The Lotus Temple blossoms in New Delhi, India.
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Why does the Panama Canal show up on lists of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World? One reason is its magnitude: The amount of earth dug out between Colón and Balboa could bury the island of Manhattan 12 feet deep. Cross the 51-mile-wide isthmus that connects North and South America on this 15-day Celebrity cruise, which continues to Cartagena, Colombia—a Spanish colonial resort with coral reefs perfect for divers—and Puntarenas, Costa Rica, where you can visit a winter home of the peregrine falcon on Guayabo Island. AAA members get an onboard credit of $100 per stateroom. From $1,349.
Spain’s delicious north
This 12-day tour starts in cosmopolitan Madrid and rolls northwest through several historic towns. In Oviedo, drive the Costa Verde to see the Church of San Julián’s 1,000-year-old frescoes. In Bilbao, hit the Frank Gehry–designed Guggenheim Museum. Wind down in the heart of Spain’s autonomous Basque country, San Sebastián, as famous for its pristine beach as for its molecular gastronomy. Your last stop is Barcelona, where modern and Gothic architecture strike the perfect balance. From $2,985.
Birthplace of jazz
After the Civil War, drums were contraband for African American musicians, except in one place: New Orleans welcomed ancestral beats, and in so doing became the cradle of jazz, the first musical form unique to the United States. One memorable point of this packed nine-day tour is a private jazz concert hosted by Jimmy Maxwell, director of the Louis Armstrong Society. The trip continues through Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C., for genteel Southern culture and delicious cuisine. From $2,975.
At the Dhamekh Stupa, a monument in northeastern India, you can walk silently in a clockwise circle with other pilgrims on the site where a major world religion was born. On this spot the Buddha first spoke of samsara (the cycle of life) and the eternal nature of existence to five ascetics who became the original Buddhists. The 11-day voyage starts with a rickshaw ride in New and Old Delhi, wends its way to the banks of the Ganges, and continues with an elephant safari through Jaipur’s Biosphere Reserve, India’s equivalent of a national park. From $3,899.
Autumn color cruise
Canada’s fall foliage takes on a vivid cast from the water, especially in Quebec’s Saguenay Fjord, which was carved during the Ice Age and shelters 60 species of fish unseen anywhere else. This lively 10-day Holland America cruise features stops in Charlottetown on Canada’s scenic Prince Edward Island, a charming spot to eat local mussels and explore the shops along historic Great George Street, and in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where you can visit the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum and walk along lush marshlands. Back in the United States, New England ports of call include cities in Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. From $1,499.
At age 15, William Cody was one of the youngest pony express riders. He came by the nickname Buffalo Bill after shooting dozens of bison in a contest in 1867, then went on to found Cody, Wyo., in 1896, transforming the arid sagebrush flats into a vibrant town. Many sides of U.S. history are visible on this eight-day tour, which transports you through the cowboy country of Wyoming and South Dakota as well as the lands of the Sioux and the Lakota. View the wildlife and wild scenery of Yellowstone National Park, the Tetons, Devils Tower, and Deadwood, S.D., where you’ll visit a Lakota encampment. The trip also takes you to a lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore, one of the country’s most iconic landmarks. From $2,399.
Photography by Jim Zuckerman/Corbis
This article was first published in May 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
For more information, visit any AAA branch.