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'Amazing Race' heads for Vegas finale

By A. Pawlowski, CNN
  • This season's "The Amazing Race" took contestants to Asia, the Middle East and Europe
  • The race began in Los Angeles, California; it ends on Sunday in Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Some of the stunning locations included Tokyo, Japan and Prague, Czech Republic

(CNN) -- It takes one hour to fly from Los Angeles, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada, but why take the easy route when you can squeeze in stops in Asia, the Middle East and Europe along the way?

The contestants in this season's "The Amazing Race" had an itinerary any globe-trotter would envy, except perhaps the couple of real Harlem Globetrotters who did well in the competition only to be eliminated near the end of the race in Prague, the Czech Republic.

For those unfamiliar with "The Amazing Race," the hit reality television series takes a dozen two-member teams and sends them on a crazy, breakneck pace journey around the world in search of clues that will lead them to the next stop in the competition. The first team to finish gets $1 million.

This season's race began in Los Angeles and had contestants doing everything from playing volleyball in the mud in Estonia to guiding tourists across one of the world's busiest intersections in Tokyo, Japan, to herding ducks in Vietnam.

They zipped from country to country and continent to continent by plane, car, bus, ferry and ship. Explore the map above to see this season's route and some of the key sites.

"It was physically, mentally, emotionally the hardest thing that we've ever done, but [also] life changing and rewarding. But it's good to be home," said Tiffany Michelle, who competed on the race with best friend and fellow professional poker player Maria Ho.

The two women dropped out of the race in the Netherlands, where they couldn't finish a game of strangely modified golf in the idyllic, but windy, countryside.

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Perhaps the most memorable leg of the race took place in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. Contestants first endured extreme heat when they had to find water in the stunning Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, where visitors can take part in desert safaris and camel treks, then shivered as they entered the wintry, freezing landscape of Ski Dubai, the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East.

(No, it's not a mirage. You can ski and toboggan in the middle of the desert.)

Other stops included Cambodia, where teams had to find a hotel where Jacqueline Kennedy stayed during her visit in 1967, and Sweden, where the contestants had to plunge 24 stories in three seconds during a ride at an amusement park in Stockholm, Sweden.

The race ends in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday. Only one team can win, but most of the contestants likely have enough stamps in their passports and frequent flyer miles in their accounts to last for a while.