Sunsets may grace the covers of many a travel brochure, but there’s a lot to be said for catching dawn instead.
Firstly, as these breathtaking shots prove, sunrise provides arguably the best natural light with which to take photographs.
It’s also the only time of day at which you’ll be able to dodge tourists at the world’s most-visited landmarks, India’s Taj Mahal for example.
In cold climates such as Sweden, the sun rises for just a few hours during the dark winter, so morning is your only chance to witness the snowy landscape when it’s bright.
In Africa, daybreak is by far the best time to witness its wildlife on safari, and in other hot countries, it’s the opportune time to take a solitary hike before the sun gets too oppressive.
Read on for MailOnline Travel‘s most spectacular spots around the world to enjoy before everyone else wakes up.
Head off on a road trip along Australia’s Great Ocean Road and be sure to get a head start on the driving just as the sun comes up, captured here from the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park
Not many destinations in the world inspire such wanderlust as the Turkish Cappadocia mountains, best enjoyed from a hot air balloon at sunrise
Kenya is another region where it pays to drag yourself from slumber in the early hours, in order to catch a morning dose of ‘golden hour’, seen here in the Amboseli National Park
Valparai, a lesser known scenic spot in India’s Tamil Nadu region, is located 3,500 feet above sea level and is often shrouded in a gentle mist first thing in the morning
Cape Town, a sleepy city in the west of South Africa, is renowned as being one of the best vantage points in the world from which to witness the sun rise, seen here peeking around Lion’s Head
The magestic Bunyeroo Valley in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges looks particularly fine under the first morning light
A tiny Moroccan village in Berber appears to be bathed in a bolt of liquid gold as the rest of the Atlas mountains loom grey in the background
During the winter months in the northernmost reaches of Sweden, the sun rises briefly in the morning to paint the sky red, seen here over the Abisko National Park, but quickly retreats. True daylight isn’t witnessed here until summer rolls around
In Antarctica, however, the opposite is true. From September until around April, the sun rises early over the icebergs and doesn’t dip away again until midnight. Even then, it never fully sets
It looks upon first glance like a raging fire emerging from behind Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple complex, but rather it’s a cloud lit up by the rising sun
Patagonia sees a lot of dramatic weather over the epic landscape of the Andes, and this early morning rainbow is no exception
African safaris dotted around the continent typically take their guests on drives at the crack of dawn, as it’s the best time to witness wildlife. A pack of hyenas are seen here on the Tanda Tula grounds in the Kruger National Park
Varanasi, a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is one of the most colourful parts of the country – its sunrises being no exception
Alternatively, stay closer to home and admire English country scenes like this dawn view of Corfe Castle in Dorset
So reckons the extremely well-trekked Gilbert Ott, editor of Godsavethepoints – and I must say I’m finding it hard to disagree with him!
City breaks are cool, cultural holidays are fun, but it’s hard to beat an nice cold refreshing drink on a gorgeous sandy beach with the shades on. If you’ve been spinning the globe looking for the perfect place to spend your hard earned holiday cash, it’s tough to pass up these beaches, which are arguably ten of the most stunning you’ll find anywhere in the world…
Horseshoe Beach, Bermuda
Believe it or not, there really is an island where the sand is pink: it’s called Bermuda. This particular stretch of beach features a hidden cove where you find tourist free, untouched beauty.
Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia
If the beach is crowded, just hit the amazing sand bar a few feet out. Shallow water, rolling hills, white sand and all the glory of an Australian holiday. Sold.
Honopu Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Pink sand, girly. White sand, standard. Black sand? Very cool! Honopu beach, amongst many of Hawaii’s best beaches, features volcanic black sand, creating one of the most unique experiences in the world against crystal blue water….
Pansy Island, Mozambique
Want to escape the world? Well this is about as “secluded” as you can get, requiring a plane and then a boat to bring you to these remote islands, only a few of which are inhabited…
Honopu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
If black sand is a bit extreme for your taste, perhaps one of these remote, hike-worthy beaches protected by massive rock formations. It’s worth the “trek”…
Temea Beach, Moorea, French Polynesia
You know life is tough when you’re choosing between Moorea and Bora Bora. If you opt to go the Moorea route, you’ll definitely want to hit Temea Beach, featuring water with color so pristine it makes pools envious. There’s plenty of soft sand and rugged terrain as well…
El Nido Beach, Palawan, Philippines
A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, probably worthy of enticing you to buy a $1000 plane ticket. El Nido beach is one of the most secluded, gorgeous beach areas, with lush greenery juxtaposing the surreal blue ocean and white sand. Simply paradise.
Long Beach, Koh Phi Phi Island, Thailand
Thailand’s beaches are so sought after the country is having to crack down on tourism. The Phi Phi Islands offer one of the most “Instagram” worthy settings. You’ll just want to arrive early to avoid the boats of people trying to get in on the amazing action. Unless you enjoy people…
Whitehaven Beach, Queensland, Australia
If there’s one thing to learn from this post, Queensland is worthy of a bucket list spot. With two beaches on the list (for obvious reasons shown above) you’ll find all the sand, snorkelling and surfing fun you could ever dream of.
Travel teaches us invaluable lessons we can’t learn in school. It expands our worldview. It pushes us to be better, stronger, more empathetic human beings. And these 17 places, in no particular order, are where that magic is going to happen this year. Some of them can be experienced in the lap of luxury, while others are for only the most adventurous souls. But all of them have the potential to be the best trip you’ve ever taken.
This is the Seven Coloured Earths in Chamarel, where naturally occurring sands of different colours form unique striped dunes.
Above is a shopping center in the capital of Port Louis. English, French, and Mauritian Creole are the most commonly spoken languages in Mauritius, while Hinduism and Christianity are the top two religions.
Astana has been called the “world’s weirdest capital city,” in part because it hardly existed 20 years ago. CNN reports the area was “an empty patch of land… best known as a former gulag prison camp for the wives of Soviet traitors” before it was declared the new capital in 1997, sparking the quick rise of a futuristic skyline.
Almaty’s wooden Ascension Cathedral was constructed without nails between 1904 and 1907, and is one of the only buildings in the city to survive a 1911 earthquake. Used for state and public purposes after the Russian Revolution, it was returned to the Russian Orthodox church in the 1990s.
Big Almaty Lake sits in the Tian Shan mountains. The western Tian Shan range stretches into China and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, in part for its biodiversity.
Quito’s Jesuit Church of the Society of Jesus, informally known as la Compañía, has enough gold leaf inside to wow the most jaded travellers. The stunning baroque church also has a charming number of hidden nods to the local culture, including symbols of suns that salute Inca history and indigenous faces and plants worked into the ornate interior designs.
Uruguay doesn’t get as much attention as neighbouring Argentina and Brazil, but this polished, progressive paradise on the Atlantic has a pinch of European flair and is well worth a visit. Experience gaucho culture on a ranch of rolling hills, take to the surf at Punta del Diablo, or party the night away in the clubs at Punta del Este.
Stroll the cosmopolitan streets of Montevideo, including the famous Plaza Independencia.
The Black Church, with its interior walls adorned with Turkish carpets, is the star of Brasov, a popular medieval town at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains.
Corvin Castle in Transylvania features about 50 rooms of medieval art. It’s known as the most impressive Gothic castle in the country.
It can take all day to drive the hairpin turns of Transfagarasan Road, which connects the provinces of Transylvania and Walachia through the mountains. Thanks to a gentle gradient, you can even bike it if you dare.
High in the mountains, Xinaliq is home to friendly shepherds who can point you in the right direction for adventurous hikes.
Croatia’s been a hot travel destination for a few years now, but don’t overlook its charming neighbour to the north. The snowy peaks of the Julian Alps are the dramatic backdrop for Slovenia’s storybook Lake Bled, while outdoor restaurants line the riverwalk in the friendly capital city Ljubljana and the sprawling Postojna Cave is a dramatic diversion. (Pro tip: You’ll likely save a few dollars by flying into Venice, Italy, rather than Ljubljana ― it’s not far over the border.)
The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation overlooks Ljubljana’s famous Triple Bridge, a lively spot at night.
Above you’ll see Lake Bled in the summer. Swim or row in the crystal-clear lake, dine at Bled Castle perched high on a cliff, or stroll the equally Instagram-worthy Vintgar Gorge.
A tour boat on the Ljubljanica River in Ljubljana.
Just because you don’t like climbing doesn’t mean you can’t go up tall mountains.
In theory, everybody wants to go ice climbing, camping in Antarctica and skydiving. In practice, not everybody has the courage (or desire) to jump off the tallest building in the world; falling from extremely high altitudes can be a petrifying experience.
Less adventurous people should not feel left out: tour operators know how they feel and have adapted. Visiting a natural wonder is possible with a helicopter; don’t risk dehydration or heatstroke by hiking the Grand Canyon in the summer.
This is also true for winter adventures – exploring the Alps while on a luxurious gondola may be more appealing to some than climbing the Matterhorn, a giant horn-looking mountain, with the highest fatality rate in the Alps: over 450 climbers have diedto date.
If you prefer a more balanced holiday, you can hike an active volcano for an adrenaline-pumping experience, followed by descending 400 feet to the bottom of the volcano’s magma chamber in an open cable lift. You won’t have to do anything but look and enjoy the moment.
Not everybody wants to get sweaty and tired when they head out to explore the outdoors. There is nothing wrong with making frequent stops to take photos and enjoy the scenery. If this is the case, go on a soft adventure tour where you’ll go on active adventures but will have plenty of leisure time.
Go on safari in Kenya
You are witnessing wild animals in their natural habitat from the comfort of a car. Kenya is one of the premier destinations for this amazing experience. Known as one of the best country parks in country, Maasai Mara offers wide range of safaris – hot air balloons, walking, photographing. The best time to visit is between July and October because of the wildebeest migration, famous as the World Cup of Wildlife. Even if you go off season, the number of animals you’ll see – from zebras and giraffes to lions, elephants and leopards – is incredible.
Descend into a volcano in Iceland
Who says you have to be a very courageous person to experience one of the mosticonic volcanoes in the world? Thrihnukagigur in Iceland is a lot more accessible than you think. A tour offers you the chance to descend 400 feet to the bottom of the volcano’s magma chamber in an open cable lift. All you are required to do is walk about two miles each way, with a guide.
Sleep in a Cave in Turkey
Staying at a unique hotel with breathtaking views of otherworldly landscapes is many vacationers’ dream that can easily become a reality. Some caves have been turned into luxurious hotels in Cappadocia, Turkey, while others are very basic. But they all have their own unique history and mystery. The adrenaline-seekers who don’t want to do much can stay in the deepest hotel room in the world – Sala Silvermine, Sweden – at 500 feet underground. A mine lift shaft will take you there.
Walking in Ireland’s world-famous countryside is an adventure that will take your breath away but not because you’ll be tired. You’ll be surrounded by woodland paths, cliffs, lake shores, farmlands, and mountains. Visit Cong, which is nestled among some of the most picturesque forests and woodlands in the country, as well as along the stunning shores of Lough Corrib. Ashford Castle in Cong provides a serene and majestic backdrop.
Go on a river cruise
Go on an adventure that will take you to a different city every day. On a river cruise, you probably won’t get sea-sick because there are no waves and you’ll always see land on the horizons, which is comforting. Travel along the stunning and major rivers in Europe, pass through Thailand, China, Myanmar and Vietnam along the Mekong River, or explore one of the most famous and exotic rivers in the world – the Amazon – all while being safe on a boat.
Experience the Alps from a gondola
The infamous Matterhorn is one of the most difficult climbs in the world. But you can easily get up there with a cable car gondola. Enjoy a homely cheese fondue, accompanied by a refreshing drop of Valais wine, surrounded by spectacular vistas of Italy and Switzerland.
See the Grand Canyon in a helicopter
The Grand Canyon is probably on every hiker and kayaker’s bucket list. See this natural wonder in a much less sweaty, wet and dangerous way – go on a 4.5-hour tour with the flight’s duration being more than an hour. You’ll see the stunning Hoover Dam, Grand Wash Cliffs, Grapevine Mesa and Grand Canyon West and land 4,000 feet below the rim for a champagne picnic.
Go ahead then, and take the train. Choose the scenic route over the quick one, and make getting to your destination part of the vacation. Buy a Eurail Pass, save money and visit 28 countries in Europe. You’ll go to all the places everyone else does but in a hassle-free and comfortable way. Relax and feel like you’re traveling through time – you’ll be thrilled by mountain summits, lavish landscapes, narrow and scary tunnels, as well as terrifyingly steep grades.
See Niagara Falls from a boat
You can hike to them or plunge down a 100-foot waterfall at 60-90 miles per hour with a kayak, hitting a huge volume of water. Or you can go on a boat tour and see them just as close. Take Niagara Falls, for example. The legendary Maid of the Mist has been taking travelers up the river to the falls since 1848, which makes the boat tour not only the most popular but also among the oldest of Niagara Falls’ activities.
Explore the Galapagos Islands
Exploring the Galapagos Islands feels more like being on an ecological walking tour. Nature-lovers will appreciate the unique wildlife. There are 19 major islands, which are often called a “living museum and showcase of evolution,” according to UNESCO. Cruises are the most popular choice to travel the Islands. Boats range from luxury to economy class.
Wander through Jigokudani Yaenkoen Park, Japan
This is the only place in the world where monkeys bathe in hot springs. Ancient people called it the “Hell Valley” because of the very steep cliffs and the steam coming off the springs. Nowadays, you can get to the Monkey Park in two ways – by a 25-40 minute walk through the forest or a 10-15 minute walk from the nearest parking lot.
Tour the Arctic: Iceland, Greenland and Norway
Witnessing the phenomenon of the Northern Lights is a must. You can avoid the aurora-chasing snowmobile and go on a bus tour. Cruise the fjords; you will always have a guide to stop at popular attractions along the way and learn about the local history. If you want to see the region’s amazing wildlife, the boat safari is the right choice.
Go on a train expedition through Australia
Australia has been a very popular destination in recent years. See it a unique way: beginning in Darwin, this epic 4-day, 3-night, 9,773-mile tour will take you to some of the most remote yet captivating parts of the country. You won’t be bored on this trip as the panoramas are changing with every mile.
See incredible autumn foliage from a hot air balloon
You don’t have to hike or camp for days to find clean air, panoramic views of bursting bright colors, beautiful countryside and miles of forests. Get on a hot air balloon and see awe-inspiring autumn foliage of phenomenal mixtures of yellow, red, gold and green. A lot of places in the U.S. offer this unique experience with unbeatable views.
The world is full of magical hidden wonders. Need proof? The talented team at Atlas Obscura spent the past five years working on a gorgeous, 480-page book that uncovers 600 of the strangest, most fascinating and downright bizarre places you’ve never heard of before.
Huffington Post asked Atlas Obscura cofounder Dylan Thuras to pare down the tome to a list of a dozen mind-blowing spots that every millennial should visit. From a UFO-shaped monument in the middle of the Balkans to a gigantic hole in Turkmenistan that has been on fire for nearly 50 years, prepare to be amazed and delighted by the curiosities he came back with — and pick up a copy of the new book for even more bucket-list inspiration.
Photo: Christine Noh
Kjeragbolten, Kjerag Mountain, Norway
Looking like something from Middle Earth, Kjeragbolten is hidden in the Norwegian mountains: a rock stuck between two cliffs above a 984-meter deep abyss. Brave visitors have been known to photograph themselves on the rock.
Photo: Tim Whitby
The Gates of Hell, Derweze, Turkmenistan
If Atlas Obscura has a mascot, it might be the Gates of Hell. This 200-foot hole in the desert was created in 1971 when a Soviet drilling rig fell into a massive natural cavern. The scientists decided it was best to let the natural gas leaking from the hole burn itself off, so they lit it on fire. It has been burning for 45 years.
Photo: Clifford Norton
Buzludzha Monument, Kzanlak, Bulgaria
This huge UFO-shaped monument standing proudly at the top of a hill in the Balkan mountains was once a grand tribute to the Bulgarian Communist Party. No more. Once Bulgaria transitioned to democracy in the early 1990s, the monument was promptly abandoned. It has stood since, falling further and further into disrepair, and is now a strange, hulking shell, stripped of its once-grand interior. Graffiti on the front reads ‘Forget your past.’
Photo: Martin Norris Travel Photography
Crystal Maiden, San Ignacio, Belize
Beautiful, horrifying, tragic, and fascinating, the Crystal Maiden is the calcified skeleton of a young woman who was sacrificed by the Maya around 700-900 AD. Her body was left as an offering to the gods in a cave that was believed to be an entrance to the underworld; she was only 18 years old at the time of her death. Over the last 1,200 years, her bones have formed a layer of crystals which sparkle in the light.
Kolmanskop Ghost Town, Luderitz, Namibia
Once a thriving diamond mine in the 1920s, it was home to a flapper-era theater, casino, and even bowling alley. Of course, once a richer diamond mine was discovered, the town was abandoned and is now slowly being swallowed by the sand.
Photo: MJ Photography
Stepwells Of India, Across Northern & Western India
These incredible architectural masterpieces call to mind M.C. Escher illustrations. Hundreds of carved stone steps lead down to a reservoir and were built to serve as local sources of water. A French traveller in 1864 described seeing a ‘vast sheet of water, covered with lotuses in flower, amid which thousands of aquatic birds are sporting.’ Built as early as 550 AD and through the medieval period, there are over 3,000 stepwells throughout India.
Wisteria Tunnel, Kitakyushu, Japan
Blooming from late April to mid May in the Kawachi Fuji Gardens near Kitakyushu, Japan, is an exquisite tunnel draped in flowers. There are other flower tunnels in the world, but the Wisteria Tunnel in Japan is singular in its romantic beauty.
Photo: Jaszmina Szendrey
Fingal’s Cave, Isle Of Staffa, Scotland
On the Scottish island of Staffa is an unusual sea cave, 270 feet deep, where the walls are perfect hexagonal columns. Formed by ancient lava flows, the striking site has become something of an artistic inspiration: it is the basis of a famous piece of classical music by Mendelssohn, the name of a Pink Floyd song, and the location of a Matthew Barney ‘Cremaster’ video.
For more incredible destinations, visit Refinery29.
The small matter of Dubai’s location in a baking hot desert clearly hasn’t deterred Zas Architects in its quest to build the tropical oasis. In fact, it probably spurred them on. This is Dubai, after all.
Along with the requisite trees and plants, the Rosemont Hotel & Residences’ 75,000-square-foot rainforest will also include a beach, splash pool, stream, and adventure trails, though there’s no word on whether it’ll be populated with lots of exotic critters and creatures to scare the bejeezus out of unsuspecting visitors.
And as if that wasn’t enough, the luxury 448-room hotel will also feature a swimming pool 25 stories up – an overhanging swimming pool with a glass bottom offering a view 25 stories down.
But more on that rainforest.
Preetam Panwar of Zas Architects told Gulf News the man-made jungle will feature a 360-degree experience at the start called the Rain Room that “simulates the sensation of being surrounded by rainfall without actually getting wet.”
Panwar explained: “You’ll see rain but as you walk through it you won’t get wet because it has sensors on top and it stops water flowing in a two-meter radius around the person walking in the room.”
Sounds intriguing, though doubting types will still probably take an umbrella along.
When I was a kid I watched the old Agatha Christie whodunnit, Murder on the Orient Express – and ever since I’ve had a strange yearning to travel on the infamous Venice-Simplon. Imagine my disappointment to come across this piece in MailOnline travel about one of their abandoned old trains. Dutch photographer Brian Romeijn took some eerily haunting shots of it: rusty, dusty and rather sad… 😦
Haunting photos show decaying ‘Orient Express’ train that was once a symbol of luxury
An urban explorer has captured these remarkable photos of the decaying remains of a passenger train that was once one of the finest ways to travel.
With their glory days long gone, the train carriage and locomotive have been left to rot at a train yard in Belgium, where they have become a popular attraction for photographers and adventurers.
Rotterdam-based photographer Brian Romeijn, 40, snapped these eerie images, which show the abandoned train’s rusting exterior, torn seats, dust-covered windows and floors and compact engineer’s room.
The train carriage and locomotive have been left to rot at a train yard in Belgium, attracting urban explorers
It has gained a reputation among urban explorers as an old Orient Express train, but it is a former Belgian national train
It has gained a reputation among urban explorers as an old Orient Express train. Those trains were a symbol of luxury when they operated under that legendary name from 1883 to 2009.
But that suspicion is incorrect. The locomotive, according to www.seat61.com, is ‘the only survivor of three class 654s built in 1936 for the Oostende-Brussels-Cologne run, redeployed after WW2 to Brussels-Tournai’.
After 126 years on the rails, the last train service operating under the Orient Express name was from Strasbourg to Vienna in December 2009, bringing an end to a celebrated history.
The Orient Express, when it started in 1883 – run by La Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits – was actually known as the Express d’Orient and ran between Paris and Istanbul.
It became the Orient Express in 1891 and by the 1930s operated scheduled services throughout Europe.
It’s not to be confused with the privately run Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
Very few Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits luxury carriages still exist.
This snap shows the compact engineer’s room, where equipment is rusting, gauges are still installed and wires are exposed
Romeijn said the engineer’s room was ‘kind of claustrophobic and the noise of the engine must have been tremendous’
The abandoned locomotive and carriage have become a popular attraction for photographers and adventurers
After visiting the forgotten train in Belgium, Romeijn told MailOnline Travel: ‘I really could feel how it must have been used in its heyday.
‘Wealthy gentlemen with high hats are joined by ladies in beautiful dresses on their journey.
‘Also the area of the engineer was kind of claustrophobic. There is very little space inside and the noise of the engine must have been tremendous.’
Our world is a vast and beautiful one, full of awe-inspiring landscapes. But Mother Nature is a cruel mistress and the powerful forces of erosion, rising seas, and the inevitable effects of tourism will render many of the current wonders of the world nearly unrecognizable in the next century. Here are five incredible locales around the world that you should visit immediately before they are lost to the passage of time and the savagery of climate change.
This iconic city, hovering over a lagoon, is sinking rapidly. The canals that make up the streets of Venice rise 2 mm every year, submerging relics of history and ravaging architecture. Experts warn that without intervention, this city on stilts will disappear back into the Atlantic at an even faster rate, consumed by the rising sea levels of melting polar ice caps. Come get your fill of the beautiful cathedrals and gracious gondolas of Venice before the sea reclaims it.
Machu Picchu, Peru
These Incan ruins have drawn adventurous tourists into the mountains of South America to marvel at an outstanding piece of archaeology for centuries. The forces of natural erosion have been accelerated by tourism and this landmark faces severe impact from increasing foot traffic. The Peruvian government recently proposed a cable car that would have cut out much of the intense hike up to the ruins, making the site instantly accessible to millions. Concerns about the impact of this project have caused officials to suspend the effort, but the future of Machu Picchu remains uncertain. Climb the steps to this ancient site to marvel at a miracle of ancient ingenuity before it’s ruined.
Massive deforestation has left the unique animal population of this island nation vulnerable to extinction. Huddled off the coast of Africa, Madagascar has lush expanses of rain forest that are home to thousands of unique animal species as well as some of the oldest trees in the world, the ancient Baobabs. Experience and explore the joys of this outdoor paradise before the forests and their raucous inhabitants fade from existence.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Perhaps you’ve heard that the ice caps are melting? Nowhere is that more apparent in the United States than in Glacier National Park. Estimates indicate that the glaciers that are part of the majestic beauty of this national landmark will disappear entirely in the next two decades. Go pitch a tent and soak up the view before the intense sunshine of our carbon footprint destroys it for good.
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Hidden from view beneath the waves, The Great Barrier Reef has been rapidly dying off. Nearly fifty percent of this once massive sprawl of coral is gone, ravaged by pollution and disease. Strap on your scuba gear and visit soon, but practice eco-tourism to keep the reef from continued degradation.
Thanks to Kaz Weida for Parachute. Kaz is a parenting and food blogger who has been hunting down the best Salt Lake City has to offer for the last decade. She speaks fluent sarcasm and has a penchant for all things vintage. You can find her blogging at asweetlittlelife.com.
Pinpointing every breathtaking place on the planet could take a lifetime, but the guys in the know at CN Traveler think that these 50 otherworldly landscapes and awe-inspiring natural wonders need to move to the very top of your travel bucket list. (All images from Getty unless otherwise indicated)
Cappadocia, an area in Turkey where entire cities have been carved into rock, is pretty incredible on its own. But whenever hot-air balloons pepper the sky, its beauty level simply skyrockets.
Salar de Uyuni: Daniel Campos, Bolivia
The reflective surface of the world’s largest salt mine is like something from the imagination of Salvador Dali—although we’re happy it actually exists in real life.
Mù Cang Chải: Vietnam
Mù Cang Chải manages to be one of the most breathtaking spots in Vietnam, with terraced rice fields and mountainous landscapes.
Benagil Sea Cave: Algarve, Portugal
The southern coast of Portugal is lined with exquisite beaches and caves, including the famous Benagil Sea Cave (skylight included).
Iceland’s Snæfellsjökull glacier, complete with ice caves and craters, has appeared in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and the film Batman Begins.
There’s a reason why more than 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon every year: It’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world, but a lot easier to access than Mount Everest or the Great Barrier Reef.
It’s over 12,000 miles long, thousands of years old, and can be seen from space—no wonder the Great Wall nabbed a spot on this list.
Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley): Alaska
Despite controversies over name changes and a shrinking elevation, Denali’s beauty is worth braving the extreme low temperatures.
Isle of Skye: Scotland
With fairy pools and bright green hills, the magical Isle of Skye is the stuff dreams are made of (regardless of whether you’ve binge-watched Outlander yet).
Bromo Volcano: East Java, Indonesia
Mount Bromo is perhaps the most well-known volcano in East Java’s Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, thanks to its accessibility and epic sunrise views.
While it may not be the first place you’d pick for a vacation abroad, Samarkand is a standout with intricately tiled buildings and colorfully dressed locals. It also has a rich history as a Silk Road stopping point.
Holland is known around the world for its rainbow-hued fields of tulips, especially those located in and around Keukenhof. Millions of bulbs are planted in the park each year—visit in mid-April to see the flowers during their peak season.
Machu Picchu: Peru
Machu Picchu’s panoramic views and intricate (and a tad mysterious) stone walls more than validate the site’s worldwide fame.
The Great Barrier Reef: Queensland, Australia
Although the largest living thing on Earth can be seen from space, the best vantage point belongs to the avid snorkelers and scuba divers who visit each year.
Moravian Fields: Czech Republic
It’s more believable to think the Moravian Fields are the product of an oil painter’s genius brushstrokes, but these pastel-colored hills are very much a reality.
Socotra kind of looks like it was transported to Earth from a distant planet. The UFO-like dragon’s blood trees are the island’s most notable feature.
Bagan (formerly Pagan): Myanmar
Bagan’s ancient city skyline is like nothing else in the world, with ochre stupas and temples rising above the surrounding forests.
Santorini is officially one of the best islands in the world—and one of the most picturesque. The small village of Oia is particularly captivating, with its whitewashed buildings and bright blue roofs.
Slope Point: South Island, New Zealand
The next time you want to complain about the wind messing up your hair, just consider the trees of Slope Point, which have been permanently twisted and windblown by intense Antarctic gusts.
Lake Louise: Alberta, Canada
As is the case with most glacial lakes, Lake Louise is surrounded by rugged mountains and filled with clear, vibrant water.
Valle de Cocora: Quindío, Colombia
In case you were wondering where to find the world’s tallest palm trees (palma de cera), you needn’t look further. The lithe trees are even more incredible set against the backdrop of misty green hills and sharp mountains.
Pamukkale: Denizli, Turkey
The stacked pools in Pamukkale are usually surrounded by snow and frozen waterfalls, but the blue waters are hot and open to bathers. You’ll never be satisfied with your hotel’s infinity pool again.
Torres del Paine National Park: Patagonia, Chile
Torres del Paine is like a microcosm of all the things that make Patagonia such a spectacular place: sky-high mountains, blue icebergs, and mythical lakes.
Wulingyuan Scenic Area: Zhangjiajie, China
Scenic might be an understatement in this case. This 100-square-mile attraction contains thousands of sandstone pillars that are nature’s version of skyscrapers—some even stretch taller than the Empire State Building’s midpoint.
Angkor Wat: Siem Reap, Cambodia
Some popular tourist attractions are worth braving the potential crowds for, and Angkor Wat is at the top of that list. No matter how many Asian temples you’ve seen, this one will always be the grandest and most breathtaking.
Redwood National Park: California
Standing in the middle of California’s Redwood National Park is a humbling experience to be sure, especially when you look straight up at the 2,000-year-old, 300-feet-tall natural giants.
Na’Pali Coast: Kauai, Hawaii
Kauai boasts one of the world’s most insanely beautiful coastlines, which makes you work a bit to soak up its wonders—Na’Pali can only be seen from a helicopter, catamaran, or rather grueling hike.
Halong Bay: Vietnam
Halong Bay, located in northeast Vietnam, is beloved for its blue waters and spread of limestone islands, all occupied by tropical trees and wildlife.
Painted Cliffs: Maria Island, Tasmania
Tasmania’s Maria Island is a motherlode of fascinating geology, including the swirling, Triassic-era limestone of the Painted Cliffs.
Jodhpur (“Blue City”): Rajasthan, India
Jodhpur is an ancient city with plenty to offer modern travellers, like bustling bazaars, incense-scented air, and delightfully Smurf-like buildings as far as you can see.
Stunning photography of even more stunning places to visit from Mail Online – I just had to just copy and paste this one! – Ned
If there was ever a time to book into a spectacular treehouse and spend the night close to nature, now could be it – as Disney’s Jungle Book has hit the screens.
If you are craving a night with just the bare necessities, there are plenty of simple retreats offering guests the chance to fall asleep in nature’s arms. But there are also some more lavish options for those looking for something more comfortable.
Here MailOnline Travel shares some of the most incredible boutique treehouses around the world – perfect for living like Mowgli for the night.
The Jungle Book is out now, and tells the story of Mowgli, who is raised by wolves and is friends with Bagheera and Baloo the bear
Watamu Guest House, Watamu, Kenya
Nestled high in the trees on a breathtaking stretch of Watamu beach in Kenya is the Watamu Treehouse.
The white, unusually-designed property looks like something from a fairytale, with its thatched roofs, mosaic glass inside and panoramic views of the Indian Ocean.
The stunning Watamu Treehouse has three bedrooms which all boast ensuite bathrooms, and guests can check in on a self-catering or full-board basis.
Prices for the paradisal retreat don’t come cheap at £253 per night on TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, but it could be worth it for the views alone.
The Buckland, Atlanta, US
If you’ve ever dreamed of a fairytale treehouse, complete with twinkling lights and romantic bridges, it probably looks a lot like this.
The Buckland retreat, nestled in pristine woodland in the heart of Atlanta, is listed on Airbnb for around £255 per night, and it even comes with Wi-Fi.
Set amid the branches of a 150-year-old Southern Short-Leaf Pine tree, the enchanting treehouse is the handywork of creative couple Peter and Katie Bahouth, and consists of three separate rooms that are connected by rope bridges strewn with fairy lights.
The cosy living room is decked out with a masterful blend of beautiful antiques and up-cycled furniture, including a chandelier to add a touch ofglamour to the scheme, and an 80-year-old butterfly window.
Keemala is a small wellness-focused resort in the woodlands just outside the village and beach of Kamala on the island of Phuket
So close yet so far from the parties of Patong on Thailand’s biggest island, developers aimed for Keemala to be the epitome of serenity.
The hotel is a small wellness-focused resort in the woodlands just outside the village and beach of Kamala, on the west coast of the island, and opened in September of last year.
Small Luxury Hotels of the World says the tranquil setting of the resort will ‘encourage guests to rebalance, rejuvenate and relax’ among the trees, streams and waterfalls seamlessly added to enhance the natural landscape.
The resort’s 38 pool villas come in in four separate styles – clay and straw cottages, tent villas, treehouses and bird’s nest villas – with each one representing a clan of fictitious early Phuket settlers.
Treehouse Point, Washington
If you are looking for some rest and relaxation, TreeHouse Point, Washington, could be the perfect escape.
The utopia, which was constructed in 2006, features a number of treehouse options, the largest of which features leather reading chairs, a queen-sized bed and two singles, hand-made quilts, a writing desk, bookcases and large hammocks, all for around $330 (£234) per night, plus tax.
What makes it even more perfect are the ways you access the treehouses. Guests have to travel across a swinging rope bridge or ascend a ladder to reach the forest paradises.
Montaña Mágica Lodge, Chile
The southern Andes is home to the spectacular Montaña Mágica Lodge, a luxury hotel in the heart of Patagonia’s 300,000-acre Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve that has a spectacular waterfall cascading down one side.
Looking as though it’s been plucked straight out of a fantasy film, the hotel is made completely out of wood and stone, and would no doubt be at home as a background set for The Hobbit.
The retreat, in Los Rios, is accessible only by foot and intrepid guests must brave a swinging rope bridge to enter it.
Free Spirit Spheres – Vancouver Island, Canada
These magical circular treehouses are suspended in the forest canopy and reached by guests via bridged walkways.
And since they move in a slow rocking motion when the wind blows, the experience of sleeping in a sphere is unique to each individual.
There are four different spherical rooms in all at the Free Spirit Spheres, Vancouver Island, Canada, and each can comfortably sleep an adult couple, though amenities are relatively limited inside.
Rates start at CAD$160 (£84) for one night in the smallest of the four.
Lion Sands Game Reserve, South Africa
There can be few more spine-tingling ways of seeing lions, leopards and elephants in their natural habitat than from a lavish treehouse.
These amazing pictures show how one particular hotel allows its guests to gaze across a private reserve near the Kruger National Park in five-star luxury, with a four-poster bed, sofa and dining table installed on the decking.
Located in the exclusive Sabi Sand Reserve, it’s truly the ultimate exotic escape, with guests taken to the treehouse at sunset, where a picnic awaits them.
What’s more, they aren’t just treated to the sights and sounds of Africa’s wildlife. Lion Sands Game Reserve, which operates several ‘bush bedrooms’, promises that if you look up there are stars so great in number ‘they’re impossible to count’.
Perhaps the most picturesque of all treehouses is the stunning Teahouse Tetsu at the Kiyoharu Shirakaba Museum in the Japanese city of Hokuto.
Perched atop a cypress base in a gorgeous grove of pink-petalled cherry trees, the Terunobu Fujimori-designed teahouse looks as if it sprang direct from the imagination of Hans Christian Andersen and even has a fairytale-style crooked chimney.
Sadly guests can only visit the treehouse and not spend the night in it.
Treehouses at Center Parcs, Longleat Forest
Many opt for a holiday at Center Parcs to enjoy cycling around the woodlands, the wealth of activities and dining options – but now you can have the full forest experience by staying in one of the picturesque treehouses.
In Longleat Forest there are three luxury, two-storey options, nestled in a quiet corner of the 400 acres of woodland.
They feature four en-suite bedrooms, an open plan kitchen, dining and living area, a separate games den (accessed along a timber walkway) and a private hot tub.
Prices start from £349 and can be booked on the website.
Tsala Treetop Lodge, South Africa
Holidaymakers who want to revisit the days when they climbed trees as a child can do one better at this luxurious hotel in the wilds of South Africa.
Tsala lodge is set high in the treetops with rustic suites and villas complete with fireplaces, spa bathrooms and infinity pools on private decks, where guests can admire spectacular vistas of a lush forest.
Offering a unique take on a room with a view, the wood and stone treehouses boast high ceilings, kitchenettes and outdoor showers in a peaceful location between the coastal towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.
Châteaux dans les Arbres, France
Perched among the branches in a rural spot near Bergerac is a unique treehouse, complete with four fairytale turrets and all built out of wood.
The cosy interior of Châteaux dans les Arbres (Castle in the Trees) includes a double bed with a stained-glass window above, an electric heater for chilly evenings and a coffee machine for a morning pick-me-up.
Outside on the terrace is a hot tub for two and a personal chef is on hand to create a delicious supper to complete the romantic evening.
Pura Vida Eco lodge & Retreat, Province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica
If you are looking for pampering, you may wish to opt for Pura Vida Ecolodge, an ‘eco-luxury’ retreat nestled amongst virgin rain forest in Central America’s Costa Rica.
This peaceful accommodation sleeps seven over its two bedrooms, and is listed as promoting a ‘sustainable lifestyle.’ The modern ecolodge, which comes with use of an infinity-edge plunge pool with forest views, is set up with rain water catchment and has solar panels.
According to TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, ‘the most magical times are the early mornings and late afternoons where you can sit back with a freshly made juice or a glass of wine and be a spectator of nature with monkeys, parrots and toucans all frequently visiting the lodge and its surrounding reserve’.
Bird’s Nest Treehotel, Sweden
Inside the walls are clad with wood panels and the port hole windows almost disappear in the exterior’s network of branches
From the outside it looks like a giant bird’s nest, perched high in a tree in a Swedish forest, but inside it is a luxury guest room with enough space for four to stay comfortably.
The Bird’s Nest, built by architect Bertil Harström, is part of an outdoor sleeping experience called the Treehotel.
The unusual room is located in Harads, near the Lule River, in Sweden. Kent says: ‘From the Bird’s Nest you get a fantastic view of the Lule River valley, miles of forest and the powerful river.
Inside, the room, which sleeps a family of four is the height of luxury. The walls are clad with wood panels and the windows almost disappear in the exterior’s network of branches.
Overnight stays, including breakfast, start from £380 and there’s also a restaurant, bar, sauna and relaxation area, TV, and internet access on site.
I’m a stickler for honesty in my travel blogging so I was pleased to see this feature from SmarterTravel via HuffPost.
With so many beautiful photographs of far-off destinations circulating the Internet, it should come as no surprise that some of these unbelievable places truly should not be believed. Through the power of Photoshop, artists can create beautiful scenes of fantasy worlds. But often, such images are taken out of context and advertised as real. You might have seen some of the following photographs making the rounds—the bad news is they’re totally fake, but the good news is there are places in the real world that are just as beautiful. Luckily for us, we live in a world so magnificent that it sometimes surpasses our imaginations.
The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye Scotland
One of the most popular picture hoaxes on the Internet, this photo and its bright purple trees are totally Photoshopped. On top of the fake color, this photograph isn’t even from Scotland’s Fairy Pools … it wasn’t even taken in Scotland. It is actually a photograph of New Zealand’s Shotover River—it’s just as beautiful, but somewhat disappointingly green.
Go Instead: If brightly colored trees stoke your wanderlust, head to Japan for cherry blossoms. In springtime, Japan comes together for Hanami, which literally translates into “flower viewing,” to celebrate the short window of two weeks in which the flowers bloom. One of the best places to see the bloom is Goryokaku Park in Hokkaido, but if you can’t make it to Japan, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. is just as beautiful.
Moon and Star Island
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons via CC Attribution/Share Alike)
In the TV show An Idiot Abroad, Ricky Gervais sends his buddy Karl to the Petra Monastery in Jordan, where Karl learns that the best view isn’t actually standing in front of the monastery but from a cave across the way. And what he says upon realizing this is actually freakin’ enlightening: “You’re better off livin’ in the hole looking at the palace, than living at the palace looking at the hole.”
Karl’s right: sometimes the better vantage point is where you least expect it (or rather, where you will encounter the fewest number of selfie sticks). Which is why we tracked down eight lesser-known spots for seeing some of the world’s biggest attractions.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Rome, Italy Viewing spot: The Knights of Malta Keyhole
Unfortunately, there’s no other way to marvel at Michelangelo’s handiwork than to go inside of St. Peter’s Basilica, but you won’t want to miss seeing it from this other stealthier spot. It’s a teeny keyhole that perfectly frames the Renaissance church! Get there by climbing Aventine Hill and finding The Knights of Malta building, HQ to the world’s oldest order of knighthood.
Bangkok, Thailand Viewing spot: The Deck
This Buddhist temple is a must-visit in Bangkok, but can be a real pain to get to — we’re talking jumping boats and dodging tourists. If you don’t really care about climbing the temple, book a table at The Deck restaurant for sunset drinks (by Western prices, it’s reasonable). You’ll enjoy a breathtaking view of Wat Arun sparkling on the water, with a breeze and cocktail thrown in for good measure.
Athens, Greece Viewing spot: Filopappou Hill
So Acropolis admission is going up this year (because, Greek debt crisis), but hold onto your Euros: one of the best spots to admire the ruins is actually totally free. Climbing up Filopappou Hill, you can get an awesome panorama of Athens, the Aegean, and even a full shot of the Acropolis — no backdrop of tour groups necessary.
Berlin, Germany Viewing spot: Invalids’ Cemetery
Go ahead and get that necessary selfie against some East Side Gallery graffiti, but also take time to check out Invalids’ Cemetery where a decrepit, lesser-known piece of the Berlin Wall still remains. Here in what was once “no man’s land” between East and West, you’ll also find the resting places of WWI veterans and Nazi leaders.
Christ the Redeemer
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Viewing spot: From a helicopter
OK, OK, so not really a secret spot (or even an accessible one really), BUT if you’re only going to splurge $150 on a token tourist chopper ride once in your lifetime, trust us — Rio’s the place. Forty thousand feet in the air is where you’ll get the most epic view of Christ the Redeemer, including the bottom part, which can’t be seen from ground entry.
Los Angeles Viewing spot: Lake Hollywood Park
Hiking Hollywood Ridge and Beachwood Canyon are the most popular ways to set eyes on this crucial American landmark, but your best view is actually (perhaps too sensibly) from underneath. Locals love to disagree about where that prime real estate is, but when it comes to overall experience, there’s Lake Hollywood Park. It’s one of the easier spots to find with a clear view of the sign, and a pretty location on its own boasting greenery and a neighboring reservoir.
Cliffs of Moher
County Clare, Ireland Viewing spot: Coming from Doolin
Google Ireland’s most famous attraction, and you’ll pull up words like “tourist trap” and “overrated” pretty quick. But blogger Shannon O’Donnell found a route through pastures starting in a charming village called Doolin (another town, Galway, is where most tourists head in from). Trade-off? There’s a high probability you will be stepping in cow patties.
Agra, India Viewing spot: Yamuna or Agra Rivers
Ah Taj Mahal, there you are as the world’s No.1 tourist trap and bane of happy-go-lucky travel photographers everywhere. Getting the money shot of this architectural wonder can be unbelievably tricky, and that’s why your best bet is on riverbanks, or even ON the water. Hire a boat to float out for a unique, full frontal angle. Trade-off? Sewage smell. Better than big crowds and fending off scams? You decide.
British Airways documented Pooh the teddy bear’s extraordinary journey home to an eight-month-old boy after being left behind 4,600 miles from his home in West Yorkshire. Little Woody Cranmer was devastated after leaving his small cuddly toy thousands of miles away in Argentina. The beloved plush had been passed down from the toddler’s father Scott, who was given Pooh as a baby. The British Airways team took pictures of Pooh’s journey home and made them into a book for little Woody to keep.
Thanks to the good ol’ Mail Online for such an adorable tale. 🙂 – Ned
These adorable pictures show the moment a baby boy, who was devastated after leaving his beloved cuddly teddy bear 4,600 miles away in Argentina, was reunited with his toy.
When Woody Cranmer left his treasured teddy ‘Pooh’ in Buenos Aires, the eight-month-old thought he would never see his lovable companion again.
The toy had been passed down from his father Scott, 30, from Wakefield, who was given Pooh as a baby.
These adorable pictures show the moment Woody Cranmer was reunited with his beloved teddy bear after leaving him in Argentina
British Airways team behind the find took pictures of Pooh’s journey home and made them into a book for Woody to keep
During his 4,600 mile journey home to Leeds Bradford, Pooh the bear met with British Airways staff
The small bear was given lots of free goodies
Once the family realised he had gone missing during their trip last month they took to social media to try and find their furry family member.
And thankfully within days, Mr P Bear – now the owner of a gold executive club card – was located by the British Airways team and flown back to Leeds Bradford Airport, West Yorkshire, to be reunited with his anxious family.
Cranmer said: ‘I know to some people it’s only a silly teddy, but Pooh has been part of my life for the last 30 years.
‘When Woody was born, it was a huge thing to pass Pooh into Woody’s care. We were so worried when we lost Pooh while we were visiting Woody’s grandfather in Buenos Aires.
‘We were eternally grateful to British Airways for finding him and returning him to my little boy.
‘They go everywhere together and they’re inseparable when it comes time to go to bed.’
Pooh travelled 4,600 miles home alone to be reunited with his family after getting lost in Argentina during a holiday last month
Once the family realised Pooh had gone missing they took to social media to try and find their furry family member – but little did they know, he was helping staff in Argentina. Here’s Pooh inspecting one of BA’s jet engines
The toy had been passed down from his father Scott (left) from Wakefield, who was given Pooh the small teddy bear as a baby
Mr P Bear was flown back to Leeds Bradford Airport, West Yorks, to be reunited with his anxious family
The bear – who is now the owner of a gold executive club card – was located by the British Airways team
The team behind the find even took pictures of Pooh’s journey and made them into a book for Woody to keep as a very special memento.
Cranmer added: ‘He has had a great adventure and we’re so happy he’s finally landed back home. We’ll have a great book to show Woody when he’s older.
‘I’d just like to thank everyone for their help in getting him home. Everyone has been superb.’
Pooh the bear helped out on the check in desks during his time in Argentina
Pooh pictured at the gate before boarding his 15 hour flight home this week
Okay okay, Valentine’s Day is long gone (for this year anyway) but I just HAD to post this little “themed” piece. My eternal thanks to Mashable once more! 🙂
Two Chinese women found themselves in an awkward situation on Valentine’s Day when an airline booked them into S&M-themed rooms in a love hotel in Chongqing, China.
According to local news reports, both women were passengers on a Hainan Airlines flight bound for Hangzhou but were forced to stay in Chongqing when the flight was delayed by bad weather.
After they were informed that their flight was rescheduled for 3 p.m. the next day, the airline then offered to put them up at a hotel overnight. Their day took a turn for the worse when they found out that they were checked into a by-the-hour S&M-themed “love hotel.”
Love hotels are common in Asia, especially in Japan where the concept originated. These hotels are used for short-stays and are rented out by the hour to couples for quickies.
One of the women, Lou Bao, was so horrified by her digs for the night that she took to Weibo to post photos of the room.
The room came furnished with a “punishment chair” complete with wrist and ankle restraints. Strangely, the room reminded us of a low-rent version of 50 Shades of Grey’s “red room of pain.”
Since Lou Bao’s post went viral, Hainan Airlines have apologised on its official Weibo account and said that they were in contact with both passengers to make amends, reportedPeople’s Online Daily.
“The passengers were delayed due to bad weather, and all the hotels were booked out because of Valentine’s Day. Our hotel-booking representative couldn’t secure any room and did not research what a ‘themed suite’ means,” the airline’s statement read.
Hey there all you romantics: I spotted this piece in the Mail Online Travel – just perfect for Feb 14th.
Check it out… ❤ ❤ ❤
It appears that love is not just in the air, but also hidden in natural wonders all over the planet.
From peaceful atolls, vibrant islands and rocky cliffs there are heart-shapes surprises to be discovered among the landscape.
Sir Richard Branson is even a fan of the phenomenon, forking out for a heart-shaped island resort in Australia.
Romantics may wish to spend a day exploring Croatia’s perfectly shaped paradise, Galesnjak, which received international fame after it was captured by a Google Earth satellite in 2009.
Travellers can also visit Tupai, a tiny atoll located just north of Bora Bora. There are flights available for tours and couples can even tie the knot on the stunning island.
Here are some of the most spectacular natural wonders – that are sure to capture your heart.
Heart of the ocean: If you are lucky enough to get a helicopter ride over Australia’s Great Barrier Reef you should look out for Heart Reef, in Hardy Reef, which is a stunning composition of coral that has naturally formed into the shape of a heart
Sir Richard Branson owns the tranquil Makepeace Island off Australia’s Sunshine Coast. The secluded sanctuary offers 20 explorers the chance to stay in luxury villas with access to a lagoon pool and island bar
At sunset the silhouette of this heart-shaped hole in the rocky cliffs of Calanques de Piana on Corsica Island, France, is breathtaking
Contrasting against the lush green mountain, this bright turquoise heart-shaped lake is located near Ala-Kul Lake, Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan
This large formation of vegetation in New Caledonia is called the Coeur or Heart of Voh. It was made famous in a photograph taken in 1990 and published a few years later on the book cover Earth from Heaven, by French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Heart Island in Galesnjak, Croatia, first gained worldwide recognition in 2009 when Google Earth captured its unique shape with this satellite image. Galesnjak is uninhabited and does not have any tourist facilities, but visitors can travel by boat for a day with their loved one
Travellers can also visit Tupai, a tiny atoll located just north of Bora Bora, with flights available to tour or tie the knot on the stunning island
In Germany there is a heart-shaped island in Kleine Muritz Lake, perfect for lovers wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the world
At the foot of Dunsinane Hill in Perthshire, Scotland, surrounded by fields, is a cute heart-shaped pond
Those travelling by boat may not be able to fully appreciate this small heart-shaped island in Germany located where the Ruhr River joins the Kemnade reservoir, as it is best viewed from above
Have the ultimate romantic retreat on Tavarua Island in Fiji. The 29-acre island is surrounded by a stunning coral reef
Located in the Bavarian Alps, this beautiful heart-shaped islands sits on Germany’s Lake Walchensee
Those flying above the British Columbia landscape in Canada can catch a glimpse of this unusually carved lake
In 2013 it was rumoured that Angelina Jolie bought the heart-shaped Petra Island near New York as a 50th birthday gift for partner Brad Pitt but this was later disputed
This scenic property in Pas-de-Calais, Louches, France, comes with its own heart-shaped lake – ideal for romantic strolls
Those who venture up Austrian Alps should look out for a glimpse of this heart-shaped glacier lake during the trip
Water in this reservoir in Goldried, High Tauern National Park, Austria, is collected in the shape of a heart
Lake Pupuke is a heart-shaped freshwater lake occupying a volcanic crater between the suburbs of Takapuna and Milford on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand
Venice has always had celebrity pulling power and these wonderfully nostalgic black and white photographs, dating from the 1940s through to the 1970s, show some of the world’s most beautiful people enjoying arguably the world’s most beautiful city.
Venice played host to the very first international film festival and long attracted the rich and famous to sample its renowned waterways, from Hollywood actors to acclaimed artists. As you will see below, some of the greats, like Salvador Dali or Mick and Bianca Jagger, enjoyed a relaxing gondola ride, while American actress Gene Tierney tried having a punt herself.
Thanks to the Mail Online for digging up these gorgeous shots.
British actress Claire Bloom and her husband American actor Rod Steiger hiding under an umbrella. They were in Venice for the film festival in September 1963
The sandy beaches of the French Riviera might be the obvious choice for celebrity spotting today but these vintage photographs show that the waterways of Venice were once the go-to spot for holidaying stars.
While George and Amal Clooney are names still drawn to the romantic city, these images, dating from the 1940s to the 1970s, reveal that everyone from Gary Cooper to Salvador Dali has fallen in love with the dreamy destination at some point.
Actors including Sue Lyon and Anthony Quinn are pictured enjoying a relaxing ride on a gondola while action man Sean Connery tries his hand at driving his own boat.
For Spartacus legend Kirk Douglas, it was all about enjoying the beach and socialising with stylish locals, while others, such as Elizabeth Taylor and her then husband Eddie Fisher, preferred to retreat to Burano island and are captured enjoying a candid moment by the lagoon.
It comes as no surprise then, that the Italian city was the host of the world’s first film festival in 1932 and it was the place to be seen.
Even today, more than 80 years since the first Venice Film Festival, the coastal city remains dazzling and popular.
Rock star appeal: British singer Mick Jagger sits next to Bianca Jagger in a gondola, with the gondolier behind them in Venice in 1971
Legendary American actor Paul Newman, wearing a tuxedo and a bow tie during a trip on a water taxi with St. Mark Square in the background, Venice 1963
Spanish artist Salvador Dali pulls a dramatic pose on a gondola while the gondolier rows on behind him
Glamorous riviera: American actor Kirk Douglas, wearing just a swimming suit, signing the thigh of the painter Novella Parigini while another woman looks on at Lido Beach in 1953
Taken around 1960, Elizabeth Taylor and her then husband, singer Eddie Fisher, on holiday on Burano Island in the lagoon at Venice
French actress Brigitte Bardot with her partner, the french jazz guitarist Sasha Distel, in 1958. The extravagant star is surrounded by men in tuxedos
American actor Sue Lyon, known for playing Lolita, is pictured wearing a strapless, striped bikini and reclining on a gondola in 1962
American actor Gary Cooper, pictured in 1955, wears a blazer and a tie as he enjoys his gondola ride in St Mark’s Basin
Taken in 1951, American actor Gene Tierney, wearing a striped short-sleeved nautical-style shirt, lounges on a gondola boat
Later, donning a hat, Gene Tierney tries her hand at rowing a gondola. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Ellen Berent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven
Shaken not stirred: A dishevelled Sean Connery rides a water taxi with the wind is his hair, overlooking the Venetian lagoon in the 1970s
American actor Warren Beatty pictured outside the Excelsior Hotel in 1965. The hotel was also where the first film festival was hosted
French actor Cathrine Deneuve on the set of the movie ‘Mayerling’, wearing a coat and and a beret. She holds a paintbrush in her mouth while photographers snaps away in March 1968
Mexican actor Anthony Quinn wearing a plaid blazer, with the actress Barbara Steele, sitting in a water taxi on the Canal Grande in 1958
Whether we’re single or dating, many of us use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to get away. But more often than not, we wind up giving in to overpriced food and accommodation in some of the world’s most hideously touristy destinations. Don’t be like that this year: on the most romantic day of the year steer clear of these seven destinations that simply aren’t worth visiting. – Ned
Las Vegas, NV
The Las Vegas Strip is the most visited tourist attraction in the world, drawing in nearly 40 million visitors a year. And in 2015 it also happened to be the most popular destination for celebrating Valentine’s Day, despite hotel rates surging by 62% according to a report by Hipmunk.
My advice? Skip the casino chaos and costly hotels and take a road trip to one of Nevada’s smaller, cheaper, and less congested towns where you can still find plenty to do.
Where to go instead: With mountains as its backdrop, Pahrump Nevada is a small desert town near the California border, an hour west of Vegas. Here you can enjoy wine tastings at Pahrump Valley Winery and the Sanders Family Winery, the only two wineries in Southern Nevada, go for scenic hikes and eat in eclectic restaurants. And if you’re looking for a taste of Vegas, you can gamble in the Pahrump casinos – far less crowded and just as fun!
New York City
From ice skating and Broadway to all-star restaurants and comfortable cafes, New York City is one of the most romantic destinations in the States. And considering it’s home to two of the three most visited tourist sites in the entire world – Times Square (number two) and Central Park (number three) – it’s also one of the busiest.
New York is one of the top five destinations people consider visiting on Valentine’s Day, and among its tens of thousands of hotels, roughly two-thirds are designated “romantic” by Hipmunk – a classification based on neighbourhood, dining scene, and amenities like pool, spa, and balcony. Anyone looking to spend February 14th in one of these properties can expect to pay up to 70% more.
Where to go instead:Boston also has a lively nightlife, top-notch restaurants, unique neighborhoods and many free attractions. But while Boston can be busy and pricey too, you’ll still save money if you choose it over the Big Apple.
Food in Boston is 8% cheaper than in New York City, according to Expatistan, a website that compares cost-of-living and transportation expenses. Getting around in Boston, which includes cab fares, public transportation and gas, costs 27% less than New York. And if you’re looking for a hotel in Boston on Valentine’s Day, hotel rates in average $184 per night compared to $273 in NYC.
It doesn’t get any dreamier than Paris. Lovebirds gather from all over the world to soak in the city’s classic architecture, iconic monuments, bridges and parks, world-class dining and theatre. Paris is romantic all year round but even more so in the spring and summer, so save it for another time when you can dine outside and wander along the Seine.
Where to go instead: Ditch Paris (just this once) and head to Dijon, the capitol city of the Burgundy region and less than a two-hour train ride away. Full of cultural sights, old-world charm, marvellous restaurants and shopping and some of the country’s best wineries, Dijon is a lively city that’s also much more affordable.
(Photo: Thinkstock/Image Source)
Romantic strolls along the Thames, cruises, cozy pubs, panoramic city views and iconic sites are only some of the reasons why lovers flock to London, but given that it’s one of the world’s most visited cities and a simply huge tourist magnet, it’s safe to assume that the UK’s capital city is one place you don’t want to be on Valentine’s Day!
Where to go instead: You can find plenty to do in the hip seaside city of Brighton, situated on the south coast of England and just a 50-minute train ride from the capital. It offers the perfect mix of city life and laid-back beach lifestyle and boasts loads of food, art, and music festivals, a scenic waterfront and tons of shops and pubs – plus of course the world-famous Brighton Pier. This globally up-and-coming destination is a cheaper and a far less crowded alternative to the bustling city of London, and it even made it onto TripAdvisor’s list of Top Destinations on the Rise for 2016.
Niagara Falls is the fifth-most visited tourist attraction in the world with 22.5 million annual visits, according to Travel Weekly. Sure, the famous falls are impressive: admiring them with your significant other might even be deemed romantic, but don’t drive out of your way just to visit because that romantic high won’t last long.
Big crowds are a certainty on Valentine’s Day, and hotels close to the falls become super pricey. Plus there’s nothing romantic about the fast foods joints, arcades and tacky souvenir shops all around.
Where to go instead:Take in scenic water views in the charming lakeside town of Canandaigua, less than a two-hour drive from Niagara Falls and just 45 minutes west of the Finger Lakes. Here, you can walk the pier along Canandaigua Lake; stroll through the Sonnenburg Gardens and Mansion Historic State Park; and enjoy wine tastings, art exhibits, and – frankly – some peace and quiet.
Reno is a popular “anti-Valentine’s Day” destination, known for its long running Vampire pub crawl (designed for those who think Valentine’s Day sucks!) But ironically, it’s actually the most marked-up location in the USA to book over the holiday.
Last year, Hipmunk compared Reno’s hotel prices over Valentine’s Day weekend to the weekend before and found that rates spiked by a whopping 114%! You’ll also be forced into overpaying for pre-fixed multi-course dinners in Reno’s overcrowded resorts and casinos.
Where to go instead: Head south of Reno and take a 75-minute drive to the small town of Markleeville, a popular stop for hot spring seekers and recreationists. Mountain-style lodging, excellent food and warm hospitality are just a few of the things you’ll experience here. With Grover Hot Springs State Park located just four miles west of the town, you can also cross-country ski, snowshoe, hike and warm up in the hot springs at the park’s winter campground.
(Photo: Thinkstock/Image Source)
Winding canals, romantic gondola rides, waterfront restaurants and postcard-perfect architecture make Venice the quintessential couple’s getaway. But while a Venetian-style Valentine’s Day sounds like it would be nothing less than magical, the city is also massively overrun by tourists, making it difficult even to manoeuvre through the city on Feb 14th.
Where to go instead: Save yourself from the congestion and head to Bassano del Grappa in the Veneto region of northern Italy. Here you’ll find more romantic bridges and canals, just an hour train ride from Venice. Bassano is far less crowded and far less pricey than its watery counterpart, and it’s equally scenic. Set on the Brenta River beneath the Venetian Prealps, you can soak in mountain and water views, enjoy authentic local Italian cuisine and stroll through this mediaeval city’s streets enjoying its many historic sites, such as the 11th Century cathedral (duomo), the castle and the wooden covered Bridge, or Ponte degli Alpini,
This is a fascinating article from the BBC future website – not strictly travel-related (although it does mention journeying into outer space!) but certainly got me thinking. Must pick my genetic partner carefully…!
The last man on Earth is a common trope in fiction – but what if it actually happened? How many people would it take to save our species?
Credit: Getty Images
The alien predators arrived by boat. Within two years, everyone was dead. Almost.
The tiny islet of Ball’s Pyramid lies 600km east of Australia in the South Pacific, rising out of the sea like a shard of glass. And there they were – halfway up its sheer cliff edge, sheltering under a spindly bush – the last of the species. Two escaped and just nine years later there were 9,000, the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Adam and Eve.
No, this isn’t a bizarre take on the story of creation. The lucky couple were tree lobsters Dryococelus australis, stick insects the size of a human hand. They were thought to be extinct soon after black rats invaded their native Lord Howe Island in 1918, but were found clinging on in Ball’s Pyramid 83 years later. The species owes its miraculous recovery to a team of scientists who scaled 500ft of vertical rock to reach their hiding place in 2003. The lobsters were named “Adam” and “Eve” and sent to start a breeding programme at Melbourne Zoo.
Lord Howe Island near Australia – where species have been driven to the brink thanks to ‘alien’ invaders (Credit: Getty Images)
Bouncing back after insect Armageddon is one thing. Female tree lobsters lay 10 eggs every 10 days and are capable of parthenogenesis; they don’t need a man to reproduce. Repopulating the earth with humans is quite another matter. Could we do it? And how long would it take?
The answer is more than a whimsical discussion for the pub. From Nasa’s research on the magic number of pioneers needed for our move to another planet, to decisions about the conservation of endangered species, it’s a matter of increasing international importance and urgency.
So let’s fast-forward 100 years. Humanity’s endeavours have gone horribly wrong and a robot uprising has wiped us off the face of the Earth – a fate predicted by Stephen Hawking in 2014. Just two people made it. There’s no way around it: the first generation would all be brothers and sisters.
Sigmund Freud believed incest was the only universal human taboo alongside murdering your parents. It’s not just gross, it’s downright dangerous. A study of children born in Czechoslovakia between 1933 and 1970 found that nearly 40% of those whose parents were first-degree relatives were severely handicapped, of which 14% eventually died.
To understand why inbreeding can be so deadly, we need to get to grips with some genetics. We all have two copies of every gene, one from each parent. But some gene variants don’t show up unless you have two exactly the same. Most inherited diseases are caused by these “recessive” variants, which sneak through the evolutionary radar because they are harmless on their own. In fact, the average person has between one and two lethal recessive mutations in their genome.
When a couple are related, it doesn’t take long for the mask to slip. Take achromatopsia, a rare recessive disorder which causes total colour blindness. It affects 1 in 33,000 Americans and is carried by one in 100. If one of our post-apocalyptic survivors had the variant, there’s a one in four chance of their child having a copy. So far, so good. After just one generation of incest, the risk skyrockets – with a one in four chance of their child having two copies. That’s a 1 in 16 chance that the original couple’s first grandchild would have the disease.
This was the fate of the inhabitants of Pingelap, an isolated atoll in the western Pacific. The entire population is descended from just 20 survivors of a typhoon which swept the island in the 18th Century, including a carrier of achromatopsia. With such a small gene pool, today a 10th of the island’s population is totally colour blind.
Rebuilding populations of New Zealand’s threatened kakapo have struggled, partly because of the limited gene pool (Credit: Getty Images)
Even with these hideous risks in mind, if the survivors had enough children the chances are at least some of them would be healthy. But what happens when inbreeding continues for hundreds of years? It turns out you don’t have to be stuck on an island to find out, because there’s one community that just can’t get enough of their close relatives: European royalty. And with nine generations of strategic marriages between cousins, uncles, and nieces in 200 years, the Spanish Habsburgs are a natural experiment in how it all adds up.
Charles II was the family’s most famous victim. Born with a litany of physical and mental disabilities, the king didn’t learn to walk until he was eight years old. As an adult his infertility spelled the extinction of an entire dynasty.
In 2009 a team of Spanish scientists revealed why. Charles’ ancestry was so entangled, his “inbreeding coefficient” – a figure reflecting the proportion of inherited genes that would be identical from both parents – was higher than if he had been born to siblings.
It’s the same measure used by ecologists to assess the genetic risks faced by endangered species. “With a small population size everyone is going to be related sooner or later, and as relatedness increases inbreeding effects become more important,” explains Dr Bruce Robertson from Otago University. He studies New Zealand’s giant, flightless parrots, called the kakapo, of which there are only 125 left on the planet.
Of particular concern are the effects of inbreeding on sperm quality, which has increased the proportion of eggs that will never hatch from 10% to around 40%. It’s an example of inbreeding depression, Robertson says, caused by the exposure of recessive genetic defects in a population. Despite plenty of food and protection from predators, the kakapo might not make it.
Endangered species also run the gauntlet of longer-term risks. Although they may already be well adapted to their environment, genetic diversity allows species to evolve their way around future challenges. Nowhere is this more important than immunity. “It’s something that most species seem keen to promote diversity in, even humans. We pick mates with a very different immune composition so our offspring have a diverse array of immune locks,” says Dr Philip Stephens from Durham University. Back in our evolutionary past, it’s thought that pairing with Neanderthals may have given our immune systems a genetic boost.
Even if our species makes it, it could be unrecognisable. When small pockets of individuals remain isolated for too long they become susceptible to the founder effect, in which the loss of genetic diversity amplifies the population’s genetic quirks. Not only would the new humans look and sound different – they could be an entirely different species.
The European royal families of the 19th Century were living proof of the perils of inbreeding (Credit: Science Photo Library)
So how much variety do you need? It’s a debate that goes right back to the 80s, says Stephens, when an Australian scientist proposed a universal rule of thumb. “Basically you need 50 breeding individuals to avoid inbreeding depression and 500 in order to adapt,” he says. It’s a rule still used today – though it’s been upped to 500-5,000 to account for random losses when genes are passed from one generation to the next – to inform the IUCN Red List, which catalogues the world’s most threatened species.
Increasingly, the concept is leading those in the field to question the policies of large conservation charities, which prioritise the most endangered species. “It’s conservation framed in the context of triage – you sift casualties and ask is there a chance of saving them. It can be used to say well, can we forget about species?”
But before you write off our couple, as one scientist pointed out, we’re living proof of the concept’s inherent flaws. According to anatomical and archaeological evidence, our ancestors wouldn’t have made our own population targets, with 1,000 individuals in existence for nearly a million years. Then between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, we hit another rough patch as our ancestors migrated out of Africa. As you would expect, we’ve been left with astonishingly low genetic diversity. A 2012 study of the genetic differences between neighbouring groups of chimpanzees found more diversity in a single group than among all seven billion humans alive today.
Looking to our ancestors may be our best bet. Anthropologist John Moore’s estimate, which was published by Nasa in 2002, was modelled on small migrating groups of early humans – around 160 people. He recommends starting with young, childless couples and screening for the presence of potentially dangerous recessive genes. Alas, Moore was contemplating long-term space travel, not repopulating the planet. His number only allows for 200 years of isolation before the pioneers head back to Earth.
We could go from a handful to billions in a few short centuries – if we put our minds to it (Credit: Getty Images)
So what of the last man and woman? It’s impossible to say with any certainty, though Stephens is tentatively optimistic. “The evidence for the short-term effects of low genetic diversity is very strong, but all these things are probabilistic. There are stories of incredible journeys back from the brink – anything is possible.”
As long as the apocalypse doesn’t destroy the foundations of modern civilisation, humanity could bounce back surprisingly fast. At the turn of the 20th Century, the Hutterite community of North America – which is, incidentally, highly inbred – achieved the highest levels of population growth ever recorded, doubling every 17 years. It’s a tough ask, but if each woman had eight children, we’d be back to seven billion people and our current population crisis in just 556 years.
The French capital may be the obvious place to propose but there are plenty of other memorable destinations where couples can declare undying love for each other…
A couple snuggle up on a chair in the North Frisian Islands
I spent almost a week in Antarctica with an engagement ring in my pocket, waiting for the opportunity to propose to my fiancee, but as we spotted whales, penguins and enormous icebergs, I couldn’t find the right moment. Not until, that is, we docked at the (unfortunately named) Deception Island on our final day. We trekked to its rim, to an area known as Neptune’s Bellows, and there, finally, I popped the question. I’m not sure she had much option other to say yes by that stage – but she hasn’t changed her mind since.
Antarctic cruises set sail from Ushuaia, Argentina. For more details visit adventurelife.com. Lufthansa (lufthansa.com) offers return flights via Frankfurt and Buenos Aires from £952pp.
What is more romantic than being with a loved one under a sky bursting with stars? A three-day journey in a 4×4 vehicle from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile to the salt plains of Uyuni in Bolivia involves climbing to more than 16,000ft above sea level. At such altitude and hundreds of miles from any significant city, the sky is illuminated brilliantly. If that doesn’t seem like the right environment, nothing will.
Kanoo Tours (kanootours.com) is one of several companies offering the trip to Uyuni – prices vary throughout the year. Iberia (iberia.com) has return flights from London to Calama in Chile, via Madrid and Santiago, from £956pp.
A group of penguins is pictured on the beach on Deception Island in Antarctica
Cruise the Tanon Strait between the islands of Negros and Cebu in the Philippines and your chances of seeing dolphins are almost guaranteed. Not only are they abundant, but the most common species in this stretch of water is the ludicrously playful spinner dolphin. The only trouble may be finding a peaceful moment to propose between their corkscrewing leaps and flips.
Asiana Airlines (flyasiana.com) has return flights from London to Cebu, via Seoul, from £796pp. For information on tours of the Tanon Strait go to www.godumaguete.com.
If you’re worried about having to propose in front of a crowd, the over-populated Machu Picchu is probably not for you. Instead, embark on a five-day trek to the far less visited Ciudad Perdida (Forgotten City) in Colombia. At times it’s an incredibly tough slog, but it is rewarding. At one time Ciudad Perdida was home to as many as 8,000 people, but now the only things looking on will be toads, birds and the odd snake.
Turcol Tours (turcol.i8.com) offers tours to the Forgotten City. Avianca (avianca.co.uk) has flights to the trek’s starting point, Santa Marta, from London via Madrid from £755pp.
Japanese macaques on the island of Yakushima
They say it rains ’35 days a month’ on the Japanese island of Yakushima, but don’t let that put you off. It lies on the edge of two tropical zones, giving it an unusually fertile climate. Some of its 80ft cedar trees are thought to be 2,000 years old, while on the ground, people are outnumbered by skittish deer and bold, thieving monkeys – if you have a ring with you, hold on to it tight.
Return flights to the nearby island of Kyushu are available with Lufthansa (lufthansa.com), via Frankfurt and Nagoya, from £594pp. Ferries operate between Yakushima and Kyushu.
On Germany’s North Frisian Islands, winds blasting off the North Sea create ‘champagne air’ – a heady mix that might increase the chances of getting a Yes response to the big question. Afterwards, celebrate in one of the Michelin-starred restaurants on Sylt, the largest and most developed of the islands. The North Frisians connect to Hamburg by a typically efficient train network.
Visit bahn.de for details on the rail service between Hamburg and Sylt.
A view of the Monastery in Petra, Jordan
Featured in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, the enormous sculpted cave known as the Treasury in Petra, Jordan, is often awash with tourists. Better, then, to trek further into the ancient stone city to the Monastery, where the views are breathtaking. Just don’t get too close to the edge of the cliff face at such a nervy moment.
EasyJet (easyjet.com) flies from Gatwick to Amman from £147pp return. Jordan Select Tours (select.jo) has dozens of holiday options.
The Turkish resort of Marmaris may be light on romance, but head a little north to Sedir Island and you could find yourself a spot shared by two of history’s greatest lovers. Legend has it that Cleopatra refused to set foot on anything outside of Egypt, so when Mark Antony wanted her to visit Sedir Island he imported tons of Egyptian sand to coat the beach. Locals insist the same stuff still covers the island today.
Sedir (or Cleopatra Island) is 55 miles from Dalaman airport. EasyJet (easyjet.com) offers return flights to Dalaman from Stansted from £121pp. Tours to the island from Marmaris cost from €27 (£22). Visit easymarmaris.com.