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10 Best Adventure Vacations for Real Estate Moguls


You've spent the whole year working countless hours, nights and weekends wheeling and dealing. With the holiday break approaching, it's the perfect time to grab a plus one and a suitcase and hop a flight to one (or all) of these cool destinations for a fresh new experience. Here are some of National Geographic's hottest winter vacations—the actual temperature varies depending upon geographic location—you don't want to miss out on this year.

1. Christmas in the Capital in Vilnius Historic Center

Where: Vilnius, Lithuania

When: Nov. 27 to Jan. 6

Travel back in time in one of the most charming cities in the world, with its snow-capped castles, Gothic churches and cobblestone streets. You can watch chunks of glacier flow through the River Neris, which runs through town; watch performances of The Nutcracker at the Lithuanian National Opera Ballet Theatre, and take a winter snowmobile Safari through national park forest trails and across snowy fields and frozen lakes. Hotel options include the Moon Garden Art Hotel (but be forewarned, there is no elevator), and the popular Artis Hotel near the Presidential Palace.

2. San Sebastian Street Fest

Where: Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

When: Jan. 14-17

It's Old San Juan's biggest winter event, with food, parades, vendors, and activities for kids, all against the backdrop of Puerto Rican salsa, reggaeton, mirengue and batucada. This is Puerto Rico's way of saying goodbye to the holiday season, and there's a good mix of tourists and locals alike. Daytime activities are fun for the entire family, then after sunset the party really starts. The rule of thumb is the higher you go, the more local it gets, with San Sebastian Street at the top of the hill. So climb high, but be careful because the cobblestones get slippery. Convenient lodging can be found at El Convento, a convent-turned-luxury-hotel, and hotel Milano.

3. Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

Where: New Taipei City, Taiwan

When: Feb. 22

Ring in the Year of the Monkey with one of Taiwan's most celebrated Chinese New Year events. Anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 glowing rice paper lanterns are released on the evening of the first full moon of the lunar new year, and each lantern has handwritten wishes, prayers and vows for the coming year. The main launch site is Shifen Sky Lantern Square. There are also carnivals, lantern-making workshops and lantern blessings.

While you're in town, you might also want to check out Shifen Waterfall, known as "Taiwan's Niagara Falls." It's 50 feet tall and 100 feet wide, and is the largest curtain-type waterfall in Taiwan. Lodging in Pingxi is limited, so your best bet is to stay in Taipei. The Meander Hostel offers a fun, budget-friendly option in the middle of Taipei's fashion and culture hub of Ximending. It has a multi-lingual staff that organizes group activities like a night at the market or a traditional Taiwanese cooking class in the hostel's communal kitchen.

4. Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park Safari

Where: 150 miles north of Durban, South Africa

When: December to March

Established in 1895, this is Africa's oldest game reserve. Summer, in the Southern Hemisphere, is the best time to view the big five (lion, elephant, cape buffalo, leopard, rhino), along with blue wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, warthog, hyena, impala, cheetah and more. The weather is a sunny 86°, with occasional rainstorms, which makes for beautiful rainbows. And since the grass is very thick, animals tend to venture out to the road more often. Plus, it's a great time to see animals drinking from the river and wallowing in the mud.

You can stay in one of the 12 guest rooms at the Concierge Boutique Bungalows. Rooms feature dark slate floors and bright furniture. And check out Durban's Essenwood Market on Saturdays 9am to 2pm for Zulu crafts like shields, beadwork, jewelry, bags, and woven grass mats and baskets.

5. NYF (New Year's Festival) Dublin

Where: Dublin, Ireland

When: Dec. 30 to Jan. 1

Last year was the inaugural NYF, and it earned the "Best Live Event" at Ireland's 2015 Event Industry Awards. Most of the festival is family-friendly, with arts, culture, live entertainment and 3D light projection leading up to an outdoor New Year's Eve countdown concert. Be part of a record-breaking bodhran session after the Procession of Light in the city center at 4pm on New Year's Eve.

Then Resolution Day on Jan. 1, has events like the NYF Dublin 5K Fun Run, fitness workshops and rugby. If you want to lodge in the middle of the action, the Dean is a perfect spot right in the center of the city, with a rooftop bar and nightclubs all around. Rooms range from cozy "modern pod" rooms with daybeds to a two-bedroom penthouse with a foosball table, a record player, a vinyl collection and a classic Martin acoustic guitar.

6. Al Ain

Where: Abu Dhabi, UAE

Al Ain (or "The Spring") is one of the world's oldest continually inhabited settlements. Today it's a bustling metropolis, but it also holds the UAE's first World Heritage site, designated in 2011. The site includes six oases and three archaeological sites. Sightseeing gems include the Al Ain National Museum, the Al Ain date palm grove with a falaj irrigation system from the Iron Age, and the Bronze Age Hafit Tombs. You can stay in one of 30 private luxury villas at the exclusive Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Al Yamm Villa Resort, overlooking the Arabian Gulf and the Sir Bani Yas Island wildlife sanctuary. Some villas even have a plunge pool.

7. The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF)

Where: Santa Barbara, CA

When: Feb. 3 to 13

Often called the American Riviera, SBIFF is like the Cannes Film Festival in Santa Barbara. This year, the festival will feature 200 films, with screenings of Ireland's top animated films from the Dingle International Film Festival. There will also be panel discussions, filmmaker seminars, and a daily screening of some of the festival's best films. Meanwhile, many local restaurants will offer special Film Feast VIP menus. Carol star Rooney Mara (pictured) is set to receive this year's Cinema Vanguard Award. Stay in the heart of downtown at the Canary, a Kimpton boutique hotel with hardwood floors and four-poster beds. The hotel also has public bikes and Santa Barbara's only rooftop pool.

8. Los Dos Cooking School

Where: Merida, Mexico

It's like a history lesson told through food. Los Dos founder chef David Sterling will teach you to prepare food from the Yucatán Peninsula, starting with Mayan food and weaving in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Lebanese and Dutch. Sterling's classes range from one-day sessions to a week-long workshop, even field trips to local Mayan families' homes and cacao plantations. You can stay at Hacienda Xcanatun, roughly 15 minutes north of Merida. It's a former 18th-century ranch turned sisal plantation that was converted into a small luxury hotel in 2000. Its 18 rooms and suites feature 18-foot wood-beamed ceilings, hand-carved furnishings and verandas. There's also a spa, two swimming pools, tropical gardens, and a restaurant in the plantation's former threshing room.

9. The Penguins of Chile

Where: Chiloe Island, Chile

When: Summer (December to March)

This is the only known mixed pinguinera (penguin colony) of Magellanic and Humboldt Penguins in the Pacific. Boat tours guided by local fishermen will take you up close for a good view of the penguins, while still maintaining a respectful distance. You're also likely to see otters, chimango caracaras (or raptors), cormorants, pelicans and other seabirds on the 30-minute ferry ride to the island. Stay at the Palafito Hostel Cucao next to Chiloe National Park on the island's Pacific coast. The lodge has 11 rooms, all of which have lake views, and a pier with kayak rentals.

10. Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP) in Raratonga

Where: Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Snorkelers and swimmers love the lagoon surrounding Rarotonga by day, but paddleboarding at night is the perfect way to check out the volcanic island's marine life. Ariki Holidays offers twilight to dark SUP tours with LED-lit paddleboards to see the coral and marine life at night. Visitors get to see fish heading to their coral beds, turtles, octopus, eels, rays, and even the little fish that jump on the surface. Ariki Holidays also rents three studio bungalows near Muri Beach in eastern Rarotonga. Or you can stay at the beachfront Pacific Resort Rarotonga, which has 64 studios, suites, and two- and three-bedroom villas.