So many places to experience, so little time. Unless, of course, you're a travel photographer. As the final part of our All-Season 8 series, we asked Forest Woodward, a Brooklyn-based photographer with a hefty collection of passport stamps, for the eight places he's captured that no one should miss.
1. Patagonia, Argentina
A short flight or a twenty four hour bus ride out of Buenos Aires takes you to Bariloche and the Lakes Region in the northern reaches of Patagonia. Within easy striking distance of world class hiking in Chile’s Torre del Paine and at the heart of some magnificent climbing and skiing (depending on the season) this part of Argentina is a place to fall in love. If you go, be prepared to fall deeply in love with the landscape, the climbing, the fly fishing, the skiing,the beautiful and welcoming people, the vino and asados…the list goes on. If you don’t fall in love here, be sure to stop and get your heart checked out in the tango parlors of Buenos Aires on your way home.
2. The Sacred Valley, Peru
Most travelers know the Sacred Valley of Peru for her crowning wonder - Machu Pichu; and certainly no visit to the valley would be complete without a sunrise hike to the ruins to beat the crowds and soak in the lingering majesty of one of the worlds great empires. That said, the Sacred Valley offers much and more to those who take the time to step off the train, path or track and wander deeper into the valleys and mountains that rise, powerful, lush, and ancient from the river Urabamba into the sweeping clouds above. Booking a hostel in Ollantaytambo, or better yet, volunteering with a local organization like Awamaki, will situate you upon the foundation of one of the oldest known Incan townships, and within easy hiking distance of hot springs, lesser known ruins, and old Quechua villages; all accessible via a network of trails carved over hundreds of years by the predecessors of the Quechua families who to this day still farm the terraced mountains of the valley in much the same fashion as their ancestors before them.
3. Shinshu, Japan
In 2011, while spending a month photographing in Tokyo, my friend Ivar and I were adopted by a pair of local Japanese photographers who insisted on taking us out of the city and into the mountains. Eager to escape the magnificent and often overwhelming chaos that is Tokyo, we set out in the direction of Shinshu - not knowing what to expect other than that our destination was Togakushi Shrine Okusha, an ancient place of worship situated high in the mountains. Arriving at first light, we were greated by a light dusting of snow and two kilometers of thousand year old cedar trees that lined the pathway to the ancient mountain shrine. Later, after deferring to the local hot springs guardians, the Macaque monkeys, we warmed ourselves in the healing waters of a local onsen (traditional Japanese baths), and huddled around a campfire drinking sake, I remember experiencing a deep sense of clarity and peace of mind that I have found in few other places in the world.
4. Andalucia’s Pueblos Blancos, Spain
One afternoon in Sevilla, while sitting and talking over a long leisurely lunch (in typical Spanish fashion) with my adopted abuela, I listened intently as she spoke with glowing eyes of la ruta de los Pueblos Blancos. What she described was a winding stretch of road up through the Sierra Beticas of Andalucia that connected a series of ancient white washed villages situated along the cliff tops and hillsides of a rugged stretch of mountains that guard the Costa del Sol. A few days later my friend Stevenson and I set out on rented mopeds. As we pushed past the city limits and began to climb into the rolling foothills of rural Andalucia, we found that the beautiful majesty she described was even more vivid than we could have imagined, with the great arching bridges and fortifications of the crowning pueblo Blanco of Ronda harkening back to something straight out of Tolkien’s imagination. Combine this with your proximity to Hemingway’s well loved sherry region (Jerez) and the influence of the Sevillano tapas culture and you have the makings of a paradise of sorts.
5. Stehekin, Washington
Accessible only by float plane or a four hour boat ride up Lake Chelan, Stehekin is about as isolated a community as you will find anywhere in the contiguous United States. Situated at the end of a 50 mile lake in the heart of the North Cascades, The Native Americans named this gem of a valley Stehekin which translates to The Way Through; nowadays however, Stehekin marks the end of the journey for most, and in an article published in National Geographic back in the 90’s the valley was aptly referred to as an “island in time”. Up until recently there was no internet in the valley, and to this day there is not a bar of cell service. In spite of this, or rather because of it, the community fosters a spirit of adventure - with summer activities ranging from horseback riding, to backpacking, to whitewater rafting and fly fishing. In the winter folks enjoy a slower pace of life, cross country skiing and snowshoeing, while a few of the more adventurous souls take to the frozen ice routes of Rainbow Falls or telemark in the rugged mountains that line the valley.
6. Istanbul, Turkey
Instanbul, Constantinople, Byzantium; a city of many names and faces, this vibrant hub of trade and commerce is one of the richest cultural melting pots I have ever come across. Stepping out across the Golden Horn Bridge over the Bospherous, the senses are assaulted on all sides by boisterous vendors speaking a variety of languages, and the feeling that you are in a place neither wholly Western nor Eastern imbues this transcontinental city with an intoxicating mystique. Arriving at the city docks you will find a ferry that can carry you from Europe to Asia in a matter of minutes, or simply walk the Golden Horn past the hundreds of old fishermen who line the rails of the bridge - perhaps hoping to bring home the nights dinner, but often as not enjoying stories swapped amongst clouds of cigar smoke and raucous laughter. From the beautiful grandeur of the Blue Mosque and Hague Sofia to the commanding turret of the Galata tower, the architecture is varied and intriguing - qualities surpassed only by the people who inhabit this ancient city.
7. Lesotho, The Mountain Kingdom
Nestled high in the mountains at the heart of South Africa lies the small mountain kingdom of Lesotho. Fondly referred to as the “kingdom in the sky”, Lesotho is guarded on all sides by treacherous roads only navigable by the surefooted Basotho ponies and the occasional adventurous 4x4 drivers. Winding through the enchanted high valleys and mountains of the Kingdom (surrounded on all sides by South Africa) one feels they have stepped back in time as dark cloaked shepherds pass by on horseback to tend to their herds. An incredibly impoverished nation, the country of Lesotho is not on many people’s radar as a travel destination, but for the adventurous and well intentioned traveler the mountain kingdom is a truly striking destination.
8. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In a list that is mostly comprised of rural locations, it will come as no surprise that Rio makes this list in large part because of the city’s natural beauty; lush forests and strong mountainous rising up from the sea give the city a distinctly wild flavor. That flavor permeates the streets, from the beautiful girls of Ipanema to the raucous Bohemian hilltop community of Santa Teresa, there is a contagious ease with which the people carry themselves. Couples sway down old streets, their footsteps loosened by caipirinha, and beautiful smiling lips quick to laughter and song mark this city as one of the most alive and beautiful cities I have visited. As my brother and I boarded our flight home, our Brazilian friend spoke a parting word “saudade". Lacking a true translation, but perhaps best described as a sense of nostalgia and longing for something or someone who is absent, any visitor to Rio must also prepare to experience the sentiment of saudade upon departing this dancing emerald gem of a city.