Plaza Nariño, Pasto's main plaza. Photo © Andrew Dier.

Visit Pasto and Laguna La Cocha

Many people overlook unassuming Pasto, set in the verdant Valle de Atriz with the deceivingly gentle, sloping Volcán Galeras watching over it. But both it and the stunning Nariño countryside deserve your time and attention. Spend your time visiting museums and sights that will keep you intellectually stimulated for more than a couple days, and make sure you take the delightful excursion to Laguna La Cocha.

Cacti along the coastline of Shark Bay National Park on the island of Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

Off the Water: Forests and Parks in the Virgin Islands

Away from the water, the Virgin Islands are a fascinating and richly diverse landscape: rocky bluffs and wide plains; mountain peaks and dry seaside forests; salt ponds and rainforest. Pack a pair of walking shoes, a water bottle, and a sense of adventure to get up close to the natural world away from the ocean.

Ancient pines gnarled by the wind dot the upper elevations. Photo © Jenna Blough.

Hiking Telescope Peak, Death Valley’s Highest Point

A true Death Valley classic, if you can only choose one hike in Death Valley, put Telescope Peak in the running. The sweeping 360° views make it worthwhile and give a sense of Death Valley’s vast scope, and if you’ve been exploring the canyons and valley floors, this is your chance to have a personal travel retrospective.

Glasswing butterfly, Monteverde Butterfly Garden. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Family Fun in Costa Rica

Combining educational options with fun keeps children (and parents) enthralled. From snakes and sloths and crocodiles to river safaris and air tram rides through the forest and above volcanoes, these ideas focus on outdoor adventure & learning while experiencing nature.

Old brick smokestack in Death Valley, California.

Hiking Surprise Canyon in Death Valley

A good hike through Surprise Canyon averages about four hours. Many people go far over that and trek into Panamint City, but the canyon is well worth the time to explore on its own–picture relaxing with your feet in the splashing creek and a nice picnic in the shade after a good workout. Use these detailed directions and trail tips to experience all the canyon has to offer.

The art piece The Last Supper features ghostly life-size hollow figures against a desert background.

The Ghost Town of Rhyolite in Death Valley

Learn about the ghost town of Rhyolite in Death Valley National Park, settled in 1904 and abandoned almost completely by 1920. You’ll find plenty of intact ruins to explore, as well as a few surreal and unique sights.

A charcoal kiln used for making coal from juniper and pine in Death Valley, California.

Wildrose Charcoal Kilns and Hiking Wildrose Peak

Once used to make charcoal for the mining efforts in the area, the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns now stand as works of hand-engineered beauty. While you’re here, consider taking a hike to Wildrose Peak and be rewarded with incredible panoramic views from the windswept summit.

Ghostly plaster figures in an eerie rendition of The Last Supper. Photo © Jenna Blough.

Death Valley’s Five Strangest Places

Amidst Death Valley’s barbed desert expanses, lonesome stretches of highway, twisting dirt roads, and eternal quiet, life (and possibly even death) seems to take on a different shape. From creepy to beautiful, mysterious to moving, ridiculous to sublime, here are five of the strangest places expert author Jenna Blough has encountered in her many desert rambles.