With Thanksgiving coming up fast we have food on our minds here at the African Safari Company and Small Ship Safaris headquarters. America’s biggest eating day of the year got us wondering where in the world would you most want to break bread if you can’t make it home for the holidays this year. Luckily National Geographic recently obliged us by coming out with a top ten list of the world’s best picnic locations. From Cape Town, South Africa to Machu Picchu, Peru, here our our top five!
Photograph by Mike Theiss
Huayna Picchu, Peru
“At an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet, the view from atop this peak, which towers over the 15th-century ruins of Machu Picchu, is breathtaking in a number of ways. A steep, slippery climb to this rocky summit is a nerve-racking effort—one instantly rewarded with a panoramic perspective of the Urubamba River Valley and the famed city of the Inca. But what to eat? Certainly not a complicated dish of roasted cuy (guinea pig) or a pisco sour. Instead, a celebratory Inca Kola and a pleasantly portable butifarras—a sandwich of Peruvian ham, onions, chili peppers, and lime. Don’t linger too long—the hike down is a doozy.”
Photograph by Jim Richardson
Aran Islands, Ireland
The classic cable-knit fisherman’s sweater may have put the Aran Islands on the sartorial map, but this group of three islands at the mouth of Galway Bay has long been on the picnicker’s map. Pick up some smoked salmon and brown bread—and perhaps some whiskey—before embarking on a scenic ferry ride to the karst limestone landscapes and rough green terrain of Inishmore island. Explore some of Ireland’s oldest archaeological remains and landmark monasteries and then head to the Iron Age fort of Dun Aengus to savor a summertime picnic while gazing over the Atlantic Ocean.
Photograph by Wally Pacholka
Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
How many picnics can you fit into a day? Beat the sunrise and head to the summit of Maui’s Haleakala volcano—to a 10,023-foot peak called Pu’u ‘Ula’ula—to enjoy a breakfast picnic as dawn unfolds over a massive depression. Then get ready for the volcanic hike of a lifetime; wear layers to deal with the changing temperatures. Hiking around the currently non-eruptive Haleakala is an arid experience, and temperatures can range from near-freezing to balmy, depending on elevation and weather. The descent from the summit is roughly 27 miles, so pack a picnic lunch and plan to see only a small portion of the trail. Or bike: Speedy downhill tours run along a steep and treacherous roadway from beyond the park boundary lines. If you’re hungry for the day’s third picnic, bring dinner: Haleakala affords stunningly clear views of the terrain and sky, which makes stargazing at night a revelation.
Photograph by Hemis/Alamy
Villa Borghese Gardens, Rome, Italy
“Olives, pizza bianca, marinated artichokes, salumi, and—of course—a bottle of wine are all it takes to make a picnic break from the ancient ruins and Renaissance highlights of Rome. Oh—and a quiet little park. The Villa Borghese gardens, near the Piazza del Popolo, is a picnic-perfect landscape for escape. The Spanish Steps lead up to this English-style garden, but the romantic feel of the urban park is all-Italian—a fact reinforced by the sculptures by Bernini and paintings by Titian, Raphael, and Caravaggio housed within the Galleria Borghese on the broad expanse of these scenic gardens.”
Photograph by Heiko Meyer
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, Western Cape, South Africa
“Make a quick green escape from Cape Town for a picnic lunch in this spectacularly rugged and refined space on the slopes of Table Mountain. Pack a bottle of wine from Stellenbosch and some biltong (it’s like beef jerky)—a lot easier to carry than crocodile meat or ostrich burgers—and hike the trails through natural forests and fynbos (“fine bush” or shrubland in Afrikaans). More than 7,000 plant species and indigenous plants are cultivated in this expansive botanic garden, with exhibit areas dedicated to medicinal and fragrant plants, as well as the king protea, South Africa’s national flower.”