return to Split on the last day for your return to reality.
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Whether you’re a college student or just a young adult who is wanting to travel the world before life and responsibilities weigh you down, call the professionals at Travel Leaders to steer you in the right direction in your search for global adventures.
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