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While at home, dream, plan and become an armchair traveler

  • TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
                                A couple of giraffes strike a pose in Etosha National Park.

    TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

    A couple of giraffes strike a pose in Etosha National Park.

For now, we can be armchair travelers. We can dream, imagine and plan. Here are five places where beautiful scenery, wide-open spaces and compelling adventures await.

1. Explore Namibia

One of the least populated countries in the world, Namibia, right, begs to be explored. From the capital city of Windhoek to the stark Skeleton Coast, you’ll find a timeless landscape where desert­-adapted wildlife —elephants, lions and the rare, black rhino — share the vast landscape with birds, antelopes, cape foxes and brown hyenas. Drive through barren moonscapes and search for small herds of Hartmann’s zebras or find pink flamingos and other migratory birds in a coastal wetland. Few people and sparse development translate into a magnificent display of stars. Don’t forget to look up.

Contact: NamibiaTourism.com.na; AndBeyond.com

2. Discover the wonders of Palau

This Pacific archipelago, made up of 500 islands, is one of the richest ecosystems on the planet, and home to more than 1,300 species of fish and 700 species of coral. During your visit to this aquatic wonderland you can paddle and snorkel amid the multicolored brain coral of the Rock Islands, which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. History lovers will find the WWII heritage compelling.

Contact: PristineParadisePalau.com

3. Adventure in Alaska

Our sparsely populated and endlessly captivating 49th state lures those who yearn for epic scenery, spouting whales and glaciers the size of small countries. Experience family travel in rugged Alaska by road and rail, via boutique yachts and expedition ships that set sail for adventure beginning each spring. Aboard smaller vessels you’ll have meaningful cultural experiences, find your way to natural nooks and crannies, opt for hiking and kayaking and discover rarely visited wilderness areas. Those who venture to America’s last frontier will be rewarded with Mother Nature in all her glory.

Contact: Uncruise.com; WindstarCruises.com

4. Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky, Mont.

Just a stone’s throw from Yellowstone National Park’s northwest border, you’ll find a cluster of hand-built cabins. Authentic and luxurious, the historic accommodations help visitors envision days when the property was a working cattle ranch. Then, like now, the region is home to stunning vistas, and abundant wildlife including grizzlies, bison and wolves. In the company of guides or on your own, adventurers have the chance to fish Blue Ribbon trout streams and explore the area’s many hiking trails via horseback, skis or snowshoes.

Contact: LoneMountainRanch.com

5. Grand Marais, Minn.

Located on the shores of Lake Superior, this friendly, harbor-side village blends an artistic, creative vibe with an adventurous spirit. Home to nationally renowned art schools and galleries, Grand Marais also serves as the gateway to the Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Hike Pincushion Mountain, set sail on Superior or bike along the shoreline. Plan a side trip down the 57-mile, historic Gunflint Trail, from which you’ll have the option to paddle across glacier-carved lakes, hike through ancient forests, fish for walleye and sample Northwoods hospitality.

Contact: Gunflint.com; VisitCookCounty.com; exploreminnesota.com

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