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(Inter)National Park-Hopping

January 04, 2017
With Yellowstone, Yosemite, Denali and so many other national parks beckoning, it can be easy to become American-centric when planning an outdoor vacation. In a country this size, it feels like there’s always an open space to explore. But to keep the focus so close to home is to ignore some of the most beautiful terrain in the world.

The destinations of Mitch-Stuart’s non-profit fundraising travel packages are chosen for any number of reasons: an amazing local culture, a tie-in with an event of some sort, or massively popular sights. But one of our favorite reasons is natural beauty, letting donors escape the day-to-day and get outside and into the world. And even if they may not be the focus of individual trips, these grand parks in other countries make for great additional selling points to help drive interest during a charity auction.

The phrase “active volcano” can conjure a few negative thoughts: Burning in lava, covered in ash, Vesuvius. The titular attraction of Arsenal Volcano National Park is no threat to the citizens of nearby towns, thankfully, but hikers can still see the consequences up close. It’s far from the only attraction, though; with waterfalls, brave cane (a grass-like covering that grows to be tall enough to make a field maze-like) and a variety of bird species unmatched in Costa Rica all in one place, those looking for an escape into the natural world will have their wishes granted here.

The weather is usually a touch cooler in Alberta, the Canadian providence that is home to Calgary, Edmonton and the remarkable beauty of Banff National Park. A favorite for ice skaters, snowshoeing and ice climbing, Banff is a year-round destination; fans of warmer weather appreciate the hiking and swimming opportunities in the park in July and August, in particular. In addition, traveling to Banff also means being a short drive away from Jasper National Park, the largest in the Canadian Rockies and the home of Pyramid Lake and Marmot Basin ski area. Even the drive between the two, along the Icefields Parkway, is stunning.

For a national park that blends the beauty of wilderness with at least a touch of modernity, Cinque Terre may be the best choice. Located two short hours from Florence (our “Indulge in the Italian Culture and Countryside” package includes car rental, making a visit to the park possible), it was the first “national park” recognized by the Italian government, two years after UNESCO had named it a World Heritage Site. The hilly, seaside landscape of Cinque Terre has been a symbol of societal interaction with nature for decades, thanks to the fishing villages that line the shore, and has accordingly become a leader in sustainable tourism, working to protect the area from erosion and other dangers. Hiking over the foothills and down into Vernazza, with its pastel-hued buildings and restaurant kitchens filled with pasta and the catch of the day, makes for a truly magical combination of nature and community.