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horseback riding rockies rocky mountains horse ridingMotorcycling along the back roads of Greece. Horseback riding in the Canadian Rockies. Giving an impromptu sermon in a tiny Icelandic church. What do these experiences have in common? They're all miles away from the typical ho-hum summer vacation -- and they're all trips that Independent Traveler members have taken over the last few years.

We've combed through hundreds of member trip reports to find intriguing adventures and insider tips for a wide variety of summer vacations, from the beach to the mountains to the temples of Japan. Even if you've already planned this year's vacation, our members' experiences may spark an idea for next summer's adventure. And if you haven't nailed down your summer plans, these stories might be just the inspiration you're looking for.

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The Swiss Alps: The Most Beautiful Place We Have Ever Seen
"Stepping off the gondola, our first glimpse dissolved all concerns, for the scenery was breathtaking! Against bright blue skies, the snowy peaks of the Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger mountains dominated the landscape and wildflowers were everywhere. After grabbing a trail map at the gondola hut, we checked into our B&B, where we had opted for their apartment with kitchen facilities. The place, perched on the steep hillside, boasted a fabulous view of the mountains and valley below. Outside our door a profusion of wildflowers grew and just across the path was a barn with three goats.

"Certainly, going downhill was in my mind a more attractive option than continuing to climb and I persuaded Lynn to choose that lower trail. What a fortuitous decision that would be, for it led to the base of a huge mountain bowl filled with glaciers that were the river's source. We counted fourteen waterfalls pouring into the bowl and its entire rocky basin was filled with wildflowers. It was, without question, the most beautiful place either of us had ever seen!" -- Hiking in the Swiss Alps by lynncarol

Must-See Yosemite (Just Don't Faint!)
"On arrival at Yosemite, we paid our $20 entry pass fee (which lasts for seven days) and set about exploring. Yosemite was a complete awe-inspiring Kodak moment. It seemed that most of America had decided to visit on that day, but because of its vast size it never felt crowded and the rangers have it so well organized that even if you only have time for a short visit and are not equipped with the exploring skills of Sir Edmund Hilary, the scenic highlights are made very accessible with free eco shuttle-buses between various trek starting points and places of interest. You are given free maps with suggested walking trails ranging from easy to extreme and if that's not your thing then you can hire bicycles or go pony trekking, whatever floats your boat ... oh yeah, they even have kayaks.

"We had lunch and a good look round and then chose to go on a moderate difficulty trail of four miles. ... Equipped with plenty of water, a trail map and comfortable walking shoes, we set off with high hopes of reaching our destination and completing the trail, but we under-estimated the difficulty of negotiating the inclines in 100-degree temps. and over-estimated our own levels of fitness! We admitted defeat after I started overheating and getting dizzy spells and Stuart said he didn't fancy the embarrassment and the effort of having to carry me all the way back to the ranger station. It was embarrassing to be overtaken by mums with pushchairs and elderly folk with walking sticks!!! Nonetheless it was a brilliant place and I would say it is a must-see destination of California." -- My Big Fat Californian Road Trip by Stuart & Julie Weir

A Sunset Serenade in Prague
"Old town Prague is really gorgeous. It was never bombed in WWII, so many of its old buildings remain intact. It is a mixture of architectural styles and is quite large and festive, with outdoor cafes, music, and people everywhere.

prague czech republic sunset lantern castle"After dinner, we walked over to a spot by the river (right underneath the Charles Bridge) where we could be seated and we were serenaded by two Czech musicians, one flute player and one accordion player who played (and sang) some classic Czech tunes for us (along with a little Mozart) as the sun set. People on top of the bridge heard the music and stopped to listen also. A waitress at a nearby cafe started to dance a little jig to one of the songs, and the cook came out of the kitchen to listen. It was fun." -- Prague by Judith A.

Call of the Wild in Alaska
"Big Game Alaska was a spur-of-the-moment detour during our drive up to Talkeetna. We could have spent hours and hours here! It's a refuge for injured or abandoned animals. There are several different wide-open spaces, sectioned off for different animals. The fences are very tall, but they're constructed of wires that are set five or six inches apart, affording camera lenses glorious, unobstructed views. With the mountains looming off in the distance, the scenery was so incredible that you didn't realize that you were at a contained area.

"This was the place of my moose dreams! I have to say that a woman was reaching in through the fence and petting a moose, which I thought was not a good idea, but then when she left with her arm still intact, I couldn't resist doing it myself! How often do you get to pet a moose?! The grizzly bears' area had a double fence about 10 feet apart, with the inside fence being electrically charged, so that was the only pen that made it difficult to get a good photo -- but hey -- that's OK! I would not have dared to stick my hand in there!" -- Alaska -- Cruise and Road Trip by Judy P.

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