Ask Lonely Planet: Wonders of Yellowstone

Can you tell me what sort of tours there are in Yellowstone National Park in California, or is it better to hire a car and do it ourselves? Also, how long should we allow for a visit?
Simone Jolly

You could spend a couple of weeks exploring the park, but three to five days seems to be the norm. This may not be enough to appreciate all of Yellowstone's wonders, but it will give you a good taste of things and allow you time for a hike or two, or some mountain biking, wildlife viewing or whatever other activity takes your fancy - canoeing, rafting, fishing, rock climbing or horse riding.

Xanterra, the main concessionaire in Yellowstone, runs a number of day tours. The 10-hour Yellowstone in a Day tour takes in all the major sites and departs from Gardiner or Mammoth Hot Springs. The eight-hour Washburn Expedition takes in the upper loop and includes Mammoth and Norris, and the eight-hour Circle of Fire takes in the lower loop and includes the geyser basins and Canyon. All these tours cost about $71 a person. There are also three- to four-hour wildlife excursions at $54, photography and activity tours.

An internet search will reveal a number of companies offering tours from three to seven days departing from a number of cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. The accommodation is usually outside the park and you do day trips from there, although some include a night or two in the park.

Prices range from $896 to $1435.

The best way to see the park, though, and to enjoy all the activities on offer, not to mention the supreme natural quiet, is to go it alone. This way you can kick back for a while when you find that perfect spot or that amazing view, or enjoy a picnic or a spontaneous hike. Hire a car in any of the gateway towns, such as Jackson, Billings, Bozeman and Cody. The Grand Loop Rd, either the north or the south loop, can be done in one day if you get an early start. You'll take in Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring and Canyon Junction. The views are always great on this road. The most dramatic drive in the region, however, is the Beartooth Highway from Red Lodge to Cooke City just northeast of Yellowstone Park. With three days or more up your sleeve you could continue along the highway through Canyon and Geyser Countries and down to Grand Teton National Park and Jackson.

Nice short hikes include the Yellowstone Picnic Area or Mystic Falls trails, Mt Washburn, Avalanche Peak and Fossil Forest, but there are plenty of overnight or multi-day hikes, too. There are also a few nice beaches, and a few hours in the hot springs of Boiling River will wash away any long drives.

Pass to London
I am travelling to England for three weeks and plan to spend one week in London. I intend on using public transport and was wondering if there are any weekly travel passes that can be used on buses and the Tube. Are there any museum or attractions passes available?
Peter Fraser

The credit-card style Oyster card is the London commuter's new best friend. It's valid for the Tube, buses, the Docklands Light Railway and trams. You pay a £3 ($7.70) refundable deposit for the card and then load it up with as much credit as you think you'll need. The good thing about this travel card is that fares are lower than the norm.

If you plan to travel on National Rail you can't use Oyster. You can, however, use a Travelcard. The Day Travelcard costs £6.20/5.10 for peak/off-peak and the weekly Travelcard cost £23.20. With the Oyster card, no matter how many trips you make, you will never pay more than the daily Travelcard fare and you can use it during peak hours.

The London Pass is what you want if you're planning to visit all the major attractions in the capital. It starts at £12 a day (for six days) and you can tack a Travelcard on to it as well. This price includes entry to more than 55 major attractions. Go to www.londonpass.comfor more information.

Travel for a Fall
What's the best way to get to Angel Falls from Caracas, and are there any must-sees in between that would be worth stopping at for a night?
Amy Hoffman

Angel Falls is the world's highest waterfall at a height of 979m and a continuous drop of 807m. Its flume is 16 times higher than that of Niagara Falls. Buried in a remote and roadless area of river-etched jungle, the falls are out of the way but they're still Venezuela's top tourist attraction.

The jumping-off point for trips to Angel Falls is Canaima. This indigenous village doesn't have any overland links to the rest of the country but it does have an airport. Most tourists fly into Canaima from where they take a light plane or a boat to the falls. No walking trails go all the way from Canaima to the falls. Forty-minute plane trips in five-seater Cessnas fly over the falls a few times, circle the top of Auyantepui and return ($125 to $161). You can fly to Canaima from Caracas ($322) or Ciudad Bolivar ($125 to $161).

Two- or three-day boat tours are arguably more fascinating than flights and certainly more fun. The scenery is also spectacular down here, particularly in the Canon del Diablo. Boat packages cost from $314 to $448 a person.

Reputable tour operators include Bernal Tours and Kaikarwa Tours (kaikarwa tours@hotmail.com). When choosing between the tour companies, it's important to consider the location of their camps. Bernal is an attractive option because its camp faces Angel Falls and you'll be able to see the waterfall for most of the day.

The falls and Canaima sit within the boundaries of the 30,000sq km Parque Nacional Canaima, Venezuela's second-largest national park. There are other attractions, mostly waterfalls, in the Canaima area and the village itself is gorgeous.

The Laguna de Canaima sits at the heart of everything, a broad blue expanse framed by a palm-tree beach and a dramatic series of cascades.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 29 Dec 2014 17:10:59 Processing Time: 1718ms