• Hot Air Balloons Over Bagan, Myanmar

    Epic Ballooning Over Bagan

    <h2>Breathtaking, serene and unspoiled by tourists.</h2>   <p>To truly comprehend the magnificence of Bagan — a massive plain of ancient Buddhist temples — it must be see from the air. When viewed from above in a hot air balloon, the 2,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and stupas of Bagan resemble a mountain range. Yet upon closer look, the 26-square-mile site near the banks of the Ayeyarwady River is comprised of structures ranging from plant-covered ruins to the magnificent Ananda Temple. Situated in central <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/myanmar/" target="_blank" title="Myanmar itinerary">Myanmar</a>, Bagan is one of Asia’s most important archeological sites. Now, thanks to the recent easing of military rule in the nation formerly known as Burma, visitors can explore this vast landmark like never before. Today, Bagan is both breathtaking and serene, yet unspoiled by tourists.</p> <h3><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/myanmar/" target="_blank" title="Travel to Myanmar">GET LOST IN TIME ON OUR AWE-INSPIRING CULTURAL WALKING ADVENTURE IN MYANMAR.</a></h3> <p>Taking in the sheer spectacle of Bagan requires a full day. Of course, we’ll start by arranging that hot air balloon ride. Then, we’ll ensure you fully experience this epic site, from wandering quiet overgrown paths to visiting the most important historical structures, some of which date back to the 11th century. Buddhism flourished here at Bagan, and its’ estimated 13,000 temples once dotted the landscape. The region became a seat of power in the 9th century under King Anawraha, until it ultimately fell to the Mongols in 1287. Our guide will share the stories of his land and how they relate to the remaining temples. Here, as per Buddhist direction, every element of the temple architecture has a meaning: every carving, every spire and every stone. You’ll hear the stories, you’ll understand the meanings.<br><br><img alt="Buddhist Temples" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7m8&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002om1" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>Discover the glazed frescos of Gubyaukgyi dating to the 13th century, and marvel at the vaulted cave temple of Htilo Minlo. Wander the ruins, and feel the past. Then, visit the Ananda Temple, which functions as a museum sharing the architecture, history and stories of the land. Our local guide will further impart the history and wisdom held in the architecture of Bagan. From a sunrise balloon ride to a carefully though-out spot for viewing sunset over the temples, your day in Bagan will stay with you long after your departure.</p> <p>Of course, your <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/myanmar/" target="_blank" title="Myanmar travel">exploration of Myanmar</a> hits the must-see Bagan, but we’ll also take you to bustling cities and the gorgeous countryside. The trip begins in the south, where you’ll stay at the former home of the ruler of Burma’s southern states, now a fine hotel. Here in the capital city of Yangon, cast your eyes upon the gilded Sule Pagoda and it’s 200-foot-long reclining Buddha. Take in the gold-domed, diamond-, ruby- and sapphire-encrusted stupa of the Shwedagon Pagoda, what some consider the world’s oldest pagoda and the uncontested favorite sunset viewing spot in Yangon.<br><br><img alt="Temple in Myanmar" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7m8&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002om6" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>After a short flight to the Inle Lake region, visit the surprising wine country of Myanmar. Boats are the primary mode of transportation here, and you’ll explore the region’s waters. Shopping, fishing and even housing all rely on the rivers. Here, feel ensconced in the community as our hotel sits on stilts above the waters, nestled near rice paddies.</p> <p>While the majestic Bagan and its 2,000 temples anchors our tour, the visit to Myanmar would not be complete without experiencing the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp in Kalaw. For centuries, elephants have helped locals manage their land and build their railways. Visit the retired elephants at this camp, and connect with these majestic animals with a ride through the forest.</p> <p>An ancient land that’s becoming increasingly viable to Westerners, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/myanmar/" target="_blank" title="Myanmar travel">now’s the time for travelers to visit Myanmar</a>, and especially Bagan, before tourism changes the cultural and physical landscape forever.<br><br>Read more about the sites and people of Myanmar.</p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/myanmar-democracy-leader-begins-landmark-tour-of-us/" target="_blank" title="Myanmar Democracy Leader Begins Landmark Tour of US">From Bagan to Yangon.</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/where-to-catch-the-most-mesmerizing-sunsets-even-at-midnight/" target="_blank" title="Where to catch the most mesmerizing sunsets. Even at midnight.">Where to Catch the Most Amazing Sunsets.</a></p> <p> </p> <p> </p>

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  • Family Jumping on Beach

    Where to catch the most mesmerizing sunsets. Even at midnight.

    <h2>Put down the camera and enjoy the “sundown effect”.</h2>   <p>The sky turns tangerine. A distant mound of clouds goes from crimson to pink. Mother Nature doesn’t make moments better than that. So grab a pic or two, but don’t let the lens stand between you and the bigger experience – what we call the “sundown effect”. Every night, the world changes at whatever-o’clock as dusk deepens. The sounds, the tempo, and even the breezes shift at that moment. The sunsets on these Classic Journeys are more than hypnotically beautiful. Each one is a unique drama that’s worth the trip all by itself.</p> <p>Just click any headline for more details about the destination. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/world/" target="_blank" title="Search tours">Or browse all of our unforgettable vacations in 75 regions located in 35 countries on 5 continents.</a><br><br><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/greece/" target="_blank" title="Greece adventures">Santorini, Greece</a></b><br><br>Perched above the glass-calm caldera, every spot in Santorini is a ringside seat for sunset. The kaleidoscopic sky goes through a feverish range of color shifts. And watch how the fading sun drains the sapphire from the sea to replace it with warmer, fading hues. Closer in, the blinding white buildings around you are pale violet all of a sudden. Golden lights spark to life as the village slips into evening gear.<br><br><img alt="Santorini Sunset" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7mZ&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM50000000jdem" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/vietnam/" target="_blank">Angkor Wat, Cambodia</a></b><br><br>In this legendary landscape of intricate temples, no moment of the day is more spiritual than sunset. Be there as the sun’s descent begins. The cryptic carvings and lacy crenellations go into soft focus as dusk drains the light until your horizon is full of an awesome silhouette backlit by the glorious tropical sky. After 13 centuries, it’s still a moment that inspires quiet awe.<br><br><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/iceland/" target="_blank" title="Iceland adventures">The Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland</a></b><br><br>This is the sunset that pulled Viking explorers west. To watch the day end here is to wonder where the sun must go. Against an apricot sky, the glacier-capped volcano that Jules Verne called “The Center of the Earth” lords over all. Just in front of you, a meandering estuary glimmers in the fading day. The white peaks in the distance reach up to reflect the last rays before they wink out. And if your timing is right, the Northern Lights flicker and dance as if to replace the sun.<br><br><img alt="Iceland sunset" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7mZ&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002p7E" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/grandcanyon/" target="_blank" title="Grand Canyon Adventure">North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Colorado</a></b><br><br>The Grand Canyon seems to grow deeper as sunset nears. In the shade of the distant South Rim, the canyon looks like a purple sea. Islands of crimson, coral and tangerine – the caps of mesas high enough to catch the last light – float in the foreground. Some sunsets happen in a second. But the Grand Canyon gives up the day slowly. So you have luxurious time for photos and to sit back and soak it all in.<br><br><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/africa/" target="_blank" title="Morocco adventure">Saharan Dunes, Morocco</a></b><br><br>The soaring Merzouga Dunes are the world’s tallest, with great billows and crests of coppery sand. At sunset, they turn even deeper red as if they’re soaking up the last of the sun. The ultimate experience here is to sway on camelback to a spot not far from your luxury Berber encampment. And then you stop. And watch. As the sun drops it sends waves of shadows across the Sahara, until it disappears in a final flash – and you feel the quick retreat of the heat as night settles onto the desert.in.<br><br><img alt="Morocco sunset" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7mZ&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002p7J" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/costarica/" target="_blank" title="Costa Rica Adventures">Manuel Antonio Park, Costa Rica</a></b><br><br>Ever watched sunset from a tree house balcony? That’s the remarkable vantage point in this amazing park. Sit back with a glass of wine. Far below, the Pacific washes up to a horseshoe beach as a fiery tropical light show fills the view. You’re surrounded by jungle, and so it’s not just the disappearing sun that makes the moment so special. All around you, the daytime sounds crossfade to the soothing sounds of the night – like the movements of a natural symphony.</p> <p><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/scandinavia/" target="_blank" title="Norway Adventures">Bergen, Norway</a></b><br><br>One of our favorite sunsets is one that never quite happens. Midsummer in Norway, the sun is a tease. It promises to set, but never does more than kiss the horizon. No matter how many times you’re read or hear about it, the midnight sun is a lovely (and disorienting) surprise. The long, soft shadows of endless dusk may lead you to postpone bedtime. And you will certainly be glad you experienced this phenomenon instead of the dark winter months when it’s sunrise that never comes.</p> <p><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/italianlakes/" target="_blank" title="Italian lakes adventure">Lake Como, Italy</a></b><br><br>Claim a spot on the terrace. Refresh your favorite aperitivo. Ask for some olives to nibble on for a while. You won’t want to head for dinner until the sunset show is over. Lakeside, the cool shadows arrive early. But Lake Como is tucked among mountains, and long after the sun disappears from your view, you can track its descent as the shadow rises until only the highest peaks are lit in a final burst of alpenglow. It may be the most civilized sunset you’ll ever enjoy.<br><br><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/myanmar/" target="_blank" title="Myanmar Adventure">Bagan, Myanmar</a></b><br><br>The templed plain of Bagan is extraordinary in any kind of light. From a hot-air balloon, sunrise is magical. At midday, you can best grasp the scale of the site’s 2,200 temples and pagodas. But it is at sunset, as you stand atop one of the pagoda spires that the beauty is most splendiferous. The nearby Irrawaddy River glows like molten pewter. Face west and the spires become jet black silhouettes against the sky. Look to the east, and you see the sun gild the temples in dazzling light as their 12th and 13th century builders must have intended.<br><br><img alt="Myanmar sunset" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7mZ&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002p7O" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br><b><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank" title="Cuba Adventure">The Malécon, Havana</a></b><br><br>Havana’s harborside esplanade is sometimes called “the world’s longest sofa” for how the Cubans lounge along its five-mile length. Sunset is prime time. Waves splash up against the sea wall. As the heat of the day melts away, the music starts and the conversation picks up. At the far end of the arc, the towers of the legendary Hotel Nacional are alight. And all along the boulevard, a necklace of streetlights flatters the faded facades of grand buildings and let you imagine this proud 500-year-old city in its heyday.<br><br>From sun up to sun down, every Classic Journey is a handcrafted mix of wonderful cultural and historic experiences that immerse you in the life of the region you visit. Browse all of our destinations now.</p>

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  • Woman taking photo of temple at sunset in Myanmar

    What Travel Looks Like, 20 Years Down the Road

    <p>For a perfect symbol of how travel has changed over the last 20 years, I vote for that little cheese-yellow box of Kodak film. Oh, the debates we had about how many rolls of 24 or 36 exposures to cram into our bags. How we crossed our fingers every time we pushed the shutter button. And then came the antsy wait for the prints to come back from the drugstore. Subtract the rolls that didn’t rewind right, the thumbs in front of the lens, the over-exposed sunsets, and you felt lucky to end up with a dozen or two really terrific shots.</p> <p>As we look ahead to our 20th Anniversary in 2015, I find myself reminiscing on the past two decades, comparing then and now. I sure wouldn’t trade the speed, reliability and instant gratification of my digital camera for anything. The same goes for e-tickets. (Admit it: at least once in your life, you dumped a backpack or a purse onto an airport floor in the frantic search for a paper ticket that was actually in your jacket pocket.) Travel apps trump half-pound guidebooks full of slightly out-of-date info any day.</p> <p>Way back in ’95, your Bon Voyage party could tag along to the boarding gate at some airports…and you didn’t take your shoes off until it was time to try sleeping on your overnight flight (in a seat with inches of width we’ve kissed goodbye forever). You couldn’t visit Montenegro (because it didn’t exist) or <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/now-is-the-time-to-go/" target="_blank" title="Travel to Myanmar">travel to Myanmar</a> (because nobody was allowed in). Somewhere in a drawer, you had an envelope full of leftover French francs that you couldn’t use on your next trip to Italy or Spain. <i>Vive la euro! </i><br><br><img alt="Group walking in Provence" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7n3&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002pYu" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><i>Classic Journeys is founded in 1995, and kicks off with a cultural walking tour of Provence among 8 trip regions in 4 countries.</i></p> <p><br>You can probably add a dozen more changes to the list. But here’s one you may not have thought about. In this flatter world – where travelers swim in a sea of Wiki entries and crowd-sourced reviews – it’s gotten harder than ever to have the spontaneous, authentic experiences that are the Holy Grail of avid travelers. Is there a pho shop in Hanoi that hasn’t been rated? An inch of the Inca Trail that hasn’t been Instagrammed? A Croatian village that doesn’t have its own website?</p> <p>I call it the democratization of travel, and mostly it’s an excellent thing. It opens minds to new ideas and inspires people to head for places they never considered before. But how crazy is it that the easier it becomes to research and travel to destinations, the harder it is to feel like you’ve actually been there in a real, deep-in-your-soul sort of way? Uncounted thousands have crossed <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/how-to-visit-machu-picchu/" target="_blank" title="Tips for Visiting Machu Picchu">Machu Picchu off their bucket lists </a>in the last two decades, but how few of them got more than a drive-by, greatest-hits visit?</p> <p>This is where our job at Classic Journeys has become extra challenging…and a ton of fun. All along, our idea was to turn left when everybody else turned right, to track down or create experiences that would be one-of-a-kind. One of my co-founders, Steve Snapp, has been heard to joke that, “Edward never met a shepherd he didn’t love.” Guilty as charged! We reward our local guides for connecting us with people and places that don’t show up on other trips. If we can make pasta in a private Amalfi home on top of a cliff, my day is made. Introduce me to a truffle-hunter or a floating farmer in Myanmar or the Quechua children in a remote Peruvian school or a cigar-roller in rural Cuba, and I’m a very happy camper. I love it when we can break down a barrier or shatter somebody’s preconceived notions. One of my favorite shepherds is a Sardinian named Tonino. He makes us lunch and we eat on cork plates in his garden. His only exposure to Americans used to be via SkyTV. Even mainland Italians are outlanders to him. Our time with him shows us a world that we can barely believe still exists. But his eyes have been opened in nice ways too. That’s the power of travel at its best.<br><br><img alt="Cooking lesson in Provence" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7n3&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002pYz" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><i>In 1999, a casual cooking session in a friend’s Provencal kitchen inspires Classic Journeys to create culinary tours in France and Italy.</i><br><br>Finding authenticity is definitely not a static process. We’re on a constant quest for new twists and ways to refresh a trip. Sometimes it takes years to gently convince someone – oh, say, a goatherd – to invite us into his mountainside hut. Much of the originality happens on the fly. We’ve always empowered our guides to go with the flow, to zig off to a one-day village festival that wasn’t in the plan. It’s one of the ways technology has made a huge positive difference. A quick text message or email lets us fire off a suggestion or respond to a guide’s suggestion in real time. We’ve been known to look at long-distance weather forecasts and suggest switching a coastal walk to today because it looks more ideal than tomorrow.<br><br><img alt="White water rafting in Costa Rica" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7n3&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002pZ4" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><i>Classic Journeys launches Family Journeys in 2003. Costa Rica tops the list of early favorites.</i></p> <p><br>Travel’s democratization has also made a major difference in how you shop for and book vacations. Everybody has access to just about every pixel’s worth of travel info on the Internet. In our own case, we started when websites were still optional. Our original site had a couple of dozen pages; we’re up to thousands now. Google the phrase “Tuscany tour”, and you get “about 15,500,000 results.” You could book who knows how many hundreds of them with a couple of minutes at your computer keyboard…without ever exchanging words with another human. Happily, we see that what hasn’t changed is that travelers still love to talk. A lot of you really crave conversation and need it more than ever in order to sort through all of the options. You won’t find anyone who’s happier to oblige than we are.</p> <p>For us personally at Classic Journeys, the most recent change is that we’re heading into our 20th Anniversary Year as the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/its-been-quite-a-trip-to-1/" target="_blank" title="World&#39;s Best Tour Operator">World’s Best Tour Operator</a> in the latest <i>Travel + Leisure</i> Reader Survey. This is our seventh appearance on one of the <i>T+L</i> World’s Best lists in the last 10 years and our first time as #1. Back in 1995, we couldn’t have predicted that any more than we would have said we’d use our iPhone as a flashlight on an after-sunset stroll in a Croatian garden.</p> <p>I’m just so happy that we’ve been here to see it all. That our style of immersive experiential travel has grown to matter more than ever before. And that travelers who like to get under the skin of a place know that we understand them and can make it happen. I’m not brave enough to predict everything the next 20 years will hold, but I’m willing to bet there will never be an app for that.</p> <br> 

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